Keith was born on the 21st February 1914 in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. He enlisted on the 9th December 1940 in Perth and after completing his initial training at No.9 EFTS in Western Australia, he embarked for the UK via Canada. He completed his training at No.56 OTU at RAF Sutton Bridge in the UK and was then posted to 457 Spitfire Squadron in January 1942.
At that time, 457 Squadron was based on the Isle of Man at Andreas. It had had a slow introduction to active operations and had only been declared operational on the 7th August 1941, so by the time Keith joined, it was escorting convoys and patrolling over the seas to Britain’s west. However, much of its time was devoted to training and the Squadron effectively became an Operational Training Unit, preparing Spitfire pilots for other squadrons, particularly 452 Squadron RAAF, that were more actively engaged.
That may have been the reason Keith volunteered for “overseas” service after he had only been with the Squadron for a few months. He subsequently left England to serve with 450 Squadron in the Western Desert, North Africa. Unfortunately, just just a few weeks after he had arrived, he was shot down during a sortie and became a POW on the 26th June 1942.
450 Squadron, nicknamed the “Desert Harassers”, was one of the most famous Royal Australian Air Force squadrons of the Second World War. Its nickname was derived from the taunts of the German propaganda broadcaster, “Lord Haw Haw” who, during the Squadron’s operations in the Western Desert branded it a band of “Australian mercenaries whose harassing tactics were easily beaten off by the Luftwaffe”. The Squadron subsequently and proudly, adopted the motto, “Harras”.
During Keith’s short time with the Squadron, he would have been based in Egypt, and most probably Libya, flying Curtis P-40 Kittyhawks (see photo). While he was a POW, he was initially kept in Italy before being transferred to Germany.
When peace was declared, Keith made his way back home and was eventually discharged on the 27th November 1945. He then joined the RAAF Reserve and remained in active service until September 1960.
Phil Listemann and David Hamilton
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association