Alexander McBride KERR

KERR, Alexander McBride

Service Number: 406012
Enlisted: 27 April 1940, Empire AIr Training Scheme Australia, Canada and UK
Last Rank: Warrant Officer
Last Unit: No. 115 Squadron (RAF)
Born: Perth, Western Australia, 23 April 1921
Home Town: Leederville, Vincent, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Wembley, Western Australia, 30 December 2018, aged 97 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery & Crematorium, Perth, W.A.
Memorials:
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World War 2 Service

27 Apr 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2, SN 406012, Aircrew Training Units, Empire AIr Training Scheme Australia, Canada and UK
28 Apr 1940: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 406012, Aircrew Training Units, Empire Air Training Scheme
10 Apr 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 406012, No. 115 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
11 May 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 406012, No. 115 Squadron (RAF), Prisoners of War
9 Mar 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 406012, No. 115 Squadron (RAF), PoW 1941-45 Oneof only 12 of an original 40 students on his course to have survived the war. Of those, 9 others were PoW.
9 Mar 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 406012, No. 115 Squadron (RAF), PoW 1941-45 Oneof only 12 of an original 40 students on his course to have survived the war. Of those, 9 others were PoW.

How Alex got Bomber Command not Fighter Command.

I had the privilege of chatting with Alex at the RAAF Association some years ago.

Alex had just turned 19 years, when he enlisted to train as a Pilot in April 1940.

The Americans called that period the Phoney War. However, two weeks later that
period ended. Hitler attacked the West on 10 May 1940. Churchill became PM on
that date. The Battle of Britain raged while Alex was training to be a Pilot. He was
a member of first Empire Air Training Scheme Pilot’s course. Alex wanted to be a
Spitfire Pilot like many teenagers at that time. However, after getting his wings in
Canada, he was sent to England for his operational conversion. Alex had hoped to
be sent to Fighter Command OTU. There he had hoped to convert to Fighters in a
Operational Training Unit. However, much to his disappointment, Alex was sent
to an RAF Bomber Command OTU. Then he flew Bombers, not Fighters in combat.

I asked Alex how a UK Aircrew Reception Centre decided which E.A.T.S. Pilots
would be sent to Fighter Command plus who would get Bomber Command. I had
assumed that Pilots assessed as, above average - would get Fighter Command.

However, Alex said that method, was too complicated. The UK Reception Centre
had a Nominal List of fresh Pilots, arriving in Alex’s batch. A Nominal List was in
Alphabetical order. O.I.C. drew a horizontal line dividing the list. Those whose
last name was above this line, in Alphabetical order, went to Fighter Command. Those whose surname was below Alphabetically, went to Bomber Command OTU.

Hence Alex, much to his disappointment was sent to Bomber Command as his
surname did not begin with the letter A as in Adams or B as in Brown etc., but K for Kerr. This meant that he went to Bomber Command. If O.I.C. had used first
names, not last name, then A for Alex would mean that he goes to a Fighter OTU.

That was the story that Alex told me at the RAAF Association at Bull Creek in W.A.


Thanks Alex, for that chat.

R.I.P.

A59434 Maurice Kissane
Fighter Squadrons Branch
Air Force Association Inc.

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

Alexander McBride KERR, RAAF

 

Extract from DVA Website

Having previously served in the Citizens Military Force, Alex Kerr enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in April 1940 in the first course of pilots in the Empire Air Training Scheme.  After undertaking training in Australia and Canada he arrived in the United Kingdom in December that year.  In April 1941, he was posted as a pilot to No. 115 Squadron RAF, flying Wellington Bombers. In May 1941, on his fourth operation, Alex was shot down over Hamburg.  Badly wounded and unable to get out of the escape hatch, his life was saved by his rear gunner, who pushed him from the burning aircraft.   Alex managed to open his parachute before losing consciousness. He came to when he hit the ground, injuring his knees, neck and back.  Picked up by a German soldier, Alex briefly saw two of his crew before being taken to a POW hospital for life saving surgery by a French surgeon who was himself a POW. 

During the next four years as a prisoner of war, Alex studied and passed exams for a Certificate in Social Studies (Oxford University) and a Bachelor of Science in Economics (London University).  He was also active in camp activities, including singing as a member of a vocal trio in the camp jazz band.  Alex spent his 21st birthday in a POW camp, where a Canadian prisoner named Calvert gave him an egg for his birthday, a rare treat.  During his time as a prisoner, Alex was involved in three escape attempts, one of which included the construction of a ‘record breaking’ tunnel.  He succeeded on his third attempt.

After his escape Alex returned to the United Kingdom, before embarking for Australia in August 1945, and arriving in Sydney the following month.  Returning to civilian life, Alex married and had five children.  He pursued an academic career, ultimately becoming a Professor and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Murdoch University in Western Australia.  Alex is a member of the RSL and a number of other ex-service organisations.  He is a proud member of the ‘Caterpillar Club’, his life having been saved by a parachute.  A secret diary he wrote during his service will be published this year under the title Shot Down.

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