Keith Campbell OAM, Royal Australian Air Force veteran
Keith Campbell enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in May 1942 at the age of 19. After training in Australia and Canada, he was posted to the United Kingdom where he served as a Bomb Aimer with No 466 Squadron, RAAF in Yorkshire.
On 25 July 1944, on his 33rd operation, Keith Mr Campbell’s bomber was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft just outside of Stuttgart.
‘Fortunately I was wearing a parachute at the time,’ he says. ‘I always used to wear it over the target. And I was blown out of the aircraft and I came to at about 1,000 feet. There was just silk above me. When I hit the ground, fortunately I wasn’t injured and set course for the nearest place – Switzerland. I realised I had no hope of getting there by walking but it was the only way to get there.’
Mr Campbell managed to remain at large for three days, but was captured and spent the remaining ten months of the war as a Prisoner of War, mostly in Poland.
Of his time in Bomber Command, Mr Campbell remembers the way everyone pulled together to keep the aircraft flying.
Mr Campbell was discharged in Australia in November 1945 with the rank of warrant officer.
‘It was an adventure which turned out to be a very serious job … I did the job hundreds of other young Australians did at the time. I was fortunate enough to survive. The casualty rate was very high.’
After the war he returned to his pre-war occupation as a draughtsman, before buying a hotel and later going into the catering business.
Mr Campbell has been active in various associations, including the RSL, the RAAF Association and the Bomber Command Association, and he worked for many years as a veterans’ advocate.
In 2009, Mr Campbell was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to veterans, particularly through the Bomber Command Association in Australia, and to the community.