Keith served in both the Army and RAAF in World War II

Name: Keith Morris Brown
Date: 1939-1945
Unit: 6th Div 2/2 Field Engineers, RAE, 18th NEI Squadron
Location: Middle East, Pacific

After Keith Morris Brown was wounded while fighting in the Western Desert he was subsequently discharged from the Army in 1942 as "medically unfit for service". He soon decided civilian life was not for him so he signed up with the RAAF instead.

Of course, it wasn't quite that easy - after all, he now had a disabled leg and it required some heavy influence from an old family friend before he was accepted into the air force.

Keith had joined the Light Horse (Militia) in 1936 while only 15 and served as a driver in the 2nd Field Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Division.

On 1 May 1939 he was promoted to sergeant after qualifying with distinction in Animal Management.

At the outbreak of war in September 1939 he changed his date of birth to volunteer for service in the 2nd AIF, joining as a private. He was assigned to the 6th Div 2/2 Field Engineers, RAE, was promoted to Lance/Sergeant in March the following year and left in the first convoy to the Middle East on the troopship Ettrick.

After training in Palestine and working on defences, he was involved in the first action in the Bardia campaign in the Western Desert.

Early on the morning of 3 January 1941, Keith and his mates had the job of bridging anti-tank ditches, defusing mines and cutting through barbed wire to allow the 2/5th Infantry to proceed.

Keith was badly wounded in the leg during this action and was sent to an English Army Hospital at Sidi Barrani for an operation.

He was later transferred to the Australian General Hospital at El Kantara, close to the Suez Canal, and in the heart of enemy bombing raids.

Keith was full of praise for the devotion of the Australian nursing sisters during those raids for they never left their patients alone despite being ordered to take cover.

He was sent back to Australia on the hospital ship MVManunda and arrived on 12 April 1942.

After being medically discharged he resumed civilian life but the injury to his leg meant he could no longer ride horses, one of his great joys in life.

Once out of uniform Keith could not help but contrast the life of most Australian civilians with that of his mates who went through the Western Desert, Greece, Crete and had been called home to fight in the jungles of New Guinea. Finding this unbearable he began a campaign to get back into the forces, aiming at becoming a pilot in the RAAF.

Finally, after much pestering and calling on the influence of a family friend, Keith was accepted into the air force despite his damaged leg and began pilot training. After he had flown solo in a Tiger Moth, the pilot training scheme was discontinued so he volunteered as an Air Gunner. He qualified in September 1944 and was sent to the 18th NEI Squadron where he served in Mitchell bombers in the Pacific area until the end of the war.

The material for this article was supplied by Keith's widow, Mrs Pauline Brown of Victoria


Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Keith served in both the Army and RAAF in World War II, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 14 August 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/keith-served-both-army-and-raaf-world-war-ii
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