Alexander Kerr's story
Alexander McBride Kerr enlisted on 27 April 1940 in Perth. He was part of the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS). After completing training, Alex was posted to England. He was a warrant officer and pilot in the No 115 Squadron RAF, flying Wellington bombers.
Alex considered himself blessed by 'great luck' which saw him through a number of life threatening moments.
The first incident was during a raid on Hamburg. On return, Alex's plane was struck by flak (anti-aircraft fire) and then attacked by a German night fighter. Alex was hit by 7 bullets. Badly wounded, he struggled to maintain consciousness as the order to abandon the aircraft was given. He stated he only survived because the rear gunner had to crawl back to the middle of the plane to escape. He remembered the gunner attaching his parachute, placing his hand on the ripcord and shoving him from the plane. Alex was unconscious on landing. He was picked up and taken to a German hospital, where he spent 6 months recovering from his injuries.
Alex recalled several efforts to escape detention in Germany. The last was when the column of which he was a part was strafed by Typhoon fighter-bombers. He survived by jumping into a ditch and then riding his luck, he and another prisoner simply started walking west. They passed retreating German soldiers without being questioned and eventually reached Allied lines. The pair commandeered a car from a local mayor and drove to Brussels, where they swapped the car for a ride in a Lancaster to the United Kingdom.
Once in England, Alex enrolled in special courses at university and continued some of the education he had undertaken through the Red Cross whilst a prisoner of war (POW). He firmly believed that being a POW had been the best thing to happen to him, due to the opportunities it afforded him later on.
After returning home, Alex enrolled at the University of Western Australia (UWA), where he earned a Bachelor of Arts (with first class honours in Economics), Master of Arts and PhD. It proved the beginning of a distinguished academic career.