Campbell, Keith William (Flying Officer, b.1923 - d.2019)

Place Europe: Germany, Baden-Wurttemberg, Stuttgart
Accession Number AWM2016.392.1
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 1.5 cm; Wallet/s: 1
Object type Diary
Maker Campbell, Keith William
Place made Germany
Date made 1944-1945
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection relating to the Second World War service of 423220 Flying Officer Keith William Campbell, Royal Australian Air Force, 1944-1945, Germany.

The collection consists of a small diary covering the period 24 July 1944 to May 1945 and was written by Warrant Officer Campbell during his captivity in Germany. The paper cover of the diary has a label affixed stating 'Original diary kept as a POW in Germany. Very illegal, but managed to keep it, 24/7/44 - May 45. A423220 K W Campbell.

The diary begins with a description of a Halifax night raid on 24 July 1944 in 'P' of No.466 Squadron, the target being Stuttgart. Campbell describes bombing the target, the aircraft being hit by flak and he parachuting out. He goes on to record hiding and sleeping; the rations he had with him; watching another raid on Stuttgart; and heading for the Swiss border 80 miles away. Campbell is turned in to the Gestapo and taken to an interrogation centre. En route to a transit camp at Wetzlar he passes through Stuttgart and observes devastation, rubble, burnt out buildings, bomb craters and fires raging. Campbell was the only one of eight crew in his aircraft to survive. Flying Officer Campbell records being given Red Cross provisions and arriving at Stalag Luft VII prisoner of war camp at Bankau. He writes that the camp is fairly new; there is plenty of sport, entertainment, a library, music and an elaborate barter system. Campbell describes the camp as 'being on holiday but roughing it'.
Aside from his daily routine, Campbell writes with nostalgia about the formation of his crew, and also includes some transcribed camp songs. He records moving camps in January, marching in freezing conditions with very little food.

Keith William Campbell enlisted in June 1942 aged 19. Trained in Australia and Canada then posted to the UK, he served as a bomb aimer with No. 466 Squadron RAAF, at RAF Leconfield and RAF Driffield, both in Yorkshire. On his 33rd operation, on 25 July 1944, Keith was forced to bale out over Germany when his aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft. Keith managed to stay free for three days in an attempt to reach the Swiss border, but was captured and spent the remaining ten months of the war as a POW. Of his time in bomber command, Keith remembers the way everyone pulled together to keep the aircraft flying, including the crew, the ground staff who worked all hours in often appalling weather, the mess staff who fed the crews before and after operations, and all the other station staff.

Keith was discharged in Australia in November 1945 with the rank of Warrant Officer. After the war he returned to his pre-war occupation as a draughtsman, however his time as a POW had left him with eye damage that made close work difficult and so he and his wife, a former member of the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force, went into the hotel business as part owners of a private hotel. Active with 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 Keith 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.