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.
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