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Shot Down

A secret diary of one POWs long march to freedom

Alex’s Wellington, a twin-engine bomber, was shot down over Germany in 1941. At first hospitalised with hopes of repatriation, he unexpectedly found himself a prisoner in a German POW camp. Throughout those trying four years he was held captive, Alex kept a secret diary. This book reproduces his diary entries in a fascinating account of all aspects of life in a wartime prison. He describes being part of the infamous ‘Long March’ during which he and his comrades were strafed by Allied aircraft; 60 POWs were killed and 100 wounded. Alex escaped the march with a mate, passing through the front lines between the British and German forces to commandeer a German mayor’s car and drive back to Brussels to take the next aircraft to freedom. Alex’s charm and optimistic outlook will buoy the reader throughout, and the camaraderie between he and his captive comrades is always entertaining. This is an authentic World War II adventure — from being shot out of the sky, to incarceration and the ultimate triumph of escape and the end of the war.

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. 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). 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.