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Keith KILDEY celebrates with Bob GIBBES. Oct. 1942. [AWM
A wonderful lode of 3 Squadron history has been unearthed in the Sports pages of a small community newspaper, who documented the war exploits of their local cricket hero…
‘The Record’ (South Melbourne, Vic.)
Sat 27 Jun. 1942. Front Page.
At the start of the 1938-39 cricket season, a tall, fair-haired young fast bowler performed a fine feat on the Albert Cricket Ground when he spread-eagled the wickets of eight Melbourne batsmen at a very small cost, and so brought victory to South Melbourne's district cricket team. The hero of the win was Keith Kildey, a graduate from the Third Eleven, now performing sensational deeds as a member of the R.A.A.F. in its desert campaign in the Middle East.
Kildey won the S.M.C.C. First Eleven Bowling Average that season, taking 24 wickets for 445, at an average of 18.5. He was also a promising footballer, and appeared in a practice match or two with South Melbourne.
A recent message from Kenneth Slessor, official war correspondent, throws revealing light on the exploits of this South Melbourne athlete. Describing events in the desert, just after Rommel had begun his drive, the correspondent stated that an Australian fighter squadron [3SQN] had orders to attack the spearhead of [Rommel’s] armoured strength as soon as it moved. One of the planes failed to return, although later it was learned that the pilot was safe and well… Sgt.Pilot Keith KILDEY - the Squadron's ground-strafing expert – had gone out, together with three others. At a given signal they broke formation and cut loose. A column of mobile enemy troops was sighted, and Kildey dived with his guns blazing. He said he had never had better sights on any target. But by a thousand-to-one chance, a rifle bullet shot his oil line away, and his engine cut out. Being without height, he had to land on the plane's belly, less than half a mile from the column of enemy troops he had just strafed. Kildey got out, expecting a hail of tommy-gun fire, but nobody stirred in the line of wrecked trucks. Apparently he had wiped them all out.
He set his aircraft on fire, and started for home. On the way he discovered a German truck, and he coaxed a few miles out of it before the engine seized. He slept in the truck, and next day walked 12 miles, dodging enemy planes. Just as be thought he was safe, he came out of a wadi and was spotted by three armoured cars. Their machineguns were trained on him, and, resistance being futile, he put up his hands. - He had no hat, tunic or distinguishable badges, and was caked with mud and dust. Nearing the armoured cars, he heard their crews speculating, in broad Lancashire, on what sort of a Jerry they had captured.
'You beauties!' He yelled with delight.
South Melbourne sportsmen will experience a justifiable pride in the announcement that amongst 12 members of the R.A.A.F. serving abroad, who have been decorated for gallantry in action, is Sgt. Keith KILDEY, S.M.C.C. fast bowler, whose deeds have won for him the Distinguished Flying Medal.
Kildey's exploits as a gunner in desert battles have earned him the nickname of "Killer". Some months ago he was credited by an official war correspondent with having over 500 Nazi 'scalps'.
Kildey originally hailed from Devonport, Tasmania. He came to South Melbourne with a reputation as a batsman, but commencing with the Third Eleven, failed to strike form. He was encouraged to try his hand at bowling, and was an immediate success. He took a lot of wickets with the Second Eleven too, and when his chance arrived in the First Eleven he became the team's opening bowler. Kildey is aged 23.
On a visit to Melbourne - his first in five years - former South Melbourne cricketer Keith KILDEY called at the ground on Saturday and renewed acquaintances with several former team-mates and friends.
It was a flying visit, as the express bowler, who was awarded several decorations for his brilliant flying during the war, possesses a commercial pilot's certificate and flew two passengers over from Tasmania for the Association Grand Final.
Now a farmer at Devonport, Keith is still very keen on cricket and travels 130 miles each Saturday to play with the North Launceston club.
He has several times been chosen in the State team and four years ago played against Hammond's Englishmen.
In the winter he umpires in the Tasmanian Football League and has been in charge of several games in which former South players have taken part. He considers Vic Castles the best of the players who have transferred from the mainland.
First choice in any Territory cricket team would be R.A.A.F. all-rounder Keith KILDEY. After hitting up 164 last Saturday week in the first day's play against Qantas, he added to his record with 10/31 last Saturday. By one ball, he just missed a hat trick.
RAAF, with some excellent fielding, defeated Qantas by an innings and 170 runs.
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