Airmen that became Prisoners of
War found themselves with vast amounts of time on their hands,
often this inspired them to keep journals of their time in
captivity. Many, such as the example shown here, contained
artwork depicting camp life created by the prisoners
themselves. The following account is from the journal of
Flying Officer Herbert "Bruce" Keen.
On the 29/30th May 1944
Wellington Mk. X LN-318 took off from Amendola, Italy
to bomb the airfield at Feuersbrunn, Fels am Wagram in
Austria. It crashed near Hofstatten, East of Graz, Austria,
all of the crew were captured and became Prisoners of War.
The crew consisted of:
F/O Herbert Keene - POW
F/Lt William Todd - POW
Sgt. Edward Yeo - POW
Sgt. James Gallagher - POW
Sgt B.T Halligan - POW
LN-318's crew (L to R): Brian Halligan, Edward Yeo,Bruce
Keen, Ken Todd, Jim Gallagher
May 29th 1944
fateful day and the luckiest day in my 23 years. An op. to
Vienna. Leaving at 2100 hours, we maintained track well up to
2200 hours. From this time till the time over the target the
Bomb Aimer was able to pin point. At 2300 hours we were
successful and an uneventful trip except for the odd search
light and a few lit up towers in Yugoslavia. At 2400 hours we
turned right, off target, five minutes early on ETA at what
the Bomb Aimer recognized as the target. There was a little
flak. We turned for home, still not sure of our position. At
2430 we were over Vienna with some search lights shining all
around us. Bombed once with a little flak. Bombed twice with
heavy and accurate flak. We maintained constant and rather
furious evasive action, diving from 10,000 feet to 2,000 feet,
still over the outskirts of Vienna. We remained in the
searchlights for approximately ten minutes. Fighters contacted
us at 3,000 feet as we tried to gain height Hydraulic system,
Electrical system and intercom system shot away. I imagined
the gunner to be killed. Fighters attacked approximately four
times, height 6,000 feet-2500 revs.
Frisby of 158 Sqn's depiction of a typical op.
and elevations useless. Ordered crew to bale out and appeared
to be on fire, in a slight dive. The Bomb Aimer seemed to be
dazed and gave the Navigator and Wireless operator a little
trouble The .Navigator, Wireless Operator and Gunner jumped
and fighter attacked for the last time. Had a spot of trouble
grabbing my ‘chute. Made the Bomb Aimer jump, left the
controls and jumped head first. The fraction of a second and I
realised my chute had opened. Thank god for that! A marvellous
thrill and experience from then on except a little
anticipation of my actual landing spot. A beautiful moonlit
night and in a few seconds I was able to see the ground.. Very
little wind, so no drift-saw pleasant farm fields below me.
Landed on a wheat crop. no wounds, no scratches-just winded
slightly and a little bewildered.
Navigator Ken Todd's drawing entitled "Happy Landings"
my first grateful few minutes thanking God once again for the
feel of Terra firma.
Captured 31st June(May) by an Austrian farmer who
had appeared friendly as were all the Austrians I had met.
Handed over to German Authorities in St.Poleton,
questioned in a local Police Headquarters. Another beautiful
day and was struck and amazed at the beautiful countryside.
Taken to St Poleton gaol-the first I have been in
incidentally! Was quite unhappy but was able to sleep a good
four hours. My first meal-dry bread and cold tortillas and
coffee At1900 hours I was driven to a local Russian prison
camp where I met the bomb Aimer
wireless operator which brightened me up considerably, as the
conditions there were quite comfortable. Many Yanks
Room 7 Stalag L 3.
Some of Bruce Keen’s room mates.
H.H.Haszard RNZAF Camp no 2532
J.D.Golds RCAF Camp no 2530
15 Amhurst St.,Guelph,Canada
J.Macdonal RAF Camp no 601
19 Deanbank Lane, Edinburgh
A.J.Hill RCAF,Camp no.
2251 Macpherson Ave.,Burnaby,New Westminster,B.C.
2252 Montague St.,
Steven RAF Camp no.1039
64 Carmarthen Ave.,Portsmouth
W.Wanless RCAF.Camp no.3016
9929 91st Ave.,
Peter Pearson RAAF
5 Corrington Ave.,
Robert “Bob” Braid RCAF Camp no 3297
F/O G.D.Nicoll RCAF camp no 3012
1061 Laviolette St.,Trois
John Harder 1115 Fifth Ave.,New York.
Shows seen at Belaria
French without tears, Major Barbara, Astonished Ostrich,
George & Margaret, Music Society of town Belaria,McCarn goes
to town, The Spoilers, The Male Animals, Tony draws a pulse &
the Christmas Band Show
Below are transcripts of notes made by Bruce of the evacuation
from Belaria and his subsequent liberation after the Russians
Evacuation from Belaria
1)Russian offensive started Jan.12th
2) Ordered to evacuate with half an hour’s notice
Jan.28th.Snowing heavily-3inches of snow on the
ground, bitterly cold. Started off at daybreak on 29th
3)arrived at Luckenwalde,Sun.4th Feb.-2 days, no
marching. Arthur Hill and myself pulled a small sledge as far
as Birkinstedt whence the thaw enforced us to pack our swags
for the remainder of the journey.
3 jerseys,1 long u.pants,1 pyjamas,balaclava,1 pair long
pants, battle dress,overcoat,mittens
April 21st-Germans evacuated
April 22nd-Russian spearhead arrived, same day,8
Russian tanks arrived and driven past our compound
May 7th-Escaped Luckenwalde under Russian
guard-arrived Barbary American reception centre
May 9th-Started hitchhiking via Magdeburg,Brunswick
returned to Australia and married Pearl
in Birmingham, Australia. Before being discharged on November
30th 1945.They went on to have 3 children,
Susie and Andréa. Brian Halligan retired to Brisbane after
being discharged and remained good friends with Bruce while
Ken Todd married Bruce’s sister. Jim Gallagher was also to
stay in touch.
the war Bruce and his wife travelled to the family property
“Dolgelly” in Northern New South Wales which he owned and
managed till he passed away.
November 30th 1945 Bruce Keen was discharged
officially, receiving his Certificate of Service on 11th
He was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Aircrew Badge
eligible for Returned from active Service Badge.