Flight Lieutenant Reginald “Rusty” Kierath, MID 450 Squadron RAAF

“Rusty” in front of his Kittyhaw

Flying was in “Rusty’s” blood. Although he started work at a bank in Sydney after leaving school in 1933, his home town of Narromine in rural NSW had played a significant part in Australia’s aviation history. All the Kierath children were familiar with early aircraft, the Great Air Race of 1919 had stopped in Narromine, and later the local airfield and aero club attracted prominent flyers of the day. The first Kieraths had immigrated from Germany in the 1850s, establishing a thriving merchant business.  Rusty was born in 1915, and although he spent his early years in Narromine, he later “boarded” at secondary school in Sydney, where he and Willy were both outstanding Rugby players and sportsmen. When Rusty enlisted in 1940, the RAAF was the clear choice. Rusty was selected for flight training in Rhodesia, where Willy was also a flight instructor for a time. After several months in the Middle East in 1941, Rusty joined the 450 Squadron RAAF in early 1942, seeing active service until he was shot down over the sea while attacking naval targets in April 1943. By this time, the Kierath family had already lost one son in Tobruk, Greg. Rusty was the cheerful “cricket convenor” in Stalag Luft III, a game he genuinely loved. However, sports were also used to distract the German guards from the tunnelling. He was then recruited by Willy to join the carpentry department. The two men were escape partners and friend; numbers 31 and 32 out of the tunnel.