As we commemorate Anzac Day – I’m sharing some local stories to recognise and remember those who sacrificed so much, so we can enjoy what we have today.
Reginald Kierath, Rusty to his friends, is best known for the part he played in ‘the Great Escape’ from a Prisoner of War camp during the Second World War.
Originally from Narromine, Rusty was the youngest of 9 children, with his parents Ada and William Kierath owning the Narromine General Store.
Rusty joined the Air Force in August 1940, completing his training in Southern Rhodesia.
His brother, Captain Greg Kierath who was serving with an Australian Anti-Tank Company was killed at Tobruk almost to the day that Rusty gained his pilot qualifications.
In April 1943, Rusty was flying with a group of fighters off the coast of Tunisia, when they received heavy anti-aircraft fire from a German ship.
His engine seized after being hit, and he had to bail out into the sea, where he was rescued and then taken prisoner by the Germans.
He was eventually put into a Prisoner of War Camp deep in Nazi-occupied Poland, where he became known for his resourcefulness.
He established himself as a “hide specialist” constructing small hideaways in the accommodation blocks to permit forged papers and other escape essentials to be hidden from the German search teams.
In March of 1944, on a freezing cold night, Rusty and 75 others made “The Great Escape” through underground tunnels and out of the camp.
Rusty was part of a group which posed as timber mill workers on leave heading to the mountains.
The group was arrested by a mountain patrol trying to cross into occupied Czechoslovakia, before being handed over to the Gestapo.
Rusty and three other airmen were executed by the Gestapo, and he was cremated…His remains are now buried in part of the Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery.
Their legacies and bravery were immortalised, with the Great Escape recognised as the largest and most audacious escape attempted during the Second World War.
Commemorating those who served, and remembering those who died.
Lest we forget.