Captain Keith Caldwell

Captain Keith Caldwell

One of New Zealand’s greatest fighter pilots and leaders, Keith Caldwell was credited with the destruction or capture of 14 enemy machines, including two shared, a score bettered by only one other New Zealander, Ronald Bannerman.

Although Caldwell had obtained a commission in the Defence Cadet Corps while at school, his first attempt to enlist in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force was unsuccessful. After this setback he enrolled in the New Zealand Flying School at Kohimarama on Auckland's Waitematā Harbour. In January 1916 he left for England, where he was accepted into the Royal Flying Corps. With a total of 35 hours in the air under his belt, in June Caldwell sailed for France. There he earned a reputation as a dashing patrol leader and aggressive pilot, renowned for daring exploits.

In early 1918, Caldwell was given command of No. 74 Squadron. He directed his men so competently that they were credited with destroying or driving down out of control more than 200 enemy aircraft in less than eight months.

By the end of the war Caldwell had been awarded the Military Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar and the Croix de Guerre (Belgium), and mentioned in despatches.

Caldwell returned to New Zealand in August 1919 and took up a farm at Glen Murray, Waikato the following year. He served with the Territorial Air Force, which he commanded from 1930 to 1937. During the Second World War Keith Caldwell served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a very popular station commander at Woodbourne and then Wigram. Promoted to air commodore in 1946, he then returned to farming in South Auckland, and also served on the Reserve of Air Force Officers until 1956.

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