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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. M K Carswell


Malcolm Keith Carswell was born in Invercargill on the South Island of New Zealand on 25th July 1915 and educated at Southland Boys High School. He was apprenticed to a chemist and began a course in pharmacy.

In 1936 he began having flying lessons at the Invercargill Flying Club and in June his instructor arranged for him to have an interview for a short service commission.

There were no immediate vacancies so Carswell made his own way to the UK in early 1937. He applied on arrival and was provisionally accepted. On 30th March he began his flying training at 12 E&RFTS Prestwick and in June was posted to 6 FTS Netheravon. After completing the course he joined 43 Squadron at Tangmere in January 1938.



On 9th February 1940 Carswell was one of a section chasing a He111 which was attacking a cargo ship off the coast between Acklington and Rosyth. His engine suddenly failed and, being too low to bale out, he decided to ditch his Hurricane L1744 close to the ship. The aircraft went straight down but Carswell managed to extricate himself. He could not inflate his life jacket and tried to swim through the freezing choppy sea to the ship, which was about a mile away. He passed out and came to in the ship, now docked at Rosyth. His life had been saved by the crew giving him artificial respiration.

Carswell was off flying for three months but arrived back just in time to fly south to Tangmere on 31st May. The next day he was shot down in flames over Dunkirk in Hurricane N2584 and baled out. He landed very near the front line and after convincing French soldiers that he was an ally he was taken to an emergency hospital in Dunkirk. He boarded a destroyer under Stuka attack and finally reached England where he was taken to hospital, arriving there in the evening of the same day he had taken off from Tangmere.

Recovered, Carswell returned to 43 Squadron. On 2nd September, in a combat over Ashford, Carswell's Hurricane P3786 was hit and caught fire. He baled out, burned on legs, arms, hands and face and with cannon shell splinters in his chest and thigh. After leaving hospital Carswell was grounded for medical reasons and took up fighter control duties.

In October 1940 he went to Exeter as a Fighter Controller, moving in November to the Orkneys and serving in the defence of Scapa Flow.

In March 1941 he went to Peterhead as Chief Fighter Controller and in May 1942 moved to Biggin Hill. He had a number of postings as Controller over the next three years. Carswell transferred to the RNZAF in January 1944. He regained his flying category in April 1945 and went to 17 SFTS for a combined refresher and twin-engined conversion course for night fighters.

Towards the end of the year Carswell applied for discharge in the UK and was released on 26th January 1946.

He settled in Rome, Italy where he worked in the film and theatre field. He later founded the Intercontinental Club there, a cultural exchange forum.

He later retired to Australia and died there on 7th July 2003.

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