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The Age Tuesday, March 10, 1942

 

This article is titled- PILOT CHEATED DEATH - Diary of Amazing Escape

 

How an R.A.A.F. pilot literally came back from the grave is graphically described in his diary, extracts of which are given in - Department: of Air bulletin. While on a reconnaissance flight over New Guinea the writer of the diary was attacked by Japanese fighters, and his aircraft dived in flames to the ground. With his companions, he was officially posted missing, believed killed. After a nine days ordeal, in which he suffered incredible hardships and adventures in dense jungle, beset by fatigue and sickness, and tortured by mosquitoes, with little water and less food, he eluded Japanese- troops who had landed is reached his base.

 

The story of his coolness as his aircraft hurtled to the ground, his determination as he stumbled through the jungle, half delirious, his fears and alarms are set out below: — "Go for Your Lives"

Wednesday, About 3 p.m. — At bottom of dive. Got big bump as though all bombs had gone off together. Took violent avoiding action and attempted to see results. Gunner rushed forward and said, "We're afire." Fire quickly got worse. Cabin filled with smoke, and flames obscured wing, so I yelled, "Go for your lives." Beginning to get toasted. Thought, "No chance, better jump without chute." Attempted to open escape hatch. Unable to locate crew in smoke.' Put on 'chute and tried to climb out window. Got stuck and stood on "stick." Aircraft dived steeply, so climbed in again and pulled nose up. Could not see for smoke, but at last managed to get through pilot's window and' jumped sideways, shielding my head from the tailplane.

 

Tumbled over and over, but couldn't reach ripcord as chute was right out in front of me, and it was reversed so that the toggle was on the left-hand side.  Eventually found ripcord and stopped with a bump. Caught sight of a Hudson pursued by three fighters. Trees rushed up at me. 'My "Mae West" was choking me and my head was forced back so I couldn't see the ground. Landed in trees. Realized I was choking but was unable to undo jacket. Nearly exhausted when I managed to struggle up to a higher bough and ease pressure. Heard twigs breaking beneath -me, and almost resigned to being taken by Japs. Turned out to be wild pig. Found ripcord still firmly grasped in right, hand. Lumps on my head, too, so I couldn't have missed the tailplane! Determined to make big effort to avoid capture. Climbed gingerly down 100 feet tree to ground. Lost lots of skin and landed in dense, dark jungle. Heard twigs breaking. Hid behind tree.  Another pig.

 

Waited for the Stars

 

Wednesday, 4 p.m. — Walked on north-west course until I became thoroughly confused. Sat down and waited for stars, then set off through jungle again. Checking again; found I had turned north-east. Sat down.


Very thirsty. Only two matches in box and striker not much good. Mosquitoes nearly drove me mad, and wild pigs getting on my nerves. By licking leaves kept myself going till I found puddle. Drank cold water, which made me feel sick. Found track leading west, but struck mosquito-infested swamp. Drank more water, then climbed up bank and lay down. Awake all night killing mosquitoes. - Began to feel weak and sick.

 

Thursday. — Started again at dawn and walked for hours. Followed dry creek towards coast, but time after time got cut off by impenetrable sword grass. Climbed back up steep mountains and cliffs. Only water cupped in leaves and pockets of fallen trees. Forced to go north-west for hours, climbing over fallen trees, up steep banks, very high hills, and steep gorges. Made about six attempts to reach sea, but always blocked.  Sun got too high to judge direction, so sat down and rested. Feeling weak from emptiness. Thought about the dangers of scratches turning into tropical ulcers, of malaria. I had to stop every half-hour in a lather of sweat. Always thirsty. Made determined effort to follow small creek of stagnant waterholes to sea, irrespective of direction. Heard sea a long way off.

 

An Hour Later. — Am not sure whether it is the sea I hear or wind in the trees. Am thinking of crew and hope, if they were killed, it was instantly. Reach sea at last. Took off clothes and lay in water. Perfect. Carried clothes and walked naked along beach. Came to wide river. Reached native village. They gave me bananas, pawpaws and water. Got very feverish and sick in the stomach.  Natives too frightened to help me.

 

Thursday, 6 p.m.— Set off again. Reached another village, very tired and sick. Got three tabs of quinine and set off again. Climb up and down steep track. No water. I got hotter and hotter. Every time I stop I lie down before I fall down — feeling very dizzy. Stagger on. I suck a few leaves. Am all aches and can only just stop vomiting. Push on for hours.

 

Thursday, 10 p.m. — Find small puddle and stagger down and drink. Find it full of pig marks, but can hardly prevent myself lying down beside it and staying there. Twice I decide I must lie down and go no farther but struggle on. Reach beach and find Japs are in possession. Hurry back into jungle until I can go no farther. Lie down and shiver until morning.

 

White Man in Cave.

 

Friday. — Reach white man's hut, but no white man in it. Pillow torn up and bed upturned. Hundred yards on find white man in cave. So I meet Bill . Bill looked after me all day. Fed me on coffee and marvelous soup. We celebrate Friday, the thirteenth, and wish the Japs an unlucky day. We discuss prospects, and he says he is going to stay — may be able to help other airmen. We meet Harold and discuss getting out. A Hudson comes over and drops flares. Try to signal with flash, which is hardly any good. Jap. destroyers have landed troops in these parts, and we are all a bit jumpy. We set out in Harold's pinnace.  Keep sharp look out for Jap. ships which, Harold says, have been operating here since before Christmas.

 

Monday. — Meet another white man, who- gives us a bottle of beer — his -last — and a sumptuous meal and a bath. Life seems grand again. Weather continues unfavorable, and I feel like giving it a go in a dinghy with oil drum flotation lashed in.

 

Tuesday. — Walk a mile to visit another white man. He is alone. We talk to him about his schooner and spend some time camouflaging it.

 

Wednesday. — It is now just a week since life seemed so desperate swinging in that tree in my chute.  We have worked all day loading the schooner. Near dusk, we begin to move. The wind is blowing hard, and the crossing threatens to be hazardous.

 

Thursday.— The crossing is hazardous. Seas break over us, and it is difficult to hang on. There is a lot of' water in the black hole of Calcutta we call the engine room, I am black with oil. The pumps won't work and we begin to bail.  Water seems to be gaining. Weather seems to get worse.

Friday.— Dawn, and there is no sight of land.

 

Friday, 1 p.m. — Sight land.  A pinnace rushes towards us. They might be Japs. But no, whacko, I can see Aussie hats. They point Tommy guns at us. We look so much -like bushrangers they won't believe us. No wonder, I've- got eight days' beard.  Then we speak, and they're satisfied. Their next words are, "What, about a long cold one ?" Oh boy, what about one?

 

The diary then explains briefly how he was taken in a fast launch back to the base from which, nine days earlier, he had set out on his recon renaissance flight. - He Is now enjoying a well-earned rest before resuming duty.