Australian pilot’s remarkable jungle escape

First published in The Age on April 27, 1942


Australian Pilot’s Escape

From Our Own Correspondent.


Australian pilots in Kittyhawk planes.

Australian pilots in Kittyhawk planes.Credit:RAAF

After incredible adventures in the New Guinea jungle, an Australian fighter pilot, who had been shot down by Japanese more than a fortnight ago, returned to his base this week, and was almost shot down again by Japanese when within sight of safety. He was a Queensland squadron leader, who had already won the D.F.C. for exploits in Libya.

While flying a Kittyhawk fighter he was shot down in flames over Lae during a heavy Allied raid on April 11, when the Japanese aerodrome, aircraft, anti-aircraft batteries and shipping were plastered. The Australian baled out and fell into the sea, three-quarters of a mile offshore.

As he floundered in the water trying to release himself from his parachute harness he tried to attract the attention of natives on the beach to make them bring out a canoe and rescue him. They were terrified of the Japanese, however, and would not assist, although when he had swum ashore two of them helped him clamber up on to the rocks. The natives then debated among themselves whether to hand the pilot over to the Japanese. After a few anxious moments they agreed to take him into the bush away from the Japanese.

“All that day I seemed to do nothing but swim rivers,” said the pilot. “In the sea I did not see any sharks, but in one river I saw a crocodile, which did not worry me fortunately.”

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