Search and Rescue 1937

Part 4 of 7

Unveiling of Bronze Memorial 60th Anniversary. Photo: Supplied.
Unveiling of Bronze Memorial 60th Anniversary. Photo: Supplied.

The voices came again from below – two voices – men alive, but in what condition?  

Bernard stood for a minute, afraid to go on to them, afraid of what he would see.  

Bernard saw John Proud first, lying as he had for ten days on that wet ground with a broken leg that was green, swollen and maggoty.  His eyes far back in his head like those of a corpse.

“My God!” he thought.  “You have lain all these days in hell and now I am too late to save you.”  

Who can describe the anguish he felt in that swift second, then he turned to Binstead – he tried to shake hands, a poor hand that was like raw meat.  His legs too were like that from crawling over the rocks to bring water.  

In this instant of discovery time stood still.  

The first sane remark Bernard remembers was Binstead’s.  “How about boiling the billy”.    

While Bernard did this his thoughts, on rescue, looked back over the 22 impossible miles to home, but the settlements of Hillview, Lamington or Christmas Creek would be his best direction, and importantly, a way back with help.

There were three survivors of the crash, the third man was James Westray.  

A man with a knowledge of walking and climbing in the Scottish Highlands, he had gone for help.  

Binstead and Proud were alone and eventually realised something had happened to Westray.  

Of the two left at the wreck one of them had to make a last, unbreakable decision; Binstead could save himself.  

He had glimpses of the open country far away and below but gave up his chance and stayed to look after Proud, staying steady and uncomplaining in his task.  

On his last journey for water he took five hours.

Bernard decided after casting about to follow Westray’s tracks down to reach the settlements in the farm land.  

To Bernard’s eyes John Proud seemed beyond medical help unless it could arrive within 24 hours.  If the gorge below was the extreme South Branch of Christmas Creek the first clearing would be nine miles away.  It was 4:30pm, no chance of getting out of the Rainforest before dark.  His last words were, “I’ll bring back a Doctor and a hundred men”. 

Bernard followed Westray’s tracks down steep country and onto a 30 foot waterfall.  

Westray had mistakenly used the large Helmholtzia Lillies to descend it, nothing could be more treacherous than the safe looking hand holds.  Bernard raced on – there was Westray sitting on a boulder badly injured with one foot in the moving water, a burnt-out cigarette between his fingers.  No need for a second look, Westray was dead.  

Taking Westray’s wallet with him Bernard ran off, falling against rocks, getting up to run on, numb and blinded with shock and emotion.  Night closed in.

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About Keer Moriarty 397 Articles
Small town newspaper Editor, journo, social media manager and tea lady.