Search and Rescue 1937

Part 1 of 7

Bernard O’Reilly
Bernard O’Reilly

Compiled by Bernard O’Reilly

Excerpt from Bernard O’Reilly’s book “Green Mountains”.
Used with permission from Rhelma Kenny (O’Reilly)

Bernard O’Reilly looked up at the pale grey scum that had spread itself over the sky from the sea, heralding one of the most violent cyclones that had ever swept the mountain tops of Lamington National Park.  

Next morning it was a wild, windswept, boisterous day but not unpleasant to the mountain dwellers accustomed to having their weather served up on the same rugged, lavish scale as their scenery.  

Four miles of telephone line between O’Reilly’s and the outside world lay on the ground, masses of leaves stripped from the trees were knee-deep in places with trees crashed and split in an incredible way laying over the track.

From his cousin Luke O’Reilly Bernard received the first news of the missing airliner.  


Bernard O’Reilly

For the week that followed there was enacted the most intensive aerial search in Australian history; driven by misinformation it was fruitless and called off.  

Why in the name of all that is sane and reasonable should a man go out to search nearly 400 miles from where the plane was supposedly last seen?  

In ascribing his actions to reasoning or divine intervention Bernard realised later, that he had spent most of his life unwittingly fitting himself out for just such a calling.

In the maze of contradictory evidence and theories advanced by the media of the day, Bernard had gleaned one definite fact.  

On the afternoon of Friday the 19th of February people had waited in vain at Lismore for the airliners arrival.  

He knew the plane had not gone down the Coast since Kerry people had seen it disappear into the ranges towards Lismore.  

What was the answer?  

It dawned upon him that the answer was lying somewhere up in the McPherson Ranges.  

That night he could not get home quickly enough with wife Viola from a horse back visit to Kerry.

Next morning Bernard telephoned his friend Bob Stephens, who lived at the head of the Albert River, to get a final check on the aircrafts position and possible course.  

On an Aerial Survey Map of the McPherson Range he drew a straight line from where the airliner was last seen to Lismore.  

This line contacted four high points where he suspected the aircraft was to be found.  

The preparations for the journey were simple, a billy and cup made from a big jam tin, two loaves of bread, a pound of butter, onions, tea, sugar and matches went into a tucker bag.  

Wife Viola came in to say “I wish I could go with you”.  

The ‘Littlefella’, four year old Rhelma, said with renewed hope, “Mummy, I want to go too”.

End of Part 1.  To be continued.  

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About Keer Moriarty 148 Articles
Small town newspaper Editor, journo, social media manager and tea lady.