Search and Rescue

Part 5 of 7

Chief Pilot Rex Boyden and his aircraft
Chief Pilot Rex Boyden and his aircraft

BANG! A rifle shot.

“Hoy!” from Bernard.

“Where the hell did you come from?” was the reply.

Bernard told him he had found the missing aircraft and two men were alive.

Swiftly Bernard’s questions were answered: He was a Buchanan, this is Christmas Creek, and Lamington was nine miles away, he could telephone from the house.

While the horses were brought in Bernard sat drinking tea, be- coming aware of a thousand cuts, thorns and bruises, wet smelly clothes clinging to him.

They would continue to cling for another forty eight hours.

The horses were ready. At last, a house.

Henry Burgess sized it up, paddock the horses, on they went by car to John Buchanan’s house and a telephone.

John met them on the steps, he was typical of a generation of men who cut their living from the bush, overcame each new obstacle and been their own advisers.

First step was to ring Airlines of Australia and be given a mandate to organise a rescue as thought fit.

Bernard thought himself fortunate to have at his side a man who knew more of Lamington Plateau than anyone else.

Then they got Bob Stephens on the phone and his brothers plugged in on the party line for a hurried conference.

John Buchanan would take every man that could be mustered up an open forest ridge (visible from present day Stinson Park) on to the low end of Lamington Plateau and start cutting a track to the wreck site at dawn.

This was the stretcher track to carry out the two men.

Bernard would take the doctor, four Stephens’ brothers and a few neighbours carrying food and waterproof covering and the doctor’s gear back up Christmas Creek and the gorge he had come down from the wreck.

They rushed to Hillview to organise the track cutting party. Brush hooks, axes and food for the men.

To Postmistress Gracie Silcock, Bernard gave Westray’s wallet. Gracie pulled together the volunteers. She stuck to her phone all night calling numbers, explaining where to go, what to take. In between this answering floods of incoming calls.

Bernard rode on horseback to join the doctor’s party, he was late, the billies were boiling and greetings taken for granted.

For another night and two days more that band of men were together, without sleep, clothes wet and faces that had aged 10 years.

To be continued.

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About Keer Moriarty 481 Articles
Small town newspaper Editor, journo, social media manager and tea lady.