- Gregory, Mackenzie J.
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Australia II
- March 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The remaining four of the crew drifted out of reach past the “Australia“. I can still recall the utter frustration of seamen trying to reach this group with heaving lines, but the wind force made it totally impossible to cast a line – it merely blew back in one’s face before achieving its objective – to reach the doomed four.
At 1725 we were forced to abandon our rescue attempts, altered course to the South and proceeded at only 9 knots into the face of the storm.
The Sunderland had left its base at 1700 on Monday evening, sent out to escort a convoy.
The poor visibility prevented them finding their convoy, and the weather was too bad to enable the crew to obtain a D/F bearing of their base. The high winds caused more petrol to be used than normal, and so at 0700 next morning they ran out of petrol and were forced to attempt a landing in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was a magnificent feat of airmanship for the pilot to put his flying boat down into this raging sea without capsizing it.
The Sunderland had survived seven and a half hours in a howling Atlantic gale before their luck ran out, and the boat was overturned.
The airmen were all sea sick and very weak from this ordeal.
Although this rescue took place over fifty six years ago, I can still visualise the joy on the faces of those rescued, and remember the anger and the sadness we all experienced at having to leave the remaining four to face a certain death.