Here at Happy Ali, we pride ourselves on bringing you hot-off-the-press up-to-the-minute news. However today we’ve decided to relate a story that happened a little while ago. Fifty-seven years ago to be precise.
Many of us have had that awful experience when upon arriving at our destination after a long flight, we’ve realized that our luggage has been sent to a different airport halfway across the world.
Imagine how it feels if you’re inside the luggage at the time.
This is what happened to Brian Robson. In 1964, as a young lad in Wales Brian saw an advertisement for jobs in Australia. Young and adventurous he signed up for a two-year stint with Victorian Railways and some weeks later he arrived in Melbourne.
Unfortunately, he was terribly homesick. However, if he tried to buy a ticket home by sea or air before the end of his contract he would have to repay to the Australian government the £800 which had been spent on bringing him to Australia. A lot of money in those days — and money he simply didn’t have.
Then one day he saw a sign on a removals van and had a brilliant idea.
He bought a wooden crate, 3 ft x 3ft x 2ft, drilled air holes in the lid and persuaded two Irish mates, Paul and John, to pack him into it and deliver him to the airport. He took with him a suitcase, a flashlight, a pillow, a bottle of water for obvious reasons and a large empty bottle, also for obvious reasons.
His mates stencilled ‘Fragile’ and ‘This Way Up’ on the box, did the paperwork and Brian was all set. Unfortunately, things went wrong from the start. He was loaded onto the Qantas flight upside down and thought of shouting for help but decided to grit his teeth and bear it. It was only two days to London.
However, when things start to go wrong they tend to continue and so it was with Brian. Rather than flying directly to London the cargo was put on a Pan Am flight and rerouted via the USA. Five days later, with no idea where he was Brian dropped his flashlight and the baggage handlers saw the light shining through the airholes. They broke open the crate and at first thought it was a dead body. Then Brian crawled out, immensely relieved and immensely surprised that far from being in the lush pastures of Wales he was actually in Los Angeles.
The ground staff called the police and an ambulance and Brian was subsequently interviewed by everyone including the CIA and the FBI. Eventually, they decided he wasn’t a spy and Pan Am volunteered to deliver him to London – this time in a First Class seat rather than in the cargo hold.
So why is this story being told now after all these years?
Brian has written a book about his experiences which will be out shortly and now he is trying to contact the two mates that helped him in his escapade. The problem is that he has no idea where they are; he can’t even remember their last names.
He told the BBC: “If I met them again, I’d just like to say that I’m sorry I got them into this and that I missed them when I came back—and I’d like to buy them a drink.”
When Paul finally arrived in London he told his story. You can watch the video below.
So, if you helped airmail Brian from Australia to London fifty-seven years ago, or you know who did, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. There’ll be a drink waiting.