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Natives help rescue navy fliers



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NAVAL PUBLIC RELATIONS. 59 266

• · M E D I A T E RELEASE.

· ■ NATIVES HELP RESCUE NAVY FLIERS. ■ . '

A signal just received at Navy Office in Canberra

tells of the assistance provided by the native peoples when

a Royal Australian Navy aircraft ditched near Manus Island

at the week-end.

A Gannet anti-submarine aircraft flying from the

carrier, H.M.A.S. MELBOURNE, came down in ten fe^t of water

near the island of Palali, off the western tip of Manus Island.

• The three members of the crew carried out the correct

escape drill, and much to the surprise of the natives, were

quickly clambering from the aircraft. ·

The local people immediately went to the aid of the

Australians, and helped them to get ashore. One of the crew,

Lieutenant Ian Lawson, of Nowra, who had suffered a few minor

cuts, was towed ashore in his dinghy. The islanders then set

about treating his cuts, and helping in the evacuation of the

fliers. .

While some natives assisted with the laying out 'of a

ground signal to attract a searching helicopter, others climbed

coconut trees to supply the air crew with refreshments.

The arrival of the Naval helicopter from H.M.A.S.

MELBOURNE astonished the islanders, as did the technique of .

rescuing the stranded fliers by winching them up as the

helicopter continued to hover overhead. All the male islanders

insisted on shaking hands with their new-found friends before

the helicopter rescue.

c

. - 2 - .

The Gannet ditched during routine flying operations

while K.M.A.S. MELBOURNE was heading for duty in South East

Asia. ·

In addition to Lieutenant La,weon, the crew comprised

Lieutenant Joe Smith, of Bomarderry, N.S.W., and Observer

1st Class Phillip Hancox, of Elizabeth Park, S.A, It was

Observer Hancox's third lucky escape. He first crashed in

Northern Ireland in -194-9, and in the Korean War he was shot

down behind enemy lines.

Canberra, 19th March, 1963.