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Thread: Charles McCormac RAF

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    Default Charles McCormac RAF

    I cannot recall if I have asked this here before and I cannot check because the search facility is not working. Every time I try to search it goes to an error page.

    Can anyone here tell me anythign about Charles McCormac, RAF, who was a Wireless Operator-Air Gunner on No. 205 Squadron (Catalinas) in Singapore when the Japanese began to attack that country. He was captured after a short time defending the island as a foot soldier. He later escaped and made his way across several countries in an incredible journey of evasion and survival. He later wrote a book detailing all this called "You'll Die In Singapore", which is simply brilliant.

    I am curious as to whether he may still be alive today. And if anyone has any further info on him I'd appreciate it. His story was also apparently written up in a briefer version by Paul Brickhill before he wrote his own book.

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    Dave,

    I have some notes, he was commissioned A/P/O 56373 29/12/44 Admin Branch. Also he served in the RAFVR 1949-1959 ? F/L - Intelligence ?

    Mark

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    Thanks Mark. Yes, I don't want to give the end of his book away so if you want to read it, look away now.
    When he made it to Australia eventually they employed him in the area that trained people about escape and evasion, etc. From memory when the ordeal began for him in December 1941 he was a F/Sgt WOpAG

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    I believe an abbreviated version of his escape appears in the Paul Brickhill book "Escape Or Die".

    As I have no knowledge of the publications dates of this book and McCormac's own account, I don't know which one spawned the other.

    If memory serves me right, McCormac would be close to his centenary if he is still with us.

    Colin Cummings

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    Publisher's (Pan Macmillan Aust.) blurb from recent (2009 P/B.), edition of 'You'll Die in Singapore":

    Charles (Edward) McCormac was born in England and educated in Australia before joining the RAF (520544) at the age of 18. He fought in WWII, was captured and imprisoned in Singapore and was one of only two men to survive a dramatic five-month great escape from Singapore to Australia. Upon returning to Britain, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He passed away in 1985 at the age of 70.

    And that wasn't his first brush with death! From the introduction to McCormac's chapter in "Escape or Die" Pan Books. 1973 (10th rep.) p.11.

    Charles Edward McCormac was a planter's son, born in Croydon, England, in October, 1915. In 1919 his parents took him to Malaya and he grew up there, learning to speak Malay and some Chinese, Japanese and Tamil, not realising at the time how that was going to help save his life. Educated partly in Australia, he joined the R.A.F. at eighteen and in 1937 went to No.36 (Torpedo-bomber) Squadron in Malaya as a wireless technician in aircrew. They flew old Vildebeestes, which had two supple wings strung together with struts and wire. One night in 1939 an aileron jammed and his plane* spun ten thousand feet into the sea. The pilot was either drowned or taken by sharks, but McCormac, who was never a docile young man, kept afloat for fifteen hours, hanging on to wreckage till a flying boat spotted him next morning and picked him up. Having an affection thereafter for flying-boats, he transferred to No.205 Squadron (Singapore flying-boats). In 1940 he married the daughter of the postmaster at Kuching and was stationed in Singapore on the fateful December 7, 1941.

    * Probably No.36 Sqn Vildebeest III K4182, Crashed in Singapore Strait 6-11-1939. Pilot, 40571 P/O William SHAW RAF + . Commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, Column 410.
    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 31st August 2011 at 02:06. Reason: Added full quote from "Escape or Die".

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    Oldduffer, the Brickhill book came first, and Charles McCormac received so much attention and letters, etc, after it was published he decided to elaborate on it and write the fuill book. He tells that in the preface of his book.

    Thanks for that info Col Bruggy. So he is indeed no longer with us. Oh well. Gee that story of the Vildebeest accident is interesting and a new one to me. The mini-biography does not mention what he mentions in the book, he spent several years growing up in Asia too, I can't recall if it was Singapore or Indonesia, but that in itself helped his escape as he was fairly knowledgeable with the native languages, and with what berries and fruit etc could be eaten and what was poisonous, remembered from his youth.

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    Hi Dave,

    Have added full quote from "Escape or Die". I tried to restrict my comments to the Vildebeest incident, better the full quote.

    Col.

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