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Thread: Down in the desert

  1. #1
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    Default Down in the desert

    RCAF Press Release 3410, issued on 19 October 1944 told a particularly colourful story. The date of the event was probably about 12-16 months earlier. Although the item is interesting, I know nothing more about the incident than what appears below - date ? unit ? other crew members ? Any experts or guidance out there ?

    "Poona, India: It was like a scene from an Arabian Nights tale when a Wellington bomber-reconnaissance force-landed on the Persian Gulf in the desert of Saudi Arabia. Fearing for their lives because desert tribes were considered hostile to the Allies, members of the crew instead found them royally entertained by Sheik Hassa.

    "One of the bomber’s crew was Flight Lieutenant Bliss Lewin, Toronto and Royal Oak, Michigan. An American who trained in the RCAF at Montreal and Fingal, Ontario, Flight Lieutenant Lewin worked in a Toronto night club in 1929. In the early days of the forward pass in Canada he served as part-time coach of Toronto’s Bloor Collegiate football team.

    "One tour of operations completed in India, Flight Lieutenant Lewin is now gunnery leader of an RAF Refresher Flying Unit. On operations he was gunnery leader with a Wellington bomber squadron served by 20 other Canadians and his trips included raids on all major Burmese targets.

    "On his way to India the “kite” in which Flight Lieutenant Lewin was flying experienced fuel trouble and went down in the desert, rolling 50 yards to a stop with wheels hub-deep in sand. The wireless operator was able to contact his base, the fuel trouble was repaired, but it was impossible to take off.

    "As darkness set in natives from a village gathered 100 yards from the aircraft. The fliers were not too happy.

    “'But we knew we were helpless so the pilot and I walked toward the group and in jig time we were guided to the palace of Sheik Hassa - it was just like you see in the movies', said Flight Lieutenant Lewin. 'Bodyguards met us 500 yards from the palace and it was like a scene from Arabian Nights as we walked over heavy red-plush carpets to be presented to the boss man.'

    "The Sheik could not speak English, he seemed friendly and motioned to the fliers to make themselves comfortable on fluffy pillows on the floor. Then fruit and sweet coffee were produced before the Sheik retired to his prayers.

    "When the Sheik returned the fliers asked by gestures if it was possible to have their aircraft pulled out of the sand. When he caught on, the Sheik smiled, “sure thing.”

    "But it was dark and the Sheik was more interested in where the unexpected guests were going to sleep. The boys indicated they would sleep under the wings of the aircraft. The Sheik urged them to stay in his palacw, but they explained they had to rejoin their crew mates.

    "Escorted to the aircraft by guards with lanterns, the fliers retired in the sand while their guards lit a fire and walked around the plane all night. When the moon rose about 11 o’clock the boys were startled when the natives awakened them to offer them a feed of whole, well-cooked lamb. Then, just as the sun was rising, breakfast of porridge, pancakes, fruit and sweet coffee was provided.

    "After breakfast the Sheik arrived with a bodyguard, while far behind came a labour gang. The natives went to work with ropes to pull out the bomber and when the ropes broke and they floundered in the sand and they roared with laughter and tried again.

    "After seven hours the aircraft was freed and by placing blankets under each wheel it was able to take off. The Sheik and his followers stood waving till the bomber disappeared from view."
    Last edited by HughAHalliday; 3rd November 2010 at 11:12.

  2. #2
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    Hi Hugh,

    As mentioned in my e-mail, I am checking on the Toronto connections for you and will get back when I have something.
    David

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