By Alan Hawkshaw
On 8 October, 1943, we set out from the Santa Cruz (Bombay) airport to do a "Creeping Line Ahead" convoy escort in Beaufort 1, DW 940. Crew ; AI Hawkshaw, Captain, Cornwall, Ont., Navigator Bert Pawsey, Barnes, London, UK; WOP/ AGs Frank Perry, Leyton, London, and Norman Brick, Clywd, North Wales. At about 10:00 AM, 100 miles west of Bombay, engine failure.
So Sudden! I think I put the undercarriage down instead of opening the bomb bay doors to get rid of the depth charges. We "landed" OK. The dinghy would not release and Frank disappeared below the surface still pulling on the cord as the a/c sank. He bobbed up and we clustered on board the broken-off oleo leg, tire keeping; it afloat (lucky mistake). In a long vigil overnight, we huddled together; luckily sharks chose not to attack.
Next morning a Beaufort search a/c did a port turn around us so close we recognized the pilot, Martin Glynn. In our Mae Wests in the whitecaps we were invisible. Later in the morning we spotted a sail on the horizon. It tacked back and forth for what seemed like four hours, then came close enough to hail. All together boys, in a low pitched voice: "Ship Ahoy."
Pandemonium broke loose on deck. One of the crew jumped overboard with a rope (sharks around). We were too weak to climb up. They hauled us on board with ropes. The ship was an Indian dhow commercial vessel with a load of grain on its way from Karachi to Cochin. They broke journey to take us to Bombay.
Late afternoon, October 10th, we arrived and were unloaded onto the harbour command ship, Bombay Harbour. A launch was summoned but they were going to leave us as they thought we were M.I.5 or some such underground (water?) security outfit. Finally they took us and moored beside the third destroyer out, line abreast at dock. Major Strever (SAAF) came bounding over the decks, grabbed Norman (broken leg), carried him ashore and all of us off to hospital for a few days.
Second time around, 22 January, 1944, Beaufort 1 DW 872. The British fleet was coming east for the Pacific war. The Squadron mounted a practice torpedo attack, first light in the morning. What a sight! Silhouetted against the morning sky were Aircraft Carriers, Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers. Probably the first time during the war the classic "A-K Line" could be assembled.
Then, engine failure. Good ditching, good dinghy. Navigator this trip was Wilf. Martin, Warrington, UK and a passenger, Bill Carrol, who came along to see the fleet and to pick up his new uniform at the tailor's in Colombo. There was a small tin on the dinghy floor so Wilf. threw it overboard in case someone stepped on it and ripped the fabric. Horrors!! Frank's cigarettes, waterproofed and lovingly packed as he said, "Never again will I be without them like the last time."
A couple of hours later an Albacore from one of the carriers spotted us. Destroyer HMS Petard (brand new) picked us up and at 42 knots we were in Colombo harbour for lunch. On arrival at the airport (Ratamalana) I was invited to the Officers' Mess. My commission had come through. Maybe we should have ditched a third time. I might have made CAS!