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Nicol Wonder

Up The Spout. It was a cold business working on those big Northrop seaplanes on an Icelandic fiord.These were big heavy planes with one powerful radial engine of fourteen cylinders,wing guns and carrying three depth charges slung from the underside of the fuselage,between the two large metal floats,we were,the four of us,RAF mechanicswho were seconded to the Norski Flygivapon,the Norwegian Fleet Arm,one Eric,for radio,Nicol for armourar,Charlie for airframe bod and myself,George the electrician just boarding this plane moored on the fiord,about five hundreds yards from our shore base at Buderayri to carry out our inspection. Eric the radio man got aboard first and settled into the radio/navigator`s seat,Nicol moved along the port wing to open the covers to inspect the guns in that wing while Charles was on the starboard side checking the float, I wasjust aboard and into the pilot`s seat when I heard the clicking of the radio apparatus then a splash and called to Charlie,"How many depthcharges are on?" "Two"he yelled back. "Nicol"I then called,how deep is the water?The reply came,"To darned deep"Nicol knew as it had been him who had set the firing depth on the charges. We were in for trouble.The floor of the fuselage started to make crunching noises under my feet,the whole plane gave a sudden jerk and I just caught a glimpse of Nicol flying off the end of the wing as a column of water shot up around the cockpit.I rose up and made to climb out but could not break through the water.What goes up must come down and after what seemed to be a long time.down it came.The solid column of water swept me back against Eric and both were swept back along the fuselage.As the flow eased we started to swim back along the body of the plane towards the cockpit.But,I suddenly realised,that I had lost my cap.One does the most peculiar things in moments of stress,for stupidly,I turned back to find it.Fortunately I saw it almost at once,grabbed it,stuck it into my belt,and again started forward. I then climbed over the side of the cockpit to see Nicol floumdering in the water but felt a bit relieved to see the bow wave of the rescue boat approaching.Now I turned to look around and realised that the starboard float was either blown off or crumpled as the starboard wing was under water.I had got out on the port side and had something to stand on and the boat crew had seen Nicol in the water and had gone to get him first.Charlie was clinging to the starboard edge of the cockpit and Eric was beside me and as I turned to speak to him,he lost his grip and slid into the water but was alright as the boat was on our side of the plane and he was next to be picked up.I signalled for the boat to gom round for Charlie as he was half in the water and if the plane sank any further he would go down with it.They yelled to me to jump but I waved them past,and they had the good sense not to waste time and swung round past the tail of the plane and helled out a boathook for Charlie to grab.He got hold and was pulled into the water and across to safety. There remained,just me,and for some odd reason I didn`t worry as I had built up confidence in the Norwegian`s seamanshipThe boat swung round again and came back towards me,the skipper yelling for me to jump,but I had had enough of that cold water and would have none of it.The plane was now sinking beneath me but I still hesitated. "Swing round to the end of the wing and I"ll jump clean aboard"and I could see the skipper`s face. "You will endanger the boat,the plane is going down". I ignored him and started to claw my way up the now steeply inclined wing.He was now convinced that I had no intention of jumping into that cold water so turned the boat round and expertly skimmed along close to the wing. I allowed the mast to just pass then leapt and was grabbed firmly as I landed on the deck. There was an RAF station not too far away and they had been alerted to what was happening and a Squadron Leader Hussey had come over to take charge. I found out later that he had had experience of arctic conditions. The engines roared and we were soon at full speed and headed for the shore where we slowed and drew in alongside the small pier.Before the skipper could rage at me for making him take risks I looked towards the squadron leader who was holding out his hand to help each of us ashore.As soon as we were all on land,he yelled for us and the three boat crew, to run as he took to his heels and led the way to the canteen.We all arrived and followed him in, to find two first aid people standing by a red hot stove and holding out blankets to us.As we made to grab them there was a shout, "Hold it everyone,everything off,come on,all clothing off"One must obey orders so we dropped the blankets and started to strip.Meanwhile our squadron leader had unwrapped a big parcel and was now holding up a stone jug which we recognised at once.The parcelhad been one of those which are dropped to sailors in open boats whose ship has been sunk.We stood naked and gazed.The next order came sharply. "Get blankets round you,grab a mug and get seated.Orderly,bring me a mug and go round with this jug and fill up the mugs,mine first".You can well understand that the order was very promtly obeyed.The rum glugged into each mug and there was no hesitation about starting as Squadron Leader Hussey held up his mug and congratulated the rescue boat members on an alert response and successful rescue before taking a generous tipple. It was not long before we had consumed a good measure of that very strong rum,and far from being despondent about what had happened and we began to feel quite happy and the officer,who seemed to be as happy as any of us,now proclaimed ."Come on now,let`s have a song" In our now very pleasant state,there was no reluctance to get started and within minutes,anyone passing would wonder just what was going on.Soon we were stone drunk and did not know until next morning,when we woke,how we got to bed.Later we could only congratulate our squadron leader on his treatment of us as everyone of us was able to turn out for work that day with not a single cold among the lot of us.He certainly knew his stuff.

nicol wonder

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