THE SUNDERLAND CAPER
In the summer of 1945, Bournemouth was crammed with RCAF personnel waiting to be repatriated to Canada; some were ex-POWs. Two Flight "Loots" from my camp, and whom I knew well, became involved in what became known as "The Sunderland Caper".
George Harsh and Kingsley Brown, both shot down in 1942, became increasingly impatient about the repatriation delay and decided to do something about it. One evening in a bar, where all things seem possible, Kingsley and George dreamed up the idea of flying home which was not unreasonable except that they determined that tonight was the night. They concocted a plan to liberate a Sunderland flying boat that was based nearby at Poole. The story gets better with the telling but as I understand it they rowed out to the four engine Sunderland which was moored in the harbour. Kingsley had previously flown only twin - engine Hampden bombers and George Harsh was an air gunner of all things. Somehow they got one engine going which alerted a guard on shore. He notified the military police and harbour authorities who sped out to the Sunderland to see what was going on. They caught Kingsley and George in the act of trying to steal one of His Majesty's aircraft. The culprits were hustled off to the slammer where they spent the night.
Next morning the news of the escapade spread around Bournemouth. Hank Dow and Chuck Willis, both of whom were decorated Wing Commanders and ex- POWs, hurried to the jail to see what could be done. They convinced the authorities that it was a harmless caper by a couple of guys who had been behind barbed wire for a very long time and simply wanted to go home. Brown and Harsh were released with a stern warning.
George Harsh from the Deep South should have known better. He was the same George Harsh who was in charge of Security on the Great Escape at Sagan and prior to his enlistment in the RCAF, spent ten years on a Georgia Chain Gang. Kingsley Brown who hailed from West Jeddore, N.S. was no youngster either having been a newspaper reporter for 10 years pre-war.
It had nothing to do with the Sunderland Caper but George Harsh, Kingsley Brown and the rest of the remaining POWs at Bournemouth were aboard the Ile de France a week or so later. The Atlantic was like a mill pond and we arrived in Halifax in record time, happy as clams. For those who wish to read more about George Harsh and Kingsley Brown (both now deceased) you may be able to find their books in some libraries:
Lonesome Road" by George Harsh publisher W.W. Norton
"Bonds of Wire" by Kingsley Brown publisher Collins
Thanks to Vern White
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