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  • An old man looks out from his home in Wales, thinking about his life.

  • At this age, it's easy to look back on a lifetime of adventures.

  • But his life may have been a bit more adventurous than most.

  • At one point, it involved three continents and a daring mission that made nearly him

  • an international incident.

  • And it all started back in 1965.

  • Brian Robson was a 19-year-old lad from Cardiff when he decided to embark on an adventure

  • halfway across the world.

  • Victorian Railways was offering an assisted immigration program in Australia for those

  • who wanted to work there, but there was one catch - once you signed on, the Australian

  • government paid your way there and you committed to spending two years in the country.

  • But Australia didn't live up to the hype for Brian, he was staying in a dingy hostel

  • filled with rats, and he soon became deeply homesick.

  • He would give anything to return home to Wales, but to quit early he would have to pay the

  • government 800 pounds back and then pay his own way home.

  • And Brian was flat broke.

  • With a salary of only thirty pounds a month, he wasn't earning his way out of Australia

  • early.

  • He was quickly becoming desperate, and that led him to a risky move - stowing away on

  • a cargo ship out of Melbourne.

  • This was a common tactic, and the crew knew to look.

  • Brian was quickly caught and sentenced to three months in jail.

  • He turned 19 in an Australian cell and was more determined than ever to make his way

  • back to Great Britain.

  • And inspiration struck when he was looking at an advertisement.

  • Pickfords, a moving company, had advertised its ability to ship large weights.

  • They boasted that they could move anything anywhere - and Mr. Robson realized that he

  • was something.

  • But he couldn't very well put himself in a box and get himself to the airport - that

  • would involve a lot of flipping the box over, and would probably arouse some attention,

  • because Brian didn't live in a cartoon.

  • Fortunately, while he might have been lonely in Australia, he wasn't totally alone.

  • He had made a few friends while working for Victoria Railways.

  • Like a pair of Irishmen named Paul and John, who were skeptical about Brian's crazy plan.

  • After all, they were about to commit international shipping fraud.

  • John was quickly sold on the idea, but Paul was skeptical.

  • Brian agreed to keep their names out of it if he was caught, and the plan was on.

  • First step - buy a crate.

  • They needed one that was big enough for Brian to survive, but not so big it would arouse

  • attention.

  • They chose a model that was around the size of a small refrigerator - just big enough

  • for Brian to crouch in without even being able to stand up, and to bring a small suitcase

  • with essential supplies.

  • He would bring a pillow, a flashlight, a book, a water bottle, a bottle to pee in, and a

  • hammer to open the box from the inside.

  • But there was one thing he wouldn't bring.

  • The journey would take Brian from Melbourne to London.

  • And while he would be hydrated, Brian intended to abstain from eating for the duration of

  • his journey - an extreme fast that most people would never contemplate.

  • But there was a good reason for that - few things could make staying in a box for an

  • extended period worse than needing to go number two.

  • Finally, the day was here - and there was no turning back.

  • Brian packed himself in the crate with his supplies, and Paul and John sealed it up.

  • A truck was called, and the box was loaded on labeled as a mainframe computer.

  • This was large and heavy enough that no one would think twice about inspecting it, and

  • it would also make it likely to be treated more gently as a valuable item - in theory.

  • While the box had been labeledThis Side Up”, there was no guarantee that the workers

  • at the airports would care about that.

  • But Brian's journey was about to take a terrifying twist.

  • The crate was loaded on the plane, but Brian had no way of knowing that the freight airline

  • had made a potentially fatal decision.

  • The plane was too full, and they re-routed his crate to a connecting flight to Sydney.

  • He was loaded on and off the plane, and then to a connecting flight.

  • What was supposed to be a thirty-six hour flight was about to get a lot longer, and

  • that wasn't the only wrinkle.

  • As soon as he spent a few hours in the crate, his body started to cramp up and he found

  • himself in agonizing pain.

  • And as soon as he arrived in Sydney, a careless worker flipped the crate upside down and left

  • it in holding.

  • Brian's discomfort was about to become a battle to survive.

  • From the moment Brian was placed in the cargo hold, the oxygen in the box started to decrease.

  • He found it increasingly hard to breathe.

  • After all, cargo planes weren't designed for human cargo.

  • But as soon as the crate was flipped upside down, Brian found himself in much worse shape.

  • Unable to flip himself over, he was putting a lot of pressure on his neck and head, and

  • soon found himself lightheaded with all the blood rushing to his head.

  • His head started throbbing, and he found himself blacking out.

  • If he had been left in that position much longer, it could have been fatal - but thankfully

  • the next airport worker flipped the box over properly.

  • It was time for the next leg of Brian's journey - with a surprise at the end.

  • Brian soon realized it had been much longer than thirty-six hours, and he still hadn't

  • apparently been unloaded at his destination.

  • After five days cramped in a box, he was starting to panic.

  • His arms were stiff, and he tried to grab his flashlight and look out of the box.

  • But he dropped it, and it created a loud sound in the box - that happened to get the attention

  • of two people.

  • They started talking about where the sound came from, and Brian realized something disturbing.

  • The men were talking with American accents.

  • One of the men looked into a hole in the box, and he and Brian caught each other eye to

  • eye.

  • The workers panicked, thinking there was a dead person in the box, and soon the cargo

  • shed was swarming with government agents, airport security, and emergency workers.

  • They cracked open the box, and pulled Brian out - barely able to move and in agonizing

  • pain.

  • And as he was taken to the hospital, he learned the truth.

  • He hadn't flown to London.

  • He was in Los Angeles.

  • The cargo flight had been detoured across the Atlantic ocean, and he had survived the

  • journey.

  • But he wasn't in good shape.

  • The five-day journey had left his limbs stiff and barely able to move due to being stuck

  • in unnatural positions, and he spent several days in the hospital recovering before he

  • could move normally.

  • And word started to spread around the world of Brian Robson's spectacular escape.

  • Robson had potentially angered three different countries, and now they would decide his fate.

  • He had barely made it to America.

  • Now would he be able to get out?

  • American authorities originally considered charges of unlawful entry against Brian, but

  • dropped them once they found out he was a British national.

  • Australia wasn't quite so forgiving, with the repeat offender's second attempted flight

  • out of the country raising multiple politicians' ire.

  • One legislator even called him a “useless young manand called for prosecution, but

  • the government didn't proceed with charges.

  • The only question left was where to send him next.

  • The first plan was to send him back to Australia - but there were no flights there immediately.

  • There was, however, a flight to Britain.

  • And so, Brian Robson completed his journey back to the United Kingdom, this time in far

  • more comfort than the previous legs.

  • He flew in the cabin, free of charge in a first class seat, and landed in Britain to

  • international renown.

  • Television cameras were waiting for him, and his story was known across Britain - which

  • meant when he made it home to Cardiff, he would have to explain the whole affair to

  • his angry mom and dad.

  • Physically, Brian recovered fully, but he was haunted by night terrors and flashbacks

  • to his terrible journey for years afterwards.

  • But as stowaways go, Brian got off easily.

  • Over a hundred and twenty-five people have tried to hitch a ride on an airplane since

  • 1947, but less than a quarter of them make their way to the end of their destination

  • alive.

  • There are many dangers along the way, including extreme cold or heat, turbulence, and lack

  • of oxygen.

  • And many stowaways take an even more dangerous approach to stowing away than Brian did - they

  • hide in the wheel well of the plane.

  • That means holding on to the equipment, with the constant risk of falling.

  • And when the wheel goes in as the plane lands, being a tiny bit out of place could mean being

  • crushed to death.

  • While Brian's approach eliminated some of those dangers, a particularly brutal bout

  • of turbulence could have easily tossed him in the wrong way in his box and broken his

  • neck.

  • So what drives modern stowaways to risk their lives?

  • Many are refugees from war-torn or poverty-filled countries, hoping for a free ride to the US

  • or a European nation where they can avoid detection once they land.

  • Of course, there are others, like Brian, who had very different motivations.

  • In 1928, teenage Clarence Tehrune was known for his habit of stowing away on trains and

  • crashing sports events.

  • But when his brother in law made him a bet, he couldn't refuse.

  • He snuck onto the maiden flight of the Graf Zeppelin, and stowed away all the way from

  • New Jersey to Germany.

  • Sure, he was arrested when he landed, but he had won bragging rights in his family for

  • the rest of his life.

  • But for Brian Robson, he had quite enough of adventure.

  • Back in Britain and free of any criminal charges, he had a brief time as a local celebrity.

  • He wanted to escape the spotlight and get back to living his life, but his legacy now

  • spanned the globe.

  • Australia even discussed putting in tougher scanning of cargo using a geiger counter to

  • check for stowaways, although nothing came of it in the 1960s.

  • Brian's thoughts often went back to the two friends who helped his crazy escape from

  • Australia, but while he sent letters down under, he never heard back.

  • Time moved on, but he never forgot.

  • Brain went on to enjoy life in Wales, get married, and start a career and a family.

  • But even decades later, he never forgot the five terrifying days he spent in that crate

  • not knowing when - or how - the end of his journey would come.

  • Flashbacks to the coffin-like conditions he experienced stuck with him, and he never forgot

  • John and Paul.

  • Then, many decades later, he decided to do something about it.

  • It was over fifty-five years after his mad escape from Australia that Brian Robson found

  • himself in the news again.

  • This time, the now-seventy something Welshman had sought out the papers to help him put

  • the word out - he wanted to reunite with John and Paul.

  • He said he wanted to buy them a pint and thank them for their help, while apologizing for

  • any trouble he caused them, but it would also make a fantastic conclusion to the story.

  • That's because Brian had written a book about his adventure, titledThe Crate Escape”,

  • and his story was now being scouted by documentary filmmakers.

  • He reportedly found one in Australia and the other much closer to home in Ireland.

  • And when the three reunite over half a century later, who knows what scheme they'll come

  • up with next?

  • For more on daring stowaways, watchWhat Happens When You Hide In The Landing Gear

  • Of A Plane”, or check outDeath Row Inmates Escape Before Executionfor another of

  • history's greatest escapes.

An old man looks out from his home in Wales, thinking about his life.

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How Teen Mailed Himself from Australia to Britain

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    Summer posted on 2021/07/16
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