The Tragedy at Kufra
January 12, 2015 2:29 PM   Subscribe

A grim and forbidding land, devoid of human habitation, intolerant of the inexperienced, and merciless when it judges the foolhardy. On May 4, 1942, twelve men of the South African Air Force boarded three Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs and took off from the oasis of Kufra in the Libyan Desert. Only one made it back alive.

The diary of Major J L V de Wet, recovered later, detailed their suffering:
  • Thursday 7th (?): Boys are going mad wholesale - they want to shoot each other - will I be able to stop them and stop them from shooting me - Please give us strength.
  • Friday: 6 of us left - out of 12 - no water - we expect to be all gone today. Death will be welcome - we went through hell.
  • Saturday 9 (?): Hope, Sgt. Vos and Lew also gone. Only me, Shipman and Juul left. we can last if help arrives soon - they know where we are but do not seem to do much about it. Bit of a poor show isnt it. But we will try to stick it out to the very
posted by gottabefunky (10 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Gripping narrative - I wonder what happened to Air Mechanic Juul?
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:24 PM on January 12, 2015

On the 6th May in the morning a sand storm blew up, and so we took out the fire extinguishers and used them in the usual manner to try and keep ourselves cool. They relieved us temporarily but soon produced blisters which burst into sores...Morphia was used to relieve the pain from the fire extinguisher burns. gentian Violet was also used to relieve the pain of burns, but this gave little relief.

If that's the "usual manner" of cooling off, I'll pass
posted by thelonius at 3:28 PM on January 12, 2015

Air Mechanic Juul was apparently Noel St. Malo Juul, and he died in South Africa at the fairly young age of 57.
posted by tavella at 3:48 PM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

gottabefunky: "Bit of a poor show isnt it."

Yes, that's just not cricket. Tally-ho, pip pip, die of thirst and exposure in the desert, jolly good.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:56 PM on January 12, 2015

fyi - other desert-y links:
posted by j_curiouser at 4:02 PM on January 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

This 1991 article from the Atlantic also came to mind: The World in its Extreme. Reading the FPP, I immediately thought of the Belgians that got lost in the desert trying to drive from Algeria to Burkina Faso...
posted by pravit at 4:13 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think this was on the Blue previously, but can't seem to find it.

it's below in the Related Posts thingy.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:34 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

it's below in the Related Posts thingy
well shut me up
posted by j_curiouser at 4:48 PM on January 12, 2015

Wow, j_curiouser, that Lancaster story is something else.
posted by gottabefunky at 5:55 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

This story reminded me of flight 19. It wasn't that long ago that navigating over the featureless desert or ocean was not a trivial matter.
posted by TedW at 6:57 AM on January 13, 2015

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