The true story of the man who posted himself to Australia
In the mid-1960s, Australian athlete Reg Spiers found himself stranded in London with no money to buy a plane ticket home. Desperate to get back to Australia in time for his daughter’s birthday, he decided to post himself in a wooden crate.
“I just got in the thing and went. What was there to be frightened of? I’m not frightened of the dark so I just sat there.
“It’s like when I travel now if I go overseas. There’s the seat. Sit in it, and go.”
Reg Spiers makes it sound very straightforward more than half a century later, but it caused a media storm in Australia at the time.
He explains his attitude like this: “I’ve come up with this mad scheme to get back to Australia in a box. Who can say it won’t work? Let’s give it a shot.”
Spiers had come to the UK to try to recover from an injury that had interrupted his athletics career. A promising javelin thrower, he had been on course to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.
But when it became clear he would not make the games, Spiers set his mind to raising enough money to fly back to Australia, and took an airport job to earn some cash.
But his plans changed when his wallet, containing all his savings, was stolen. With a wife and daughter back home, Spiers wanted to get back to Adelaide, but “there was one catch,” he explains. “I didn’t have any money.”
And with his daughter’s birthday looming, he was in a hurry.
“I worked in the export cargo section, so I knew about cash-on-delivery with freight. I’d seen animals come through all the time and I thought, ‘If they can do it I can do it.'”
Spiers had survived three days travelling in the wooden crate. But he still faced the challenge of getting out of the airport. Fortunately, his luck continued.
“There were some tools in there so I just cut a hole in the wall and got out.
“There was no security. I put on a suit out of my bag so I looked cool, jumped through the window, walked out on to the street and thumbed a ride into town. Simple as that.”
But back in England, John McSorley, who had built the crate and delivered Spiers to the airport, was desperately worried about his friend. Spiers hitchhiked his way back to his family in Adelaide, but neglected to tell McSorley he had come through his journey intact.
In an effort to find out what had happened, McSorley alerted the media, and Spiers quickly became a sensation in his home country.
“I got a telegram from a renowned Australian politician,” he says, which read, “‘A gallant effort by a real Aussie – and here’s five quid.’ I’m winning big time. It was great.”
In the end the airline didn’t make him pay the shipping fees. But Spiers admits he was taken aback by the media coverage of his adventure.
“I’d never seen anything like it. It scared the hell out of my mother with the whole street blocked with media. And it would go on for weeks. It was pretty wild.”
Spiers succeeded in making it back in time for his daughter’s birthday but he still had a job convincing his wife his story was true.
“She didn’t believe me,” he says. “But then she thought about it and thought ‘He must have done it, how else did he get here?’ So eventually she rode with it.”
Air industry insiders say something like this would never be able to happen now. The hold is usually pressurised and the temperature will usually be above freezing but all cargo loaded on to planes is screened for security reasons and a hidden person would be found.
Source: BBC News