Unable to do more, Hewson ordered his navigator to bail. Reluctantly, Fraser did just that. Fuller gave his navigator the same order, so Sinclair also jumped. Then he told Hewson to do the same. Despite his pain, and with a bit of maneuvering as well as a lot of swearing, the injured pilot managed it.
So now there was one. Fortunately, the lower plane’s engines were still working. And while Fuller could no longer get his own to start, he was able to control his ailerons and flaps. With those responding and with the now-empty plane’s engines still running, Fuller considered his options.
Scanning the ground below, he remembered his training. Fuller managed another 5 miles before zooming toward the ground below. Then he made an emergency pancake landing (the technical term for a belly flop without the landing gear extended) in a large open field.
He slid some 200 yards across grass before finally stopping some 4 miles southwest of Brocklesby – putting it on the international map thanks to all the publicity it finally got. It would also receive a VIP – Group Captain Arthur “Spud” Murphy.
Murphy and Captain Henry Wrigley became famous in 1919 for flying from Melbourne to Darwin – the first trans-Australian flight. By 1940 Murphy was also the RAAF’s Inspector of Air Accidents, which was why he flew directly from Melbourne to Brocklesby.
Fuller was still there, and when asked to explain, replied, “Well, sir, I did everything we’ve been told to do in a forced landing — land as close as possible to habitation or a farmhouse and, if possible, land into the wind. I did all that. There’s the farmhouse, and I did a couple of circuits and landed into the wind. She was pretty heavy on the controls, though!”
The media loved it! Brocklesby could have been obliterated – especially since there wasn’t (and still isn’t) much of it to destroy. Fuller was a hero!
Equally important, however, was that he had saved the government £40,000 – the combined value of both planes. Given the ongoing war, Australia needed to save as much money and resources as it possibly could.
The planes were repaired and put back in use as training vehicles. Hewson got treated for his back, Fuller was rewarded with the rank of sergeant, and it should have ended there. But it didn’t.
The RAAF wanted to investigate the incident more fully, so they put Fuller on gag orders while they did so. Unfortunately, he couldn’t resist the media spotlight and gave out several interviews.
To punish him, he was confined to barracks for two weeks and was denied a week’s pay. The following month, they commended him and sent him off to Europe (where he received a Distinguished Flying Medal in March 1942) and the Middle East .
Later that year, Fuller returned to Australia where he tragically died – but not in combat. While bicycling near Sale on March 18, 1944 he was hit by a bus. The man who survived an air collision and several aerial dogfights was killed on land by public transportation.