(Report about Winston Churchill on his escape during the Boer War.)
‘ALWAYS CARRY YOUR ESCAPE AIDS WITH YOU .’
This self explanatory message appeared at the beginning of an Escape and Evasion Instruction Bulletin for British and Commonwealth aircrews in World War Two. It carried an extra punch because of the person involved and its continuing relevance over the years.
Various aids were given to RAF and US airmen before they left on a mission, to help them survive and evade capture if they landed in enemy territory (by parachute or crash landing). Most of these were packed into an ‘Escape Kit.’
Contents of the 14 x 12 x 2.5 cm packs were expertly put together with no space being wasted. Looking down the list of items, I decided by using tenuous connections to make up my own Writer’s Escape Kit:
The 14 x 12 x 2.5 cm Pack - Imagination. Essential for any story teller.
Escaper’s Compass – Airmen needed to check their compass before they started walking. The direction for most in Western Europe was south to
. Crucial I decide the direction of my writing before beginning a new project. Spain
Silk Maps – Contained in a pouch that fitted into a uniform pocket and often stored near to the escape kit. Detailed information on the maps helped the planning of routes. Important I detail the sources of factual reference, plan meticulously and know the stages and specifics of the story’s journey.
Fishing Line and Hook – Vital I trail out a decent line and draw the reader in with good hooks to keep the pages turning.
Sewing Needle and Thread – Fundamental that the story is sewn together chapter by chapter and I can stitch it back later with a seamless join if unpicked to make changes.
Two Small Rolls of Sticking Plaster – Use to hold together rough drafts, experimental changes and for stretching writing boundaries. Also for sticking over wounds picked up on the journey.
2 Packets of Chewing Gum – Much needed when agonising over all of the above. Unlikely to last long.
2 Bars of Chocolate, Horlicks Tablets, and Condensed Milk -. For consumption sparingly, as the story will be a long, unpredictable and tense journey. Use when adrenaline and creativity feel at their lowest.
Anti Fatigue Tablets – I don’t do drugs so no Benzedrine or ‘wakey wakey’ pills as the RAF airmen called them. Will try to ‘coffee myself out’ and rely on adrenaline.
Rubber Water Bag and Water Purification Tablets - Essential for the airman. The rubber bag could be useful if I’m ‘coffeed out’ on a long public journey, but unless the writing has reached an inhospitable and barren place the purification tablets must be saved for another day. There is no need to cleanse the life out of a manuscript with them.
Safety Matches – Use for heating up the sag in the middle of a story or lighting a bonfire of my old rejected manuscripts.
There is no physical comparison between an evader/escaper’s fight to stay free and the writer’s struggle for survival on their journey. But a Writer’s Escape Kit has kept me going and I continue to draw from it. The pure writing comparisons are as relevant today as when Winston Churchill escaped during the Boer War.
© Keith Morley