As a teenager, Brian had accepted a contract of employment signed with Victorian Railways under an assisted immigration program in Australia, but he was extremely unhappy. He couldn’t just buy a ticket home – he had agreed to spend two years in the country. His transport costs had been paid by the Australian government and, Brian says, he would have had to pay $ 800 to repay the loan and pay for his flight back home. ‘My salary was $ 30 a month, so I didn’t stand a chance,’ he says to the BBC.
That’s when he came up with the idea of “sending” home in the form of a plane package. Two Irishmen, Paul and John, were good friends with Brian and worked at the same company. The man remembers studying together in Ireland, but no longer knows the name of the school. At the time, the three met often and became close.
Brian needed their help because Paul had access to a typewriter and could make the necessary documents to send it as a “package”. At first, they thought the man was losing his mind. It took Brian a week to convince them to help him. “John was always on my side, but Paul didn’t want to help me at all,” he says.
Friends agreed that Brian would not mention their names and remain anonymous so as not to cause them problems.
They helped him get into a wooden box the size of a small fridge – he had brought pillows, a flashlight, suitcase and two bottles – one for water, the other for urine. While he was in the box, he couldn’t stretch his legs or turn around.
The journey proved to be far more difficult and dangerous than he could ever have imagined. It was originally supposed to fly directly to London, but the package was rerouted on a much longer route that passed through Los Angeles. Brian quickly realized that if the box he was in said “With this side up,” it didn’t necessarily mean that anyone would follow the urge. When the plane initially landed in Sydney, it was left in the box upside down for 22 hours, suffering incredible pain and loss of consciousness. However, he didn’t give up. Back in the air, he was back on the road – just not straight to the UK.
“I was locked in the box for 5 days and Finally ended up in a package store. I thought I was in London,” says Brian. “I managed to move my hand and get my flashlight, but my fingers were so numb that I dropped it. I heard voices asking what was going on. That’s when I realized that the men who spoke had no English accent, but American. One of them looked through a hole in the wooden chest and we looked each other in the eye. He jumped in the back and shouted – There’s a body inside! Then they both ran away. An hour later, everything went wrong. FBI, CIA, airport security, ambulance – they were all there!” the man reports.
During his journey, Brian stuck in the wooden box. He was taken to hospital, where he regained control of his limbs. The Americans did not take legal action, instead the young man was sent home to London by plane – among the passengers, this time. He continued to enjoy life, family and career, and at 76 he wrote a book about his great adventure – The Crate Escape – which would be published by the end of the month.
Looking back, Brian Robson can’t believe he came up with such an idea. “It was stupid. If my kids did the same thing, I’d kill them,” he says. Now he just wants to meet his Irish friends once again. He wrote them from Wales after his great adventure, but received no reply. “If I meet them again, I’d just like to tell them that I’m sorry that I got them involved in this and that I missed them after I came back,” he says.