Churchill’s heroic escape shares link with Grafton past

THE helmsman of the Induna was not concentrating on his wheel or his ship's path on December 21, 1899, as it plied its weekly run between South African towns Maputo to Durban.

There was an interesting character on board. He was making his escape from the Boer War and held a captive audience spellbound.

HISTORIC TREASURE: Cyril Jones, of Gilletts Ridge, with the steering wheel from the Induna. Photo: Adam Hourigan
HISTORIC TREASURE: Cyril Jones, of Gilletts Ridge, with the steering wheel from the Induna. Photo: Adam Hourigan

The crew and passengers were stirred up because the witty man of good stock was telling them of his heroic flight from behind enemy lines and out of the Boers' clutches.

This man was also a correspondent for the Morning Post, and he never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

That helmsman never got to find out how accurate Winston Churchill's story was because he had his duty at the wheel of the Induna.

Sir Churchill passed away 50 years ago this week and left a legacy most famous for conceiving the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War and spurring the Allies to victory in the Second World War.

The Induna took a different course. The vessel travelled to the South Pacific Islands to carry out work for BP.

In the Pacific Islands the Induna was used in rescue missions, chased and captured by German warships in the First World War before falling into the possession of NSW Railways and working as a train ferry in the Clarence River.

Winston went on to become legend, while the Induna's rusting hulk lies at the foot of the South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club.

However, one part of the vessel survived.

The ship's wheel fell into possession of enterprising antique dealer Cyril Jones in 1974.

"I wanted to raise and restore the Induna and use it as a point of interest for tourists, but no one was interested," said Mr Jones, who used to own Honey's at South Grafton.

"The guy who lived next door to the wreck had the wheel.

"I bought it off him. I had no intention of selling it. I put it on my deck. I love all things boats. I also have the Induna's toilet."

Topics:  clarence river south grafton south grafton ex-services club winston churchill

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