The man who mailed himself to London

And now for something completely different… 

We talk a lot about packaging, freight and shipping so when we came across this story it was too good not to share. 

It’s not exactly industry news but this man’s tale is a reminder to always pay attention to those ‘This way up’ stickers. 

The story of the Welshman who shipped himself to London

What would you pack to fly from Melbourne to London?

In 1963 here is what young Welshman Brain Robson packed for his trip:

  • a hammer 
  • a suitcase 
  • a pillow 
  • a litre of water 
  • a flashlight 
  • a book of Beatles songs (it was the 1960s)
  • an empty bottle

Apart from the hammer, it seems like quite a reasonable list of bits and pieces to bring along on an international flight. However, Brian’s cross-continental journey was a little out of the ordinary. 

Brain decided to ship himself by crate to his destination.

A novel way to travel

Brian crossed oceans for a very reasonable cost… but nearly paid heavily for it.

The year was 1963. Young Welshman Brian Robson was working in Melbourne for Victorian Rail Yards. All was going well enough but Brian was understandably homesick. 

After investigating the cost of airfare, it became all too clear that he would not be able to afford the trip back to the UK. 

That’s when Brian had his brain wave. A seat on a plane is expensive… but shipping a crate is a fraction of the price.

The crate

Brian acquired a crate, addressed it to London, had two workmates nail him inside with his meagre belongings (you see why he had a hammer and you have probably guessed what the empty bottle was for), and waited to be shipped.

Squeezed into a 91 x 76 x 86 centimetre space, Brian knew he was in for a rough experience but figured he could manage the 48 hours or so that it would take to get to the other side of the world. 

With the ‘This Way Up’ label firmly affixed and his supplies, he assumed it would be unpleasant but bearable.

Best laid plans…

As anyone who deals with shipping and freight even occasionally will know, things do not always go according to plan. Brian did make it to London, but not in one flight.

The plane he was shipped on, intended to be non-stop to London, ended up being diverted through Los Angeles. 

After nearly five days in his crate, Brian was still in the USA.

“It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Terrifying,” he told the BBC, many years later.

“I spent most of my time, I think if I be truthful, in trying to control myself, calm myself down. And then in between all that, of course, I couldn’t breathe properly half the time. I couldn’t move. Certainly after perhaps the first 36 hours, my muscles were all seizing up.”

Brian’s time in the crate

Not only did Brian have to suffer intolerably cold temperatures (it isn’t considered necessary to heat cargo space on planes because nothing that’s alive is supposed to be there)… he also spent much of his travel time upside down. The label on the crate didn’t prove any help (and we know parcel handlers are much more careful these days).

After five days in a box, Brian was near death. Some workers spotted him when he switched on his flashlight. They assumed he was already dead because of the state he was in.

Poor old Brian had to spend time in hospital before he was finally deported to London. He may have made it home but he was very lucky to not have wound up in a very different kind of box.

Don’t be like Brian

If anyone has ever attempted this since, they haven’t been as open about sharing their story as Brian was. Years later, he wrote a book about his adventure called The Crate Escape and his story went viral for the second time.  

If you need help getting yourself to London…. speak to Qantas. And if you need help transporting large packages within Australia (but without people inside) speak to EFS today.