Pilot of the Sunderland aircraft S R Gibbs who was among the 9 we (Australia) resued from the downed aircraft in the Atlantic

Dear Mac,

What a marvel of a site you have!

It arouses in me two major emotions – one of “awe and wonder” and the other of trepidation! Is that three? Is “trepidation” an emotion anyway? Fear? Who cares! You get what I mean…

The cause of the awe and wonder must be obvious as even though you created this “thing” yourself (albeit with help from many) you must sometimes stand back and look at it and be totally impressed by it yourself!

The “trepidation” is a result of mulling over the long-tern fate of such a marvelous site. I’ve lived long enough to see Edison “hill and dale”, “Diamond Disk” cylinders come and go (already really dead when I was a kid), 78rpm records thrive and vanish; Microgroove come and go, LP vinyl of all kinds come and go, reel-to-reel tape recorders reach a peak and just about perish, cassette tape flourish and wane, then CD and DVD bloom and wither - and finally all kinds of electronic media like ipods have blitzed the market. Most of these media are now inaccessible to the mass market as not only have they disappeared as media, but the means of interpreting or “playing” them have also become effectively extinct. Meanwhile, books sit serenely on the library shelves and are there more or less “forever” until they crumble to dust or some cosmic “catastrophe” (in human terms but simple evolution in cosmic terms) takes the lot…

So I’m very concerned that sites such as yours, which are national treasures, may disappear when the glue that holds them together, be it a key person (such as yourself), an organization or a web server disappears – or even when the technology changes and there are no funds to translate the treasury into the new currency.

I don’t have any solutions. But our professional historians, sociologists, politicians and others really ought to think about what needs to be done to conserve prime cultural sites like this “forever”.

Maybe every page should at least be printed out and bound and stored. Electrons are one thing, but physical artifacts are another.

The age group that lived this history, as we see from your account of the origins of your site, is fragile. We need to address not just succession issues in “management” or “ownership” terms, but in curatorial terms. How to “save” such ephemeral material in a meaningful form for posterity?


I’m also writing to advise that I bought the following item on eBay. Have not taken possession as yet, but you will instantly recognize its significance. A “minor” item in some ways, but it somehow seems loaded with historic poignancy. I hope to unravel the reasons it was redirected to so many places! One of the reasons is doubtless the events you recount on your Web site but I have not as yet studied the postmarks and dates or digested the dates in your account! In fact, I saw the item on eBay, realized although it was a Canadian vendor, the item was out of Melbourne to an Aussie – and somehow, that Gibbs name seemed familiar. There were four minutes of auction time to go, so I searched the Net and as luck would have it, found your site first go! Bingo! Dashed back in, made a bid and secured the item. The guy selling it obviously had no clue as to the history of the addressee.

Here’s the item as illustrated in eBay:

If you have any wish to include this “cover” (as philatelists call envelopes) on Ahoy! Or in any of your other works, please feel free, but this version belongs to eBay and I have technically breached copyright in lifting it from the eBay site and “publishing” it to you – so ask me and I’ll send you my own hi-res scan when it arrives.

I thought it quite comical that a life insurance company letter followed Pilot Officer Gibbs so relentlessly at such a time in history!

Thought you might be interested.

Also attached the file in case your software cuts out inserted pictures.

Best wishes,
John Leah


Firstly my thanks for your quite overwhelming comments about AHOY. I blush accordingly.

I do all the research and writing, but my Web Master and friend Terry Kearns in Atlanta Georgia ( whom I have yet to meet face to face ) takes my work, whips it into shape and publishes on our pages. Without his dedication and expertise AHOY would not exist.

I am now 85 and must admit have given some thought as to how we might retain the content on AHOY for posterity, and then say to myself  stop having such an ego, its only one person's view, and who would be interested?

I tend to keep a hard copy of my articles, but not of all my correspondence with many interesting people across the globe.

The folders of my articles will eventually go to one of my daughters.

The whole site could be put on a DVD, I will ask Terry how he thinks we might record what is on AHOY.

What a fascinating cover you have found on E-Bay, we would love a copy please when you are in possession of the original.

It looks as if it at one time it went off to Australia House in the Strand, and that is pasted over.

Of course S. R. Gibbs as a Flight Lieutenant was the Captain and pilot of 204 Squadron Sunderland 1 P9620 KG-K flying out of Oban in Scotland.

It was an RAF aircraft, I was not aware that Gibbs was Australian, do you know if he was RAAF or did he join the RAF?

I do have a fleeting memory that the first airman we finally dragged on board HMAS Australia was an Australian, but cannot pin down if he wore an  RAAF uniform, although it would be water logged and hard to spot the difference in colour.

Again my sincere thanks for your very nice comments, and for taking the time and trouble to both write and then share your valuable find.

Where do you hail from in OZ? I am on St Kilda Road in Melbourne.

Very best wishes,

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