This blog is part of a site named where you can find the stories of more than one hundred planes that during WWII landed or crashed in Portugal. Here I will announce the updates and also publish stories and information related with WWII in Portugal. All the stories will be in English and there another twin blog in Portuguese... forgive if sometimes the English is not always correct...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Derek Partridge, the accidental survivor

His voice is well known in the movie industry, in television, in documentaries. He also made journalism, presented programs and whatever. In the last decades Derek Partridge was a constant presence in the houses of most of us, and that has only been possible because a famous actor took his place in Flight 777.

Derek Partridge, a well known voice and face. To know him beter you can go to his site were he has a video and tells his story in Flight 777. Click here

When the actor Leslie Howard entered the aircraft with his manager, Alfred Channels, in that morning of June 1, 1943 all seats were taken. Opposite to the door was seven year old Derek Partridge, with his nanny Dora Rowe, that was “escorting” him home, in the UK, and had already crossed the Atlantic Ocean on board of the Portuguese passenger ship “Serpa Pinto”.

“The reason I thought we had been taken off, was because we happened to be sitting opposite the entrance door and I figured we were simply the nearest and easiest to remove. It wasn’t until I met Leslie’s son Ronald (just finishing his book “In Search of my Father”), that I realized it was just a matter of priority and being the least important”, explains Derek Partdridge.

In fact he does not remember much about that day. He knows that he was inside the plane and then had to come out. “I then spent about 5 days in a hotel in Estoril and my only memories are of a beautiful beach, where I found many, exquisitely patterned, tiny sea shells”, refers Derek.

His father had not such delightful moments, especially in the first hours after the shooting of flight 777. Involved in the intelligence world, a specialist in the Middle East, Derek’s Father had suddenly a impossible new mission in front of him: “My father was in MI6 and so was one of the first people to learn of 777 being shot down… he spent 24 hours wondering how to tell my mother, before he received the news that I wasn’t on the flight”.

Five days latter Derek and Dora were back on a plane. “My only memory of the flight back is that - following the Luftwaffe shooting down of Flight 777 - the windows had been covered with several layers of muslin, to prevent lights being seen from outside. It was disappointing, not being able to see anything on my first flight. I had no idea that Flight 777 had been shot down”.

“If it’s a strange feeling knowing that my whole life has only been possible through pure chance… and fate”, concludes Derek, and in fact he might have had a big protecting hand covering his life.

Whit five he was on his way to the United States, send by his family to his aunt in order to be away from England that was under siege and bombardment by the German forces. Two years later – and even before arriving in Lisbon – he almost fell from the ship on the way back.

Derek Partridge with seven years old, the age he returned to Europe from the USA.

“I was talking to a crew member and I was leaning against the rails… unfortunately where I was leaning was where the pilot comes on board and someone had forgotten to close it properly. It opened and I started to fall backwards into the ocean when—fortunately--the crewman grabbed me!”

To know more about Flight 777, click here.

Carlos Guerreiro

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