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Labrador story of survival is focus of book by Clarenville man

Author Tom Drodge/
Author Tom Drodge/ - Submitted

Tom Drodge’s second book explores Second World War air crash at Saglek

“The Diary of One Now Dead” by Tom Drodge of Clarenville.
“The Diary of One Now Dead” by Tom Drodge of Clarenville.

CLARENVILLE, NL — In his recently released book “The Diary of One Now Dead,” Tom Drodge of Clarenville uses the written words of a U.S. pilot to detail an incredible story of survival and hope – a story that eventually ends in tragedy and death.

On Dec. 10, 1942, at the height of the Second World War, a crew of seven men boarded the bomber plane Time’s a Wastin’ departing the American air base in Narsarsuaq, Greenland. The crew was headed back to the United States via Goose Bay, Labrador.

The B-26 Marauder crashed at Saglek, Labrador. All seven onboard the plane survived and waited to be rescued.

The plane’s pilot, 1st Lt. Grover Cleveland Hodge, detailed the men’s wait. Although Hodge’s diary is printed in the book, “The Diary of One Now Dead” is about much more than the title suggests. The diary is less than 20 pages of the book, which runs over 170 pages.

Before printing the diary, Drodge tells the men’s story in his own words.

In researching material for the book, he also reached out to people in Nain (residents of Hebron were resettled to Nain) to see if there was anyone who could remember the crash.

His search led him to Christine Baikie. Drodge was told that Baikie and her sister were the two oldest former residents of Hebron.

Baikie told Drodge she was a young child at the time of the crash but that she could remember her father telling her the story of the downed plane.

The woman’s recollections were worth including in the book.

“It was her father who helped bring the bodies down from the plane,” Drodge said during a recent phone interview.

No one knows for certain when the four men found aboard Time’s a Wastin’ died, nor when the three who left the crash site in the plane’s rescue boat to find help passed away. The bodies of those three men were never found.

While the author couldn’t find information to suggest rescue efforts had taken place for Time’s a Wastin’, the men continued to pray that they’d be found.
Jan. 10, 1943 – We have been here one month today, 31 days ... The boys’ spirits were much higher today, after our little church service. Our only food today was a slice of pineapple and two spoonfuls of juice.

The final entry in the pilot’s diary is dated Feb. 3, 1943.

Slept a solid week in bed. Today, Weyrauch died after being mentally ill for several days. We are all pretty weak, but should be able to last several more days.

The wreck was found by Inuit hunters two months after Hodge’s final diary entry.

Drodge’s book also includes numerous appendices such as details about the 10 worst air crashes and disasters of all times and information gleaned from U.S. Air Armed Forces investigation in the plane crash.

About the author

Drodge was born in Little Heart’s Ease, Trinity Bay. He grew up in Clarenville, where he still lives. He is the author of “Under the Radar: A Newfoundland Disaster” – a book about an American bomber plane crash.

In writing “The Diary of One Now Dead,” Drodge has a question for his readers.

“Looking back on their lives, would it have been better if they had all died in the crash rather than go through such an ordeal?” he writes.

Those who read the book will have no trouble coming up with a definitive answer to that question.

Drodge will be signing books in Clarenville on Feb. 7, from 12:30 p.m.- 2:00 p.m. at Clarenville Co-op and from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at The Book Store and More, and in St. John’s on Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. -12:30 p.m. at Coles in the Avalon Mall and Feb. 9 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Chapters. 

danette@nl.rogers.com

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