Sunday, 25 July 1943

eandjeep2We went through a number of small towns, and we met a big herd of cattle (some big bulls and steers) and a large flock of sheep.

We rode into Tamworth about 3:30 p.m. and made hotel arrangements for four officers and one warrant officer, and also made arrangements at an Australian army camp for gassing the trucks and feeding and sleeping the men.

Joe (my driver) and I shared a pretty nice hotel room with a hot shower. We were called at 6 a.m. Wednesday. We had left the jeep outside the hotel and it wouldn’t start. We finally got a tow to the camp and found that all the wires had been cut beneath the dash. We left about 40 minutes late, but caught up with the convoy at their first halt about 9:30 a.m. Then Captain Matthews went on ahead in his jeep and I led the convoy for a way until we hit a fair sized town and stopped for breakfast. The rest of the convoy went on but we caught up with them and passed them before long. At noon we went ahead and found Captain Matthews at Tenterfield about 2:30. He had made arrangements for gassing the trucks and taking care of the men.

Tenterfield was small and dull. We took in a who as we did the night before, and slept in the back of a very cold truck. Bob could get only three partly furnished rooms in a partly furnished hotel. The Aussie officers’ wives had all the other rooms.

We left about 7 a.m. Thursday and I tailed the convoy all morning. We stopped for breakfast at about 10:30 a.m. and let the trucks pass that had fallen out or behind with some kind of trouble.

We followed the last three trucks over the mountain range into Queensland, and what a road it was – very steep, narrow, and with hairpin curves through very high mountains.

Fatal Accident

australiaAt about 11:30 we came upon a very sharp curve where the fence had been broken – it was a down-hill, outside curve – and one of our trucks had gone over the side of the road and rolled several times. [The truck] was a mess, with its wheels up against a large tree.

The driver obviously jumped out of the cab as the truck left the roped, and he was lying on the side of the road badly injured. Sergeant Hess was pinned in the cab – dead – and had to be cut out. There was a big Aussie lumber truck just ahead around the curve, and our truck must have come upon it suddenly, going too fast, and went off the road trying to get around it. There was hardly room anywhere around the road for passing, and the few guard rails that were there were broken. Joe and I went on ahead, leaving the warrant officer and the wrecker to do what they could.

[NOTE. I read this passage aloud to Dad, and he said, “There was an inquiry, and I caught hell about it, because I was in charge of the convoy.” He paused to light his pipe and said nothing more about it. -P.E.J.]

We reached the bottom of the mountain in about 20 minutes and called an ambulance from an Australian prison farm at Beaudesert. At 12:05 we went out in the jeep and I drove to keep my mind off the accident. In about 20 more minutes we met the ambulance. Joe got in and went back to the accident, and I went through Beaudesert and caught the convoy just outside the MP gate at Camp Cable. I told Captain Matthews and Captain Priddy about the accident and went on to the MP station and called for a wrecker and an escort into the camp for the convoy. We put the trucks in the 127th Regiment Motor Pool at about 3 p.m.

That night we turned out jeeps in and I slept with Lt. Sawyer and Lt. Schwartz in one of the staff cabins at headquarters.

We left Division Bowl at Cable at about 10 a.m. Friday and headed for Camp Freeman, which is about 12 and a half miles from Brisbane near the Officer Candidate School at Columbia. Since then we have been getting the company organized. Captain Matthews and Lt. Blackman and myself are in B Company.

I was made battalion fire marshal Friday afternoon and yesterday I spent the morning getting out my rules and regulations. I was officer of the day beginning at 5 p.m. last night. We have two one-man posts. Thirty of our trucks and Captain Bob went out on a haul at 6 a.m. The battalion officers are now living in barracks, two to three men in a room, with stoves. We have a nice mess hall – colored cooks and good meals. We also have hot showers.

The men are in tents with stoves and they will soon have lights and walls and floors. We are all busy getting organized and getting things in shape – tools and supplies issued – and we should have it all straightened out soon.

That’s about all, I guess. The wrecked truck was brought in Saturday. It was badly smashed up and a four-ton wrecker couldn’t pull it back onto the road. It was about 100 feet down a damned steep hill, which was probably several thousand feet to the bottom. Sergeant Hess’s funeral is Monday.

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