Remembering the war in New Guinea - Noel (Jerry) Owers

Remembering the war in New Guinea
Noel ("Jerry") Owers (People)
Module name: Setting (Australian perspective)
This page was contributed by Dr Chris Clark (Australian War Memorial)

Born at Inverell, New South Wales, on 12 April 1907, Owers was educated in Sydney and, after completing articles with E.J. Kenny & Son, became a licensed surveyor in 1931. He worked in the Orange district under another licensed surveyor, but, with jobs scarce in Australia because of the Depression, in 1933 he took employment with New Guinea Goldfields Ltd at Wau.

During a return visit on leave to Australia in 1935, Owers married Catherine Mary Walsh. They had twin sons in 1936.

A local militia unit, the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, was raised in September 1939. Owers became a member of the unit in June 1940 and was commissioned lieutenant on 3 November 1941. With a Japanese attack on New Guinea imminent, Owers’ wife and sons were evacuated to Australia.

In January 1942 Owers was called up for full-time duty. He was posted to the New Guinea Survey Section on that unit’s formation in March. Apart from his work on the Kokoda Track, he later led an attempt to blaze a track from Abau, on the south-east coast of Papua (mid-way between Port Moresby and Milne Bay), across the island to the north coast below Buna.

Seconded to the Australian Imperial Force in September 1942, Owers was transferred to the Royal Australian Engineers the following month and became Intelligence Officer (IO) Engineers at Headquarters, New Guinea (NG) Force. He was promoted to captain on 26 November.

Owers subsequently served as IO Engineers on the headquarters of I Australian Corps from August 1943 until April 1944, when he took over the same post at II Australian Corps for a month. From May until October 1944 he was again IO Engineers with NG Force, before returning to II Corps. He had been mentioned in dispatches in December 1943 for his "gallant & distinguished services".

Demobilised in September 1945, Owers returned to his pre-war employment in New Guinea. He and his wife had a daughter in the post-war period. In 1972 he retired and they went to Sydney to live, moving eventually to Perth to be near their daughter. He died in 1990.

(Source: Mr Brian Murray, O’Connor, ACT)

Printed on 10/01/2022 12:31:38 PM