Late in August 1942, Lieutenant Noel Owers, with a small survey party, was looking for an alternative route forward of Ilolo by which the troops on the Kokoda Track might more easily be supplied.
The jeep track only ever reached as far as the point which became known as Owers’ Corner, and then gave way to a foot track which wound down a steep slope towards Uberi.
STATION 3 – The end of the Jeep Track
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Late in August 1942, Lieutenant Noel Owers, with a small survey party, was looking for an alternative route forward of Ilolo by which the troops on the Kokoda Track might more easily be supplied. The jeep track only ever reached as far as the point which became known as Owers’ Corner, and then gave way to a foot track which wound down a steep slope towards Uberi.
During the month of September 1942 two 25 pounder field guns of the 14th Australian Field Regiment were brought forward to Owers’ Corner, where they were manhandled into firing positions. This was the only allied Field Artillery used during the Kokoda Track campaign to support the out gunned and greatly out numbered Infantry. This action assisted in halting the Japanese advance just 48 kilometres from Port Moresby and so began the Japanese retreat. The terrain was almost impassable for infantry let alone artillery. A third 25 pounder field gun was dismantled and manhandled to Peg 66 beyond Uberi. The Regiment was assisted in reaching their firing position by a Platoon of the 2/1st Pioneer Battalion. However, by then the Japanese had withdrawn beyond the range of the gun.
Following the action at Owers’ Corner from 22 to 28 September 1942, the Commander Royal Artillery 7th Division, Brigadier L. S. Barker dispatched the following:
“The ejection of the enemy from Ioribaiwa Ridge indicates a turning point in the battle for Port Moresby. The success of our forces was due in no small part to the action of 53rd Field Battery, 14th Field Regiment in bringing fire to bear on the enemy position which they had every reason to consider was safe from artillery fire.
The manner in which difficulties were overcome in bringing guns into action at Owers’ Corner and later in taking guns forward to Uberi is another example of the aptness of the gunner motto, “UBIQUE”.
The accuracy of the fire brought down at extreme range indicates that the personnel who served the guns are maintaining that standard of efficiency which is recognised as inherent in gunner units.
Special mention must be made of the early reconnaissance of the area and the accurate observation of fire by the Troop Commander, Captain J. P. Cullen who has been mention in despatches.
The action of the unit in taking a gun to pieces to manhandle it up and down the steep hillsides of Uberi indicates that the Militia soldier is fully alive to the resourcefulness expected from gunners. The task of getting this gun forward was facilitated by the good work of 5 Platoon 2/1st Pioneer Battalion who improved and prepared the track.
The CRA desires to congratulate the officers and men who took part in the actual action, on their fine achievement and that he feels confident of the good work which will be carried out in future by the 14th Field Regiment and wishes them every success in the campaign ahead.
(Sqd) L.S.BARKER, Brigadier CRA 7 Australian Division.
All units which participated in the Owen Stanley Campaign between McDonald’s Corner and Kokoda, passed through Owers’ Corner.
Later as the counter offensive was under way, on 3 October, Generals MacArthur, Blamey, Herring and Kenney accompanied by the Minister for the Army, Mr F. M. Forde, visited Owers’ Corner as the 16th Brigade began their move towards the objective, Kokoda.
General MacArthur told Brigadier J. E. Lloyd the commander:
‘Lloyd, by some act of God, your Brigade has been chosen for this job. The eyes of the Western world are upon you. I have every confidence in you and your men, good luck, don’t stop.’
A 25 pounder of the 14th Field Regiment. The gun was eventually hauled into position for firing on the Japanese at Ioribaiwa, September 1942. Filed artillery was only ever utilised during the Kokoda campaign at Owers' Corner. Identified are; second from left, Gunner Bert Wilcox; third from left, Sergeant Jack Cahill (wearing hat). (AWM 026854)
December 1943: A flying fox at Owers’ Corner with the Owen Stanleys in the background. (AWM 061962)
December 1943: Signal Corp camp personnel working on the lines between Port Moresby and Dobadura. (AWM 061963)
April 1944: Two native carriers returning to the Owers’ Corner carrier camp. At the top of the hill, 25 pounder guns of B troop 53rd Battery 14th Field Regiment first fired on Japanese at Ioribaiwa on 23 September 1942. (AWM 072179)
3 October 1942. Pictured, left to right: US General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, South West Pacific Area; Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander Allied Land Forces, and Major General G. S. Allen, Commander 7th Division AIF, at Owers' Corner during General MacArthur's first visit to New Guinea. The image was originally captioned that the group were 'inspecting' the Kokoda Track, although it must be noted that this section did not convey the harsh and inhospitable conditions further along which some senior commanders never appreciated. Blamey was a polarising commander among many Australian troops, both during and after the war. MacArthur, too, is often viewed as a brash leader, whose knowledge of the conditions in New Guinea was minimal. (AWM 150818)
October 1942. US General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, South West Pacific Area (cup in hand), chats with Australian troops of the 55th Infantry Battalion at Owers' Corner. MacArthur, accompanied by the Australian Army Minister F. M. Forde, the Commander Allied Land Forces, General Sir Thomas Blamey, and his senior officers, was making his first trip to New Guinea at this time. (AWM 150808)
Lieutenant Noel (Jerry) Owers (NGX369/NG2187), after which Owers' Corner was named. He was a licensed surveyor who moved to New Guinea in 1933. He joined the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, a militia force, in 1939 before being called up for full time service in January 1942. He was part of the New Guinea Survey Section and was tasked with surveying land to allow access from Port Moresby to Kokoda. Owers' Corner, however, was the last section where vehicular traffic could access. (Source: NAA)
October 1942: Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Thomas Blamey and Major General Allen pictured (outside the Salvos hut) with a group of infantrymen who had just returned from a patrol around Owers' Corner. (AWM 013376)
Owers' Corner September 1942. A YMCA representative stands next to the organisation's tent which is set up beside the road. The YMCA provided troops with basic 'comforts', together with the Salvation Army. Owers' Corner marked the limit of the motor road from Port Moresby on the southern section of the Track, with all movement forward from this point having to be undertaken on foot. A Military Policeman (MP) was permanently on duty to instruct soldiers as to their onward movement, although all would have known there was only one way to the front. (AWM P02424.011)