VX45223 LIEUTENANT COLONEL WILLIAM TAYLOR OWEN

Lieutenant Colonel William Owen, the 29th Battalion’s new commanding officer, flew into Kokoda on the 24th July 1942. He requested backup of his two other companies but there were no aircraft available to fly them in. Battles at Oivi and Gorari brought heavy losses to Owen's force and they withdrew to Kokoda to take a defensive position there. By 2am on the 29th July Owen was taking part in close fighting with the Japanese and was mortally wounded, hit by a bullet just above his right eye. Owen was tended to by Doc Vernon at a small hut but the Australians had to withdraw and Owen died at Kokoda. The Australians withdrew to Deniki. Owen was the first Australian to be awarded a Distinguished Service Cross which was received by his wife Daisy Owen of Kew, Victoria. This photography was taken by E. G. Adamson in Melbourne in 1940.

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Studio group portrait of four officers from Lark Force of the Rabaul Garrison. Identified, left to right, back row: Major (Maj) Edward Charles Palmer, 2/10 Field Ambulance, of Coolgardie, WA and Captain (Capt) Christopher Ernest Goodman, 2/22 Battalion, of Bairnsdale, Vic. Front row: Lieutenant David Mayer Selby, commanding officer of Anti Aircraft Battery Rabaul, of Melbourne, Vic and Maj William Taylor (Bill) Owen, 2/22 Battalion, of Nagambie, Vic. This photograph was taken after the men were evacuated from Rabaul after hiding out there for some time. Note the men are all wearing beards as they were all evaders who managed to get back from Rabaul to Australia via Port Morseby, following the Fall of Rabaul on 23 January 1942. Maj Palmer served with 2/10 Field Ambulance as a Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) until 1946. He was awarded OBE in 1943 for distinguished and exceptional service in South West Pacific. Major Owen who was promoted to Lt Col in 1942 with 2/39 Battalion was killed 29 July 1942 on the Kokoda Trail, New Guinea aged 37 years. Lt Col Owen was taking part in close fighting with the Japanese on the Kokoda trail, in the most forward position at the most threatened point in Seekamp's sector, on the very lip of the plateau. He was throwing grenades when a bullet struck him. On 23 November 1944 Lt Col Owen was posthumously awarded an American Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for gallant and distinguished service in the South West Pacific area. He was the first Australian to receive this award.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA. 1943-06-03. PRESENTATION OF AMERICAN DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSSES (DSC) TO MRS OWEN, (WIFE OF LIEUTENANT COLONEL W. T. OWEN), AND MRS WALKER, (MOTHER OF LIEUTENANT I. WALKER), IN THE GROUNDS OF THE 4TH AMERICAN GENERAL HOSPITAL, MELBOURNE. BOTH OFFICERS WERE KILLED CARRYING OUT DEEDS WHICH WON THEM THEIR AWARDS. LIEUTENANT COLONEL W. T. OWEN GAINED THE AWARD FOR EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM IN AN ACTION AT KOKODA ON 1942-07-27. WHILE LIEUTENANT I. WALKER GAINED HIS AWARD FOR EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM IN AN ACTION NEAR BUNA. THE AWARD TO LIEUTENANT COLONEL OWEN WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN AWARD WON BY AN AUSTRALIAN. CLOSE STUDY OF MRS WALKER (LEFT) AND MRS OWEN (RIGHT) WEARING THE DSC'S POSTHUMOUSLY AWARDED TO LIEUTENANT WALKER AND LIEUTENANT COLONEL OWEN.

William Taylor Owen DSC