Monday, 6 May 2013

Bonegilla 118 Australian General Hospital and Tragic Train-Bus Crash 1943

I know I am going backwards and forwards with bits and pieces about Joan's war service.  From Tom's dad's notes,  Pte Joan Miller (VFX127718) went to Bonegilla near Wodonga Victoria to join the 118 Australian General Hospital in January 1943.

The Argus on Tuesday 30 July 1940  reported...

129 In Australia
Eight new hutted camps, which are being constructed under the Govern- ment's ¿2,000,000 camp building plan, will be ready for occupation within six weeks.

Discussing camp accommodation for A I.F. troops in Australia and Citizen Force trainees who are to enter camp shortly. Brigadier Street, Army Minister, said yesterday that with the eight new camps there would be 129 military camps, including racecourses and show grounds, in Australia. Victoria's total of 35 camps included the two under construction at Bonegilla  (Hume Weir) and Darley (Bacchus Marsh). In New South Wales there were 31 camps. Including those being built at Tamworth, Dubbo, Cowra, and Bathurst. "The new camps will have hot showers installed and in operation when they are taken over, and all recreation and mess huts will have lined walls," Brigadier Street said. "Each camp will also have its own hospital block. The lay-out of the camps has been studied in the light of previous experience to give troops the greatest comfort and convenience."

It was long after Joan arrived at Bonegilla there was a tragic Train-Bus crash at Wodonga on 8 May where 25 people were killed.   I am sure she would have known some of the victims.   A small article in The Argus on  Monday 10 May 1943 reported the tragedy.

Wodonga Tragedy 
Twenty-four passengers and the driver of a motorbus were killed and 9 persons injured when the bus struck a light engine and tender in reverse at the racecourse level crossing, Bonegilla, at 6.25pm on Saturday. William Lord was the driver of the bus, but names of the passengers were not known tonight. They included soldiers and women. The engine was running on the Tallangatta branch line from Wodonga to Bandiana, and the bus was taking passengers to Wodonga.

More details about the crash was revealed at the inquest reported in The Argus on Tuesday 29 June 1943.

How 25 People Were Killed
WODONGA, Mon: An inquest was opened today by Mr F. W. Whan, acting deputy coroner, assisted by Mr I. W. Williams, PM, into the deaths of 25 persons who lost their lives in a crash between a light engine and tender and a motorbus on a level crossing near Wodonga on the night of May 8.

The victims were: Lieut Harry Parkinson, Lieut Lyle Brinsmead, W02 Robert Frewin, W02 Roscoe Mills, W02 George Rose, Act-Sgt Ernest Nairn, Act-Cpl RichardDunne, Sig George Nicol, Sig Adrian Try, Pte Keith Hurst, Pte Patrick Daly, Pte Frank Steele, Pte Albert Goddard, Tpr Roy Barnes, Pte Cyril Alderton, Pte Boyce McKenzie, Pte Ernest Johnson, Pte Arthur Neale, Pte John Quinn, Lieut Allan C. Harris, Pte Anne Anderson, Act-Cpl William H. Roberts, Lce-Sgt Alex P.McFarlane, Lce-Cpl Keith R. Bar- nett, and William Henry Lord, bus driver, of Victoria st, North Williamstown.

O. R. Midgley, manager of the Symons bus service between Wodonga and Bonegilla, said that Lord, the bus driver, was employed by Mr Samuel Symons, of Kew. The bus was licensed to carry 19 passengers. The lights and brakes were in good order. It was a good bus to drive, and did not impose any limitations on Lord on the number of passengers he carried. Lord was not running to time-table.

Replying to Mr J. V. Barry, KC (for Samuel Symons), Midgley said Lord was a most careful driver. He was not prone to speed. It was not possible for a driver to prevent passengers getting on a bus while there was room. There were 34 passengers on the bus that night. They would not prevent the driver from having proper control of the bus. Following the accident he examined the light- ing on the tender of the engine. There was only one lamp alight. It was at the top, and hard to see. A piece of brown paper was pasted across the glass for the brownout purposes. There was no lamp on the right of the tender. The light on the left of the tender was not functioning.
To Mr J. F. Mulvany (for the Railways) witness said he could not say whether the brown paper was inside or outside the lens.
T. A. Morton, mechanical engineer, of Hume Weir, said he left Wodonga about 6.30pm in a car with his wife and family. Before he reached the level crossing where the smash occurred 2 buses passed travelling ' toward Wodonga. About that time he heard an engine whistle approximately 6 times. He saw the lights of a third bus apnroaching the crossing. He estimated the engine was travelling toward the crossing at approximately 15 or 16 mph. The whistle was loud and continuous. He stopped his car about 60 yards from the crossing. Almost immediately he heard the crash. When he saw the engine it was approximately 200 yards from the crossing. The lights on the front were dull and heavy. There was no beam. He did not think the locomotive decreased speed from the time he first saw it until the crash occurred.
To Mr Mulvany he said he would not swear that there were not 3 lights on the front of the tender. It was clear to him that the lights were on part of the engine.
E. C. Maloney, soldier, said that he was walking on the roadway from Bandiana to Wodonga and heard the train whistle approximately 3 times. It was particularly dark at the time. The first time he heard the whistle he could not see anything. When the second whistle blew he heard the noise of the approach of the train. He then saw lights on the engine. They were fairly bright. The driver of the bus slowed down to take the crossing. The whistling was quite distinct. He estimated speed of theengine at l8 mph.
To Mr Barry: He would consider it impossible for the driver of the bus to see the lights of the engine with the street lights behind.
To Mr Mulvany: The lights in the background came, he believed, from the Wodonga railway yards.
To Mr H. T. Frederico (for the relatives of the dead persons), wit- ness said he was not sure of the number of lights he saw on the engine, but he did see lights.
The hearing is not concluded.

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