Sunday, September 11, 2011

John "Jack" Transom 1920 - 1943

John "Jack" Transom was a son of Joseph Richard Transom and his late wife, Eleonora Transom.  Jack was born in 1920 in the Taihape area.  

Some time in the late 1930s/early 1940s Jack married Eda Lois Ruth "Lo" Smith.  On 19 July 1942, Lo gave birth to a stillborn son.  This child is buried at the Taihape Cemetery.  

Unfortunately, Jack was killed in a tank accident in the Foxton area on 25 February 1943. 
Following Jack's death, however, his only child Jacqueline was born on November 1943.  

The first newspaper reports of Jack's accident stated:


A military tank accident involving the death of one officer and two other ranks and injuries to one officer and ten other ranks occurred during training near Foxton yesterday. 

Second-Lieutenant J. TRANSOM. 
Private G. E. ALGIE. 
Private C. F. McINTYRE. 
Private E. C. C. LETT, laceration of scalp, dislocated right hip. 
Corporal P. A. DAVIES, fractured skull. 
Corporal E. H. T. WILLIAMS, fractured pelvis. 
INJURED. Captain C. M. GARDINER, fractured ankle. 
Private J. HICKISEY, lacerated left arm. 
Private A. J. BARTLETT, burns right leg. 
Sergeant E. METEKINGI, burns arm. 
Private J. GRUMMITT, injuries to hip and wrist. 
Private G. A. JENNER, injuries to leg and back. 
Private J. J. C. ALLEN, injuries to shoulder. 
Private R. H. JONES, minor injuries to ankle. 

The tank was operating in sandhill country, and the cause of the accident was apparently due to the breaking away of a bank on the edge of which the tank was travelling. Commendable resource and promptitude was displayed by all ranks at the scene of the accident, and the injured men were speedily extricated. Their injuries were treated by medical officers on the spot, and the men were conveyed to hospital by ambulance. The accident occurred at about 10.15 a.m. and a Court of Inquiry was assembled in the field about four hours later. All the next-of-kin have been advised.

Following the inquest, a further report appeared in the Evening post on 2 April 1943.

(P.A.) PALMERSTON N., This Day. 
An inquest regarding the deaths of Second Lieutenant J. Transom (Taihape), Privates G. E. Algie (Hawera), C. F. Mclntyre (Whakatane), and E. C. C. Lett (Wanganui), who died from injuries when a military tank overturned near Foxton on February 25, was opened by Mr. A. J. Graham (Coroner). 

Captain F. C. Hutchison, N.Z.M.C., said he found that the tank overturned at the foot of a 10-foot bank. A number of men were lying about and others, some dead, were pinned under the tank. He did what he could for the injured men. Of those pinned underneath three were dead. He had no doubt they died instantaneously, for all three had sustained crushing injuries to the chest and head. One of the seriously injured men, Lett, subsequently died. 

Growcott, driver of the tank, said that Transom was in command. Driving, along a well-defined track he received the order "Drive right." He did so, and travelled about 100 yards through scrub up a small gully. The tank would be six feet from a cabbage tree when he complied with another order "Drive right." He carried on slowly for a short distance. He felt the tank slipping, and pulled the control in order to get the tank to "nose" downhill. The tank failed to answer and rolled over. In reply to the Coroner Growcott said they were driving with the tank "open." He could not see where they were going owing to dense manuka through which they were travelling. He received his driving orders through a telephone. There were infantrymen on the tank, though he could not say how many. He had been warned to go steadily because there were infantry aboard. He was going very slowly at the time of the accident, and he considered that had the tank been travelling faster it would have answered the controls. The accident would not have happened if the tank had not slipped away. 

Major A. H. Revell, Officer Commanding the Squadron, stated that the tanks were under the command of Transom and Captain Hancock. Both men knew the country very well. The route they would take was left to the discretion of the tank commander Transom, although young, was very capable, a quick thinker, and most reliable. His action in deviating from his course was tactically quite sound The reason for the change was to avoid crossing the skyline where two other tanks had gone across. 

The Coroner stated that two factors appeared to have caused the accident —the collapse of the bank and the fact that the tank was going too slow. Major Revell replied that the slow speed was a matter of caution. The Coroner commended the rescue work done so expeditiously. He returned a verdict that the men were accidentally killed.

See here for a photo of Jack Transom and the fellow victims of the tank tragedy.  Jack Transom is buried in the Taihape Cemetery.

Following Jack's death, Lo married Robert Duff "Bob" Bremner, on 13 November 1946, and went on to have four more children from this marriage.  They are both buried in the Taihape Cemetery.   

*Thanks to Jacqueline and Lorreen Hartley for correcting some errors in this post!

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