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Amphibious jeep is stuff of navigation dreams



DEIRDRE Carlin is pictured with the basics of celestial navigation as used by her father to plot a course around the world in Half Safe, a WWII amphibious jeep.

In memory of him, Guildford Grammar School has  introduced the Carlin Challenge into the curriculum to encourage students in innovation, courage, research and to take risks.

There will also be a Carlin room in a $15 million school extension.

Looking on and giving the jeep a polish are Guildford students Bradley Timms, of North Beach, and Harrison Bearsby and Trent Reeves, of Ocean Reef.  

Half Safe rules the waves

“YOU know, with a bit of titivation you could go around the world in one of those things,” the late Ben Carlin once mused – and that’s just what he did.

Sixty years ago this month, the former Guildford Grammar School student arrived in England with his American wife Elinore aboard the most unlikely of crafts – a WWII amphibious jeep named Half Safe.

Long before GPS and with nothing more than a sextant and compass, Carlin and his wife crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to North Africa, surviving stormy seas and a hurricane off the Azores before making landfalls in Madeira and the Canary Islands and landing in Morocco.

His daughter from a brief second marriage, Deirdre Carlin, of Palmyra, recently visited Half Safe which was acquired by Guildford Grammar in 1984, three years after her father’s death.

As a child she knew nothing of her Northam-born father’s adventures and met him only once when she was four.

She was brought up on Madeira and was eventually sent to a boarding school in Oxford, England, by her grandmother.

While there she got her first letter from her father, which eventually led her to write to Guildford Grammar to learn as much as she could about the incredible adventurer.

With the help of former WA Chief Justice David Malcolm QC, who became a friend of Carlin after meeting him in 1955 when he took Half Safe to the school where Mr Malcolm was the school’s captain, Deirdre was able to put pieces of her life story together.

From her research Deirdre learnt that from a marriage which lasted only six months, she was the daughter of Carlin’s second wife, Cynthia, 30 years his junior, whom he had probably met years earlier in Madeira.

Carlin, having ‘sailed’ the Atlantic, eventually took on the Pacific but wife Elinore abandoned jeep and Carlin during the overland journey to India. She flew back to America and filed for divorce.

Carlin, on a shoestring budget, eventually completed the eight-year global odyssey with various other enlisted crews.

On his death in 1981, Guildford Grammar was bequeathed his estate, with the funds held in trust for a Charlotte Carlin Scholarship in memory of his mother “for the proficiency of the English language with the avoidance of cliches”.

Deirdre also helped David Malcolm and the School Foundation produce the book The Other Half of Half Safe.

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