Around the world by land & sea, in an amphibious Jeep.
Jeep at sea
Leaving New York. August 1948
[by courtesy of Guildford Grammar School]
I have added this page, as many people have heard the name of Ben Carlin, or the name of his vehicle/vessel "Half-Safe", but have only a very inaccurate idea of what actually happened.

Brief Outline

Original Jeep
The original Jeep: 1942
[by courtesy of Guildford Grammar School]
Ben Carlin (1912 - 1981) was born and attended school in Western Australia. While awaiting demobilisation after service in India in World War II, Ben noticed a US amphibious jeep among other war debris, and remarked "You know, Mac, with a bit of titivation you could go around the world in one of these things". For some never-explained reason, Ben was not certified insane on the spot, and eventually fulfilled his dream.
Jeep modified, Mk-I
The Jeep as modified for the Atlantic crossing.
[by courtesy of Guildford Grammar School]
The trip began and ended in Montreal, Canada. After a couple of false starts, Ben and his wife Elinore got under way in 1950, en route for the Azores. Leaving Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 19, they eventually made landfall at Flores, Azores, after 32 days at sea.
From the Azores to Madeira was estimated at an easy 9 or 10 days. It proved to be 23, through the thick of an Atlantic hurricane.
From Madeira to Cap Juby (Africa), then overland to Europe, where the jeep was totally rebuilt in England, over 1952 - 1954. Here Carlin's original book leaves off.
Jeep modified, Mk-II
The Jeep after rebuilding in England, 1952-1954
[by courtesy of Guildford Grammar School]
The second part of the trip began with leaving England on May 30, 1954. Overland through south-western Europe, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India, to Calcutta. The (southern) summer of 1955/56 saw a side-trip to Australia (not being part of the round-the-world run proper, Half-Safe was carried on a steamer), returning to Calcutta at the end of January, 1956.
Here, Elinore decided she had enough of round-the-world jeeping, and sat out the rest of the trip. Ben, with a series of shipmates, continued. The first leg was by sea to Burma (as it then was named), as the overland route was considered impassable.

Thereby hangs a mystery, for the Burma Road (the famous World War II Stilwell Road) was just motorable at that time. At that same time, the British "Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition" was travelling the same way, and managed, albeit with great effort, to force the 230 miles of roadless jungle from Ledo to Myitkina (the wartime roads had quite disintegrated). As far as I can discover, since 1945 no other vehicle has passed that way before or since (I myself sought to do so in 1974 - that's another story - but was unable to obtain permission to enter Burma).
So, there were two overland expeditions in southern Burma at the same time. Both expeditions wrote up their adventures, yet neither mentions the other.

The journey continued overland, via Rangoon and Bangkok. Carlin afterward reckoned one stretch of road on that bit of southern Burma as the worst part of the entire trip, not excepting that Atlantic hurricane!
From Bangkok, overland to Saigon and Da Nang (oh, what those names came to mean in later years!), then to sea again to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. Another long delay ensued, before Ben left Japan for the Aleutians on June 12, 1957. After island-hopping across the North Pacific, he made landfall at Anchorage, Alaska, on September 2. From there, essentially plain road driving, with a long detour south through the US, before "tying the knot" in Montreal on May 12, 1958.

In the US, 1960
Half-Safe in the US, 1960
[Photo credit P. Grimes]
After completing the trip, Half-Safe remained in the US, while Ben returned to Australia. The jeep's part-owner, Ben's friend George Calimer, took Half-Safe out occasionally for rallies.
Ben Carlin died of a heart attack in Perth, Australia (his home town) in 1981. Shortly after, his old school, Guildford Grammar School arranged to purchase Calimer's share, and to bring Half-Safe to Perth for permanent exhibition. It is now on permanent display at Guildford Grammar School.

More pictures can be seen at a local military-vehicles site.

Acknowledgements & Sources

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