Bomb­ings sent shock waves through na­tion

Bayside and Northern Suburbs Star - - NEWS - AL­LAN MALE

THE bomb­ing of Dar­win sent shock waves through­out Aus­tralia. Thurs­day, Fe­bru­ary 19, 1942 dawned bright and sunny in Dar­win. Shops and busi­nesses were open, as was the post of­fice. Just be­fore 10am 188 Ja­panese air­craft, which were launched from four air­craft car­ri­ers the Timor Sea, ap­peared over­head and bombs soon be­gan to rain down on the town, har­bour and air­field. The raid was planned and led by Cap­tain Mit­suo Fuchida, the same man who planned and led the at­tack on Pearl Har­bour 10 weeks ear­lier. There were two raids that morn­ing, which fol­lowed a re­con­nais­sance flight on Fe­bru­ary 10, 1942. In the first at­tack Kate bombers hit ship­ping, in­fra­struc­ture and the town. Val dive bombers es­corted by Zero fight­ers then at­tacked ship­ping in the har­bour, and the mil­i­tary and civil aero­dromes. That raid ceased af­ter about 25 min­utes. The sec­ond raid of 54 land-based bombers, which be­gan about 11.45am, in­volved high al­ti­tude bomb­ing of the RAAF base. The two raids killed 250 peo­ple, with and a fur­ther 300 to 400 wounded. Among those killed was Dar­win’s post­mas­ter Hur­tle Bald, wife Alice and their daugh­ter

Iris, and six young women tele­phon­ists. The res­i­dence of the ad­min­is­tra­tor was hit, killing a young wo­man who was em­ployed by the ad­min­is­tra­tor’s fam­ily. In the hours fol­low­ing the air raids, be­liev­ing that an in­va­sion was im­mi­nent, some of Dar­win’s pop­u­la­tion be­gan to stream south­wards. Dur­ing the war other towns in north­ern Aus­tralia were also the tar­get of Ja­panese air at­tacks, with bombs dropped on Townsville, Katherine, Wyn­d­ham, Derby, Broome and Port Head­land. The air at­tacks con­tin­ued un­til Novem­ber 1943, by which time the Ja­panese had raided the Top End more than 200 times. (Source: Na­tional Aus­tralian Ar­chives and the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial)

A DAR­WIN ci­ti­zen re­calls that on Au­gust 15, 1945 the war ended and peace was de­clared. “We all cel­e­brated and cheered hys­ter­i­cally with ev­ery­one else in town. I re­alised in later years my fa­ther suf­fered post war stress. Re­cur­rent at­tacks of malaria left him weak and ill. Dad had been co-opted into the Civil­ian Con­struc­tion Corps in 1941. He was at the wharf when the first bombs fell and nar­rowly missed be­ing killed and on other oc­ca­sions. The ex­pe­ri­ence aged him, he seemed old and tired at 36 when the war ended. He died aged

46. Forty years af­ter his death he was posthu­mously awarded The Civil­ian Ser­vice Medal 1939-1945.” (Source: Melva Jones, in Tom Lewis’ book A War at Home)

DOU­GLAS LOCKWOOD went to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory in 1941 and, ex­cept for a spell as a sol­dier and war correspondent in World War II and a post­ing to Lon­don, he lived and worked there un­til his death in 1975. In his book Fair Dinkum he tells of his feel­ings the day peace was shat­tered in Dar­win in 1942. He sup­ports his ac­count with pic­tures of heavy black smoke ris­ing from burn­ing oil tanks dur­ing the first Ja­panese air raids and the am­mu­ni­tion ship Nep­tune blown up in Dar­win har­bour. “The bombs strad­dled the wharf; three di­rect hits on the deck­ing, and two ships berthed along­side, Nep­tuna and Barossa, were both ablaze. One bomb landed on the turntable on the wharf where a group of men were shel­ter­ing. The re­mains of some of them were never found. A train with five trucks was be­ing ma­noeu­vred, it was blown over the side as though it were a toy. The town was en­gulfed in black smoke from the fiercely burn­ing wrecks. I saw the USS Peary with her guns still fir­ing at the Ja­panese dive bombers com­ing at her stern and con­tin­ued to fire up to the time when she stood on her bow and plunged be­low the waves. My last rec­ol­lec­tion of Peary was of sailors jump­ing into the sea from her al­most ver­ti­cal decks at the last pos­si­ble mo­ment. Ninety-one men didn’t or couldn’t jump soon enough, and died with her. A mon­u­ment has been erected in Dar­win in sa­cred me­mory of those who died. By my watch, the raid lasted 42 min­utes. When the ‘all clear’ sounded, I ran to my type­writer and quickly wrote the first ‘take’ of what I knew must be a scoop, be­cause I rep­re­sented all the evening news­pa­pers. Alas, no tele­graph of­fice. No post of­fice. At Katherine the fol­low­ing night I lodged our sto­ries, 30 hours late. The heav­ily-cen­sored ver­sion of my story made me want to weep. I rested on the ho­tel’s bil­liard ta­ble and tried to sleep, know­ing I had failed to get through to my of­fice the most sen­sa­tional story ever to come the way of an Aus­tralian jour­nal­ist.”

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