The day war came home

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

This week it is 75 years since a bomb fell on Miallo. Here

Never was it more ev­i­dent how close Far North Queens­land was to the theatre of war than at 3.30am on 31 July, 1942 when Miallo and sur­rounds were bombed by a Ja­panese plane.

The area had been wit­ness to var­i­ous war plane ac­tiv­i­ties, pre­dom­i­nately un­der­taken by the US Air Force who had sev­eral bases within the re­gion.

It was not un­usual for planes to have dif­fi­culty iden­ti­fy­ing lo­ca­tions at night along the Cairns and Cas­sowary coasts. There was a black-out and nav­i­ga­tors strug­gled at times to find Cairns, mis­tak­ing Snap­per Is­land for Dou­ble Is­land, the Dain­tree River for the Bar­ron River and thus Moss­man for Cairns.

One night a few months prior to the Ja­panese bomb­ing at Miallo, there was a plane cir­cling above Moss­man town­ship and a lo­cal youth of 16 years, Noel Voy­sey heard it and iden­ti­fied it by the sound of its en­gine as an Amer­i­can plane, no doubt look­ing for the Cairns air­field.

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal Del Richards who has re­searched some Dou­glas Shire his­tory, Noel jumped on his bike, rode down to the su­gar mill, got them to turn on some lights and he sent a Morse Code mes­sage to the plane, telling them Cairns was 50 miles south.

It is also re­ported that the next day, an im­pres­sive US mil­i­tary car vis­ited young Mas­ter Voy­sey and re­warded him hand­somely crew’s lives.

So, with the back­ground of mis­taken iden­tity, the Ja­panese bomber, it has been sur­mised, thought he was fly­ing over Cairns when he dropped his bombs in the Dou­glas area.

An air-raid siren had been ac­ti­vated in Moss­man when the bomber was de­tected how­ever most res­i­dents in Miallo were asleep at 3.30am when the bomb was dropped.

The bomb fell into a cane­field and rocked sur­round­ing build­ings. The clos­est dwelling was the fam­ily home of the Zul­los which was show­ered with shrap­nel, one piece pierc­ing the wall into the be­d­room of 2½ year-old Carmel Zullo. for sav­ing the The

re­ported on 3 Au­gust 1942 that the shrap­nel had caused “a se­vere gash, frac­tur­ing her skull” and Carmel ap­par­ently spent three months in Moss­man Hos­pi­tal re­cov­er­ing.

Other dam­age to the house in­cluded “one frag­ment pierced the wall near where Zullo and his wife were sleep­ing. An­other tore the leg off a duchess chest and smashed a strut sup­port­ing a wall”.

Neigh­bours re­ported a shat­tered win­dow and houses be­ing “se­verely shaken”.

A wit­ness said the plane flew off in a northerly di­rec­tion af­ter it had jet­ti­soned the bomb.

An­other bomb was dropped close to the junc­tion of the Moss­man-Dain­tree Road and the Cape Tribu­la­tion Road near a slaugh­ter yard.

The ac­counts of how many bombs were dropped are con­flict­ing. The World War II mon­u­ment at Miallo, com­mem­o­rat­ing this event, states there were eight bombs in to­tal dropped within the vicin­ity whereas news­pa­per re­ports at the time men­tion four bombs by the Townsville Daily Bulletin and a sin­gle bomb by the Cairns Post.

What is ev­i­dent is that had the bomb or bombs fallen on Moss­man town­ship, it could have been a hu­man tragedy of sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tions. It was noted in the

that a catas­tro­phe was avoided due to the “ef­fi­cient man­ner in which the su­gar mill was blacked out”.

The Ja­panese pi­lot, Sub Lieu­tenant Kiyoshi Mizukura, in an Emily fly­ing boat, had un­der­taken at least two sor­ties in Far North Queens­land from his base air­port of Rabaul. Two nights prior to his bomb­ing Miallo, he dropped bombs in the vicin­ity of Townsville, caus­ing no dam­age as his pay­load landed mostly at sea.

Mean­while in Bangkok, Mr Doug Rex, who ran a tin dredg­ing com­pany in Malaya, had been taken as a Pris­oner of War. Upon his re­turn to Aus­tralia in 1945, he re­ported that on 2 Au­gust 1942, the head­lines in a Bangkok news­pa­per had said “Moss­man and Townsville were left in flames, re­duced to rub­ble, and a goods train, be­lieved to be car­ry­ing enor­mous sup­plies of meat, had been bombed”.

Fifty years later, Mrs Carmel Emmi nee Zullo, un­veiled a plaque on Bam­boo Creek Road’s War Memo­rial. She was re­ported in the Sun­day Mail as say­ing that her mother had said to her that “…it was a bright moon­lit night and very cold… and she saw I was cov­ered in blood and she thought I had been killed”.

Mrs Emmi also said she knew she was a unique part of Queens­land his­tory but it was some­thing she “could have done with­out”. She was the only civil­ian ca­su­alty along the east­ern Aus­tralian main­land dur­ing the war.

Far North Queens­land does have a dis­tinc­tive place in Aus­tralia’s World War II his­tory. Lo­cals in­clud­ing Fred­die Bell and John White talk of find­ing burnt out planes in re­mote spots in the ranges be­hind Dou­glas Shire.

The mon­u­ment on Bam­boo Creek Road is a solemn re­minder that the 1942 bomb­ing of the area could have had a very dif­fer­ent and tragic out­come but for­tu­nately a fad­ing scar on a for­mer Miallo res­i­dent is the only real ev­i­dence of a botched at­tack.

Pic­ture: MOYA STEVENS

The mon­u­ment on Bam­boo Creek Road to­day, com­mem­o­rat­ing the bomb­ing in­ci­dent at Miallo in 1942. Inset: Ja­panese pi­lot of an emily sea plane, re­puted to be the air­craft in ques­tion

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