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To remember and commemorate
Monday 19 February 2018 marks the 76th anniversary of one of the most significant days in Darwin's history – the day Darwin was bombed.
Singapore had already fallen to the Japanese in February 1942, but in sleepy Darwin town it was a typical wet season day. People were going about their business, just like any other week day morning. World War II was in full swing around Asia and Europe and although there was a heavy military presence, the people of Darwin just carried on with life as they always do.
Lameroo Baths Darwin, circa 1930. Photo from Coral Crombie-Brown Collection, Northern Territory Library, Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lameroo_Baths,_Darwin.jpg
People went to school and work, and businesses opened for the trade including the Darwin Post Office. Postmaster Hurtle Bald had not long opened his shop when at 9.35 am an aircraft was spotted heading for Darwin by Father McGrath of the Sacred Heart Mission on Bathurst Island. A message was quickly sent to Darwin via pedal radio and was relayed to RAAF Operations at 9.37 am, however no general alarm was given until 10 am. It was thought that it was allied aircraft returning to Darwin.
By 9.58 am the raid had started with devastating results. Japanese bombers had commenced bombing Darwin. In the Post Office with Post Master Bald were his wife Alice, daughter Iris, Archibald Halls, Arthur Wellington, Jean and Eileen Mullen, Jennie Stasinowsky and Emily Young; all going about their work.
The gun emplacements at East Point Reserve had been built with a 180 degree radius facing out to sea and, despite best efforts, offering little protection from the bombers, as they circled around behind.
Gun Emplacements East Point Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
In Darwin harbour at the time were 65 Allied warships and merchant vessels of various types. A focus of the attack, eight sank as the bombers dive and level bombed them, killing 163 personnel. The most significant of these was the USS Peary which was lost with 88 souls.
Sinking of the USS Peary Darwin 1942. Photo: Author Unknown, within collection at the Australian War Memorial, from Wikiwmedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Peary_(DD-226)_sinking_at_Darwin_1942.jpg
One hour after the first raid, a second took place, this time targeting the RAAF Base at Parap. In all, Darwin was bombed 64 times between 19 February 1942 and 12 November 1943.
In the first raid, the Darwin Post Office took a direct hit, killing all present. All civilians, they were initially buried in makeshift graves at Kahlin Beach before being later reinterred at the Berrimah War Cemetery. After the war, they were again reinterred at the Adelaide River War Cemetery, 113 kms from Darwin. Is is a wonderful and very peaceful and humbling site to visit.
Adelaide River War Cemetery. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
The site of the old post office is now the site of the Legislative Assembly, forming part of Parliament House. A part of the original wall still stands today in tribute and can be seen in the foyer of the entrance to the Northern Territory Library.
Remains of the Darwin Post Office. Photo: Author Unknown, collection of the Australian War Memorial from Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Remains_of_the_Darwin_Post_Office.jpg
Despite earlier counts being much lower, it is now known that the two raids held on that fateful day killed 243 people, including civilians, and wounded approximately 400. The 19 February 1942 became a significant day in Darwin's history and is still commemorated today with ceremonies and remembrances.
Bombing of Darwin Plaque, Government House. Photo by kenhodge13 from Wikimedia -https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bombing_of_Darwin_Plaque_Government_House_March_2010.jpg
On Monday 19 February 2018, the people of Darwin will once again come to commemorate that tragic day 76 years ago and remember and honour those who fought to defend Darwin and those who lost their lives.
The people of Darwin invite all present to gather at the Cenotaph, Bicentennial Park, The Esplanade at 9.30 am to pay tribute, honour and remember. At 9.58 am, Darwin's World War II air raid siren will sound; the same time it sounded 76 years ago as waves of bombers flew over the city to devastating effect. The event will include a flyover, depiction and wreath laying.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.