Thursday, February 21, 2013

Darwin - Bombing of Darwin

0958 hours 19 February 1942

Aircraft were heard and seen in formation over Darwin and the air raid siren sounded, 188 Japanese Naval Aircraft had started bombing Darwin and lives were lost ships were sunk and there were more bombs dropped on Darwin than Pearl Harbour. The bombing continued for eighteen months. Most Australians were unaware of the additional attacks the government on the day placed everything in the 50 year Secrets Act, so it was not until that 50 years expired that Australians were allowed to tell their stories in book form. Probably with tourism in mind all these signs started to appear along the Stuart Highway between Darwin and Alice Springs indicating WWII Army Camps, Airstrips, Army Hospital, Ammunitions Bunkers, hidden fuel and oil tanks built inside of hills. The sad part of this is that many that served in the forces were not recognised as war service veterans because on record at the time indicated one only bombing on this day when it lasted for the eighteen month period.
(Three soldiers dressed as they would have dressed in 1942)
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 0930 hours 19 February 2013

The ceremony started at the Darwin Cenotaph to commemorate the 71st Anniversary and at 0958 hours the sirens sounded the big guns fired and the jet did a flypasts.
(A young lady assisting a WWII veteran that served in Darwin during the bombings to his seat)

Nancy and I attended and whilst Nancy was busy taking photos a lovely lady sat next to me and we started a conversation, her name is Mary Lee and her ancestors were from the Philippines. We started to talk after introducing ourselves and I found her delightful and very sweet. She was born near the Old Police Paddock in 1931, she told me that was where all the migrants lived from other places like Italy and Greece,  she was 9 years old when she lost her Father in the bombing of Darwin, her Father was one of the wharf workers loading the merchant ship 'Neptuna' that was full of depth charges, his body was never found. They were moved to Katherine which was also bombed. Mary was one of nine children that her Mother had to bring up by herself, Mary told me her Mother was a wonderful woman and it was hard for her to find work to keep her children but she did find jobs and supported her family.

Mary also told me that her grandchildren were at the event today, one of her grandsons is a Police Officer and she said her granddaughter looks nothing like her she is blonde and has blue eyes. She is very proud of them. The Mayor of Darwin Katrina Fong Lim is a distant cousin. Mary has a lot of Darwin history and I only hope someone has documented it.

0958 hours - Air raid siren sounds -

The siren sounds to simulate what occurred 71 years ago, then jet planes were heard approaching as a flypast of five F/A 18 Aircraft, as the planes arrive 8/12th Regiment, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery commence firing of M2A2 (105mm) Howitzer Guns (4 of them), a Navy Patrol Boat patrols out in the range of the guns making sure other vessels stay clear. The noise is tremendous even though we were all supplied ear plugs to save our hearing.

There was the laying of the reefs and I assisted Mary to stand as she requires assistance to get about with her walking stick, her friend helped her with the laying of the reef as she was returning she passed the Mayor (Katrina) and when Mary returned to her seat she said that the Mayor said hello Aunty and Mary chuckled and said I did not know what to do because Katrina was with all the important people the Chief Minister. She said that is what Katrina calls her is Aunty.
(Mary Lee assisted by friend and escorted by a young sailor after laying a reef)
(Mary Lee (left) in traditional dress but is an Aussie through and through, she asked me what I was doing and where I was from, I told her I was sailing around Australia and her reply was "Goodonya")

There was the usual too long speeches by politicians which probably could have been shorter as a result two of the guards fainting near the end of their duty. It was a very hot and humid day for the guard to be standing at attention for an hour and twenty minutes, the only part of the body that can be moved is wiggling the toes to keep some circulation. I think the forces should change the guard at appropriate intervals.
(The Catafalque Party was made up of two female and two male service personnel, it was hot and humid and they had to stand in this one position for more than an hour)

At the end of the ceremony I helped Mary stand again and thanked her very much for her company, it was a pleasure talking to her and I probably have not remembered everything she told me.

Wednesday - 20/02/2013

Friends Graham and Fern have loaned us one of their cars and told us about the ceremony to be held today at Adelaide River so we left at 0730 hours and drove down there.

Adelaide River is village 125 kilometres south of Darwin and is where the dead from the bombing of Darwin were buried. Adelaide River was also a staging and area where stores and equipment was loaded onto trains. It was going to be the frontline if the Japanese invaded Darwin after the air raid.

Adelaide River also experienced the last bombing activity by the Japanese in November 1943 there was no further bombing in Australia after that.

The ceremony commenced at 1000 hours with the attendance of around 200 people, school children helped people with seating and made sure they had drinking water continually through the ceremony.

I thought the great thing was the involvement of the school children, the MC for the ceremony was Year 12 Student Tala Turner and she did a wonderful job. The start was by a Year 11 Student who sang and played guitar Saysha Ham, who sang 'I am Australian' beautiful voice.

It was another hot day and I take my hat off to the Catafalque Party and Flag Party that again stood in that one position for near the entire service.
(The official party at Adelaide River)

After the service I went over and spoke with Her Worship Lord Mayor of Darwin (Katrina) and told her that I had sat with Mary yesterday and was just thrilled to have her company and I took the opportunity to ask if someone had recorded the history she has and she assured me it had been done in fact Mary was in charge of all her side of the family history. I found Katrina was just as nice to talk to as Mary.
(Having a chat with the Lord Mayor of Darwin, Katrina Fong Lim)

Darwin Council do a very good job of looking after the WWII veterans and or relatives of the veterans from the bombing of Darwin times, there were two busloads of people that attended yesterday's ceremony that came to Adelaide River ceremony.

On the way back to Darwin we called in to have a look at the historic railway from WWII at Adelaide River then stopped at the Noonamah Pub (which is now called Noonamah Tavern), and had lunch before driving home.

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