This blog is about my wife and I sailing our 13m sailing catamaran around Australia during 2012 2013 and 2014. We will sail from Brisbane at the end of April 2012 and slowly head north anticipating that we will arrive in Darwin for the cyclone season and head west when safe to do so and complete the circumnavigation.
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
(Three soldiers dressed as they would have dressed in 1942)
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
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
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 Partywas 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
Adelaide River also experienced the last bombing activity by
the Japanese in November 1943 there was no further bombing in Australia after
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.