|First Japanese bombs land on Darwin, 19th February 1942. AWM|
The Bombing of Darwin
The following text is from the AWM:
"Darwin, the largest population centre in northern Australia, was considered a vital asset in Australia's defences against an increasingly aggressive Japanese Empire in the 1930s. Its port and airfield facilities were developed, coastal defence batteries constructed and its garrison steadily enlarged. The outbreak of war in the Pacific resulted in the rapid enlargement of the military presence in Darwin and it was used as a base from which to deploy forces for the defence of the Dutch East Indies. In January and February these forces were overwhelmed by Japanese landings, usually preceded by heavy air attacks.
"On 19 February 1942 Darwin itself was bombed. Japanese fighters and bombers attacked the port and shipping in the harbour twice during the day, killing 252 Allied service personnel and civilians. On 3 March Broome, in Western Australia, was strafed. In succeeding months air attacks were made on many towns in northern Australia including Wyndham, Port Hedland and Derby in Western Australia, Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory, Townsville and Mossman in Queensland, and Horn Island in the Torres Strait. Despite popular fears these raids were not the precursor to an invasion but they did serve to interrupt the use of Darwin's port facilities. The raids also tied up anti aircraft defences and air force units that would have otherwise been sent to more forward areas.
"The Japanese air raids on Darwin on 19 February involved, collectively, over 260 enemy aircraft. Subsequent raids in April, June, July and November 1942, and March 1943 where carried out with forces of 30 to 40 fighters and bombers. Between the large raids there were smaller operations by groups of under a dozen Japanese aircraft. Most of the raids occurred in daylight but there were some small scale night attacks.
"The 64th, and last, air raid on Darwin occurred on 12 November 1943. In total there were 97 air attacks on northern Australia and enemy air reconnaissance over the region continued through much of 1944.
Commemorations to be held in Darwin and across the Northern Territory
Federal Minister for Veterans Affairs, Mr Tehan MP, said the attacks had brought the Second World War to Australian shores and we should pause to remember those killed and those who defended Darwin on this national day of observance.
The Minister's press release states that a national commemoration organised by the Northern Territory Government will recognise the anniversary with a service at the Cenotaph on the Darwin Esplanade at 9.30 am on Sunday 19 February, with an air raid siren sounded at 9.58 am to mark the precise time the first attack took place. The Australian American Association of the Northern Territory will also conduct a USS Peary Memorial Service.
“The bombing of Darwin Day has been a national day of observance since 2011 but other towns across Australia’s north were also bombed, including Katherine, Broome, Townsville, Wyndham and Cairns,” Mr Tehan said.
“Australia has been fortunate that global conflict has rarely reached our shores and the 75th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin is an opportunity to reflect on the lives lost because of the attack and to be grateful for the men and women of our armed forces who fight to defend us. On the 75th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin the country will stop, pause and reflect on a significant moment in our history and how it has shaped Australia.”
If you woulds like to read more about the bombing of Darwin, a good read is by Peter Ewer, a member of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign Commemorative Council. It is called Wounded Eagle. Another book is by Peter Grose, An Awkward Truth. You can pick them up at any good secondhand bookstore or on-line.
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee