Veterans remember the Bombing of Darwin

Veterans of the 1942 Bombing of Darwin recall what it was like to find Australia under attack on its own soil for the first time.

Darwin in 1942 was a frontier town, all fibro buildings and corrugated iron, as Eric Barton remembers it.

As a 20-year-old from Sydney he'd come to the Northern Territory with the army as Darwin became an increasingly strategic base for the Allied war effort.

He was working near the centre of town on the morning of February 19, when 188 Japanese planes launched from four aircraft carriers began swooping over.

"When the planes started coming, somebody said, `here come the Yanks', and then they said, `oh, no, it's not'," he told AAP.

He said the sound of the incoming planes was "dreadful", and estimated that the attack lasted a couple of hours.

In fact, there were two raids - the first, at 10am, lasting about 40 minutes, attacking shipping, the military and civil aerodromes, and the hospital at Berrimah.

The second attack, an hour later, lasted about 25 minutes and involved high-altitude bombing of the RAAF base.

Greg Corr's father Richard, a 19-year-old army recruit, never spoke much to his family about the bombing.

"He was going to go into a trench but there wasn't enough room for him, and nine people (in it) were killed," Mr Corr said.

His uncles were given the task of collecting the bodies of those killed the day after.

Norm McMahon was there when the final bomb dropped, more than 60 raids after the first, on November 12, 1943. A Japanese pilot who had lost his way emptied his payload over the army farm, mistaking it for an airfield.

"Five bombs dropped, the last one about 250 feet away from where I was," Mr McMahon said.

He said the government at the time hushed up the details of the bombing so the rest of the country wouldn't be alarmed at the threat of a Japanese invasion.

Source AAP

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch