A New Tradition for Victoria Park
Victoria Park’s inaugural Darwin Defenders’ Day was observed as a mark of respect for one of its members who passed away recently. The President gave an address, as did Dee Sanders, whose husband was based just outside Darwin with a reconaissance squadron.
We hope this becomes another major event on the calendar.
- Click on the image at left to see coverage of this event.
- Learn more at Darwin Defenders.
- The ABC News website also has a video concerning veterans.
PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS – DARWIN MEMORABLE DAY 2014
The bombing of Darwin on 19th February 1942 was the first attack by foreign forces on Australia soil since the British arrived in “Terra Australis” (Australia) in 1788.
The Japanese attack was of formidable military might, involving the dropping of more bombs, although of a lesser tonnage than at Pearl Harbour two months earlier.
A total of 242 enemy aircraft – 188 carrier-borne and 54 land-based bombers from Ambon – dropped a total of 683 bombs over the harbour, wharf, township and airfields in two hours – one hour apart.
The bombings caused considerable loss of life – both of civilian and military personnel, as well as much damage to the town’s infrastructure.
It was estimated that a conservative figure of between 300 to 320 fatalities were reported killed on either land or sea.
The bombings took place only a few days after the fall of Singapore, when the southward march of the Japanese, who had swept down the Malay Peninsula and taken the Dutch East Indies in a few short weeks, seemed unstoppable.
Despite the extent of this attack – the most serious ever launched against Australian Territory, it received comparatively little exposure to the citizens of Australia.
A war cemetery to honour those who paid the supreme sacrifice is located at Adelaide River located south of Darwin.
The purpose of our gathering here today is to pay homage to the civilian and military personnel who were in Darwin at the time of this tragic event, who never expected to find themselves exposed to the ravages of war on home soil.
LEST WE FORGET.
DARWIN DEFENDERS 1942 TO 1945
On 19th February 1942 there weren’t many about.
Darwin was an important supply port, aircraft base and staging point to try and halt Japanese access. This was in January 1942. On the day of the first attack from the Japanese – this day 1942 – 33 Squadron of the U S Army Air Corps, driven from the Philippines by the rapid Japanese invasion there, were on patrol over Darwin when the first wave of Japanese aircraft attacked. But they were outnumbered at least three to one.
March and the P40 Kittyhawks of the US 49th Fighter Group arrived – then three more squadrons. General McArthur arrived at Batchelor Airfield, south of Darwin, and so our “Defenders” came into being.
My husband was with 13 and then 2 Squadrons based at Hughes Airstrip – 32 miles “down the track”. This was a Hudson Squadron – mostly used for reconnaissance, they were also doing food drops over Timor to our soldiers in the hills. Don was atail gunner and quite a few times had to fire back at their attackers.
Many thousands of personnel – Airforce, Army, Navy, road and airstrip construction men – were eventually deployed to the area, and the job of defending us.
To these – Our Defenders – we are flying this flag today. This is a tribute to them.
LEST WE FORGET.
The attack on Darwin on 19th February 1942 by the Japanese was the first attack ever made by an enemy on Australian soil. The devastating attack by 242 Japanese aircraft , sank 8 and damaged 15 of the 45 ships in the harbour. 23 aircraft were destroyed and an estimated 900 people killed with many hundreds injured.
Although Battalions of soldiers were rushed to Darwin following the attack on Pearl Harbour, Australia defences were totally inadequate against such an attack. The area was subjected to a further 64 bombing raids through to November 12 1943.
Strict censorship was imposed on all information regarding the air raids and all official documents were stamped “Not to be released until 1995” . About 200,000 Australians served in Darwin in WW2 and through this ceremony we give them the recognition and respect they have earned for their efforts in the defence of their country and its people.