Darwin Bombing Anniversary – Behind the News


AMELIA: If you were a kid
back in the 1940s, the world would have been
a very different place. But it wasn’t just the cars
or the clothes, it was that the world was at war
for a second time. Australia was part of a group
of countries – including the UK, France and the US – that were fighting against
another group of nations, led by Germany, Italy and Japan. In some of those places, fighting
and bombings were a regular threat. But in Australia, most people felt
like the war was a long way away. That was until 1941. Authorities started to worry
that Darwin, then a small town
but also an important military base, might be in serious danger
of being bombed by Japan. The government decided to evacuate more than a thousand
women and children on ships. Wendy was five years old at the time. She was shipped to Perth with no idea
when she’d be able to return. We set off down the dirt track
to go to the wharf. My father was standing
on the back steps and we turned a corner
and we lost sight of him. And my mother was so angry
and crying. We managed to board the ship just
before they pulled up the gangplank and before they pulled up
the anchor. On the 19 February 1942,
war came to Australia’s shores. Japan wanted to destroy
our country’s northern defences, so it could invade Timor
and, in the process, send Australia a warning. Just before 10am, Japanese forces
launched 188 fighter planes from ships in the Timor Sea
and headed for Darwin. (SIRENS BLARE) They bombed military bases,
the town and the harbour, sinking several ships,
including a US destroyer. A second attack followed soon after. The two air raids killed
at least 235 people and wounded about 400 more. It was, and still is, the biggest
attack on Australia in its history, but it wasn’t the only one. In total, there were
more than 90 air attacks on the Northern Territory. This is a photograph taken about six months after
we came back from being evacuated. Evacuees like Wendy were only allowed
back into Darwin in 1945 when the war finally ended. By then, she hadn’t seen
her dad for about four years. Her family house and a lot
of the town she knew had disappeared, but she said it was good
to finally be home safe. There was a sense of relief
that everything was peaceful and the families
were together again. It was a wonderful sense. Today,
the city has grown and changed a lot, but locals haven’t forgotten
the day Darwin was bombed. This is Darwin Harbour when it was bombed in 1942. In the lead up to
the 75th anniversary, some kids have been learning
about it and creating artwork. We are recreating a famous painting of the bombing
of the harbour of Darwin. At the moment,
we’re just doing the ocean. We’ve been learning a lot about it and we’d like to know
because it’s in Darwin’s history. Veterans and locals say it was
a sad and important moment in Australia’s history
that should always be remembered.

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