This week marks the 76th anniversary of the bombing on Darwin on February 1942.
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The Shoalhaven’s Ken Walker was 20-years-old in Darwin at the time of the attack and shared his memories with the Shoalhaven Historical Society.
“I got used to the tropics and settled in well,” Ken recalled.
“We were taken out on maneuvers at time and learnt about the country and how to operate together.
“Some years before this Battalions were formed and the area was defended by the Darwin Mobile Force and money of the men trained as officers and were then used as the basis for forming up Battalions as required in the A.I.F units.
“We were aware of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, the the battles in the Pacific, but somehow were not fully prepared for the air attack on Darwin.
“I had been reporting to the Signal Platoon and driving a corporal out to the Pill Boxes at East Point which they were wiring for telephones, when when we were aware of many aircraft, high level bombers and later dive bombers and fighters flying across the ships in the harbour. The damage everywhere was extensive, smoke and flames were across the sky. After the first attack we had a few hours before another lot of aircraft came over at high level.
“I was sent to Darwin rubbish dump to stay with some of the Sigs. A few days later I was taken from the Sigs and the old truck was loaded with fifteen hundredweight of Mortar bombs and then in convoy we went across the Darwin R.A.A.F Drome past the wrecked hangar to shelter under trees out of the way.
“Of course next morning a flight of lighter planes patterned bombed through our trucks and dropped Daisy Cutter Bombs which exploded above ground and they tore through tires, radiators and cut off one carburetor, yet my truck was okay, but shrapnel cut into trees nearby. While this went on I was on top of the load of bombs. Any trucks were were still mobile were sent down the track to make a camp at the Eleven Mile site.
“On March 1 I had my 21st birthday at the Darwin tip and the Sig Corporal opened some cans of fruit to celebrate.”
The bombing of Darwin began a new and frightening era in wartime in Australia, and is still known as the biggest wartime disaster to befall the country. War had never been fought on Australian soil until then.
Two hundred and forty-three Australians died as the Japanese bombers and zero-fighters destroyed most of the military targets, 28 aircraft and eight ships.
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