Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic visit to Darwin, where he honoured those killed during the bombing of the city in World War II, has sparked some local memories.
Shoalhaven historian and author Robyn Florance has revealed local links links with the attack and in particular the bombing of the hospital ship AHS (TSMV - Twin Screw Motor Vessel) Manundra while anchored in Darwin Harbour on February 19, 1942.
Sister Margaret Augusta de Mestre, a relative of the Terara de Mestres was killed in the attack and Sr Lorraine Stewart Blow, of Berry was badly injured.
The bombing of Manunda, a passenger ship converted to a hospital ship in 1940, was part of the first Japanese air raid on Darwin, which saw eight ships sunk, 350 wounded and 243 killed.
Twelve members of the Manunda crew and hospital staff died, including Sr de Mestre, a descendent of Terara’s Propser de Mestre and Sarah Melanie de Mestre who distinguished herself as a nurse in France and Flanders in World War I.
Forty-seven others, including Sr Blow, the daughter of Alfred “Ernie” Blow who led the famous WW1 Waratah March, were wounded.
Sr Blow was hospitalised for two years.
At 10.45am on February 19, 1942 an air raid warning was heard just as the enemy bombers and fighter planes came over Darwin.
The first casualties were mainly from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aerodrome and were admitted to Berrimah from about 11am.
Expecting casualties, Sister Lorraine Blow was preparing her ward when… “There was a terrific blast which flew me off my feet into the air and down again”…, the bomb blast that wounded her, killed Sr de Mestre who was preparing her ward one deck below.
Twenty-six-year-old Sr de Mestre was standing near a door and was hit in the back by a piece of shrapnel. She died two hours later.
Sr Blow was also standing near a door leading on to the dock, when she too was struck by shrapnel, which fractured her spine and perforated her abdomen.
She was in hospital for two years but did not die, and after the war she became a familiar figure at Sydney’s Prince Alfred Hospital, where for 11 years she was in charge of the casualty department.
The ship was anchored in Darwin Harbour near the merchant ship Zealandia and the oil tanker British Motorist when it was first hit by shrapnel and then a bomb during the first Japanese air attack.
The medical and nursing staff quarters were destroyed, B and C decks were severely damaged and fires started on board.
Despite the chaos, Manunda continued to treat incoming wounded, acting as acasualty clearing station, while staff manned the life-boats rescuing injured men from the sea.
Sr de Mestre (NFX70211) became the first Australian Imperial Force nurse to be killed in action on Australian soil.
She was born in Kalang via Bellingen on November 16, 1915 to James Augustus and Alice Isobel de Mestre (nee Morey).
Her parents owned and operated a dairy farm and she was the first of six children, four girls and two boys.
She trained at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney in 1935.
Her aunt Sarah Melanie De Mestre, who inspired Margaret to be a nurse, had also trained at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and served in WWI.
Sarah had distinguished herself as a nurse in France and Flanders, and among her decorations was the Royal Red Cross which was presented to her at Buckingham Palace by King George V on June 3, 1918 (the King's birthday).
Margaret enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Corp in 1940 with other nurses from the hospital and sailed twice to the Middle East on the 2/1 Hospital Ship, Manunda.
While the ship was being reconditioned in 1941, she served at the 113 Australian General Hospital at Concord. She re-joined Manunda in January 1942.
Sr Blow was born on November 18, 1906 at Berry, a daughter of Alfred (Alfred Ernest known as Ernie) and Isabella (nee Stewart) Blow of the historic Berry homestead Mananga, still located just north of the township.
Captain Blow had led the famous WW1 Waratah recruiting march from Nowra to Sydney.
She undertook nursing training at Prince Alfred Hospital graduating in 1926 before travelling to India and nursing there, before returning to Australia in 1939.
She enlisted in the army on July 22, 1940, undertaking four trips to the Middle East on Manunda.
With serious injures she was eventually was taken Concord Hospital in Sydney and later returned to nursing duties at Concord Hospital until her discharge in 1948
She died September 21, 1995 aged 88 years.
A headstone marks her resting place at Gerringong Cemetery.