Bombing of Darwin

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by GPRegt, Nov 18, 2008.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Japanese air raids on Darwin and northern Australia, 1942–43
    On 19 February 1942 mainland Australia came under attack for the first time when Japanese forces mounted two air raids on Darwin. The two attacks, which were planned and led by the commander responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbour ten weeks earlier, involved 54 land-based bombers and approximately 188 attack aircraft which were launched from four Japanese aircraft-carriers in the Timor Sea. In the first attack, which began just before 10.00 am, heavy bombers pattern-bombed the harbour and town; dive bombers escorted by Zero fighters then attacked shipping in the harbour, the military and civil aerodromes, and the hospital at Berrimah. The attack ceased after about 40 minutes. The second attack, which began an hour later, involved high altitude bombing of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Parap which lasted for 20–25 minutes. The two raids killed at least 243 people and between 300 and 400 were wounded. Twenty military aircraft were destroyed, eight ships at anchor in the harbour were sunk, and most civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed.

    Contrary to widespread belief at the time, the attacks were not a precursor to an invasion. The Japanese were preparing to invade Timor, and anticipated that a disruptive air attack would hinder Darwin's potential as a base from which the Allies could launch a counter-offensive, and at the same time would damage Australian morale. With Singapore having fallen to the Japanese only days earlier, and concerned at the effect of the bombing on national morale, the government announced that only 17 people had been killed.

    The air attacks on Darwin continued until November 1943, by which time the Japanese had bombed Darwin 64 times. During the war other towns in northern Australia were also the target of Japanese air attack, with bombs being dropped on Townsville, Katherine, Wyndham, Derby, Broome and Port Hedland.

    The response
    In the hours following the air raids on 19 February, believing that an invasion was imminent, Darwin's population began to stream southwards, heading for Adelaide River and the train south. Approximately half Darwin's civilian population ultimately fled. The panic in the town was repeated at the RAAF base, where servicemen deserted their stations in great numbers. Three days after the attack 278 servicemen were still missing. The exodus south (which later became known as 'The Adelaide River stakes'), and the looting and disorder which subsequently occurred, led the government to hurriedly appoint a Commission of Inquiry led by Mr Justice Lowe which issued two reports, one on 27 March and the other on 9 April 1942.


    The bombing of Darwin – Fact sheet 195 – National Archives of Australia
     
  2. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Wing Commander Archibald Robert Tindal.

    Tindal_AR.JPG

    Wing Commander ARCHIBALD ROBERT TINDAL, Sevice No.76, Headquarters North Western Area Darwin, Royal Australian Air Force, who died on the 19th February 1942, Age 26. He was the son of Archibald Arthur and Hilda Dorothy Tindal, of Armidale, New South Wales. He is commemorated in the ADELAIDE RIVER WAR CEMETERY, Northern Territory, Australia.

    Wing Commander Tindal was the first RAAF casualty to be sustained in combat on the Australian mainland. During the first Japanese air raid on Darwin, Tindal was killed whilst firing an anti-aircraft weapon. Earlier in the war, Tindal has risked his life flying Wirraways in Rabaul and his bravery on the day would be commemorated in the naming of the largest post-war air base at Katherine, in his honour: Tindal RAAF Base.

    Tindal's death was not the first blow to his long suffering mother. His father, Archibald Arthur Tindal, was killed in action at Guillemont, France during the First World War. He was a Second Lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery, British Army.
     
  3. kiwigeordie

    kiwigeordie Senior Member

  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  5. Tonym

    Tonym WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    By sheer coincidence I picked this subject up last night on "World Naval Ships" Forum,a thread started by Herakles. What drew my attention was the mention of Aust. Hosp. Ship Manunda beign hit during the air raid; it appears not seriously because it took off many of the casualties. However, I have a casualty:-

    DE MESTRE, MARGARET AUGUSTA
    Rank:Sister
    Service No:NX70211
    Date of Death:19/02/1942
    Age:26
    Regiment/Service:Australian Army Nursing Service A.I.F. Hospital Ship Manunda (Melbourne).
    Panel Reference Panel 5.
    Memorial NORTHERN TERRITORY MEMORIAL

    Unless, by coincidence she died from natural causes, she must have been a casualty of that air attack so now, if anybody can help I would be most grateful for a photograph of Panel 5, Northern Territory Memorial and, if one exists, a photograph of A.H.S. Manunda.

    Tony
     
  6. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Luckily Tony, I can oblige both requests.

    HMAHS Manunda.jpg

    Cheers

    Geoff
     

    Attached Files:

  7. Jon Horley

    Jon Horley Member

    I'm glad I found this forum - at age 67, I ashamedly confess that at no point in school, during any discussion with Aussie colleagues since, or reading WWII accounts, have I heard of this event. I'm not sure how many more 'hidden histories' there are, but the explanation above about the post-raid looting might be one reason why this was quietened down. I'm going to spend many hours trawling through the vast array of subjects on here, learning all the while, I believe!
     
  8. Tonym

    Tonym WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Geoff

    I am most grateful.

    Regards, Tony
     
  9. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    A couple more of Manunda. (1930 and 1940 in Sydney Harbour.)


    Manunda.jpg

    TSMV-Manunda-Postcard 1930.jpg
     
  10. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Hi Tony,

    I forgot the single shot I took of the plaque with her name which is much clearer.

    NT Memorial.JPG
     
  11. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Hi all - regarding DE MESTRE, MARGARET AUGUSTA - her service number on the nominal roll is missing a letter. The number shown would be for a male serviceman - the AWM ROH correctly shows her number as NFX70211


    Roll of Honour - Margaret Augusta De Mestre | Australian War Memorial




    Also, here is a photo of the lady:

    P01081.005 | Australian War Memorial


    C. 1941. NURSES AND PHYSIOTHERAPISTS ABOARD 2/1ST AUSTRALIAN HOSPITAL SHIP MANUNDA, WITH LIFE JACKETS. LEFT TO RIGHT: ALYSON MILLS, JOAN SOMERVILLE, MARGARET DE MESTRE, LORRAINE BLOW. DE MESTRE WAS KILLED IN ACTION WHEN THE MANUNDA WAS BOMBED BY THE JAPANESE IN THE RAID OF 19 FEBRUARY 1942. (DONOR J. MCKILLOP)R


    & another one:

    C. 1941. ABOARD THE 2/1ST AUSTRALIAN HOSPITAL SHIP MANUNDA. GROUP OF NURSING SISTERS SITTING ON THE DECK MAKING SURGICAL DRESSINGS. LEFT TO RIGHT: SISTERS DWANE, DE MESTRE, MILLARD, DEAL, BACK AND HUNTER. (DONOR J. MCKILLOP)

    P01081.004 | Australian War Memorial
     
  12. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Sisters on board HMAHS Manunda. Sister Margaret Augusta De Mestre (NX70211) in the middle and Sister Vere L'Estrange Wilkinson (NX70207) on the left.194?

    Sister de Mestre (middle).jpg
     
  13. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Going off some other images at the AWM, she was a second generation Army nurse:

    1918 France - A group portrait of the Matron and Sisters of the 3rd Australian General Hospital (3AGH). Back row, left to right: Sister (Sr) Haxelton Heard; Sr Huxley; Staff Nurse (SN) P. Marsh; Sr Charter, Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) [QAIMNS(R)]; Sr Skelly; SN Vicars Foote; Sr Ethel Smith; Sr Callander; Sr D. Thompson; Sr M. Thompson; Sr Gallagher; Sr Linehan; Sr Slater; SN Marquardt; SN Adams; Sr Warne; Miss Bell; Miss Birdwood, a member of Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD); Miss Murdock, VAD; Sr Fisher, TFNS. Middle row: Sr Cavanagh; Sr Soden; SN Everard; Sr Eulalie Margaret Hamersley; Sr Malster; Sr Sweeney; Sr J. Hall; SN Lindsay; Sr Willock; Sr Elsie Clare Pidgeon; Sr Pierre Humbert; Sr Foxall, TFNS; Sr McFadyen; Sr Winter; Sr M. K. Brown; Sr L. McIntosh; SN M. D. Smith. Front row: SN G. Trebilco; SN M. McKay; Sr A. Linklater; Sr V. Drewitt; Sr Chataway; SN Webb; Sr Burbury; Sr Greig; Matron Grace Wilson (in the dark uniform); Sr Andrews; Sr De Mestre; Sr Fitzgibbon; Sr Steele; Sr Duddy; Sr Belstead; Sr Leslie Smith; Sr Moir.
     
  14. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    About Sister de Mestre:
    ONE MORNING OF THE WAR: Darwin Feb. 19, 1942. Stricken Hospital Ship MANUNDA. Collection of Graeme Andrews. | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    The HMAHS Manunda display panel is in memory of NX70211
    - Sister Margaret Augusta DE MESTRE.
    "Sister Margaret DeMestre
    The first A.N.C. Nurse serving in the 2nd Australian Imperial Forces to be killed-in-action during World War II.
    Sister DeMestre was born in Bellingen on St Margaret's Day,
    16 November 1915.
    She grew up in Bellingen and trained at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney in 1935.
    In 1940 she enlisted in the [Royal] Australian Nursing Corp and made two trips to the Middle East on the 2/1st Hospital Ship, H.M.A.H.S. Manunda.
    Whilst the ship was being reconditioned in 1941 she served at the 113th A.G.H Concord.
    She rejoined the ship in January 1942.
    At 10.05am on the 19th February, 1942 Japanese forces bombed Darwin [243 killed, 350 wounded, 8 ships sunk] and the Manunda was badly damaged with 12 killed, including Margaret.
    Sister Margaret DeMestre is buried in the Darwin War Cemetery."
     
  15. Tonym

    Tonym WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    DaveB

    That explains why I wasted 1/2 and hour last night trying to get her record up, thought I was doing something wrong.

    Geoff

    My assumption was that being on an official memorial she had no known grave so, pushing my luck, any chance you have a photo of the grave?

    Tony
     
  16. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    DaveB

    That explains why I wasted 1/2 and hour last night trying to get her record up, thought I was doing something wrong.

    Geoff

    My assumption was that being on an official memorial she had no known grave so, pushing my luck, any chance you have a photo of the grave?

    Tony

    Hi Tony,

    Two minds thinking alike.

    The memorial is for those with no known grave. I do not know the nitty gritty of "how" she died but assumed she must have been blown overboard and her body unrecoverable.

    I took 400 photos at Adelaide River War Cemetery and went through a slide show of all but no ground plaque.

    Possibly the "buried at" might have been an error.

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  17. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    DaveB

    That explains why I wasted 1/2 an hour last night trying to get her record up, thought I was doing something wrong.

    Geoff

    My assumption was that being on an official memorial she had no known grave so, pushing my luck, any chance you have a photo of the grave?

    Tony


    I have contacted the nominal rolls people (the DVA) and the National Archives to see if the service numbers they are displaying can be aligned with the one on her AWM ROH record.

    Her pers file has been digitised and shows the service number as NX on her attestation paperwork but an F has been added on her medal entitlement chit. I think the F (for female) identifier came in some time after the first female troops enlisted and was added as a way to differentiate on official forms.

    Her file also has details on how she died and where she was "buried" is shown on the AWM ROH circular.
     

    Attached Files:

  18. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    .

    Her file also has details on how she died and where she was "buried" is shown on the AWM ROH circular.

    Okay I'll bite.

    What is "In Stream of Darwin Wharf" which is listed as her burial place?
     
  19. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    It's all a matter of using the right bait..........

    I was actually hoping for a translation of that myself hence why I used the inverted commas for "burial"

    I wonder if it should be "In Stream off Darwin Wharf"? Would that make any more sense?? I presume that it was a burial at sea as it was the most expedient process at the time.



    Compare to the burial method utilised for some of the RAAF casualties:
     

    Attached Files:

  20. Tonym

    Tonym WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Geoff

    Thanks for your effort.

    Re your question- What is "In Stream of Darwin Wharf" which is listed as her burial place?

    I got the impression from 'Heracles' article on the other forum that there was a communal interment:-

    Quote "Other estimates put the toll far higher: one soldier who was there claimed to have seen barges filled with bodies towed out to sea, a member of one of the burial teams recounted seeing uncounted bodies "shoved in a large hole dug by a bulldozer” (paraphrase), according to some sources,"

    Whether true or not your guess is as good as mine. However there does appear to have been heavy looting by locals and troops causing embarrassment to the authorities resulting in the incident receiving little publicity at the time.

    Regards,
    Tony
     

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