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Title: The first air raid - 1942
Name: Smith, Tom
My Story: As the truck, carrying us to our respective destinations, was approaching Darwin, the steady hum of aircraft was heard. Then we noticed the planes in formation above us. There had not been any indication that we were to receive any reinforcement aircraft, and the numbers in that formation were more than our sum total of aircraft in the area. To be safe the truck pulled to the side of the road, and we moved into an area a further distance from the road. It was approximately 1000 hours. Then the balloon went up. There was no doubt now that Darwin was having its first air raid, and the number of enemy aircraft involved meant that it would be a major raid. So it proved. Direct hits on vital defences and communications meant that the Japanese had done their homework well. The crater left where, a few minutes earlier, the Post Office stood, severed communications. The wharves suffered severely. A large number of naval and merchant shipping was in the harbour, and most of them suffered permanent or serious damage. Oil storage were hit and the R.A.A.F. air field was badly hit. Later that morning the R.A.A.F. base was to be demolished. It was in the corner of the R.A.A.F. air strip where our group was stranded, but we were fortunate - no casualties. However, we did see the damage to the aircraft, buildings and field strip. The air strip, fortunately, wasn't that badly damaged, but there were no aircraft using it currently. After the finish of the first raid, Tom and his friends proceeded into Darwin and placed themselves at the disposal of the authorities still in command. There was panic and many servicemen were dazed. Unfortunately, and it was to be expected, an order from a Senior Officer in the R.A.A.F. was "every man for himself". It was hard to find out who was in charge because of the serious casualties. A steady stream of "refugees" was already heading south. The main highway, and virtually the only main road out of Darwin, was still in a reasonably good condition, considering the saturation bombing. We knew the wharves and ships had borne the brunt of the attack, and the harbour was under siege. We were assigned to check out the refugees, and direct military (army, navy and air force) to certain areas for re-grouping. Adelaide River because the centre of re-grouping and communications were directed in and out from there. The Darwin Infantry Battalion, which was stationed at Larrakeyah - in Darwin itself - was directed to Manton Dam, where they became the protector of Darwin's main water supply. The 27th AMF were in Darwin directing operations, and the 43rd at Noonamah were allotted similar duties. There were no fatal casualties for either of these battalions.
Appears in Collections:Territory Times Gone By

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