Now you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that Darwin could be considering a new public holiday to the Annual Calendar. We are after all a part of Australia and who doesn’t love being a resident in the ‘Land of the Long Weekend’?
My excitement diminished somewhat when I heard that the concept being pushed for consideration was as a replacement to the existing ‘Queen’s Birthday’ holiday rather than in addition to this. All of a sudden I became a royalist!
The public holiday of which I speak is to commemorate the Bombing of Darwin and would take place on the 19th February. Below is an exert that I stole from the archives which outlines some of the action that commenced on this day in 1942.
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.
This was a significant day in the history of Darwin and Australia for that matter. Probably one of the most significant in terms of Australian war history ever outside of Gallipoli and we have a day for that.So I say dump the Queen’s birthday…..what has she done for us lately? I suppose she was somehow involved in delivering up Pippa Middleton but you need more than a day to commemorate that!