Written by Norman Cramp, Director of Darwin Military Museum.
It is not clear as to when the installation of the net commenced nor when it was 100% completed, but it was fully operational by January 1942 – and a good thing it was!
The submarine went down with all 80 hands on board and she remains in her final position at the bottom of the sea today, un-entered and effectively untouched for 76 years.
On 19th February 1942 there were 49 ships in Darwin Harbour and without the protection of the boom net, that day could have been more catastrophic than what it was. Just imagine being attacked from the air and attacked from below the sea at the same time, with limited room for your ship to manoeuvre and/or escape the harbour!
It is thought the net was finally removed in 1946-47, following which the winch and associated equipment were (effectively) abandoned by the Commonwealth, although it remained in situ for many years.
The winch was relocated to its current position within the DMM and refurbished by RAAA/DMM volunteers in 2015. In 2017 RAAA/DMM volunteers, DMM staff and members of the Australian Army’s 8/12 Field Artillery Regiment erected the weather protection structure and camouflage nets over the winch as a further step toward its ongoing preservation.
Many thanks to all of those people and organisations who have given so generously of their time, effort, equipment and material to conserve and preserve this very important piece of the NT’s wartime equipment and story.