Darwin war history
Written by Norman Cramp, Director of Darwin Military Museum.
It is now over 75 years since the first Japanese attacks upon Darwin, and Australia, took place on 19th February 1942 and time has taken its toll on those who were in Darwin on that day and the many days of war on and off Australian soil that followed.
As the years have passed, so too have many of the people, civilians and military alike, who experienced, first-hand, the terror and horror of war. Sadly, as more and more of our Second World War veterans, again civilian and military, pass so too do the Associations that they formed or were a part.
Those Associations, and there were hundreds of them formed around Australia after the First and Second World Wars, were formed by members of various military Units or by civilians who banded together in an effort to maintain the contact and friendships forged through the war years, to commemorate those who were no longer with us, to remember what had happened and to keep the history alive so that it would never (hopefully) be repeated.
Over the past few years, Darwin (and Australia) has witnessed the passing of several such Associations. Organisation such as the Darwin Commemoration Association that was made up primarily of civilians who were either in Darwin at the time of the first raids or were evacuated residents of the town.
The order of service programme shown at left was prepared by the Association’s members to commemorate the 47th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin. The commemorative service was held at the Cenotaph, in Martin Place, Sydney on 18th February 1989.
One of the Association’s founding members and Secretary, Mrs Ena FitzPatrick (nee Dalton), was a key and very active member of the Association until she passed away in 1991. Mrs. FitzPatrick’s daughter, Pam, kindly donated the ‘flyer’ along with a large number of photo boards, letters and certificates to the Darwin Military Museum in July 2018.
As the Association has not been known to hold any Bombing of Darwin commemorative services since the mid-1990s, it is believed the Association has now become defunct. However, through Pam FitzPatrick’s generosity, the memory of the Association and its members lives on.
Another Association that has become a part of the ‘passing parade’ is the Rats of Tobruk Association NT. The Association, consisting mainly of veterans of the battles at Tobruk who were residents of Darwin, held their monthly meetings at the Darwin RSL for many, many years. Sadly, like the Darwin Commemorative Association and another like-organisation, the Darwin Defenders, the Rats of Tobruk Association has folded due to its members passing away over the years.
Whilst some of us in Darwin have memories of some of the members of the ‘Rats Association’, such as Ken Ackland, a ‘boy soldier’ attached to a British Army Armoured Regiment at Tobruk, the only ‘living memory’ of the NT chapter of the Association is their banner. The banner, which is displayed at the Darwin Military Museum (DMM), East Point Darwin, was carried high and proud by the Association’s members in every ANZAC Day parade from the early 1950s.
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