LSPH Kaye Adams
Barrie Yesberg marks the 62nd anniversary of the Darwin
bombing onboard HMAS Townsville.
LSPH Kaye Adams
9.58am on February 19, 1942 Japanese bombers dropped their deadly
loads on Darwin.
World War 2 had reached Australia’s shores.
Twenty-seven Japanese bombers with accompanying fighter escorts
raided Darwin Harbour and the town in the first of two air raids
The USS Peary zig-zagged across the cluttered harbour, where a
number of freighters, a troopship and tanker were also under attack.
Peary retaliated and opened fire with all of her guns.
As she fired, two bombs struck her, one causing the engine room
to flood, and the second crashed into the galley setting it ablaze.
Although the damage control parties and the gunners kept up a
valiant fight for the next three hours, the Japanese kept coming
at them with more bombs.
She suffered three more devastating blows.
By 1pm she had broken up and began to sink, all the while, her
machine guns blazing back fiercely. HMAS Southern Cross rescued
the survivors of the stricken vessel after the battle that saw
91 of her 144 crew lost.
One survivor from Peary remembers the hospitality of the Australian
ship, “don’t worry” they told me, “come on down below, we’re having
a birthday party.
“They had a cake down there for some guy named Bluey.
“They were singing happy birthday while he was blowing out all
of the candles!”
Defence Establishment Berrimah Chaplain, Barrie Yesberg retold
the USS Peary’s final story on HMAS Townsville in Darwin Harbour
as the ship navigated her way to the very spot Peary was attacked
on that fateful day, 62 years ago.
As the sermon ended, a wreath was laid to rest in the ocean where
USS Peary’s wreck still sits today. After the first devastating
raid on the harbour, the RAAF station was hit by a second raid.
Before the day was over, 20 ships were sunk or disabled, including
the hospital ship, HMAS Manuda, which lost 12 people and the township’s
post office where 11 civilians were killed as a bomb landed directly
on their shelter trench.
The RAAF airfield and it’s hospital were severely damaged and
many of Darwin’s public buildings were in ruins. For this year’s
anniversary of the bombing, Darwin City also held a ceremony on
the Esplanade, where Robertson Barracks-based 8/12 Medium Regiment
provided a re-enactment of the bombing, firing howitzers and machine
The Esplanade also displays one of the 4-inch guns from USS Peary
that was recovered from the wreck and restored by the RAN.
Over 1500 people, including veterans, attended the ceremony to
remember the 300 civilians, servicemen and women, who lost their
lives that day, and to show that they were not forgotten.