Darwin High School Students Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin
February 19 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. The attack by enemy aircraft at 9.58am on Thursday 19 February 1942, was the first hostile act on Australian soil in history. This initial attack on Darwin was followed by a further 64 raids over the next two years.
Last week the remaining 30 Defence of Darwin Veterans and their Carers, plus Darwin Evacuees to returned to Darwin to commemorate this significant part of Australian History.
Darwin City Council invited Darwin High School to assist the Veterans as they participated in the commemoration activities.
The commemoration also saw Darwin High School host students from Geelong Baptist College. The two students, Sidney Glenister Year 12 and Zoe Brien Year 10, were the senior and junior winners of a competition, designed to select two students to attend the Bombing of Darwin commemorative events on behalf of the Geelong and Bellarine Darwin Defenders Association. The students and their teacher Mrs Joy Findlay represented the members of Geelong Defenders Association who were unable to make the journey to Darwin and volunteered alongside the Darwin High School students.
On Friday 17 February, the Veterans were taken on a cruise of Darwin Harbour. Darwin High School and Geelong Baptist students chaperoned the Veterans, assisting them on and off busses and whilst aboard the cruise.
Friday evening saw Rory McGrath and Vy Chau represent Darwin High School at the unveiling of the commemorative cairn which marked the visit of the Imperial Japanese Navy Training ship Kaiwo Maru. When the ship visited Darwin in 1936, the Officers and men were overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of Darwin residents, and so left behind a cairn at the Japanese Club in Wood Street, as a token of their appreciation.
With the onset of the War five years later, the cairn was buried and forgotten. The recent redevelopment of the property in Wood Street unearthed the relic. The cairn was formally unveiled by the Japanese Ambassador to Australia His Excellency Mr Sumiso. Japanese Exchange students from Darwin High School, Nony Junsomran and Kurumi Okuno assisted His Excellency and the Lord Mayor with the ceremony in traditional Japanese attire. Many thanks to Ms Mariko Ruzsiscka for organizing students from her Japanese class for this event.
On Saturday morning the Darwin High School and Geelong Baptist students assisted the Veterans on a visit to Robertson Barracks and then again at a Reception by the Lord Mayor at the Michael Long Centre for a bombing of Darwin tribute game of AFL. Here they met with well know journalist and author Peter Fitzsimmons AM.
On Sunday 19 February an estimated crowd of 5000 attended a service at the Darwin Cenotaph. The re-enactment of the initial bombing raid by the Australian Defence Force was a poignant reminder of the dreadful cacophony of warfare. The students again chaperoned the Veterans to the event and laid a wreath on the Cenotaph for Darwin High School.
Following the service the students attended the Chief Minister’s Reception in the Great Hall of Parliament House.
Monday 20 February was an early start for the Darwin High and Geelong volunteers as they helped load the buses with water, cardboard drinking cups, battery operated electric fans, umbrellas, biscuits, ‘wet ones’ refresher towels and most important of all, lollies, for the long trip down to Adelaide River War Cemetery.
After a moving Service, the students escorted the Veterans around the Cemetery, helping them to find the headstones of their mates. The Veterans were impressed with the dignity and respect afforded to them by our students.
On Tuesday 21 February the Geelong students, along with Alanah Hardy and Drew Holloway from Darwin High were interviewed by Mick Murdoch on his program ‘ABC Mornings with Mick’.
Before their departure the Geelong students returned to Darwin High School were able to handle a 7kg fragment of the 1000lb bomb which killed the Post Office staff. It had been salvaged by Mr Jack Mulholland of 14th AA Battery which was stationed on the old Darwin oval, very close to where the Cenotaph stands today. The students were amazed at the weight of the fragment and its razor sharp edges. When the 14th AA Battery Association disbanded in 2002, they presented their memorabilia to Darwin High School for safe custody.
We are incredibly proud of our Student Leadership group and their willingness to volunteer their time. Thank you to Benjamin and Harrison Perez, Alanah Hardy, Drew Holloway, Alexia Noll, Rory McGrath.
Thank you to our Japanese Exchange students Vy Chau, Nony Junsomran and Kurumi Okuno.