Brian Winspear - The Bombing of Darwin

Running time
7 min
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


The last week before December 19, which was the first raid on Darwin, we were flying very day looking for the Jap fleet which was supposed to be, you know, coming somewhere near Darwin. On the last trip, on February 19th we went to Kupang to take a load of the ground staff back to Darwin. We evacuated Kupang and left the 800 Tasmanians there on their own with no air cover because we couldn't have done anything against 1000 Japs when they came.

Anyway we took the load back and had only just landed at Darwin when the Japs arrived. The first arrivals were the Zeros and dive bombers and they arrived before the air raid went off because we had people on Bathurst Island to warn us they were coming but there were so many of them the people on Bathurst Island thought they were Americans coming so they didn't warn Darwin there was a raid coming. Anyway the Zeros and the dive bombers blew Hell out of Darwin.

We were in a trench away, about fifty yards from the hangars and you could see the Japanese in their cockpits, see their faces smiling and laughing. They had a ball because at the same time the Yanks had sent a Kittyhawk squadron to help us the day before and the Kittyhawks, they were supposed to go to Timor and bolster up the defences there but they got lost and they came back and they were just landing when the Japs arrived and so they were short of fuel and also, they weren't very good pilots, they'd just learnt to fly and of course the Zeros just butchered them all.

They picked them off one by one. Most of the pilots bailed out with parachutes but the Japs would have pot shots at them when they were floating down in their parachutes. Then after a bit of peace came, we, thinking they might come back again, two or three of us went bush for a while. I looked up and we saw the Jap bombers coming down from the South and we all thought they were, once again, Americans come to help us because they were coming from the South instead of the North.

We were just at the edge of the aerodrome and I looked up and the sun glinted on the bombs as they were falling and it was just like confetti. I thought it was time to slip in a trench and so we got down in the bottom with a tin hat and a cork in my mouth because they said you had to do to stop concussion. Bombs landed all around us anyway and I got bomb splinters in my hand and in my eye. At any rate once again we went bush to get out of it in case they came back again. We were in the bush for about a couple of hours, I guess. Another mate and myself went back to the drome and it was completely empty.

There was no … the fire trucks were empty, no one on them. There were fires burning everywhere. We lost eight Hudson bombers and they were burning like billio. The officers' mess was flattened. The main drill hall had bomb damage. In the drill hall they also had mail, the post office and as we walked past there were flames just starting to burn our mail so we got a bit of stuff together and put out the fire because we didn't want our mail burnt.

So we walked around on our own and went up to the crushed officer's mess and helped ourselves to a beer. After an hour or so another crew arrived and everybody, the boss of the drome, Scherger, Captain Scherger appeared. We'd checked out the aircraft and there was only one Lockheed Hudson that was flyable and he said, "You better go out and see if you can find the fleet from where all those planes came from".

There was only two crews there so we drew straws to see who would go out and our crew missed the…we got the long straw or whatever it was, we didn't have to go but the other crew went out and they didn't do any good…I didn't see any anti-aircraft guns going off anywhere, but you'd never know.

There was so many explosions going around with the bombs and things you'd never know who was doing what. The army, there was a few personnel with ack-acks and they did what they had to do. Their casualties were very high too.

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