Post Office staff – Bombing of Darwin

Today’s focus is on the civilian deaths in the Post Master General’s (PMG) Department on 19 February 1942.  The Darwin Post Office was essentially destroyed in the bombing with the loss of nine lives (another victim died on board the hospital ship Manunda). Those who lost their lives were the Postmaster, Mr Hurtle Bald; his wife, Mrs Alice Bald; their daughter, Miss Iris Bald; Mr Archibald Halls; Mr Arthur Wellington; Miss Jennie Stasinowsky; Misses Jean and Eileen Mullen; and Mrs Emily Young, all of whom were employees of the Postmaster General.

The site of the old Post Office became the site of the Legislative Assembly and subsequently the modern Parliament House building. The heritage of the site is recognised with the above plaque and also a remnant of the original building’s wall in the foyer of the entrance to the Northern Territory Library, unnoticed by many who visit the library.

The plaque to the left of the wall reads as follows: This portion of the wall left in its original state is all that remains of the Darwin Telegraph Station built in 1872 when the Overland Telegraph Station was opened. The building was destroyed in an enemy air raid on the 19th February 1942 when ten officers of the Australian Post Office lost their lives very close to this spot. The piece of shrapnel featured was found in the ruins of the Darwin Post Office by Mr Joe Fisher after the bombing.

The graves of those PMG employees who died in the bombing are at the Adelaide River War Cemetery and these are images I took about this time last year. There is also an historic photo of their first graves near the sea here (but where was it?)

The following image shows the graves and memorial to the nine Post Office employees who died that day, within the broader context of the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

Nearby are graves of Indigenous people who were killed during the war, many identified only by a first name or a “surname” associated with a particular place.

Over the coming weeks I plan to post some images of Darwin’s Military History which will probably each be called some variation on “Military Darwin”.  Darwin remains unusual in the context of Australia’s other cities, with perhaps the exception of Townsville in north Queensland. It is common to see Australian Defence Force uniforms around the town on a daily basis, especially at Palmerston. It’s also not uncommon to see military convoys travelling up and down the Stuart Highway. We also don’t immediately think the country’s been invaded when the APCs/tanks are occasionally seen driving down our city’s streets. The Dry Season almost always involves military manoeuvres with other nations’ naval, army or air forces and the sky resounds with the boom of fighter planes and helicopters. In short, the legacy of World War II remains: we are part of Australia’s northern defence.

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