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.

Lest we forget

This morning I did a quick trip into town to have a look at the memorials and the floral tributes. I was surprised how well the wreaths have held up in the very hot and humid weather, though perhaps last night’s rain refreshed them a little. There were wreaths from the all sorts of people. In the centre here I can see one from the Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, the purple one to the left of the poppies is from the USA and the poppy wreath is from the UK, to single out just a few. I liked the wreath from the Larrakia people, traditional owners of the land on which Darwin is situated. The card said:  For all the lives lost we say sorry, For all those who served we say thank you, For the Larakia soldiers we walk with your spirit every day,  From Larakia People. There were also some rather magnificent displays of tropical flowers near the walkway for the special visitors yesterday. I thought you might like too see an example. I try for privacy reasons to keep people out of the frame but in a big crowd it’s almost impossible. On a side note we were impressed with the art work that the NT school students had done to represent the bombing. It’s currently on display at the Chan Building in Darwin, opposite Parliament. I’m ambivalent about including too much for reasons of copyright, even though there’s no prohibition on photographing the entries which range from a diorama to poetry to photography, or this representation of the massed attack of aircraft over Darwin.

 

Commemoration of the Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942

This morning’s ceremony was both moving and sobering. However from a photographic point of view not all that easy to represent. General visitors were to one side of the main marquees and a way behind…quite rightly as the priority placement was for the veterans and families and those with connections to the bombing. As a result much of the “action” was seen on the big screen but here are a few photos to give some sense of the day.

Unusually for Darwin, people arrived really early (we’re used to getting places 5 minutes before an event!). This photo was taken at 8am when the crowds hadn’t started to arrive.

Before the crowds. The seating for 5000 was insufficient. Water, fans and a program were provided to all…a big help in the heat. Three big marquees for the VIPs and two on either side for the general public.

These guys were wandering around dressed in laid-back tropical army “uniform” from the 1940s. Needless to say the actual soldiers on duty were dressed rather more formally.( I do love seeing the Light Horse blokes with their emu feather in their slouch hats). There were also a couple of “1940s nurses” around but I didn’t get close enough to photograph them.

Compare and contrast the Catafalque party – not to be envied standing in the blazing sun throughout the ceremony.

Or the American sailors who were also superbly turned out. It appears women still love a sailor as a few wanted to have their photos taken with them. (Personally I’m more of a fan of the fly-boys).

Sailors from the USS Chafee, currently in Darwin harbour.

None of us envied Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer in his Lord Mayoral robes…in the 35C heat!  Her Excellency, Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce, looked very appropriately attired for the heat and had her own impressive array of medals and awards.

Her Excellency the Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce with Darwin’s Lord Mayor, Mr Graeme Sawyer.

The vintage Tiger Moth flown by local man Greg Hardy delighted the crowds.

In Memory of the Mariners and Wharfies who died in the Bombing of Darwin.

There are new memorials on Stokes Hill Wharf today preparatory to tomorrow’s celebrations. I’d like to share them with you today in memory of the Bombing and the death of non-combatants.

The new memorial at Stokes Hill Wharf.

 

The list of dead.

I like the symbolism of the new bombing mural contrasted with the modern skyline of Darwin…undefeated and resilient. Another new memorial in Darwin.

The mariners' mural erected by the Darwin Port Authority: Art Director Barry Shackleton and illustrator Alex Lehours.

Bombing of Darwin: Frontline Australia

Over the next few days I’ll be posting some pictures relevant to the 70th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 2012. The town is buzzing as many inter-staters are here to help commemorate an event which is only now being recognised nationally. My post about it is here. Considering how isolated Darwin is, and was, I think the comparison with Pearl Harbour is interesting.

Frontline Australia

This plaque is at the Bennett Street end of the Darwin mall and was erected for the 60th commemorations.

This plaque gives an overview of events and casualties.