Friday 19 April 2024

JJ's on Tour - Up the Top End in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

The last post in this series concluded Carolyn and my stay in Queensland before our boarding a flight from Cairns to our next destination, Darwin the capital city of the Northern Territory, the most smallest, with a population of about 140,000 people, the most wettest, with a tropical climate consisting of a wet and dry season and the most northern of Australia's capitals making it a key link to Indonesia and East Timor.

JJ's on Tour - Palm Cove, Cape Tribulation, the Daintree Rainforest, Atherton Tablelands and Tolga Bat Hospital

The just over two and half hour flight took us over some of the first parts of the then new continent of New Holland first identified by Abel Tasman and other Dutch explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries, with the Dutch being the first Europeans to explore the northern coastline in the early 1600's leaving their mark on the modern country with their place names such as Arnhem Land and Groote Eylandt, a large island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Our route so far on our travels through Australia, starting down in Melbourne just before New Year 2023.
Map courtesy of

It was late-afternoon before we landed on the 4th of February 2023 at Darwin airport to catch a taxi to our hotel, the Adina Apartment Hotel on Darwin's waterfront, before popping out to pick up some groceries and ordering some room service dinner, as we planned out or stay in the town and the surrounding area. 

The map of Darwin city shows our hotel, the red dot, just down the road from the airport and in a perfect place to allow an exploration of Darwin town, together with its waterfront area and a couple of museums I planned to visit during our stay.

On the 9th of September 1839 HMS Beagle sailed into Darwin harbour during its survey of the area, and her captain, Commander John Clements Wickham, named the region "Port Darwin" in honour of their former shipmate Charles Darwin, who had sailed with them on the ship's previous voyage. The settlement there became the town of Palmerston in 1869, but was renamed Darwin in 1911.

HMS Beagle was a Cherokee Class ten-gun brig, shown here in an 1841 watercolour, commissioned to survey large parts of the coast of Australia in 1837.

The city has been almost entirely rebuilt four times, following devastation caused by a cyclone in 1897, another one in 1937, Japanese air raids during World War II, and Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

It was the next morning that we were better able to appreciate our surroundings, with views from the hotel beckoning further exploration and we were keen to get out and about.

A glorious view presented itself from our hotel on our first morning in Darwin.

The area around the harbour is immediately recognisable to anyone with a familiarity of the history of the Japanese attacks on the city in February 1942, but I was keen to get a wider appreciation of the town and so, as well as exploring the waterfront, we also planned to see what the wider townscape looks like today as well as meeting some of the locals.

A US Navy destroyer in the foreground as allied ships burn behind during the the morning of the 19th of February 1942.

With the Japanese entry into the  Second World War in December 1941, this part of Australia soon became the front line, facing the advanced elements of the Japanese navy and army as Singapore surrendered on February 15th 1942 and the Dutch East Indies, Java and Sumatra were invaded on the 2nd and 14th of February respectively, leaving the Australian government facing the threat of a potential invasion in the north of the country, and with inadequate forces ready to defend against it.

Between February 1942 and November 1943, the Australian mainland, domestic airspace, offshore islands, and coastal shipping were attacked at least 111 times by aircraft from the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force and Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. These attacks came in various forms; from large-scale raids by medium bombers, to torpedo attacks on ships, and to strafing runs by fighters.

In the first and deadliest set of attacks, on the morning of the 19th of February 1942, often referred to as Australia's 'Pearl Harbour', 188 aircraft (81 Nakajima B5N ("Kate") light bombers, 71 Aichi D3A ("Val") dive bombers, and an escort of 36 Mitsubishi A6M ("Zero") fighters), from four Japanese aircraft carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryū and Sōryū) in the Timor Sea, and under the command of Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, hit Darwin, killing at least 235 people and causing immense damage, with the attacks leaving hundreds of people homeless, eight ships sunk in the harbour and resulting in the abandonment of Darwin as a major naval base.

The SS Barossa burns after being bombed by the Japanese.

Allied ground fire was relatively intense and may have claimed all but two of the Japanese aircraft lost, however only one USAAF P-40 of the 33rd Pursuit Squadron, flown by 1st Lieutenant Robert Oestreicher, was able to get airborne for the first attack and intercept the raiders, and he has also been credited by US and Japanese sources with one Aichi shot down and one damaged.

A Mitsubishi Zero B11-1 aircraft from the Japanese Imperial Navy aircraft carrier Hiryū flown by Sgt Hajime Toyoshima on 27 February 1942. Japan lost two Zeke fighters. One of the fighters crash-landed on Melville Island, north of Darwin. Its pilot became Australia’s first prisoner of war when he was captured by Tiwi man Matthias Ulungura.

The ship Zealandia was attacked by Japanese aircraft as it lay at anchor in Darwin Harbour.
Photograph: Northern Territory Library/Don Clegg Collection

Despite Darwin's strategic importance to the defence of Australia, the city was initially poorly defended. The Australian Army's anti-aircraft defences comprised sixteen QF 3.7-inch AA guns and two 3-inch AA guns to counter aircraft flying at high altitude and a small number of Lewis Guns for use against low-flying raiders. The crews of these guns had conducted little recent training due to ammunition shortages. 

The bombing of Darwin on the 19th of February 1942 by 188 naval aircraft from Japanese carriers

A raid conducted by 54 land-based army bombers later the same day inflicted further damage on the town and RAAF Base Darwin and resulted in the destruction of 20 military aircraft.

MV Neptuna is destroyed and sunk amid a massive explosion

The series of air raids on Australia that followed during February and March 1942 sought to prevent the Allies from using bases in northern Australia to contest the conquest of the Dutch East Indies.

The CAC Wirraway is a training and general purpose military aircraft manufactured in Australia by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) between 1939 and 1946. It was an Australian development of the North American NA-16 training aircraft. The RAAF deployed a number of Wirraways into combat roles, where they served in a light bomber/ground attack capacity.

The air forces stationed in and near the town comprised No. 12 Squadron, which was equipped with CAC Wirraway advanced trainers (which had been pressed into service as fighters), and No. 13 Squadron which operated Lockheed Hudson light bombers. Six Hudsons, 3 from No. 2 Squadron and 3 from No. 13 Squadron, also arrived at Darwin on the 19th of February after having been evacuated from Timor. 

Darwin Post Office was located on the site where Parliament House and the Northern Territory Library are today. As the first raid began, staff ran to a trench at the rear of their building. Tragically, it received a direct hit, killing all 10 employees taking refuge there.
Photograph: Northern Territory Library/Don Clegg Collection

None of the six Wirraways at Darwin on the day of the raid were serviceable, and at the time of the event, there was no functional radar to provide early warning of air raids, and the town's civil defences were dysfunctional.

A crashed U.S. Army Air Force Curtiss P-40E Warhawk of the 33rd Pursuit Group (Provisional) at Darwin. This was one of nine USAAF P-40s shot down during the Japanese Raid on Darwin on the 19th  February 1942.

In addition to the Australian forces, ten United States Army Air Forces Curtiss P-40 Warhawks were passing through Darwin en route to Java on the day of the attack, however all but one of the P-40s of Major Floyd Pell's 33rd Pursuit Squadron, was shot down or destroyed on the ground at RAAF Darwin by the Japanese.

The Lowe Commission, led by Victorian judge Charles Lowe and appointed to investigate the raids shortly after they occurred, was informed that the Australian military estimated that Darwin would have needed 36 heavy anti-aircraft guns and 250 fighter aircraft to defend it against a raid of the scale which occurred on the 19th of February. 

The explosion of the MV Neptuna, hit during the first Japanese air raid on Darwin. In the foreground is HMAS Deloraine, which escaped damage.

It was hard to imagine the scenes of carnage and destruction recorded in the photographs from the day with the tranquillity of the same place today and with part of the dockside turned over to waterside restaurants, shops and a tourist display hall for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. 

Twenty-three waterside workers are known to have been killed on the 19th February and this memorial to them and to the hundreds of merchant seamen who lost their lives during the war was erected in 2012 for the seventieth anniversary of the attack.

I mentioned we were quite keen to meet the locals and get a feel for life in this part of Australia and that, of course included the feathered locals, among whom several were happy to meet and greet us at the waterfront.

A Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii), a bird first seen on the Great Barrier Reef off Port Douglas

Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris), better known as the Little Black Shag in New Zealand. It's more gregarious than other cormorants, and as here, found in large flocks.

Another Striated Heron (Butorides striata) who we first met on the Daintree River back in Queensland

With my own former professional interest in medicine, an interest in the history of Darwin in WWII and my younger son Will, now qualified and interested in expeditionary medicine, I was really interested to visit the Royal Flying Doctors Tourist Facility on the waterfront which happily combined both interests in spades.

The entrance to the display hall is very impressive, opening out into a gallery with lots of information boards on the walls explaining the history of the air attacks, together with some excellent models of the aircraft involved and a central plinth with a digital display showing how the attack on the 19th of February developed and the vessels and installations targeted.

Overhead is a full size replica of a Japanese Zero fighter, accompanied with the wailing sirens warning of an air raid approaching as the digital display reset to show the attack unfolding.

Carolyn and I put the goggles on and watched a 3D presentation of the attack through headsets that vividly brought to life the black and white stills as the first person viewpoint moved from the dockside with bullets ripping into men and ships around you, amid falling bombs and blast shockwaves, to look up and be transported to sitting on the wing of a USAAF P40 as the pilot dived in among multiple Japanese aircraft lining up their attacks on the shipping below.

In the decades prior to World War II Darwin was a commercial flying boat harbour providing an important link in the chain of stop off points between the UK and Australia.

While far quicker than traveling by sea, flying between Australia and the United Kingdom in the 1930s was no easy exercise. Captain Ross Macpherson Smith and co-pilot Lieutenant Keith Macpherson Smith, along with mechanics Sergeant Wally Shiers and Sergeant Jim Bennett, first made the flight in 1919. That flight took 136 hours (and 15 stops) to fly between Hounslow Heath and Darwin.

Imperial Airways, and its successor, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), along with Qantas and TEAL, operated the type in commercial service. 

Upon entering service, the Empire routinely flew between the British mainland and Australia and the various British colonies in Africa and Asia, typically carrying a combination of passenger and mail cargoes; Empires were also used on various other routes, such as between Bermuda and New York City.

Camilla, a Short S-23 Empire C Class Flying Boat. A total of 42 "C Class" Short Empire flying boats were built, including 31 S.23s. They were typically powered by four Bristol Pegasus Xc radial engines, 920 hp each, giving a cruising speed of 165 mph, a service ceiling of 20,000 ft and a range of 760 miles.

World War II interrupted the flying boat services and the aircraft were requisitioned for the war effort, but by the end of the war, nearly all the Empire flying boats had either crashed or been destroyed in enemy attacks.

But after the war the flying boat era was ending almost as quickly as it began. Traditional turboprop aircraft had advanced in leaps and bounds, and the jet age was looming and on the ground, there were more airports and longer runways.

The digital attack display presented a top down view of the air attack from the Japanese carriers as it developed.

Below is a cutaway display of a Japanese Type 98 Number 25 Type II Ordinary General Purpose 550-pound bomb, carried typically by the D3A Val dive bomber and packed with over 200 pounds of high explosive designed for attacks on armoured or lightly armoured ships.

Its fuse was initiated by impact and had a 0.2 second delay, allowing the bomb to penetrate 20 to 40 feet before detonating.

As well as the WWII display there was a fascinating presentation on the history of and the current dedicated work carried out by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to provide primary and emergency healthcare services to those living in the remote, rural and regional areas of Australia and not having normal access to those services.

The centre piece of the display is given over to a decommissioned Pilatus PC-12 aircraft used for flying the medics around the country but in addition there are multiple displays designed to make the history of the service come alive with digital interactive presentations explaining its founding by the Reverend John Flynn to the modern day incarnation that now includes the aeromedical retrieval service with all the medical equipment aboard the aircraft to provide emergency care from transport ventilators to diagnostic ultrasound.

From the wharfs and harbourside we continued to explore back into town to get a feel for the residential area, the modern day town and what remains of the old historical Darwin, destroyed and rebuilt several times over after devastation by war and cyclones.

Darwin circa 1890 with Government House on the high ground to the right, and Hughes Avenue leading down to the harbour

From 1869, Hughes Avenue served as the main pedestrian and transport corridors between Goyder's Camp and the port below, and the town of Palmerston with newly established government buildings on the escarpment on the plateau above.

The imposing gate to Government House and below the memorial to the bombing in 1942

Hughes Avenue, incorporating the lime kiln walk, is historically significant as one of the first roadways established in Darwin.

Brown's Mart, which now houses the Home of Territory Performing Arts, and the Brown's Mart Theatre is one of the oldest buildings in the city centre, being built in 1885 as a Mining Exchange by Mr Brown who was a trader and a Mayor of Darwin.

Brown's Mart, built in 1885 is a Darwin survivor of a building

The former Palmerston Town Hall was opened on the 10th March 1883  and was one of a number of Darwin's early substantial buildings serving as a local court, library and district council building, and later a bank and a shore base for the Royal Australian Navy, finally ending its days as a museum of Darwin's early history until its destruction on Christmas Eve 1974 by Cyclone Tracy.

The devastated remains of Palmerston Town Hall destroyed during Cyclone Tracy in 1974

Heading back to the waterfront we made our way to another very interesting relic from World War II, the oil storage tanks opened to the public in 1992 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1942 attack and illustrative of the importance placed on Darwin as part of British naval strategy and defence of the Empire between the world wars.

Between WWI and WWII, Australia remained under the British defence umbrella relying on naval force for its protection based on plans outlined in the 'Singapore Strategy' developed following the Imperial Defence Conference in 1923 and which identified Darwin as a key location within the Singapore-Australia defence line, recommending that Darwin be developed as a naval refuelling station.

By 1926 the first of a series of above ground oil tanks were completed on nearby Stokes Hill with pipes laid to carry oil straight to ships on the wharf; however the Singapore Strategy was not fully implemented and there never was a Far Eastern Fleet based in Singapore, and with inadequate land defences, the Australian government became increasingly concerned from 1937 by the threat posed by Imperial Japan. 

In February 1942, just weeks after the eleventh and final oil tank was constructed and filled with oil, the Japanese attack and those that followed in the next six months exposed the key weakness with all the planning, as all but four of the tanks were destroyed despite the installation of four six-inch guns and searchlights for their defence.

The Allied response to the destruction of the tanks on Stokes Hill was to construct bomb-proof underground oil storage and in May 1942 the Civil Construction Corps was instructed to build 11 tunnels at a cost of £220,000 to hold 20,000 tonnes of oil.

In April 1943, George Fisher was appointed Engineer-in-Charge of the secret project, known at the time as "The Safe Oil Storage" and not long after, the construction of the tunnels was started by 400 men. 

In 1943 the project funding rose from £220,000 to £850,000 to speed the completion of the project, and when peace was declared in 1945, six of the storage tunnels had been completed.

Confrontation with Indonesia in the 1950s saw a need for the storage of jet fuel for RAF and RAAF bombers, and jet fuel was stored in tunnel 5 and 6 for 3 years.

In the 1970s and 80's the Fire Brigade used the tunnels for training purposes by filling them with smoke. 

Continuing on our walk through town, we were soon back on the waterfront, headed for the Darwin Cenotaph War Memorial and USS Peary Memorial on the esplanade.

There are some splendid open areas along here with glorious views out over the harbour, bordered by trees that provided suitable habitat for other residents of the town, and needless to say the walk was made even more fun and my camera kept busy as I added yet more new to me species to the memory locker. 

White Bellied Cuckoo Shrike (Coracina papuensis) is found in Australia, the MoluccasNew Guinea and the Solomon IslandsThey predominantly feed on larger insects like dragonflies and cockroaches with spiders, fruit and seeds also a significant part of their diet. They typically forage for insects among tree foliage singly, in twos or small groups moving though trees from canopy to mid-level taking insects from tree foliage.

Chestnut-breasted Mannikins (Lonchura castaneothorax), also known as the chestnut-breasted munia or bully bird is found in AustraliaNew CaledoniaIndonesia, and Papua New Guinea and has also been introduced to French PolynesiaIt being the breeding season they were mostly paired up, but in late autumn and winter months they congregate in large flocks, at times eating seeds of cereal crops, having a distinct liking for barley seed and thus the local people give it a name "barley bird".

Double-barred Finch (Stizoptera bichenovii) is an estrildid finch found in dry savannah, tropical (lowland) dry grassland and shrubland habitats in northern and eastern Australia. It is sometimes referred to as Bicheno's finch or as the owl finch, the latter of which owing to the dark ring of feathers around the face. It feeds on seeds and is highly gregarious. Nests are built in grass, bushes or low trees, with four to six eggs laid per clutch.

Peaceful Dove (Geopelia placida) is a pigeon native to Australia and New Guinea. The peaceful dove is closely related to the zebra dove of south-east Asia and the barred dove of eastern Indonesia. Until recently, the three were classed as a single species. They feed off the ground and are found commonly in streets and gardens, and were living down their name as they tend to be quite aggressive to other birds during the breeding season.

Green Oriole or Australasian Yellow Oriole (Oriolus flavocinctus) is an inconspicuous inhabitant of lush tropical vegetation throughout Australia and New Guinea. They tend to forage slowly and methodically through the middle and upper branches of trees, taking fruit in the main and construct neat, deep cup shaped nests constructed from strips of bark and vines, lined with rootlets, and slung between leafy branches, typically laying two eggs. 

The Darwin War Memorial has a perfect setting on the esplanade overlooking the bay beyond, and was dedicated on the 21st April 1921, originally outside Government House, and after relocating to the Civic Centre in 1970, arrived at its present location in 1992, placed on the former site of the 14th Anti-Aircraft Battery that were amongst the first to fire against the first Japanese aircraft raid in February 1942.

The Darwin War Memorial, with public barriers being put out at the time, in readiness for the February commemorations on the attack in 1942.

Close by was a very interesting information board highlighting the nearby area of Wickham Point - Peak Hill Camp and its role in providing a training ground for 'Z' unit commandos during the war, 

I looked at the Z unit operatives in my post covering my book review of Ian McPhedran's book 'The Mighty Krait' and the Japanese Pearl lugger of that name that we saw during our visit to the National Maritime Museum in Sydney and that played a crucial role in the covert Z unit attack on Singapore in Operation Jaywick.

The Mighty Krait, a treasured monument to Australian Special Forces,
afloat and on display at the Sydney National Maritime Museum
JJ's Wargames - The Mighty Krait, Ian McPhedran

The secret facility was established in 1942 and described as a Lugger Maintenance Section to disguise its real purpose, and would be the launching point for many raids against the Japanese by Australian, British, Dutch and American operatives.

The initiative to establish the facility was led and developed by Lieutenant Frank Holland, a former coast watcher, awarded an MBE for his role in evacuating civilians from New Guinea in 1942, and with much experience in operating behind Japanese lines.

This map shows where the camp was situated in relation to the
memorial site and facilitated the view I took below.

As well as a camp for training commandos, the area also provided ground for an anti-aircraft and a searchlight battery to better protect Darwin and its harbour facilities.

Wickham Point is now home to the Darwin Liquified Natural Gas Plant, seen across the bay from the esplanade.

As well as the wartime memorials to be seen there was another recording earlier events in Darwin's history and the role played by daring explorers to open up the interior of the continent.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt 23 October 1813 – c. 1848), was a German explorer and naturalist, famous for his exploration of northern and central Australia.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt

Early in 1844, Leichhardt hoped to take part in a proposed government-sponsored expedition from Moreton Bay to Port Essington 300 kilometres (190 mi) north of Darwin. When plans for this expedition fell through Leichhardt decided to mount the expedition himself, accompanied by volunteers and supported by private funding.

The expedition departed on the 1st of October 1844 from Jimbour Homestead on the Queensland Darling Downs, and after a nearly 4,800 kilometres (3,000 miles) overland journey, having long been given up for dead, Leichhardt on the 17th of December 1845 arrived in Port Essington, where a company of Imperial marines was stationed. He returned to Sydney by ship, arriving on the 25th of March 1846 to a hero's welcome.

The man John Gilbert (c. 1812 – 28 June 1845) mentioned on the memorial was an English naturalist and explorer and is often cited in the earliest descriptions of many Australian animals, many of which were unrecorded in European literature.

Leichhardt would disappear, practically without trace in 1848 when he set out on another expedition from the Condamine River to reach the Swan River, and his disappearance remains a mystery following the last sighting of him and his party on the 3rd April 1848 at Coogan Run on the Darling Downs, with the theory that he possibly perished in the Great Sandy Desert of the Australian interior.

Making our way along the esplanade I came across this memorial dedicated to USAAF fighter pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Buel of the 21st Pursuit Squadron, shot down and killed on the 15th February 1942 in his Kittyhawk P40E whilst shooting down a Japanese Mavis bomber attacking an allied convoy.

Further along is the USS Peary Memorial, incorporating a 4 inch gun from U.S.S. Peary, pointing at the site where the ship lies wrecked, and serving as a memorial to the 91 crew who were killed when the ship was sunk by the Japanese during the bombing of Darwin in 1942. 

The USS Peary was moored at Cavite, Philippines, when news of the Pearl Harbour raid reached her and was caught in the raid on the Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines, two days later, tied up at a small pier, and taking one bomb forward which damaged the superstructure and stack and killed eight of her crew.

She found herself in a precarious position, as fires began to set off torpedo warheads in a torpedo overhaul shop on the wharf next to her. USS Whippoorwill towed her out. Whippoorwill and USS Pillsbury came alongside and their fire hoses extinguished the fire in five minutes. Her commanding officer, Commander H. H. Keith was wounded in this engagement and was relieved by Commander J. M. Bermingham.

The U.S. Navy Clemson-class destroyer USS Peary (DD-226) in the Timor Sea in February 1942. The photo was taken from the Grimsby-class sloop HMAS Swan (U74).

Making her way out to sea on the 26th December 1941, narrowly avoiding being hit in another Japanese air attack she plotted a course through the Celebes Sea and down through the Makassar Strait she was again spotted and attacked by Japanese bombers on the 27th only just avoiding torpedoes dropped towards her, with two missing her stern by ten yards before the aircraft withdrew.

At New Year 1942, Peary arrived at Darwin from where she operated throughout January and February, principally in an anti-submarine role until her luck finally ran out on the 19th of February.

USS Peary under fire in Darwin harbour

On 19 February 1942 during the massive Japanese air attack on Darwin, the U.S.S. Peary was attacked at about 10.45 by Japanese dive bombers, and was struck by five bombs. The first bomb exploded on the fantail, the second, an incendiary, on the galley deck house; the third did not explode; the fourth hit forward and set off the forward ammunition magazines; the fifth, another incendiary, exploded in the after engine room. A .30 caliber machine gun on the after deck house and a .50 caliber machine gun on the galley deck house fired until the last enemy plane flew away.

Shipping in Darwin harbour, February 1942, USS Peary centre, astern of the cruiser USS Houston

U.S.S. Peary sank stern first at about 1300 with the loss of 91 crew and she is the United States Navy's greatest loss of life in Australian waters. 

One of the 4-inch deck guns recovered from Peary and aimed towards Peary's resting place in the harbour.

USS Peary on fire and sinking in Darwin Harbour 19th February 1942.
Hospital Ship Manunda is the other ship in the background.

USS Peary lies in 89 feet (27 m)of water in Darwin Harbour and is a memorial to those who lost their lives in the first bombing raid on Australian soil and to those who defended Darwin.

Near the Darwin War Memorial I spotted a plaque dedicated to the RAAF 76 Wing, Catalina 'Black Cats' squadrons who operated from Darwin, tasked with minelaying in the South West Pacific theatre, and conducting operations as far afield as Java, Borneo, the Philippines, and China, whilst also flying bombing, patrol, and transport missions, and dropping millions of propaganda leaflets in the closing months of the war.

RAAF Consolidated Catalina flying boat (A24-362) of No 43 Squadron.

A bit further along from the esplanade we followed the path down to the waters edge at Doctors Gully, shown on the map at the top of the post illustrating the Japanese attack in February 1942, and it was from here that the Catalinas operated with rusting remains still lying about the shoreline and hard from the former base.

The view from the path towards the former Catalina jetty in Doctors Gully, with the inlet where the flying boats could be brought ashore just beyond the line of trees in the centre of the picture.

Survivors disembarking from a Consolidated Catalina aircraft, code RK-0, serial no. A24-95, of No. 42 Squadron RAAF, into a RAAF launch, no. 011-12, on arrival at Darwin after they had been picked up from a Japanese hospital. The survivors were from the United States Army Air Force flying in a Douglas C47 transport aircraft which crashed into the sea, September 1945.

You can see more about this former base on the Australia at War web site in the link below:

Darwin is today still very much on the frontline defence of modern Australia, with significant numbers of Australian and US military personnel based in the area as illustrated by a very active naval establishment close by.

After a very busy day exploring Darwin and soaking up the history of the place, we got to enjoy the waterfront atmosphere in the evening, and the big sky that is a constantly changing feature of the place, with spectacular cloud formations suddenly developing and wonderful sunrises and sunsets, that for me is a lasting memory of our visit.

In the next post Carolyn and I travel into the interior to meet some of the neighbours and explore the land made famous by Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee, now I really am showing my age!

More anon 


  1. Always fascinating and of interest. Years ago a friend, still extant, had visited Darwin but with no, before social media, any ensuing report. Either that or Darwin thought that my old friend confounded, quite rightly, any cogent theory of evolution. and it was all best hushed up. With thanks for the post.

  2. Great post. Looking forward to the next!

  3. Hi Chaps,
    Thanks for your comments, and glad you enjoyed the read, and I think it would be true to say that Darwin has packed a lot in into its one-hundred and fifty plus years of existence and Carolyn and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit.