This Roll of Honour focuses on the people who died on 19 February 1942. We have tried to put a face to the names and to tell their story. The Roll includes only those who were killed on that day, or died subsequently of wounds. In compiling this list spelling variations and duplication of names have been identified in various sources; while research has resolved many of these discrepancies, it should be noted that the list may still contain inaccuracies.
The Northern Territory Library wishes to acknowledge the valuable assistance provided by local history groups, archivists and families of these men and women who sacrificed their lives in Darwin on 19 February 1942. If you have information on a person who you believe should be included, please don’t hesitate to contact the Library.
Bombing of Darwin, 19 February 1942
Mainland Australia came under attack for the first time on 19 February 1942 when Japanese forces mounted two air raids on Darwin. The two attacks, which were planned and led by the commander responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbour, involved fifty-four land-based bombers and 188 aircraft launched from four aircraft-carriers in the Timor Sea.
In the first attack, which began just before 10.00am, bombers pattern-bombed the town. Dive bombers and Zero fighters then attacked ships in the harbour, the military and civil aerodromes, and the hospital at Berrimah. The attack ceased after about 40 minutes.
The second attack, which began an hour later, involved high altitude bombing of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Parap, which lasted about 25 minutes. The two raids killed about 235 people and between 300 and 400 were wounded. Twenty military aircraft were destroyed.
There were twenty-seven ships in the harbour that day, as well as two Sydney Harbour ferries, a dozen 21 ton pearling luggers and ten auxiliary vessels under 120 tons. There were six ships sunk, as well as a 13 ton lugger and a coal hulk. The Tulagi, Barossa and Portmar were beached, but later refloated. Most civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed or damaged, except for the Naval headquarters; however, all oil tanks except one were undamaged.
A third attack in the afternoon, also from the carrier-based aircraft, sank the Philippino blockade runners, Florence D and Don Isidro, 80 kilometres to the north of Darwin.
Many people in Darwin thought that invasion of Australia was imminent. The Japanese were preparing to invade Timor; they bombed Darwin to neutralize it as a Naval and Air base. After the war it emerged that the Japanese Army had rejected the Navy's plans to invade Australia.
The Australian government announced initially that only seventeen civilians had been killed in the town. Over the following days newspapers reported on the raids, although the majority of reports were incomplete and inaccurate. Later that year Movietone released a newsreel clearly showing a devastated Darwin.
The Lowe Commission was established by the Government to determine the extent of the damage, and on 31 March, less than six weeks after the raid, the Prime Minister announced that no more than 240 people had been killed.
The air attacks on Darwin continued until November 1943, by which time the Japanese had bombed Darwin sixty-four times. During the war other towns in northern Australia were also the target of Japanese air attacks, with bombs dropped on Townsville, Katherine, Wyndham, Derby, Broome and Port Hedland.
(Background painting: Japanese Air Attack on Darwin Harbour, 19 February 1942 by Keith Swain)