Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

BYERS, Alan

Wharfies

Ships docked at Darwin Wharf.


Alan Byers worked on the Darwin Wharf. He was one of many workmen who came to Darwin as part of the increase in defence-related activities in the Top End during the late 1930s. Initially he got a job clearing scrub and camped at Frog Hollow, before finding work with the gangs on the wharf. During his stay in Darwin, Byers went under the assumed name of A. J. (Alan) MacDonald. He confided in a workmate at the wharf that he had come to Darwin to escape ‘trouble at home’ in New South Wales.

Byers was badly injured during the first bombing strike on 19 February 1942. Shortly after the first bombs had been dropped he was seen by wharfie George Tye in the water, struggling to stay afloat, having lost his left leg and right eye. According to a nominal roll of casualties he had also suffered abdominal injuries. Tye was able to assist some other men in rescuing Byers by tying him to a pile using ropes. Despite their best efforts, however, Byers would not recover. He died at 20:12 on 25 February 1942 aboard the Hospital ship Manunda, and was buried at sea at 10:00 am the following day at Lat. 30°05’ S Long. 114° 06’ E.

Byers real identity may never have been discovered if he hadn’t revealed details of his past to a workmate. Fortunately, due to his confession, the police eventually unravelled the deception and were able to tell his parents of his death almost three years after the bombing.

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