Cheng Chai was a 45 year old Engineman on the MV Neptuna. He was buried on 20 February 1942 at Kahlin Beach, and reburied on 29 June 1942 at Berrimah War Cemetery. His final resting place is Adelaide River War Cemetary grave No. N.A.13. Further information on his life has yet to be discovered.
The Neptuna had a Hong Kong registration, and had been doing the Hong Kong – Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) run, which explains her predominantly Chinese crew. She arrived in Darwin Harbour loaded with two hundred depth charges and a very large quantity of anti-aircraft shells for the Navy and Army.
When the Japanese air attack began the Neptuna was berthed alongside the main wharf awaiting maintenance. The first bomb hit the ship below the waterline and she began taking on water; she then received a direct hit causing her to catch on fire. When the fire entered No. 3 and No. 4 hatches, the Neptuna blew apart, creating a huge mushroom cloud caused by the explosion of the ammunition she was carrying.
Most of the surviving ship’s company were rescued from the wharf and the harbour and taken aboard HMAS Platypus, a depot ship being used as a casualty clearing station. Thirty-six of the ship’s crew were killed, including the Master, Captain William Michie.
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