Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

CUBILLO, John Roque


John Cubillo, fifth from left.

Contributed by Catherine Cubillo-Wilson, Cubillo's youngest daughter.

My Dad, John Cubillo, died on 19 February 1942 in the first bombing raid on Darwin. This is his story.

It was wartime and the Japanese had just pushed back the American forces. Dad was a wharfie and a member of the No.3 gang working at Darwin Wharf. At the time there were eighteen registered gangs of fourteen members each. On that fateful day he was working on the MV Neptuna.

On 18 February 1942 all the women and children (including Mum and my brothers and sisters, Donny, Francis, Lawrence, Charlie (all now deceased), Mary, Stephen, Michael, and I) were put on the back of cattle trucks and evacuated to Katherine. We were allowed to take one suitcase for the entire family and it couldn’t weigh more than 9 pounds.

As their women and children were not about, the men decided to enjoy a night out and have a few drinks. The No. 3 gang had just come off the night shift and many who had been drinking the previous night forgot they were on the day shift. Arriving for work the next morning, there were quite a few sore heads.

My uncles were among those with sore heads and were taking 'sickies' as a result. However, Dad had a wife and nine kids to support and he needed to work, so he went to wake up his good friend, George Tye, to help make up the numbers.

George said that it was about smoko time when he and Dad came up from No. 1 hatch and saw the planes flying towards them from the north-west. They thought they were American reinforcements right up until they saw the bomb bays open up and the bombs come falling out.

George told us that he jumped into the water and called out for Dad to jump too, but Dad couldn’t swim. The last memory George has of Dad, was when Dad called out,

"See you in the next life, boys" and then started running down the wharf.

There was a direct hit where Dad had been running and no one saw Dad alive again. Four others from Dad’s gang were also killed that day: John Hynes, Catalano Spain, Andrew De Julia and Domingo Dominic. (These names have been taken from Douglas Lockwood’s Australia’s Pearl Harbour, Darwin 1942).

We were still in Katherine when we found out about Dad. Afterwards, we were evacuated to Balaclava in South Australia, where we remained until after the war. We came back to Darwin the same way we left—on the back of cattle trucks.

In April 1971, Cubillo Street in the Darwin suburb of Wanguri was named after Cubillo's wife, Louisa Agatha Cubillo nee Lee.

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