Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

DAVIDSON, Robert George

Neptuna ablaze

The explosion of the ship MV Neptuna, hit by Japanese bombs.


Robert George Davidson was born in 1916, in Ballarat, Victoria, the son of George Robert P. and Mabel Annie Davidson of Malvern and brother of Joyce and Christina Florence. He was the 2nd Radio Officer on board the Neptuna, aged twenty-six years when killed on 19 February 1942.

The 1937 Electoral Roll lists his family as living at 24 Railway Avenue, Malvern; his occupation was recorded as 'sales'.

The MV Neptuna was crewed by eighteen Australian Officers, four Cadets, and over one hundred Chinese sailors. 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.

Davidson was remembered by his family in notices in the Argus and is commemorated at The Northern Territory Memorial, which stands in the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

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