Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

ROWLING, Walter Robert Lewis


Walter Rowling

Walter Rowling was born in Adelaide on 21 June 1905, to parents Edmund Roberts Rowling and Frances Adelaide Virgo; he was one of two sons and two daughters. Rowling married Alma Letitia (Lettie) Morris on 22 August 1934 at St Peters Church, Glenelg, South Australia, and they had one daughter, Cynthia Elaine, born on 15 September 1935 in Plympton, South Australia.

Rowling was a foreman mechanic with the Postmaster-General’s Department (PMG) and had come to Darwin to help install new telephone facilities necessitated by the defence build up. He arrived less than two weeks before the attack.

On the night before the attack, Rowling was talking to his friend Reginald Rattley as they stood on The Esplanade watching the Houston Convoy sail back into Darwin Harbour. He said,

"We’re going to get it. You can’t tell me that the Japs won’t be following a target like that."

(From Australia under attack p.91.) 

The convoy carried men and material intended to reinforce defences on Timor, defences against an invasion which was thought certain to come.

The next morning, a few minutes before the raid, Rattley was in the telephone exchange where he greeted the four telephonists, who were all extremely busy. He checked his watch by the master clock, and then walked to the telephone technician’s office to talk with Walter Rowling, his foreman.

"What do you think of our chances today?" Rattley asked. Rowling was pessimistic.

"We’re going to get it in the neck," he said.

When the sirens sounded, Rattley said to Rowling,

"Probably just another alert."

"Alert be damned!" Rowling said, "I’ll bet this is fair dinkum." (From Australia under attack p.91.)

The two men went through the door of the technician’s office and saw and heard the first salvo of bombs. Rowling and Rattley separated and went to different trenches.

Rowling received head injuries while sheltering in a trench with A.A. Mansfield and Harold Nuttall during the bombing. After the bombing his mates gave him a drink of beer because he was feeling groggy and helped him from the trench.

Rowling was originally taken to the Berrimah Hospital for treatment, before being transferred to the Hospital Ship HMAHS Manunda. He died of wounds at 04:30 on 21 February 1942. He was buried at sea at 11 am. on 21 February 1942 at Lat. 12°37’ S Long. 128° 00’ E. Walter Rowling has a street in the Darwin suburb of Nakara named in his honour.

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