STOBO, Robert Henry
Robert Henry Stobo was born on 19 December 1925 in Sydney, New South Wales. He was the son of Captain Robert Spears Stobo and Susanne Stobo, of Artarmon, New South Wales. He was brother to Dorothy, Margaret, and Shirley. Stobo's father, grandfather, and great-grand father were all prominent in Australian shipping.
He was always passionate about the sea and, when allowed, would accompany his father on marine salvage operations. At the age of nine he acted as 50th mate for 48 hours on the pilot steamer Captain Cook around Watson’s Bay and South Reef and was assessed as having exceptional seagoing qualifications.
When he was fourteen, he spent his Christmas holidays jackerooing in outback New South Wales. He was also very active in the scouting movement from a young age and was highly regarded and well liked by all who knew him.
Stobo attended North Sydney-Chatswood Junior High School. He loved sport and represented the school in athletics and first grade rugby league; he was also the school’s heavyweight boxing champion. He gained his Intermediate Certificate with three As and three Bs at the end of 1941.
His father had served in the Royal Australian Navy and as a master in the Merchant Navy in World War I. Captain Stobo died in 1936 and it was very difficult for Stobo’s mother to give authority for her only son to enlist in wartime. Stobo had often seen the Merkur and Neptuna in Sydney harbour and had made up his mind to sail on one of them. He gained a cadetship with Burns Philp and was elated when he was put on the Neptuna. He boarded her in Sydney in January 1942 as a deck cadet.
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.
Boniface, the ship’s 4th Engineer, remembers that Stobo was severely injured by the blast and kept crying out for his mother. 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.
Stobo was only sixteen when he was killed in Darwin Harbour on 19 February 1942.
Stobo is the youngest war casualty buried in the Adelaide War Cemetery. He is remembered by his sisters on the quilt in the Northern Territory Library and has a Park and a Crescent in the Darwin suburb of Alawa named after him.
He was also awarded the 1939-1945 Star, the Pacific Star War Medal 1939-1945, and the Australia Service Medal 1939-1945.
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Compiled with the assistance of Anne Fox, niece of Robert Stobo.