Blitzed Darwin

Blitzed Darwin

Darwin is a city forever associated with two violent acts.

In World War Two, Darwin was the frontline against further Japanese expansion south. On 19 February 1942, 242 Japanese aircraft, in two separate raids, attacked. More bombs were dropped than at Pearl Harbour two months earlier, and unofficial research puts the death toll as high as 1,000. Certainly, after the attack, more than half of Darwin’s civilian population left the area permanently.

During the raids, Japan’s primary target were the poorly defended oil storage facilities. Afterwards, it was clear underground bomb-proof tanks were needed. In harsh conditions, five were built, two of which are open today. Inside, Hilary got quite claustrophobic

32 years later came blitz number two. In the early hours of Christmas Day 1974, Cyclone Tracy destroyed 80% of homes in Darwin and killed 71 people. It was Australia’s worst natural disaster ever.

At the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, we stood in the darkened sound booth listening to a real life recording of the cyclone’s destruction. It was shocking; the sound of corrugated roofing whirling around, babies crying and lives overwhelmed

Overnight, Darwin effectively ceased to exist and the city was put under martial law. But a major federal rebuilding programme ensured a new chapter for Darwin and today it’s an engaging, modern city of 127,000. Albeit one without much old architecture.


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