On the floor of the Main Hall in the Northern Territory Parliament is a small plaque that reads: ‘ON 19 FEBRUARY 1942 AN ENEMY BOMB FELL HERE AND KILLED TEN PEOPLE’. The plaque commemorates a major event in Australian history when 188 Japanese fighters and bombers launched a deadly air raid on Darwin.
Targeting the flotilla of ships in the harbour and key infrastructure within the town, at least 243 people were killed, with as many as 500 injured. Among the targets was the Darwin Post Office, which suffered a direct hit. Taking cover in a slit trench in the backyard of the Postmaster’s residence were Hurtle Bald, the Postmaster, his wife Alice, their daughter Iris, four Telephonists, Emily Young, Jennie Stasinowsky and the sisters Eileen and Jean Mullen, a Postal Clerk named Arthur Wellington, a Telegraph Supervisor by the name of Archie Halls and Walter Rowling, a Telegraph Mechanic. All were killed instantly.
Those killed at the Post Office had volunteered to remain in Darwin despite the growing threat posed by Japan as the Second World War edged ever closer to Australian shores. It is fitting that we know more about those who selflessly gave their lives for their country when Japanese bombs struck the Darwin Post Office.
Brett Bowden is Professor of History and Politics at the University of Western Sydney and Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of NSW at the Australian Defence Force Academy.