darwin bombed

Darwin Bombed - an A/A Gunner's Reflections

Darwin Under Attack 1942 - A unique part of Australian History

On the 19th February 1942 a fleet of 188 Japanese planes, high level bombers, dive - bombers and Zero fighters attacked Darwin. About two hours later 54 Japanese high level bombers carried out a second attack. The 19th of February 1942 has become a unique part of Australian history, as it was the first time Australia had been attacked by a foreign power. Officially, on that day, at least 253 were killed and 350 wounded.

The two attacks were of such a size and ferocity that it was thought the Japanese intended an invasion.

The book is an autobiography by an ex anti aircraft gunner who was in Darwin from 1940 to 1942. He was the firer on No.1 gun on the site known as the Oval, which was in the town overlooking the harbour and it was the first army site to engage the Japanese. From his elevated position on the gun the author had a good view of the battle between our navy and merchantmen against the Japanese. Damage to the town, shipping and the aerodrome was extensive.

The government of the day, in its wisdom, decided to heavily censor the release of information and all news releases to the public. They were doubtful as to the effect the news would have on the peoples’ morale. This action has restricted knowledge to an extent that many of our people are still unaware of the war in our north.

Sir Paul Hasluck in a speech to the NT Parliament in 1955 spoke of the 19th as “Australia’s Day of Shame” and, in the author's opinion, some other poorly framed comments. The media grasped those sensational points and have continued to use them. Their reiteration has badly maligned many people and has provided misconceptions of the early war in the NT. The author endeavours to analyse and examine the events causing such comments.

The book is a story of the 14th Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery who with two Pioneer Battalions, 2/3rd and 2/4th installed the ground - aerial defences of the town and manned those guns against the Japanese assault. Because of the strict censorship many of the reports and interviews since the war are not correct. The book is an attempt to right the wrongs, to explain that we stood firm and do not deserve poor or ignorant reviews and reports.

The book contains about 90 original photographs of 1940-1942 and a brief epilogue up to the 2000’s. Darwin Bombed provides an idea of the conditions under which army personnel in the NT existed and their response to the Japanese assaults.

An attack on Australia was something the nation had not been required to face and the government was unsure of its actions. It was not until 1995 that the government recognised the personnel who defended Darwin.

The book is a gunner’s reflections of the times, the conditions, the lack of equipment and its capabilities, the lack of aerial defence and the apparent lack of communications and co-operation between the services in the NT. The book is an attempt to assist history and to explain that the boys and men defending Darwin did their duty to the best of their ability.

It is hoped the book will help in the passing of our history down to the nation’s youth.


  Jack's controversial autobiography presents the unofficial history of the 14th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery in Darwin.

Contains 90 original photographs of 1940-1942.

"A powerful piece of writing"

"Jammed packed full of historical facts"

"A beautifully honest and well written book"

War images

darwin bombing 1942

Jack Mulholland

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