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Darwin commemorates World War II bombing anniversary

WWII veteran Brian Winspear was on hand to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Darwin's bombing.

WWII veteran Brian Winspear was on hand to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Darwin's bombing. Photo: AAP

Darwin locals and dignitaries have gathered to remember the first time Australian soil came under attack 81 years ago during World War II.

“On 19 February 1942, some 240 Japanese aircraft bombed Darwin in two separate raids, more than 250 people lost their lives including members of all three services, Allied personnel, merchant mariners and civilians,” Veterans Affairs Minister Matt Keogh told those present.

“This anniversary is an important opportunity to honour those who served, their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families.”

Between 300 and 400 people were also wounded in the attacks, which came two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour shocked the world.

Bombs flattened much of the city, including its bustling Chinatown and Darwin Post Office.

The post-master, his family and six telegraphists were among those killed, affecting communication about the event to the rest of Australia.

In Darwin Harbour, bombs sunk both the Neptuna and the USS Peary, adding more than 100 deaths to the toll.

Aircraft continued to raid the city for the next 18 months, in the hopes of stopping Allied forces from using Darwin’s port for operations to Timor and Indonesia.

“The anniversary is a day to reflect on our past and pay tribute to those servicemen and women and civilians who lost their lives while courageously defending our country,” Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said.

“In commemorating this day we are passing the story onto the next generation and keeping memory alive.”

As part of Sunday’s commemorations, two F-34A Lightning II aircraft flew over Darwin Esplanade.

The HMAS Maryborough also accompanied soldiers and the Royal Australian Artillery in a re-enactment.

Two weeks after the initial raids on Darwin, Japanese aircraft attacked Broome with dozens killed or wounded and more than 20 Allied planes destroyed.

They were the first in a series of attacks across northern Australia throughout 1942 and 1943, with some 97 sorties targeting locations from Wyndham, Port Hedland and Derby in Western Australia to Katherine in the Top End, Townsville and Mossman in Queensland, and Horn Island in the Torres Strait.

“I encourage all Australians to remember and honour those who died during these raids on northern Australia and the bravery shown in the defence of our country during the Second World War,” Mr Kean said.

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the bombing of Darwin was an event which “changed our nation like no other” and it was fitting that Australians take pause to remember those killed.

“Their sacrifice is a legacy of lessons for Australians today and tomorrow: of our vulnerability as a nation, regardless of the times; of our need for vigilance, however improbable the threat; and of the enduring value of our northern defences against authoritarianism, whatever its form,” Mr Dutton said.

-AAP

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