Navy commemorates 76th anniversary of Bombing of Darwin

Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), SGT Andrew Eddie (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Coonawarra, Memorial Service

(L-R) United States Marine Corps Major George Forbes III, Commanding Officer RAAF Darwin Wing Commander Stephen Parsons, Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra Commander Viktor Pilicic, Lieutenant Colonel Sam Pickering of Headquarters Northern Command and Commander 1 Brigade Brigadier Matthew Pearse at the 76th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin. (photo: SGT Andrew Eddie)
(L-R) United States Marine Corps Major George Forbes III, Commanding Officer RAAF Darwin Wing Commander Stephen Parsons, Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra Commander Viktor Pilicic, Lieutenant Colonel Sam Pickering of Headquarters Northern Command and Commander 1 Brigade Brigadier Matthew Pearse at the 76th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin.

Navy personnel and a patrol boat from HMAS Coonawarra have taken part in commemorations to mark the 76th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin.

The raid by 244 Japanese aircraft at 9:58am on 19 February 1942 remains the largest attack on Australia by a foreign power. More than 240 people died, 500 were injured, 30 aircraft destroyed and 11 ships sunk in the attack.

At the ceremony in Darwin, attended by almost 1000 people, Commanding Officer Coonawarra, Commander Viktor Pilicic paid tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"Australia remains rightly proud of the men and women in the services and from the local community who gave their lives in the defence of Darwin and of Australia that day," Commander Pilicic said. 

"Lest we forget." 

Royal Australian Navy vessels in Darwin at the time of the bombing included the depot ship Platypus; the sloops Swan and Warrego; the corvettes DeloraineKatoomba and Lithgow; the boom defence vessels KangarooKarangiKoala and Kookaburra; the boom gate vessel Kara Kara; the auxiliaries GunbarTerka and Tolga; as well as various channel patrol boats and other small craft.

All fought back in whatever way they could. Swan and Warrego both got underway to return fire at the Japanese.

Even Katoomba, which was immobile in a floating dry dock at the time, manned her guns and returned fire.

In the end, two Navy vessels sunk: the channel patrol boat Mavie and the collier Kelat.

The largest loss of life, however, was suffered on the American destroyer USNS Peary, which sunk with the loss of 88 crew from the ship's complement of 101.

Commander Pilicic said the US ship deserved her place in Australia's history books.

"That is what friends do for each other regardless of the price, and this friendship continues today in so many theatres of operations," he said.

"To the Officers and Sailors of the USNS Peary, you will always be remembered. You are among your mates."