Two days after Prime Minister John Curtin’s speech, mainland Australia came under attack for the first time on February the 19th, 1942.
The Japanese attacks which were planned and led by Naval Commander Mitzu Fushida, the commander responsible for the raid on Pearl Harbour ten weeks earlier, involved aircraft from four aircraft carriers in the Timor Sea, and 54 land-based bombers. 47 vessels were at anchor in the harbour, or alongside Darwin’s Stokes Hill Wharf.
(sounds of aeroplanes dropping bombs)
In the first attack, which began just before 10 o’clock in the morning, 188 planes attacked shipping in the harbour, before bombing and strafing the town, the RAAF base, the civil aerodrome, and the hospital at Berrimah. Civillian contractor Stan Kennan was in his Smith Street workshop as the first raid began:
“It was a beautiful morning, and we were just having smoko. We heard this flight of aircraft approaching, and we walked outside and watched these aircraft coming in from the West.
They were coming in such perfect formation, it was a matter of moments to count the eight groups of nine, so 72 aircraft. You just had to admire their perfect formation. And a moment later, bombs were actually landing around the post office, around the walls.”
As the bombs rained down on the harbour, postmaster Hurtle Bald, his wife Alice, 16 year old daughter Iris and six staff hurried to the slip trench in the backyard in the post office. In the first minutes of the raid, the trench received a direct hit, killing them instantly.