1942 — Japanese planes attack Darwin

The Japanese air raid on Darwin was mounted by 242 Japanese planes launched from four aircraft carriers. It was intended to soften up the air force and navy bases there in preparation for the Japanese invasion of Timor the following day. Between 9:58 and 10:40AM that day, the planes sank three warships and five merchant ships, while damaging ten more. Twenty-one dock workers were killed in the raids.

This would be the first of a total of 97 air raids against targets either in Australian waters or on the Australian mainland. Most of these were on various sites across the northern coast of Australia between Port Hedland, Western Australia and Townsville, Queensland, with the great majority of them being on military or civilian targets in Darwin. The last air raid took place on November 12, 1943, striking Parap, Adelaide River and Batchelor Airfield (all in the Northern Territory). By that time, the tide of war had turned, and Japan could no longer strike so close to Australia, although the end of the war was still nearly two years away.

Referenced in:
Tojo — Hoodoo Gurus

1930 – Amy Johnson flies from England to Darwin

Amy Johnson became famous the world over after she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. Flying her de Havilland Gipsy Moth (which she had named ‘Jason’), she departed from Croydon, near London, on May 5, 1930 and reached Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, on May 24, a flight of some 11,000 miles (or 18,000 km). She was honoured with the Harmon Trophy, a CBE, the No. 1 civil pilot’s licence under Australia’s 1921 Air Navigation Regulations and a street in Darwin that still bears her name today, all for this achievement.

Johnson later died under disputed circumstances during World War Two – it is believed that she may have been on a mission for British intelligence, but the truth of the matter has never been revealed.

Referenced in:

Flying Sorcery — Al Stewart
A Lone Girl Flier — Bob Molyneux
Just Plain Johnnie — Bob Molyneux
Amy, Wonderful Amy — Harry Bidgood
Johnnie, Our Aeroplane Girl — Jack Lumsdaine

1974 – Cyclone Tracy hits Darwin

It’s sometimes referred to as ‘The Night That Santa Never Came‘. What came instead were howlling winds of more than 200km an hour, tearing Darwin to pieces and having a similar effect on nearby towns in the Northern Territory.

In the end, the death toll would reach 71, of whom 22 were caught at sea by the storm. It destroyed 80% of all buildings in Darwin and left tens of thousands of people homeless, most of whom were evacuated to other cities.

Cyclone Tracy remains the greatest natural disaster in Australian history. Darwin today bears little resemblance to pre-Tracy Darwin, and although its population has long since surpassed the 49,000 residents at the time of the cyclone, the majority of them are new immigrants to the city or born since 1974.

Referenced in:

Tojo – Hoodoo Gurus
Santa Never Made it into Darwin – The Wayfarers