A DARWIN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT - Leading Aircraftman Stanley Hawker, No 2 RAAF Squadron.

LAC Stanley Hawker survived the first Japanese bombing of Darwin.

On 19 February 1942, I was loading 250 pound bombs with five of my mates when we sighted aircraft approaching Darwin harbour at high altitude. At first we thought they were American bombers, but one of my mates had been in the islands with No 2 Squadron and he identified them as Japanese "Betty" bombers. Then all hell broke loose. The Japanese bombed the ships in the harbour, and scored many direct hits. A bomb hit the post office and killed all in the building. They bombed the hospital and the hospital ship "Manunda". They hit the oil tanks and set them ablaze.

We had Zero fighters flying low over our heads, and we jumped the security fence and took shelter up to our necks in the mangrove swamp until someone said "What about the 'crocs' (crocodiles)". So we left the water and returned to the main RAAF 'drome. It was a shambles. They had pattern-bombed the 'drome. Aircraft were burning, the hangers were completely destroyed, and both runways were damaged. We then made our way to the civil aerodrome, and found that the area had been shafted, and the ammo dump was burning. At this stage another wave of bombers pattern-bombed us, and I took shelter in a machine gun pit. It was pretty scary.

Flying Officer Swan then called us together and handed us .303 rifles and ammunition. He ordered us to line the cliffs overlooking Fanny Bay where he thought the Japs might try to land. We spent the night on the cliffs but nothing happened. On the following day we returned to the main 'drome, and I worked with other airmen pulling dead bodies out of Darwin Harbour. It was horrible work. I don't like to think about it.

I was with the RAAF in Darwin for 49 of the Japanese air raids. They bombed us on moonlit nights. I learned to hate the full moon nights.

After the first Japanese raid on Darwin, RAAF ground crew load a bomber with return gifts for General Tojo.