The bombing of Darwin happened 76 years ago, but for Bolton Clarke retirement living resident and World War 2 veteran Lindsay Boyd, the memories of that day are as clear as ever.
These days Lindsay, who turns 102 in March, lives in an independent living unit in the Brisbane bayside suburb of Thornlands.
But on 19 February, 1942 he was a new recruit who’d arrived at Noonamah, outside Darwin, from country Victoria with the 2/8th Battalion one week before.
“On Friday, 19 February I found myself as the battalion runner,” Lindsay recalls.
“Every day they had a different person doing the job because there were no telephones or anything like that, and the only way they had of sending a message from headquarters to different companies was by a runner.
“I was assigned to that position for about eight hours that day. At about 10 minutes to 11, I was standing outside the headquarters tent waiting for instructions, and as I looked up I saw three formations of nine planes heading towards Darwin.
“At the time there was a lot of talk of the Yanks coming up to Darwin with the airforce, so I said ‘Hey, here come the Yanks!’ and people started clapping and cheering.”
Soon after, the first bombs dropped on Darwin, followed by a second wave at 11.58am. In total, more than 240 aircraft were used in the two raids in the largest single attack ever mounted on Australia by a foreign power.
“I clearly remember one of the messages I carried that day from headquarters to each company, probably the most important one, which was to issue each man with 10 rounds of ammunition,” the veteran said.
Lindsay also remembers clearly the chaos and devastation that followed.
“It was as if everyone had immediately dropped what they were doing and run.
“We went into Darwin the day after the raids and were sent into numerous houses to check there was no-one in there injured.
“At one place we went to, the dining table was set with plates and cutlery, and on the sideboard in the dining room there was a container with a set of dentures – that’s how quickly people moved out. They just dropped everything and moved out to Alice Springs or moved on.”
After the initial bombing, Lindsay and his brother Clarrie were transferred to 11th Supply Personnel Company at Adelaide River, where they worked in the supply depot that served Australian and US troops.