Tag Archives: WWII

Musical Reflections 1941…

In March 1941, while London was in the throws of “The Blitz”, my grandmother was performing in Newcastle, a regional city North of Sydney. She was a concert pianist and after studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she returned to Australia in 1940 to tour with famed conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham…and no doubt to escape the bombs!

Fast forwarding to 2017, and I’m meticulously going through old newspapers online, transcribing text and pasting articles about her into word documents by year. It’s taken me years to come up with this approach for compiling all these bits and pieces, especially as filing isn’t exactly my forte.

An interesting aspect of my grandmother’s career, at least from the perspective of a storyteller, is that she lived through an extremely turbulent, yet fascinating, period of history. That included: the Great Depression, WWII, “women’s lib”  and also the Cold War when she actually performed behind the “Iron Curtain” in East Germany and Soviet Russia (the latter being quite an “interesting” thing for Grannie to do and she even brought back some Russian coins which was not allowed!!)

So, when I stumbled across this little discussion in the Newcastle paper about the conflict between classical music and Jazz, I thought of a few bloggers who’d find this interesting and I’ll be popping round to “your place” and dropping off a link. You never know when little historical snippets like this could come in handy:

So, here goes:

“WORDS CONTINUE, like pebbles, to be thrown into the stream of controversy that races between followers of jazz and the classics. One writer, who attempts an impartial summing up of the question suggests: “The highbrow’s error is to suppose himself a different creature from the low brow. He loathes himself if he is betrayed into humming a tune that all the world is singing or into tapping his feet in time with the band. And failing to recognise or contemptuously rejecting these instincts in himself he has nothing but scorn for their manifestation in other people. To him the lowbrow is the person who likes ‘that kind of music.’ How much better if we realised that there are occasions when we all like ‘that kind of music” when our superior faculties are enjoying a rest. “This problem must be giving the B.B.C. a headache in compiling its feature programme. ‘Music while you work,’ since obviously there must be some who would prefer to make a bullet or put an engine together to the accompaniment of a Beethoven sonata than to ‘Roll Out the Barrel.’ “Germany, if reports are true, is producing special music to aid the war effort. Soldiers now march to tunes which automatically control their breathing to enable them to go longer distances without becoming exhausted.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , Friday 21 March 1941, page 18

This tension between classical and contemporary music, rings bells for me back at school, even in the 1980’s.

As if being a teenager wasn’t confusing enough, while the rest of the teenage universe was into  pop/rock/punk etc, my best friend was into classical and drew me under her spell. In retrospect, she was one of “those kids”. Their family only watched the ABC and she never ate junk food. Indeed, she didn’t even know what a Mars Bar was. That should have been a warning in itself, but your best friend is your best friend. Sink or swim, you do it together…even if you do die a social death.

So, if I could speak to my 13 year old self, I’d tell her that she should stand on her own two feet. That before you publicly declare you love classical music, remember you played Grease at your slumber party, which was anything but. Anyone who is your true friend, can accept a difference of opinion and give you the space and freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to be clones. Also, if you decide to go against the flow, make sure it’s for something you strongly believe in and that you’re prepared to cop the fallout. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

These are life lessons I’m now trying to pass onto my kids. Navigating your way through high school is a veritable minefield and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and make different ones of their own.

Meanwhile, getting back to the tension between different styles of music, I’m sensing that this has eased up over the years and we enjoy much more of a smorgasbord of styles these days. That we can be wonderfully eclectic. Is that your take as well? I’d love to read your reflections.

xx Rowena

 

All for Love…Friday Fictioneers.

Watching the horses outside in the snow, Joan tried to be thankful. “Every day write down three things you’re thankful for.”

It wasn’t working.

All she could think about was shifting gears and driving her life in reverse.

What was she thinking marrying a Yankee sailor she hardly knew?

It was Sydney, 1942 and he’d swept her right off her feet.

They were still in love but Silverton, Colorado could never be home. There wasn’t a beach in sight and she hated the snow.

Now, mother had passed and she couldn’t get back.

Why did love always demand it all?

Rowena Curtin

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt was taken by  Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. You can click through to the linky here.

Beyond Anne Frank…Her Father’s Gift to the World.

Yesterday, I visited the Sydney Jewish Museum to see two overlapping exhibitions: Anne Frank- A History for Today and Otto Frank’s Lost Letters. This was naturally a deeply moving experience and it was wonderful to recapture the intimacy I shared with Anne Frank as a 13 year old and revisit it now as Mum to my  13.5 year old son and almost 10.5 daughter, who are about to step into her shoes.

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As a writer, it always interests me how we hear a story from a certain perspective and then we rediscover the story completely when we see it through someone else’s eyes. After all, when you read The Diary of Anne Frank, you are drawn completely into her world, her perspective, her heartbeats. We know nothing about how the rest of the people in the annexe saw her.

Otto Frank is the only survivor and the best one  to provide that outside insight into Anne . He said:

“For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”

Otto Frank

As much as we revere Anne Frank through her diary, her father is has a different, but equally important. After all, he had it published and gave it to the world when he could have locked it away in a drawer. This was all her had left of his precious daughter…along with his wife and older daughter, Margot. However, he shared it with the world and gave millions, upon millions a precious soul mate who knew them intimately in ways we couldn’t even express to ourselves. She is the voice of the misunderstood teenager, the Jewish people, the oppressed, the writer and much more.

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Anyway, following the publication and subsequent translation of Anne Frank’s Diary, young people wrote letters to Otto Frank  and he replied. Although copies of the letters he received have been retained by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, he didn’t keep copies of his own letters. So, in 2015, a world-wide search began and the Australian Jewish Museum located two Australian women who had written to Otto and had kept his treasured replies…Diana Munro and Anne Finlayson. Indeed, Otto Frank became quite close to Anne and called her the “Other Anne” and they met several times, becoming good friends.

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So after getting off the train and slowly walking along Darlinghurst Road taking photos, I arrived at the Jewish Museum. I have never been there before. I’m immediately struck by how this isn’t like your average museum. It’s more like a home, a definite Community Centre and no doubt a sacred place for Jewish people. It is cared for, loved and polished. As I said, I felt like I was being invited into someone’s home and made very, very welcome.

The exhibitions are upstairs and I’m conscious of time pressures because Mum is minding my kids and I wasn’t supposed to be detouring after my medical appointment. So, I’m trying to make sure I see and absorb Otto Frank’s letters and return to see rest. Yet, the exhibition of letters from the Holocaust attracts my attention and I had a quick look.

Back to Otto Frank…

There is correspondence between Otto Frank and a young New Zealander, Diana Munro and Australian, Anne Finlayson. The letters on both sides are incredibly deep and philosophical and you get to know just a bit of who Otto Frank was as a person, Anne Frank’s father and also someone determined to make the world a better place for the future, fight against the sins of the past.

While I could’ve typed these quotes up and prettied them up a bit, these are photos I took at the exhibition. I particularly wanted to share these with Merril Smith from Merril’s Historical Musings to thank her for telling me about the exhibition and I felt very much like we were there together and had a coffee and chat afterwards.

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What I noticed first about Otto Frank’s letters was that they were typed. His typewritten letters instantly reminded me of my grandfather’s typed Christmas newsletters and their different circumstances. The type also places his letters in the past, in a different era and they feel special.

In addition to reading the letters, there was an excellent exhibition about Anne Frank’s life, the Holocaust and the secret annexe. This was a great refresher for me as it’s been 25 years since I visited her house in Amsterdam.

Since I visiting the exhibition, I’ve found that if you speak to ten different people about how The Diary of Anne Frank has touched their hearts, you could easily get ten different answers… all valid.

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A replica of Anne Frank’s Diary on display.

That’s because in this complex diary commenced on her 13th Birthday, we each find something that relates to us in such a personal, intimate way. It’s like she’s peering deep into the inner-most secret passages of our soul, speaking out the cryptic writing on the wall and somehow made sense of it all. She has a clarity of vision which is astounding in anyone and I’m not going to put down young people by saying they can’t see more clearly than adults because so often they can.

Australian author, Jackie French said in conversation with Yotam Weiner, Education Manager, Sydney Jewish Museum:

“It is so easy to think of people who suffer, or have suffered, as other than ourselves. The very magnitude of the Holocaust means that single voices can be lost. Anne’s words make it personal. It is so very easy to lose track of major events in history. There are many to remember. It is much harder to forget the voice of Anne. Anne has been my companion, perhaps, for the forty six years since I read her book.”

So, if you’re interested in seeing these  exhibitions, you will need to hurry into the Sydney Jewish Museum. The exhibition closes mid-November.

 

xx Rowena

You might also enjoy reading about our vigil commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Anne Frank’s death last year: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/anne-frank-70-years-on-our-vigil/

Hawkesbury River Ferry Cruise.

Last Sunday, our family went on a history cruise along Sydney’s Hawkesbury River (Deerubbun) with the kids’ Scout troop.

However, before our journey proceeds any further, I thought I’d better provide you with a map of the Hawkesbury River. Not that I’m any good at reading maps, but I thought you might like to know where we are…especially if you’re not from around here. (By the way,as we live North of the Hawkesbury River, I really should be posting the map “upside down”…I mean, the right way up.

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Our Hawkesbury River Cruise set out from Brooklyn, which is just above the M1 sign on the map. While I’ve previously posted about  the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge and its role in defending Sydney during WWII, this is more of a pictorial overview of the trip.

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Geoff as we left Brooklyn.

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Fishing Boats, Brooklyn.

From Brooklyn, we headed east towards Broken Bay and Palm Beach, which some of you might know as “Summer Bay” from  Australian drama Home & Away.

As I said, I don’t have a great sense of direction.  Yet, I do remember us chugging past the Sport & Recreation Camp at Milson Bay and round to Juno Point, where I photographed this very statuesque gum tree leaning out over the river.

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Like so many of its kind, this gum tree is growing in very harsh conditions, seemingly straight out of the rocks.  Gum trees are so tenacious holding in all sort of conditions but then they can sudden fall over, easily becoming “widow-makers”.

Then, we made our way into Broken Bay via checking out the defenses at West Head, which is really known more as a scenic lookout than an army base.

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WWII Gun emplacement at West Head, along the Hawkesbury River.

We returned to Brooklyn, heading upstream towards Wiseman’s Ferry and Windsor. This meant going past what remains of the original Hawkesbury River Bridge, a hauntingly beautiful row of sandstone piers, an epitaph to engineering doom.

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We also  travelled underneath the replacement Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, which seemed reminiscent of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and was also an engineering marvel back in its day.

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A close-up of the New Hawkesbury River Bridge. These girders remind me of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Bridge provided some outstanding photo opportunities, particularly as I love seeing the familiar through an unfamiliar lens or perspective. The local train from Woy Woy to Sydney passes over this bridge so we know it well from the train window. You also see the bridge in the  distance driving to Sydney. So, the Hawkesbury River Bridge is a very familiar sight…just not looking up at it from the river. That was a buzz.

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Quite a change from the old steam trains. This is a  modern OSCAR train (Outer Suburban Carriage)

However, there’s much more to cruising along the Hawkesbury River than engineering structures.

There were clouds.

At least, there were clouds as we were cruising along last Saturday. Not just any ordinary clouds either.There was a sky full of photogenic clouds…fluffy tufts of pure white cotton wool pasted on a bright blue sky with perfect cloud outlines. I couldn’t have done a better job myself…not that I’m in the cloud-making business.

Do you like watching clouds?

While cloud gazing might be considered a little “fluffy”, I find it quite mesmerising and have gone to great lengths to photograph  clouds in what could be described as suicidal weather conditions. Yet, in better weather, appreciating clouds reflects a joie de vivre...a soul committed to carpe diem seize the day. After all, the phrase is “seize the day” and NOT “seize the mobile phone”!!

Hey, you tell me? What isn’t there to love about this sky full of clouds?

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Cloud River.

Another highlight of the cruise was checking out the wreckage of the HMAS Parramatta.

Named after the Parramatta River, HMAS Parramatta, was a River-class torpedo-boat destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Ordered in 1909 for the Commonwealth Naval Forces (the predecessor of the RAN), Parramatta was the first ship launched for the Australian navy.

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From 1914 to 1917, HMAS Parramatta was involved in wartime patrols in the Pacific and South East Asian regions, before she and her sister ships were transferred to the Mediterranean for anti-submarine operations. She returned to Australia in 1919, and was placed in reserve. Apart from a brief period of full commission during the visit of the Prince of Wales, Parramatta remained in reserve commission until 1928. She was fully decommissioned in 1928, stripped of parts, and sold for use as prisoner accommodation on the Hawkesbury River. After changing hands several times, the hull ran aground during gale conditions in 1933, and was left to rust. In 1973, the bow and stern sections were salvaged, and converted into memorials and the remainder can be seen here. Further information HMAS Parramatta.

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Our son enjoying a bit of speed.

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Creating Waves.

Wow! As you can see, we had a wonderful time…although it really just felt like an entree and I really want to see more…especially the sunset. Sunsets viewed as the train crosses over the Hawkesbury Railway Bridge are a knockout but it would be even better viewed from the water.  I can definitely feel a sunset trip along the Hawkesbury River coming up.

Bring it on!

Meanwhile, if you’d like to follow in our wake, you can reach Central Coast Ferries: here.

xx Rowena

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What a fabulous day!

An Unsung Wartime Hero.

Last weekend, while on our history tour of the Hawkesbury River, we had a crash course on Australia’s WWII military defenses along the Hawkesbury River, which  were set up to protect Australia from an imminent Japanese invasion. Aside, from protecting Sydney, these defences also aimed to protect the strategic Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, which provided an essential transport link between North and South.

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Strangely, I had no idea that this bridge, which is now nothing but a row of sandstone pylons protruding out of the Hawkesbury River, played such an important role in our war time defense. Nor did I know that a series of defenses had been set up to defend the bridge and to per-empt an attack on Sydney from the North.  All of this was seemingly dumped in the bottom drawer, that infamous file of no return. However, fortunately, those files are being salvaged before living memory was lost and efforts are now being made to capture and pass on this piece of Australia’s history.

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Characteristic scenery along the Hawkesbury. It hardly looks strategic.

Through hindsight, it’s hard to appreciate the role this sleepy river winding through the bush, played in our National defense. After all, there was no Japanese invasion of Australia.  A couple of midget subs might have entered Sydney Harbour, but they were blown up. Darwin was bombed, but this has been minimalised over time.  Indeed, most Australians would have no idea of the full extent of Japanese attacks on Australian soil.

Yet, when you read newspapers of the day, there wasn’t so much a perceived risk of Japanese invasion, but an expectation…especially after the Fall of Singapore.

My grandparents were courting during 1942. My grandmother was living in Brisbane and my grandfather was living in Dalby, in Western Queensland. Their fears felt very real and it seemed like the Japanese would invade any day. Queenslanders  were definitely living on the edge and bomb shelters had been built throughout Queensland schools.So, we’re not just talking about irrational fears.

Returning to the Hawkesbury River and this sleepy expanse of National Park, this region was actually critical to the war effort. If the Japanese had bombed the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, there would have been no direct North-South rail link. The alternate route would have entailed travelling an additional 400 miles— via: Lithgow—Dubbo—Werris Creek.This would have seriously affected troop movements and the transport of war supplies. This threat wasn’t too far fetched either. When the Japanese submarines were sunk in Sydney Harbour, the captain of one actually had a map of the Hawkesbury River.

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Defenses were constructed along the Hawkesbury River, including a gun battery at West Head. From the West Head Lookout, you can see where a fleet of five Japanese submarines surfaced in the darkness of night at the mouth of Broken Bay in 1942. Three of the vessels were carrying a trio of midget submarines, which were later launched to attack Sydney.

In addition to the threat of a Japanese attack on the Hawkesbury River Bridge, it’s precarious state of crumbling decay was also a critical strategic concern.As I mentioned  in my previous post, one of the pylons had cracked and the bridge was highly unstable. Speed restrictions of 15 miles an hour were placed on trains going over the old bridge, posing a great handicap to the movement of large wartime traffic on the northern line. In 1945, a further speed reduction to 4 miles an hour and the prohibition of the application of brakes resulted in a 7 minute crossing time for all trains. The replacement bridge wasn’t opened until 1946, after the war was over so all this time, trains were creeping over the bridge one at a time limping along.

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Trains pressure testing the new bridge in 1946.

So, it really is quite amazing that the bridge survived the war but, of course, bridges don’t win any medals…especially when they’re so far from the front line. But when you realise this was the rusty safety pin holding so much of the Australian war effort together, it deserves a bit of respect…as does whoever it was who kept it going behind the scenes. No medals for them either.

By the way, those cracked and crumbling piers from the original Hawkesbury River Bridge are still standing, although the steel trusses are long gone.

Meanwhile, there have been reports that the piers on the new bridge are unsafe. When divers inspected the bridge in 2013, they found major problems with one of the piers. “The downstream pile has a LARGE amount of concrete missing with LOTS of exposed rio bar [reinforcing bar] … concrete continues to flake off and crumble,” said the report, obtained by the state opposition using freedom of information laws (source: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sydney-to-central-coast-rail-bridge-at-hawkesbury-river-crumbling-at-base-20150913-gjlftk.html)

Let’s hope the government can get its act together faster this time. I can’t see hundreds and thousands of commuters into Sydney being thrilled when they can walk faster across the bridge than the train.

Do you have any similar stories you would like to share? I am seriously amazed by how little I really know about my own neck of the woods and how much I have to explore here without needing to travel overseas. Given the budget, that’s naturally quite a relief!

xx Rowena

 

 

Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. For the fallen by Laur…

Source: Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

Beyond the Call of Duty: Australia’s War Time Prime Minister.

Last week, I shared about helping my son out with his project about Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin. I also mentioned that I’d become so interested in that period in our history, that I just had to do a project of my own, resulting in a couple of posts for the blog. Otherwise, I knew I’d do his assignment for him and both he and his teacher would be after me. .

Here’s my previous post: WWII What I Learned From My Son’s Homework  https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/australia-during-wwii-what-i-learned-from-my-sons-homework/

Thank you blog. You provided me with that much needed blank canvas to paint my own word portrait of Prime Minister John Curtin, whose selfless and passionate commitment to our country and our freedom, ultimately claimed his own life when he died in office.

This isn’t going to be some stuffy history essay but more of an informal portrait of the man I discovered.

John Curtin Becomes Prime Minister-  7th October, 1941.

On 7th October, 1941, John Curtin became our 14th Australian Prime Minister. Being new to the job, I’m sure he would have appreciated a few weeks to settle in before the proverbial @#$% hit the fan at full blast. After all, we all know what it’s like to start a new job. You’ve got to find the bathroom, the lunchroom and get to know a bunch of strangers. Naturally, you’d like to have enough time to get on top of all of that before you faced a major challenge.

John Curtin at his desk in The Lodge

John Curtin at his desk in The Lodge

However, when John Curtin came into office, Australia was already at war.  Then, on the 7th December 1941 only 6 weeks into the job, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. A day later, the Pacific War was declared. His headaches didn’t get any better as the  Japanese forces swept across the South Pacific and country after fell like tumbling dominoes . Australia was obviously facing a severe security threat and being “The Boss” he was at the helm. It was ultimately his job to save the country.

Yikes! What a job! I certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes! They were such big shoes that  quite frankly, my feet would have been swimming laps.

Australian War Time Poster.

Australian War Time Poster.

The War in the Pacific

Although I studied Australian History at university, there are always gaps. You can’t know everything. Despite studying the Causes of the Russian Revolution twice and the same with the Causes of World War I, I never studied the actual course of either World War. Of course, I knew the big events and had heard family stories. However, the magnitude of what was going on only hit home once I drew up a time line of events for my son, which suddenly connected a disparate group of dots and formed a much more cohesive picture.

A damn scary picture if you, like my grandmother, were living in Brisbane in 1942!

I was also reminded over and over again that while it’s all very well looking at history through the benefit of hindsight, the person on the street had no crystal ball. They had no idea how the war would end or who would win and everything was pretty much hanging in the balance.

Defending Australia.

Defending Australia is still challenging with it’s vast coastline and comparatively low population. John Curtin was looking at defending a mainland coastline of  35,876 km with a population of only 7,180,736 and most of our troops were off fighting Hitler. The situation as dire.

Put simply, our entire defensive strategy rested on the British and their base in Singapore and while our focus was naturally on the Pacific War, Britain was wanting to beat Hitler first.

In a famous article in The Melbourne Herald on December 27, 1941, Mr Curtin insisted that Australia “refused to accept the dictum that the Pacific struggle was a subordinate segment of the general conflict”. HV Evatt later reflected: “Certainly, Mr Curtin’s words, if read fairly, were in no sense critical of Britain; on the contrary, they merely stressed the principle that as Mr Churchill was resolved that Britain should never fall to the enemy, Mr Curtin was equally resolved that ~Australia shall not go”….The Courier Mail, 14th November, 1950 pg 2.

Before the Fall of Singapore, Australia looked to Britain for our national security. Like some desperate gambler placing all their chips on one number, Australia’s defense rested on Singapore and the bulk of our troops were over in the Middle East under Churchill. However, John Curtin realising this enormous risk, took Churchill on and brought the bulk of our troops home.

The Fall of Singapore.

The Fall of Singapore.

The fighting in Singapore lasted from 8 to 15 February 1942. It resulted in the capture of Singapore by the Japanese and the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history.About 85,000 British, Indian and Australian troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in the earlier Malayan Campaign. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the ignominious fall of Singapore to the Japanese the “worst disaster” and “largest capitulation” in British military history.

Bombing of Darwin

Bombing of Darwin

Four days later, on 19 February, 1942 the Japanese substantially bombed Darwin. The Bombing of Darwin, also known as the Battle of Darwin,  was both the first and the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. On this day, 242 Japanese aircraft attacked ships in Darwin’s harbour and the town’s two airfields in an attempt to prevent the Allies from using them as bases to contest the invasions of Timor and Java. The town was only lightly defended and the Japanese inflicted heavy losses upon the Allied forces at little cost to themselves. The urban areas of Darwin also suffered some damage from the raids and there were a number of civilian casualties. The two raids killed at least 243 people and between 300 and 400 were wounded. Twenty military aircraft were destroyed, eight ships at anchor in the harbour were sunk, and most civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed.

The raids were the first and largest of almost 100 air raids against Australia during 1942–43.

While Britain’s approach to the two-pronged war was to beat Hitler first, in March 1942, Australia’s salvation came when President Franklin Roosevelt  ordered General Douglas MacArthur, commander of US forces in the Philippines, to organise Pacific defense with Australia. Curtin agreed to Australian forces coming under the overall command of MacArthur and passed the responsibility for strategic decision-making onto MacArthur who was titled Supreme Commander of the South West Pacific. From MacArthur’s point of view this was a workable alliance – he told Curtin to ‘take care of the rear and I will handle the front’.

This was a dramatic shift in our defence strategy and a very gutsy and heroic move.

Yet, Curtin’s headaches continued.

Japanese midget submarine retrieved after attack on Sydney Harbour.

Japanese midget submarine retrieved after attack on Sydney Harbour.

On the night of 31 May – 1 June, three Japanese midget submarines, each with a two-member crew, entered Sydney Harbour, avoided the partially constructed Sydney Harbour anti-submarine boom net, and attempted to sink Allied warships. Two of the midget submarines were detected and attacked before they could successfully engage any Allied vessels, and the crews scuttled their boats and committed suicide. These submarines were later recovered by the Allies. The third submarine attempted to torpedo the heavy cruiser USS Chicago, but instead sank the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 sailors.

As history records, however, eventually the tide began to turn and the dominoes started to fall in our favour.

Yet, the stress of the war had taken a major toll on Prime Minister John Curtin. On 3 November 1944, after one of his rare breaks at his home in Perth, he suffered a major heart attack in Melbourne on the long train journey back to Canberra. When he was strong enough he was driven back to Canberra to complete his recovery. On 8 January 1945, he celebrated his 60th birthday at The Lodge. Although he returned to parliament in February, Curtin was by no means back to normal.

On 18 April 1945, he moved the parliament’s motion of condolence on the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. Soon after, severe lung congestion forced him back into hospital. Deputy Prime Minister Frank Forde was in San Francisco and Ben Chifley was acting Prime Minister. It fell to Chifley to announce the end of the war in Europe on 9 May 1945.

Curtin was released from hospital on 22 May. That day he was driven back to The Lodge, and he and Elsie Curtin strolled in the garden together for photographers. They then walked back into The Lodge together for the last time.

On 5 July, 1945 John Curtin died at The Lodge, just six weeks before the end of the war in the Pacific. That he didn’t live to see the end of the war in which he fought so hard, maybe not out in the trenches with “our boys” and the women who supported them as nurses etc but he gave his heart, his mind and this battle ultimately consumed him. Naturally, there were a multitude of tributes when he passed away and I’ve chosen to quote the one that best represents my thoughts:

“The Prime Minister saw his country through deadly invasion peril and sacrificed his health in his intense devotion to the national defence. He saw to it that literally everyone had a war job and the nation entered it’s national defence with the fervour and energy which characterise its activities in national causes.”

– The New York Herald Tribune.

What an incredible man and I’m so glad I took the time to get to know him better.

xx Rowena