I lived in Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia for seven years prior to moving to Canada.
When I first moved to Darwin I lived in an old fibro cement one bedroom shack next to my brothers workshop on Harvey Street.
This was a semi industrial park that was off the beaten track adjacent to the city, but not in the nice part of town if you know what I mean…
I lived across the road from the large oil tanks that supplied the harbour and its shipping needs. Darwin is Australia’s northern most port and the closest port to Asia.
During WWII, Darwin was on Australia’s front line and on February 19th, 1942 Darwin was bombed for the first time.
In the initial raids 242 planes flew from the same aircraft carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941 to bomb the town and harbour.
The Japanese had recently attacked and conquered the Dutch East Indies. From here they established airbases from which to attack Australia on a regular basis.
The closest airbases were now a mere 829 kms north of Darwin…and easy flying distance, especially since Australia has virtually no air force to speak of in the region.
Now I’m sure that you’re enjoying the history lesson, but so what you ask?
Shortly after moving into my residence on Harvey Street it was clear that it required a considerable clean up both inside and outside.
The house and yard had been neglected for many years and therefore rather primitive to say the least.
Out back was a huge banyan tree that must have been at least 100 years old with roots and vines dangling from it’s massive branches all the way to the ground.
The back yard were completely covered in jungle vines and vegetation from years of total neglect. The detritus from the trees and the adjacent old workshops was something to behold…
Working in a pair of shorts, boots and hat I used a machete to begin clearing the yard of scrub.
Fortunately I was under the shade of the banyan tree but it was incredibly hot with the sweat running off me in rivulets from every pore of my body.
Your brain felt like it was boiling in my skull it was so hot!
My work was slow progress, all the while keeping a sharp eye out for rats, and snakes and other creepy crawlies as you must in this part of the world! 🙂
As I neared the base of the tree I was hacking close to ground level with my machete when something caught my eye…
After clearing everything away I reached down and uncovered a partly submerged piece of metal from the damp ground. Not unusual you’d think until I wiped it off and discovered that it was a spent bullet.
This got me curious! 🙂
After a little research I confirmed that the bullet was in fact of the same caliber (7.7 mm) projectile which was the used by the Japanese zero fighter.
Given the proximity to the oil tanks and harbour for which my part of town had been a serious targeted during the 64 air raids carried out during WWII.
In fact, based on my research I’m able to narrow it down to one of two raids on Darwin during the war where this part of town was the important target.
The first raid occurred on February 19, 1942 when the harbour was first bombed. Although the primary target were the ships in the harbour two hundred and forty people were also killed in and around the town and aerodrome.
They were also successful in sinking six ships including the USS Peary and a further seven badly damaged.
However, the most likely raid in which the bullet may have been fired was during the 11th raid that occurred on April 2nd. This raid specifically targeted the oil tanks and depot in Frogs Hollow and tried to put them out of action.
Yep…literally across the road from my place 🙂
Coincidence…I think not!
I must admit for a history buff to find a little piece of it in my back yard was pretty amazing.
The one final thing that occurred prior to finishing clearing the bush was that the following week as I neared the completion of my task I had a rather nasty accident.
As I pulled on a large vine I swung the machete but instead of cleaving the vine, it ran down the hardened vine and sliced into my left middle knuckle all the way to the bone.
Painful is not the word I would have used to describe the pain…
Blood began pouring from the gaping wound with the bone visible, dropping the machete I ran up the back stairs to grab a towel. I ran the wound under water but it was too deep to stem the flow of blood.
My brother Laurie, who was working at the workshop next door took me to the hospital where I required five stitches to close the deep cut…along with another tetanus shot. 🙂
You can’t even imagine how many tetanus shots I’ve had over the years as I’ve seemed to have more than my fair share of nasty cuts and wounds. 🙂
Still, the best part of the story, other than my significant scare is the bullet which I still have with me to this day.
It’s a pretty cool reminder of my time in Darwin and the history that goes with it.
Until next week