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Bombing of Darwin Day Commemoration

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On 19 February 1942 Darwin was bombed by two separate Japanese air raids becoming the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. The attack left hundreds of servicemen and civilians dead, and countless others injured.

Each year we come together as a city and a nation, to pay tribute to the men and women who were there.

Bombing of Darwin Day Commemoration - 2021 Program






Friday 19 February


USS Peary Memorial Service

The Esplanade

Australian American Association NT
Free, open to the public

Friday 19 February 9.30am-11.00am Bombing of Darwin Day Commemorative Service The Cenotaph City of Darwin
Free, open to the public

Saturday 20 February


Ecumenical Service

Adelaide River War Cemetery

Coomalie Council
please contact
(08) 8976 0058
Free, open to the public

We remember

The community is invited to take part in the Bombing of Darwin Day program of events to commemorate those who courageously defended our country, those who selflessly helped others, those who dealt with the aftermath, and those who lost their lives.

We lost

After remaining virtually untouched by foreign conflict, war had finally come to Australia's shores. The Bombing of Darwin left hundreds of servicemen and civilians dead, countless others injured and a significant toll on Darwin's infrastructure. 

The attacks which began in Northern Australia on 19 February 1942 continued for 21 months.

We unite

The Bombing of Darwin was a defining moment in Australia's history and highlighted the tenacity and spirit of those who bravely fought against the attacks. The community rallied around the broken families of those impacted and worked together to rebuild after the unprecedented attacks.

On 7 December 2011, the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, declared 19 February as a national day of observance to be known as Bombing of Darwin Day.

We commemorate

Our National Day of Observance is a time to learn about the significance of the Bombing of Darwin in Australia's military history, to understand the sacrifices of those who contributed to the defence of Australia during World War II, and to reflect on the value of peace. 

A defining moment in Australia’s history

In the initial attack at 9.58am on 19 February 1942, 188 Japanese aircraft dropped more bombs over Darwin than were used in the attack on Pearl Harbour.

The attack was the first of at least 64 air raids on the Top End of Australia, which continued until 12 November 1943.

Despite its severity and impact, the Bombing of Darwin and the war fought over Northern Australia is often overshadowed by subsequent events in our nation's history.

Remnants of WWII are still visible at many locations across Darwin, Katherine and Adelaide River. These sites offer visitors a chance to pay homage to both the heroes who fought on the frontline and the Territory’s multicultural community affected by the bombing raids. Asian, European and Indigenous people worked alongside the allied servicemen as Darwin was attacked over an 18 month period.

The devastation suffered by Territorian families was profound. The evacuees who returned and the wider community came together to rebuild Darwin after the war, and many stories of tragedy and survival have been shared during these years.

No event in history has highlighted the tenacity, resilience, and spirit of those living in the Territory, quite as profoundly as the Bombing of Darwin.


08 December 1941

Japanese Imperial Forces attacked Kota Bahru and Pearl Harbour (7 December local time in Hawaii).

One hour after the attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour, Prime Minister John Curtin of Australia declared that "from one hour ago, Australia has been at war with the Japanese Empire”.

10 December 1941

British warships, Prince of Wales and Repulse, are attacked and destroyed off Malaya.

16 December 1941

Evacuation of non-essential civilian women and children from Darwin ordered. By 18 February more than 2,000 people were evacuated. The normal civilian population during that era was around 5,000.

15 February 1942

The British fortress of Singapore falls to Japanese forces who then prepare to invade Timor on 20 February.

An Allied convoy leaves Darwin to reinforce Timor.

16 February 1942

Heavy air attack forces the Allied convoy to turn back and return to Darwin.

18 February 1942

The Allied convoy arrives back in Darwin.

19 February 1942

8.00am Japanese aircraft (36 Zero Fighters, 71 Dive Bombers and 81 Level Bombers) commence their mission.

9.15am Japanese aircraft are seen over Melville Island and then again over Bathurst Island at 9.35am. Warnings are sent by wireless but are misinterpreted. Allied Catalina aircraft are attacked and Bathurst Island airstrip is strafed.

9.58am Japanese aircraft drop the first bombs and commence their attack on Darwin Harbour and the city surrounds.

12noon Second wave of 54 Bombers attack the Darwin RAAF Base area.

More information

For further information contact the Community Events Coordinator

08 8930 0300

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