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Civilian Evacuation

Prior to the Bombing

Fearing a possible invasion of Australia there had been a slow exodus of people from Darwin in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbour and the Japanese push south the war cabinet decided it was time to evacuate any women (except nurses who would be critically needed) and children. There were a little over 1000 women and just under 1000 children.

The 'President Grant' was one of the main vessels with the 'Koolinda' leaving later for Perth. Some aircraft were also used with the last vessel leaving just 4 days prior to the raid and the last plane only the day prior.

Lionel McFarland's wife Win traveled on the Koolinda with 2 year old Gloria and infant Leslie along with her sister in law Eva Sack and her 14 year old son Charles. Only a few hours notice was given and luggage was limited. When she did return most of the family possessions had been stolen. Lionel was the only policeman to stay in Darwin for the duration as driver and assistant to Judge Wells after military control was established and other police withdrawn.

After the Bombing

Many residents expected that the bombing was a softening up and destruction of defences in preparation for an invasion which Darwin was just not prepared to resist. There was also a great deal of conflicting advice being given to people with some military and police sources saying that there was going to be a complete evacuation. By lunch the 'Adelaide River Derby' as it became know was in full swing and all manner of vehicles were pressed into service. Seeing that a complete loss of civilians would reduce the towns capacity a policeman was stationed at the fuel depot to prevent vehicles refueling for the trip but by this time many had already left. Military personnel were stationed to turn back essential workers and to recruit others for military service.

Immediately after the bombing there was an attempt to evacuate all remaining women and police and air raid wardens began a round up of all remaining women (except nurses) and children for a train organised for the afternoon.

The story is recounted in 'Patrol Indefinite' by Sidney Downer

Also see 'Bush Justice' by Ron Brown and Pat Studdy-Clift

Evacuation (National Archives)

*research the passage of the Koolinda in Northern Voyages. Near misses

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