75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin, when on the 19th Feb 1942, the Japanese raided the top end, bombing all infrastructure so that the allies no longer had a close base to SE Asia.

Recently for a Uni course we were asked to write a short historical fiction story about a family member and I chose my Pop and his time during the air raid. Many details from the story were taken from interviews I recorded with him in 2008.
You can read more about his time in Darwin with the Army in this post.

georgeww2The Darwin Air Raid

Heat radiated off the metal oil tanks that his earth-anchored Lewis gun protected, forcing him to wipe the sweat from his brow every few minutes. George had been in Darwin just 6 weeks as part of the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Battery, sent there from Perth after rumours abounded that the Japs were going to invade Australia. But so far it had all been training exercises, croc hunting and the pilfering of tinned lobster from the Yanks to supplement their meagre rations.

George turned his gun northward to give his bare back relief from the morning sun. Sitting high up on the hill, the sea breeze was a relief from the tropical humidity.
The view was incredible. Battleships gleamed in the turquoise harbour, a vivid reminder that he was indeed in the middle of a war. Black dots hovered on the horizon. Must be the Yanks returning from Singapore, he thought.

“Mate, wanna swap?” his good friend Ron panted behind him, struggling up the path. “I need some fresh air.”
George agreed, quickly heading down to the gun at Stokes House. The tanks were a prime target and he was glad to be off them.

The palms by the Harbour Master’s house provided cool shade and George propped up his feet on the giant gun, hoping to get some shut-eye.
Suddenly, the boys from the Quarantine battery started firing. George jumped two feet in the air. Those black dots weren’t the Americans. This was it.
The Japs were coming.

An air-raid siren sounded, but they were already aware of the enemy’s advance.
As soon as the planes came within range, George started firing. The large gun rocked violently in his hands, reverberating through his body. But the bullets seemed to have no effect, the planes were flying too high. Glistening specks fell from the planes like confetti. Bombs!
Large columns of water exploded in the harbour. Workmen on the jetty ran back to the shore but a bomb hit their path sending bodies into the water.

gunner

George turned his attention back to the sky, directing his gun at anything in the air. He was soon out of bullets. Jumping out of the shallow trench he legged it across the foreshore, explosions echoing in his ears. A plane came in low firing its gun at his heels. He switched directions, trying to avoid the gunman’s crosshairs. Looking back, the plane was so close he swore he could make out the Jap’s face in the cockpit.

Reaching the safety of the scrub, he hid under the spiky leafed canopy of a pandanus palm. George tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, ensuring he couldn’t be seen from above. He wrapped his bronzed arms around his knees attempting to quell his shaking legs.
What if the Japs landed? The place could soon be swarming with them and his rifle was back with the gun at Stokes House. He’d be a goner. George grabbed a large rock from the base of the tree and held it close.

The ground shook and an almighty sound filled his ears. George threw his hands over his head as his heart pounded against his chest. Moments passed and summoning all his courage, he crawled through the brush towards the harbour. Planes continued to fly overhead and the smell of burning fuel lingered in the air. Peering through the dried leaves of a dead branch, he could see the source of the explosion. The oil tanks had been hit. A giant, black cloud swelled skyward, flames reaching after it.

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In the distance, George spotted Ron and the other boys running down the hill, their tattered clothes singed. A wall of fire prevented their escape and they were forced to jump off the cliffs into the sea. Scrambling in the harbour they trod water until a Navy boat could pick them up, one of the fortunate few that had escaped the bombing.

Sooty smoke billowed from what looked like a hundred chimneys in the harbour. Large splinters of timber littered the water near the jetty.
Still attached to its mooring, the cargo ship Neptuna, had sustained serious damage and was already lurching at an unnatural angle. Minutes later, as crew jumped from the bow, fire from the bombing reached the depth charges in the ship’s cargo hold and exploded, showering the harbour with debris.

Thoughts wandered to his mates and a sense of dread filled him. Who had survived, or worse, who hadn’t?

George opened his eyes, wet with emotion. He looked down to see his scrawny hand etched with age, enveloped in the young hand of his granddaughter. His wife and daughter looked on in awe at the man they had never, ever seen shed a tear.

“There were five of them, burnt head to toe. Ron was my best mate. They all survived… but he was scarred for life.” George tried to keep talking, but the Parkinson’s had taken all of his words for the day.
“The newspapers called them The Burns Boys,” his voice rasped. “I… I went to visit… next day… I.”

His daughter Diane handed a box of tissues around. “I’ve never heard that story before,” she said, putting her arm around him.

George managed a smile. He had always felt that the soldiers in Darwin never really got the recognition they deserved. The memories brought up a lot of emotion he’d long kept at the back of his mind. But George wanted his story known and was glad someone wanted to hear it.

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The History of Photography in Perth

To tell the history of Perth photography involves a little history about the art of photography itself. The thought of capturing an image had been around for a few hundred years, with even a fictional tale detailing an accurate developing process in the late 1700’s. But the 1820’s was the pivitol point when photography as we know it came into crude existence through Frenchman, Nicéphore Niépce. It was his associate Louis Daguerre who later used a polished silver plate covered with silver iodide and exposed it to light through a camera lens to invent the Daguerreotype process, that was the first to be commercially introduced in 1839.

1853ssevansIt took 7 years for the first known ‘Daguerreotype Artist’ to visit Western Australia, when Robert Hall visited Perth, staying for a few days at Mrs Leeder’s Hotel. He charged 1 Guinea for a photo with a frame or £1/ 5s for a photo in a pressed tin, ‘Morocco’ casket, thus restricting his patronage to only the most wealthy colonialists. Unfortunately none of his captures have survived.

Being a remote outpost on the other side of a busier east coast hindered the amount of photographers who visited Perth and it wasn’t until the 1850’s that permanent studios started to pop up. New Yorker, Samuel Scrivener Evans appears to be the first in 1853 when he opened a Daguerreotype Gallery at the Castle Hotel in Fremantle before later moving to Perth. None of Evans’ photos appear to have survived either.
Evans was followed in November 1857 by the Duryea Brothers of Adelaide, working from St George’s Terrace and later Hay Street, charging 10s/6d per sitting and Frederick Herbert who set up shop in Howick Street, Perth.
They were quickly followed in August 1858 by a Mr Curtis setting up business from his home at Bazaar Terrace, Perth. Continue reading

Fremantle Memoirs – Growing Up In Freo

Sally’s Memoirs
 Sarah Agnes (Sally) Hundt (nee Mocken)
 provided by her daughter Robyn

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Sally with her mother

I was born on a bright summer’s morning according to my mother’s autograph book, July 19th, 1921. Ten pounds in weight and named Sarah Agnes. According to Mum she told Dad to name me Hazel Rosemary but Dad, who till the day he died I’d never seen affected by liquor, got drunk with his shipmates on the way to the birth registry, couldn’t remember Mum’s names so named me after his eldest sister and his mother. I was always and still to this day, called Sally.

My Grandmother lived on the corner of Nairn & Market Street and we lived in a cottage on Collie Street, no. 22, now an estate agency.
In those days, 1921-1941, all around Collie, Nairn, Essex and Marine Marade, there was a polygot of nationalities, Italians, Yugoslavs, Portuguese, Germans, English, no Asians – white Australian policy was enforced then I believe. There was a Japanese laundry in Bannister Street and two Chinese fruit & vegetable shops in South Terrace though.

An Italian family, named Vinci, lived in 20 Collie Street and when they moved the Gumina’s came to live there. In 23, a Greek family named Anastas lived, in 26, another Italian family, the Rottendellas – red headed or as the Italians say titian headed. No. 26 is now a restaurant.

Next door to my Gran in Market Street was a wonderful Italian lady, Mamma Migliore. Mamma had seven sons and always yearned for a daughter. When she eventually had a daughter after 17 years the daughter was stillborn and Mamma died. Tony, one of her sons, was a very dear friend of mine till he died a couple of years ago. He was born a month after me and we always kept in touch through the years.

Mamma spoilt me rotten, always when I came down to Gran’s from Boulder, inviting me into dinner where huge servings of spaghetti was put in front of me and much pinching of the cheeks and ‘mia bellos!’ was the order of the day. Continue reading

Bringing a Bit of Colour to the Past

Hand-coloured or tinted photos have always been around since there have been photographs to colour. Sometimes it’s just a hint of a tint and in the more blatant efforts it looks more like the result of Homer Simpson’s makeup gun set to ‘whore’

It’s hard to forget that the ‘olden days’ were full of colour and many a curious person looking at black and white photos has wondered “What did it really look like!?”

Over the years I’ve become self-taught in a number of computer programs but the one I have the most fun with is Adobe Photoshop. Combined with my interest in genealogy it wasn’t long before I starting figuring out ways to use old and historical photos. I started hand colouring (I figure I can still use the term since my hand is on the mouse!) some old photos in the family albums and was quickly hooked. Sometimes the end result could blow your mind as you flick back and forth from the original image.

Lately I’ve been colouring historical photos that have been popular on the Facebook group Lost Perth,  widely successful in Western Australia where people having been digging up old photos of Perth’s yesteryears and posting them online for everyone to reminisce over.
My favourites are pre-1900 images. The further back the date of the photo, the harder it can be to imagine it in realities hue.

The first hand coloured photo that I posted was an image of the Old Men’s Depot that used to sit on Mounts Bay Road, right on the river. It’s such a beautiful image with all the elderly men relaxing by the foreshore and black swans swimming about.  It’s not the clearest image and quite grainy, not ideal for colouring but it was a favourite that I really wanted to bring to life.

mens depotOld Men's Depot - Mounts Bay Rd, Perth c1900

It was a bit hard to make it resemble reality due to the graininess but I think it turned out alright.

The next photo I chose is one of the oldest landscape photos of Perth and shows the Pensioner Guard Barracks just after they were built in 1865.
This was a popular choice as the Barracks were demolished in the 60’s with only the arch remaining so while the arch is a Perth icon, not many really knew about the Barracks as a whole.

Pensioner Guard Barracks, Perth  c1865

Pensioner Guard Barracks, Perth  c1865

In fact I coloured this photo twice. The first time I only had a cropped version and it wasn’t until I applied to the State Library of Western Australia for a hi-res copy of the original, that I saw all the wonderful things happening on the sides. On the left is a woman holding a baby. Another woman rests on a grassy mound. On the right are two boys tending their sheep, while a girl stands at the gate to her house. Three other children are also playing nearby.

Some commented that they’d love to buy a print so I applied at SLWA for reproduction rights and can now sell these as photo prints or on a canvas in a variety of sizes.

More painted photos to come!

A Tribute To My Grandfather

One of the biggest achievements of my life was being able to tell my 93 year old Grandfather, George Lockett, who his biological father was.

George sadly passed away on 15 June 2013, aged 94 and 1 month, after developing pneumonia. Having survived the infection the previous year, this time his frail body just couldn’t recover.

Since his death, I’ve been filled not with sadness, but with a sense of celebration. I was starting to feel a little guilty about it until I realised that I wasn’t the only one grappling with this conundrum. Of course I will miss him, and I am sad that I won’t see him again, but he had such a great and fulfilling life surrounded by such a loving family that my mind decided to remember the life lived instead of the life lost.
*Although when the Bugler played the Last Post at his funeral, I bawled my eyes out. But who doesn’t cry upon hearing that?!

George didn’t believe in the afterlife, but he always said he hoped to be proven wrong, and in completing a little family deal we have going on regarding its existence, I could actually feel his hand stroking my hair during the moment of reflection in the middle of the service. After a few seconds of contemplating what it was, I understood and smiled.
My Uncle, a firm non-believer later recalled that he got a tap on the shoulder when there was no one around him.
Actually prior to this, he’d been on a plane flying to Perth for the funeral when a woman seated near him lent over and said “You’ve lost someone close to you, but they say they’re ok, they’re happy and they’re in a better place.”
Creepy!

The funeral was mentioned by many to be the best they’ve ever been to. I’d created a media presentation to be played during it and I was a little embarrassed when it received a very loud round of applause. I’m sure anyone outside would have been wondering what on earth was going on in there!

So for posterity, I uploaded it onto YouTube. If you watch it, I hope you enjoy it and make sure to turn the volume on! Makes it much more worthwhile!

Trove’s Newest Digital Newspaper Additions

Yesterday I decided to check out the latest newspapers that have been added to the Trove website – one of my favourite site’s for researching Australian Family History, to find a massive 54 newspapers have been added, mostly for New South Wales and Victoria but the sole newspaper added for Western Australia is one that I’ve always hoped to search through.

The Herald, which is a still a current day newspaper for Fremantle, is now available on Trove, thanks to the City of Fremantle Library, with editions from 1867-1886 currently available.

After a quick search I found a great article about a Great-Grand Uncle, Luke Tonkin, who allegedly had been involved in an assault on another man.

I was hoping to find something on my GGGreat Grandfather, John Foss Tonkin, but couldn’t find anything substantial, I’m hoping later editions will turn up something for him.

But for now I get to know Uncle Luke a little bit better…

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My Pop, The ANZAC

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George Lockett

George Lockett, my Mum’s father, my Pop, was born in 1919 in Edmonton, England being the result of a short lived WWI tryst between his mother Eva-Rose, who was working as a nurse at a British Forces military camp, and an Australian Soldier, John (Jack) Scott. That story in itself is an interesting read!

Eva-Rose’s father made her put George up for adoption and a then childless couple adopted him before  eventually moving to Australia under the Government Group Settlement Scheme.

He enlisted in World War II with the Australian Army in May 1940 and did initial training at Swanbourne Barracks in Perth before being posted to Rottnest Island to dig trenches.
In late 1941 he headed to Darwin to protect Australia from the Japanese who were steadily heading south. George was listed as a Gunner with the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Battery, aka ‘The Ack-Ack‘ who had the job of shooting at the Japanese planes from giant guns positioned in the ground. Continue reading