Darwin and many other areas in the north came under regular bombing attacks from Japanese forces, beginning g with the first invasion on 19th February, 1942. This date is important because it marks the first time that the Commonwealth of Australia came under direct attack from an enemy force.
When you visit Darwin there are hundreds of World War II relics. The best place to understand what happened when the invasion occurred is at the excellent Darwin Military Museum. However, to fully understand and the human suffering it is worthwhile visiting the Adelaide River War Cemetery, which is located 114 kilometres south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway.
Adelaide River was the headquarters of a large base and the Adelaide River War Cemetery was created especially for the burial of servicemen and women who died in this part of Australia.
It has a serene location just over one kilometre off the highway, directly opposite the Adelaide River.
The grounds are immaculately maintained, and there is an eerie calm about the place. I have visited the cemetery a number of times and even when the cemetery is busy, as school and tour groups often visit, you can still find solitude as you amble along visiting the graves.
Inside the cemetery there are 434 burials, comprising 14 airmen of the Royal Air Force, 12 unidentified men of the British Merchant Navy, one soldier of the Canadian Army, 18 sailors, 181 soldiers and 201 airmen belonging to the Australian forces, and seven men of the Australian Merchant Navy.
Often you will find flowers, or flags and even photographs that have been left by family members. That one tiny Canadian flag flutters in its corner of the cemetery, as a reminder that war does affect people of many nations.
The War Cemetery adjoins the Adelaide River Civil Cemetery, in which are buried 63 civilians, including nine Post Office workers who were killed on 19 February 1942, as a result of a direct hit on the Post Office by Japanese bombs.
Thirty-one Aboriginal people are among the dead who lie in that part of the cemetery.
Visit the Darwin Military Museum before going to the War Cemetery, as there will re-live the last moments of many of the individuals who are now at rest in the cemetery. To know beforehand of the fate of those who now lie at Adelaide River really does add meaning to your visit.
Adelaide River is an easy one hour drive from Darwin, and there are various tour companies which include the war cemetery as part of their itineraries.