Her eyes lit up when she saw him, and his heart skipped a beat. She was beautiful with her cloud of dark curly hair and her laughing red lips. She ran into his arms and he hugged her, lifting her from the ground and swinging her around, ignorant of the passing crowd. He’d written her a poem and “The Bulletin” had published it, declaring his love to the world.
It was January 1942 and he’d proposed to her on the bridge which spanned the railway line at Stanmore. Then he was posted to Darwin with the 14th Ack Ack to help defend Australia’s ‘front door’ against invasion.
She wrote regularly, sending him her copies of the ‘Women’s Weekly’ and he waited anxiously for every delivery. At the post office, parcel in hand, he chatted to the postmaster and it was then he heard the approaching storm. Several people ran in from the street crying out in terror that the planes were shooting at them. He hurried outside intending to return to his base.
There were planes overhead, guns firing at the houses and people, and bombs were exploding all over the place. As he reached the street, a bomb fell on the post office, destroying the building and killing all the ten people who had sought refuge in the bunker. The blast punched the wind out of him and hurled him across the street, sending agonising pain through his back, as it slammed him to the ground.
Having never been under fire, he and his contemporaries were ill prepared when the Japanese attacked. The same force which hit Pearl Harbour just two months before, had decimated the small coastal town of Darwin.
They were married that same year on 19th September whilst he was on leave and she became pregnant immediately. His immediate feeling was one of euphoria and it gave him a sense of belonging which he’d not experienced before.
By Margaret Irwin