Seventy-five years on
On 19 February 1942, Darwin was bombed in the largest single attack by Japan on Australia. The first of more than 100 air raids on Australia,
which included further attacks on Darwin, Broome, Townsville and Port Hedland over the next two years, this attack involved 242 Japanese aircraft, in two separate raids, targetting the town, the 65 ships in Darwin’s harbour and the town’s two airfields. Nine ships were sunk, including the USS Peary and HMAS Mavie, and an estimated 243 people died in the raids, although this figure is disputed, with claims of up to twice that number. A recent song by Garth Porter and Colin Buchanan, “When the first bombs fell”, captures the key events of that day.1
The hospital ship, HMAHS Manunda, was damaged despite prominent Red Cross markings, with 12 members of the ship’s crew and hospital staff killed and 19 seriously injured. Despite the damage and casualties, Manunda acted as a casualty clearing station for injured personnel from other ships. Major Clara Shumack (Matron Shumack) was awarded the Royal Red Cross for her exceptional devotion to duty during the attack. Manunda sailed late on 20 February with casualties onboard for Fremantle.
HMAHS Manunda was originally built as a coastal passenger vessel in Dalmuir, Scotland. Finished in 1929, she sailed between Australian ports until she was converted into a hospital ship in Sydney in early 1940 and entered service as HMAHS Manunda on 22 July 1940. The general hospital based on board was commanded by Lt. Col. John Beith, and staffed with members of the Australian Army Nursing Service. Between November 1940 and September 1941, she served in the Middle East and Mediterranean before being dispatched to Darwin. After Darwin and refit, she was based primarily in Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea, where she acted as a floating hospital for the Allied forces and made 27 voyages from Milne Bay to Brisbane and Sydney to transport wounded troops. During the war, she carried approximately 30,000 casualties to safety.
Our first issue of 2017 addresses a range of diverse areas. Mental health resilience, risk of suicide in homeless veterans and diagnosis of depression
in female veterans is addressed in three excellent articles. There is also a focus on clinical governance and occupational health, with articles and letters
to the editor looking at these areas. Finally, there are two interesting historical perspectives, one on logistics in the Falklands war and another on the
Army Malaria Institute.
We continue to get a good range of articles, but other military and veterans’ health articles are always very welcome and we would encourage all our readers to consider writing on their areas of military or veterans’ health interest. Our themes are now available for both 2017 and 2018 to allow for authors to research and develop their articles – we certainly welcome articles in these areas but welcome any articles across the broader spectrum of military health. We would also encourage authors who are preparing to present at the AMMA Conference in October to consider writing up their presentations early for publication in the Journal.
Dr Andy Robertson, CSC, PSM