Gunner Jack DEE

Service No: VX58562 (Australian Army)
Born: Cheltenham VIC, 3 July 1920
Enlisted in the Army: 16 July 1941
Unit: 2/14 Field Regiment
Died: Air Raid: Darwin, 19 February 1942, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William and Ethel Dee, of Carnegie, Victoria
Roll of Honour: Carnegie VIC
Remembered: Panel1, Northern Territory Memorial, Adelaide River NT
Remembered: Panel 15, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Gunner Dee was already ill and aboard HMAHS Manunda and it is not clear whether he died as a result of the air raid or from his existing illness.

There was great destruction in the harbour. One bomb hit the jetty near the shore end, shattered an entire span, hurled a locomotive into the sea, killed a number of wharf labourers and left some marooned on the jetty’s seaward end. Many ships were soon hotly beset. Anti-aircraft fire from ships mingled with the army fire. Oil took fire on the water. At 10.15 the Chief Officer of the hospital ship Manunda looked round and saw what had happened . . . . The wharf was burning near its inner end; Barossa and Neptuna at the wharf both appeared to have been hit and Neptuna appeared to be on fire. Zealandia, about 500 yards away, was on fire. British Motorist was sinking by the head. Meigs was on fire and sinking aft. Mauna Loa was down by the stern with her back broken. Tulagi was nowhere to be seen. Portmar was in trouble . . . . On the naval side a Catalina flying-boat was ablaze, an American destroyer [actually the tender Preston], ablaze aft, went dashing across our bows, missing us by inches and steering with her engines. Another American destroyer [Peary] was on our port side, a solid mass of flames with burning oil around her and what was left of the crew jumping into the burning oil.

Army machine-gunners from Stokes Hill (the site of the oil storage tanks near the jetty) fired steadily. They engaged one bomber which dived straight at the tanks. The pilot missed his aim and inflicted only minor damage—on two tanks.

Damage to the town itself was caused mostly by fifteen large bombs. The hospital was hit and the Administration offices, police barracks and post office were shattered—the last named by a direct hit which disrupted all telephone communications and killed the postmaster, his family, and the girls at the switches. The raiders broke away at about 10 .30 a .m. and the “all clear” was sounded at 10.40 a.m. But just before midday the 54 bombers from the Ambon bases arrived, pattern-bombed the airfield and set a seal to the destruction the carrier aircraft had caused.

The raiders sank eight ships in the harbour and destroyed two near Bathurst Island (the Florence D and Don Isidro which were setting out to try to run the blockade into the Philippines); three ships were driven ashore but later salvaged; ten other ships were damaged . Twenty-four American and R. A.A.F. aircraft were destroyed and two were damaged. Probably about 250 people were killed and some 320 others received hospital treatment for wounds. The attackers were definitely known to have lost five aircraft and five “probables” were claimed by the defenders.

Extract from McCarthy, D. (Dudley) South-West Pacific Area – First Year, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1959 – Pages 70-1

The Australian Army members killed were:

Corporal Robert John Bevir (NX65289)
Sister Margaret Augusta De Mestre (NX70211)
Gunner Jack Dee (VX58562)
Corporal Roy Stewart Gardiner (VX129388)
Captain Boyns Hedley Hocking (VX68883)


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record B883, VX58562

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