Darwin 1967 to 1971
by John Jenks
HMAS Attack driven ashore by Cyclone Tracey
(Bruce Howard photographs for Herald and Weekly Times)
I served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1965 - 1974. My first time in Darwin was being one of the crew that brought HMAS Attack (Patrol Boat) to Darwin on New Years Eve 31 December 1967. The Attack was the first warship to be stationed in Darwin since WWII.
We sailed into the harbour with many of the town there to see the boat, it was a record low tide and people had to look down to see us. I think they thought we might be the escort at first.
Darwin was a great place no TV just socialising. The hotels used to take turns in late night opening, this was from 10pm to 12am, Wednesday was the Hot and Cold bar Hotel Darwin, I think Thursday was the Fannie Bay Hotel, Friday the Dolphin Hotel and was shared with the Parrap Hotel and Saturday was the Seabreeze Hotel.
The Dolphin Hotel (Nightcliffe) was reasonably new then. I can remember the first night going to the Dolphin we were given a lift by a couple of blokes in a Holden sedan, trouble was there was seven of us the Police pulled us over on the then bumpy Bagot Road as sparks were coming from under the car as we hit a bump.
The driver explained that as we were on the ship we did not have a car and he was doing us a favour, the Police accepted the excuse but added we can't overload the car so half of us hopped in the back of the Police wagon and they drove us there.
I had to leave the Attack through a medical issue I was posted to the Naval Hospital in Sydney later in 1968. I returned again in 1970 and 1971 on HMAS Moresby and 1971 saw that TV was in full swing and the late night hotel gatherings dwindled, Darwin had grown but still a great place.
Late 1974 I left the navy and I was on my way back to the NT to live in Alice Springs as I had work there but as I had leave owing and had weeks to spare we travelled up to Darwin to see friends that had served on the Attack and now also had left the navy they had settled in Darwin.
They tried to talk me into staying in Darwin for Christmas but I said I had a job to go to. I was probably fortunate as that is when Cyclone Tracy hit. I tried to volunteer to come back to help Darwin but was not allowed. I did help the Darwin refugees in the Alice being part of a driver escort service to take the people that drove south to the place to register, I did this after work each night.
Living in the Alice for 14 years I had many visits to Darwin, I used to come up for the dog shows as I used to breed and show dogs those days. I am in Darwin at this present time for the wet season as I am back on the water and we are sailing around Australia, my last visit before this was 1996 and the changes to Darwin between then and now are tremendous.
Darwin is a great place and I have fond memories of the past early days with some of the towns charcters.