In the aftermath of Tracy
by Tony Ryan
I was enjoying my Christmas break on the banks of the Macquarie River in Dubbo when a local constable called "Are you Sgt Ryan?"
I thought he must have had some bad family news, but his news was that Darwin had been blown away (news which I had not heard at that point) and that I was required to report back to my RAAF Squadron, No 36 Squadron, at RAAF Base Richmond NSW.
As most would appreciate it was "Chaos Central", not just in Darwin but at the various places from which aircraft were departing to assist in evacuating Darwin and transporting freight to Darwin. As a C130 Hercules Flight Engineer I, and those with whom I flew, were anxious to assist. Frustratingly we had to await our freight and did not depart RAAF Richmond until the night of December 27th. We flew through the night via Mt Isa to Darwin, arriving early on the 28th. After catching some sleep in the Hercules (parked up on the Bomber Readiness Area we departed for Sydney loaded with evacuee's. The utter devestation was akin to how Hiroshima and Nagasaki looked after the A bombs were dropped.
Over the following several weeks we flew to and from Darwin constantly. Our loads to Darwin were varied and our loads south were always interesting, our passengers appreciative of our efforts.
Darwin, through the effects of Tracy and the rebuilding which followed, was changed forever. I have visited Darwin on numerous occasions since Tracy, most recently in 2008.
Almost everything has changed and Darwin is now a modern city with much to offer all those who live and visit there, a modern day "Pheonix". I will never forget my involvement in the aftermath of Tracy, a memory which I hold with both pride and awe.