Remembrance Day: SwanCare Bentley resident recalls WWII trip from bombed Darwin aboard MV Koolama

Remembrance Day: SwanCare Bentley resident recalls WWII trip from bombed Darwin aboard MV Koolama
Remembrance Day: SwanCare Bentley resident recalls WWII trip from bombed Darwin aboard MV Koolama

HAZEL Lancaster was just eight years old when she and her mother were evacuated from Darwin to Perth in the heat of World War II.

It was in the dead of night on a covert ship, keeping the young family out of sight from enemy fire.

Now 85-years-old, Mrs Lancaster still vividly remembers the journey by boat aboard MV Koolama down to Perth, and how passengers were ordered to remain silent.

“Even the babies had to be stopped from crying as there was a Japanese submarine in the waters that was looking for us,” she said.

It was a bittersweet arrival for Mrs Lancaster and her mum, who arrived safely, but heard the news of Koolama being bombed by Japanese aircraft on its return journey, sinking just off Wyndham port.

Mrs Lancaster’s father had driven her family to Darwin from Perth two years earlier after she was struck down with diphtheria for 10 weeks and the family’s doctor suggested they move to a warmer climate to improve her condition.

Her father worked at the airport and the family settled into tropical life, establishing friendships and connections.

Their great memories made the news of the February 19, 1942 bombings all the harder to take.

Many of her neighbours and classmates were killed during the campaign.

“I was incredibly shocked and saddened when I heard that Darwin had been bombed,” Mrs Lancaster said.

“The loss of all those lives was absolutely tragic.”

Remembrance Day holds great significance Mrs Lancaster, now a resident at SwanCare’s retirement village in Bentley.

Residents at SwanCare will commemorate Remembrance Day by observing the traditional minute’s silence at 11am, wearing red poppies and attending local Remembrance Day services.

SwanCare chief executive Graham Francis said Remembrance Day was a significant day for the many residents whose loved ones, family members and friends served their country, as well as those who have childhood memories of what life was like during the war years.

“Our Bentley community will be marking Remembrance Day as usual this year, commemorating the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in service of our country during war,” he said.

“We will always remember them.”