Japanese Invasion of Darwin WWII Document for Auction

A mysterious and historically important WWII document regarding a Japanese invasion of Darwin will be auctioned in Melbourne this weekend. Dated 27 March 1942, the document contains a set of orders sent to D Company, 43 Battalion, to defend Darwin from imminent Japanese attack. History has proved that the attack never eventuated and historians have since argued that the threat was highly exaggerated by the Curtin Government as the Japan did not have the resources to sustain such an attack. According to official opinion from Peter Stanley, former Principal Historian at the Australian War Memorial, “there was in fact no invasion plan”. These orders, though, indicate that Australia’s Chiefs of Staff at the time considered Japanese invasion to be a very real threat.

Darwin WWIIThe official written orders specify that ‘the enemy will attempt to land in the DARWIN area in the next few days’ and that ‘THE AREA WILL BE HELD TO THE VERY END’. It includes a breakdown of each Company’s specific duties and details of proposed recipients of the orders.

Though it is believed a total of 14 copies were made, including two intended for the War Diary, this appears to be the only known copy. The document was handed to Captain William Rait, stationed in Darwin at the time, who has kept it in his possession for almost 70 years. He recalls that, at the time the written orders were issued, on a Friday, he was also given verbal instructions to “expect Japanese troops by Monday morning”. According to Rait, his company was a militia unit with only limited training and ammunition and would have been unable to repel a significant Japanese attack.

Captain Rait rose to the rank of Wing Commander and is now 100 years old and living in a nursing home in Victoria.

The document is part of a collection of militaria to be auctioned at the Hawker Hurricane MK IIA, Military & Aviation Collectables auction on Sunday 27 September 2009. This is the first time a copy of this historical document has come up for auction, it is estimated at between $1,000 – 1,500, but Bonhams & Goodman specialists believe it could achieve much more.

“This is a fascinating document which is particularly significant as, surprisingly, the Australian War Memorial has confirmed that they do not hold a copy in its collection. It provides further insight into this critical period for Australia during WWII” said Giles Moon, National Head of Collectables.