Excerpt from an interview with Gladys Joyce, 1997 - asset 3 - (TLF R4150 v1.0.0)
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image icon Excerpt from an interview with Gladys Joyce, 1997 - asset 3

Excerpt from an interview with Gladys Joyce, 1997 - asset 3
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is an excerpt (approximately 2 minutes) from a 1997 oral history interview with Gladys Joyce, in which she relates memories of her time as a secretary to Prime Minister John Curtin from 1941 to 1945. In particular, she recalls receiving news of the bombing of Darwin in February 1942.

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Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset refers to the bombing of Darwin by Japanese planes on 19 February 1942 - Gladys Joyce, who was employed on the secretarial staff of John Curtin (1885-1945, Prime Minister 1941-45) shortly before he became Prime Minister of Australia in October 1941, recalls how she was with Curtin in Sydney and received the news of the attack via a secret telephone in the Commonwealth offices; she recounts the shock and fear of hearing how 'The ships were coming down like that - the list of the ships that were sunk in the bay'.
  • This asset suggests the devastation Darwin experienced due to raids by Japanese fighters and bombers - on 19 February 1942, over 260 enemy aircraft twice attacked the port and shipping in the harbour, killing 252 Allied service personnel and civilians; subsequent raids in April, June, July and November 1942, and March 1943, were carried out by groups of 30 to 40 fighters and bombers, and other smaller-scale raids by groups of under a dozen Japanese aircraft also took place; on 12 November 1943, Darwin was bombed for the 64th and final time.
  • This asset reveals the perilous situation in Australia in early 1942, after the entry of Japan into the Second World War - Japan had launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on 7 December 1941 and Australia had reacted by declaring war on Japan; within 24 hours, the Japanese offensive through South-East Asia began, and on 15 February 1942 the British colony of Singapore, seen by many as the last bastion between Australia and the advancing enemy, fell to the Japanese; Darwin experienced its first air raids on 19 February, while Broome and Wyndham were bombed on 3 March; many Australians feared an outright Japanese invasion.
  • This asset reveals something of the security measures in force and the nature of the secretarial work in the Prime Minister's office in the war years - Joyce recalls how secret messages were received and sent in the Commonwealth offices in Sydney in a little room 'about the size of a telephone box' that had a teleprinter to receive secret cables and a secret phone; after receiving the messages, staff would type them up for the Prime Minister and others to read.