Brother who tried to warn Darwin dead

Northern Territory pioneer, Missionary of the Sacred Heart Brother Ed Bennett, who worked for the famous Kidman cattle empire in his youth, and who attempted to warn Darwin of approaching Japanese bombers in 1942, is dead at 95.

The ABC reports that Br Ed Bennett first came to Alice Springs in 1936 and helped set up the Charles Creek Mission.

He then went to Melville Island and set up the Mission at Garden Point.

It was there in 1942 that he saw the Japanese planes passing over on their way to bomb Darwin, but his warning to the Government radio relay on the island was ignored.

On February 19 1942 the first wave of Japanese aircraft flew overhead on their way to bomb Darwin.

"I could see the heads of the pilots, they were so low," Br Bennett remembered.

Br Bennett later told historians that he was with the resident coast watcher, John Gribble.

Br Bennett said that he urged Gribble to send a warning. Gribble refused to do so, saying the message would have to be sent in code, and he did not have the necessary code books. Despite Br Bennett's urging, no message was sent, the Darwin city website says.

Another missionary Fr John McGrath on Bathurst Island did radio Darwin, an incident portrayed in the recent Baz Luhrmann movie, Australia. It seems that this warning was ignored because it could not be confirmed.

Brother Bennett earned a name for himself supplying remote coastal communities in a lugger he got from shipwrecked American sailors, but his longtime friend Bern Kilgariff says it was his quiet service that set him apart.

"The people in Territory are going to miss him, because although he was so quiet, he was an achiever," he said.

Brother Bennett spent his final years in Alice Springs.


'Quiet achiever' Brother Ed Bennett dies (ABC News, 18/12/08)


Brother Ed Bennett (ABC)

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart

Darwin: The Bombing


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