Tasmanian veteran Ronald Jones recalls being caught in Darwin Bombing

HISTORY OF SERVICE: Ronald Jones served in the Royal Australian Air Force, and experienced his fair share of conflict across the Pacific. Picture: Paul Scambler
HISTORY OF SERVICE: Ronald Jones served in the Royal Australian Air Force, and experienced his fair share of conflict across the Pacific. Picture: Paul Scambler

A fresh-faced 17-year-old Ronald Jones had one dream - to fly.

It was that ambition that led the now-veteran to the doorstep of a military university at Point Cook, Victoria, and later, to his deployment during World War II with the Royal Australian Air Force.

Seventy-five years after the declaration of victory in the Pacific and Mr Jones still remembers his time in the force mostly with fondness, despite being caught up in one of the most significant events in Australian military history.

"I arrived in Darwin at 3pm and at 4pm, we got bombed," he said.

The Darwin Bombing, also known as the Battle of Darwin, occurred on February 19, 1942, and is regarded as the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia.

Japanese aircraft attacked the town, ships and the two airfields in two separate raids, which resulted in many casualties.

Mr Jones had arrived in Darwin as part of his deployment as a third engineer, whose responsibility it was to ensure weight and ballast on military aircraft was at the correct levels.

He said being caught up in the fighting and bombing had "never bothered him" and he takes the experience in his stride, even decades later.

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"It was no worse than being anywhere else really, you just had to watch your step, and be a bit more careful," he said.

Mr Jones' role in the air force was as an engineer, but he also had other responsibilities to weigh on his mind.

"Basically, I was a third engineer, which meant I was the top," he said.

"If anything happened to the captain of the second officer, I had the authority to take control of the plane."

Mr Jones said his time in the air force had allowed him to see many things and go to many places, something he would always cherish as an opportunity to see the world.

He said some of his missions included Sydney and Queensland along with Pacific islands including Borneo, Indonesia and New Guinea.

Mr Jones said his deployment to the islands of the Pacific was where he had experienced most of the skirmishes during the war.

"They sent me to New Guinea and we came up to the northern part of the island and started bombing the mountain ranges," he said.

 SERVICE RECOGNISED: Max Christmas, Don Bayles, Marie Brearley Harry Reeves and Ronald Jones at the service. Pictures: Paul Scambler

SERVICE RECOGNISED: Max Christmas, Don Bayles, Marie Brearley Harry Reeves and Ronald Jones at the service. Pictures: Paul Scambler

"I saw a lot of fighting in New Guinea."

He said he still remembers clearly where he was the moment the message came through that the Allied forces had won in the Pacific, also known as VP or VJ Day.

"I was at the headquarters in Borneo, I remember exactly the moment when the war ended," he said.

At the end of the war, Mr Jones boarded a ship back to Australia, and while he said he wasn't treated well while on board, he was excited to return back to his home country and move on with his life.

He participated in the VP Day march in Sydney, then spent three months in a hospital recuperating, before moving to Tasmania.

He said he moved to Tasmania to establish a paper mill and spent a large part of his post-war years dedicated to that dream.

"When we moved here I was busy with my own business. I wanted to establish a paper mill but we didn't have any workers, I had to drive in these posts in the ground to build it and didn't have anyone to do the work. We had to hire farm labourers to help us," he said.

Mr Jones was one of six World War II veterans who were recognised with commemorative medallions from the federal government at a ceremony at the Launceston RSL last week.

This story 'I was in Darwin for an hour when the bombs fell' first appeared on The Examiner.