I have not had anything to do with Legacy since I was a girl, but I felt a strong alignment to Legacy’s vision with the work we do at The Top Ender Tri-Services Magazine and supporting the health and wellbeing of the veteran community. I was thrilled to be accepted as a Torch Bearer for the Darwin route of The Legacy Centenary Torch Relay 2023, however I didn’t realise the historical significance of the path that the relay was going to take. I spoke with Legacy NT President, Scott Perkins, about the significance of the route.
The RAAF Darwin gates provide the first significant location as it was a pivotal point during WWII, still bearing bullet hole scars! Then, heading down Stuart Highway to Ross Smith Avenue. Ross Smith Avenue was the original Darwin airstrip and the set-up for Ross & Keith’s famous flight in 1919 from England. It was also a fighter airstrip during the war - a prominent part of the defence of northern Australia, which is now a park (where the aircraft idled) and the old WWII Qantas Hangar.
The relay included the route from Fannie Bay to Gilruth Avenue, then onto the current location of Darwin High School. The Darwin High School site was originally Vesty’s Meatworks who made Bully Beef, which was sent to the trenches until the end of WWI, and later became the first military barracks for Darwin Mobile Force (our first permanent force in northern Australia) in 1939. Torch Bearers then paid homage to the first burial of victims in the Darwin bombing, as they passed Mindil Beach.
Travelling along Gardens Road, past the old Telegraph Station at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens, then to Daly Street and the Esplanade. On the right as one reaches the Esplanade is Doctors Gully. Doctors Gully was a Catalina (amphibian craft) Base. The Esplanade, which was the site of anti-aircraft gun emplacements, saw a significant number of live rounds shed in the defence of Australia.
The torch travelled past the Cenotaph, the old footy oval and gunning place near Government House, then onto Parliament House as the site of the original Darwin Post Office, which was significantly damaged in the first wave of bombing on the 19th of February, 1942. In this historical location, the cauldron was lit, followed by a small gathering at Parliament House.
Written by Char Carter Community Coordinator The Top Ender Magazine