Eighty-one-year-old Dr Noel Kentish will never forget the last time he saw his father.
“The memories are very vivid because I promised Dad I would look after mum,” Noel said. “I was just six years old… and I remember him farewelling us on the beach at about midnight… I promised I’d be strong and brave and look after mum – until we could all be together again.”
His father, the Reverend Leonard Kentish, was the senior Methodist Missionary in the Northern Territory and was in charge of the local coastwatchers during the Second World War. Noel was being evacuated from his home on Goulburn Island with his mother, Violet, and two younger sisters, Elaine and Claire, after the bombing of Darwin in 1942.
“The bombing was the 19th of February, and we left in the March,” Noel said. “Dad was trying to get in touch with his regular report to [naval base] HMAS Coonawarra. He wasn’t getting through, so he called one of his colleagues on one of the other islands, and asked, ’What’s happening with Darwin?’ They said, ‘Haven’t you heard? The place was almost cleaned up this morning.’ And he had no idea until then, and that was just after midday, which was when he did his regular report.