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Alice Springs RSL Club

Children - Explosion: bomb or accident
Overview | When the Soldiers Came | Explosion: bomb or accident | Life as a Child in the Outback

One of the major incidents that happened during the war years in Alice Springs that was remembered by the children was the explosion at Akbar Kahn's. For months and months the children had been practising their drills at school in case of an air raid attack by the Japanese. There was a real fear of a bombing raid on Alice Springs because it was so important militarily. It was where the troops were gathered together before they were trucked north and would make a very attractive target for any attacking Japanese planes. While everyone knew that bombs and bombings were very dangerous, many of the children just couldn't resist the opportunity to find out exactly what was happening.

Around 1939-41 - Alice Springs
Looking south/south-west from ANZAC Hill (Image courtesy of Carr-Chinner Collection, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory)

I was at home, the fire went up at Akbah Kahn's place, we were only a few doors away. Johnny Kraft and I were together as usual, so down we went and there were all the other kids standing around watching chooks getting cooked. There was a hell of a bang and the timber started raining down around us, broken - you know, broken up bits of wood and everything. We all took off. I went one way and Johnny went another way and a bit of steel went through Johnny's eye. He was heading for home on his hands and knees, someone came along and picked him up and took him to the hospital. The story was that they walked out of the Stuart Arms pub and there were a couple of hawks flying around and they thought that it was the Japs and they'd bombed Alice Springs. I know my parents were coming in through the hills and the smoke was going up in Alice Springs and they thought Alice Springs had been bombed too. There were sheds down the back and there were Aboriginal ladies there washing the clothes and they had the fire for the copper and it got away into all the wooden boxes and crates and got into the shed. That's the story I heard. Old Louis de Bois, he got killed. He knew stuff was in the shed and I believe he was trying to get some of it out and he was just going through the door when the explosion went up.
Roland Hall, Oral History

The explosion was just an unfortunate accident and not deliberate in any way, and was in no way related to the war, but the residents of Alice Springs were constantly aware that their town was a potential target so the explosion caused more than one child to believe that they were being attacked by the Japanese.


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