Bob Alford is the Honorary Consultant Historian to The Aviation Historical Society of the Northern Territory Inc. Bob is a life-member of the Society and the author of “Darwin’s Air Wars”, widely acclaimed as the most authoritative tome on the events leading up to, and beyond, the 19th February 1942 when Darwin was heavily bombed by the air-forces of Imperial Japan.
Bob originally discovered the wreckage of William Hind’s crashed Spitfire in the 1980’s and was most helpful with the research of this story and to William’s family in their quest to visit the crash site in August of 2019. Due to past pilaging, crash sites are now normally never disclosed by the AHSNT. The fact that William Hind’s aircraft was in the Kangaroo Flats Training Area of the ADF has fortunately afforded it continuing protection and arrangements were made with them to view the site.
In an interview with Pacific Wrecks, Bob was asked “what his feeling were about wreckage that remains to this day?”
“My feelings about the remaining wrecks are twofold – as a heritage practitioner I can see both sides. But in having said that, my experience, and those of fellow researchers in the Northern Territory is that wrecks are not disturbed for the purposes of restoration but purely as an exercise in pillaging with a view to either ‘souveniring’ or on-selling the items – or six months later it is thrown away as ‘crap’. We’ve found that if you let someone purporting to be a serious researcher know of a crash site, the following day there will be nothing left and it will be on a truck heading south. Now we tell no-one the locations.”
“For the serious restorers it is a different matter, but even then there have been so many occasions that these ‘restorers’ have come to a brick wall with the project and have then dumped the lot – thus there is nothing to remind us of the story of that aircraft. Or they rebuild an aircraft around a longeron or data plate and call it a restoration. I think the days of pulling wrecks out to restore are very rapidly dwindling as governments can now see the potential for tourism in the sites, but also the public has become much more aware of their heritage.”
“The crash sites themselves tell a story mostly, unfortunately of death, and often, thankfully, of survival. But each has what we call ‘a sense of place’. An excellent example of this is the wreckage of a B-24J “Milady” 42-73134 which crashed west of Darwin in February 1945 killing the crew of six. It was rapidly falling victim to the souvenir hunters until we had it put on the NT Heritage Register and thus legislatively protected. The local government offices took it’s presentation and maintenance up as a project and the NT Government had the site interpreted with assistance of the 380th Bomb. Group Association in the USA. Items previously taken from the site were returned and many people visit the site annually. The very real potential for these sites now is the ever increasing interest in visiting the WWII heritage the Territory offers.”
You can read more about the interview with Bob Alford at the Link below:-
© Pacific Wrecks – Bob Alford: Aviation Historian and Author