Don Isidro, one of the lesser known stories of World War II in Darwin, has been brought to life in a new display at the Defence of Darwin Experience, coinciding with the launch of an app for historic warsites.
Built in 1939 in Kiel, Germany, for the De La Rama Steamship Company, Don Isidro was charted by the United States Army as a ‘blockade runner’ to carry food and supplies to General Douglas MacArthur’s men who had retreated from the Japanese forces to the Bataan Peninsula and the island fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay.
On 12 February 1942, Don Isidro sailed from Jakarta and headed east along the top of northern Australia, hoping to remain undetected. On 18 February, she was spotted by a Japanese plane and attacked. Heading for the relative safety of Darwin Harbour, the vessel was bombed and sunk on the 19 February 1942 off the Tiwi Islands by the Japanese strike force sent to bomb Darwin.
Today, the remains of Don Isidro lie in shallow water off Rinamatta Beach, half way between Cape Fourcroy and Cape Helvetius on the western side of Bathurst Island.
Marcus Schutenko, director of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), said this piece of Australian history "deserves recognition", with the new display featuring items recovered from the wreck of the vessel.
"The display features original items from MAGNT’s collection recovered from the wreck of the Don Isidro before making it protected under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, making it illegal to disturb the site or remove material," Schutenko said.
"Sunk: the story of the Don Isidro provides a rare opportunity for the public to see the objects."
To coincide with the opening of the display, MAGNT has launched an enhanced Defence of Darwin Experience app with information, photos and stories from heritage sites within Darwin and along the Stuart Highway, including: Wagait Beach gun emplacements, Bathurst Island historic precinct, No. 1 Medical Receiving Station, B-24 Liberator aircraft crash site, Batchelor Airfield and Anti-Aircraft Battery, Adelaide River Township and Berry Springs.