When the Japanese bombed Darwin on February 19, 1942, the damage was devastating – but the silence was deafening.
News of the shock attack was limited and most Australians were oblivious to the death and destruction on their own shores.
In this week’s episode of In Their Footsteps on Sunday, July 3, at 6.30pm on Nine we learn of Les Semken, a man who didn’t need a newsreel or radio to know what happened – he saw it all unfold first hand.
As a civilian contractor working at Darwin aerodrome when the bombs fell, Les was so incensed that he enlisted in the Army the next day. This was a major turnaround for Les, who until then had no interest in joining up. Now the war had suddenly become very personal.
Nearly 70 years later, Les’s granddaughter Kathryn is also on a very personal mission: to learn about the war that came right to her grandfather and to Australia. Kathryn knows that at 90, Les won’t be around much longer to tell her the story himself about the fateful moment that changed his life and shaped the destiny of his family.
This is a tender tale about a 25-year-old woman taking time out from her busy life to learn the lessons of an elder; to understand the history that moulded her grandfather at much the same age. It is a war story about the wisdom of elders and the galvanising experiences of our youth.
In Their Footsteps: Sunday, July 3, at 6.30pm on Nine