A New England history hunter has made the surprise discovery of a long-forgotten ship's bell with a connection to the bombing of Darwin.
Tamworth resident Ray Minter can't remember whether he picked up the ship's bell from the World War Two Australian hospital ship MV Manunda in Toowoomba, or Newcastle.
But he definitely remembers the reason why he got it.
"It was after talking to my uncle, he got injured in the Soloman Islands during World War Two. They buried him four years ago, he still had the shrapnel in his body that he got there," he said.
"He mentioned he was on a boat called Manunda, and when I saw this sitting on that stand that rung a bell to me, that's why I bought it."
Despite being a marked hospital ship, Manunda was targeted and badly damaged by the Japanese during the bombing of Darwin.
Dozens of the ship's crew were wounded and 12 killed in the raid on February 12, 1942. It was used as a casualty clearing station for civilians and soldiers wounded in the devastating attack.
Mr Minter said the small bell still has an inch-long split down the size, which he speculates was caused during the raid.
He's owned the historic item for over four decades - he thinks since about 1976 - but forgot about it until a month ago.
"I wish my uncle were alive now, I'd show it to him," he said.
Asked how he forgot about it his explanation was simple:
"Have you got everything that you put away 40 years ago, and you know where it is?"
Mr Minter said he'd be willing to lend the historic relic of history to the local RSL, but wants to keep it as a keepsake most of the time. It wouldn't be the first historic item he has lent to the local branch. His century-old Snider rifle is the oldest weapon in the club.
The ship survived the bombing, and was refitted after a journey to Freemantle without the aid of navigation equipment, in a feat that won Captain James Garden the Order of the British Empire, and went on to transport about 30,000 casualties throughout the war.
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