The weather outside the Kangaroo Flat RSL earlier this week could have been mistaken for that of a mild day in Darwin.
Inside, barely breaking a sweat, was 95-year-old Bill Hosking.
More than 70 years have passed since he defended Darwin during the Second World War. But his memories haven't faded.
Mr Hosking can tell you all about the long journey through to the top end. He still remembers the train that took him part of the way.
"The steam locomotive was made in Glasgow in 1895. I had a look at it," he said.
Today's Weekender delves into Mr Hosking's memories, ahead of the 78th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin.
LEADING Aircraftman William John Hosking could hear the Japanese dropping bombs near his base during the Second World War.
The bombs had a distinctive sound.
"They rustled through the air," Mr Hosking said.
He and his fellow Royal Australian Air Force Number 4 Repair and Salvage Unit servicemen were camped out just over the hill, about one and a half miles from their aircraft inserts and workshops.
"Our camp area was not on the Japanese bombing list, but the workshop area was, as it was close to the airstrip," Mr Hosking said.
"We were always at our slit trenches."
It was not unusual for the air raid hooter to sound the alarm during the early hours of the morning, "always about 1.30am or 2am".
Mr Hosking defended Darwin for nine months as a teenager.
He was about 75 miles south of Darwin when the Japanese attacked on February 19, 1942.
Almost 200 Japanese aircraft were sighted shortly before 10am, and it wasn't long afterwards that the first raid started.
Two air raids were launched on the city that day, involving more than 260 Japanese aircraft in total.
Hundreds of people died, and the attacks caused extensive damage to the city, its port and the R.A.A.F aerodrome.
Mr Hosking said he and his fellow servicemen knew something had happened.
But it wasn't until their commanding officer called them all together after lunch that they were told Darwin had been bombed.
"One of our first jobs was to travel by truck to Darwin R.A.A.F. wrecked air base and strip anything useful or that could be repaired from wrecked aircraft at the base," Mr Hosking said.
Darwin was subjected to 64 air raids between February 19, 1942 and November 12, 1943.
Mr Hosking said the Japanese would do reconnaissance by day, and bomb by night.
The work Number 4 Repair and Salvage Unit was doing became "quite critical" as the air raids went on.
The unit was helping keep aircraft serviceable. Mr Hosking said it was tasked with servicing multi-engine planes, "such as Lockheed Hudsons, Beaufighters, B-25 Mitchells, De Havillands, and later, B-24 Liberators."
Number 4 Repair and Salvage Unit also "picked up" downed Japanese aircraft.
The pressure on both the unit and the aircraft was intense.
"One Beaufighter was made in England to last 40 hours of flying... we were doing 100-hour inspections on it," Mr Hosking said.
"Our Commanding Officer, squadron leader William 'Bill' Bradley, proposed that we work a seven-day week to keep up with maintenance and repairs.
"Someone came up with a three 'S' program - S for Sunday, S for Sabbath, S for Stand down."
Mr Hosking said the triple S slogan started to appear around the workshop and camp area, written in white chalk.
"Our Commanding Officer smoked a pipe, which he always kept in the glove box of his car," he said.
"One morning during the week a Commanding Officer's parade was called and everyone had to attend.
"Someone had, with white chalk, written inside the lid of the glove box in the Commanding Officer's car the three S's - S for Sunday, S for Sabbath, S for Stand down.
"We all received a severe dressing down."
Just as he can still remember the dressing down, even on the cusp of his 96th year, Mr Hosking can point out the major landmarks in a photograph of Pell Field, where his unit was based.
"You never forget it," he said of his service in the Second World War.
During those years, he saw both an aircraft and a truck engulfed in flames and heard the truck's driver screaming for mercy.
One of Mr Hosking's early memories from training was being tasked to salvage instruments from a training aircraft that had crash landed and burst into flames, killing both the instructor and the trainee.
"The half-burnt parachutes were still in the plane, with all the bodily fluids that had run into them," he said.
"I was a bit horrified at the time, but it was nothing to what I would face later in the R.A.A.F."
Mr Hosking remembered seeing the aftermath of a fully-loaded bomber failing to launch.
He said a bombing operation was leaving the base when, "suddenly we heard an almighty explosion."
"We all rushed out to see what happened."
The B-24 Liberator had failed to take off and instead continued along the ground, crashing into the trees at the end of the runway.
"It was fully loaded with bombs and fuel. There were nine blokes in that plane who would never go home," Mr Hosking said.
He became involved in the R.A.A.F Air Training Corps as a 17-year-old.
Mr Hosking applied for the R.A.A.F when he came of age to register for military service, "as required by the government".
"I was not told that because of my eyesight I was unsuitable for air crew," he said.
An opportunity presented itself later in his service, after the front in Europe opened, to become an air gunner.
"I chose my former mustering in the ground staff as I had seen what happened to air gunners when our bombers returned from operations," Mr Hosking said.
He did, however, learn to fly as part of his R.A.A.F training.
"I did quite a lot of work on Lockheed Hudson aircraft. They had a Sperry Rand Hydraulic automatic pilot in them.
"There was only one place to test the auto pilot and that was in the air, flying. I learned to fly Lockheed Hudson aircraft with a qualified pilot showing me what to do. He got it up in the air and landed it.
"Our Commanding Officer was very insistent that we fly in aircraft we repaired," Mr Hosking said.
He has been back to Darwin numerous times since defending the city during the Second World War.
Mr Hosking has also helped care for veterans, especially his fellow Darwin Defenders, throughout the years as part of welfare and veteran support roles.
Organisations he was involved in included the Kangaroo Flat RSL and the Darwin Defenders Committee Bendigo and region.
Mr Hosking plans to attend the Bombing of Darwin annual remembrance service the Bendigo District RSL is staging on February 19.
The service starts at 9.30am in the RSL's memorabilia garden at Havilah Road in Long Gully.
The R.A.A.F Association Bendigo Branch meets on the first Thursday of the month, for 10 months, at the Bendigo District RSL.
Membership is open to former air force personnel and their relatives.
Association president Ray Gray said new members were welcome to call him on 0418 325 621 for more information.
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