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Did naval officer bring down Toyoshima’s Zero?

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A naval officer who may have brought down the Zero fighter which crash-landed on Melville Island on 19 February 1942 has died in Brisbane.

Lieutenant Frederick Sydney Sharp, known as Syd, was stationed at East Point on the Port War Signal Station facility, which checked shipping in and out of the harbour, during the first air raid on Darwin.

He was in an ideal position to take a shot with his rifle at low-flying Zeroes as they exited the area on their way back to the four aircraft carriers that had launched the raid. When two Zero fighters appeared, he fired.

"The first one I wasn't quite ready for but, by gee, I was for the second one," Mr Sharp said.

"I'm certain to this day that I hit it."

A bullet from a .303 rifle was recovered from the wreckage of the Zero which was brought down by Petty Officer Toyoshima, who was later captured by Matthias Ulungara, to whom a statue will be unveiled on 24 June 2016.

Toyoshima was one of the leaders of the famous mass breakout of Cowra Prisoner of War Camp, and died in the attempted escape.

In Darwin, with a lack of supplies, Sharp and other personnel relied on local resources for food including shooting wildlife and constructing a substantial fishing net to take advantage of the large tidal flows. During his career Syd also flew with RAAF Lockheed Hudson and USAAF Mitchell bombers as a naval observer over the Timor Sea.

Post-war Syd remained in the Navy as a Reservist, and worked in the insurance industry. He was a keen yachtsman who sailed in several Sydney to Hobart races.

The wreck of Toyoshima’s Zero can be seen at Darwin’s Aviation Heritage Centre on the Stuart Highway.

Lieutenant Frederick Sydney Sharp
Port War Signal Station in 1939 - the Loop Hut is on the right; in the centre is the Officer's Quarters and behind that the Rating's Mess & Dormitory. Some traces of these buildings still remain at East Point. (Indicatorloops.com)
Port War Signal Station staff on Xmas Day 1940. Syd Sharp is third from right front row. (Indicatorloops.com)