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Nell – the Bomber only seen once over the Territory

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Although the Northern Territory was attacked relentlessly by bombers for two years during World War II, one type of aircraft was only seen once.

The Nell made its only foray into Darwin during the back-up raid of 19 February 1942. This attack came around two hours after the original one had devastated the town and harbour. The Japanese already knew they had swept the fighter opposition from the skies – the 10 Kittyhawks flown valiantly by the United States Army Air Force were now wrecks scattered across land and sea – so they anticipated no trouble during this second raid.

Two enormous flights of 27 bombers each swept in over the target, the RAAF airfields. Although one type – the Betty – would become familiar to Darwin AA gunners, searchlight battery men, and defending fighter pilots, the other aircraft was making its only flight over an Australia target. 

Like the Betty, the Nell was a twin-engine bomber, produced by Mitsubishi. They had the same wingspan and height. But the Betty was a more modern and refined aircraft – it climbed faster, had a higher “ceiling”, and was armoured in places, with self-sealing fuel tanks. 

On 19 February 1942, the 54 raiders dropped 32,050 kg of bombs on Darwin and then went on their way. While the superior Bettys would be back on 16 of March and many times after, the Nell would never again darken Territory skies.

​A formation of Mitsubishi G3M Nell bombers. The one closest to the camera has an 800 kilogram bomb slung underneath the fuselage. The circle on top of the aircraft is the radio Direction Finding loop. (USAAF)
​A flight of Nell G3M-26 bombers make their way to a target in WWII. (Public domain)
​Inside a Nell bomber, showing the two pilots. (Public domain)