NORTHERN TERRITORY SPECIAL RECONNAISSANCE UNIT
Squadron Leader Donald Ferguson Thomson was seconded from the RAAF to the Australian Army to train a special task force of about fifty tribal Yolngu men from East Arnhem Land to defend the coastline of northern Australia from Japanese attack during World War 2. They were called the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit (NTSRU). They covered the territory north of the area patrolled by the Knackeroos. Their role was to provide Darwin with an early warning of a Japanese attack through East Arnhem Land. They were each paid 3 sticks of tobacco per week. If the Japanese had landed they were to carry on with a guerrilla war against the Japanese using their traditional weapons. Some of these tribal men had been jailed before the war for killing Japanese pearlers.
Sqn/Ldr Donald Thomson, an Anthropologist, made the first of several visits to Arnhem Land in 1935 where he travelled extensively to study the wildlife, people and customs of the area. He had lived with Djapu people for two years before the war and had gained their trust. He had a strong belief these men would make a valuable contribution to the defence of Australia.
On the 5 August 1995, Wirlima Mununggurr, Clan Leader of the Djapu Group, dedicated a War Memorial at Yirrkala, in the Northern Territory in memory of the Yolngu men who served in northern Australia during WW2. There is an anti-aircraft gun and five flag poles near the memorial. It is located in a park near the beach.
N.T.S.R.U. 1941 - 1943, Yirrkalla Literature Production Centre, Yirrkala, 1992 (has anyone got a copy of this?)
"Mamals and Fishes of Northern Australia"
by Donald Thomson
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 9 March 2002
This page last updated 14 January 2020