If you've ever walked through the Adelaide River War Cemetery then you have visited one of the finest graveyards in Australia. It has a special ambience and seems a fitting resting place for the 434 service personnel buried here. A civil section lies adjacent to the military graves and contains Post Office staff killed in the Japanese bombings on Darwin as well as 31 indigenous casualties. It is the third largest military cemetery in Australia and was established in 1942 at the height of the war.
Adelaide River became the Australian and American headquarters following the bombing of Darwin but it's history stretches all the way back to the discovery of the Adelaide River mouth by crewmen of the 'Beagle' - the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his famous voyage of discovery in 1837.
The Overland Telegraph Line, which ran from South Australia to Darwin, brought the first workers to the area and a settlement was established. The No. 1 Depot for the O.T.L. was 15 kilometres south of Adelaide River. When O.T.L. workers discovered gold at Pine Creek the town sprang to life. A rough bark-clad eatery was was built followed by 'The Q.C.E. Hotel' in 1894. QCE stood for Quiet, Comfort and Ease.
Adelaide River became a major crossing for travellers and mining supplies when the wet season caused the rivers of the top end swell. A wrought iron rail bridge was constructed in 1888.
In 1939 with World War 2 looming the town was chosen by the military as an army farm, growing and delivering supplies to the troops fighting the Japanese to the north. The military town had dwarfed Adelaide River and a 1200 bed hospital, abattoir, cold stores and fuel depot were in service 2 years later. Adelaide River also served as a rest area for active personnel. The township was bombed by the Japanese Imperial Forces on 12 October 1943.
For all it's long history and war service Adelaide River wasn't declared a town until 1962. Today it is home to about 240 residents and is serviced by a Remote Health Unit, small primary school, the hotel and several fuel stations.
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