The Second World War brought huge changes to the Broome community. The main industry, pearling, ground to a halt as a result of local men enlisting, Japanese residents being interned, and luggers being requisitioned by the Navy. With the threat of attack increasing, women and children were also evacuated in early 1942.

Evacuation Newspaper Article

While Aboriginal people were evacuated to Beagle Bay Mission north of Broome, other residents were evacuated to the relative safety of southern cities and towns.

Most of the men remaining in Broome were there in a military capacity or as members of the local volunteer defence force.

In this 1942 image, local volunteers pose with machine guns.

Some of the guns used by the force were taken from aircraft destroyed during the March 3rd air raid.

local volunteers pose with machine guns

Broome has been described as a ghost town. The description is only partly true.

Most of the commercial houses and residences are deserted, but all the essential services are being carried on. Post office, electric light, water supply and harbour facilities are functioning, and one store and two hotels are doing business.
Cairns Post, 12 May 1942

Navy crew on a Broome pearl lugger
Photo courtesy Brian & Kim Davis.
Broome has always been a very multicultural town.

Before the war, these mainly Timorese, Chinese and Malay men were working as crew on a Broome pearl lugger.

When the vessel was requisitioned by the Navy in 1942, they continued on as crew.

This model depicts Sun Pictures which began showing films in 1916 and still operates today.

During the Second World War, Sun Pictures was temporarily abandoned when locals were evacuated.

Not long after the Japanese raid, soldier Bill Grey who had a background in motion pictures was deployed to Broome and saw an opportunity.

He and others fixed up the vanadalised building and repaired the projector. Grey later said of the efforts:

Model of Sun Pictures
Model made by Robert Logan

To say the weekly screenings were popular would be the understatement of all time, as it didn’t matter how old or corny the (film) was or how many times that it had been screened, picture night was still the highlight of an otherwise boring week.

Personal communication, Bill Grey


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