Many of the flying boats attacked in Roebuck Bay on 3 March 1942 were carrying Dutch refugees who had fled Java (then Dutch East Indies) ahead of the Japanese invasion. The aircraft were being refueled in Broome before flying on to southern towns and cities.

Toy tin soldier recovered from the Dutch flying wrecks
Toy tin soldier recovered from the Dutch flying wrecks

It is not known how many refugees were in the flying boats which had left Java in haste, but many were women and children.

This toy, corroded by sea water, was collected from the wrecks after the raid.

This short film clip highlights the experience of Piet Koens, who was a young child at the time of the raid.

Credit: Kevin Gomm, Red Sun on the Kangaroo Paw

Click here for transcript of video

This passport belonged to Sara Koens, Piet’s mother, and was in her pocket when she jumped into the sea from a flying boat.

After the raid, it was fished from Roebuck Bay and returned to her, wet but undamaged.

She continued to use the passport for many years.

Passport of passenger from the dutch planes
Donated by the Koens Family: Elly Doelands & Piet Koens.
Dutch refugee cemetery - Town Beach, Broome
Dutch refugee cemetery - Town Beach, Broome
After the raid about thirty bodies were retrieved from the bay, many others were never found.

Dutch refugees were buried in this cemetery near Town Beach.

In 1950, the bodies were exhumed and moved to the Karrakatta war cemetery in Perth or repatriated to Indonesia.

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