On Tuesday 3 March, 1942 Broome experienced the first of four Japanese air raids it would face during the Second World War. During the raid 24 aircraft were targeted and destroyed, including 15 flying boats that were sitting in the bay having stopped in Broome to refuel.

Broome attacked by Japanese Zero fighter planes
Photograph courtesy Collection Netherlands Institute of Military History
Bombing of dutch flying planes
Photo courtesy Mervyn Prime

Inflicted by nine Zero fighter planes, the aerial attack began at 9.30am and lasted an hour.

This image was taken from a Japanese ‘Babs’ reconnaissance aircraft, which accompanied the fighters and gave instructions regarding targets.

It was all incredibly quick.

I suppose the whole attack was over in 20 minutes. Those eight fighter planes tore round at a terrific speed, dived one by one on their objectives, and the rat-a-tat of their machine-guns was followed by a spectacular display of fireworks.

They left a trail of smoke behind them and set fire to everything they hit. In a few minutes the whole harbour was covered by a pall of thick, black smoke, through which it was impossible to observe what was going on.

Witness Marjory ‘Biddy’ Bardwell (The West Australian, 10 March 1942)

This model is of a Dornier DO.24 flying boat, five of which were destroyed during the attack on Broome.

The Dornier could transport up to 40 people.

While the death toll remains unknown, it is believed that at least 89 people died during the raid, including American, British, Dutch, Indian and Japanese military personnel and civilians.

Dornier Plane
Dornier model plane built by Bill Gordon, Donated by Charlie Carters, Broome

Today during extremely low tides, the wrecks of six float planes can still be seen in the sands of Roebuck Bay.

These sites are protected under the heritage act.

Dutch flying wrecks

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