Tuesday, 6 March 2012

I do not glorify war, but I do recognise that all people respond to their country's call to support their military forces. I am proud to be Australian but I am not going to denigrate countries who have been our enemies in the past. Both my parents were soldiers and both suffered life long from injuries received during World War II. I never ever heard them say a bad word about enemy countries (they must have thought otherwise), and I was brought up to respect all soldiers who behave according to the ethics of their country. My family believes that we can learn from history and that we need to learn history.

On 3rd March the city of Broome in Western Australia commemorated 70 years since the first air raid there during World War II. These matters were kept secret for most of this time as the security of Australia was at threat. During World War II the situation for Australia was dire and to tell the population what was happening would have caused panic. For many years everything from that time was governed by the Official Secrets Act. I have cobbled together some information. The Australian war Memorial has much more.

Broome Air Raid
By February 1942 Broome in Western Australia had become the Australian end of an air shuttle service from Java. Hundreds of Dutch evacuees were brought to Broome in Dutch, American, and Australian civil and military aircraft including the flying boats of Qantas Empire Airways. People waited in Broome for a flight south to Perth.
During the last week of February over 7000 people passed through Broome. On one day 57 aircraft landed there.
On 2nd March a Japanese reconnaissance flying boat was spotted over Broome at 12000 feet.
On 3rd March the Japanese attacked with nine fighter Zeros. The attack lasted about 20 minutes but was highly effective. The airfield was strafed and 25 Allied aircraft were destroyed. 15 flying boats in the harbour were destroyed. Two Japanese aircraft were lost at sea.
Precisely how many people died will never be known, or even who they were. Many of the Dutch refugees were trapped on the flying boats. 30 passengers and crew of a US Liberator died when it was shot down. Many people were drowned, incinerated, or taken by sharks in the harbour. To this day many bodies remain in unmarked graves. The bodies of the Dutch were first buried in the Broome War Cemetery but were later reburied in Perth's Karakatta Cemetery.


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