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Background image- B24 on Broome Airfield, Australian War Memorial

Broome Flying Boats 1942

On March 3rd 1942 nine Japanese Imperial Navy "Zero" fighter aircraft attacked the small town of Broome that was used as a refuelling point for allied seaplanes. The raid occured at a time when allied aircraft were evacuating personnel and refuges during the invasion of Java by Japanese Forces.


During the air raid the Japanese fighters succeeded in destroying all but one of the operational military aircraft located in Broome at the time. This included 15 flying boats at anchor in Roebuck Bay, 7 aircraft at the airfield, a Dutch DC3 over Carnot bay and an American B24 Liberator which was shot down 7 miles out to sea off Cable Beach. The B24 has never been relocated.

The attack lasted an hour with only light resistance from the ground forces stationed in Broome. The lack of defences at the time allowed the Japanese fighters superiority throughout the attack and they succeeded in attacking the airfield, destroying 7 aircraft and sinking 15 flying boats at anchor in Roebuck Bay.

Tragically the Dornier, Catalina and Short Empire flying boats in Roebuck Bay were occupied by Dutch civilian refugees that were being evacuated from Java at the time.

Approximately 80 men, women and children, many of whom will never have their identities known, lost their lives on board the sunken plane wrecks; five of which are exposed on spring low tides on the mud flats off Broome's Town Beach. The 15 sunken wrecks lay scattered on the edge of the mudflats descending into a deep water channel a kilometre from the local boat ramp. On spring low tides, five of the flying boat wrecks can be accessed on foot.

During the attack, further north, a Netherlands DC 3 was shot down over Carnot Bay north of Broome carrying refugees and a box of diamonds said to be worth 20 million dollars in today's currency. On inspection of the wreck site nothing could be found of the valuable cargo but nearby a seal of the Dutch Embassy from the box was found discarded on the nearby beach.

Read more on the Ozatwar page:

Photo: Gordon Birkett via

Australian War Memorial: 051743 copyright expired

Photo: Geoffery Goodall via:

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