Broome at war

Broome Advertiser
Neil Manson, Bill Hall and Jack Peterson man a Browning .300 at end of Broome Jetty in 1942.
Camera IconNeil Manson, Bill Hall and Jack Peterson man a Browning .300 at end of Broome Jetty in 1942. Credit: Brad Atkinson

Community organisations have banded together to host commemorative events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Broome air raid.

On the morning of March 3, 1942, nine Japanese Zero fighters and a reconnaissance plane swooped down over Broome, killing an estimated 88 people and destroying 22 Australian, Dutch and US aircraft. The World War II air raid on Broome is the second-greatest wartime loss of life on Australian soil.

To mark Friday’s solemn occasion, the Shire of Broome has collaborated with the RSL Broome sub-branch, Kimberley Squadron NORFORCE, St Mary’s College, the Broome Historical Society and other community representatives.

Three free public events will be held at Broome Civic Centre this Thursday as part of the event, called Reflections on the WWII Air Raid on Broome, from 2pm to 4.30pm.

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Author John Thompson-Gray will present Broome’s Great Diamond Theft 1942.

Australian Sikh Heritage Association’s Tarun Preet will present Flying Officer Manmohan Singh and Sikhs in Australian Military History to give a fascinating insight into the life of Sikh pilot Singh and his role in the Broome air raid.

Manmohan Singh, son of Dr Makhan Singh, was born in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, in September, 1906, and was one of the first Sikh aviators.

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Singh joined the Indian Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a pilot officer. He was in a Catalina at the time the Japanese Zero fighters attacked the flying boats in Roebuck Bay on March 3. He is thought to have survived the shelling and explosion but tragically drowned in the ocean.

This event will be followed by the screening of Tom Poederbach’s documentary Cramerus, the story of military pilot Pieter Cramerus, the only living survivor of the Dutch DC3 shot down at Carnot Bay.

The film will be introduced by historian and former Broome resident Dion Marinis.

A memorial service will take place at 8am at Bedford Park this Friday and the community is invited to attend.

Special guests will include family members of the victims and survivors of the air raid, and representatives of the Australian, WA, Dutch, US, Indian and Japanese governments.

The service will include a performance by St Mary’s College and conclude with a flypast by the RAAF’s No.79 Squadron.

This will be followed by a post-memorial service gathering at Broome RSL. Everyone is welcome to attend. Special guest, RSL WA chief executive John McCourt, will also be in Broome .

In the afternoon at 4pm, the Broome Historical Society invites the community to a special unveiling of a Dutch military uniform of WWII Broome air raid survivor, Lieutenant Simon Koens, donated by Koens family.

Mr McCourt said the significance of commemorating the 75th anniversary of the raid could not be underestimated.

“To pay homage to those who perished, to honour those who defended Broome and to never forget the horrors of war is most important,” he said.

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