Broome strafing survivors join the Broome Campus for a moving ceremony

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Fall 19-3-2007

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Broome

Publication Place



More than fifty people attended a moving ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the World War II strafing of Broome at The University of Notre Dame Australia Broome Campus library gallery space.

The ceremony coincided with the official launch of the library’s exhibition commemorating the strafing entitled, Australian’s Under Attack.

Among the special guests at the ceremony were two strafing survivors, Lieutenant Commander Doorman (Retired) of the Dutch Navy, and Captain David Sjerp, (Retired) Canberra’s Netherlands Embassy (Army) Defence Attache, Lieutenant Colonel Caro Lefevre and Senior Representative of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Wing, Captain Carl van Hoostert joined the two survivors.

The Kimberley was also well represented with Broome RSL President Peter Blenkinsopp, Broome Shire President Graeme Campbell and members of Norforce and the Broome Historical Society joining the solemn occasion.

More than 100 people were killed when Japanese planes attacked Roebuck Bay on March 3, 1942. In Australia’s second worst air raid, twenty-four aircraft, including sixteen flying boats, were destroyed. Most of the aircraft had just arrived from the Netherlands East Indies carrying refugees who were still on board - among them was a young Theo Doorman.
Lt Cmdr Doorman thanked the University for allowing him the opportunity to open the exhibition, before retelling the events of the fateful day.

“The first sight of Australia was through a porthole when I looked out at Roebuck Bay,” he said.
Lt Cmdr Doorman told how he was playing with some toys when the attack occurred. He said there was a strange ‘clack, clack, clack’ sound and then the plane was on fire.

The young boy was forced to jump into the bay and swim underneath the burning vessel. Upon making it to land he was reunited with his mother.

Campus minister Jill O’Brien sgs led a blessing ceremony which included the lighting of candles by many of the guests. The candles were placed amongst a display of native plants and frangipani flowers gathered to represent the aromas of the Kimberley.

The ceremony was followed later in the evening by a presentation by Charles Darwin University maritime archaeologist, Mr Silvano Jung.

More than 30 people attended the enlightening presentation in which Mr Jung discussed his research into the wrecks which still remain visible in Broome’s Roebuck Bay during the town’s extremely low spring tides.

Mr Jung has written a PH.D thesis on the archaeology of the wrecks and was a technical and historical advisor to both the ABC and National Geographic during the filming of two documentaries about the air raids.