Flyingboat wrecks, Broome Australia.

Flyingboat wrecks, Broome Australia.

Postby Wbirdnut on Thu 31 May 2018, 10:45 pm

Not sure where this fits so put it here and please excuse me from getting
a bit carried away and turning this into a bit of a once upon a time type
story. This little “quest in the west” has been a bit of a dream come true
for me as I have been interested in flying boat stories wherever they may
have occurred for many years.

My wife an I have been interested in visiting this part of our country for many
years. The opportunity finally arose and after the long flight from Sydney via
Perth we made it to Broome in the north western tip of Western Australia.

The small remote coastal town made many people wealthy on the back of
the pearling industry, which still exists today. I am a fan of history and
Broome perhaps holds the story of Australia’s most dramatic and tragic
aviation related events.


In the early days of WW II the Japanese advanced their way south through
Asia towards the island nation, many europeans escaped via whatever means
available. An obvious method of escape by air, fights to Perth often staged
via Broome with an airstrip and the protected waters of Roebuck Bay for
flying boats.

A memorial and Japanese gate looking south out over Roebuck Bay.

On the morning of 3/3/42 fifteen flying boats were moored in Roebuck Bay,
five Dornier D024s, eight Catalinas and two Empire Class flying boats.
At around 9.30am nine Mitsubishi A6M.2 Zero fighters of the 3rd Kokutai
(Aircraft Group) arrived over Broome. All fifteen flying boats as well as a
number of land planes and other installations where destroyed. It is believed
around 80 people where also killed or lost at sea, the exact number to this
day has not been verified.

Broome Museum collection.

The local museum has a number of artefacts and photos from the event.

A water colour of a sinking Dornier with a Pearl lugger taking off passengers.
Broome Museum collection.


Dornier engine.

The remains of a Bristol Peagasus from one of the Empire Class boats.

We timed our visit to coincide with a lowish tide, .94m at 5.45pm. The tides
in the area can be some the most dramatic on the planet, on 25/6/17 the
variance was from .9m to 9.45m! I had make some local enquiries and
was told the tide wouldn’t get low enough to view the wrecks at the time
of my visit. In retrospect I believe to locals discourage walking out to the
wrecks so as people don’t get caught out by the rapidly moving water!
Armed with a bit of determination and my trusty Canon I set off across
the mud flats to seek a flying boat wreck!

Firstly came across some man made structure which didn’t look like a flying
boat, correctly deduced it was part of the old jetty which no longer exists.

It was quite a hike through sticky mud to the waters edge, had to wade in
places through at times knee deep water. I bumped into a couple of airline
pilots who where also pretty keen so we teamed up. Initially heading west
towards the setting sun, with both the light fading and the tide about to turn
things were’t looking too promising. Gave up on the western search retraced
my steps east, then off in the distance I spotted a dark line! On getting closer
I discovered my quest in the west, obvious remains of a wrecked aeroplane.

This is the remains of RAF Catalina FV-N, looking south west towards the coast.

In the foreground the starboard engine, the exhaust looking from underneath
the rest of the engine buried in the mud.

Standing in front of the port engine, you can see very clearly where the front
turret would site towards the left front of the image.

A little mystery, how did the starboard engine end up off to the port side?
A number of reasons I guess, maybe it exploded and was thrown that way
or perhaps the tidal movement had moved the fuselage?

Sometimes you just get lucky, there are a couple of hovercraft that do tours out
over the mud flats, right when I was about to leave this chap showed up, off to
the right you can just see some wreckage of another flying boat.

Even luckier, not sure if the pilot/skipper put her in front of me I am grateful
if he did! Again off in the distance to the right you can see another wreck.
Now sorry about the following but I simple can’t help myself. “A wrecked
flying boat with a boat that flies.”

An informative PDF with information about the wrecks.

Tight shot of Hovercraft.

Plaque in main st

At the airport one of the Dornier engines and props.

Looking down onto Broome on our flight out, Roebuck Bay below, the town
which is divided by it's airstrip, under the wing towards the right is where the
wrecks are located and that's the Indian Ocean at the top.
Last edited by Wbirdnut on Sat 02 Jun 2018, 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Flyingboat wrecks, Broome Australia.

Postby tuska2 on Sat 02 Jun 2018, 6:50 am

A fascinating story, coincidentally one I recently learned of. That's a great report, and I always reckon there is no substitute for walking the ground of historic events even when there may be little or nothing to see, although your hard work and planning clearly came up trumps in this instance! The Japanese raids on Darwin were pretty dramatic and destructive too, having not been to western Aus or Darwin I haven't any local knowledge, and this side of the world,events
that side have tended to be overshadowed, so any more stuff you can post would most interesting! Another Flying Boat piece of history, which I'm currently reading, only just discovering it, is "The long Way home" concerning the return of A Pan Am Boeing 314 from NZ back to the states at the start of Japanese
hostilities. to hopefully avoid attack and loss of these valuable assets they returned via SE Asia, top of India, Middle east, West Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean,
all in secret, no pre-planning, unknown fuel/maintenance stops, no modern Nav aids, some 34k miles! Keep up the good work mate!

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