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MaSS

stepping stones of maritime history

History

The loss of the X-3 almost has an ironic aspect. An underestimation of the tidal range in Broome saw the flying boat drift back towards Java, after its anchor failed to hold. It was thankfully not carrying any refugees and none of its crew was killed at the time of its loss. It would have been a different story if the aircraft had taken-off, but at the time of the air raid, the machine was evidently taxiing to leave. The account of its loss is related below in the words of its pilot, E.J.H. Smitshuysen (Fig. 6-21; see also Fig. 6-22 and Fig. 23):

Morokrembangan was the big naval airbase near Soerabaya. As [we] were bombed practically every morning by Japanese “Betty” bombers, all operational aircraft were posted to secret locations, on rivers, swamps and lakes.

When the Japanese landed on Java we took off with three Dorniers at midnight from the river at Lenkong on the 1st of March. Flight leader was LTCDR Stegeman. After an 8 and a half hour flight we landed in Broome.

We refuelled on the 2nd of march [sic] and added 10 cans of fuel as we were supposed to cross Australia the next day. The open cans were stowed in the gangway.

When I returned to the bay on the morning of march 3rd, my plane had disappeared. This was due to the tide and the currents. Fortunately, it anchored again in the outer bay.

With a rubber raft I went to the aircraft, along with the two flight engineers.

I had just started the three engines and was taxying [sic] away when all of a sudden a zero dived at me shooting. We were hit and on fire. With the open cans of fuel, we got out as quickly as possible.

We were picked up later by a motorboat.

Finally, as mine was the only flying boat in the outer bay, the conclusion is that the wreckage of the flying boat in the outer bay is that of the X-3 (Smitshuysen, courtesy Weerts, S., pers. comm., 24 January 2003).

The Dornier X-3, from the account above, is most likely to be an outlier in the geographic distribution of flying boat wreck sites in Roebuck Bay. Most of the flying boats are believed to be grouped together, but how far the X-3 taxied from the main group before it was sunk, is unknown. This and the account of the X-1 moving in towards the jetty, are the only references to a flying boat not at anchor or on moorings.

Final flight crew and passenger list X-3:

NoName (Last name/First Name)Date of BirthPlace of Birth

Serial Number

RankOrganisation
1

BOOGAARD J.F.C.M. van der [van den?]

???

LTZV 2

MLD
2GEER H.V. van de??8438SGTVGMRMLD
3KOOREMAN A.??13143VGMRMLD
4KRUGER J.??7738SGTVGMRMLD
5KUIKEN L.C.???LTZV 3MLD
6MAARSEVEEN G. van???MILMATRVGMRMLD
7MENS L.A.??8340SGTVGMRMLD
8MOOYAART E. [MOOIAART?]??22621/DMILSGTWMLD
9SMITSHUIJSEN E.J.H.??13468SGTVMLD
10VISSER J.J.???SGTVGMRMLD
11VROOM Hans J. de [VROON?]??20512

VGTLGMT

MLD

Description

Unknown

Status

The wreck site, together with a suite of another 14 flying boats from the United States Navy, Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and BOAC were lost in Broome during the air raid are protected sites through the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990. It was declared that the Broome flying boat wreck sites were interim heritage places on 20 December 2002 and permanent places on 17 April 2003.

References

Down on 13 April

New in MaSS

Wrecks of Flevoland

Burgzand Noord

13 Provinces