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Exmouth Gulf bombed



[Late in May 1943 Japanese bombers made two raids on naval installations at Exmouth Gulf, about 700 miles north of Perth on the coast of Western Australia. This was the most southerly point attacked by air during the war, and the planes used in the attacks came from somewhere in the arc of Japanese-held territory immediately to the north of Australia. The War Correspondent of the West Australian reported:]




Ever since the threat of Japanese invasion of Australia became imminent with the fall of Java the West Australian coast, peculiarly enough, has been the quietest stretch of Australian coastline from an operational viewpoint. And yet, apart from the Darwin area, it has been subject to the greatest number of air raids. Wyndham, Broome, Derby and Port Hedland all have been bombed by Japanese aircraft, and the long spell of quiet which followed the raid on Port Hedland on July 30 of last year was shattered by the bombs which fell on Exmouth Gulf on Thursday and Friday nights. The Gulf is about 200 miles south-west of Port Hedland, which up to last week was the farthest point south the enemy had come on the west coast, and about 40 miles south-west of the township of Onslow. Exmouth Gulf is some hundreds of miles north of Geraldton, the most largely populated area north of Perth...

The possibility of a raid on lonely outposts on the long stretch of West Australian coast has not been overlooked, especially as parts of it had come under air reconnaissance at various times - reconnaissance which previously was followed by devastating raids on the unprepared township of Broome. Widespread enemy aerial reconnaissance has been made of parts of the northern Australian coast, and has also come south; while the possibility of reconnaissance by Japanese submarines in the waters of the Indian Ocean has not been discounted. There is possibly support for the belief that the east coast of Australia is not the only section of the Australian coast which may have come under enemy submarine reconnaissance. Aerial reconnaissance is more easily noticed and at various times has been spotted over areas of the North-West.

The first raid on the Gulf, quickly followed by a second, has shown enemy determination to come a long way down the coast if he considers it necessary; and bombs on Exmouth Gulf are a remind of the statement by Mr Forde (Minister for the Army) on his recent visit to the effect that the State was in danger of attack. The Minister stressed the proximity of the State's coastline to islands in the north held by the Japanese, and in addition it has not been forgotten that the enemy is well acquainted with long stretches of the coast because of the Japanese pearl-diving element in towns such as Broome before the war.

West Australian, 24 May 1943


The Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture