In 1942, as the Japanese swept across the Pacific, they invaded the Netherlands East Indies, now Indonesia. When defeat became inevitable, many Dutch pilots escaped to Australia. They became the foundation of a unique air force squadron that played a significant role in harassing the Japanese for the rest of the war. This is their story.
Many of the Dutch pilots and civilians who escaped the Japanese made it to Broome, the largest city on the north-west Western Australian coast. Broome, being some 800 kilometres from Timor, which was now occupied by the Japanese, seemed to be a safe harbour. It was not to be. The Japanese spotted the large collection of aircraft and fitted nine Zeroes with long-range fuel tanks, enabling them to make the 1,600 kilometre round trip. They arrived at Broome at 9.30 a.m. on 3rd March 1942, and promptly inflicted a wave of destruction. A hundred Dutch and Australians were killed. Many more were injured.
The raid shocked and angered the Dutch and the Australians. The Dutch airmen were determined to form their own bomber squadron, and take the fight back to the Japanese, to both defend Australia and to liberate their homeland.
The 18(NEI) squadron was formed at RAAF Canberra on 4 April 1942, under the operational command of the Royal Australian Air Force. Most of the pilots were Dutch, while most of the ground crew and gunners were Australian.
The American-built Mitchell B25 bomber has been called the finest war plane of all time. The Dutch had ordered 162 of them before the war began, through the Lend- Lease programme, but they hadn’t yet been delivered. When they did arrive in Australia, they proved to be the squadron’s workhorse for the rest of the war.
This film tells the extraordinary story of the blended family that was 18 (NEI) Squadron. It also invites viewers to delve into the wider Pacific War through the exploits of the B25s and the men who flew them, and to experience the memories of veterans who still recall the years when The Netherlands was the Fourth Ally.