Dutch–Australian Connections in World War II

This resource has been generously supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Australia, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Dirk Hartog on the West Australian coast in 1616.

1. Australia was raided by the Japanese approximately 100 times in World War II. Have students research:

  • What were the main targets for Japanese attacks and why?
  • What aeroplanes were used by the Japanese?
  • What contributed to the success of their attacks?
  • What were the consequences of the Japanese attacks in Australia?
  • How did the Japanese attacks change Australia’s participation in WWII?

 2. In March 1942, Java in the Netherlands East Indies was attacked by the Japanese, prompting a hurried evacuation to Broome, in the north of Western Australia. Henk Hasselo was a Netherlands East Indies pilot in World War II, who became a co-pilot of a Dornier plane evacuating people from Java to Broome. However, Broome wasn’t the safe haven they had hoped. 

Have students independently listen to 10 minutes of Henk Hasselo’s Oral History (Session 2, from 01:00:09 through to 01:10:00), as he recounts the bombing of Broome.

When listening to his story, students should try to ascertain: 

  • How did Henk know that the plane was a Japanese Zero?
  • Where was he sitting when he saw the planes coming?
  • What did he do when the planes started to attack?
  • What was Henk’s injury during the attack?
  • Who was swimming in the water? What did Henk do?
  • What exactly were the Japanese attacking?

Henk’s interview is a primary source. Encourage students to locate other primary sources about the bombing of Broome, using the catalogue of the National Library of Australia, and collections in other keeping places such as the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia.

3. During the Bombing of Broome, another Dutch pilot, Gus Winckel was at the airport with his plane. He was able to successfully return fire in the Japanese attack.

Using Trove, task students with finding and reading articles that appeared in newspapers in the days after the bombing of Broome, including the story of Gus Winckel. In accessing these secondary sources, students should think about: 

  • Why do you think the exact same information is repeated in some articles?
  • Where did the original information come from?
  • How do you think information changes when published in a newspaper?
  • How would the war affect the information being published in newspapers?
  • How do primary sources (such as Henk’s interview) differ to secondary sources, in their ability to convey what actually happened that day?

4. Students will have also encountered a range of identities, who experienced first-hand, the bombing on 3 March 1942. Choosing one real-life identity discovered in their research (such as Henk Hasselo, Gus Winckel, and any of the eye-witnesses encountered in the newspaper articles), have students write a modern-day letter as that person, to their grandchild. They should not only recount events of that day, but write about how life has changed because of their experience, reflecting on their own life, and also how Australia changed as a result of the attack.

The Case of the Carnot Bay Missing Diamonds

1. Show students, the primary sources in the collection of the National Library of Australia, relevant to the case of the missing diamonds at Carnot Bay. Using Trove, have students research the event, and in doing so, have them identify a list of facts and evidence that they know about the case to be true.

2. Students can then write an account, arguing for one particular theory about what happened to the diamonds at Carnot Bay. They should identify the various other possible scenarios and give reasons as to why each other theory is not plausible. They should make specific reference to the evidence available to them in writing their account.