Survivor pays visit for first time in 70 years
Survivor pays visit for first time in 70 years

Ignoring her mother's panicked screams to jump into the water as bullets ricocheted around her, 10-year-old Elly Koens sat on the wing of the burning plane and concentrated on untying her shoelaces.

"My mother wanted me to get into the water but I wanted to take my shoes off first . . . I was very obstinate. I hated cold water," recalls the Dutch woman, now 80.

"Mum kept screaming … and the bullets were flying all around. The plane must have tipped a little bit then because I slid into the water."

Elly Doeland (nee Koens) remembers little of what happened next on March 3, 1942, but admits she probably blocked most of the horrific scene out of her mind.

As she swam from the wreck, ducking under water to avoid burning fuel, others around her drowned, were shot dead, burnt or fell prey to sharks.

Her family had just landed in Broome on a Dornier seaplane after fleeing Java overnight and it was among 15 flying boats waiting to refuel in Roebuck Bay as the Zeros swooped.

Among the few able to swim, Mrs Doeland, her brother, mother and father, who was shot in the face and arm, floated for nearly two hours before being rescued.

Until this week, she had not set foot in Broome for 70 years.

It's only now she feels ready to face up to the horrific memories with her husband Frank and two sons at her side.

The West Australian

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