Fantastic info. on the Empire boats on the Tjilatjap/Broome shuttle. I hope, for the record, you can name the owner of the film. There was a 6 mm film of the air raid at Broome, but was given to someone to copy and got lost/destroyed in the process. What a pity. The film, apparently, showed Zeros strafing the aerodrome. I hope this film you have wont get lost the same way. It should be copyrighted and shown in the public domain. I'd buy a DVD for sure!
Here's my take on Circe, from my Ph.D. (2008) thesis on the WWII aviation archaeology at Broome:
''The last two flying boats that Brain had sent to Tjilatjap – Corinthian in command of Cpt Howard and Circe in command of Cpt Bill Purton – left Tjilatjap within minutes of each other on the morning of 28 February 1942. Howard got through but Purton was never heard of again (Fysh, 1968:145).
Circe became the second Empire flying boat lost to QEA since the start of WWII (Photo. 3.2 and Photo. 3.3). The RAAF meanwhile lost an Empire flying boat leased to them from QEA: A18-12 (ex-Coogee) on 27 February 1942 in Cleveland Bay near Townsville (Series number: A705/15. Control symbol: 163/113/177, NAA; Series number: A11083/1. Control symbol: 906/46/P1, NAA). This incurred heavy casualties to crew and machines. Searches from Broome for Circe continued until fading light on the evening of 28 February 1942. Ambrose speculates what might have happened to Purton, his crew and passengers:
Neither was I in a position to fight back when some hours after take-off, ahead and above me on a closing course I sighted a large Japanese military flying-boat. I think they called this type a Kawanisi [sic] and it was probably the larger Martin boat built under licence.
I began taking evading action but the Japanese aircraft had speed and height advantage and, as I reported later to the General [Gordon Bennett], we were extremely fortunate to reach nearby cloud cover … when I cleared this some 90 seconds later, the enemy aircraft was no longer in sight. The Japanese were using this aircraft for long-range reconnaissance and probably had fuel reserve restrictions to consider if he was going to complete a search patrol in the vicinity of Tjilatjap. I’d have been a good one for the pot but not if it meant a long chase…
I knew Bill Purton was on his way from Broome and might well strike the same aircraft on its return, therefore, although committed to radio silence, I felt justified in initiating a private agreement that we would briefly transmit each other’s initials once if contact was thought necessary. Purton immediately acknowledged my brief call and by agreed abbreviations I warned him of the enemy aircraft and the position of the sighting (Ambrose quoted in Fysh, 1968:144).
Circe has never been found, hence, it has never been proven that the aircraft was shot down. Shores et al. (1992b:241) appears to solve this mystery where he records years later that Circe was indeed shot down by Zeros (not by the Japanese flying boat that Ambrose had seen), together with a MLD Catalina (the Y-65), severely damaged and later abandoned. The action also resulted in the loss of a Japanese pilot, NAP 1/C Toyo-o Sakai, who failed to return. The uncertainty surrounding Circe’s loss caused QEA and the US authorities to argue as to who would foot the bill during post war compensation claims for losses (Series number: A6079/T1. Control symbol: M0938, NAA). The US Government eventually paid compensation for the aircraft’s loss, but guilt could not so easily be attributed to a single factor:
It was the disadvantage of a mixed control of our operations in the rush of a hot retreat that cost Purton and his companions their lives-but it was something that just happened in wartime (Fysh, 1968:147).
I'd be surprised if Purton wasn't shot down, given Japanese air superiority at the time. Aviation archaeology may hope to solve this puzzle sometime, if the wreck is ever found.
Dr. Silvano Jung