Eden Thomsen, second from left, in a scene from the ABC telemovie Croker Island Exodus.
Eden Thomsen, second from left, in a scene from the ABC telemovie Croker Island Exodus. Contributed - ABC TV publicity website

Telemovie re-enacts a remarkable Australian wartime story

AN incredible story of courage and endurance from the Second World War is finally coming to light thanks to a new telemovie.

The ABC's Croker Island Exodus tells the story of Margaret Somerville, a missionary who helped to evacuate 95 Aboriginal children, including a four-day-old baby, from a remote island 200km north of the Northern Territory coast.

Croker Island Exodus - ABC1 - Tuesday at 8.30pm

But their boat journey to the mainland was just the beginning of an epic, 5000km-trip to Sydney by truck, train, canoe and even on foot.

After the bombing of Darwin, the women and children had to make landfall at Barclay Point and travel south via Katherine and Daly Waters.

Somerville, who turned 100 in September, told The Guide she didn't have time to be scared or think about her isolation.

"We were just simply doing what we were told to do," she said.

"The government, together with Methodist Mission and the people in Darwin, we knew nothing about the movements they were making. We just knew we had to get to the mainland and the boat was taking us."

The telemovie is based on Somerville's book They Crossed A Continent, which in turn was largely based on letters she wrote to her mum.

"I took a writing pad and a pencil, we didn't have biros in those days, and as we stopped at various places where I felt inclined I added a bit more," she said.

"I posted it as soon as we got to Alice Springs. It was like a diary I suppose, but I didn't think of it like a diary."

She hopes the telemovie will shed light on the important missionary work of the time.

"The children were taken from cattle stations but the reason why the government took them to the homes was because there were no schools in those days," she said.

"Then the government asked the churches to take over this work."


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