191 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 829 LONDON, 13 December 1941, 8.30 p.m.


Your telegram 12th December, 797. [1]

Portuguese Timor The Portuguese Government have accepted the proposals made to them that, in virtue of their alliance with us, assistance should be provided to Portuguese Timor in the event of a Japanese attack, such assistance to be furnished by Australian and Dutch Troops, and they have agreed to instruct the Governor of Portuguese Timor [2] without delay to invite such assistance if occasion arises or to acquiesce in it being furnished in the event of there being no time for an invitation to be extended. The Governor is being empowered to get into touch forthwith with the Governor of Dutch Timor [3] and to discuss with him matters of common interest which are of immediate application. It was impressed upon the Portuguese Ambassador [4] that since the Japanese might act at any moment it was essential that the local authorities in both Portuguese and Dutch Timor should be given wide latitude so as to ensure that assistance contemplated was forthcoming in good time.

The Portuguese Government are anxious that the proposed local discussions contemplated in my telegram 803 of 8th December [5] should if time permits be held at Singapore and they will nominate a military officer who will be ready to leave by air on 17th December. They have also been given to understand that there is no question of the continued presence of Australian and Dutch forces in Portuguese Timor once the emergency is over.

It is clear from the attitude adopted [by] [6] the Portuguese authorities [to] this approach that they are very anxious to give prominence to the ancient alliance and that it would be helpful if Australia's share in the armed support to be given to Portuguese Timor is relatively substantial and conspicuous. We hope therefore that the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to instruct the Commander of their forces in Timor [7] to take part in any consultation which may be arranged at Dilli on this matter. It will be appreciated that effective assistance to the Portuguese in Timor should the Japanese attack develop will in addition to its immediate importance have implications of the highest importance in respect of [the Portuguese] attitude in regard to such of their territories elsewhere as may later be threatened and as we may feel it necessary to safeguard.

1 Document 187.

2 M. de A. Ferreira de Carvalho.

3 F. J. Nieboer was Netherlands Resident at Koepang.

4 Dr A. R. de S. Monteiro.

5 Dispatched 9 December. On file AA:A981, Timor (Portuguese) 3, i.

6 Words in square brackets have been corrected from the London copy on file AA:A2937, Timor-Portuguese, defence operations, i.

7 Lt Cot W. W. Leggatt.