284 Department of External Affairs to Mr David Ross, U.K. Consul in Dili

Radio message 2 CANBERRA, 20 January 1942


My telegram 6th January. [1] As result of London discussions it was decided with concurrence of Netherlands and Commonwealth Governments to put following proposal to Portuguese Government for settlement of high political issues involved in occupation of Portuguese Timor:

(a) United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Netherlands Governments are prepared to agree to withdrawal of occupying forces on arrival of Portuguese reinforcements numbering approximately 800 men.

(b) This agreement is subject to conditions that before any announcement to above effect is made Portuguese Government will give a private and secret assurance that Allied forces will be called in again in event of Japanese attack; that staff conversations contemplated before landing of Allied troops would be immediately renewed with object of agreeing on necessary arrangements; that Portuguese Government will instruct local Governor [2] not to obstruct task of Allied forces in interval which must elapse before arrival of Portuguese reinforcements.

2. We are now advised that Portuguese Government accepted above proposal on January 16th. [3] Portuguese Government will nominate an officer to proceed to General Wavell's [4] headquarters for requisite staff discussions. Officer will also be instructed to discuss the manner of changeover between Allied and further Portuguese troops. Meanwhile Portuguese Government will renew instructions to Governor to effect that while he could not collaborate with Allied commanders [5] he is to put no difficulties in their way in the exercise of their duties pending withdrawal of Allied forces. Instructions have already been sent to the Governor to improve road between Dilli and frontier.

4. [6] Above is for your most secret information. Please pass to the two Allied commanders alone under the same conditions of secrecy.

5. We appreciate view expressed in your memorandum of 6th January [7] that the Portuguese reinforcements are unlikely to provide adequate or effective defence, but you will understand the necessity on grounds of high policy to meet the Portuguese wishes for withdrawal of occupying force. In view of Portuguese reaction in Europe and probable effect of diplomatic breach on Allied strategical position and communications matter was really out of our hands.

6. It will be some time before changeover is effected and interim period will afford valuable time for improving our means of meeting Japanese attack in Timor or nearby. You should do all you can in present difficult circumstances to improve relations with Portuguese.

7. We do not yet know when reinforcements leave East Africa, but Portuguese Government will issue statement announcing their departure.

1 On file AA:A981, Timor (Portuguese) 3, i.

2 M. de A. Ferreira de Carvalho.

3 See U.K. Dominions Office cablegram 69 of 18 January on the file cited in note 1.

4 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area.

5 Lt Col N.L.W. van Straaten and Major A. Spence.

6 The original did not include a paragraph numbered 3.

7 On the file cited in note 1.