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

Cablegram 839 LONDON, 17 December 1941, 9.38 p.m.


My telegram 834 of 16th December. [1]

It is very regrettable that at the last moment the Portuguese
Government appear to have lost their nerve and to have completely
changed their whole position. His Majesty's Ambassador at Lisbon
[2] later reported that it was clear from his own and from his
Dutch colleague's [3] discussions with the Portuguese Secretary
General that the Portuguese Government were now most anxious for
any mention of the Alliance with Britain to be avoided. It was now
apparent that they would in no circumstance consent to Allied
troops entering the territory unless and until the enemy attack
had actually been made. It appeared probable however that
recognising and sympathising with our need for securing so far as
possible Portuguese Timor from Japanese attack they were anxious
that we should force their hand and thus give them formal grounds
for claiming that they had done nothing willingly to prejudice
their neutrality.

2. Now that the landing has taken place we have discussed further
with the Dutch the question of a statement being issued in order
to forestall statement by the Portuguese Government, which they
will probably make in any case but may withhold if forestalled.

3. Advice given by His Majesty's Ambassador is that in the
circumstances it would [be] [4] best that the public statement
should emanate from the Netherlands and the Commonwealth
Governments only, preferably from the former alone, and that any
mention of the United Kingdom would suggest that the Alliance with
Britain has [come] into play and increase the possibility of
Portugal being drawn into the war.

4. The following is the latest revision of the statement which we
have discussed with the Dutch.

'In view of the Japanese submarine activity off Portuguese Timor
it became an unavoidable necessity to take steps to safeguard this
territory against Japanese aggression and to forestall its being
used as a base from which attacks could be made on allied
territory and communications.

Accordingly a force of Allied troops has been landed in Portuguese

The Portuguese Government have affirmed their desire to preserve
their neutrality and the Governor of Portuguese Timor has
protested against the action taken. Portuguese sovereignty of
course remains intact and it has been made clear to the Portuguese
Government that the troops will be withdrawn as soon as the threat
from the enemy is removed since their presence is purely a measure
of defence on the part of allied nations at war with Japan.'
We understand that the Netherlands Government will adopt this text
if they decide to make a statement in London. We hope that the
Commonwealth Government will be prepared to take the same line in
any statement which they may issue.

1 On file AA:A981, Timor (Portuguese) 3, i. It reported that the
reaction of the Portuguese Secretary-General, Dr L. Teixeira de
Sampaio, to the proposed Allied landing had been 'violently
unfavourable' and urged that the Commonwealth Govt make every
effort to reach agreement with the Governor, M. de A. Ferreira de
Carvalho, before any landing was attempted.

2 Sir Ronald H. Campbell.

3 Baron van Harinxma thoe Slooten.

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

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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