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235 Commonwealth Government to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 837 [1] CANBERRA, 29 December 1941


Your telegram 931. [2] Reviewing all circumstances including
advantage of enabling you to meet Portugal's wishes as far as
possible we are agreeable to sending to Dilli certain Australian
troops now in Dutch Timor to replace equivalent number Dutch
troops whom you suggest should be withdrawn from Portuguese Timor
to Dutch Timor.

This exchange would mean the transfer of two companies of the
A.I.F. from Koepang to Dilli. Because of the importance to
Australia of the defence of Koepang, our Chiefs of Staff draw
attention to the following additional points:-

(1) That if the Dutch will not be party to the proposed exchange
but will withdraw their troops from Dilli, then this should be
done. In this event, no Australian troops should be transferred
from Koepang to Dilli but the reduced force at Dilli viz. one
independent company A.I.F. should be accepted for the present in
preference to depleting the forces at Koepang which are already
insufficient for their important role.

(2) That the composite force that will be established at Koepang
if the proposed exchange is carried out will be less satisfactory
than the present force which is entirely or preponderantly

(3) That in no event should there be any change in the policy
whereby the A.I.F. Commander at Koepang [3] is in command of the
composite forces.

(4) That the Department of the Army is investigating the
possibility of forming two rifle companies out of available A.I.F.

reinforcements to replace the two companies that will be
transferred from Koepang to Dilli if the proposed change is
effected. [4]

1 Repeated to the N.Z. Prime Minister as no. 558.

2 This is presumably an incorrect reference to cablegram 913
(Document 233).

3 Lt Col W. W. Leggatt.

4 In cablegram 144 of 31 December (on file AA: M100, December
1941) S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom,
reported that Sir Ronald H. Campbell, U.K. Ambassador to Portugal,
believed that the Portuguese Govt would acquiesce in the
substitution of Australian troops for the Netherlands portion of
the garrison in Portuguese Timor, provided the Australians
withdrew when an expected 700 Portuguese reinforcements arrived in
the colony. Bruce said he had advised the U.K. Gorr that the
Commonwealth Govt would only agree to its forces being relieved by
the Portuguese if the arrangement secured Portuguese neutrality,
safeguarded vital Allied interests and was paralleled by joint
staff talks to secure both these ends.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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