Skip to main content

Historical documents

522 Mr Clement Attlee, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 455 LONDON, 9 June 1942, 11.05 P.m.


My telegram of 9th June, 454. [1] Following is message from H.M.

Ambassador at Lisbon [2] begins:-

Secretary-General tells me that the Govern [or] of Portuguese
Timor [3] has reported that Mr. Ross [4] has approached him in the
following sense. Resistance in the Island is now confined to a
handful of Australians which, in conditions of great privation, is
still holding out in the hills in Portuguese Timor. Ross seemed to
think that these men were suffering uselessly (if they are not
caught by the Japanese they must eventually die of starvation or
sickness) and that if they gave themselves up and submitted to
internment in Dutch Timor Japanese would withdraw altogether from
Portuguese part of the Island. This solution, said Dr. Sampayo,
would, of course, suit Portuguese Government since the Japanese
were requisitioning the already inadequate food resources of the
colony and generally behaving in an intolerable manner.

2. Before he had got any further I said (perhaps rather hastily)
that, if this was a suggestion that we should ease the
difficulties of the Portuguese Government by ordering the
surrender of a band of brave men determined to hold out to the
last, I did not think it would meet with a very sympathetic
reception in London.

3. Dr. Sampayo said I had misunderstood him. The Portuguese
Government would never have volunteered such a suggestion. The
initiative had come from Ross who, he added, had apparently no
means of communicating with his Government or even with O/C
Australian Force. [5] On receiving his approach the Govern[or] had
succeeded in getting into touch with the Australian Commander who
said that he had no means of soliciting or receiving orders but
beyond that had been noncommittal.

4. I said that while that put a somewhat different aspect on the
matter, Dr. Sampayo would realise that Timor was a rather sore
subject in London inasmuch as you had been shocked by the feeble
reaction of the Portuguese Government to the Japanese invasion
when they had had an excellent opportunity of reading a lesson,
not only to Japan, but to the other Axis powers as well. Dr.

Sampayo replied sadly that their hands, as I knew, had been tied
by the fear of reprisals against Macao.

5. After a further brief fencing match I finally gathered from Dr.

Sampayo that if the Australians gave themselves up the Portuguese
Government would present ... [6] demand for immediate withdrawal
of the Japanese forces from Port[uguese] territory. In reply to my
enquiry he implied that the Portuguese Government would not let
the matter rest there if the Japanese failed to comply. I have my
doubts, however, about this as they would still be frightened of
reprisals against Macao.

6. I should have said earlier that Dr. Sampayo stated that the
Government did not endorse the slander that Ross had been in touch
with the Japanese Commander. I presume anyhow that the idea of the
Portuguese Government is that the Government would negotiate
surrender in return for an undertaking of immediate withdrawal of
Japanese forces. Dr. Sampayo stated that according to the
Government there was no further fighting in Dutch Timor, the whole
of the Allied Force having been either wiped out or taken
prisoner. So far as he knew there were no Dutch with the
Australian Force still holding out in Portuguese Timor. At one
stage in the conversation Dr. Sampayo anticipated me by saying
that the withdrawal of Japanese Forces would, although they are
probably not very numerous, of course release them for service
elsewhere. This was evidently to show me that the Portuguese
Government appreciated the point. In general he did not press the
suggestion but took rather the line that it was being passed on in
view of the fact that the initiative had come from Ross.

7. I have reported fully in case my account may complete or
correct in any respect that given by the Portuguese Ambassador in
London who has been instructed to address you in the matter.

1 On file AA:A981, War 72.

2 Sir Ronald H. Campbell.

3 M. de A. F. de Carvalho.

4 See Document 337, note 5.

5 Lt Col A. Spence.

6 The original was here annotated 'mutilated'.

[AA:A981, WAR 72]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top