Skip to main content

Historical documents

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

Cablegram 335 CANBERRA, 18 June 1942

MOST SECRET IMPORTANT

Your cablegrams Nos. 454, 455, 456, 457. [1]

Portuguese Timor
The proposal of the Portuguese Government has been discussed with
General MacArthur [2], and also with the Australian Chiefs of
Staff.

2. For your information, Australian forces in Portuguese Timor
number about 400, and there are about 200 Dutch with them. They
are well organised, their health is satisfactory, and they are
sufficiently supplied with food. There are plenty of drugs. They
are conducting guerilla warfare with the Japanese and are
materially assisted by Portuguese subjects and by the natives, the
majority of whom are loyal to the Allies. Secret means of
communication with Australia exist.

3. Ross [3] is in the hands of the Japanese, and was in contact
with the Australian troops in March when he was sent by the
Japanese with a request for surrender. It is believed that any
move for the capitulation of the troops originated with the
Japanese, who misinformed Ross about the condition of our men in
order to induce him to convey the request for surrender to them.

4. There is virtually no fighting in Dutch Timor.

5. There are between 5,000 and 6,000 Japanese troops in the whole
of the Island.

6. It is considered most unlikely, whatever arrangements were
made, that the Japanese would withdraw from Portuguese Timor.

Moreover it would be undesirable to make any arrangement which
would or might be understood to preclude the Allies from using
Portuguese Timor now or in the future for operations against the
Japanese.

7. General MacArthur states that Australian and Dutch troops in
Timor have been the subject of consideration during the past two
weeks. Proposals were made to attack Timor with a view to complete
reoccupation, and on the other hand to withdraw the forces from
that area. After consideration it was decided that it was
impracticable at present to launch a major attack against Timor.

He considers, however, that the presence of the Australian and
Dutch forces there entails manifold advantages which it would be
unwise to yield unless forced by pressure of enemy action. His
view is, therefore, that these troops should be maintained and
furnished with supplies and equipment necessary for their
continued activities. It is hoped that they can be sustained until
it is possible to launch an attack, but in any event it is
believed that constant observation of enemy movements will give
sufficient advance notice of his intentions to permit of a
reasonably safe evacuation, if that should become necessary.

8. In the light of the foregoing considerations the Commonwealth
Government has decided that it is not prepared to negotiate with
regard to the surrender of our forces in Timor, and we should be
glad if you would inform the Portuguese Government accordingly.

9. It is specially requested that no information be conveyed to
the Portuguese which could be of any assistance to the Japanese
forces on the Island.

1 Cablegram 455 is published as Document 522. Cablegrams 454 of 9
June and 456-7 of 11 June are on file AA:A981, war 72.

2 Allied Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area.

3 Former Consul in Dili.


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