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

Cablegram 798 [1] CANBERRA, 16 December 1941

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Your telegram No. 829 of 13th December [2]-the Australian Government. have been advised through Service channels that the Governor-General Netherlands East Indies [3] has decided to take action without delay with regard to providing assistance for the Portuguese in Portuguese Timor and that a consultation is to take place with the Portuguese at Dilli on 17th December at 0700 hours.

The Australian Commander [4] is being instructed to participate in this proposed consultation.

The Dutch are making arrangements for a combined force of Dutch and Australians to travel to Dilli by sea to arrive at 0900 hours on 17th December, two hours after the consultation is scheduled to commence, in the anticipation of being invited to land and assist the Portuguese in the defence of their territory. Our information from Netherlands East Indies is that it is intended that the force will land even if the Portuguese Governors should hesitate.

Netherlands East Indies authorities have asked Australia to provide air protection for ships carrying the above-mentioned forces. Despite our very limited resources this will be given.

The Commonwealth Government agrees with the proposals of the Governor-General, Netherlands East Indies.

In view of the urgency for taking action the conference at Singapore referred to in your telegram is superseded.

At the same time we earnestly press upon you desirability of having Governor of Portuguese Timor instructed by Portuguese Government to invite or acquiesce in entry of troops solely for purpose of protecting Portuguese Timor against Japanese aggression which seems now only a matter of hours. Further, Government of Portugal should have ready a statement that we as her ancient allies will protect her territory and her interests. [6]

1 Repeated to the Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies and to the Governor of the Straits Settlements for the U.K.

Commander-in-Chief in the Far East.

2 Document 191.

3 Jonkheer Dr A. W. L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer.

4 Lt Col W. W. Leggatt.

5 M. de A. Ferreira de Carvalho.

6 On 16 December in cablegram 833 Cranborne replied that 'if possible a rather longer interval should be allowed to elapse between the time when the Conference at Dilli begins and the time when the combined force arrives'. This was endorsed by the Commonwealth Govt and passed on the same day to David Ross, U.K.

Consul in Dili, for communication to Leggatt and to the commanding officer of Netherlands forces in Timor, Lt Col W. Detiger. See cablegram 833 and teleprinter message M2955 on file AA:A981, Timor (Portuguese) 3, i.

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.21697]