337 General Sir Archibald Wavell, Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area, to U.K. War Office

Repeated to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram OPX 1860/71117 BATAVIA, 17 February 1942, 3.15 a.m.

Received 17 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE

My telegram 01211 of 14th February. [1]

From Staff conversations on Portuguese Timor the following text has been drawn up.

1. It is agreed that Allied troops will be withdrawn as soon as possible after Portuguese reinforcements have arrived at Dilli.

The evacuation by sea is difficult while by air impracticable.

This is realised by Major Nogueira [2] who agrees that under the circumstances the Allied withdrawal may have to be by road. In order that withdrawal by road be effected as speedily as possible Major Nogueira agrees urgently to represent to his Government the need to provide as much assistance as possible in the matter of transport for equipment and supplies of Allied troops as far as the frontier. Major Nogueira realises that the time taken for Allied troops to withdraw by road to Dutch Timor is largely dependent upon the amount of assistance that can be provided in the matter of transport and condition of the road from Dilli to the frontier. Improvement of this road was previously agreed to by the Portuguese Government. It has been pointed out that bridges on this road must be capable of carrying loaded transport.

2. It is agreed that Allied assistance will be requested immediately it is clear that the Japanese intend to attack. The request to assist is to be made by the Governor of Portuguese Timor [3] to British Military Commander at Koepang. [4] It is agreed that the Governor of Portuguese Timor should be guided by the opinion of the Military Commander of the Portuguese forces- Colonel Antunes-in decision as to when Allied assistance is to be requested. Major Nogueira agrees to ask his Government to issue instructions to the Governor of Portuguese Timor to this effect in order that Allied reinforcements despatched from Koepang may arrive in time. 3. It is noted that Major Nogueira has no power to discuss or give any decision in respect to policy regarding the Japanese Nationals in Portuguese Timor. Ends.

4. From our point of view this is satisfactory. It is stressed that the Condition of the road from Dilli to the frontier is an important factor in reinforcements from Koepang reaching Dilli in time. Assistance by sea would be impracticable if the Japanese attack on Portuguese Timor is imminent.

5. Major Nogueira asks that the above text be communicated to his Government and asks whether he is given authority by them to sign.

[5]

1 On file AA:A816, 19/301/821,ii.

2 Portuguese representative at staff talks with Wavell in Java.

3 M. de A. Ferreira de Carvalho.

4 Lt Col W. W. Leggatt.

5 Japanese forces landed in Portuguese Timor on the night of 19-20 February and the Portuguese Govt subsequently ordered the vessel carrying reinforcements to Timor to return to Mozambique. The Allied troops withdrew from Dili but maintained a guerilla action against the Japanese with considerable success until they were evacuated to Australia early in 1943. David Ross, U.K. Consul in Dili, was captured by the Japanese but subsequently escaped and returned to Australia in July 1942 (see Documents 528 and 533).

For further details of the Timor campaign see the Australian official war histories: Lionel Wigmore, The Japanese Thrust, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957, and Dudley McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area-First Year, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1959.

[AA:A981, TIMOR (PORTUGUESE) 3, ii]