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]