245 Evatt to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram EC8 LONDON, 14 September 1945, 1.40 a.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE SECRET

My telegram E.C.6. [1]

Portuguese Timor.

The following is a translation of the text of the Portuguese reply.

Begins:

The Portuguese Ambassador [2] presents his compliments to His Excellency, the Australian Minister for External Affairs, and has the honour to refer to the aide-memoire handed to him on the 10th of September re the Surrender of the Forces of Japan in Portuguese Timor.

The Ambassador immediately acquainted the Lisbon Government with the wishes of the Australian Government and has received instructions to reply to the aide-memoire in the following terms:-

The Portuguese Government, bearing in mind the arrangements and general instructions emanating from the Allied Supreme Command for the surrender of the Japanese Forces in the area of the Pacific and wherever they may be, have no objection to the formality of the Surrender of the Troops still in Portuguese Timor being carried out on board a warship in the Portuguese waters by the Australian Command as has been officially announced to have been done at Kupang in relation to the Forces in Dutch Timor. Nor, if considered preferable, would they object to the Japanese Command proceeding to Australia to comply with that formality or to a small mission of Australian officers landing at Dili to receive the surrender, in any case in the presence of the Governor of the Colony [3] or of a delegate of his. It is to be understood that the Australian Command would in all cases be free to dispose of the Prisoners and of the war material belonging to the enemy which could even be transported to any destination by the Portuguese ships which are to arrive in Timor.

The Portuguese Government, however, are unable to give their assent to the landing of Australian Forces in Timor. Firstly, on account of the uselessness of such a landing, since there is no possibility of fighting or resistance, and in view of the fact that on the 5th of September the Japanese Forces placed themselves at the order of the Governor who has since then been in full exercise of his activity; and secondly, because such an operation is contrary to the orientation agreed upon with the Combined Chiefs of Staff in regard to the retaking of Timor.

The Australian Government are doubtless aware that by means of negotiations in which the counterpart consisted in concessions of value for the victorious result of the war in the Pacific, it was the unshakeable intention of the Portuguese Government to have it recognised that the Portuguese troops would be admitted to the repossession of Timor with the assurance of the co-operation of other Allied Forces in case of need which is found not to exist.

The occupation of Portuguese territory by Australian troops, prudent and of short duration as it no doubt would be, when Portuguese vessels of war and a transport with Portuguese troops despatched to Timor have been ordered to proceed to Colombo or to remain there at the orders of the Admiral in Chief could not receive a satisfactory interpretation in the eyes of the Portuguese nation.

As regards the remaining matters in the aide-memoire:-

(a) The Portuguese Government have always recognised the extraordinary and valuable effort put forward by the Australian Commonwealth in the struggle in the Pacific against Japan and will have much pleasure in testifying to it whenever opportune. In the official congratulations addressed to the Australian Government at the time of the surrender request submitted by the Japanese Government, the Portuguese Government once again had occasion to render justice to the contribution of Australia to the victory over Japan.

(b) The Portuguese Government continue to consider themselves bound by the undertakings entered into in their note of the 4th of October, 1943, addressed to His Britannic Majesty's Ambassador in Lisbon, in reply to the latter's note of the 14th of September [4] handed to the Portuguese Government on behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. As regards the publication of those undertakings, however, they are unable at the present moment and on their own to take any decision without consultation with the British Government by reason of the fact that the documents in question constitute a body of mutual undertakings which have up to the present been kept secret. [5]

1 Document 244.

2 The Duke of Palmella.

3 Manuel de Abreu Feneira de Carvalho.

4 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Document 234, note 4.

5 On 19 September War Cabinet noted (Minute 4448) that, as the surrender of Japanese forces operating in Portuguese Timor (the surrender on board HMAS 'Moresby' off Koepang on 11 September included all Japanese on Timor) had been taken by the Australian Command, the taking of another surrender in Portuguese waters would be inappropriate and unnecessary. War Cabinet noted, therefore, that the Australian Commander should arrange with the Governer of Portuguese Timor for the landing of a small party at Dili to check that the terms of the surrender were effective, to arrange for the transportation of Allied prisoners of war, civillian internees, Japanese troops and enemy war material remaining in Portuguese territory, and to collect information about the location and condition of Allied war graves and evidence of war crimes.

[AA : A1838/2, 377/3/3/2]