204 Brookes to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 39 BATAVIA, [22 April 1946]


The following letter was handed to me this morning by the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of the [Indonesian] Republican Government.

'To Mr. A. D. Brookes, Representative of Government of Australia.

1. We beg you to convey to the Government of Australia the assurance that we deeply deplore the unhappy incident whereby Australian officers were wantonly killed and wounded. [1]

2. The first news of the accident have reached us, as you are aware, through your communication to Dr. Boediardjo, the representative of Dr. Sjahrir in Djakarta [2] and Major Moekiman of TRI, as our Government has no regular armed forces, either military or police, along the road from Bogor (Buitenzorg) to Sukabumi.

3. We can assure you that all possible efforts are being endeavoured and will further be made to retrieve the missing Flight Commander Birchall and surrender him to you as well as to find the missing documents etc.

4. All possible endeavours will also be made to learn who are the guilty persons and to find them and bring them to justice.

5. In the meantime from part of our Army Command in West Java, who has undertaken to investigate into the matter. [3] All efforts are made to get all possible information concerned, which when and in how far obtained, we will not fail to communicate to you without delay.

6. With reiterated assurance of our perfect consideration, we have the honour to be Sir, yours sincerely (Signed) Hadji Agoes Lutysta [Salim], Vice Minister'

In view of the fact that paragraph two was a statement on a military matter I felt it desirable to inform Brigadier of the General AFNEI of the contents. He has made the following comment.

'The statement that no regular military forces of the so called "Government" are along the road is not correct. A unit of TRI is in the area and recently took part in an attack on a convoy.

Consider, however, more likely that the outrage committed by irregular forces.'

If you propose to release the letter and comments to the press I would be grateful if you would advise me so that I can arrange simultaneous release here. I have protested to the British Authorities that the advice regarding the deaths of McDonald and MacKenzie was given to Allied Forces then only 22 hours after the murders had occurred and with MacKenzie's rank given incorrectly.

I trust that this was not released in Australia before relations were notified. In addition the Indonesians released an incorrect statement as to the murders and I have asked them to correct this.

The Indonesians have now discovered the body of Birchall -and were taking it to Buitenzorg this afternoon. I have done everything possible to ensure that no publicity is given to this before forty-eight hours elapses so that relatives are notified. The present Indonesian [4] as to the culprit responsible is it was done by a Japanese deserter disguised as an Indonesian. This I believe to be complete nonsense, for all except Indonesians realize that it is the work of the Indonesians. It seems quite beyond the capacity of one Japanese to do it. This Indonesian [theory is not being released at this stage.

Regarding the letter from Hadji Salim I have informed the press that I did receive a letter from the 'Republican Government' prior to notification of Birchall's death; that as requested I was telegraphing to the Commonwealth Government and that the former expressed deep regret for the deaths and gave an assurance that everything possible was being done to recover Birchall and to apprehend the culprit.] [5]

1 See Document 196.

2 i.e. Batavia.

3 Presumably meant to read: 'In the meantime part of our Army Command in West Java, has undertaken to investigate the matter.' 4 Sign here indicates 'mutilated'.

5 The matter in square brackets was indecipherable and was repeated in cablegram 40 of 24 April, on the same file. On 25 April, Brookes was instructed not to take any action concerning the letter, and 'above all, not to acknowledge it ... formally or informally'.

[AA:A1838/2, 401/3/10/2, ii]