Commonwealth Government to Addison

Cablegram 256 CANBERRA, 28 August 1945


Your 319, Portuguese Timor. [1]

1. We would like your early consideration of the immediate position likely to arise in Portuguese Timor. This territory in hostile hands can always provide a very real menace to Australia as was shown by the fact that many Japanese air attacks on Northern Australia were based on or staged through Timor.

2. In 1943 a tentative arrangement for post-war relations with the Portuguese in this colony was arrived at between Mr. Churchill, Mr. Eden and Dr. Evatt and we understand it received the approval of the Portuguese Government. [2] By this arrangement important priorities in relation to defence, trade and communications were to be accorded to Australia although Portuguese sovereignty was not impaired.

3. The Portuguese failed us completely in the arrangement made for the defence of Timor with their concurrence and as a result our forces were left to sustain single-handed in Timor for a long period an epic guerrilla warfare which had an important effect on operations in the area.

4. Now we learn that the Portuguese are trying to capitalise at once on Allied successes by the despatch of the two sloops referred to in your telegram. It is obvious that the surrender of this territory should be made to Australian forces who alone defended it. We consider that if at all possible the Portuguese sloops should not be allowed to go forward until the Japanese surrender to an Australian force to be despatched has been effected and also that Australian forces should be maintained until a satisfactory arrangement has been come to with the Portuguese Government with a view to fulfilling all the objectives outlined in the 1943 proposals.

5. An important point in our consideration of this matter is of course the welfare of the native people of Portuguese Timor which has been notoriously neglected by the administration. We submit that in this territory and elsewhere in the South West Pacific, surrender arrangements should not prejudice readjustments found desirable in the interests of security and welfare always subject naturally to the consent of the Powers concerned.

6. We would summarise our views as follows:

(a) The Japanese surrender in Portuguese Timor should be made to Australian forces.

(b) That meanwhile no facilities be given for the despatch of Portuguese forces to the colony.

(c) That interim arrangements for the restoration of administration, communications etc. should be made direct between the Australian forces of occupation and whatever local Portuguese administration is still in existence.

(d) That these interim arrangements should be with a view to the conclusion of a long term arrangement with the Portuguese Government including as a minimum the objectives of the 1943 understanding.

7. If you concur we would be grateful if in the first instance you would obtain the Portuguese Government’s acquiescence in the arrangements suggested in (a) and (c) above.


1 Dispatched 22 August. On file AA : A1838/2, 377/3/3/2, i. It reported that the U.K. Govt had authorised the dispatch of two Portuguese sloops to Timor and was considering the question of the re-occupation of Portuguese Timor by Portuguese troops and arrangements for the surrender of Japanese there.

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


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