Australian Services Unite To Honour Timorese
MEDIA RELEASE Australian National Command Element - East Timor Public Affairs Phone:(08) 9553 6368 or 0417 487 933 ASMR 03/00 Wednesday 12 April 2000
AUSTRALIAN SERVICES UNITE TO HONOUR TIMORESE
Two generations of Australian military personnel will unite tomorrow to honour the bravery and friendship of the people of East Timor.
In a ceremony to reopen the refurbished Fatunaba Memorial Pool, five members of the 2nd/2nd Independent Company who fought in East Timor in 1942 will stand beside Australian Peace Keepers to rededicate this significant symbol of friendship between the two nations.
The pool was officially opened on 13 April 1969 by the 2nd/2nd Commando Association to acknowledge the sacrifice many indigenous Timorese made to assist and support the soldiers during World War II.
In December last year, volunteers from INTERFET's Headquarter Force Logistic Support Force undertook restoration of the pool. After three months and wearing the blue beret of UNTAET Peace Keepers, the volunteers have completed the memorial in time for the 31st Anniversary of the pool's dedication.
"The rededication of the pool is a significant historical and cultural event for Australian military personnel who have served in East Timor," said Colonel Greg Baker, Commander of the Australian Contingent.
"It brings together two distinct groups of Australians who have been touched by the people of East Timor. Two groups who served here in two different operations with one common thread - a deep and abiding respect and admiration for the people of East Timor."
NOTE TO LOCAL MEDIA:
The ceremony will commence at 9.00 a.m. All media are asked to assemble at the site by no later than 8.45 a.m. The Dili to Dare Road will be closed for a short period during the ceremony.
NOTE TO EDITORS AND CHIEFS OF STAFF:
Pool video and stills of the event will be available from Defence Public Affairs. For further information please contact Captain John Toohey, Australian Contingent Public Affairs Officer, on 0417 487 933.
MEDIA BACKGROUND BRIEF -
Australian National Command Element - East Timor Public Affairs Phone:(08) 9553 6368 or 0417 487 933
ASBB 02/00 Wednesday 12 April 2000
Fatunaba Memorial Pool
History of Memorial The 2/2nd Independent Company conducted guerilla operations in Timor from 1942. During that time their success and survival depended on the support of the Timorese people. In acknowledgment to the people of Timor for their bravery and friendship in aiding the Company, a proposal was put forward to construct a living monument in the hills which were home to the Australian soldiers during their time in country. Approval was granted to construct a memorial at Fatunaba in the form of a wading pool and resting place in the lee side of the mountain overlooking Dili. A sum of $8000 was raised by the 2nd/2nd Commando Association to build the memorial with the Federal Government of Australia matching each dollar raised by the ex-Servicemen. On 13th April 1969, the 2nd/2nd Association opened the memorial. In the interim years the Memorial has remained a constant reminder to all who see it of the strong and lasting links between the Australian military who served in Timor during World War II and the indigenous population of Timor. Sadly, since its unveiling the Memorial has fallen into disrepair. History of 2nd /2nd Involvement in East Timor The No 2 Australian Independent Company of 300 men was formed in July 1941. The men were trained in guerilla warfare to operate behind enemy lines by two famous British Commandos 'Freddy' Spencer Chapman and Mike Calvert. The unit embarked from Darwin for Kupang where they moved to Dili by ship arriving on the 17th of December 1941. At this time, the main Allied force at Kupang consisted of 2/40th Battalion, a squadron of RAAF Hudson bombers, a battery of Australian coast artillery and 1000 Dutch troops. This force defended until, out of ammunition, they surrendered four days after the start of the battle. In January 1942, with malaria severely affecting over 90%of the men, the unit moved to the mountains above Dili with a section of 19 men remaining to defend the aerodrome at Komoro. Late in evening on the 19th of February 1942, a large Japanese force landed at Dili. Number 2 section left at Komoro fiercely defended the airfield from the advancing troops until, on their withdrawal, blowing up the facility before rejoining the unit. Until their evacuation on 16th of December 1942 the company maintained a successful small-scale guerilla war against the numerically superior and frustrated Japanese force. The company adopted hit and run tactics, refusing to surrender despite the tough demands of the campaign. The 2nd /2nd Independent Company's ability to live, fight and survive in occupied enemy territory was principally due to the untiring, loyal support from the mountain people of East Timor. The East Timorese people extended their friendship to the Australians without hesitation and helped them at great personal expense. They were the Australian soldier's eyes and ears, and their support saved many Australian lives. The men who served in East Timor are eternally grateful to the brave Timorese people for their help in 1942. During the campaign, the navy began a regular run to Timor to resupply the troops through the port of Betano. This supply run was not without cost and two ships, HMAS Voyager and HMAS Armidale, were both lost during the campaign. Refurbishment of the Memorial The process of restoring the memorial started in December 1999 during the International Force East Timor (INTERFET) operation and continued under the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor (UNTAET).
Volunteers from Headquarters Force Logistic Support Group (HQ FSLG) have undertaken the project. HQ FLSG commenced work on the Memorial in late January 2000. All work to date has been on Sundays or in the volunteers' own time.
The works conducted by Force Logistic Support Group have included:
* stripping and preparation of all previously painted surfaces; * painting of all exterior surfaces; * preparation of a new pool membrane; and * gardening and a basic clean up of surrounding over grown vegetation.
Another Australian unit, 17 Construction Squadron, provided the following assistance for the refurbishment: * repair of the inlet plumbing and water pipes to the pool, and * the replacement of the outlet valve from the pool. Wording on the Plaque On the wall above the pool a plaque was placed by the 2nd/2nd Independent Company to tell all who passed the monument's significance:
To the Portuguese People everywhere From Minho to Timor This memorial has been given for your use by the people of Australia in gratitude for the help you gave our soldiers during the Second World War 1939 - 1945 and particularly to the people of Timor. From the men of the 2/2 Commando Independent Company who served here in 1942.
Now that the East Timorese people have won their independence, the 2/2 Commando Association no longer feel that wording is applicable and have suggested the following is inscribed on the new plaque prepared and affixed for the rededication ceremony:
To all the peoples of East Timor This memorial and resting place is given to them for their use by the Australian people in grateful recognition of their assistance to Australian soldiers especially the members of the 2/2 and 2/4 Independent Companies during the Second World War.
The new brass and bronze plaque is displayed in both English and Tetum. Veterans Returning to East Timor Members of the 2nd / 2nd Commando Association returning to East Timor for the rededication ceremony are: 1. Mr. Ray Aitken. WA 2. Mr. John Burridge. WA 3. Mr. Tom Foster. WA 4. Mr. Keith Hayes. WA 5. Mr. J.P. Kenneally. NSW 6. Mr. R.N. Smyth (Bob). WA
The Special Air Services Association President will also be attending (Mr Bart Marvick).