Rex Lipman - Timor

Running time
5 min 10 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I was on a Dutch ship, called the Tjerk Hiddes. We got on it in Darwin. I was, I say, a bit scary. Two ships came and were both sunk before they got to Darwin. This was at the low ebb. Japan has now taken over the lot everywhere, at the beginning of '42. Or that, at the end of '41, beginning of '42, when they came in December, at the very beginning of '42, and this Dutch ship, Dutch destroyer, and that was ... It's not such a long trip. It's only about a 12-hour trip, because they scuttle along, get you and unload you, and off they go, quickly. Then they offload you offshore, and you go to the shore.

If you've got the time, and the sea is all right, and it was, they can rescue their boats back. But otherwise, they would be in rubber craft, how you would do it, and you'd have to bury those when you got …to leave no sign of them there. So that was quite uneventful, and we had the exchange of lights and got there. And the welcome party, we'll call it, was on the beach, and we headed off up to the hill where we are, at a place called Betano. It was a bit of a culture shock, and then, we had this group of about 120 of them, Japanese, came down and ... see, we were not there to kill them outright. For instance, if we could put in, on the northern side, a roadblock, and machine gun down, and get rid of 90 vehicles in a ... because there was a cliff next door, and the chances are they'd fall over off the cliff with their cars, and the build-up of it.

That was worthwhile, and then, we'd be gone. But to just do that there would be ... even if we kill two-thirds of them and lost 10 of our own, that wouldn't have been a good bargain. So, that this won't come in, the thing was is just to lie down in the long grass and make out we weren't there…there were no shelters there. They owned the whole place…I think were 204 of us there. So that our main plan is to get information back of what they were doing, all the time, and harass them. For instance, if we could get in, and put a big bomb under their ammunition…the magazine, where they hold all the supplies and bombs and mines, and things like that.

If you could get in and blow one of those up, that was really good. They were the sort of things that we would do, but we weren't out on a killing mission. If you got three people by themselves, going out on the reconnaissance, and there would be no sign at all of where you had been, and what you had been, all over, because you had to be careful. Because they would torture local people for knowledge, do you see? And we didn't want to, we loved those Timors so much, that we didn't ... we were certainly not sacrificing them…

Although they're not highly intelligent people. Very loyal, but not fighting. Absolutely dead frightened of fighting. They'd disappear, but they'd come back. Now that they're, now they're gone, and these were kids from 12 years old upwards. Some of them, only 11, but heart in the right place, and very loyal, and wonderful…Sometimes, we lived in their huts with them. And, of course, we had food and things that we'd go out and get. And we also paid them in silver. We had a lot of, the two-shilling pieces were silver in those days, and we would pay them, and that was all very good currency for them, but it was a very difficult situation there which you made the most of it.

Was this page helpful?