SOURCE: Notes on ‘Return to Timor’, 1973 – papers held in 2/2 Commando Association archives.
THE BACKGROUND TO THE TIMOR TOUR
lt was on the back lawn of Wally Hanlon’s home early in 1971 after another day of painting by the 2/4th Independent Painting Co. that the suggestion was put forward by "Curly" Papworth.
Yes, it was agreed that indeed it was time members of the old 2/4th Australian Independent Company should retrace some of their steps of 1942 and re-visit their old wartime haunts in Portuguese Timor.
The response to the proposal which was· put to the Annual General Meeting of the 2/4 Australian Commando Squadron Association in Sydney in October 1971 was immediate and positive. Arthur Stevenson was commissioned to write a feasibility report – it appeared in the March 1972 issue of the "2/4THER".
At the Sydney reunion there was a large body of troops in favour of a reunion in Timor two years hence and I was asked to write about the general feasibility of such a trip.
A TAA Friendship operates three times per week between Darwin and Baucau where there is a pleasant little hotel - or as they call it - pousada, and another one building.
These pousadas can be found at Baucau, Dili, Aileu, Maubisse, Same and Tutuala and vary in cost per night between $5 and $10. The plumbing is invariably unfunctional or partly so, but the rooms are comfortable, linen clean and food good (quite often venison). Outside of Dili the accommodation is very limited with room for only 10 or 20 total at most pousadas, so some careful planning will be needed if the numbers are large. However, I recall the hotel accommodation wasn’t all that flash in '42/3 and with sleeping bags - or much better, jungle hammocks for the men, we should cope quite well in school buildings, Chinese shops and the like.
We will need liaison in Dili before the event, but I have the contacts to organise the accommodation, transport or itinerary.
Transport is primitive and the shot for a small party would be jeeps ($20/25 per day including fuel and driver) or for bigger parties, carreiras, which are 3 ton trucks with wooden seats, $3/4 per head for a day trip. Bloody uncomfortable, until you remember the 3 tonners (without seats) at Foster.
With wheels under you distances have shrunk compared with what we remembered. For instance, we left Dili at 0915 went to Betano where we spent an hour crawling over the remains of the Voyager and returned to spend the night at Same. This was by jeep. At another time we left Viqueque (near the south coast, south from Baucau) at 0700, via Ossu, Venilale, Baucau and Manatuto, reaching Dili at 1730 – by carreira. Roads are hair raising but trafficable.
One expects that it is a mistake to go back but in this case it is not. Hardly anything has changed since we were there except the emma fuic are under control, no deportados and the administration more benevolent. In many cases the chefes de posto are Timors or mestiços. There is another 3 or 4 miles of tarred road in Dili, no vestige of bomb damage and the occasional air conditioner in the few new buildings. Some of the postos, e.g. Same and Maubisse - have been turned into pousadas to cater for the small tourist trade.
There is a small, transient, hippie colony in Dili but the Portuguese have built them a beach house on the eastern outskirts, and they keep pretty much to themselves.
The biggest thing that ever happened in Timor was the war, and memories are still afresh, and handed down to the next generation.
I got a very detailed description of some aspects of Des (Wanger} Williams fateful operation in Oecussi from a youngster who would not have been 2 at the time. Our young jeep driver identified the exact spot east of Manatuto where "Oak’s” convoy ambush took place (“many Japs died here”).
We walked from Turiscai to 6 Sec' s first "home". MocaIuli - and found original inhabitants who remembered the minutest details of old happenings. Unfortunately, most of them were away at a census taking, including the memorable Bereleci. Mauberi was at a village too far to visit and failing rapidly, by all accounts.
Just a few notes of my own trip might be of interest. I had already established contact by mail with the Timorese, Celestino dos Anjos, who parachuted with Rod Dawson and me into the Laleia Valley in 1945, and without whom I’m sure I, like Rod, would be 6 feet under. On foot, with kudas carrying our gear, Celestino, my son David and I retraced our steps from our DZ, through our hide-out areas, to Viqueque close to where were extracted in August '45. We wandered all around the DZ, even finding the evil tree where our storepedo hung up. On this leg we stayed overnight at 3 hill villages and covered an estimated 45/50 track miles in 31/2 days. Good boots (Kodiaks) 2 pairs of socks, 2 or 3 weeks of training - a mile run every morning and up 9 flights of office stairs two at a time - made this a fairly painless operation. We cheated a. bit for the last 3 kilometres along the road and rode kudas - a grave and painful error.
One touching moment up on Maubaic mountain when a chief who in 1945 had hidden and fed us, and his wife walked through half the night to the village where we were staying, to see us. The only gift I had to give him in 1945 was a U.S. knife fork and spoon set, and this was in his hand when he turned up (less knife which had obviously had good service). In 1971, I left a little lighter in the wallet and without my travelling clock.
From here on I started asking the whereabouts of Akiu, my 1942 creado. We travelled to Dili, Betano, Same, Maubisse, Turiscai, Aileu and back to Dili and the bush telegraph had worked! The 11 year old half Chinese boy had become a 40 year old man but he still bears the hideous scars around head and neck where "amigos Japanese" speared and knifed . him and left him for dead when discovering he worked for us. We had a slap up Chinese dinner that night at which I was host - 19 children, relatives and friends of Akiu and Celestino - including Cipriano Vierra Jnr - son of Cipriano and nephew of the better known João (John) who was eventually tortured and killed by the Japanese.
In Dili, Viqueque and Ossu, I met a number of Timorese and half Portuguese who came out in '43 and trained with Z [Special] - including Jose Pires (son of the famous Tenente) Chico da Silva, Câncio Noronha, Alexandro da Silva and João Almeida.
It was a magnificent experience - the more, so because I had my son to share it - and I cannot tell you too strongly that we have got to make it in '73. Get planning and saving now.
SOURCE: Lambert, G.E. - Commando, from Tidal River to Tarakan: the story of the No. 4 Australian Independent Company AIF later known as 2/4th Australian Commando Squadron AIF, 1941-45. - Loftus, N.S.W. : Australian Military History Publications, 1997: 428-437.
Steve's visits to Portuguese Timor stimulated the yearning in others to make a "pilgrimage" and renew their friendship with people without whose assistance they could not have survived. Two years of detailed planning preceded the "Return to Timor", of 18 former members of the Unit between 18-30 August 1973. Nine of the men were accompanied by their wives - three by their sons.
Mac Walker and his wife Beth were to lead the group, but health problems forced their withdrawal, along with that of Mal and Mary English.
The group comprised, Arthur and Ruby Bury, Ralph and Bobbie Coyne, Clarrie Groth, Gordon Hart, John and Dee Jones, Jack and Jean Kelaher, Maurie Kinnane, Jim Landman, Bill and Joan McMicking, Cliff and Peter Morris, Dan O'Connor, Kevin and Laurie O'Regan, Ken and Pat Piesse, Ian Searle, Wal and Elaine Staples, Arthur Stevenson, Alan, Vida and David Thompson and Rob and Margaret Whelan.
Steve made all the forward arrangements in East Timor for transport, accommodation, and functions, and he "scouted" the routes.
The group assembled in Darwin on 17 August 1973 and flew, on the 18th, by TAA Fokker Friendship across the Timor Sea to land at Baucau International Airport. Joan McMicking recorded her own experiences of a land and its people her husband can never forget:
Down below we could see the yachts in the Darwin to Dili race. We landed at Baucau at 5 p.m. to be met by a smiling, bearded Steve, who had preceded us to line things up at that end. The strip is made of coral and is reputed to have cost the Island's yearly budget to construct out in the middle of nowhere. The Timorese boys were all smiles, but ours vanished when we saw the 'carreira' we had to go the 85 miles to Dili in - a covered lorry with sparsely padded seats. The side of the truck was adorned with a banner 'Welcome to Timor – 2/4th'. All piled in with luggage everywhere, and we were told by a departing tourist: 'You are lucky. We had to share our transport with pigs and goats.'
We all started off in gay spirits, but it wasn't long before quietness descended as we endeavoured to ride the 'bucking horse' over the most tortuous roads ever.
During the ride in the dark, it was amazing the sites of skirmishes recognised by the boys. Towards Dili we passed many natives returning by kuda or walking, the women carrying their loads on their heads. Some were curled up by the roadside in their lepas, waiting to continue their journey of perhaps 30 miles, at daybreak.
Reached Dili at 10 p.m., after five hours drive. Hotel Turismo was very comfortable, and had prepared a meal for us despite the lateness - all lukewarm, as most meals are on the Island - but nevertheless very welcome.
On Sunday, 19 August, the party split into four groups, each of which set out, on separate itineraries, to visit Ermera, Bobonaro, Maubisse and Same, and villages in between, to gather together in Dili on the 26th, to host a reception for 100 officials, including the Portuguese Governor and various officials, liurais, chefes, criados and other valued Timorese and Portuguese friends who had assisted the men of the Independent Companies and Z Special Unit during the Japanese occupation.
B Group headed south - with Stevenson as leader, and Celestino and Akiu as special guests: Our conveyances were two Toyota land cruisers, each flying a 'Welcome to Timor' flag. We reached Maubisse Pousada perched on top of a hill. We had passed through very picturesque country, dotted with 'oomahs' and paddy fields irrigated by means of bamboo pipes from the springs in the hills. All roads have a footpad beside them, trodden by thousands of feet over the years, while up the sides of sheer mountains can be seen the same pads which are the tracks to homes. The view up the valley to Maubisse was breathtaking. During the afternoon we went to a cock-fight in the village, an experience to behold.
Jack Jones had a pleasant surprise at Maubisse:
We were met by some Timorese who claimed that they had been 'criados' to the Australian 'soldados'. One named Mellissa recognised me as his old 'tuan' during the war and a very happy reunion took place. 'Shorty' Hart took a polaroid photo of Mellissa, Dee and I, which we presented to him. I also gave him money and three pairs of shorts and shirts, which I had brought along on the off chance of finding him alive.
When I next saw him in Dili, Mellissa was wearing all the shirts and shorts - one on top of the other.
Joan continues her travelogue:
Breakfast at 6.30 a.m. next day, and off for Fatu Maquerec - and what a trip. The road was hewn out of the side of the mountain, and only wide enough for the vehicle. Many times we closed our eyes and prayed, not daring to look at the sheer drop below. We proceeded until we could go no further owing to a great log blocking the road. Akiu 'bolo'd' for men to come and dig away the side of the hill to let us pass and turn around. In a trice they appeared out of the blue and with pointed sticks and one hoe they did the road repairs.
We all walked about a mile and a half to the village of Mokalulu near Turiscai - after which Bob Phillips named his property - where No.6 Section had camped during the War. We were overwhelmed with friendliness, politeness and giggles from the natives who all stood around. 'Presentas' were handed out, and a 'Mac Walker New Guinea police belt' given to the Chefe. I parted with my hair combs and a hand mirror.
Meanwhile, Cliff Morris had temporarily detached himself from A Group to make a personal pilgrimage to the Hatu Lia-Talu-Lete Foho area:
I planned to take my son, Peter, with me on a kuda ride through this area and continue on over the Ramelau Range - the highest mountain range in Timor - to the Betano beach, our original landing place. But as it turned out, I was 30 years older, and the mountains seemed to have grown steeper and higher, so the first part of our journey took two days instead of one, as I had planned. If we had continued on to Betano we would not have been able to connect with our transport back to Dili.
We left Group A at Fatu Bessi, where we had been welcomed by two Portuguese, Julia Lemos and Serrafin De Santos, who had fond memories of No. 1 Section, particularly Harry Flood and Bill Beattie. We spent a pleasant time going over old memories and they treated us to a fine banquet. There was always a definite feeling of kinship from them to us. They found it very difficult to understand why our Government was so unfriendly.
Next day, orders were quietly given and all the Timorese gathered around. Two horses were provided for us, with European saddles. Our packs were picked up by three Timorese in their early twenties. Julia brought an older Timorese over to us and said: 'This is Denese, a foreman in our factory, we have entrusted him with your care.' I asked Julia what we should pay the men and he said 'Nothing, they are employed by the factory. We are happy to help our friends.'
During the next three hours we were either descending or climbing inland, in and out of short steep gullies about 300 feet in depth at angles of up to 40 degrees. The horses negotiate the descents by taking very short steps with their front feet, hardly lifting them at all. They bring their hind legs up very close to their front legs and mainly slide them along the ground, taking only occasional steps. On the very steep slopes their hind legs dig in as brakes.
Our companions sang, joked or laughed most of the time - mainly at the order and pronunciation of my words as I attempted to speak in Tetum.
After a journey of two hours we came over a hill and in the shadows nestled the village of Barona. The chefe of that village had supplied us with food during the war, often leaving his villagers very short of food themselves. As a token of the villagers' help at that time I presented chefe Barona, an old man of about 80 now, with one of Mac Walker's police belts. All of the people of his village gathered to witness the ceremony. I could feel their excitement as their chefe proudly accepted his belt.
We crossed the Ermera-Hatu Lia road as darkness was falling. Within 15 minutes, it became impossible to proceed either on horseback or on foot through the coffee trees. We stopped while I took a torch from my pack. To our consternation the beam of the torch revealed that we were on the brink of a sheer drop of around I00 feet. We rested a while, and then moved gingerly along the track. Not a thing could be seen or heard in the cool, still night air but the hoot of an owl somewhere below us.
The Timorese then did their 'bolo' (mountain calling), to Peter's delight, as I had been telling him of it since he was a small boy - a haunting yodelling of a language that I do not understand. Before long the answer came back and we moved off in a different direction through the scrub until we came to a good graded motor road that led us to the Talu plantation house, all lit up to welcome us.
There, next morning, we met Senhor Candido Barros, and inspected the coffee drying platform which now occupies the spot where I was involved in an ambush against the Japanese.
Cliff and his son rode over the mountains to Lete Foho only to learn that his criado Adnesta had died some years before. They then contacted Group A at Bobonaro and arranged to rejoin their group at Atsabe.
Ken Piesse recorded the highlights of his tour with Group A. His group set out from Dili with Bazar Tete, Liquica, Ermera, Fatu Bessi and Hatu Lia on the first day's itinerary. It had been arranged for the radio station at Dili to broadcast a message daily across the territory, alerting the people to the visit to their country by former members of the Australian Army, anxious to meet again their friends of wartime days.
At Liquica, Joseph Da Silva with his son Alfredo and chefe Rameshu were there to greet them and share memories of friendships forged in perilous times - now part of the 'saga' of the people described by Alfredo:
The people gather from their various villages to honour their Chief and the parents review their history for their children and grandchildren. They have a special ceremony where they recall their memories in these groups in which they get together once or twice a year so that their sons and grandsons may keep and pass on for the future generations, what has happened up to the present time. In that way we know a lot about Timorese life that has taken place over the past five hundred years.
Joseph Da Silva and chefe Rameshu were each presented with a police belt for their assistance to the Australian troops - the chefe vowing to wear it with pride all his life.
Ken recorded the teacher at a Chinese primary school at Hatu Lia tenderly teaching his young pupils a lesson about road safety and love and care for each other.
The following day, when visiting Bobonaro, Bobbie Coyne taught the children a few words of English - just enough for them to sing "Baa Baa Black Sheep" for the group. Then they conversed and giggled with Jim Landman, in Tetum.
What became of them - those little children?
The group moved on to A Platoon's old supply base at Ratu. The chefe they knew had died two years earlier. The new chefe was away - apparently far away - for he did not respond to the 'bolo' call across the mountains, so his police belt was left with his daughter. At Lete Foho the party met up with Alan Thompson's C Group which had come across from Hata Builico in C Platoon's old area.
The chefe there, (Major Callinan's former criado, Maluka) was presented with his memorial police belt.
Alan Thompson recorded his memories of his return to Timor:
It was a wonderful trip. The highlights were the finding of criados and Portuguese who had helped us 30 years earlier. It was nice to be remembered and to try and communicate with these people again after all that time.
The children of the island were delightful and happy. I thought the health of the people had improved. There were plenty of medical depots in the villages. The education programme had progressed gradually, but wisely I thought, for there were only relatively few jobs available for educated young people. The number of veterinary and agricultural centres or stations impressed, with the introduction of Balinese cattle and wheat as a crop. It seemed that the Administration is stronger than before. The Kings and liurais now seem to have less authority and be given less respect.
We met a number of criados who were with us, including Limili, who had been with us in the Betano area. At Maubisse, we found Bob Fleming's Luckaberry, Joseph, who had worked with Gerry Moran, another Joseph who was with Claude Pulver and Maussen, who had been with Alan Dower. I found Mauberri, who was with me, and Licimo, who was Arthur Kennedy's criado.
At a village called Haulau we called to see Antonio Francisco, now a fit 85-year- old Portuguese who, with his daughter, had watched the bombing of the Voyager.
We went to Fata Luac, now overgrown with lantana - completely destroyed, and not rebuilt. I had recalled it as a pretty and well-kept town. Even the horse trough, in which Jack Kelaher insists I took a bath, has been partially destroyed.
Same had suffered little change. Here we watched native dancers practicing for the impending visit of the Governor. At Ainaro only the church and school remained.
We stopped early one morning for breakfast at Hatu Builico. The view of Tata Mailau, the highest peak, was magnificent. We crossed the saddle to Lete Foho and here it was possible to look in both directions and absorb the beautiful views. As we went down towards Lete Foho the country opened up and became excellent pasture with a number of very clean and tidy villages. But, as we observed in other areas too, there were a number of deserted villages.
All four groups took the opportunity to dash south from Same to Betano beach to pay their respects to the rusting remains of HMAS Voyager. B Group returned to Alas, but by-passed Fatu Cuac, as the road was in bad shape. Gordon Hart noted:
I was not aware that Steve was giving Fatu Cuac a miss so I was completely lost for about an hour. Then lo and behold, there was a banana plantation. Now I've never associated Alas with a banana plantation, but out of the blue came a flash of the past and I knew I was in Alas. At the far end of the town I could remember a sharp climb, with a plateau on top of the hill, where Major Spence had his Force Headquarters.
Wal Staples and I decided to climb the track and ascertain if this was really the spot where Force HQ had been. The track had been widened for vehicular use, but it was still mighty steep. For about 10 minutes we trudged, with hands pushing on knees, then Wal enquired - in between puffs - 'How much bloody further is it?' Things had changed a bit with the grading, but on turning the next comer I was able to tell him: 'Just around the next bend we will find a dead flat plateau.' Sure enough there it was - just as I had seen it 31 years before.
D Group, comprising veterans of C Platoon, had focussed their tour around their old area of responsibility - Ainaro, Same, Hatu Builico, Nunamogue and Bobonaro - reliving memories and endeavouring to locate old friends, with little success. The explanation for this was provided by a group of Timorese, of whom Ken Piesse enquired what had happened to the criados and other Timorese people who had accompanied the Australian soldiers to Quicras, for the evacuation in January 1943. Joseph, the Timorese driver translated their answer:
When you left, the Japanese, who were at Turiscai, Fata Maquerec and Same all closed in. The Japanese shot many people who had helped the Australians and burnt their houses, at Same, Alas and a lot of other places.
A lot of the criados were killed by the Japanese. Some were lucky. They hid in the bush, or in holes in the ground and came out only at night.
At Ainaro many of the tourists visited the Church to pay their respects for two priests, Fathers Roberto and Peres, who were tortured and killed by the Japanese in October 1942. Some renewed their acquaintance with Mother Marina at the convent school. Ken Piesse recorded an interview with her:
I am Italian, but I have been in Timor now for 54 years. During the war I went to Australia in December 1942 on a Dutch destroyer. At that time I was with the Sisters at Laclo. We saw many Australian soldiers at the river nearby. Some of them asked for food. The sisters in the rice fields gave them food. One of your men, Mr Hart, remembers that. He was in Laclo at that time. He remembers us.
Wal Staples confessed to her that he and others had visited her unattended convent at that time and "borrowed" two geese. Mother Marina smiled at this and quietly said to him, "You have our absolution."
Reflecting on wartime days, she said:
Some boys came to us - Timorese boys - and told us who you were. No one told us you were coming, but we were happy to see you. We felt all together ... like a family. We suffered all together at that time. Some of your men carried us through the swamps to Betano when we went to Australia. There was a little girl at Maubisse ... she was 10 years old when she was carried out.
On visiting Maubisse, the 2/4th party met this "little girl". She was now the proprieteress of the Hotel.
From Same, "Darky" Kinnane was sent off to Ainaro with a parcel of gifts for Mother Marina to distribute amongst some of the more needy Timorese and, if possible, to the families of those who helped us so fearlessly in 1942-43. Mother Marina promised that she would distribute them to the children in the mountains on Christmas Day, with our expressions of gratitude and friendship.
At Ermera, the son of Julie Madeira, a Portuguese official who had spurned neutrality to assist the Allied cause, introduced himself. He and Julie's widow were invited to the Dili reception.
When the groups re-gathered at Dili on 25 August, Alan Oakley's criado, Mowberry, accompanied by the liurai of Remexio (a son of Dom Masquite, who was killed by the Japanese) with his two small grandchildren, came to meet them. Hart, McMicking, Whelan and Staples, led by Mowberry, and accompanied by Celestino, left Dili at daybreak on 26 August and drove to Remexio. From where they trudged up to their old Dili OP. Then they came down the mountain to Hera, from where they returned to Dili, arriving exhausted at midday. Hart recalls:
The OP itself has changed a bit. The old trig point (bottle shaped) has been replaced with a smaller cylinder shaped marker. A lot of saplings have grown all over what was then a completely clear knoll. But the view is still as enthralling as ever.
Rob Whelan suggested that we should, on our return to Dili, send a telegraphic signal to Mac Walker - 'Dili OP area all clear'. Unfortunately I was unable to arrange the signal. Mac would have known that he was never far from our thoughts as we moved from place to place in Timor.
The Reception held that evening, on the top floor of the Hotel Resende, was a function never to be forgotten. Francisca Vierra, (widow of John, who fought with my section and did not survive the war) was living in very poor circumstances. She was collected by taxi, lifted into a wheelchair, and carried by four strong ex- commando friends of her husband, up all those stairs to the reception, which was held in an open air setting, with tables laden with Timorese food, beer, whisky, orangeade, and Pepsi cola. John Vierra's criado, Antonio, who was a small roly-poly boy of seven or eight years in 1942, and had assumed the task of looking after Francisca when his 'tuan' died, accompanied her to the function.
Alan Thompson presented the formal speech of welcome to the Portuguese and Timorese guests:
We are a small group representing all the members of the 2/4th Independent Company who were in Timor 31 years ago.
We came to visit these places where we had been before, to meet old friends and to say thank you to all those wonderful Portuguese and Timorese people who gave us so much assistance in those troubled times. Some are here today. They looked after us, fed us, guided us and, in many cases saved our lives.
We remember the Portuguese and Timorese people with a deep sense of gratitude and just saying 'thank you' seems to be a very small thing to do. But I can assure you, Your Excellency, that we say it from our hearts, with a deep feeling that cannot be expressed in words.
We will never forget ...
Ralph Coyne presented to the Governor two cheques, each for $750, for the Red Cross Society and the Catholic Church, to be used expressly for the benefit of the Timorese people and particularly those living in the mountains to the south of Dili.
The Governor of Portuguese Timor, Colonel Alves Aldeia, responded:
In two totally different eras we have now welcomed members of the Australian Armed Forces amongst our numbers ... once in times of war, with arms at the ready, today in complete peace and tranquillity they pay us a visit in a quiet, nostalgic sojourn through those places at which they, in yesteryear, have stayed or passed through. They search for those people who, during those unquiet times, had offered them every possible assistance which one human being could render to another in the Christian manner, even risking not only their own lives but also those of their families and loved ones ...
I see in this sympathetic presentation of these two cheques which have been handed to me, a beautiful example of the generosity and recognition characteristic of the magnanimity of the Australian people.
On 27 August, the tourists departed from Dili. The main party passed through Manatuto heading for Baucau and Tutuala. Steve, Rob and Margaret Whelan, Wal Staples, Jack and Dorothy Jones, Cliff and Peter Morris and Gordon Hart, in company with Akiu, Celestino and a young Portuguese officer, detoured south at Manatuto to recapture the atmosphere of some old ambush and skirmish sites, and climb once more to the Punar OP.
Four miles west of Manatuto they saw where the road had been blown up by Happy Hammond and Jack Jones. Along the Sumasi and Laclo Rivers they found the location of ambushes carried out by No.4 and No.6 Sections, and the place where Owen Williams fell. After a stiff climb out of the Laclubar valley along the track to Fatu Maquerec they came to an unfamiliar new Punar. Their destination was a further two hours along the track. Half of the party turned back to Laclubar. The others soldiered on.
After struggling up and down for two hours, we rounded a knoll and we were at the Punar we knew. There is no village left now, but the copse of trees in the bend of the track and at the base of the last pinch up to the OP is the same as it was before. The sight of that long haul up the ridge leading to the mountain between Punar and Fatu Maquerec, brought memories flooding back through the years.
The scene from the OP is still unbelievable. You can see from Dili to Manatuto and back to Turiscai and right around to the valley where Soibada is situated. It was incredible to find the slit trench dug by our engineers so long ago. I sat under the trees where No. 4 Section spent the night when we RV'd with the rest of B Platoon on our way out.
Gordon then climbed from Laclubar up to the village where No. 4 Section had spent its first week on the Island, to search for his criado, Luckaberry, only to find out that he had died:
From our enquiries we ascertained that after we left the Island, the Japanese occupied Laclubar and systematically killed all adults in the area who had helped us in any way.
The chefe, who was then 14 years old, was one of the few who helped No. 4 Section in the area and survived. He traced Luckaberry’s widow and son, aged 14, who were living in a village nearby. I was able to arrange for them to come down to the Portuguese Army post at Laclubar before we left. Our meeting was a very emotional moment. We presented them both, and the village chefe, with clothing, blankets and money.
We found the very large village along the old Cribas road overlooking Manatuto, from which we procured quite a number of meals - now overgrown with grass. Only one uma remained. We could find only one young boy and one old man in the area.
At Laclo, the old liurai recognised Jack Jones after all those years and the men had a swim in the river "for old time's sake".
The groups departed Manatuto on 28 August, for the return to Baucau. Along the road, they inspected the site of No. 5 Section's ambush, led by Alan Oakley, of the Japanese troops in convoy. Rob Whelan located the breastwork of stones that he had prepared to conceal himself and his Bren, as well as five spent Bren Gun cases and a spent cartridge discharged by a Japanese officer from his pistol whilst in hot pursuit of Kit Carson through the cactus.
Ken Piesse took a party to the caves dug at Venilale by enslaved Timorese labourers, who were slaughtered there by the Japanese to prevent them revealing their purpose and location to the Allies.
At Baucau there were some emotional farewells. Joan McMicking describes one of those moving moments:
We all gathered at the bar to bid farewell to Akiu and Celestino. Shorty spoke with a decided quiver in his voice as he presented them both with a 'presenta' from B Group and I noticed that Steve was overcome. Celestino then went home and Akiu joined us for lunch before coming out to the airport - a very dejected, quiet little man. It was very hard saying goodbye to our loyal little friend who openly stood there weeping bitterly. Many of our group too were seen to wipe away tears.
Ralph Coyne expressed our thanks to Simon, our driver and guide, and to Angelo, our interpreter, who responded emotionally. Then we boarded our aircraft for our flight away from Timor.
My lasting impression of Timor is of a most beautiful, picturesque country - a Switzerland without the snow - of gentle, smiling Timorese people always ready to wave and greet us as we passed by. A country in which we felt welcome wherever we went.