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Edward Willis

Commando Campaign Sites – East Timor - Liquica District - Bazar-tete

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COMMANDO CAMPAIGN SITES – EAST TIMOR

LIQUICA DISTRICT

BAZAR-TETE

GPS: S 08°37`30.9”, E 125°22`59.5”

‘Bazar-Tete (Vila Eduardo Marques) is 14 miles (221/2 km) southwest of Dilli at a bearing of 242°. A small posto town on the southern slopes of the range running through Dilli Province.  The posto is situated 3,000 feet (900 m) above sea level and has the usual surrounding stone wall.  Besides the posto there are a few Chinese shops built of stone with galvanized iron roofs.  It is connected to Dilli by MT road and joins the main road at Aipelo.  Bazar-Tete is usually cloud bound, especially in the afternoons.  Australian troops established an OP on Cutu-Lau for observation on Dilli and north coast with, good results.  Water pipeline from small concrete reservoir on Cutu-Lau’. [1]

594701986_Bazar-TetemapfromASPT.thumb.jpeg.b829b81db39bde8153a2bba07bf0abe4.jpeg

Callinan described his first visit there as follows:

‘Between Liquissa and Dili a road led off up into the hills to a place called Bazar-Tete. We followed the road until a landslide blocked it, but, proceeding on foot, some of the party found the posto perched on a long spur and looking out over the sea, with Maubara, Liquissa and Dili spread out below.  The Chef de Posto was most hospitable and provided refreshments which included a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label whisky’. [2]

Significance

By early February 1942 Laidlaw's B platoon was in the Bazar-Tete area, where it was in a position to control the coast road running west from Dili and had an OP overlooking the airfield.  Laidlaw observed the Japanese landings from the OP on 20 February and reported this to Company HQ at Railaco.

The Japanese reacted to an ambush conducted by Lieutenant Tom Nisbet’s 4 Section of B Platoon on the coast road by mounting an attack on Bazar-Tete on 2 March with 200 men.  In the firefight, the men of 4 Section defended their position against a frontal assault and flanking movement by the Japanese.

Although cut off, the Australians carried out an organised withdrawal along another track, but not before suffering casualties.  A Japanese soldier armed with a machine-gun worked his way behind the Australians and opened fire, killing Private H.E. Mitchell (https://doublereds.org.au/history/men-of-the-22/wx/henry-eric-mitchell-r464/) instantly. Turning towards the Japanese, Private W.P. 'Paddy' Knight (whose real name was Cotter) (https://doublereds.org.au/history/men-of-the-22/wx/patrick-knight-r397/) was hit in the stomach by several bullets.  Another man, Private A.R. Hollow (https://doublereds.org.au/history/men-of-the-22/wx/allan-read-hollow-r340/), was shot in the face, his jaw being carried away. Under severe pressure, the Australians conducted a fighting withdrawal towards Hatu-Lia and were not pursued by the Japanese who lost forty or even more men in the action including two officers.

The Portuguese chefe de postoat Bazaar-Tete arranged for the two men to be buried on high ground overlooking the sea, marking their graves with simple wooden crosses.  The Timorese later erected a cairn.  Their bodies were eventually recovered by the War Graves Commission. [3]

Visiting Bazar-Tete Today

The township can be visited following the same road from Aipelo described in the ASPT and by Callinan.  The road is bituminised but badly cut about by landslides and flood damage in several places.  A new road from Dili should reach the township in a year or two.

The Sede de Posto (Administration Headquarters) is a building of Portuguese origins, dated from 1939, with a simple rectangular plan and would been well known to the 2/2 men.  Built in carved stone and a mortar of lime and sand, it has a zinc covering.  Originally the Headquarters of the Administrator of Bazar-Tete, it was adapted to a military command during the Indonesian occupation.  It was burned in 1999, following the announcement of the results of the Popular Consultation, and renovated in 2003.  Nowadays, it serves as the Headquarters of the Subdistrict Administration of Bazar-Tete.

Close by is the Residência do Administrador de Posto (Administrator’s Residence); also dated from 1939, with a simple rectangular plan.  Built in carved stone and a mortar of lime and sand, it has a zinc covering.  It is one of the few examples of buildings of this period that maintains its original layout, both from the point of view of the facades and the organisation of its inner spaces.

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Satellite view of Bazar-Tete indicating key locations

Built as the House of the Administrator of Bazar-Tete, it was adapted during the Indonesian occupation to host a Military Command.  In 1985, it returned to its original functions as the residence of the Administrator (Camat, in Indonesian language) of Bazar-Tete.

It was looted and burnt in 1999 by the administrator himself, following the announcement of the results of the Popular Consultation, and it has since been recovered, currently working as the Command Post of the Bazar-Tete PNTL (National Police of Timor-Leste). [4]

A local resident Sr Eugénio dos Santos, the son of Louis Gonzaga – 2/2 soldier Ray Aitken’s creado - can be contacted (+670 7368009) and employed as a local guide when visiting the township and surrounding areas where the fighting took place including the Australian encampment, gun pits and the place where Knight and Mitchell were buried.  Anyone visiting will need to speak Tetum or be accompanied by an interpreter.

There is thick bush and difficult terrain in the battle site locations, and they cannot be located without local guidance.

References

[1] ASPT: 26.

[2] Callinan: 24.

[3] For accounts of the firefight at Bazar-Tete, see Ayris: 145-148, Cleary: 113-117 and Wray: 74-76.

[4] Património Arquitetónico de Origem Portuguesa De Liquiçá́: 119-137.

 

Prepared by Ed Willis

Revised: 22 August 2019

Rock at the location of the 2:2 4 Section's camp.jpg

On the road up from Aipelo to Bazar-Tete.jpg

Residência do Administrador de Posto (Administrator’s Residence).jpg

Sede de Posto (Administration Headquarters).jpg

2:2 gun pit at ambush site.jpg

DSC02195.jpg

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Thanks Ed

Can't wait to do the tour next year and your guide is going to be a great asset to tourists to Timor Leste. If the rest of your guide is like this then congratulations 

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