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Commando Campaign Sites – East Timor - Ainaro District - Ainaro

Edward Willis

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GPS: 8°59′49″S 125°30′18″E


Ermera’s location from map in Area Study of Portuguese Timor (1943) [1]

The Area study of Portuguese Timor also describes the town.  The street layout is still extant as are several of the buildings indicated on the following map:

"Ainaro (see Map No, 15): Also stated to be known as Suro, but no confirmation as to whether this is correct.  Ainaro is 20 miles (32 km.) south of Aileu at a bearing of 192°.  A large town with posto and market, which is held weekly.  It is situated on the southern slopes of Ramelau Range and built between two tributaries of the Sue River.  The posto is well constructed and surrounded by the usual stone wall.  Several stone buildings such as the Governor's palace, administrative block, Chinese shops, church with large spire, priest's residence and uncompleted schoolhouse, hospital and annex, etc. constitute the town.  The streets are well constructed and an old road leads to Maubisse.  This road was suitable for M.T.  A concrete bridge was demolished by Australians as a roadblock in 1942 and approaches have been washed away.  The road is now in general disrepair". [2]


Map of Ainaro (1943) [3]

Ken Piesse of the 2/4th described arriving in Ainaro in September 1942:

"Next day, with Bob Palmer's Section, we trudged past the maize and coconut plantations, up and down the hills, before finally reaching Ainaro, a really charming, beautiful spot in the centre of a rich area.  What a Garden of Eden!  Strawberries, sugar cane, mangoes, paw-paws, tomatoes - all kinds of vegetables.  Reaching there, we sat down almost immediately to a sumptuous meal, fit for a king.  We wondered how many more we would enjoy like that one.

Ainaro has a characteristic common to many Portuguese towns - its streets are paved with bricks.  Harry and I would go up each morning to the top of the town where a little bridge, erected in 1936, allowed a rushing stream to pass underneath a roadway.  There a quick wash refreshed us before breakfast.  In the evening a large waterhole in the river some 500 yards below the 'palace' served our washing requirements well.  The 'palace', where David Dexter's HQ was located, was the home of the King of Ainaro, prior to the Japanese infiltration south of the Ramelau.

Mighty Ramelau towered 10,000 ft above Ainaro.  Its sheer slopes were separated from the pretty little town, complete with a red-roofed church, by only a mile of irrigated rice fields.  The rice cultivation outside Ainaro was the biggest I had seen.  Their orderly terraces were a pleasure to see". [4]



Callinan also described the town around that time:

"At Ainaro was established a base for the treatment of sick personnel.  In addition to the company's sick there were many men from Koepang who were still ineffective for one reason or another.  Ainaro was placed under the control of Captain Dunkley (Company medical officer) and was ideal for our purpose.  The town itself was the oldest post in the island, having been one of the early missionary centres.  It was well laid out and had some fine houses and a hospital which was taken over by us.  In peace time it had been used as a summer residence by the Governor, and his residence became the officers' quarters.  In addition, it was a rich area peopled by friendly Christian natives, and the Chefe de Posto was most helpful and could speak good English". [5]

Later on he provides this additional description:

"The town was laid out in neat cobbled streets with a small park in the centre, on to which opened the house and offices of the Chefe de Posta as well as the summer residence of the Governor". [6]


The town of Ainaro was strategically important throughout the Commando Campaign being located on the main through route heading south from Dili through Aileu and Maubisse towards the southwest strongholds of Mape and Bobonaro.  Once there, a track could also be followed through Hatu-Udo to the south coast landing place of Betano.

By mid-May 1942 Sparrow Force Headquarters was at Mape, with the Independent Company Headquarters located at Bobonaro.  A Platoon, then commanded by Lieutenant Dexter, was dispersed between Marobo and Cailaco while Laidlaw's B Platoon was still at Remexio, covering the environs of Dili.  Boyland's C Platoon was at Maubisse.  Another platoon, initially called K (Koepang) Platoon, but subsequently D Platoon, was being raised from troops from Dutch Timor who had completed training.  This incomplete platoon was initially based at Memo.


Recent aerial view of Ainaro – Bing Maps

As part of the reorganisation of the Australian forces, the hospital under Captain Dunkley had been moved to Ainaro, an old missionary town which in peacetime had housed the governor's summer retreat.  In addition to providing hospital care for the sick, troops from Koepang were placed in training squads.  Under the guidance of non-commissioned officers and selected privates from Independent Company sections the Koepang troops received basic infantry training followed by a grounding in Independent Company work and then became members of the new D Platoon under the command of Lt Don Turton.  Callinan recorded that:

"Through Ainaro passed representatives of nineteen different units including all arms of the service and many specialist units, postal, dental and similar.  Also men such as refrigerator specialists, bakers and butchers.  Many of these had received no infantry training what- soever and some of them were aged over fifty.  Ainaro did much to rehabilitate many of the men who had come to us, and afterwards they gave good service" [7]

The newly formed D Platoon went into action for the first time on 15 June 1942.  Dr Dunkley’s hospital was relocated from Ainaro to Same in mid-August – the latter town was deemed to be a more secure location at that time.


Map of Dili, Aileu, Maubisse Region [8]


Road Conditions in 1942

The Area study of Portuguese Timor (1943) describes the terrain traversed by the road between Ainaro to Maubisse via Aituto in a manner that is still relevant today:


Distance 17 miles (27 km.).  Time taken, 81/2 hours.

This track, along which many actions have taken place, is really an old road too much in disrepair to be claimed as a road.  It crosses some of the most rugged country on the island.  There is very little cover throughout the route.  From the thickly populated mission centre of Ainaro the track winds up to the saddle of the Suro Range from which the Maubisse Valley can be seen.  The track then winds steeply down and crosses a rapid tributary of the Be-Lulic River.  With the huge mountain spurs of the Ramelau Range to the northwest, and of the Cablac Range to the southeast, the track winds precipitously along the right side of the Be-Lulic gorge crossing many streams until Aituto at the junction of the Maubisse-Ainaro and Maubisse-Same tracks are reached.

From Aituto the track winds round a big range up to the Maubisse Saddle and then descends steeply across the Carau-Ulo River into the posto of Maubisse.  Because of its nature this track from Ainaro to Maubisse has been the scene of some our most successful Australian ambushes of the Timor campaign". [9]

Callinan as so often, can be relied on to provide a description of the terrain in 1942 that can also be readily applied to today:

"The Portuguese had constructed a number of roads throughout the colony.  The north coast road was trafficable, as were portions of the other roads; but, as we knew the inland roads, they were hopelessly cut about by landslides and the ravages of torrents.  All the roads were splendidly graded, and the mind retains a vivid picture of such roads as that between Ainaro and Maubisse in steep sidling country winding with a tantalizing regular grade for mile after mile, back into chasm-like gullies and out around precipitous spurs.  Grade and windings alike seemed interminable". [10]


Dili-Ainaro driving directions - MapQuest

Road Conditions Today

The road from Dili to Ainaro has been substantially upgraded over the last five years through a major infrastructure project funded by the World Bank and can be transited by car in comfort.  Rehabilitation work to complete the final section of the Dili to Ainaro road corridor in Timor-Leste has started - the project will upgrade the 22.6 km Laulara-Solerema section of the 110km road corridor. [11]

The completion of the project will be an important milestone in one of the most significant transport projects ever undertaken in Timor-Leste, and will help to ensure safer, faster and more reliable travel between the North and the South of the country -- connecting the districts of Dili, Aileu and Ainaro, which jointly account for a third of the country’s population.

Timor-Leste is vulnerable to extreme weather with heavy rain and landslides damaging roads and bridges, and accelerating wear and tear on vital infrastructure.  The Dili to Ainaro roadworks feature improved drainage, construction or reinforcement of slope stabilization, and pavement rehabilitation and were done with a focus on future resilience to the effects of weather and natural hazards.  In addition to the road construction, the World Bank is working with the United Nations Development Program to equip local communities with the skills and knowledge to better manage the effects of natural disasters and weather events along the Dili-Ainaro Road Corridor.

About 25 kilometres south of Maubisse, the road tops out over a ridge at Flecha with spectacular views of the Ramelau range to the west and forks with the left heading to Same in Manufahi district and the right, which leads to the district capital of Ainaro.  There are fantastic views here, east down into the deep valley of the Belulie River, and across to the Cablaque Range.

Recent Description of Ainaro

The rural town of Ainaro is the administrative capital of Ainaro district and Ainaro sub- district.  It is located within the administrative boundaries of the village (suku) of Ainaro.  The village of Ainaro is composed of seven hamlets.  Of these Hatumera, Lugatu and Teliga are considered to be 'mountain' (foho) or rural hamlets, while Ainaro, Sabago, Builco and Nugufu constitute the bulk of Ainaro town.


An unidentified Australian soldier in the remains of Ainaro Hospital. Ainaro is a mountain town in the southwest of East Timor. The town was hit hard during the civil unrest that occurred throughout 1999 and 2000, when its health clinics, hospital and schools were all levelled by militia groups.

Ainaro town was almost completely destroyed in 1999 by pro-autonomy militia and elements of the Indonesian military.  Practically all public buildings including the district hospital were destroyed; the Catholic mission school, Canossian residence and almost 80 per cent of all private dwellings were also burnt and looted.  Many of the inhabitants of Ainaro town fled or were forcibly displaced to West Timor; others sought shelter in the surrounding hills and mountains.  While the majority of East Timorese former residents of Ainaro have now returned, or resettled in the capital Dili, some remain in West Timor or elsewhere in Indonesia and many non-East Timorese former residents, including Indonesian civil servants and business people, have not returned and are not expected to return.


Portuguese era market, Ainaro – 27 April 2014

Although the rehabilitation and reconstruction of basic infrastructure in Ainaro town has been slow, a number of public services now are available.  There are two public primary schools, a public pre-secondary and secondary school, an out-patient health clinic, a hospital, and a police station.  In 2007, the town water supply and electricity were also rehabilitated.  The town market and abattoir is in the process of being refurbished and housing for the local police is also being built.  The district and sub-district administration continue to occupy buildings rehabilitated during the UN Transitional Administration.

While a number of local residents are employed as public servants, the majority are engaged in various forms of subsistence farming.  Households farm a variety of crops including maize, beans, potatoes and root crops in swidden gardens on land surrounding Ainaro town.  Permanent and seasonal fruits and other market vegetables are often grown in house plots or uncultivated areas of land in and around Ainaro town.  A number of households have access to rice fields to the south of the town, near the neighbouring village of Cassa, or to the east near Manutasi.  Many households also cultivate coffee in small plantations in upland areas.  It is common for households to keep pigs and chickens; only a limited number graze cattle in upland pastures.

There are two markets in Ainaro town.  The first is located close to the old town centre and was originally built during the Portuguese period.  The second, larger market is temporarily located in the 'new' town close to the Indonesian-era district administrator's office, which is currently being rebuilt.  Saturday is the main market day in Ainaro, and people travel from surrounding villages, sub-districts and districts to buy and sell their produce.  There are also a number of shops in town selling a wide variety of manufactured goods.  Many of these shops are owned and run by Chinese-Indonesian or Chinese-Timorese.

The size and composition of Ainaro town has changed considerably over time.  Today, Ainaro village has a population of 6,937 people, the majority of whom live in Ainaro town (Census 2010).  This accounts for approximately 45 per cent of the total sub-district population.  The population of Ainaro town rose rapidly in the aftermath of the Indonesian invasion as communities were displaced from remote areas and resettled closer to military installations and administrative centres such as Ainaro town.  Since independence, the rate of return to remote areas has been relatively slow with larger numbers of people continuing to migrate from rural areas to urban areas.  While a small proportion of the current population includes persons displaced from Dili in the aftermath of the political violence in 2006, the most common reasons for moving to urban areas since independence are access to education and employment opportunities (Census 2010). [12]

There are a few significant remnants of the town as it is existed in 1942 that can be seen when visiting.

Portuguese Memorial to Dom Aleixo Corte Real

In the central part of town there is a substantial Portuguese war memorial, the provenance of which has been well described by Geoffrey Gunn:

"Another surviving reminder of the Japanese occupation is the less elaborate but no less compelling – even elegant – monument in Ainaro to Dom Aleixo Corte Real, the quintessential loyal Timorese chief killed by the Japanese in May 1943) ….  Taking the form of a simple stone arch offering a large open window space into which a wrought iron cross is placed, the monument is headed ‘Por Portugal’ and, at the base, inscribed ‘A Memoria do Regulo D. Aleixo Corte Real, Morreu em 1943’.

Yet, from an Australian War Memorial photograph dated 24 January 1945 and taken by K.B. Davis of Sparrow Force [Negative no. 125289], this monument was preceded by a sepulchre of the royal family where the skulls of ‘King’ Aleixo and his three ‘sons’ or more likely companheiros, Alfonso, Francisco, and Alveira, were on public (?) display, albeit arranged behind a crucifix.

As Pelissier comments, the uprising by Maubisse was not out of love for the Japanese, but out of decades-old memories of the Manufahi wars, especially the quest on the part of this disaffected people in seeking revenge against rival Suro (Aileu), and its loyalists, namely Dom Aleixo Corte Real, liurai of Suro, nephew of Nai-Cau, the ‘traitor’ liuraiof the 1912 rebellion who stood with the Portuguese.  Posthumously awarded Portuguese state honours, Dom Aleixo, his sons and followers, mounted a heroic but doomed stand against Japanese-led forces in the mountains of Timor in May 1943". [13]


Portuguese Memorial to Dom Aleixo Corte Real – 27 April 2014

Former Summer Residence of the Portuguese Governor

This building is a fine example of the Portuguese architectural heritage and is now being used as Timor-Leste government offices.  This could be the former summer residence of the governor that was used as officers’ quarters by the 2/2nd.  Bernard Callinan reminisces again:

"I've only been back once, with my wife in 1963.  The Portuguese army commander made a jeep and an officer available to take me wherever I wanted to go.  Fifteen years after the war, there were the postos [districts] and all the colonial officials again, the same as before.  In Ainaro, a pretty town with the mountains up high behind, there's a summer residence for the Governor which had probably been there a hundred years before Melbourne had a single white person in it.  There was European influence so long; the Portuguese were in Timor twice as long as the British were in India". [14]

Harry Wray became familiar with this building when back in Ainaro after the August Push:

"Well, as I have said the Japs gave up their drive as suddenly as they had commenced it and returned to Dili.  Dex left the village we were in and marched down into Ainaro.  That is where the Doctor had his Hospital at the time I went there to have a tooth extracted".


Former Summer Residence of the Portuguese Governor, Ainaro – 27 April 2014

"We took up our quarters in the Governor’s summer residence, a nice house complete with bathroom and all mod cons.  Steps led down from the house to a cobbled road, and across the road was a rectangle of grass closely planted with huge trees.  Facing the end of the rectangle of grass and trees was the Administrator’s house.

Ainaro, like Bobonaro, was the headquarters of an Administrator.  The Governor of the Porto part of the island was the head of the local government.  Under him came the Administrators who each governed a Province, and under the Administrators came the Comandantes who each governed a District in the respective Provinces.

The Administrator of Ainaro was absent during the close proximity of the Japs as he was known to them as friendly to the Australians.  After the Japs departed from the area he returned to his house with his wife, a very pretty woman, and his young daughter.  The Administrator’s house was to the left of our house, but close by.  On the other side of the park like area lay the Administrative offices and jail.  One Section of Dex’s men were camped in this building.

We had several visits early in the morning from Jap planes, but beyond flying over the place they did not attempt to bomb or molest anyone in Ainaro.  The Administrator and his family never failed to come racing out to shelter.  The Administrator would be in the lead in his pyjamas, next a few yards behind his pretty wife in a silk nightgown with a white silk dressing gown streaming out behind as she raced for the trench, and in the rear would come the little girl legging it for shelter.  The procession would shoot out the front door, down the front path out of the gate, across the cobbled street and then for about fifteen yards across the grass under the trees to the trench, which was almost directly in front of our house.  We never bothered to go the shelter and used to watch the race to the slit trench with much enjoyment". [15]


AWM 125284 - Ainaro, Portuguese Timor. 1946-01-24.  The stone church at Ainaro whose towers were uses as air-raid observation posts.  (Photographer Sgt K.B. Davis)

The Church in Ainaro

In Ainaro’s Catholic precinct a large church, nunnery, seminary and schools lie in close proximity.  Callinan was a devout Catholic, known to some of his compatriots as “the Saint”.  He recalled:

"Entering into Ainaro my attention was drawn first to the church, a large white structure with a red roof, standing away from the town.  This was the missionary centre of the colony, and it was fitting that it should possess a good church". [16]

Another 2/2nd veteran, Paddy Kenneally recalled:

"I went to Mass in Ainaro for Easter Sunday 1942.  The beautiful Gregorian chant of the natives' singing was wonderful …". [17]

The Catholic Church in Ainaro has been a significant building in the townscape since before WWII.  Its presence is referred to in the recollections of Callinan, Lambert and Kenneally and it is referenced in the Area Study including being placed on the map of the town in its current location.


Ainaro Church, 29 July 2008

The building has a large footprint, a lofty interior and distinctive twin towers embracing the south frontage.  It is a building of national significance and is undergone an extensive internal and external refurbishment that was commenced in 2013 and is still incomplete at the time of writing.

Comparison of photos from 1946, 2008 and 2014 shows that some details of the front aspect have changed over time.  Earlier on the bells were not hung in the towers but positioned on rather temporary looking wooden supports on either side of the front piazza.  The typically Portuguese balustrade enclosing the piazza has not been recreated in the current refurbishment that has an open fully stepped approach.  As yet, the front window treatments are incomplete and don’t reflect the mix of Portuguese and Timorese traditional decoration that was featured in 2008.  The final internal and external colour scheme is also not evident.


AWM 125285 - Ainaro, Portuguese Timor.  1946-01-24.  Sergeant G. Milsom, Military History Section Field Team and formerly of the 2/2nd Independent Company, stands beside the grave of three Portuguese priests.  Fathers Piris, Alberto and Luiz were killed because of their anti-Japanese sympathies.  (Photographer Sgt K.B. Davis)

Harry Wray recalled:

"Ainaro was remarkable for an enormous church.  It would have been a very large church for even a big city, but for a place like Ainaro it was immense.  This church was rather like the cathedral in Dili in general design, and nearly as large.  The priests looked after the church, and also ran a big mission.  The natives were taught, among other things, cultivation and agriculture.

One of the priests was a small man with a bright ginger red beard and hair.  He looked more like a Scot than a Portuguese.  He spoke excellent English.  The other and younger Father was a typical Portuguese of the plump variety, but like the senior priest, very well disposed to us.

The priests had a wireless set and allowed a few of us to call each night to hear a broadcast of the news.  I was the representative of those at the Governor’s house and would go up each night to hear the news, and when I returned I had to repeat it to the other men.  I can recall hearing the news of the Jap attack at Milne Bay and the defeat they suffered there, the first major reversal they suffered in New Guinea".


AWM 125286 - Ainaro, Portuguese Timor.  1946-01-24.  Sergeant G. Milsom, Military History Section Field Team and Formerly of the 2/2nd Independent Company, re-enacts what was a regular occurrence during the Australian occupation of Ainaro.  As Manuberi his creado or native helper points to the distance Sgt Milsom rings one of the church bells that were used to sound air raid alarms when the Japanese air force launched bombing raids on the town. (Photographer Sgt K.B. Davis)

"Sometime later the Japs entered Ainaro after a day long battle with Dex and his Platoon.  The two Bren gunners who were both wonderful shots silenced the crews of six Vickers’ guns time after time, and largely helped in keeping about five hundred Japs all day.  Our sixty or so men walked off after dark in good order.

It was out of the question to remain against the Japs at night, as with their superior numbers they would have surrounded our men in the dark and wiped them out at their leisure the next day.

These Japs entered Ainaro and stayed a few days, but after they had gone our men had a look around and found that contrary to their usual habits the Japs had left the place undamaged, and clean.  They had not molested any of the local inhabitants in any way.

Not long after this, another large party of Japs gain visited Ainaro, after being well harassed as they passed along a narrow track on their way there.  This party was just the opposite in their behaviour.  A party of Dutch who were sent in to have a look around found many signs of wanton destruction, and the houses they had occupied in a filthy condition.  They found and buried the remains of the two priests who had been literally hacked to pieces in their church.  So it was that these two men paid the penalty for being friendly with us.  They were indeed good friends to us, and we were all shocked to hear of their terrible fate". [18]


Charles Bush - Captain Dunkley's hospital, Ainaro Timor.  Showing the building in which Captain C R Dunkley, Australian Army Medical Corps, the Medical Officer of 2/2nd Australian Independent Company, established a base for the treatment of sick personnel of the Company, during the guerilla operations against the Japanese in 1942.  Many men of "Sparrow Force" who had not surrendered at Koepang who were still ineffective for one reason or another, were also treated here.

The Hospital in Ainaro

The current Indonesian era building was constructed on the site of the former Portuguese hospital that was used by Dr Roger Dunkley and his medical team for lengthy periods during the Commando Campaign.  Col Doig recalled travelling to Ainaro to be treated by the Doctor:

"My health deteriorated rapidly at Bobanaro and pleurisy set in and my appetite deserted me completely.  I was put into bed at Australia House and a Portuguese enfermeira became my kind of doctor …


Ainaro Hospital, 1938.  The photo can be viewed at the current hospital

"I don't really know who decided that I had better get to see Capt. Dunkley at his hospital at Ainaro.  A litter was made from poles and a blanket and a fair number of native carriers pressed into service to carry me from Bobanaro to Ainaro.  It was to be a journey of at least five days.  I am really not sure how long because I was in a stupor a lot of the time.  The tracks in Timor are nothing short of terrible, and with natives carrying the litter over streams and gullies and up and down mountains, and I mean mountains, it was a bloody nightmare of the worst kind each day.  A bit, of chicken soup was about all I could keep down.


It was a further three days before I was to reach Ainaro on this horror journey.  I was but skin and bone on arrival.  I remember somewhere along the journey one of our cooks, ‘Frying Pan Smith’ came up on a Timor pony and was horrified to see me and offered, me a smoke which was not on.  Capt. Dunkley, who was no giant, lifted me off this litter and carried me like a baby into his hospital and gave up his mattress to me for my comfort.  It was to be a fairly long grind before I got back onto the track again. 

Apparently in the period just before I got to Bobonaro the wonderful set 'Winnie the War Winner' had been successfully constructed by Joe Loveless and his assistants, especially Sig Keith Richards and Capt. Geo. Parker of 8th Div. Sigs, and communications had been re-established with Australia.  A P.B.Y. Flying Boat had arrived and Brigadier Veale, Col. Van Straaten, badly wounded in the persons of Pte. Alan Hollow, Eddie Craighill, Gerry Maley and Clarrie Varian had been lifted back to Australia.  The reason the Brigadier was at Bobanaro at the time of my outburst was to get final briefing prior to departure.  By the time I reached Capt. Dunkley at Ainaro that crowd had gone to Aussie and this relieved Capt. Dunkley of these badly wounded and allowed him a bit more time for lesser fry like yours truly.  So the Doctor set out to do his best for me and a big swag of sick people in his hospital".


AWM 125287 - Ainaro, Portuguese Timor.  1946-01-24.  This building was taken over as a hospital by Captain C.R. Dunkley, 2/2nd Independent Company, during the period in 1942 when Sparrow Force occupied the town.  The verandah was used as a mess hall.  (Photographer Sgt K.B. Davis)

"It was estimated that I weighed less than six stone on arrival, and I learned many years later from Sgt. Cliff Paff that the Doc didn't give me much chance of survival, but that didn't deter him from getting on with the job.  He used Friars Balsam all over the lung area as a counter irritant to reduce the fluid on the lung and get rid of the pleurisy.  He said immediately that the quinine bark had been a disaster as it had brought on Black Water Fever, which was usually a fever that killed in 90% of cases.  He fed me as best he could and gave me quinine to keep the malaria at bay, and fortunately I soon responded to his ministrations and started to show rapid improvement.  It was a good job that the Japs had not moved to the south coast area in this time or I would have been in strife.  Doctor Dunkley told me that to handle pleurisy properly he should have operated and drained the fluid from the lungs, but because of his precarious position with the hospital, he wasn't game to do an operation of this nature.

While in hospital one of my No. 5 Section in Geo. Merritt came in with something wrong with him and it wasn't long before this hard case had things going for him.  He purchased a great big bag of peanuts and then had a Timorese lad shelling them and roasting them in a big pan.  I can assure you a diet of peanuts and paw-paw is such that you don't need No. 9s, cascara or any other opening medicine.  Dudley Tapper came and saw me and brought me up to date on the old 5 Section.  He wasn't all that happy with my replacement Lt. Geo Cardy and was hoping that I would return to the Section when I left hospital.  Lt. John Burridge came in on crutches with a knife wound in his foot and we had some sing songs with John leading the way as he had a good voice.  Capt. Rolf Baldwin came through and he and Dr. Dunkley kept me amused telling of the pranks of their University days.  Dave Ross the Australian Consul in Dili at the start of the war came through after delivering the second surrender demand message from the Japs.  He looked like a scarecrow, and he was not returning to the Japs in Dili but was going to get home to Aussie on the next contact.  It was here that Staff Capt. Geo Arnold told me of the Brigadier scratching my name from his list of hopefuls.

There were quite a few cases of V.D., which displeased Dr. Dunkley no end.  He used to really rave when these types came in and would blast them and say, ‘You are bludging on your mates.  We don't get any reinforcements, and you being here only make more patrols and guards for your mates.  I'm ashamed of you’.  One bloke came with the Jack, whistling.  The Doc. soon took the whistle out of him.  Doc Dunkley was a bit paranoid about Dutchies, he hated to see them come and hunted them as soon as he could.  I have nothing but the highest praise for Capt. Dunkley; he was the real hero of the 2nd Ind. Coy, both as a doctor and as a heroic soldier.  I'm afraid his services were badly overlooked when the gongs went around, and it was sad to think lesser types got good decorations for being useless". [19]

Harry Wray was also a patient at the hospital:

"After reaching the bottom of this cliff we climbed for a time and then passed over undulating country, then into low lying country and then up a cliff, but by a fairly easy path, and this took us to the top of a fairly flat tableland cover in long grass.  A few miles across the tableland and we were in Ainaro, the summer residence of the Portuguese Governor of Timor.

I reported to the Doctor who told me to find space in one of the wards, and he would see me in the morning.  The Hospital was actually the Portuguese Hospital, a fine building with a tile roof, two large wards, and a number of small rooms, with a spacious veranda all around the building.

I spent the night on the floor of one of the wards, and next morning went into the small room that the Doctor used as a dispensary, and as a room for doing dressings.  By then he had a fair collection of drugs and dressings, but far from sufficient, so great care had to be used to avoid waste.

The Doctor told me that he had pulled his first tooth only a few days before, when he drew four for a Portuguese, he said that the Porto had complemented him on his skill as a dentist.  I just hoped for the best.  The Doctor called for his dental kit, this was produced, and consisted of a syringe for the injections and a set of forceps.  I was sat down on a basket containing medical stores, and the Doctor gave me the injections, and pulled out the tooth as if he had been a dentist for years".


Pip (son of Dr Roger Dunkley) and Barb Dunkley in front of the current Ainaro Hospital that stands on the site of the old Portuguese era hospital – 27 April 2014

He told me that I could have that day and the next for a spell before setting off back to the Section.  I was also told to shift to a house down in the town proper, which was used as a sort of convalescent depot, for the remainder of my stay.  I went off to this house and found Do-Dah established there.

After my two days rest the Doctor told me I could return to my Section and said he would send a native along next morning to carry my pack for me as far as Mape.

Ainaro was full of sick, and convalescents.  There were a large number of men who had escaped from Koepang there also.  A training camp had been established to teach the men from Koepang some of the rudiments of guerrilla warfare.  As it happened a good many of them were anything but trained soldiers.  As a good many of them were batmen, orderlies, drivers and so on they had but little training and experience in drill and arms.  This lack of knowledge was remedied in Ainaro, and when they had gone through a course there some were sent out as reinforcements to Sections of our own unit, and a couple of Sections formed from the remainder, and placed under the command of our officers.

There were a few officers, from Majors downwards at Ainaro all from the Koepang end.  Nearly all these officers were sent back to Australia as opportunity occurred, as they were more likely to be useful there, or in units being formed there, as most of them were well up in their own special branches of the service.

Beyond an occasional Jap plane passing overhead life at that time was very peaceful in Ainaro. [20]


[1] From ASPT Map 1.

[2] ASPT: 28.

[3] From ASPT Map 15.

[4] Lambert, Commando: from Tidal River to Tarakan: 92.

[5] Callinan, Independent Company: 109.

[6] Callinan, Independent Company: 126.

[7] Callinan, Independent Company: 110.

[8] ASPT Map 3.

[9] ] ASPT: 47.

[10] Callinan, Independent Company: 35.

[11] https://www.roadtraffic-technology.com/news/rehabilitation-dili-ainaro-road-corridor/

[12] Daniel Fitzpatrick, Andrew McWilliam and Susana Barnes. - Property and social resilience in times of conflict: land, custom and law in East Timor. – Oxford: Routledge, 2016: 210-2012.

[13] Geoffrey C. Gunn ‘From Salazar to Suharto: toponomy, public architecture, and memory in the making of Timor memory’ in Gunn. -  New World Hegemony in the Malay World. - Lawrenceville, N.J.: The Red Sea Press, 2000: 241 – 242.

[14] Bernard Callinan ‘The best the Timorese gave us was their loyalty’ in Michelle Turner. - Telling: East Timor: personal testimonies 1942-1992. – Kensington, N.S.W.: New South Wales University Press, 1992: 62.

[15] Wray, Recollections: 182, 185-186.

[16] Callinan, Independent company: 126.

[17] John (Paddy) Kenneally “Whitewashed walls and gum trees” in Telling: East Timor … : 15.

[18] Wray, Recollections: 187-188.

[19] Doig, Ramblings of a ratbag, 91-92.

[20] Wray, Recollections: 118-120.


Prepared by Ed Willis

Revised: 9 October 2019







Edited by Edward Willis
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