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Edward Willis

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8°27'S, 127°00'10"E


Fuiloro location map [1]

Fuiloro (Vila de Avis - see Photo No.3) is situated 9 miles (141/2 km.) at a bearing of 117° from Lautem.  It is in the northwest corner of the Lautem Plateau which extends 8 miles (13 km.) south and 12 miles (19 km.) east at 1,400 feet (425 m.) above sea level.

It is a posto town of 200 inhabitants with a large market.  North of, the market square is a large building used formerly for a hospital, but now as the Chefe de Posto's residence.  South of the square is the typical old-fashioned posto.  The secretary's office, telephone and prison are west of the square.  The Japanese airdrome is immediately west of the town.

There is a very good spring northeast of the town in the bed of a stream; it can be reached by a short road.  There is no reticulation system and all water has to be carried.  The region is dry and dusty in the dry season, but has plenty of rain in the wet seasons.  The vegetation is limited to short or long grass, and air cover is very poor except for a few large trees about the square. [2]


Fuiloro (Vila de Avis) [3]


(i) FUILORO: Situated 9 miles east south east of LAUTEM in the northwest corner of the LAUTEM plain which extends 8 miles south and 12 miles east at 1400 feet above sea level.  It is a posto town of 200 inhabitants with a large market.  North of the market square there is a large building used formally as a hospital, now the Chefe de Posto’s residence.  The Secretary’s office, telephone and prison are west of the square.  The Jap aerodrome is immediately west of the town.

There is a very good spring north east of the town in the bed of a stream which can be reached by a short road.  There is no reticulation system and all water has to be carried.  The region is dry and dusty in the dry system but has plenty of rain in the wet seasons. [4]

H Detachment and Fuiloro

In early October [1942], H Detachment contacted a Japanese force which down from the coast to recce the area about Fuiloro.  The Australians had previously established the fact that there was a good potential aerodrome site here.  The Japanese also saw this and informed the natives that they would be returning to build a strip.

The Australian and Dutch forces harassed this enemy party all the way down the cross island road, picking at them to such an extent that the Japanese, tiring of being ambushed and fired on by troops who could never be seen, eventually returned to Dilli.  Right along, this H Detachment had been doing invaluable work, patrolling and recceing and at the same time supplying a great deal of food to the west end of the island. [5]


Fuiloro, Portuguese Timor. 1946-01-03. Portrait of Senhor Francisco Alberto, Chefe Do Posto (Fort Commander), who Assisted the Australians of Sparrow Force.  He had to escape to the hills when the Japanese sent natives to kill him. (Photographer Sgt K. B. Davis) [6]

Senhor Francisco Alberto, Chefe de Posto, Fuiloro

On the 17th of November [1942], coming from Lautem, they arrived at the Fuiloro post, whose head was the 1st Corporal Francisco Alegria Alberto, two trucks with Japanese soldiers and armed natives.  The head of the post was talking to several chiefs of suco and East Timorese when the gang entered and immediately threw themselves at him tying him up.  The Japanese then began to question the population about the contacts that Francisco Alberto would have had with the Australians, in order to find reasons to kill him.  But, as the responses were favourable to the head of the post, the Japanese addressed the chiefs of suco to decide on the prisoner’s fate.  Everyone declared that he had always been good and fair, so he should not suffer any punishment.  He was untied and the Japanese took him to Lautem and then to Dili and Liquiçá.  The indigenous people of Fuiloro took care of the corporal’s children and the woman he lived with, all later going to Liquiçá.  The Timorese also handed over about 200 patacas for the last revenue collected and which had been religiously guarded.  The populations knew how to be fair to those who treated them well [7].


Japanese caves at Fuiloro – 12 August 2022

Japanese caves – 08° 26′ 56.63″ S, 127° 01′ 13.30″ E [8]

An extensive Japanese built cave complex is located behind the chicken house at Colegio Dom Bosco SPP Fuiloro – local guidance is required to find them.

JAPANESE AIRFIELD AT FUILORO – 8°26’52”, 126°59’15”

The Japanese referred to the airfield location as Abisu (also Abis or Abys) and this name is still applied in current maps and reference sources; e.g., Wikimapia [9] and airportguide.com [10]

The ASPT set the scene for the establishment of the airfield at Fuiloro:

e. Lautem Plateau

Terrain between Fuiloro and Los Pala along the western boundary of the Lautem Plateau is suitable for airdrome construction.  The Fuiloro airdrome is located in an area 3 miles (5 km.) by 1 ½ miles (3 km.) which was surveyed by Dutch Shell Co. and considered by it suitable for airdrome construction.  The terrain south of this area is less level, there being a considerable number of grass hummocks which would increase the work necessary for clearing.  The best labour in Portuguese Timor is available in the Lautem area. [11]



b.     General:

At present (February, 1943) the Japanese have three operational airdromes in the Island of Timor, viz., Koepang (Penfoei), in Dutch Timor, and Dilli and Fuiloro in Portuguese Timor.  Although the Penfoei airdrome is by far the most developed of the three, the operational significance of Dilli and Fuiloro in relation to Australia is greater when it is realised that Dilli and Fuiloro are, respectively, 55 and 120 nautical miles nearer to Darwin than Penfoei.

Dilli and Fuiloro are the only known airdromes in Portuguese Timor.  Dilli is operational for fighters and bombers and Fuiloro for fighters.  It will, no doubt, shortly be fit for use by bombers.

2. Table of Distances:

Direct distances are as follows:-


Nautical Miles

Statute Miles


Fuiloro to Darwin





b. Fuiloro (8°26’S., 12°2’E.) – See Photo No.3:

Construction of this airdrome which runs across the main road from Lautem about 1 mile (11/2 km.) west of Fuiloro (Vila de Avis) was commenced by the Japanese in November, 1942, and is continuing.  It lies on the extreme northwest portion of Lautem Plateau and consists of two runways, one ENE/WSW, 1,300 x 100 yards (1,190 x 90 m.), and the other approximately N/S, 1,400 yards (1,280 m.) long.  Both runways are capable of further extension.

The airdrome lies in open country 1,300 feet (400 m.) above sea level and is free from obstructions on all sides.  Ten or 12 miles (16 or 19 km.) to the South the mountain range rises to 2,000 feet (600 m.) and 15 miles (24 km.) to the southeast it rises to 3,000 feet (900 m.).

There are good M.T. roads running from the site northwest to Lautem on the north coast, south to Loré near the south coast, and to the eastern extremity of the island at Tutuala.  The surrounding country is suitable for A.F.V.’s and the airdrome could be approached by them from any direction. [12]


Mosaic of Fuiloro – 5 January 1943 [13]


Fuiloro – Apple Maps – showing approximate location and alignment of Japanese airfield

"The enemy was now bringing more aircraft forward to the Timor airfields.  Whereas in November [1942] reconnaissance showed 62 aircraft in Celebes and 29 in Timor, in December [1942] there appeared to be 42 in Celebes but 62 in Timor; and there were signs that the Japanese were making a new airfield at Fuiloro 60 air miles closer to Darwin than Dili was.  Henceforth Fuiloro became a main target for the Hudsons and Beaufighters.

The Beaufighters of No. 31 were now most active.  On the 18th two of them sank a sailing vessel 25 miles north-east of Portuguese Timor.  They opened a heavier offensive against Fuiloro and the Lavai-Laga area on 23rd December, and shot down one Japanese fighter". [14]

"No. 18 (Netherlands East Indies) Squadron, with Mitchells , was now arriving at McDonald, and would undertake its first sorties on 19th January [1943]. ….

Throughout January [1943] the bombers and the Beaufighters continued their attacks on Fuiloro.  Three aircraft of No. 18 (Lieut-Colonel B.J. Fiedeldij) probably shot down two out of five interceptors over Fuiloro on the 20th, and another flight probably shot down a Dave over Dobo that day". [15]

"Throughout March [1943] the Hudsons, Mitchells and Beaufighters continued their attacks on Fuiloro, Dobo and other bases, and on ships". [16]


Fuiloro (Abisu) airfield – 12 August 2022

Japanese Ace Victim of Beaufighter Strafing Attack on Fuiloro Airfield

"1st Lieutenant Katsutaro Takahashi was born in Okayama Prefecture in 1916, he was considered to be a genius during his childhood.  He enlisted in the 2nd Juvenile Flying Soldier programme, and when passing out in July 1936, received an award from the Educational Superintendent.  Posted initially to the 1st Rentai, he moved to the new 59th Sentai in May 1938, serving in China.  In September 1939 the unit moved to Manchuria, as a late reinforcement in the Nomonhan fighting.  Here on 15th of the month, he saw his first action and was able to claim two victories.  In December 1940 he attended the Army Flying Military Academy, graduating in July 1941 and rejoining the 59th.  He took part in the actions over Malaya, Sumatra and Java as a section leader, claiming seven victories – one of the best totals of the campaign for the Sentai.  On 14 December 1942 he was on readiness at Abis, Timor, when warning was received of hostile aircraft approaching.  He ran to his aircraft, but as he did so, he was killed by strafing fighters.  His gravestone in his home town carries an inscription: “His commanding officer stated that with his natural talent, his abilities became superhuman, and […]” "[17]


[WWII] recruitment; recruiting poster depicting Beaufighters in action over an island, appealing for men to enlist as air crew [18]

Beaufighter Strike 29 September 1944

"The squadron’s first operational use of their new rockets would not take place until 29 September [1944].  In the meantime, Wilbur Wackett and Keith Noble were in action again on 17 September, flying this time in Beaufighter A19-189.  Together with five other No 31 Squadron crews, they were briefed to carry out a search and strafing attack on a Japanese motor transport convoy sighted the previous day on the Fuiloro to Lautem road in East Timor.

Led by Flight Lieutenant David Doughton,223 the six Beaufighters took off from Coomallie Creek around 5.20 am.  After formating and crossing the Australian coast, the strike force crossed the Timor Sea in a loose gaggle just below the cloud base at a height of 1000 feet.  After two hours, landfall was made at Bauleu from where the formation tracked along the coast to Cape Lore before turning north to follow the road towards Fuiloro (see Map 13.1).  Hampered by heavy cloud and thick scrub on both sides of the road, the crews strained to pick up enemy movement.

Before long their search bore fruit when a group of 3 to 4-ton motor transports was sighted sheltering among large palm trees by the side of the road.  Diving to zero feet, the Beaufighters strafed the vehicles with cannon and machine-gun fire.  The trucks, which were loaded with drums, burst into flames and, burning furiously, were completely destroyed.  A further burst of cannon fire into a group of Japanese observed running from the scene was believed to have killed two of the enemy troops.  Soon after, a Japanese armoured motorcycle unit was sighted and given a similar pasting; two strafing runs left the vehicles ablaze.

The formation continued at low level along the road as far as Fuiloro, where it circled and strafed the airfield, scoring numerous strikes on buildings.  On leaving the target, the Beaufighters came under accurate light and medium ack- ack fire, with shells bursting around the aircraft at 300 feet.  Flight Lieutenant David Strachan spotted the two guns responsible, protected in a sandbag emplacement in which the crews could be clearly seen.  Turning hard to port, he made a low-level attack on the position, raking it with a long accurate burst.  Smoke and debris erupted, causing ‘consternation and evasive action by the gun crews’.  During his head-on attack, Strachan’s aircraft received two ack-ack strikes in the belly, cutting the air line to the cannons and rendering them unserviceable.  A cannon shell also struck his windscreen but fortunately did not penetrate, demonstrating once again the vital, protective role of the Beaufighter’s thick bulletproof windscreen during such dangerous low-level attacks.

Intense but ineffectual small arms fire was also met from a hillside south-east of Fuiloro, with crews observing flashes from all over the hillside.  No damage was inflicted on any of the aircraft and the formation proceeded westwards as far as Pedra Branca searching for a suspected enemy camp area.  No sightings were made and, with the Beaufighters nearing the limit of their endurance, the leader signalled it was time to return home.

Flying at 3000 feet and battling headwinds and a shortage of fuel, Wilbur Wackett and two other crews had to stage through Truscott airfield on the north-west Australian coast, where they landed at 9.45 am after a four and a half hour sortie". [19]




[1]     ASPT: Map 1

[2]     ASPT: 33

[3]     ASPT: Map 29.

[4]     [Timor (1945) - General:] Timor - Information resume for "Tofo" Operation prepared by GS Intelligence, HQ NT Force, Aug 1945.  Part 2 - detailed description of terrain etc. - AWM54 571A/1/2 467411 https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C2620867

[5]     Robinson: 120.

[6] https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C221039?image=1

[7]     Rocha, Carlos Vieira da. – Timor: ocupação japonesa durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial (2ª. ed. Ver. E ampliada). – Lisboa: Sociedade Histórica da Independência de Portugal, 1996: 117.

[8]     https://maps.apple.com/?q=-8.44906,127.02036


Latitude : 08° 26′ 56.63″ S

Longitude : 127° 01′ 13.30″ E

Altitude : 390 m

Accuracy : 10 m

12/8/2022, 9:06 am


[9]     https://wikimapia.org/7274243/Fuiloro-Abisu-Airfield

[10]   https://airportguide.com/airportinfo/WPFL

[11]   ASPT: 3

[12]   ASPT: 2-3.

[13]   ASPT: Photograph 3

[14]   George Odgers. – Air war against Japan, 1943-1945. – Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1957. – (Australia in the war of 1939-1945. Series 3, Air ; v. 2.): 648.

[15]   Odgers: 649-650.

[16]   Odgers: 651.

[17]   Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa and Christopher Shores. - Japanese Army Air Force units and their Aces: 1931-1945. - London: Grub Street, 2002: 135.

[18]   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C99749

[19]   Leon Kane-Maguire. - Lost without trace: Squadron Leader Wilbur Wackett, RAAF - a story of bravery and tragedy in the Pacific War. – Canberra: Air Power Development Centre, 2011: 164-166.

[20]   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C168683

[21]   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C221042







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