Evacuation of the 2/2nd: Deserting your mates
It tore your innards out to know that lads [the criados] who had been your existence were going to be dropped like hot cakes with no security of tenure whatsoever.
Diary of Lt Archie Campbell
In early November the 2/2nd was sick and exhausted. Any exertion was a struggle, some soldiers were incapable of fighting and sections were depleted. The 2/2nd faced an enemy over ten times its number. The scorched countryside made guerrilla operations difficult. Food was desperately short and the locals were starving.
A phased withdrawal of the 2/2nd and European civilians was planned.
On 1 December the HMAS’s Kuru, Castlemaine & Armidale arrived and evacuated many Dutch and Portuguese, mainly women and children.
Tragically the HMAS Armidale with its Dutch reinforcements was sunk – 98 of the 149 on board were lost. From a new evacuation point east of Betano on 11 December, the Dutch destroyer Tjerk Hiddes evacuated the 2/2nd’s D Platoon, more women, children and wounded. This ship returned on 15 December and evacuated the remaining 2/2nd and a group of Portuguese nuns.
While European civilians were to be evacuated, last minute orders from Australia stated that the criados were to stay.
The soldiers were angered and distressed, feeling that their loyal companions had been deeply betrayed. Tears flowed freely as they gave whatever they had to their mates before abandoning them on the beach to their fate.