The September Push: A desperate situation
The Japanese discovery of HMAS Voyager’s reinforcements made them fear an invasion from the south. They quickly moved 2,000 troops, headed by Dutch Timorese, in three strong columns towards the south coast. Reinforced and with greater firepower, the Australian commandos ambushed the columns causing heavy casualties.
Lt Burridge’s reinforced section attacked and killed 30 in the enemy advance column which then retreated. Lt Dexter’s platoon ambushed the main column and killed 60 Japanese in a long engagement. One column reached Betano on the south coast but then retreated inland burning villages as they went.
In October, the Japanese became more ruthless in their efforts to rid Timor of Australian commandos. Recognising that Portuguese support was vital to the Australian campaign they actively encouraged the East Timorese to attack the Portuguese.
The Japanese also brought in ‘Black Columns’ of West Timorese to destroy villages whose people were supporting the Australians. Many weeks of slaughter ensued.
In mid-November the Japanese demanded that the Portuguese assemble near Dili under their ‘protection’ or be shot. Many Portuguese fled to Australian-held areas and requested Australian arms to defend themselves.