The Criados: They risked their lives for us
I was approached by a Timorese lad. A fairly tall, skinny 12 year old with a wide, cheeky grin who made it known that he wanted to be my criado. His name was Berimou and he came from the village Orvulu (near Artsabe) which had been overrun by the Japs . . .
He wanted to help the Australian ‘Soldados’ to get rid of the Japs. He wanted no pay, just wanted to help.
Pte FW Growns
Most Australian soldiers serving in Portuguese Timor were befriended and assisted by a criado. Criados were Timorese boys as young as nine but with an average age of 13 who adopted a soldier.
Criados were constant companions who carried equipment, found and shared food, cooked, washed clothes and assisted with the sick and wounded. Importantly they also acted as guides, becoming a soldier’s eyes and ears in gathering vital intelligence.
Their local knowledge assisted in selecting the best observation posts, ambush sites and escape routes, and at critical times they carried a soldier’s weapon. On rare occasions they even arranged paid sexual liaisons with local women.
Typically, when on patrol with a sub-section, the criado advanced into the village and sought out information on recent Japanese movements. If safe the soldiers were then introduced, fed and given shelter.
Criados and Australians regarded each other as mates and deep friendships ensued. The Australian soldiers owed their lives to their criados and many dedicated their post war years to repaying this debt of honour.