The Portuguese Return: 1945 - 1975

Allied wartime propaganda leaflet

Allied wartime propaganda leaflet dropped on East Timor after the withdrawal of the 2/2nd ‘Your friends do not forget you’.
Courtesy Australian War Memorial AWM RC02441

The Japanese surrender found East Timor in physical and economic ruin with its population starving and diseased. Dili and major towns were destroyed. Despite wartime promises, Australia soon forgot the East Timorese. They were regarded as a Portuguese problem.

Portugal returned and vigorously reasserted its authority. However Fascist Portugal was weakened by the War, shunned internationally and ineligible for financial assistance. It was in no position to reconstruct its colony. Timor was a low priority. It was not until the 1960s that reconstruction slowly began.

While improvements in infrastructure, education and health had occurred by the time the Portuguese left in 1975 they were still rudimentary and concentrated in urban centres.

East Timor remained isolated and one of the poorest and least developed places in the Third World. East Timor was ill-prepared for self-government. The many educated Timorese in the civil service, provincial administration, army and Church were a politically conscious elite but the broader population was politically unaware.

Australian Brigadier LGH Dyke & Portuguese Governor, Manuel Ferreira de Carvalho

Australian Brigadier LGH Dyke and the Portuguese Governor, Manuel Ferreira de Carvalho, confer at the formal ceremony to mark the end of the Japanese occupation. Australian, Timorese and Portuguese attendees look on. Dili, 24 September 1945.
KB Davis, courtesy Australian War Memorial AWM119632