Another place in East Timor
with links to Australia
), but this time to the Australian involvement in WWII
when they tried to forestall a take-over of the island by Japan
. That failed, but the Aussies apparently put up a heroic fight against the aggressors. This is what this memorial site in the hills above Dili
More background info:
mounted its campaign to take over Malaysia, Singapore
East India (today's Indonesia
) in what was to become the Pacific
theatre of WWII
, the island of Timor naturally became a target as well. Being located at the furthest end of the archipelago as the last of the islands before Australia
, the latter assembled a military unit code-named Sparrow Force
to defend Timor should the Japanese indeed attempt to take it.
Deployment began in late 1941. And as early as February 1942, the first Japanese attacks reached the south-eastern parts of South-East Asia. Other parts of today's Indonesia originally defended by Australians had already fallen (Ambon and New Guinea) when in June 1942 the Battle of Timor started.
The Australian 2/2nd Commando Squadron, also known as 2/2nd Independent Commando
, was based in Dili
in Portuguese Timor (today's East Timor
). Here they were quickly overcome by the attacking Japanese forces and were unable to hold the airfield at Dili, but managed to retreat into the mountains. From there they waged a guerrilla-style war against the occupying Japanese forces, with much support from the local population.
However, ever increasing re-enforcement meant that the position of the remaining Australians on Timor was not tenable. And so from December 1942 to January 1943, they were withdrawn, together with the remaining Portuguese and Dutch. The East Timorese would suffer bitterly during the remainder of the Japanese occupation.
Yet the Australian involvement in the attempts to defend the island against the Japanese was still fondly remembered. Even more so the support the Australians enjoyed on the part of the Timorese was not forgotten either and some of the veterans became campaigners for the East Timorese cause.
A first memorial was set up in the 1960s in the then still Portuguese colony. After independence came following the post-referendum troubles of 1999, one particular veteran, John Patrick "Paddy" Kenneally (who died in 2009), became particularly involved and even campaigned for fair treatment of the Timorese in the negotiations over oil-field exploitation in the sea between East Timor
(which before had struck rather unfair deals with Indonesia
– see East Timor history
At the same time, the Australia-born wife of the then East Timorese president Xanana Gusmão, Kirsty Sword-Gusmão, campaigned for an upgrade of the Australian memorial at Dare – as well as for improvements to the primary school next door – which she passed regularly en route to Dili
. Together with support from other groups, including the 2/2nd Commando Association, funding was secured, the primary school substantially modernized and the all-new Dare war memorial site you see today was inaugurated in April 2009.
What there is to see:
First you get to a place where there is a memorial plaque in two languages, Tetum and English, expressing Australia's gratitude for the support by the Timorese in WWII
. Behind are two flagpoles, both sans flags at the time of my visit, but presumably this is where the flags of Australia
and East Timor
would fly in parallel on special remembrance days. This is also the spot where wreaths are laid down.
Then you take some steps a level down to get to the Dare memorial and cafe proper. The first thing that strikes you is not so much the memorial itself but the splendid view you get from up here over Dili
and the bay and as far as Atauro island – on a clear day, that is.
Under a simple corrugated iron roof supported by wooden columns several tables with chairs are set out, flanked along the hillside wall by tall text-and-photo panels, or rather sheets.
The texts, in Tetum, Portuguese and English, not only cover the Australian campaign in Timor and the rest of the Pacific
, but also put the whole episode into context by providing a general overview of the state of the world in 1941. The period of the guerrilla war against the Japanese after their invasion naturally receives the most detail.
Similarly, much attention is given to the ways in which the Aussie troops were helped by the local Timorese, many of whom acted as “creados” (companions/protectors) for the soldiers and without whom it is reckoned the 2/2nd “Independent” Commando wouldn't have lasted anywhere near as long as it did had it indeed been fully “independent”.
The story of veteran John "Paddy" Kenneally who came to East Timor
after it had (re-)gained its independence to look for his “creado” is particularly touching and is given prominent coverage at the memorial. He did indeed manage to reunite with his old Timorese friend and together they attended remembrance ceremonies at the Dare site, as many a photo documents here.
At the far end of the site is a little shrine-like dresser with several brochures, books and other items behind glass doors, a kind of memorial boomerang on top next to a cloth-covered TV set (and a flat-screen TV hanging above it), and a guest book. The screens were off at the time of my visit, but I presume some sort of documentary material can be played here (there was also a DVD player).
At the other end of the memorial space, next to the cafe's self-service counter (closed at the time of my visit) is a large sheet with a detailed chronology of events ranging from 1935 to 1972.
On the way back to the car park you can also spare a look at the primary school next door, whose upgrading to its present standard was part of the modernization project for the Dare site. The kids I saw playing in the yard outside the school certainly looked very happy.
The trip out to Dare is something very different to all the other dark-tourism-type sites in East Timor
as it is the only one dedicated in such an elaborately commodified form (even though the site is compact) to the short but historically significant period of WWII
and East Timor's as well as Australia
's role in it. Well worth the excursion.
just south of East Timor
's capital city Dili
, only ca. 2-3 miles (4 km) as the crow flies, but more like 6-7 miles (10 km) by winding road.
Access and costs: not far from Dili and thus fairly easy to reach; free.
Dare is so close to Dili
that it should be quite possible to simply get a taxi up here and back without having to pay over the odds. I came here as part of a longer 8-day trip around the country and the stop at Dare was slotted in en route back to Dili after stopping over in Maubisse (see under East Timor
) the night before.
If you have your own vehicle, head south from Dili city centre and take the road that climbs up the hillside in a series of switchbacks south of the Palacio de Lahane in the direction of Aileu. There's a large sign by the road where the memorial is, so it is pretty hard to miss.
Opening times: According to their own website this place is open only at weekends (from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and only by appointment at other times. But when I went it was on a Tuesday, and we had not made any special arrangements. Still, we could just walk in and have a look around. Maybe the advertised opening times only apply to the cafe on site, which was indeed closed at the time of my mid-week, mid-day visit.
Time required: if you want to read everything here you will probably need at least an hour, but some of the texts can also be skim-read or skipped.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
Obviously first and foremost Dili
, given the geographical proximity. Somewhat further afield, but easy to do en route when coming back from an inland tour is a stop at Aileu and its 1942 Japanese massacre memorial. See under East Timor
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
see under Dili
and East Timor
- Dare 1 - sign
- Dare 2 - info and cafe
- Dare 3 - memorial plaque
- Dare 4 - you can sit down
- Dare 5 - and browse folders
- Dare 6 - TV off
- Dare 7 - school next door
- Dare 8 - view over Dili