Subject: Planting Timorese seeds of remembrance

The West Australian (Perth)

November 5, 2008

Planting Timorese seeds of remembrance

In the 60 years since returning from war, WA members of the heroic 2/2nd Commando Squadron have sent 65,000 packets of vegetable and fruit seeds to the Timor region, along with bundles of books and clothing and crates of farming and office machinery.

Each seed packet bears the 2/2nd's unit colour patch, with the phrase "We not forget" written in the local dialect.

The purchase and transportation of the goods over the years has cost the members of the 2/2nd $65,000, paid for initially out of their own pay packets and later from sales of a book detailing their World War II bravery.

Much time was also put into collecting donated goods. Order records from the past few years list among the supplies sent by the 2/2nd; 210 computers, a saw milling machine, 164 typewriters, 11 tents, 13,500 schoolbooks and 160 sewing machines. In the minds of the 20 surviving WA members of the 2/2nd, they are still paying off a debt to the local Timorese people who acted as their "eyes and ears" and fed and cared for them when - serving originally as the No.2 Australian Independent Company and later the 2/2nd Independent Company - they launched a 12-month-long guerilla warfare attack in 1942 from mountains south of Dili against the advancing Japanese.

Without the locals, particularly the young boy helpers known as Creados, the servicemen believe they wouldn't have lasted five minutes.

Several of the men have been back to the Timor region since then, some visiting up to five times, to express their thanks, but as John Burridge of Dalkeith says "only the ancients remember us now".

But it did not matter that a dwindling number knew of the debt owed, said Bob Smyth, who acts as chairman and administrator for the 2/2nd trust which finances the purchases. He joined the 2/2nd after its stint in the Timor region, serving in New Guinea and New Britain.

"As far as we are concerned, as long as we keep breathing we will be doing this," he said. With the men reaching their late 80s, they have enlisted a 60-year-old former SAS soldier to help oversee their trust.

Marnie McKimmie

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