Nederlands / Dutch
Lesser Sunda Islands Print

The Lesser Sunda Islands – Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores and Timor – saw virtually no fighting during the Japanese advance, with the exception of Timor. The prisoners of war and civilian internees of the Lesser Sunda Islands did not stay there, they were eventually all transported to other locations - Celebes or Java.


On 20 and 21 February 1942 some 4,700 Japanese landed on Timor, the largest of the Lesser Sunda Islands, which was being defended mainly by Australian and KNIL troops. The eastern part of the island was really a Portuguese colony, but the Portuguese government had given permission for a small Dutch-Australian expeditionary army to be there.

In Dili, the main town of East Timor, and in Kupang, the main town of the Dutch western section of the island, resistance was short-lived. Part of the defenders surrendered, the rest went on to fight a guerrilla war in the interior. This forced the Japanese to send extra troops to Timor. The Dutch guerrilla units remained active until mid-December 1942, the Australians until February 1943. The survivors were then evacuated to Australia in several groups.

A military camp near the airfield of Penfui, about 10 kilometres east of Kupang, was used by the Japanese as an assembly camp for prisoners of war. Mid-April 1942 approximately 1,050 Australians, about 150 KNIL soldiers and 26 Brits were housed here, who were made to work on the airport and other military construction projects near Kupang. They were taken to Surabaya in August and September of 1942.

In Dili a few POWs and Dutch civilian men from East Timor and the Alor Islands were locked up in the local prison after 20 February 1942. A small number of Dutch women and children were interned in private houses. The prisoners of war were taken to Kupang-Penfui in April, the civilians went to the assembly camp in Soe in May.

In December 1941, the Dutch authorities had organized an evacuation camp near Soe, in the interior of the western part of Timor, for women and children from places like Kupang and other parts of Dutch Timor. After the arrival of the Japanese on 24 February 1942 civilian internees from all over West Timor were assembled here, as well as some from the Portuguese part of the island. On 30 August 1943 the camp was cleared; the more than 100 internees left for Makassar on Celebes by way of Kupang. In Atambua, also located in the interior, dozens of priests, brothers and nuns were interned until the end of August 1943; they, too, were taken to Makassar.

Bali and Lombok

The few soldiers taken captive in February 1942 on Bali and in May 1942 on Lombok, were transported to Makassar, Celebes, in June 1942.

The majority of the European civilians on Bali and Lombok had been evacuated to Java in January 1942 by the DEI authorities. Most of the dozens of civilians who stayed behind on Bali were transported to Makassar in May and (probably) July 1942. A small group of clergy and artists were only interned and taken to Celebes at the end of 1943.

The civilians who had stayed behind on Lombok, supplemented by about ten men from Sumbawa, were brought to Surabaya on 15 July 1942. On Bali and Lombok a total of approximately 80 Europeans were interned and taken away from these islands.

Sumbawa, Sumba and Flores

Mid-May 1942 the Japanese landed on Sumbawa, Sumba and Flores. At the start of that month a few Europeans had fled from Western Sumbawa to Lombok, where the Japanese later put them with the internees who were already there. The other Europeans on Sumbawa, Sumba and Flores were taken on one ship to Makassar on Celebes in July 1942. The ship left Sumbawa on July 5th, Sumba on July 14th and, Endeh on Flores on July 15th. This group, consisting of a total of approximately 325 people, including some 20 POWs, arrived in Makassar on 19 July 1942.

Labour camps on Flores

In April-May 1943 more than 2,000 Dutch and Indo-European prisoners of war were taken from Java to Flores in three ships to build airfields there. On May 9th this group arrived at the roadstead of Maumere, on the north-east side of the island.

The POWs first had to build three accommodations near Maumere: two labour camps (camp Blom and camp Reyers) and a hospital/quarantine camp (camp Wulff). Camp Blom, to the east of Maumere, named after captain in the reserves L. Blom, functioned as the central camp out of which the POWs that could be used in any capacity at all were made to work on the nearby airfield of Maumere-East. In addition, in June, July, and August 1943 more than 300 POWs were quartered in a labour camp near Talibura, some 60 kilometres east of Maumere, where they were used to build an auxiliary airfield.

Early November 1943 the airfield of Maumere-East was ready for operation: it was finished later on and the POWs were also made to work in the harbour and on two other small airfields near Maumere. In January, May, and June 1944 large groups of POWs were sent back to Java. Allied airplanes were increasingly active over the area and in early August camp Blom was even hit by some bombs. On August 10th this camp was evacuated because of the danger of air attacks.

The remaining approximately 450 prisoners of war then stayed for a few weeks in a reception camp, located some 6 kilometres inland from Maumere-East. Late August 1944 they, too, were transported to Java, except for 20 men for whom there was no room on the ship: they did not leave Flores until 12 September. A total of 214 POWs of the Flores group did not survive.