In December 1941 Japan made a spectacularly successful entry to World War 2 by invading Malaya, the Indonesian archipelago and the south Pacific.

Australia had a small force, known as Sparrow Force, to defend the island of Timor. The Japanese invaded in February.

The enemy controlled the air and the sea, and despite a spirited campaign, most of the Australians, mainly the 2/40th Battalion, were forced to surrender.

One group, however, the 2/2nd Independent Company, was not captured and was able to continue fighting. It relied heavily on support from the Timorese, and a strong relationship seems to have developed between the two groups.

The indigenous people of East Timor were much more supportive of the Australians than those of West Timor, as a result of the different ways the Dutch and Portuguese had treated them.

The 2/2nd were later reinforced and replaced by the 2/4th Independent Company, who had a less close relationship - possibly because by the time they arrived the Japanese were intent on terrorising the local people to force them to stop helping the Australians.

Fighting guerrilla warfare, and dependent on local people’s support, the Australian troops harassed the large Japanese force for nearly a year, until withdrawn.

A small band of commandos stayed active for the remainder of the war.