Bendigo District RSL seeks relatives

THE Bendigo District RSL is looking for family members of people who served with the Sparrow Force.

The force, made up of a small group of Australians aided by the Timorese people, fought against the Japanese in Timor during 1942 and 1943. 

Bendigo District RSL secretary Paul Penno said people with relatives who served as part of the force should contact the RSL. 

“It would be great to access some (memorabilia or artefacts) that may have been lost over time,” he said.

A photographic exhibition called The Debt of Honour will open in Bendigo on April 26 and tells the story of the Sparrow Force. 

The exhibition has been organised by the RSL, the Bendigo Art Gallery, the City of Greater Bendigo and the Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Committee.

Mr Penno said the aim of the exhibition was to demonstrate the history and co-operation between Australia and Timor during the war. 

He said the Australian people owed a great deal to the Timorese people who courageously supported the Sparrow Force. 

“In 1999 a UN INTERFET force, predominantly made up of Australia troops landed in East Timor to protect the East Timorese people,” he said.

“(The force) maintained military presence until the country stabilised as an independent nation in May, 2002.

“The presence of these forces in part went towards repaying this debt of honour to the Timorese, our brave and loyal allies in our time of war.”

Mr Penno said the Timorese people were critical in providing information on the Japanese movement during the war. 

“They provided information, accommodation, food, intelligence and helped to carry the military gear as well as fight,” he said.

The exhibition will be held at Dudley House in View Street, Bendigo from April 26 to May 8, daily, from 10am to 4pm. 

Entry to the exhibition is by gold coin donation and all proceeds raised will go towards the Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Committee’s work in East Timor. 

Those who had a family member who served in the force or are aware of someone that has, are asked to contact Paul Penno on 5443 4013 or email


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