It really began in Singapore late in 1941, but because Japan thought and moved too fast for us, the idea was stillborn.  Special Operations (or S.O. as they were called by the limited number of initiated) had been carried out in the European theatre since the beginning of hostilities.  Their object was to penetrate the enemy controlled areas, sabotage his installations and equipment, obtain intelligence, weaken his morale by undercover propaganda and, by the same methods, strengthen the morale of the subject populations and increase their resistance to his occupation forces.

In Malaya it went off like a damp squib because the groundwork had hardly been done before a fast-moving Nippon army was at the Causeway.  Overt propaganda (i.e. propaganda where no attempt is made to disguise its origin) had been successfully carried out by the Far Eastern Bureau of the Ministry of Information since early 1940, but this organisation was not equipped to do what can best be described as combat propaganda.  With the fall of Singapore imminent, a number of us who had been trained in various phases of special operations were sent to Java to endeavour to establish organisations there, but again the Japanese were too fast for us, and in March '42 we found ourselves in Australia with orders to persuade the Australian authorities to approve of the conduct of special operations with bases in this country.

The area we had to cover was large enough and potentially fruitful enough to satisfy the most ambitious of us. The Netherland's Indies and Malaya had gone, together with New Britain, the Solomons, and a fair parcel of the New Guinea mainland.  In all of these areas there were native populations whose resistance to Japanese occupation might be a major factor in the enemy's final defeat.

One man only saw the possibility of our operations, General Sir Thomas Blamey, the Commander-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces.  With his personal backing three organisations were established (Allied Intelligence Bureau was already working under the Director of Naval Intelligence), and one of these, and the only one entirely Australian in direction and control, was the Far Eastern Liaison Office, a title that was intended as a cover for its real activities.  FELO, as it came to be known in its shortened form, was charged with all combat propaganda in the South-West Pacific Area.  This involved lowering the morale of the enemy forces, misleading him in regard to our military intentions, and influencing subject populations to weaken the enemy's war effort and assist our own forces.

Our beginnings could hardly have been more modest, a Director (R.A.N.), an Assistant (British Army), and three O.R.s (A.M.F.).  The ranks were soon swelled and given greater variety by the addition of a Deputy Director (Wing Commander, R.A.A.F.), a Captain of the Netherland's Indies Army, and a Lieutenant of the Dutch Navy.  The varied nature of the organisation was maintained and even increased up to the end of the hostilities, when we had a total strength of over 500, of which 35 were R.A.N., 285 A.M.F., 21 R.A.A.F., 25 Dutch including native troops, 145 New Guinea natives, 8 civilians, and last, by no means least interesting, 5 Japanese prisoners of war. 

Two months were spent in getting our organisation together.  Our first need was people who knew the areas in which we were to operate, and fortunately the area with the highest priority at that time was New Guinea.  We assembled specially selected men from the New Guinea service and ex-planters who knew the natives and the country and were made to order for our purposes.

Cdr. J.C.R. Proud, (R.A.N.) Director, FELO.

To Chapter 2 ->