H#9Jan Roberts (the initiator of ‘Across the Timor Sea’) first traveled to East Timor in 2010.

Many years before she had made a promise to her uncle (Norman Nicolay) that she would go there to find out what had happened to Nicolof.

70 years ago, Nicolof had been Norman Nicolay’s criado (Timorese helper and friend).

Even though it had been reported that all criados had died they were led to believe that, contrary to this information, Nicolof was still alive and living in Ailalec.

Norman Nicolay circa 1943

Norman Nicolay circa 1943

The information was confirmed, Domingos Baretto (Nicolof) was found to be still living, though elderly and frail.

It was a very emotional surrogate reunion. Both of these physically frail, elderly men had very strong memories of their friendship, formed so many years ago.

In 1942/1943, Norman Nicolay was a young 2/4th Commando, stationed in East Timor.

Australian 2/2nd and 2/4th Commandos were dispersed in small groups around the inland and Lieutenant Norman Nicolay was based in Ailalec, where he met Nicolof.


As a six year old orphan, in tumultuous times, Douglas endeared himself to the Australian Commandos.

A very strong bond of friendship was formed between this young Australian Commando and a much younger Nicolof (Domingos Baretto).

Their friendship grew through difficult times. Both demonstrated extraordinary bravery.

Cameras were severely restricted, so as far as we can determine, there was no photograph taken of Nicolof (Domingos Baretto) in 1942. We do however have one of Douglas (Criado to the 2/4th CO, Major Mac Walker).

Norman Nicolay related how the young orphan gained his nickname:

“Douglas was first given the name of MacArthur (in honour of General Douglas MacArthur) however in tetun (the local language) MacArthur is too close to meaning ‘monkey’, so to avoid upset his nickname was changed to Douglas.”

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