Brunei revolt

Brunei revolt

The northern part of the island of Borneo was composed of three British territories: the colonies of Sarawak andNorth Borneo (to be renamed Sabah) and the protectorate of the Sultanate of Brunei. Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888, had an area of about 2,226 square miles (5,800 km2) and some 85,000 people. Just over half of the people were Malays, a quarter was Chinese, and the rest were Dayaks, the indigenous people of Borneo. Oil was discovered in 1929 near Seria and the Shell Petroleum Company concession provided the Sultanate with a huge income. The capital, then called Brunei Town, was on a river some 10 miles (20 km) from the coast.

In 1959, the Sultan,  Sir Omar Ali Saifuddin III, established a legislature with half its members nominated and half elected. Elections were held in September 1962 and all of the contested seats were won by the  Brunei People’s Party.

Between 1959 and 1962, the  United Kingdom, Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo andSarawak were involved in negotiations to form a new  Malaysian Federation. However, the Philippines and particularly Indonesia opposed any move toward unification of North Borneo and Sarawak with the new federation. This external opposition toward unification strengthened by widespread anti-Federation sentiment within Sarawak and Brunei itself. The Brunei People’s Party was in favor of joining Malaysia on condition of the unification of the three crown colonies of northern Borneo (total about 1.5 million people, half Dayak) with their own sultan. It was thought that the resultant sultanate would be strong enough to resist domination by Malaya or Singapore, Malay administrators or Chinese merchants.[2] Local opposition and sentiments against the Malaysian Federation plan have often been under-represented in historical writings on the Brunei Rebellion and the subsequent  Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation. In fact, political forces in Sarawak had long anticipated their own national independence as promised (but later aborted) by the last  White Rajah of Sarawak,  Charles Vyner Brooke, in 1941.

The North Kalimantan (or Kalimantan Utara) proposal was seen as a post-decolonization alternative by local opposition against the Malaysian Federation plan. Local opposition throughout the Borneo territories was primarily based on economic, political, historical and cultural differences between the Borneo states and the Malayan peninsula, and an unwillingness to be subjected to peninsular political domination.

However, before the Brunei People’s Party electoral success, a military wing had emerged, the North Kalimantan National Army (Malay abbreviation TNKU), which saw itself as an anti-colonialist liberation party. Its sympathies lay with Indonesia which was seen as having better ‘liberationist’ credentials than Malaya and Singapore. Its 34-year-old leader  A.M. Azahari had lived in Indonesia and was in touch with Indonesian intelligence agents. He had recruited several officers who had been trained in clandestine warfare in Indonesia. By late 1962, they could muster about 4000 men, a few modern weapons, and about 1000 shotguns.[2]


Hints of brewing trouble came in early November 1962 when the Resident for the 5th Division of Sarawak, Richard Morris (an Australian), who was based in Limbang (sandwiched between the two parts of Brunei) received information.  Special Branch police from Kuching visited Limbang but only found some illegal uniforms with TNKU badges. Later in November, Morris heard that an insurrection was planned for Brunei, but not before 19 December.  Claude Fenner, the Inspector General of the  Malayan Police flew to Sarawak to investigate but found no evidence. However, the Chief of Staff in the British Far East Headquarters in Singapore did a review and update the contingency plan, PALE ALE, for Brunei. However, the risk was assessed as low and the British Far East Land, Sea, and Air Commanders-in-Chief were away from Singapore as was the operational commander of land forces, Major General  Walter Walker.[3]

On 6 December, Morris heard the rebellion would start on the 8th. On 7th, similar information reached John Fisher, the resident of the 4th Division of Sarawak, based in Miri some 20 miles (30 km) west of Brunei. As a result, police were put on full alert through Brunei, North Borneo, and Sarawak, and Police Field Force reinforcements were flown from Kuching to Miri.[4]

Contrary to popular belief, no firm evidence has ever been unearthed to support claims that the Indonesian President, Sukarno, had territorial ambitions over Sarawak (he always held firmly to the 1945 decision which delineated Indonesia’s boundaries to territories inherited from the former Dutch-Indies, and this might explain why he eagerly pursued Papua‘s–but not East Timor‘s–annexation). More likely was that Sukarno invested hopes for the establishment of a North Kalimantan state aligned to Jakarta’s anti-colonial/imperialist geopolitics, in which he found suitable allies.

In an effort to thwart any effort to form Malaysia, Indonesia became actively involved in subterfuge operations and later declared war on Malaysia. During this period, Indonesian agents came into contact with a local opposition that was against the idea of a federation.


First ten days

The rebellion broke out at 2:00 am on 8 December. Signals from Brunei to British Far East Headquarters reported rebel attacks on police stations, the Sultan’s Istana, the Prime Minister’s house and the power station, and that another rebel force was approaching the capital by water. Far East Headquarters ordered ALE YELLOW, which placed a force of two Gurkha infantry companies on 48 hours notice to move.

Most of the attacks in Brunei town were repulsed although the electricity supply was cut off. At this stage, it was not known that rebels had attacked police stations throughout Brunei, in the 5th Division of Sarawak and on the western edge of North Borneo. Miri was still in government hands but Limbang had been taken by the rebels. The situation was most serious in Seria where the rebels had captured the police station and were dominating the oilfields.[4]

Nine hours after ALE YELLOW, ALE RED was ordered and two companies of 1st Battalion,  2nd Gurkha Rifles, of 99th Infantry Brigade, moved to the RAF airfields at Changi and Seletar in Singapore to fly to Labuan Island in Brunei Bay. The Gurkhas’ embarkation went slowly because the RAF was unprepared and following normal peacetime procedures. The troops were in a  Bristol Britannia and three  Blackburn Beverleys and the latter were diverted in flight from Labuan to Brunei airfield when it was learned that this was not in rebel hands.[5]

The Beverleys landed at about 10:00 pm and the Gurkhas advanced into Brunei. They fought a series of actions, suffering six casualties, two fatal. A small group of Gurkhas led by  Captain Digby Willoughby rescued the Sultan and took him to police headquarters. An advance to Seria met strong opposition and returned to Brunei to counter a rebel threat to its center and the airfield.[6]

On 9 December, John Fisher called on the Dayak tribes for help by sending a boat with the traditional Red Feather of War up to the Baram River.  Tom Harrison, the Curator of the  Sarawak Museum in Kuching and leader of resistance to the Japanese in the Second World War also arrived in Brunei. He summoned the Kelabits from the highlands around Bario in the 5th Division, the center of his wartime resistance. Hundreds of Dayaks responded and formed into companies led by British civilians all commanded by Harrison. This force reached some 2,000 strong, and with excellent knowledge of the tracks through the interior (there were no roads), helped contain the rebels and cut off their escape route to Indonesia.[6]

Meanwhile, reinforcements flowed into Labuan. The 2nd Gurkhas were brought up to battalion strength. On 10 December, the Far East ‘spearhead battalion’, the  Queen’s Own Highlanders began arriving in Brunei. Brigadier Patterson, commander 99th Gurkha Infantry Brigade arrived to take overall command from Brigadier Pat Glennie, normally the Brigadier General Staff at Far East HQ. Both reported to Lieutenant General Sir  Nigel Poett, the Far East Land Forces Commander in Singapore. Seria and Limbang remained in rebel hands. Further reinforcements arrived in the following days.[7] These enabled Seria and Limbang to be recaptured.

By 17 December, the rebellion had been held and broken. Some 40 rebels were dead and 3,400 captured. The remainder had fled and were assumed to be trying to reach Indonesia. Of the leaders, Azahari was in the Philippines and Yassin Affendi was with the fugitives.


The road route to Seria was judged too vulnerable to ambush and there were no naval resources for a move by sea. Reconnaissance by an Army Air Corps Beaver revealed rebel flags over the Shell complex, and the 6 miles (10 km) of coast seemed in rebel hands. However, there appeared to be a potential landing site for light aircraft west of Seria and east of the town – the runway at  Anduki Airfield had been cleared by a small group of western civilians who had managed to escape the rebels. One escapee, Hugh McDonald, a shell contractor and WWII veteran, made contact with Singapore installations to confirm a safe landing.[8] On 10 December, a company of the Queen’s Own Highlanders boarded five  Twin Pioneers and a Beverley at Brunei. The Twin Pioneers landed west of Seria and the Beverley at Anduki. A police station 2 miles (3 km) from the western landing was recaptured and so was the Telecommunications Centre after a brief fight. Anduki airfield was quickly recaptured. However, the main Seria police station, with 48 hostages, most Shell expatriates, was not secured until the 12th.[8]

Anduki Airfield is today a grass airstrip with a concrete ramp used almost exclusively by Brunei Shell Petroleum aircraft and helicopters servicing Brunei’s extensive offshore petroleum production installations. The  Sultan of Brunei and members of the Royal Family sometimes use it in their helicopters when they wish to visit Seria, especially on State occasions. Regarded as strategically important because of its proximity to the oil town of Seria, its history in the Brunei Revolt and the paucity of other Brunei airstrips usable by fixed-wing military aircraft, Anduki and the adjacent highway to Bandar Seri Begawan is one of the first areas to be secured by Gurkha and Brunei Army troops when they deploy on contemporary war exercises.s

Executions at Temburong

On 8 December 1962, from two till five in the morning, shots could be heard near police stations all over Brunei. According to news received from Temburong, the District Officer Pengiran Haji Besar bin Pengiran Haji Kula and a few others from Brunei security forces and a number of civilians were executed for refusing to join in the rebellion.

By five in the morning, TNKU already managed to control  Pekan Besar. More news came out that a number of civil servants at Pekan Besar had managed to escape capture. Around an hour later at downtown, the Deputy Chief Minister was granted audience by the Sultan. After the meeting, the Sultan made a radio declaration condemning TNKU, the armed wing of the Brunei People’s Party, for treason.

Assault on Limbang

In Limbang, rebels attacked the local police station, killing five local policemen. The rebels then obtained the surrender of British official R.H. Morris, his wife, four other Europeans and an American  Peace Corps worker, and took the remaining police officers hostage. On the first night of their captivity, they were crowded into the police cells, the second night they were moved to the local hospital where they overheard the rebels planning their hangings the following day.

Eighty-nine Marines of  42 Commando had arrived in Brunei on 11 December, led by Captain Jeremy Moore (who later commanded the British Forces during the Falklands War). After acquiring two landing craft, the Marines were transported to Limbang by  Royal Navy crews led by Captain Black (who later commanded  HMS Invincible during the Falklands War) and staged their arrival at dawn, 13 December. The landing craft had manually operated ramps which took too long to lower and the senior officer took the decision that the Marines would vault over the sides or over the ramps under covering fire from  Vickers machine guns mounted on the bridges. One landing craft’s bridge was raked with  Bren gun fire, disabling the crew, and the craft rammed into the river bank and quay.

The only map they had was 10 years old at the time.[citation needed] The Marines lost the element of surprise due to the loud noise of their boats but succeeded nevertheless in suppressing the rebels’ machine guns and landed.

The attackers started their search for the hostages who, on hearing shots, began singing the American song “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain“, allowing the first rescue party to quickly locate them. The first rescue party was attacked and two of the three Marines were killed. A second rescue party fought off the rebels from around the hospital and freed the hostages. About 200 rebels, who had little if any military training and a paltry assortment of weapons (about a dozen Bren guns and  Lee–Enfield rifles, but mainly shotguns, muskets, and daggers), tried to resist, but were beaten back.

Five Marines were killed and eight wounded in the attack. British sources do not list rebel losses in this incident, but Clodfelter estimates losses in the Brunei Rebellion as 40 rebels and six Marines.

There is a memorial to all the dead in Limbang. The leader of the Limbang rebels was caught and tried and received an eleven-year prison sentence. He lives (2007) on the outskirts of Limbang.[9]

Mopping up

By 17 December 42 Commando was complete in Brunei and 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) had landed from the cruiser  HMS Tiger in Miri. 40 Commando aboard the commando carrier  HMS Albion was diverted from Miri to Kuching. On 14 December, most of the unit reinforced the artillery battery sent there as infantry on 12 December to pre-empt trouble from the Chinese of the Clandestine Communist Organisation (CCO) who were openly sympathetic to the Brunei rebels. The last company of 40 Commando landed near Seria. Albion also provided helicopters from the embarked Naval Air Commando Squadrons.[10]

Major General  Walter Walker took over as COMBRITBOR and Director of Operations (DOBOPS) on 19 December with command of all land, sea and air forces assigned to Borneo and reporting directly to the Commander-in-Chief Far East Forces, Admiral Sir  David Luce. Three weeks after the rebellion started, 99th Gurkha Infantry Brigade had 5 infantry battalions and HQ 3rd Command Brigade was in Kuching. This force was supported by the Brunei Malay Regiment, the  Sarawak Rangers, the police of the three territories including paramilitary Police Field Force, and Harrison’s force of now 4,000 Dayaks. Suitable coastal patrol naval vessels were lacking (the Royal Navy didn’t have any) so minesweepers were used. The RAF had medium and short-range transport aircraft. In January, the Queen’s Own Highlanders and 1/2 Gurkhas were replaced by the  King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and 1/7 Gurkhas and special forces troops had also arrived.

Mopping up operations, by this time including a commando artillery battery with their guns, continued until May 1963. On 18 May, a patrol of 1/7 Gurkhas was guided by an informer to a camp in the mangrove. They flushed a party of rebels towards an ambush. Ten rebels were killed or captured. They were the remnants of TNKU headquarters and one of the wounded, shot in the hip, was Yassin Affendi.[11]

However, on 12 April, the police station at Tebedu in the 1st Division of Sarawak was attacked and captured. The attackers had come from Kalimantan. This marked the beginning of Confrontation.[12]


The rebellion also played a role in the Sultan of Brunei’s subsequent decision for Brunei to not join the Federation of Malaysia.

Order of Battle

The following units, or significant elements of them, deployed to Borneo in response to the rebellion before May 1963:

  • Jackson, Robert (2008). The Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation: The Commonwealth’s Wars 1948–1966. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. ISBN9781844157754.
  • Pocock, Tom (1973). Fighting General – The Public and Private Campaigns of General Sir Walter Walker (First ed.). London: Collins. ISBN978-0-00-211295-6.
  • Paul, James; Spirit, Martin (2008). “Index of the Borneo–Malay Peninsula Confrontation”. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  • “Brunei Revolt Archive Documents”. ARCRE. Retrieved 8 December 2012.

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By Dr.Steve Ramsey,PhD

Greeting from Calgary, Alberta - Canada. My name is Saad Al-Hashimi. Known as Steve Ramsey PhD, I am the founder and the director of the Paranormal zone- Haunting Dimensions. That deals with an investigation, debunking, and healing/cleansing since 1986. Having had many unexplainable experiences from a young age at a possible "haunted" house where plenty of things seemed to happen that I couldn’t explain, since that time and I am looking and searching for an answer. After continuing to have many experiences that I just cannot explain, I have since become a firm believer that GHOSTS do exist. I continued for a short while as a member of a few other paranormal groups until I was very fortunate to become involved with a local fast growing organization where I felt very comfortable to start my own paranormal investigation. My best experience has been Indio California, Okotoks Alberta, Baghdad city , and many other places in Greece and North Canada. (yes I do believe spirits can hurt you so you have to be careful not to provoke or challenge a spirit ). I won’t tell you the whole story now but you are more than welcome to ask me on a ghost hunt. I am now looking forward to meeting many more people, all looking for that ‘experience’ that could possibly convince them that there is something more to life than we first thought. So please feel free to email me I have been involved in several paranormal groups over the years. Paranormal Adventures is different and exciting in ways I couldn’t possibly get before. When people ask if I believe in ghosts, I say I am a skeptical believer. I have had many encounters with spirit forms and believe what I have seen to be real and unexplainable. I always look for a normal mundane reason why at the same time. My area of expertise in the field of science. I have Ph.D. in Public Health from the USA, Master degree in Medical Ultrasound and BSc Degree in Diagnostic Imaging from Charles Sturt University Australia, BSc in Physics, and Radiology diploma from Iraq, Pharmacy diploma. Radiography diploma from London Ontario, Diploma in Natural Health from Quebec, Canada. Radiation physics from Australia, I studied the infra and ultrasound in the animal kingdom.P resented more than 20 lectures in Iraq, Greece, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Canada and I am the peer reviewer for the radiographer journal in UK, Netherlands, and South Africa. Earned the 3rd award for excellence in ultrasound - Canada 2005. I am also armature archaeologist, painter, calligrapher, and used to run acting theater play in Iraq- Baghdad, wrote, directed and acted in more than 27 plays. So debunking come naturally in my science and technology back round, and not like other debunking people around you who use Google for their search and call them self-debunkers, It doesn't work that way. In the near future, I will run live internet ghost hunts with night vision cameras giving users at home the chance to watch the spooky footage on, in my nights out. I look forward to seeing you all soon on one of our many events! I loved reading ghost stories and sitting on my own in the dark watching horror films. However. I Can decode dreams, and I see spirits in my dreams. I like to look at things from a scientific point of view and try to rule out all rational possibilities before concluding that events are paranormal. However, I do try to keep an open mind on all investigations. I started taking part in investigations since 1986; my first investigation usually any house, apartment that I move in or my friend's places. For many of my true paranormal stories you can read them at I will try to copy and move all my articles here in this site in near future. Thank you for reading and God Bless you all. Steve Ramsey PhD. Alberta