The Info List - Brunei Revolt

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Decisive Commonwealth victory

Indonesia– Malaysia


 United Kingdom  Brunei  Malaya

North Borneo
North Borneo
Federation  Indonesia

Commanders and leaders

Nigel Poett Omar Ali Saifuddien III

A.M. Azahari Yassin Affandi Sukarno


2,000–6,000 4,000

Casualties and losses

6 dead, unknown civilian casualties 40 dead (3,400 captured/ pardoned)

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Brunei Limbang


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The Brunei
revolt (Malay: Pemberontakan Brunei) was a December 1962 insurrection in the British protectorate of Brunei
by opponents of its monarchy and its proposed inclusion in the Federation of Malaysia. The insurgents were members of the TNKU (North Kalimantan National Army), a militia supplied by Indonesia
and linked to leftwing Brunei
People's Party (BPP) which favoured a North Borneo
North Borneo
Federation. The TNKU began co-ordinated attacks on the oil town of Seria
(targeting the Royal Dutch Shell oil installations) and on police stations and government facilities around the protectorate. The revolt began to break down within hours, having failed to achieve key objectives such as the capture of Brunei
town and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III.[1] The revolt influenced the Sultan's 1963 decision not to join Malaysia. It is seen as one of the first stages of the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation.


1 Background 2 Prelude 3 Battle

3.1 First ten days 3.2 Seria 3.3 Executions at Temburong 3.4 The assault on Limbang 3.5 Mopping up

4 Aftermath

4.1 Order of Battle

5 Notes 6 References 7 Further reading

Background[edit] The northern part of the island of Borneo
was composed of three British territories: the colonies of Sarawak and North Borneo
North 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 Malays, a quarter Chinese and the rest 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, called Brunei
Town in those days, 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
and Sarawak were involved in negotiations to form a new Malaysian Federation. However, the Philippines
and particularly Indonesia
opposed any move towards unification of North Borneo
North Borneo
and Sarawak with the new federation. This support was given strength by evidence of widespread anti-Federation sentiment in Sarawak and Brunei itself. The Brunei
People’s Party was in favour of joining Malaysia on condition it was as the unified three territories of northern Borneo
(total about 1.5 million people, half Dayak) with their own sultan, and hence 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
White Rajah
of Sarawak, Charles Vyner Brooke, in 1941. The North Kalimantan (or Kalimantan Utara) proposal was seen as a post-decolonisation 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] Prelude[edit] 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
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 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
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 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 local opposition that was against the idea of a federation. Battle[edit] First ten days[edit] 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.[4] 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
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 centre 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 the Baram River. Tom Harrisson, the Curator of the Sarawak Museum
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 centre 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
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. Seria[edit] 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
Twin Pioneers
and a Beverley at Brunei. The Twin Pioneers
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
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[edit] 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
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. The assault on Limbang[edit] Main article: Limbang raid 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
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
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
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. It is worth noting that the only map they had was 10 years old at the time. 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[edit] By 17 December 42 Commando
42 Commando
was complete in Brunei
and 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) had landed from the cruiser HMS Tiger in Miri. 40 Commando
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
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, 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
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
Queen's Own Highlanders
and 1/2 Gurkhas were replaced by the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
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 were 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] Aftermath[edit] 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[edit] The following units, or significant elements of them, deployed to Borneo
in response to the rebellion before May 1963:

40 Commando
40 Commando
Royal Marines 42 Commando
42 Commando
Royal Marines Queen's Royal Irish Hussars 29th Commando Light Regiment Royal Artillery Queen's Own Highlanders King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) 22 Special
Air Service 1st/2nd Gurkhas 1st/7th Gurkhas


^ Jackson, p. 122. ^ a b Pocock, p. 129. ^ Pocock, p. 129–130. ^ a b c Pocock, p. 131. ^ Pocock, pp. 131–132. ^ a b Pocock, p. 133. ^ Pocock, p. 133–134. ^ a b Pocock, p. 134. ^ Britains-SmallWars.com. ^ Pocock, p. 139. ^ Pocock, p. 152. ^ Pocock, p. 153.


Jackson, Robert (2008). The Malayan Emergency
Malayan Emergency
and Indonesian Confrontation: The Commonwealth's Wars 1948–1966. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. ISBN 9781844157754.  Pocock, Tom (1973). Fighting General – The Public and Private Campaigns of General Sir Walter Walker (First ed.). London: Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-211295-6.  Paul, James; Spirit, Martin (2008). "Index of the Borneo–Malay Peninsula Confrontation". Britains-SmallWars.com. Retrieved 1 August 2012.  " Brunei
Revolt Archive Documents". ARCRE. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

Fowler, Will (2006). Britain's Secret War: The Indonesian Confrontation 1962–66 (Osprey Men-at-Arms 431). Oxford: Osprey Publishing Limited. ISBN 9781846030482. 

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