Limbang Rebellion: 7 Days in December 1962

Eileen Chanin
2014. NUS Press (reprint)
Softcover, 23.4cm x 15.2cm, 249 pages
ISBN: 9789971697754


Combining eyewitness accounts with thorough research, Limbang Rebellion: 7 Days in December 1962 focuses on the Brunei Revolt in December 1962 when Dick Morris, Resident of the Fifth Division of Sarawak was taken hostage, along with his wife Dorothy, by the Brunei rebels. Dick, according to Richard Woolcott, Australian Commissioner in Singapore in 1963-64,  had a deep knowledge of the region, especially Sarawak and Brunei.

In early December I962 there was a surprise rebel uprising in northern Borneo. The leader of the anti-colonialist North Kalimantan National Army, Sheikh Azahari, mounted the insurrection that became known as the Brunei Revolt. It aimed to thwart Britain and Malaya’s plan to combine the British territories of Borneo into a new Federation of Malaysia. Limbang Rebellion is the story of a remarkable event in world history, told through the eyes of some of the key players. The centrepiece in Eileen Chanin’s skilfully crafted book is the dramatic early morning rescue of hostages held in the river town of Limbang, an administrative centre in the British colony of Sarawak.  It describes the involvement of the Royal Marines under Captain Jeremy Moore, MC, and the daring rescue mission he devised under challenging circumstances, which included being vastly outnumbered by the rebel forces. The result is a gripping account of seven dramatic days when a small town in northern Borneo suddenly seized the world’s attention.

The pre-battle tension and doubts among the young men of L Company is well depicted both by some of the participants and by Chanin, an experienced writer and historian. She skilfully weaves text and oral history to tell the story of the raid; we get a clear picture of what was actually chaos and confusion, like most battles.

Before focusing on the events that led up to the rescue, Eileen Chanin provides an excellent account of the geopolitical background to what became known as the Brunei Revolt of 1962 – except for Limbang most, but by no means all, of the action in the immediate aftermath of the revolt took place in the Sultanate of Brunei. The story cuts back and forth between the fate of the hostages, told mainly through Dorothy Morris’s eyes, and Moore planning the rescue. Others chip in with their accounts, from officers such as Derek Oakley, to marines like machine-gunner Tony Daker.

The battle for Limbang cost L Company five dead and six wounded, of whom all but two wounded were from just one troop of 30 men. L Company found fifteen rebel dead and took 50 prisoners. The remainder fled into the jungle, taking some of their walking wounded with them. The Limbang raid was only the beginning for the Royal Marines, as Eileen Chanin points out; the campaign initiated by President Sukarno of Indonesia, called ‘Konfrontasi’ (Confrontation), was to encompass the whole of North Borneo for another four years.

Limbang Rebellion received the Royal Marines Historical Society ‘2014 Literary Award’.

About the author: Eileen Chanin is a Sydney-based historian. Her most recent book, Book Life: The Life and Times of of David Scott Mitchell, received the 2011 Alex Buzo Prize and was shortlisted for the 2011 CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature and the 2012 Australian Historical Association Magarey Medal for Biography. Her earlier book, Degenerates and Perverts: The 1939 Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art, was awarded the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards’ Australian History Prize and shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards’ Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction. Eileen holds a PhD from the University of New South Wales, where she teaches at the College of Fine Arts. She writes for the press and Australian and international journals.

‘Limbang Rebellion: 7 Days in December 1962’ is the stuff of high drama. Charged with intrigue, heroism, courage, suspense, danger and a touch of romance in the face of conflict. (From our newsletter)

Editorial reviews

Limbang Rebellion is a great story, beautifully told. Eileen Chanin’s pen-pictures of Dick Morris’s life as British Resident Commissioner introduce the reader to a world now long gone. Both Dick and Dorothy Morris loved their life in Borneo and Brunei. The regard with which the Morrises were held by the majority of the local population was made clear after the rebellion, when the Ibans who had captured some fugitive rebels brought them down river to Limbang, Union flags flying from their craft. – Major General ]ulian Thompson, CB, OBE London

I believe this book, based on Dick’s knowledge of the situation, will make a special contribution to understanding the great changes that were underway in South-East Asia, including those in the north of the island of Borneo. The fall of Malaya and Singapore to Japan presaged the reality that Britain’s Imperial outreach in South-East Asia was over, and the post-WWII colonial tide was receding. I benefited greatly from Dick Morris’s knowledge, as I am sure will the readers of this book. – Richard Woolcott, Australian Commissioner in Singapore in 1963-64

Weight 500 g
Dimensions 23.4 × 15.2 × 1.7 cm

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