Between 8 and 12 December of 1962, world attention focused on a surprise rebel uprising that sprang up in northern Borneo, where hostages were taken and threatened with execution. The small river town of Limbang, administrative center of the Fifth Division of the British Crown colony of Sarawak, was the pivot of the confrontation that Harold Macmillan told John F. Kennedy was as dangerous a situation in South East Asia as the Western Allies had seen since the Second World War. The Brunei revolt turned out to be the opening act of the diplomatic and military conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia known as Confrontation ('Konfrontasi').
Britain and the Malayan Prime Minister aimed to create a federation of Malaysia by combining the two British colonies in Borneo and the island colony of Singapore with already independent Malaya. Opposition to this came from Brunei Malay politician Sheikh A. M. Azahari. The self-styled Prime Minister of a 'united' northern Borneo mounted an anti-Malaysia insurrection. This uprising became known as the Brunei revolt. An amphibious dawn assault at Limbang on 12 December by L Company of 42 Commando British Royal Marines liberated the hostages whom Azahari's rebel forces were preparing to hang.
The story of Limbang and what it represents has not been fully told until now. While terrifying, Limbang was also a life-affirming experience for those involved and forged lifelong bonds. It ends not with the heroic release of the hostages in a commando raid, where British forces faced heavy resistance, but with the impact these events had on the lives of all concerned.
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Eileen Chanin is a Sydney based historian and writer. Her books have been awarded the History Prize of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards and been shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction, the 2011 CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature and the 2012 Australian Historical Association Magarey Medal for Biography. She is an honorary senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales.Review:
The book highlights true heroes such as police personnel and ordinary people who did extraordinary things to protect and save others in great danger. Borneo Post This is a human tale of courage, fortitude and bravery - It is a gripping tale of seven dramatic days that helped quell the initial North Kalimantan National Army efforts of taking over the whole of Borneo Island. It was beginning of a wider and longer campaign that came to be called Confrontation. Globe and Laurel Whether you were there or not matters little as this is one of the Brush Fire wars that proved the value of Royal Marines Commandos in challenging situations. Some may find a few of the personal stories conflicting, but that is what is remembered in the heat of action. It makes riveting reading and is lucidly written, thoroughly researched and well documented. Globe and Laurel With an impressive command of detail, the author has gathered witness accounts from her own interviews and a treasure trove of archival material that give the reader a visceral understanding of what it was like to be a prisoner, and what it was like to be a soldier seeing action for the first time. The Australian There is much to recommend in Limbang Rebellion. It will appeal especially to readers with a passion for military history that is informed by geopolitical context and the personal impact of armed struggle. The Australian The Limbang Rebellion in 1962 had a historical impact on Sarawak in particular and Malaysia in general, as it indirectly opened the minds and eyes of Sarawakians who were initially sceptical of Sarawak involvement in the formation of Malaysia. New Sarawak Tribune Limbang Rebellion should be on your year-end list of books to read. The Star Sarawak Limbang Rebellion reads more like a thriller, drawing you into the lives of the people caught in the conflict. The Star Sarawak The book draws from eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries and other historical documents to reflect the experiences of those who lived through the rebellion and showed courage, resilience and dignity. The Sunday Star, Sarawak
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