In December 1962, simmering tensions between Indonesia, The Federation of Malaya and Brunei exploded into what became known as the Brunei Revolt.
In an attempt to stop the wealth of Brunei becoming united with the soon-to-be-created state of Malaysia, the Indonesian government supported the secret left-wing Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara, or North Kalimantan National Army, (often referred to as the TNKU) in a planned uprising against Brunei’s ruling Sultan.
By the 7th of December it was clear to the local British officials that the uprising was imminent and at 2am the next morning the TKNU launched attacks against the Brunei Town’s power supplies and police station as well as against the Sultan’s palace. Further along the coast the Seria oilfields and other towns were also captured.
In response, the Sultan placed an official call for aid to British Headquarters Far East Command and Plan Ale, the British response to such an uprising in Brunei, was activated. The 1st Battalion of the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles was placed on notice to move and scrambled to pull its troops back in from exercises and to source appropriate aircraft to fly to Brunei. As things deteriorated in Brunei the initial force of 2 companies of 1/2GR, just over 260 men, set off from Singapore to Brunei.
Arriving at 1930hrs that night the Gurkhas made their way to the main police station, set up an HQ and planned their next move. Troops were sent to recapture the oilfields, guard the Sultan and to secure the nearby town of Tutong where intelligence suggested an attack was imminent. As Captain Lea of ‘C’ Company raced to Tutong he and his men came under fire and a running battle ensued, with Lea becoming separated from his men. Over the course of the night Lea and his headquarters hid and exchanged fire with various rebels as the rest of ‘C’ Company attempted to rescue their commander. As dawn broke the commander and his men were reunited and Tutong was secured, with 108 rebels being captured by the Gurkhas.
Back in Brunei Town Major Lloyd-Williams, of 2GR sent out patrols to secure the area. These soon came under fire and this triggered a larger attack on the main police station. A number of Gurkhas were killed and wounded but the men pressed on and by 0900hrs of the 9th of December the government offices of the town had been recaptured and the town brought under control. Shortly thereafter more Gurkha reinforcements arrived from Singapore. Energetic patrols were established and the Sultan himself was brought in by a Gurkha patrol for close protection.
By the 10th of December more British troops began arriving at the threat receded, with the situation being brought under complete control within a week. By the 20th of December some 100 rebels had been killed and 2,000 detained. 1/2GR assisted in the mopping-up operation until being relieved in early February, returning to Singapore on the 12th of December.
By Mr Doug Henderson, Collections Officer, Gurkha Museum