40 Royal Marine Commando

Based at Burma Camp Malaya

1962 to 1966

The Reason we were in Borneo


            On the 8th December 1962 four thousand men belonging to the North Kalimantan National Army (TNKU) serving in Brunei rose in rebellion against the proposed inclusion of the small state into the British sponsored Federation of Malaysia. Many hostages were taken leaving the Sultan feeling threatened, but swift action by men of the first Battalion, Second Gurkhas dispatched from Singapore saved the day. Arriving in small parties by air, HQ Company and two platoons of D Company took the initiative immediately, shooting their way towards Seria through patches of dense jungle to relieve a number of embattled police posts. They then retired to secure Brunei Town and by the end of the month the revolt looked finished.

            This proved to be just a beginning, however the idea of a federation comprising of Malaya, Singapore and three states under British protection in Borneo being, Sabah (British North Borneo), Sarawak and Brunei. Brunei’s inclusion was bitterly opposed by President Sukarno of Indonesia, who believed that all of Borneo should be under his rule. What he really wanted was the oil that Brunei had discovered and had become very rich from its revenue. Taking full advantage of local dissidents, he sent forces into Indonesian controlled Kalimantan.  Intent on mounting guerrilla style raids all along the sixteen-kilometre border, which would wear down the British resolve and so prepare the way for an Indonesian take over. Setting up bases inside Kalimantan, often no more than a kilometre from the border. Sukarno’s soldiers were ideally placed to exert maximum pressure, through rugged and seemingly impassable terrain.

            Within Sabah and Sarawak, the only means of travel was by jungle track and its rivers. While on the border itself the mountains rose rapidly to nine hundred metres culminating in peaks of about two thousand four hundred metres. It was tough, uncompromising country that would test the stamina of any soldier who was sent there. The crisis was to last four years, with Sukarno’s men continued to enjoy the initiatives, choosing the time and the place for their incursions. It was not until political clearance had been given in late 1963 that the British forces were allowed to make cross-border pre-emptive strikes. At first, these were restricted to penetrations of no more than two thousand seven hundred metres, but as Sukarno escalated the conflict, this was gradually extended.


The above is an extract from “Modern Elite forces” published by Orbis.          




H.M.S. Bulwark the Commando Carrier was steaming at full speed from Mombassa in Africa, towards the expected flare up in Borneo. It’s cargo of Helicopters and landing craft would be needed. While 42 Commando was flown to Brunei from Singapore.

Limbang was a village on a large river and within its police station three hundred and fifty rebels were holding some British hostages. On the 12 December 1962 L Company in landing craft boats sailed up to the river towards Limbang to rescue the hostages.  As they stormed ashore against very heavy fire, things had not worked out for them, bad luck had also played a part.  Five Marines were killed and six wounded including a Navel Petty Officer. However, he Royal Marines soon brought the situation under control and all the hostages were released unharmed, a successful operation.


40 Commando Royal Marines served in

December 1962                                           -           5th Division of Sarawak

December 1962 - January 1963                  -           1st Division Sarawak

March 1963 to July 1963                             -           1st Division Sarawak

October 1963 to February 1964                  -           1st Division Sarawak

July 1964 to December 1964                       -           Sabah North Borneo

July 1965 to November 1965                       -           1st Division Sarawak

May 1966 to September 1966                      -           2nd Division Sarawak


42 Commando Royal Marines served in

December 1962 – April 1963                         -           5th Division of Sarawak

July 1963 – Oct 1963                                    -           1st Division of Sarawak

February 1964 – June 1964                          -           1st Division of Sarawak

December 1964 – May 1965                         -           Sabah North Borneo

December 1965 – May 1966                         -           1st Division of Sarawak