The Gallant Story of the Defence of Limbang
[8 December 1962]
by Alastair Morrison
This is a story of heroism - Sarawak heroism - of how a handful of police held out against a violent onslaught by hundreds of rebels. It is a story that must be told to Sarawak in full.
The night of December 7 saw a tiny police detachment responsible for law and order in Limbang. Although there was much cause for anxiety in the 5th Division it had not been possible to reinforce the Limbang detachment at that time and Limbang itself is an extremely difficult place to defend against any serious threat. The Government station is strung out along a narrow stretch of land between a steeply rising heavily wooded hill and the river. There is no easily defended central strong point. This fact was well known to the rebels who attacked Limbang at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 8th.
By that time several hundred rebels armed with shotguns had stealthily moved into the whole area from the downriver end of the bazaar to the Roman Catholic Mission. Precisely at 2 o'clock they opened fire on the police station, the police barracks and the house of Inspector Latiff.
The station and barrack room behind were occupied by 8 of the 15 policemen then in Limbang. The rebels crept quietly close to the wire fence and opened a barrage of shotgun fire while others climbed over the fence.
The policemen on duty had little chance because the station was never intended for defensive purposes. It was and is simply a town police station for everyday police business, designed for peace and not for war.
Corporal Kim Huat who was in charge of the men in the police station, took up his station in the recreation room at the upriver end of the station building from where he fired on the rebels. Here, very early in the attack he was hit and seriously wounded, dying a little later.
P.C. Wan Jamaluddin bin Tuanku Alek had dashed into the barrack room at the back of the police station to warn the men sleeping there. On his way back he attacked the rebels outside and was probably responsible for killing two of them. His body and the bodies of two dead rebels were found grouped together at the end of the police station building the next day.
P.C. Essa bin Maratim, who was in the barrack room, fired on the enemy and killed one man who attempted to gain entry to the barrack block from the covered way leading to the station itself. When his ammunition was exhausted, he climbed up into the loft over the barrack room with his rifle.
P.C. Insoll anak Chundang attempted to open the arms cage to obtain more ammunition and was shot down in the act.
P.C. Bujang bin Mohammed was killed firing from the window of the Police Sergeant's office.
After about two hours 4 of the defenders had been killed and Essa was hiding in the loft with his now useless weapon.
Police Constable Bishop anak Kunjan with Police Constable Sangga anak Jampang, hopelessly outnumbered though they were, continued to resist the rebels from the Station Sergeant's office. They were completely surrounded by rebels who were now all over the police compound and even right under the windows of the office only a few feet away from the men who were still grimly holding out. It was not until about 7 a.m. that they finally gave up in response to an order by the Resident, Mr Morris, who had been taken to the station at gun-point.
Five dead rebels were lying outside the police station and a number were wounded.
At the Government office, Police Constable Zaini bin Titun was on duty. He heard the firing break out around the Police Station and found rebels coming into the office, an antiquated building in poor repair, which is open on all sides. He fired on the rebels but was quickly over-powered.
Police Constable Muling anak Kusan, who was on duty at the jail nearby, left his post there and attacked the rebels from the flank.
The result of this action by Zaini and Muling was one dead rebel. In addition, in the two actions at the Police station and the Kubu, 9 rebels were wounded, several of them seriously.
Police Constable Muling was captured later in the morning between the Kubu and the Police station but Police Constable Essa in the police barrack loft remained there without food or drink for 4 days until Limbang was released. All the other members of the force were also taken prisoner, mostly in their quarters or barracks.
The fight put up by the police in Limbang, was a splendid example of good morale, devotion to duty, and aggressive spirit. The police never had a chance, but they showed great bravery in holding out as long as they could and in taking the fight to the enemy. Those who are able to take part in the actual fighting were a representative cross-section of Sarawak's racial make-up.
Of the killed, Corporal Kim Huat, whose home was in Quop was half Chinese and half Land Dayak.
Wan Jamaluddin and Bujang were 1st Division Malays. Insoll came from the Saribas.
Of the survivors Sangga is a Land Dayak from Kampong Tijireng, Lundu; Zaini and Essa are MeIanaus from Mukah; Bishop comes from Rumah Jawa in the Undup and Muling from Spaoh in Betong District.
These men have written a splendid page in Sarawak's history and one which will never be forgotten.
[Source TNA FCO 141/12608, transcribed by www.arcre.com]