AOAV: all our reportsCivilian Casualties from British MilitaryCivilian deaths from British military action

Civilian Casualties from British Military: The Brunei Revolt

This section provides a detailed account of recorded civilian casualties that resulted from the British military’s involvement in the Brunei Revolt.

When did this conflict occur?

8th December, 1962^ – 17th December, 1962*

^ – British forces stationed in Singapore arrived in Brunei 20 hours following the start of the revolt, having received an immediate notice to move, known as ALE RED, at approximately 11 am. [1]

* – Though the 17th of December saw the end of major offensive operations in response to the Brunei Revolt, British troops continued mopping up remaining pockets of resistance until April of 1963 and soon found themselves pulled into a renewed wave of violence in the Malaysia-Indonesia Confrontation the following month. [2]

What is the background to this conflict?

In December of 1962, final preparations had been put in place to unify the Federation of Malaysia with the former British colonies of Singapore, Brunei, British North Borneo, and Sarawak. Together, these states would form Greater Malaysia and possess Commonwealth membership as a means of retaining a political, social, and economic connection to the United Kingdom. [3] Fierce opposition, however, erupted from Indonesian President Sukarno who sought to unite the former colonial territories under the control of a Greater Indonesia. The focal point of Sukarno’s hostility was Borneo, with the Indonesian state actively supporting the North Kalimantan National Army, the TNKU, in its struggle to overthrow the Sultan of Brunei and unite the island of Borneo under Indonesian rule. These efforts culminated in late 1962, when elements of the TNKU launched a coordinated offensive beginning at 2 am on the 8th of December. [4] The group attacked police stations across the country, seized stored weapons, and captured the town of Limbang where fourteen European and American hostages were held. British military forces stationed in Singapore quickly responded, retaking key points in Brunei and launching a rescue operation in Limbang which succeeded in achieving the release of all 14 hostages. [5] Remaining TNKU forces quickly fled into the jungle, but the brief conflict is viewed today as one of the first stages of the subsequent 1963-1966 Malaysia-Indonesia Confrontation.

What role did British military forces play?

British military forces in Singapore responded rapidly to the revolt and were placed on a 48-hour notice to move shortly after the eruption of violence on the morning of the 8th of December. Nine hours later, ALE RED, an immediate notice to move, was issued and elements of 1st Battalion, the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles, as well as the Queen’s Own Highlanders embarked on RAF aircraft from Changi and Seletar to fly to Brunei. [6] Arriving shortly after 10 pm, British troops immediately launched a counter-offensive which succeeded in recapturing key portions of Brunei from TNKU forces. On the 11th of December, elements of 42 Commando Royal Marines landed in Brunei and began preparations for a hostage rescue operation in Limbang, where 14 civilians had been held under the threat of execution by TNKU fighters. The following day, L Company of 42 Commando executed the raid from Royal Navy landing craft, rescuing all hostages and clearing Limbang of remaining resistance. [7] British troops remained stationed in Brunei and, alongside local police and paramilitary forces, began operations aimed at eliminating remnants of the TNKU who had fled into remote portions of the Bruneian jungle.

Can a figure of civilian deaths due to British military action be determined?

Yes. Over the course of the Brunei Revolt, there was 1 confirmed killing of a civilian by British military forces. In contrast to this civilian death, 7 British military personnel died in the conflict. [8]

Are there any trends or incidents of note?

The sole civilian death caused by British military action during the Brunei Revolt occurred on the 12th of December, 1962. Following a successful rescue of 14 European and American civilians held hostage in Limbang, elements of L Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines commenced operations aimed at locating and dislodging TNKU forces who remained in the town. In the process, a fragmentation grenade was thrown into a home occupied by an elderly female civilian who suffered fatal wounds. [9]


[1] Pocock, Tom Fighting General – The Public and Private Campaigns of General Sir Walter Walker (London: Collins, 1973): 131.

[2] Pocock, Fighting General, 152.

[3] A Brief History Of The Brunei Revolt And The Indonesian Confrontation, Imperial War Museum, 2022,

[4] Harry, Kathleen. The Brunei Rebellion of 1962 (Darwin: Charles Darwin University, 2015): 293.

[5] Jackson, Robert. The Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation: The Commonwealths Wars 1948-1966 (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2011): 101.

[6] Harry, The Brunei Rebellion of 1962, 300-301.

[7] Jackson,The Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation, 102.

[8] UK armed forces Deaths: Operational deaths post World War II, Ministry of Defence, 2021,

[9] WO 305/2519, “The Assault on Limbang, Sarawak by ‘L’ Company Group, 42 Commando Royal Marines on 12th December, 1962,” in Harry, The Brunei Rebellion of 1962, 339.