The Borneo invasion of 1941 and 1942 took place during the Second World War , as part of the campaign of the Dutch East Indies , and saw the island takeover of Borneo by the troops of the Empire of Japan .


In 1941 , the island of Borneo was divided between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands , counting on the one hand the British possessions of North Borneo and Labuan , as well as the protectorates of the kingdom of Sarawak (still governed by the dynasty of the white Rajah descendants of James Brooke ) and Brunei , and on the other hand the territory of Kalimantan , belonging to the Dutch East Indies . If the Royal Netherlands Indies Armystationed troops in Borneo, the Dutch colonial administration was then cut off from its metropolis, occupied by Nazi Germany since the 1940 invasion .

The Japanese Empire , which had been waging a long – running war in China since 1937 and had just declared war on Western countries by launching the Pacific War by attacking British and American possessions, had large fuel requirements. The capture of Borneo, whose soil was very rich in oil , especially thanks to the Tarakan , Balikpapanand Banjarmasin deposits , was an essential point in the strategy of the Japanese, who aimed for the same reason the rest of the territory of the Netherlands East Indies.. Control of the island also provided strategic bases for control of Java , Sumatra and Sulawesi , as well as Malaysia , where another Japanese offensive was underway.


Two of the main Japanese targets were the Miri wells at Sarawak and Seria at Brunei . Sarawak did not have any real armed force, despite the presence of a British contingent and the recent reformation of the Sarawak Ranger Corps . Upon learning of the Pearl Harbor attack , the Sarawak government destroyed the wells and the Lutong refinery .

On December 13, 1941 , a contingent of 4,500 Japanese soldiers, sent from Canton to China , left Japanese bases in French Indochina , accompanied by three destroyers and a submarine 1 .

Takeover of the North Island

On December 15 , Japanese troops landed, taking Miri, Seria and Lutong without much difficulty. On the 16th, the Japanese landed in Kuala Bait and Brunei took control in six days, the British organizing any defense despite agreements with the Sultanate 2 . On December 31 , the forces commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Watanabe advanced on Labuan and Jesselton , landing on January 18 in Sandakan , headquarters of the colonial administration. The British governor of North Borneo had only 650 men, and had to surrender the next day.

Battle in the South

In late December, Japanese air force bombed Singkawang airfield to prevent a counterattack by the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force . The Japanese landed at Cape Sipang the 24 December , where they clashed and overpowered a detachment of the regiment  (in) Punjab to the Indian Army .

On December 25 , the Japanese took Kuching airfield , while Allied troops retreated through the jungle to Singkawang, which in turn was taken on the 29th . British and Dutch troops again retreated to the south, and the Dutch Kotawaringin aerodrome . The Imperial Japanese Navy took control of South and East Kalimantan. After ten weeks of resistance in the jungle, the Allies finally surrender on st April .

The island was occupied by the Japanese until 1945 , when the Allies launched the second battle of Borneo .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Arthur Ernest Percival , The War in Malaya , Chapter 12 Operations in Borneo , Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1949.
  2. ↑ ” Brunei under occupation Japanese [ archive ] “, The Brunei Times , June 29, 2008.