Crown Colony of North Borneo

The Crown Colony of North Borneo was a Crown colony on the island of Borneo established in 1946 shortly after the dissolution of the British Military Administration.[4] The Crown Colony of Labuan joined the new Crown Colony during its formation. It was succeeded as the state of Sabah through the formation of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963.

Crown Colony of North Borneo
Coat of arms
Anthem: God Save the King (1946–1952)
God Save the Queen (1952–1963)
StatusBritish colony
Common languagesEnglish, Bajau, Murut, Chinese, Kadazan Dusun, Sabah Malay
GovernmentCrown colony
George VI
Elizabeth II
Edward Twining
William Goode
Historical eraNew Imperialism
 North Borneo ceded to the Crown Colony
15 July 1946[1]
 Seven Turtle Islands (including Cagayan de Sulu and Mangsee Islands) ceded to the Philippine government
16 October 1947
31 August 1963[2][3]
16 September 1963
CurrencyNorth Borneo dollar,
Malaya−British Borneo dollar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
British Military Administration (Borneo)
North Borneo
Crown Colony of Labuan
Malaysian Federation
Today part ofMalaysia

Cession of remaining islands

On 16 October 1947, seven of the British-controlled islands in north-eastern Borneo named Turtle Islands, together with the Mangsee Islands, were ceded to the Philippine government under a past treaty signed between the United Kingdom and the United States.[5][6] The islands now form a part of the Southwestern Tagalog Region (MIMAROPA) and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).


North Borneo children being filmed by an Australian government representative a year after the war in 1946

The Governor of the Crown Colony of North Borneo (Malay: Tuan Yang Terutama Gabenor Koloni Mahkota British Borneo Utara) was the position created by the British Government upon the cession of North Borneo from the North Borneo Chartered Company. The appointment was made by King George VI, and later Queen Elizabeth II until the self-government of North Borneo on 31 August 1963 and the forming of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963.[7] After the formation of Malaysia, the title was changed to 'Tuan Yang Terutama Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah', which also means 'His Excellency The Governor of Sabah', or 'His Excellency The Head of State of Sabah' and the appointment was later made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or King of Malaysia.

Governor of British Crown Colony of North Borneo
StyleHis Excellency
AppointerKing George VI
Queen Elizabeth II
Inaugural holderEdward Francis Twining
Final holderWilliam Goode
Abolished16 September 1963 (Formed the Federation of Malaysia)[7]
Name From To
Edward Francis Twining 1946 1949
Herbert Ralph Hone 1950 1954
Roland Evelyn Turnbull 1954 1959
William Allmond Codrington Goode 1959 1963

Executive and Legislative councils were established in October 1950, replacing the provisional Advisory Council which had existed since July 1946. The Executive Council, which advised the governor on matters of policy, consisted of three ex-officio members (the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary, and Attorney-General), two appointed official members, and four appointed unofficial members. The Legislative Council consisted of the Governor as president, the three ex-officio members, nine appointed official members, and ten appointed unofficial members. The governor customarily appointed unofficial members from lists of names put forward by a representative bodies. Overall, the development of democratic institutions was much slower in North Borneo than it was in neighbouring Sarawak.[8]

For local administration, the colony was divided into four residencies overseen by a resident, which were sub-divided into districts overseen by district officers. The district officer for the island of Labuan reported directly to the Chief Secretary. The districts were sub-divided into sub-districts overseen by assistant district officers. Most district officers were expatriates, while the majority of assistant district officers were locally recruited.[8]

Within each district, village headmen were responsible for minor administrative tasks. Headmen reported to chiefs, who in turn reported to the district officer. The chiefs presided over native courts which dealt with breaches of native custom and Islamic law. District officers could also act in a magisterial capacity and had jurisdiction over civil actions, breaches of the laws of the Colony, and offences against the Penal Code.[8]

In 1951, the Rural Development Ordinance provided for the establishment of local authorities in rural areas. The first such authority was set up in Kota Belud district on 1 January 1952 under the direction of the district and assistant district officers. Members of the local authority were entirely appointed, representing both the native population and the Chinese population of Kota Belud. This pattern was repeated throughout the territory as other rural authorities were established.[8]

An ordinance regarding urban government came into force on 1 July 1954. It allowed the creation of township authorities, town boards, and municipal councils. Jesselton and Sandakan became town board areas, and in 1955 Tawau and Labuan joined them. Members of local councils were entirely appointed by the governor, though unofficial members were required to be in the majority.[8]


  1. Anthony Kirk-Greene (12 June 1999). On Crown Service: A History of HM Colonial and Overseas Civil Services, 1837-1997. I.B.Tauris. pp. 183–. ISBN 978-1-86064-260-9.
  2. "The National Archives DO 169/254 (Constitutional issues in respect of North Borneo and Sarawak on joining the federation)". The National Archives. 1961–1963. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  3. Philip Mathews (28 February 2014). Chronicle of Malaysia: Fifty Years of Headline News, 1963-2013. Editions Didier Millet. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-967-10617-4-9.
  4. "British North Borneo Becomes Crown Colony". Trove. 18 July 1946. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  5. Charles P. Williamson (30 July 1929). "Treaty over Turtle Islands". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  6. Peter C. Richards (6 December 1947). "New Flag Over Pacific Paradise". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  7. Frans Welman (9 March 2017). Borneo Trilogy Volume 1: Sabah. Booksmango. pp. 159–. ISBN 978-616-245-078-5.
  8. Government of North Borneo. Annual Report North Borneo, 1958 (London: H.M.S.O.), 174-179.

Further reading

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