Jesselton revolt

The Jesselton revolt (also known as the Jesselton uprising or the Double Tenth Revolt/Incident) was a revolt by a resistance movement known as the Kinabalu Guerrillas, comprising local Chinese, indigenous peoples, Eurasian and Sikh Indian of Jesselton, North Borneo and led by Albert Kwok, against the Japanese occupying forces of North Borneo.

Jesselton revolt

Some names of resistance movement members aside from the main group who were subsequently executed after the revolt.
Date9 October 1943 (1943-10-09) – 21 January 1944 (1944-01-21)
(3 months, 1 week and 5 days)

Tactical Japanese victory.

  • Failure of uprising, movement heavily suppressed by the Kenpeitai.
  • Surrender of several top movement leaders as the Japanese Kenpeitai continued to launch a systematic execution of civilian population if they did not turn themselves in.
  • Execution of Albert Kwok and others who surrendered.
Kinabalu Guerrillas Defence Forces  Empire of Japan
  Occupied British Borneo
Commanders and leaders
Albert Kwok  (POW)
Hiew Syn Yong
Kong Tze Phui  (POW)
Li Tet Phui  (POW)
Tsen Tsau Kong  (POW)
Charles Peter  (POW)
Jules Stephens  (POW)
Budh Singh  (POW)
Sohan Singh  (POW)
Panglima Ali  (POW)
Orang Tua Arshad  (POW)
Saruddin  (POW)
Subedar Dewa Singh
Units involved

Overseas Chinese Defence Association
  Chinese National Salvation Association
North Borneo Volunteer Force
North Bornean indigenous volunteers
Philippine indigenous volunteers
Members of Indian Imperial Police

Limited arms support:

United States Forces in the Philippines
Imperial Japanese Army
100 Chinese
≈200 Bornean/Philippine indigenous peoples[note 1]/Eurasian/Sikh Indian
≈Hundreds Japanese police (1943)
≈Thousands Japanese troops (post 1943)
Casualties and losses
324 resistance members killed 50–90 police/soldiers killed[note 2]
2,000–4,000 civilians massacred by the Japanese

The movement succeeded in killing around 50–90 Japanese soldiers and temporarily took control of Jesselton (which after the war in 1946 would become the North Borneo and then later Sabah capital) and several neighbouring districts of Tuaran and Kota Belud. Owing to extremely limited arms supplies, however, the movement was forced to retreat to its hide-out. The Japanese Kenpeitai then launched attacks against coastal settlements in western North Borneo to find the leader and members of the guerrilla force, with many innocent civilians suffering the various atrocities that have become synonymous with Japanese conquest in the Pacific War.

The leader of the revolt finally decided to surrender following Japanese threats to execute more civilians if the guerrillas did not turn themselves in. Following the arrest and subsequent execution of the rebel alliance, the Japanese returned to administer North Borneo until 1945 when the main Allied liberation mission arrived.


Albert Kwok, the main leader of Kinabalu Guerrillas.

Due to persistently harsh rule under the Japanese occupation, resistance against the Japanese developed, especially on the west coast of North Borneo, where a revolt was led by Albert Kwok with the members comprising mostly Chinese and some indigenous peoples.[1][2] Kwok, a local Teochew Chinese from Kuching in neighbouring Sarawak, had previously been working with the China Red Cross and serving under the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek,[3][4] before returning to Borneo through Malaya in 1940.[5][6] During his time in China, Kwok was also a student of the Seventh-day Adventist Mission School in Canton. He arrived in Jesselton on 15 May 1941 and started a medical practice treating piles.[4][7]

In February 1942, Kwok wanted to establish contact with the Australians or Americans in eastern North Borneo, but he was unable to continue his trek by foot across the island jungle when he reached Pensiangan, which had a great number of Japanese troops.[3] He needed to establish relations with the Allied movements, especially the United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP), as they were the sole armed resistance movement in the region at the time which had a good supply of firearms.[8] After he managed to establish contact with the American forces in the Philippines with the help of a fellow Chinese businessman named Lim Keng Fatt,[8][9] a Muslim cleric (Imam) named Marajukim from Sulu who was part of the resistance movement in the Philippines approached Kwok in Jesselton where he hence departed to Tawi-Tawi for training.[10] From there, they travelled further to Sulu and met Lieutenant Colonel Alejandro Suarez, learning of resistance movement operations in the Philippine archipelago.[8][11][12]

In May 1943, Kwok returned to Jesselton greatly determined to liberate North Borneo. Upon arrival he first contacted the Overseas Chinese Defence Association (OCDA), with whose help he acquired medical equipment and cash donations for the support of the resistance in Sulu.[13] Once again, in June 1943, he travelled with Marajukim to the Philippines. Through the mediation of Suarez, he met with the representatives of the US army and was commissioned as a Lieutenant on 1 July 1943.[14] Upon his second return to North Borneo, Kwok arrived with three pistols, a box of hand grenades, and a promise to be given more weapons.[15] However, in the end he could not induce the guerrillas in the Sulu Archipelago to send more firearms, and he was forced to launch a revolt with limited supplies.[16] A resistance group under his leadership was then established on 21 September 1943, with the group calling themselves the Chinese National Salvation Association (CNSA),[17] a branch of the OCDA.[16] With collaboration between the Chinese and indigenous peoples, the group were subsequently known as Kinabalu Guerrillas Defence Force.[11][18]


A plate commemorating the 324 fallen resistance members as well as victims of Japanese massacre in Petagas.

As the date of execution for a pending Japanese decree to seize any in opposition to the Japanese administration loomed closer, the resistance group was forced to launch their revolt ahead of schedule. With many of his members armed with only melee weapons such as parang, spear and kris,[19] the movement launched their attack from 9 October 1943 and temporarily retook Jesselton, Tuaran, and Kota Belud from the Japanese, leaving around 50–90 casualties on the Japanese side.[20][21][22]

In the combined land and sea attack on the Japanese, most inhabitants of the islands around the coastal areas contributed ships to the movement. Native Bajau-Suluk leaders such as Panglima Ali (Sulug Island), Jemalul (Mantanani Islands), Orang Tua Arshad (Udar Island), and Saruddin (Dinawan Island) contributed to the revolt mostly through attacks from the sea.[23] Both Jemalul and Saruddin volunteered themselves from the Philippines to lead the Binadans of Mantanani and the Dinawan Islands.[24]

From land, the revolt was supported by native Dusun-Murut leaders such as Musah representing the Dusun community and Duallis for the Murut, as well as members of the Indian Imperial Police led by Constable Subedar Dewa Singh,[23] and administration and police members of the former colonial authorities of North Borneo, mostly serving under the aegis of the North Borneo Volunteer Force (NBVF) led by Jules Stephens and Charles Peter,[23] as well as Sergeant Bud Singh and Corporal Sohan Singh.[25]

After the successful revolt, the resistance movement under OCDA and NBVF jointly hoisted the flag of the Republic of China and Union Jack on 10 October 1943.[8] Most of the members of the OCDA were loyal to the Republic of China while the NBVF remained loyal to the United Kingdom, although the NBVF were not even recognised by the British government.[8]

With Imperial Japanese reinforcements from Kuching en route to suppress the rebellion, however, Kwok along with other members of the resistance were forced to retreat to their hide-out. The OCDA celebrated the birthday of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of Kuomintang and subsequently the Republic of China, by hoisting the national flag again and singing the national anthem of the Republic of China on 12 November 1943.[8]

Aftermath and legacy

The Petagas War Memorial built on the site of execution to honour the sacrifices of Kinabalu Guerrillas.

Following the arrival of Japanese reinforcements, the Japanese authorities subsequently launched a ruthless counter-offensive by bombing coastal settlements from Kota Belud to Membakut and by machine-gunning the North Borneo population.[22][26] Almost every village in the area was burnt down, with around 2,000–4,000 innocent civilians executed— mostly belonging to the Bajau-Suluk civilian population.[27][28] After threatening to kill more civilians if the leaders of the uprising did not turn themselves in, Kwok finally surrendered under duress, along with several of his top officers. In all, Kwok and some 175 people who for the most part had nothing to do with the uprising were executed by the Japanese on 21 January 1944 in Petagas, Putatan.[17]

After the war, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) set-up in 1946 to prosecute the many Japanese war crimes concluded that during the resistance movement led by the Chinese and indigenous peoples in North Borneo, the Kenpeitai had been involved in a reign of terror, arresting, torturing, and massacring hundreds of Chinese rebels while apparently systematically exterminating the coastal population of Suluk people.[29][30] The sacrifice of the movement was honoured with a memorial in Petagas, the Petagas War Memorial, today just east of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.


  1. Comprising Bajau-Binadan-Suluk/Dusun-Murut.
  2. Including unspecified numbers of Formosan civilians.


  1. Tarling 2001, p. 196.
  2. Ham 2013, p. 166.
  3. Tregonning 1960, p. 88.
  4. Danny 1998, p. 154.
  5. Goodwin 1953, p. 31.
  6. Evans 1990, p. 50.
  7. Julitta 2005, p. 312.
  8. Kratoska 2013, p. 124.
  9. Reece 1998, p. 162.
  10. Julitta 2005, p. 318.
  11. Evans 1990, p. 52.
  12. Dick 1983, p. 55.
  13. Evans 1990, p. 51.
  14. Julitta 2005, p. 328.
  15. Kratoska 2013, p. 125.
  16. Tregonning 1960, p. 89.
  17. Danny 2004, p. 116.
  18. Kratoska 2013, p. 128.
  19. Abbas & Bali 1985, p. 159.
  20. Kratoska 2013, p. 111.
  21. Luping, Chin & Dingley 1978, p. 40.
  22. Ooi 1999, p. 56.
  23. Ooi 2010, p. 164.
  24. Dick 1983, p. 47.
  25. Hwang 2010.
  26. Ooi 2010, p. 186.
  27. Ooi 2013, p. 77.
  28. Kratoska 2013, p. 113.
  29. Watt 1985, p. 210.
  30. Thurman & Sherman 2001, p. 123.


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Further reading

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