James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1857 – Attack

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1857 – Attack

Shortly after midnight the squadron of Chinese barges pulled silently through the capital, and dividing into two bodies, the smaller entered a creek, called Sungei Bedil, just above the Rajah’s house, while the larger party continued its course to the landing-place of the fort, and sent out strong detachments to surprise the houses of Mr Crookshank, the magistrate, and Mr Middleton, the head constable, and a large force was told off to attack the stockades. Unaccountable as it may appear, none of these parties were noticed, so profound was the security felt; and everyone slept.

The Government House was situated on a little grassy hill, surrounded by small, neat cottages, in which visitors from the out-stations were lodged. The Chinese, landing on the banks of the Bedil stream, marched to the attack in a body of about a hundred, and passing by an upper cottage, made an assault on the front and back of the long Government House, the sole inhabitants of which were the Rajah and an English servant. They did not surround the house, for their trembling hearts made them fear to separate into small bodies, as the opinion was rife among them that the Rajah was a man brave, active, skilled in the use of weapons, and not to be overcome except by means of numbers.

Roused from his slumbers by the unusual sounds of shouts and yells at midnight, the Rajah looked out through the Venetian blinds, and immediately conjectured what had occurred. Several times he raised his revolver to fire at them, but convinced that he could not defend the house alone he determined to effect his escape. He supposed that men engaged in so desperate an enterprise would naturally take every precaution to ensure its success, and concluded that bodies of insurgents were silently watching the ends of the house; so, summoning his English servant, he led the way down to a bath-room on the ground floor which communicated with the lawn, and telling him to open the door quickly and follow close, the Rajah sprang forth, with sword drawn and revolver cocked, but found the coast clear. Had there been twenty Chinese there, he would have passed through them, as his quickness and practical skill in the use of weapons were unsurpassed. Reaching the banks of the stream above his house he paused, observing that it was full of Chinese boats; but presently, hearing his alarmed servant, who had lost him in the darkness, calling to him, he knew that the attention of the Chinese would be attracted that way, and dived under the bows of one of the barges and swam to the opposite shore unperceived. As he was then suffering from an attack of fever and ague, he fell utterly exhausted, and lay for some time on the muddy bank till, slightly recovering, he was able to reach the Government writer’s house.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner