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 – The Stockade
The stockades, however, were not surprised. The Chinese, waiting for the signal which was to be the attack on the houses, were at length perceived by a sentinel, and he immediately roused the Treasurer, Mr Crymble, who resided in the stockade which contained the arsenal and the prison. He endeavoured to make some preparation for defence, although he had but four Malays with him. He had scarcely time, however, to load a six-pounder field-piece, and get his own rifle ready, before the Chinese, with loud shouts, rushed to the assault. They were led by a man who bore in either hand a flaming torch. Mr Crymble waited until they were within forty yards; he then fired and killed the man who, by the lights he bore, made himself conspicuous, and before the crowd recovered from the confusion in which they were thrown by the fall of their leader, discharged among them the six-pounder loaded with grape, which made the assailants retire behind the neighbouring houses or hide in the outer ditches. But with four men little could be done; and some of the rebels, having crossed the inner ditch, began to remove the planks which constituted the sole defence. To add to the garrison’s difficulties, they threw over into the inner court little iron tripods, with flaming torches attached, which rendered it as light as day, whilst they remained shrouded in darkness.
To increase the number of defenders Mr Crymble released the sole occupants of the prison – a fraudulent debtor and a Malay madman who had killed his wife in a fit of fury. The former quickly disappeared, whilst the latter, regardless of the shot flying around, stood to the post assigned him, opposite a plank the Chinese were trying to remove. He had orders to fire as soon as the first assailant appeared, and when the plank gave way and a man attempted to force his body through, he pulled the trigger of his carbine, without lowering the muzzle, and sent the ball through his own brains. Mr Crymble now found it useless to prolong the struggle. One of his four men was killed, and another, a brave Malay corporal, was shot down at his side. The wounded man begged Mr Crymble to fly and leave him to his fate, but asked him to shake hands with him first and tell him whether he had not done his duty. The brave Irishman seized him by the arm and endeavoured to drag him up the stairs leading to the dwelling over the gate; but the Chinese had already gained the courtyard, and pursuing them, drove their spears through the wounded man. Mr Crymble was forced to let go his hold, and with a brave follower, Daud, swung himself down into the ditch below. Some of the rebels outside the fort, seeing their attempted escape, tried to stop the Treasurer, and a man stabbed at him, but the spear only glanced on his thick frieze coat, and the Chinese received in return a cut across the face from the Irishman’s cutlass which was a remembrance to carry to the grave.
The other stockade, though it had but a corporal’s watch of three Malays, did not surrender; but finding that every other place was in the hands of the Chinese, the brave defenders opened the gate, and, charging the crowd of rebels, sword in hand, made good their escape, though all were severely wounded.
Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John
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