Photograph of internees being evacuated from Kuching

Naval History and Heritage Command #NH-44320

Kuching (110.333E 1.550N) was the principal town of Sarawak on the northwest coast of Borneo. Located inland on the Sarawak River, it had a river port with limited facilities and an airstrip, and a nearby oil field produced some two million barrels a year. There was also significant rubber production in the surrounding region. The population was about 30,000 in 1941.

The town was garrisoned by a single battalion of 15 Punjab Regiment, less a company assigned to Miri. These were the only Commonwealth regulars in Borneo. The Sarawak Volunteer Corps (British militia) and Sarawak Rangers (native militia) likely contributed little to the defense.

The town was bombed on 19 December 1941 by a force of six G3M "Nells" and one H6K "Mavis" of Genzan Air Group, which killed about 100 civilians and destroyed the fuel supply at the airstrip. Elements of the Japanese 35 Brigade, 18 Division landed at Kuching on 23 December 1941. The Dutch put up stiff resistance to the invasion, bombing the invasion convoy as it assembled off Miri from 17-19 December and sinking destroyer Shinonome, then attacking the convoy with submarines and sinking two transports and destroyer Sagiri and damaging two other transports at the cost of one submarine.  However, the Punjabis were forced out of the city on 25 December after losing over half their strength.

The Japanese interned hundreds of civilians at a camp near the town. These were not liberated until 12-23 September 1945. Although the town remained in Japanese hands throughout the war, it was raided in the last months of the war by 5 Bombardment Group operating out of Samar and staging through Palawan.

Climate Information:

Elevation 85'

Temperatures: Jan 85/72, Apr 90/73, Jul 90/72, Oct 89/73, record 97/64

Rainfall: Jan 24/24.0, Apr 20/11.0, Jul 18/7.7, Oct 24/10.5 == 153.7" per annum


Craven and Cate (1952; accessed 2012-6-16)

Rottman (2002)

Van Royen and Bowles (1952)

Willmott (1982)

Womack (2006)

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