Were They The Earliest Sabahans who Travelled to London?

The year was 1897 and a group of North Borneans or Sabahans from the British North Borneo Constabulary were chosen to travel to London for a special occasion.

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That special occasion was the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee which fell on June 22, 1897. A grand parade which comprised of military and police forces from The British Empire marched through the streets of London.

The photo above dated June 1, 1897 – shows the British North Borneo Constabulary on board a ship, with no indication of whether they have already arrived in London or otherwise.

The person seated in the middle was the officer in charge Captain W Raffles Flint while the person standing next to him was Lieutenant A J Wardrop.

Captain W Raffles Flint was the nephew of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore.

The journey by a steamship from North Borneo to London back in those days would have taken around 4-6 weeks.

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The British North Borneo Constabulary lead by Officer in Charge, Captain W Raffles Flint.

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This guy on the left appeared multiple times in these photos – can you identify him?

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This photo was published on a report entitled Views of British North Borneo by the British North Borneo Chartered Company. There seems to be a bad case of “cut and paste” work in this photo – if you observe carefully, the person on the top right seems to be Lieutenant A J Wardrop which appeared on the first photo above.

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The same group also appeared on ‘The Navy and Army Illustrated’ in 1902. There’s no record of names of those in this police force.

A YouTube video of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Celebration is shown below but the British North Borneo Constabulary wasn’t captured in the footage.

Pre-war photos like these are extremely rare and I’m delighted that I was able to link all of these photos together.

By the way, we are trying to raise funds to travel to London later this year to visit The National Archives, British Film Institute, British Library to access North Borneo historical records.

You can support this program by purchasing NBHS’ curated products here.

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Richard Ker

I love the history of North Borneo (Sabah) and strive to digitally archive any related information on this website. I'm also the author of LifeinMy.com and CyberjayaCity.com. Follow me on Twitter @richardker.

3 Comments

  1. Ah the mysterious term “Mat Salleh”. Sabah’s was clearly the first and probably a real name. It may be short for Ahmet. The new Manglish term meaning a European or orang putih was something that arose much later and one theory suggests it was a misinterpretation of “Mad Sailor” (though that theory seems to have been based on a Letter to the editor to the Straits Times in 1998 by someone that passed on “what they heard”). Hardly authoritative.

    I can understand the seeking of national “heros” in those that stood up against colonial powers, but think it doesn’t do the actual history very much benefit. Finding “indigenous Freedom Fighters that fought the Imperialists” was very much an “in thing” in the 1950’s. It gave the leaders of the new nation some justification as part of a “trajectory of history”. Certainly Mat Salleh had no conception of a modern Malaysia, and it was the British that largely deeded over North Borneo to Malaya. Similarly, in Sarawak, figures like Rentap (who, if anything was an Iban up-river ‘nationalist’), Liu Shan Bang (who was more of a Chinese kunsi sececessionist), Sherip Masahor (who wanted either Brunei annexation or his own independent fiefdom). Best to try and understand them as involved in conflicts within their own time rather than thinking they had a crystal ball.

  2. I wander if you have articles on TINDAL ethinicity renamed, Dusun by the Brunei Royalty when they took possession of the West Coast of North Borneo? I am one of the few hundred Tindal in my own kampung and the surrounding kampungs.
    My grand mother who was about 60 years old in 1950 told me that our race was
    Tindal. There was no mentioned about Dusun then.

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