Saturday, July 13, 2013



This film includes footage of Kuta Belud airstrip, Kinabulu Mountain, extensive manoeuvres of the Royal Marines in Sabah, and scenes of local people. Some film is shot from a helicopter.
Production / Donor Details: Sir Jack Boles worked in administration in North Borneo and then Hong Kong, from 1948 until 1964. This is part of a collection of four 8mm. silent films taken by him during 1960 and 1961.


Decolonisation in South East Asia was intimately bound up with American activities in the immediate area (most notably the Vietnam War) and the US was closely aware of the implications of British withdrawal from the region. As Wm. Roger Louis has noted, by the late 1960s the Americans, largely isolated over their prosecution of the conflict in Vietnam, could even complain that the British were abandoning an important Cold War duty by concluding commitments east of Suez. Dean Rusk, US Secretary of State, stated in 1968 that the end of Empire in South-East Asia and the Middle East amounted to ‘a catastrophic loss to human society’ (Louis, 2006, 558). While there had long been Anglo-Russian, and indeed Anglo-Soviet face-offs and intrigues in the East, the emergence of the People’s Republic of China and the intensification of the Cold War decisively recast the dismantling of the eastern Empire as anti-Communist manoeuvring with broader ramifications. The UK was inevitably involved in US activities, despite strained relations with the US during the 1950s and 1960s, principally from fallout from Suez in the wider context, but also due to differing UK-US attitudes toward the containment of China and UK disapproval of US military activity in Asia.
It was such nominally joint Anglo-American concerns that lay behind the setting up of the short-lived and perhaps ill-conceived South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO). Signed in 1954, the treaty ostensibly committed the UK, the US, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan to mutually defend one another in the event of hostile attack. However, the treaty was beset by problems, proved effectively non-binding due to requirements for unanimity, and served to focus Asian nationalist discontent on an institution perceived as a ‘another example of the West’s desire to establish the framework for how independent nations should order their external relations’ (Jones, 2002, 8; for a detailed history of SEATO see Buzynski, 1983. The text of the treaty is available at
From the British perspective, SEATO membership certainly mollified the Americans somewhat, a concern particularly important to the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in the aftermath of the Suez debacle; however, this largely symbolic positive was balanced against the problems it caused. Quite aside from the possibility that Britain might end up embroiled in an American war, in the context of decolonisation, membership of the group was generally in contradiction with Britain’s hope to ‘appeal to moderate and non-aligned Asian nationalism’ (ibid.), and it seems that the general position may have been that SEATO membership was considered something of a liability from this point of view (Tarling, 1993, 181-3).
SEATO membership however broadly dovetailed with the British concern that the independent governments that took control in ex-colonies should be generally anti-Communist and preferably pro-British, an outcome which was a crucial goal during the winding down of the Empire almost everywhere.
Britain’s major objective in South-East Asia towards the end of the 1950s and the start of the 1960s was to negotiate the path from the independence of Malaya in 1957 to the creation of a federal Malaysia in 1963 through the incorporation of Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and Borneo. In so doing, not only would the problem of completing South-East Asian decolonisation be solved as the remaining Malay states were absorbed into the federation, but also a friendly bulwark would be erected against Communist influence, and the danger of Chinese influence in Singapore neutralised.

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