Katanga, My Story by Lieutenant Colonel Tan Siew Soo (Retired) Royal Malaysian Armour
Thursday, July 08, 2021
The Reconnaissance Corps in the Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a vast country, the only African country with a two time zones. It is roughly twenty times bigger than Peninsular Malaysia. As Belgian Congo it was granted Independence on 30 June 1960.
Four days later, the army mutinied and the country descended into total chaos with widespread looting and killing of innocent lives. Upon appeal by the President and the Prime Minister to the UN Security Council for military assistance to restore law and order, the UN Security Council approved a Resolution on 13 July 1960 authorising military force to be sent to the Congo.
Lieutenant Colonel Tan Siew Soo (Retired)
The UN Operations in the Congo went by the French acronym ONUC (Organisation des Nations Unies au Congo), was established with HQ in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa).
On 4 August 1960, the UN Secretary General requested military assistance from our Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Initially we offered 120 men, but finally settled at 613 All Ranks.
The name given : 'The Malayan Special Force' (MSF). The Force was drawn from two of the finest units in the Federation Army; 4th Battalion, Royal Malay Regiment made up of A, B and C Coys and C Squadron 2nd Federation Reconnaissance Regiment (2 Recce), supported by a Signal Troop Detachment and Logistic elements.
It was a self-contained, well balanced force, predominantly Infantry but with enough light armour support. As a result, the MSF immediately proved to be an effective Peacekeeping unit from day one.
Lieut-Colonel Ungku (Bruno) Nazaruddin bin Ungku Mohamad, the Commanding Officer of 4 Royal Malay Regiment was named the Commander of the MSF while Major Zain Hashim led C Sqn 2 Recce. On 13 September 1960 all troops assembled at Imphal Camp (located opposite the Ministry of Defence) for a fortnight training.
On 28 September, the Ferret Armoured Cars of C Sqn together with all other vehicles of MSF including heavy stores motored down to the RMN Naval Base in Woodland, Singapore to await the arrival of two US Navy Landing Ship Tank (LST). When loading on to the LSTs was completed, we set sail for Port Swettenham ( now Port Klang) arriving there on 3 October to convey the entire MSF on a very long voyage lasting 28 ays nonstop round the Cape of Good Hope to the Port of Matadi on the River Congo.
On a very cold, chilly afternoon in June 1962, C Squadron 2nd Federation Reconnaissance Regiment (2 Recce) arrived at the Elisabethville (now Lumumbashi) Airport to an exceptional warm welcome. At hand to receive us were some Senior Officers of the Indian Brigade under HQ Katanga Command. As soon as we stepped out of the aircraft the Brass Band of the Rajputana Rifles struck up some military marches. Each officer and every Senior NCOs were garlanded. It was an unexpected fantastic reception!
I shall always cherish that memory. It is occasions like this, that makes one extremely proud of the uniform and the Regiment one belonged.
Officers of C Sqn 2 Recce November 1960. LtoR: Lt Teoh Say Chee, Lt Tan Siew Soo, Lt Jimmy Rodriques, Maj Zain Hashim, 2Lt Tee Bua Bian, Capt Ernest Rodriques, Lt Philip Lee Khui Fui.
Officers of C Sqn 2 Recce June 1962. LtoR: 2Lt Raja Aznin, Lt Tan Siew Soo, Capt Jimmy Rodriques, Maj Asna Sutan, Lt Tee Bua Bian, Lt Lee Ah Pow.
To understand Katanga and why we were there, a little background is deemed necessary.
Belgian Congo was granted Independence on 30 June 1960. Almost immediately after declaration of independence, the country descended into chaos and anarchy with an Army mutiny, widespread looting and killing of innocent lives. Eleven days later on 11 July, Katanga, one of six Provinces declared independence.
Katanga was the richest Province supplying 60% of the world's copper. It also produced cobalt, coltan, tantalum and uranium. The secession was supported by powerful Belgian interests and the CIA. This period of history was at the height of the Cold War. The CIA had the phobia that Congo was falling into the lap of the Soviet Union sphere of influence. It is interesting to note the two atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WW2 were made possible with the uranium produced in Jadotville, Katanga!
Rightly or wrongly, the UN got involved in seeking the ending of Katanga Secession. Guided by two UN Security Council Resolutions: Resolution (S/4741) of 21 February 1961 and Resolution (S5002) of 24 November 1961. ONUC (UN Organisation in the Congo) fought three wars before succeeding in reintegrating Katanga back into the fold. The first Resolution passed in February 1961 saw a very slow implementation by ONUC. On 6 May we were the first ONUC unit to disarm the Mercenaries at Nyunzu (read THE LOOMING BATTLE OF NYUNZU).
From then on relationship between ONUC and President Moise Tshombe gradually deteriorated. The crunch came on 28 August 1961 when ONUC Indian Forces based in Elisabethville launched a surprise operation successfully capturing 300 mercenaries and evicting them. The Katangese then started their 'hate campaign' against ONUC with much provocations. The pent-up tension exploded on 13 September 1961 commonly called the First Katanga War or the First Fighting.
The ONUC force level was inadequate to take on the Katanga forces. It consisted of two Indian battalions (Dogra and Gurkha), an Irish Battalion and a Swede Battalion, all under ONUC Brigade called Katanga Command.
When hostilities erupted, HQ MSF Brigade ordered A Sqn 2 Recce to immediately reinforce Katanga Command. The order could not have come at a more awkward time. A Sqn at Bukavu was in the midst of a roulement with B Sqn in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), some two thousand kilometres away.
Before the ceasefire was announced on 20 September, A Sqn managed to fly in No 3 Scout Troop commanded by 2Lt Abdul Rahman bin Dato Hussein together with a small Tac SHQ led by Maj Lakhbir Singh, managed to land before the Airport closed. The next Troop led by 2Lt Sam Low Tung Yeow was already airborne, as the Airport was closed, he was diverted to Kamina Air Base in central Katanga.
[NB: in case readers are wondering why sent A Sqn and not another Sqn, the answer is the Regiment only had A and B Sqn's in the Congo then. C Sqn 2 Recce who had served ONUC earlier had already returned home].
2Lt Sam Low and another of his Ferret travelling in two C119 Flying Boxcar on landing at Kamina Air Base had a rude welcome by a Katangese Fouga Magister Jet. It swooped in at Sam Low's Ferret and fired two rockets. Very lucky for Sam, both rockets missed the target.
Katanga which initially possessed three of the Fouga Trainer Jet, converted these into the Katanga Air Force by arming them with machine guns and rockets. These little aircrafts ruled the sky during the First Fighting.
They created great havoc to ONUC through the war.
Sam Low and the crew of the other Ferret were left stranded at Kamina for exactly two months until that fateful day of 11 November 1961 when two C119 arrived at Kamina to ferry the two Ferrets to Kindu to join up with the balance of A Sqn commanded by the Sqn 2I/C, Capt MSC Lam. The C119 belonging to the Italian Air Force had a crew of 13. When they arrived at Kindu Airport before lunch time and got invited to the Officers Mess for lunch by the Kindu Garrison Commander.
The biggest tragedy awaited them. They were captured by rebellious Congolese soldiers and butchered to death. The man responsible was Maj David Daud Yassin, OC B Coy 6 RMR, the designated Kindu Garrison Commander.
The First Katanga Fighting ended with humiliation for ONUC and a big loss for the UN when its Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold flying to Ndola to meet President Tshombe died in a crash just across the border before Ndola Airport in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) on 18 September.
A ceasefire came into effect on 20 September.
On 24 November 1961 the Security Council passed a Second Resolution (S/5002). This was a much stronger Resolution than S/474. It demanded an end to Katanga Secession. It drew a very strong response from Tshombe who threatened to resist with a scorched earth policy. The situation in Elisabethville was getting over heated with charges and counter charges by both sides on violations of the ceasefire agreement. The whole situation had become untenable.
The Second Katanga War started on 5 December 1961 when the Katangese set up a road block along the main road from the Airport to the city at a Y junction, the other road leading to Jadotville (now Likasi). When a Swede Jeep tried to crash through, they were fired upon killing one and wounding two others. The road block was manned by a Coy of Katangese led by three white officers, supported by armoured cars and mortars.
A Gurkha Coy was ordered to clear the road block. After the attack when the smoke cleared, thirty-eight Katangese and two white officers lay dead. The Indians suffered one officer killed and four wounded.
By the time the Second Fighting started, A Sqn 2 Recce had its full compliment. The balance of the squadron from Kindu had now re-joined the Sqn Ldr. Maj Lakhbir Singh Gill and No 3 Tp of Lt Abdul Rahman.
ONUC had learned the importance of air superiority well. It now had an 'Air Force' of 14 Jets made up of Swedish Saabs. Indian Canberra’s and Ethiopian Sabres. Their first mission was to knock out the Katangese Air Force.
The writer looking at the Katangese Fouger Majister Jet
Tshombe was smart enough to keep some of his aircrafts across the border in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and in Angola which ONUC could not touch.
The force level of Katanga Command was now two Brigades strong; an Indian Bde comprising a Gurkha, Dogra and a Jat battalions. The others were an Ethiopian, an Irish and a Swede Battalion and not least A Sqn 2 Recce MSF.
The traditional role of an Armoured Car Squadron was road patrolling and armed escorts. The Scout Troops were utilised to the maximum on patrolling and escorts. They were targets of snipers who shot at them with Rifles and bazooka. All missed their targets but there were many close calls. One Ferret belonging to Sam Low was hit by a sniper from a building. It missed both Driver and Commander but split the rod antenna into two!
The most memorable escort was the one escorting the Brigade Commander, Brigadier KAS Rajah during a visit to the defensive position of the Dogra Battalion. The escort comprised No 3 Scout Tp. led by 2/Lt Abdul Rahman plus one-half Rifle Tp. led by 2Lt Michael Chong. As it was the Bde. Comd’s visit, the Sqn Ldr. Maj Lakhbir Singh was also present. As the Brigadier was about to inspect an anthill bunker, the enemy surprised the convoy by opening up with small arms and bazooka. One rocket missed Michael Chong's Land Rover by inches!!
The Ferrets immediately returned fire, thereby saving the life of the Brigade Commander. This incident had a profound impact on the relationship between us and the Indian contingent. We then became highly respected by the Indian soldiers.
Every night throughout the Fighting, A Sqn Line was bombarded by enemy mortar harassing fire. In addition, Tshombe also sent one of his 'bombers' from across the border nightly to bomb A Sqn.
Whenever the drone of this unwelcome nocturnal intruder was heard, the crew of the Scout Cars would scramble to engage it. The aircraft believed to be an Auster employing primitive hand bombing caused little damage, only two casualties by splinters.
After many calls for a ceasefire, particularly from the Belgian and British Consulates, one came into effect on 19 December 1961. This Second Katanga War was characterised by brutalities and atrocities from both sides.
The ONUC side was mainly committed by the Ethiopian troops.
A Sqn 2 Recce was completely in the clear. President Tshombe was so pleased with the discipline and conduct of A Sqn that he did the unthinkable by giving a Farewell reception to the Officers of A Sqn 2 Recce prior to departure for home in January 1962. This gesture truly defied the imagination, the arch enemy of ONUC who lost over two hundred soldiers during the Fighting honouring A Sqn 2 Recce, a part of ONUC contingent. This singular honour was never given to any others. Truly a very great honour to the Regiment, King and Country.
Officers of A Sqn 2 Recce, January 1962. LtoR: 2Lt Abdul Rahman Hussein, Capt MSC Lam, President Moise Tshombe, Maj Lakhbir Singh Gill, 2Lt Low Tung Yeow. Rear: 2Lt Neville Siebel and 2Lt Michael Chong Boon Tik.
C Sqn 1 Recce relieved A Sqn 2 Recce in January 1962. This Sqn had a short stint with ONUC of only six months (normal 9-10 months). Arriving after the Second Fighting, they enjoyed the relative peace and uneasy calm unlike their predecessors and successors.
My Half Troop stopped at the perimeter of the Refugee Camp. A Tunisian Coy was still guarding the area.
Their major task was patrolling the huge Baluba Refugee Camp on the outskirts of the city. The Bulba were immigrants from Northern Katanga and South Kasai.
A highly successful people in their trade and professions, politically they were anti- Tshombe and hence persecuted. Prior to the First War they had to seek refuge from ONUC. The Camp which started in September 1961 was in reality a shanty commune covering roughly two kilometres long and one kilometre wide, boxed in by four roads. At the peak before the Second Fighting there were an estimated forty to fifty thousand refugees. They were slowly repatriated home after the war and it closed down sometime in July-August 1962.
The Second War was not an outright victory for ONUC.
Tshombe was put under great pressure to end his secession. He attended a Reconciliation Conference at Kitona Naval Base at the mouth of River Congo and agreed to the Central Government authority over Katanga. The Kitona Accord meant the end of Katanga independence. On return home, his Provincial Assembly refused to recognise the Accord. The new UN Secretary General, U Thant tried to break the deadlock with a National Reconciliation Plan.
While the Central Government accepted the Plan, Tshombe stipulated conditions.
By the end of June 1962, when C Sqn 2 Recce (2nd Tour of duty with ONUC) arrived in Elisabethville, tensions were slowly but surely escalating. My first task at Elisabethville the next morning after arrival was patrolling the huge Refugee Camp. I thought I had experienced all the cold of Bukavu and Goma the previous tour, but was totally taken aback by this cold mid-Winter weather of Elisabethville. Sitting on top of my Ferret Scout Car all my fingers went completely numbed due to the cold winds. South Katanga lie on a plateau averaging 4000 feet above sea level.
Elisabethville had a distinct cool and dry season from May to August where the average temperature at night could drop to around 8 or 9 degrees Celsius and that's very cold for an average Malaysian!
After the Second War most ONUC troops were new replacement. On the Indian side we now had a new Gurkha battalion (2/5 Gorkha), 4th Bn, Madras Regiment and a battalion of Rajputana Rifles (Rajrif), 63 Cavalry Sqn and a Heavy (4.2 in) Mortar Coy.
The non-Indian combat units were an Ethiopian Bn, an Irish Bn and a Tunisian Bn and not least C Sqn 2 Recce Regt. The core of C Sqn fighting troops were: No. 1 Scout Tp. Lt Tan Siew Soo, No. 2 Scout Tp. Lt Tee Bua Bian and No. 3 Scout Troop, Lt Lee Ah Pow while No 4 Rifle Troop was led by 2Lt Raja Aznin. Each Scout Troop was affiliated to an ONUC Battalion. No. 1 Tp. with 4th Bn Madras Regiment, No. 2 Tp. with the Ethiopian Bn and No3. Tp. with 2/5 Gorkha Bn. The emphasis was training for War.
C Sqn came under command HQ Indian Independent Brigade commanded by Brigadier RS Noronha, MC. The Brigade was in turn under command HQ Katanga Command. The GOC, Maj Gen Prem Chand was an example of a perfect gentleman officer. His spoken English could shame many Englishmen.
Our training for war started with a Brigade organised Officers Day. At the beginning many Officers Day were held.
I remember one was conducted by the Brigadier himself, his questions seemed to target the many Coy Commanders present at the Study Day. Our attachment with the affiliated battalions was initially on a weekly basis. As we got to know them better, we were placed on call from the Sqn Line, the locations were quite close by except the one at the Airport. Later, to prevent boredom the Troop at the Airport was rotated on a daily basis every 24 hours. The main task at the Airport was patrolling the numerous tracks on the outer perimeter to prevent the Katangese from closing in.
A phenomenon that grew out of the Second Fighting was ONUC road blocks established at all entrances into the city. The Katangese soldiers were free to move but unarmed. They in turn set up their own road blocks away from ours to prevent us from going out.
The routine at the Airport was daily patrolling by No 1 Tp followed by No2 Tp and No3 Tp in that order. It was during such a patrol that a clash with the Katangese occurred on 12 September 1962. Two days earlier my No 1 Tp patrolled the same tracks and nothing was amiss. For some reason there was no patrolling by No 2 Tp the next day.
On the third day No 3 Tp led by Lt Lee Ah Pow patrolled the same area. On that patrol he also escorted a Gurkha recce group who had just taken over Airport security from another Battalion. Several kilometres into the track at a T junction No 3 Tp bumped into a Katangese Road Block manned by a Platoon with at least one white officer. It would appear that over the last 24 hours or so the Katangese had advanced forward and established this road block in no man's land. In the ensuing Confrontation there were a lot of shouting and showing of hands for each side to withdraw. Suddenly a shot rang out from the Katangese position.
Lance Corporal Edward Skading in the leading Ferret and Corporal Mohd Yusoff in the second Ferret opened up with their machine guns. A brief firefight ensued. The Katangese beat a hasty retreat leaving behind two dead, much ammunitions and food stuff. For this piece of action, Lt Lee Ah Pow was awarded the Pingat Gagah Berani (PGB).
On the political front, there was no indication that Tshombe would end the Katanga secession. Around this period HQ Indian Bde issued a warning order to the 4th Bn Madras Regiment Battle Group that included my No 1 Troop C Sqn.
The Mission given was to capture Jadotville, an important mining town located 140 kilometres North-West of Elisabethville. The situation was getting really hot. The impending inevitable Third War was brewing. It meant more training for war. We were ready but alas it was not to be.
In late November, less than a month before hostilities erupted, C Sqn 2 Recce was extracted out of Elisabethville into Albertville (now Kalemie), a town in Northern Katanga by the western shores of the Great Lake Tanganyika.
3 x C 124 Globemaster took a total of five days to move the entire Sqn.
During a farewell courtesy call on the GOC Katanga Command, Maj Asna Sutan learnt that our move was engineered by our UN Delegation in New York. What an anti-climax to be denied the excitement and glory of the forthcoming actions.
Interestingly, on New Year's Day 1963, the Madras Regiment and the Rajput Rifles entered Jadotville to a cheering welcome by the local population.
The Indians suffered four killed and nineteen wounded. It is a matter of conjecture whether there would be any casualty in my Troop had we gone into action together with the Indian Army as originally planned.
The Katanga secession finally ended on 15 January 1963.
Two days later on 17 January, C Sqn 2 Recce together with A Coy and B Coy 2 RMR went into the Kongolo area, Northern Katanga to round up the Katangese Forces under 'Operation Friendship'.
Discovery of a Ferret Scout Car in the Heart of Africa Lieutenant Colonel Tan Siew Soo
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The first ever Malaysian(Malayan Special Force) contribution to UN Peacekeeping operations was in the Congo from 1960 to 1963. The Malaysian Army of that era consisted of only three Federal Infantry Brigades. HQ 1 Bde was located in Kuala Lumpur( Imphal Camp), HQ 2 Bde in Ipoh(Ashby Road ) and HQ 3 Bde in Alor Star(Kepala Batas). Towards the end of 1959 HQ3 Bde was mothballed but reactivated as HQ MSF Bde Congo(Bukavu)in March 1961.
The units that participated in the Congo Mission in chronological order were: 4R Malay plus C Squadron 2 Reece, HQ MSF Bde and 2 Reece, 6 R Malay, 1 Recce, 7 R Malay and finally 2R Malay and C Squadron 2 Reece.
Over that period of time several thousands soldiers were deployed to serve the UN. On departure we left nothing behind except thousands of footprints and perhaps a sprinkling of Malaysian Congolese. Nothing noteworthy to show until June 2016 with the discovery of this Ferret Scout Car (FSC) in Kalemie( Albertville).
By A quirk of fate, this FSC has now become a symbol and tangible proof of our presence in the Congo during the early 1960s. Befittingly, it has been honoured and inaugurated as a memorial to our first UN Mission in the Congo jointly by the Governor and UN.When I first received this FSC picture, I was utterly baffled as to its origin. Our involvement with Kalemie(Albertville) dated to May 1961 when 4 R Malay and C Squadron 2 Reece first arrived there from Nyunzu. 4R Malay remained in Albertville until July 61 before departure for home. C Squadron 2 Reece departed Albertville for Bukavu in June 61.
The journey from Albertville I Bukavu was interesting.It entailed a voyage of 2 days and 1 night on Lake Tanganyika and a long road drive on the mountainous road into Bukavu. I experienced three such trips. The first one was most memorable, traveling on a proper ship with stopover at Kigoma, Tanzania before arriving at Usumbura, Burundi the next day. A night stopover at a nice hotel before driving up to Bukavu on a splendid tarmac road in Burundi.
Following the departure of 4R Malay, there were no MSF in Albertville for several months before the arrival of 7 R Malay and A Squadron 1 Recce in February 1962. They remained there until departure towards the end of the year.C Squadron 2 Reece made a second appearance in ALBERTVILLE on 03 December 1962. By then 7R Malay and A Squadron 1 Recce had already exited for home. C Squadron 2 Reece sojourn lasted until 23 December, the last MSF in Albertville when it was ordered to move to Bukavu, having handed over duties to the Indonesian KKO battalion.
The second voyage on Lake Tanganyika was rough unlike the first one. The vehicles were loaded onto a barge and towed by a tug boat. This time we headed for the tiny port of Kalundu, Uvira on the Congolese side. The memory of this trip was sea sickness when we encountered strong winds and rough sea. Up to this point there were no FSC casualty.
On 17 June 1963, the MSF( A and B Coys 2 R Malay) and C Squadron 2 Reece launched a long range operation from Bukavu into the Kongolo area of Northern Katanga.The Third Katanga War had ended on 15 January 63 and this operation under HQ 3 Nigerian Bde was mounted to round up those rebellious Katangese soldiers.
Upon its successful conclusion, the MSF on 04 February 63 boarded a train from Kabalo to Albertville, a distance of about 400km and from there on to the familiar( for me) voyage up Lake Tanganyika to Uvira and thence onwards to Bukavu via the atrocious mountainous Congolese road. During this tour C Squadron 2 Reece possessed a total of 14 FSC s(in 1960 it had 18).
This third voyage was the least remembered by me. Only now can I recall vaguely my OC, Major Asna Sutan, telling us he had no choice but to abandon this SHQ Ferret Z3571 in Albertville. It turned out to be a blessing! After over 53 years it was "discovered" and today is a tangible symbol of our commitment to ONUC in the early 1960s.
Remembering OUR CONGO Heritage -A FORGOTTEN ERA Lest We Forget by Lieutenant Colonel TAN SIEW SOO (Retired)
Tuesday, April 06, 2021
Caption: the Regiment was warmly greeted during the entire journey by the locals. This picture taken at Tororo Railway Station, Uganda. Capt Andrew Boudville serving tea to a Trooper, Maj Lakhbir Singh OC A Sqn looking in.
Patrice Lumumba, the first elected Prime Minister of Congo was brutally killed in Katanga on 17 January 1961, but announcement was withheld until 13 February. Following this some Afro Asian countries protested and triggered a crisis in ONUC(UN Operations in the Congo) when they withdrew their forces.
The UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold had to appeal to the more moderate countries to increase their contributions. The Malaysian (Malaya then) contingent totalled only 613 All Ranks. Our Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman graciously agreed to increase our force level to 1413 All Ranks. Our Army in 1960 consisted of only HQ 1 Bde in Kuala Lumpur and HQ 2 Bde in Ipoh. Basically we have seven Malay battalions and two Reconnaissance Regiments that can be employed with ONUC. HQ 3 Bde which last operated at Kepala Batas, Alor Star in 1959 was reactivated as HQ Bde MSF to be based in Bukavu.
Brigadier Abdul Hamid bin Bidin became its first Commander. Besides Brigade personnel, the first group of reinforcement was D Company 4 R Malay who had been left behind by the original Malayan Special Force (MSF) in Mentakap Camp, was flown into the Congo in February 1961 by C124 Globe master.
2nd Reconnaissance Regiment (2 Recce), now 2 ARMOUR made up the bulk of the reinforcement, departed Port Swettenham (Klang) on 07 April 1961 by USNS "Eltinge", a fully air conditioned sister Troopship of USNS "Blackford" which conveyed all Malaysian troops after April 1961 to and fro Malaysia-Africa.
The Regiment was far luckier than C Squadron who 6 months earlier had to rough it out in USN Landing Ship Tank (LST) on a very long voyage lasting 28 days via the Cape of Good Hope to the Port of Matadi. This time 2 Recce headed for Port Mombasa in Kenya on a voyage normally taking only 10 days. This particular trip took an additional 3 days with stopover at Mumbai to pick up Indian troops and stores.
On arrival at Mombasa, B Squadron was detached from the Regiment and flown direct into Kinshasa taking over duties from C Squadron Rear Party led bt Lt Tan Siew Soo.
The rest of the Regiment now consisted of HQ Squadron, A Squadron and Support Squadron boarded a special train from Mombasa in Kenya to Kasese at the border of Congo/Uganda. The three day journey from Mombasa to Nairobi to Kasese was most interesting starting from the lowlands of East Africa and gradually rising to the Highlands of Kenya, several thousands feet above sea level, passing through some very beautiful and scenic places in Africa. In the course of the journey the train passed through the Equator and at the Equator our troops were shivering in their tropical wear!
Cook party was sent ahead of the main group to set up field kitchen at the next station, so when the troops arrived they 9were served with hot food and tea. Hundreds of East Africans greeted the Malaysians along the route, in particular the Indian and Sikh communities who showed full admiration for our troops discipline and good behaviour.
Passing through Uganda at Jinga, a Garrison town, some NCOs from 4 Kings African Rifles (4 KAR) who had served during the Malayan Emergency came to chat with the men. The officers were entertained to a meal at the 4 KAR Officers Mess, some found old friends from Sandhurst days! The officers of 2 Recce were offered accommodation at the Officers Mess at Jinga if they could get some leave. The great Commonwealth bond; truly appreciated.
Along the route, the locals often greet our troops with "yaambo a common Swahili Greetings, a language also spoken in the Eastern Congo. At that stage the new arrivals (sin khek) were not conversant with the language yet. Soon they would learn to answer back" yambo sana"
All of us in the Malayan Special Force wore above our right breast pocket a brass tag with the word "MALAYA'. Often the yambo Greetings went with shouts of Malaya followed by much giggles among the local womenfolk.
We found out later, Malaya means prostitutes in Swahili !!! Thankfully we are now Malaysia.
At Kasese, the Ugandan border town, the Regiment unloaded the vehicles and stores. Augmented by several UN 5 tonnes, 2 Recce Regiment hit the dusty trail for Goma. The convoy passed through Albert National Park along the route and soldiers had the opportunity to see first time big game in safari country. The first convoy rolled into Goma around 1800 hours on 30 April 1961. The 2 Recce Advanced Party and some Bde HQ officers were at hand to receive them. I was glad to be among the reception group.
Goma then, was indeed a beautiful town with its twin, Kisenyi across in Rwanda both located at the northern shores of Lake Kivu, a vast fresh water lake with Bukavu at the southern tip, some two hundred kilometers away. Goma had an ideal climate with a mean average temperature of around 70 degrees F (22degreesC) throughout the year.
It was to become home of the Recce Corps during its entire service with ONUC. The lucky beneficiaries were RHQ, HQ Squadron and Support Squadron. The fighting Squadrons, A, B and C Squadrons were always deployed at the sharp end spread out as far as two thousand kilometres in a country with 2 time zones, twenty times the size of Peninsular Malaysia!!
Contact At The Kinta Forest Reserve - Captain Mohana Chandran al Velayuthan (200402) SP, Ranger Bajau ak Ladi PGB & Cpl Osman PGB
Sunday, February 07, 2021
Major Jayandran Koren extreme left, Thanaraj centre and Ray Chandran on the right. Late Capt Chandran was killed at about 2.40pm on 13 June 1971 in contact with the Communist.
"Capt Ray Mohana Chandran was killed in action in June 1971. He was in 4th Rangers in Ipoh. I was then in 7th Rangers in Sg Petan, a 2nd Lt. Chandran clashed with a group (5th Assault Unit - AU) led by State Committee Member (SCM) Chong Kwai Hong. After the clash SCM Chong withdrew to South Thailand. We spent a lot of time trying to track him down but our efforts were futile.
In 1974, I was a Capt then, and was dealing in combat intelligence in 7th Rangers. While operating in Sg Siput area, about 10km from where Chandran clashed with SCM Chong in 1971, my boys (7th Rangers) came across some markings made of bamboo along a mountain ridge streching on the slopes of Gunong Korbu. These findings were on 20th April. I instructed my boys to lay an ambush along the ridge close to the bamboo markings.
On 22nd April at 10.55am, BANG - the ambush was sprung. Two terrorists were killed in the initial burst and during the follow up 30 mins later another 3. In this clash, 5 bodies were recovered, one was SCM Chong and another his wife. After this not much was heard of 5th AU. It was replaced by 6th AU. We recovered quite a bit of $$$ from this clash- obviously, he was their high ranking leader. What pleased me was, we avenged Chandran's misfortune. I have not shared this with anyone till now. Maybe because we were just too busy then to sit back and rejoice on the success.
Unlike now, on reading and listening to the script, I just realised what we had scored. Its 50 years ago!!!! May God bless Chandran's soul and let him know the score. I will raise this with the 4th Rangers guys so that some closing can be done at unit level."Leader 5th Assault Unit Chong Kwai Hong was killed by 7th Rangers on 21/22 Apr 1974 at 1155hrs in Pos Legab area during Gonzales 1. Five CTs were killed in that chance ambush. One escaped and was killed by 2nd Rangers, 2 or 3 days later
Chong Chor was captured by the Special Branch in Chow Kit area, circa 1987" - Lt Col Baldev Singh (Retired)
"When signs of enemy presence(Communist Terrorists) were discovered at the Korbu Forest Reserve, Sungei Siput and Tanah Hitam from the 8th May until 31st May 1971, a mixed Reconnaissance Group was formed.
The intelligence received at that time, was that the enemy had just moved into the area. The enemy unit was commanded by DCM Chong Kwai Hong, the overall Commander being Chong Chor. What the intelligence failed to notice was that the enemy had moved into the area 2 months ago. The position the enemy was entrenched in was fortified with trenches.The enemy camp had even an underground kitchen.
So to destroy is enemy a sub - unit of the Unit Combat Intelligence Platoon (4th Rangers) , comprising of ten men led by Captain V.Mohan Chandran of the 4th Battalion Royal Rangers, Special Government Agents (Surrendered Enemy Personnel from the 1st Emergency- SEP), Special Branch and members of the 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment. They were tasked to reconnoiter the movement of the enemy in the Ulu Kinta forest, Perak. This group was sent, as there were signs and information concerning the movement of the Communist Terrorists in the whole of that area. They were moving with impunity in that area, they dominated the ground there, it was time to show the Enemy that their days of terror were over.
This combined group was inserted into the operational area on the 3rd June 1971. This combined unit was commanded by Captain Mohana Chandran al Velayuthan (200402) and assisted by 2LT Donald Patrick John (2000913), both who, were from the 4th Rangers. Left : Captain Mohana Chandran al Velayuthan (200402) Aged : 24 years old. A role model for Officers of the Ranger Corps.
They moved off from Camp Suvla Lines, located along Jalan Tambun in Ipoh with 2 X 3 ton trucks and a single Land Rover. They left the camp at 1100 hours heading towards Tanah Hitam, Chemor through Ulu Kinta. They debussed in a rubber plantation near the North Brigade Police Field Force Camp in Ulu Kinta. They moved for about a map square (1 km) to spend the night there. They moved for about a week in the area looking for enemy traces guided by the SEPs', who were mostly Chinese. During one of their outings on their own, escorted by the Rangers, they came upon an "Orang Asli" (Original People of Malaysia) settlement. The SEP's were familiar with the settlement and knew the people from this settlement. The SEP's managed to get some information from the Orang Asli. The rest of the group was not far off. They came back and said this," Friends, If you all want to be safe, it's better not to go"("Kawan kalau mahu selamat lebih baik tidak usah pergi"). To which Rgr Abang Bolhi bin Abang Din replied, "How can we do that, it is up to our Officer?"(Mana boleh buat apa, itu terpulang kepada Pegawai saya"). One of the SEP's asked one of the Orang Asli to guide the Rangers to the the Enemy location believed to be at Sungei Kinding. On the route to that location they came across an Orang Asli and two Chinese men. They detained them for awhile, releasing them only after their Orang Asli guide clarified that these 3 men were familiar faces and that they were looking for tin ore. The Orang Asli guide was only willing to guide them until Sungei Kinding, he was not willing to go further as he had come across a group of the well armed and uniformed enemy who numbered around 30 men. The Orang Asli left them there and returned to his settlement. They rested for the night at Sungei Kinding The following morning several patrols were sent out by Captain Chandran in many directions to get the lay of the land and to look for the signs of the Enemy. Rgr Bolhi was in 2Lt Donald's group. On that day they came across a hut. They checked out the area around and inside the hut. Rgr Abang Bolhi found a piece of paper, it was a receipt for the purchase of a chainsaw dated 24th March 1971. He handed over the receipt to 2Lt Donald. Rgr Bolhi then went down to the washing area near the hut, he found a green shirt which was hidden there. 2Lt Donald then, instructed Rgr Bolhi to move to Captain Chandran's location and hand over the shirt him and inform him of the finding. The following day they went out on a patrol which was the 12th of June 1971, with the intention of picking up traces of the Enemy's activities. After they came back from the patrol, Captain Chandran told them to cook, have their food and rest, as in the evening he wanted to discuss something with them. After they had their lunch and had rested they gathered for a briefing and orders from Captain Chandran. After delivering his orders, his final words before they were dismissed was,"Clean your weapons well, for tomorrow we are going to do battle". Most of the Rangers felt uneasy and anxious with these final words from Captain Chandran. Even his tone of voice was different that day. The words, we are going to do battle tomorrow, kept on playing in Rgr Bolhi's mind over and over again, all along the return journey to 2Lt Donald's location. Those words kept on ringing throughout that evening. He occupied himself by sewing his pants which was torn. He started sewing, one by one all the needles he used broke until he was left with the largest needle, which too broke. He was left thinking of all these ominous signs that were gathering. To keep his mind from further being troubled he went fishing to a nearby stream adjoining the base. He manged to catch some fish at dusk. He cooked them up to be eaten for the following day. The following day he forgot to take the cooked fish along with him on patrol. As planned on the 13th June 1971 a patrol of 15 men with two SEPs' went out on patrol. Which further broke up. Rgr Bolhi followed Captain Chandran's group, along with 601509 Cpl Rahman bin Jaafar, 929223 Rgr Bajau ak Ladi and 928939 Rgr Ali bin Jaafar. 2Lt Donald's group comprised of 203523 Cpl Osman bin Sharif (3rd Recce), Rgr Zainal, Rgr Norsin and 22594 Rgr Khasan bin Awang, the third group comprising of 5 men was commanded by Cpl Musa. Whilst on patrol 2Lt Donald asked for the M79 carried by Rgr Bolhi to be handed over to him. He told 2Lt Donald to ask Captain Chandran's permission. After receiving the instructions form Captain Chandran to hand over the M79, he was handed a sterling sub machine gun, like the rest in the group, with the exception of Rgr Ali who was carrying a Light Machine gun. They left their jungle base at 0800 hours in the morning, led by 2Lt Donald's group. Cpl Musa's group was instructed to lay an ambush on the trail they took, after leaving them behind, Cpl Musa's group they came across an Orang Asli hunting with his blow pipe. The SEP approached the Orang Asli and spoke to him. After that they left the Orang Asli. Rgrl Bolhi was the leading recce (scout) for Captain Chandran's group. He was followed by two of the SEP's, then followed by Capt Chandran, Rgr Bajau, Cpl Rahman and Rgr Ali. They were separated from 2lt Donald's group by a mere 10 meters. Relates Rgr Bolhi :" I was following the trail taken by 2Lt Donald's group, when I came across a trail cutting across, it looked suspiciously fresh. That trail was already crossed by 2Lt Donald's group who apparently did not notice it. I indicated that faint trail to the SEP's who were behind me. The SEPs' and I followed the trail which cut across the ridge. After following the trail for sometime, the SEP's confirmed that the trail was that of the Enemy. The SEP's were not sure whether it led into an Enemy stronghold or just a trail leading to the right of the ridge. We turned back to inform Captain Chandran of our findings. Captain Chandran ordered a halt, ordering me to move up and make contact with 2Lt Donald's group to return and marry up with his group for further discussions at the place where we halted. I ran towards the direction I last saw 2Lt Donald's group. At one point I nearly released a shot at a figure which suddenly emerged form the dense foliage, I later realised that it was Cpl Osman, the last man in 2Lt Donald's group. I hand signalled to Cpl Osman that 2Lt Donald and his group had to turn around. I took them back to the Captain's location. During the briefing by Captain Chandran, he told us that the SEP's were reluctant to follow the trail to the Enemy Camp. They knew that if they met up with their old comrades, they would be despatched to the nether world without mercy. They were therefore very adamant that they would not want to get involved in a direct confrontation with their former friends. Therefore he ordered them to move back to their base camp at Sungei Kinding on their own, without escorts. They could not be used for any battle, being the ex-commies they were. Captain Chandran radioed for reinforcements, instead he was instructed to make do with what he had. After lunch at around 1400 hours, 2Lt Donald moved off with his group to the right of the ridge, whereas our group (Captain's) moved to the left following the trail along the left of the ridge. As we moved along the trail, Captain Chandran reminded us about the river below the ridge, to be used as a guide back to Chemor, in the event, we needed to save ourselves. The river flowed towards Chemor. On the descent from the ridge, I was leading, followed by Captain Chandran, Rgr Bajau, Cpl Abdul Rahman and Rgr Ali bringing up at the rear most. From the beginning of the descent, I stopped several times to take a leak (urinate). Captain Chandran who was wearing a greyish shirt looked troubled and was chain smoking, I saw that his lips had turned pale. I even asked him if anything was the matter. To which he replied, that there was nothing the matter with him. There was this weird feeling in my gut. I tried to push away this gloomy and negative thoughts playing in my mind. With this fleeting disturbing thoughts I raced downhill, I reached the bottom of the hill where I reached a waterpoint, complete with a bamboo acting as a conduit for the flow of water. I filled up my water bottel, not realising that it was an Enemy waterpoint. Captain Chandran followed me quickly without stopping, overtook me, crossing the stream and started ascending the hill rapidly in front of me, as though he had picked up the scent of the enemy. After going up a few meters, I saw him signalling with his thumb pointed downwards with his left hand and followed by an indication of direction. That meant, enemy in front ! Without missing a heartbeat, I raced towards him to close up with him. As soon as I reached him, he told me to move forward and reconnoitre the enemy's position. Very slowly I moved forward to get close to the enemy's location. My distance to the enemy was 3 long strides away. I saw two of the enemy digging a fire trench whilst one other enemy who was in full uniform was acting as a lookout. The two enemy who were digging, were in white singlets and wearing grey colored pants. Suddenly 3 pairs of eyes locked onto me. They held my gaze for a fleeting moment before anyone reacted. Meanwhile Captain Chandran was taking cover behind a boulder to the right of me. The rest of the men were still downhill, not aware of what was happening in front of them.Thoughts were racing through my mind whether to to fire first, worrying I would not be able to kill them all. The thoughts of 3 against 1 started racing. I decided to use the grenade 36, I reached for the grenade, then the thought what if the greande fails to explode. I put the grenade back all this happening in split seconds. I quickly made a final decision, I opened up with my sterling sub machine gun, I saw all three of them fall. As I fired in the direction of the enemy, the enemy too, fired in my direction. I was hit in the left palm of my hand. The bullet penetrated my palm and came out. One more round went through the back of my right arm pit and came out through my right chest. The blood gushed out. I told myself, "God ! I am dead," thinking about death this time around. I fell and rolled downhill. As I rolled downhill I lost a magazine of rounds. In that instant Captain Chandran moved quickly to cover me, from being hit some more, by the direct enemy fire. He started firing on the enemy, from his cover to save me and keep the enemy's heads down. As soon as I had reached the bottom of the hill, I was being embraced by Rgr Bajau who was asking me, "What's happening Bolhi?" I was in a daze, I replied, that I was dying and that I was shot. Rgr Bajau ak Ladi on hearing this released me and immediately started firing uphill ". Rgr Bajau, then charged uphill firing until he was quite near Captain Chandran. The Captain ordered Rgr Bajau to provide him with covering fire, so as to enable him to close up with the enemy, Rgr Bajau obliged by bringing withering fire to bear upon the entrenched enemy. By this time, Cpl Abdul Rahman had reached the location, he took up a position beside Rgr Bajau and concentrated his fire too on the enemy poistion. Meanwhile Rgr Ali with the LMG still had not crossed the stream at the foothill. Rgr Bajau seeing tha Rgr Ali had difficulty moving with the LMG, raced downhill to take the LMG. Right :This is a Bren Gun, a LMG is a modified bren, the magazine in an LMG is straight unlike the bren which is curved. One can actually see the word Bren etched into the metal which is crossed out. He swapped his sterling for Ali's LMG. He heard Captain Chandran yelling " Section 1 to the left. Section 2 to the right. Attack ! Attack ! Attack ! Giving his orders clearly and cooly. During this exchange of weapons whilst Captain Chandran was assaulting the enemy, covered by Cpl Abdul Rahman, the enemy's rounds slammed into Captain Chandran. Rgr Bajau raced uphill with the LMG and set it up to provide covering fire for Captain Chandran. Without him (Capt Chandran) realising it, the enemy's bullets had hit him in the head. He continued firing by reflex action until he lay still, on the battle field that day in the forest of Ulu Kinta, Perak. Even though he had such a small group of men, his courage managed to confuse the enemy on the actual strength of the security forces. He knew he was outnumbered, after he had established contact with the enemy. It was too late to back off and wait for reinforcements, as it was late in the day.
What Captain Chandran did not know was that the enemy who were lying in wait for him was only a third of the enemy and very well entrenched, the other two thirds were out on a patrol. The enemy on top of the hill fought with great vigour bringing heavy and concentrated fire to bear upon Rgr Bajau and Cpl Abdul Rahman. Rgr Ali had by that time reached them, none of them could move due to the intense fire from the enemy. Cpl Abdul Rahman observed the situation for awhile and decided that maybe, maybe, Captain Chandran was killed as he was not moving and as his voice was no more heard, he was not sure of anything at that time. Rgr Bajau continued advancing, firing fiercely with his LMG braving the enemy's bullets. As he advanced, trying to destroy the enemy who were uphill and dominating the ground, Rgr Bajau felt something collide with his left thigh. He saw blood flowing from the impact of the round and felt the warm wetness of the blood spreading on his trousers. He shouted out to Cpl Abdul Rahman, "Corporal I am hit in the leg ! " He took cover assisted by Cpl Abdul Rahman behind a boulder, which prevously was the location Captain Chandran. Which he had used as his own cover, before assaulting the enemy from that position. With the enemys strength being very much larger and them dominating the ground , not much could be done by Cpl Abdul Rahman and Rgr Ali. After sometime they heard two explosions from an M79, probabaly from 2Lt Donald's group, which did not seem to have much of an effect on the enemy. The enemy continued raining bullets on them. After half an hour of intense firing by the enemy the firing gradually abated. Cpl Abdul Rahman's ears were ringing with the sounds of the battle. The line of sight was fading for him He looked in the direction where Captain Chandran lay, before losing sight of him. Suddenly he saw a jungle hat hanging on the thorns of a rattan plant, swaying gently, being blown about by the wind. He recognised that as belonging to his Company Commander, Captain Chandran. He was still hoping in his heart that his Officer was still alive, hoping to see the jovial and familiar face, for at that moment, he felt so very alone and the responsibility of command weighed down on him so very heavily. He continued observing to see whether Captain Chandran would walk up to him. He crawled towards the direction where Captain Chandran lay, ordering Rgr Ali to lay down covering fire for him. He went close to Captain Chandran, he was lying in the prone position. He did not notice any wounds on Captain Chandran at first. He turned him over and found two holes in the left and right of his head and blood flowing out of them. There was no pulse. All his fears came true that day. Cpl Abdul Rahman pulled and dragged his body into a depression in the ground not far from his previous position. He took Captain Chandran's pistol, sub machine gun, compass, map, watch and all the ammunition on him,. he covered the body with leaves from the "bertam" plant, found in the area. Before he withdrew from the position, he yelled out with all his might, "B Company covering fire, C Company assault !! This was a ruse, trying to deceive the enemy that two companys of troops were assaulting them. With that cry they continued firing uphill on the enemy. After sometime they heard the enemy gathering their belongings to retreat, shouting, "Chau, chau, chau "(let's go, let's go, let's go ). He informed Rgr Bajau and Rgr Ali that Captain Chandran was no more with them. Cpl Abdul Rahman ordered Rgr Bajau and Rgr Ali to stay at their posts until night fell. The intention was to withdraw from their location under the cover of darkness, to avoid being spotted by the enemy who might still be hanging around the top of the hill. The rain started coming down in torrents, Cpl Rahman ordered Rgr Bajau who was wounded to observe uphill, Rgr Ali to observe the left while he himself observed the right of their location. Captain Chandran's body was not too far behind them. After sometime he ordered them to maintain their watch as he wanted to get the radio at the bottom of the hill. Even though the radio was faulty he managed to get his message to Platoon 1 of A Company which was in the vicinity. He was instructed to remain in his position be patient and that help was on the way. At around 1800 hours, Rgr Bajau started complaining that he could not stand the pain. Cpl Rahman put on fresh dressings on him and told him to be patient and that help was on the way. They were there and the time was now 2000 hours, help still had not arrived. Rgr Bajau continued bleeding profusely and was in great pain. There was alot of blood coming out of his thigh. Cpl Abdul Rahman started worrying, he repeatedly reassured and consoled Bajau, asking him to bear the pain. He reassured Bajau again and again. He also told him that people who must die will die, but not Rgr Bajau. He asked Rgr Bajau if he was willing to walk at night to reach their base. To which Rgr Bajau agreed, at 2030 hours they started walking leaving the place of battle. They left the area with a heavy heart, knowing well that they were leaving the body of their commander and leader and Rgr Bolhi whose location they did not know. They walked all night until morning stopping to rest every now and then. That night as they were walking back to their base they saw alot of flares being fired, not knowing the reason for this. The flares guided them back to their base. As dawn broke he had sucessfully brought the two men to the bottom of the hill. The sun arose and the day cleared, aiding visibility. They continued moving, after climbing a hill at around 0830 hours they ran into a group from B Company commanded by Captain Ariffin, who were actually racing towards them to provide support. They were given food and drinks by Captain Ariffin's group. Captain Ariffin organised a stretcher party to carry Rgr Bajau to a LP (landing point). This was to evacuate Rgr Bajau who was suffering from a severe loss of blood. A helicopter came in and evacuated Rgr Bajau. After which Cpl Abdul Rahman and Rgr Ali took Captain Ariffin's group to the place of battle. On this journey they did not follow their initial route, They followed a different direction, in the event the enemy was still around to surprise them. They were hoping to destroy the enemy by surprising them instead. This too was to prevent them running into a well defended enemy location. Even as they tried avoiding running into the enemy, they made conatct with th enemy. They were fired upon by the enemy, there was an intense exchange of fire. The day was getting dark, therefore Captain Ariffin ordered all of them, to go into an all round defence position, as it would be too risky to conduct an assault in unfavourable light conditions. If at all they were to do battle, it would be the following day. The Enemy had withdrawn, therefore, Captain Ariffin on the third day after the battle ordered them to look for the body of Captain Chandran and Rgr Abang Bolhi, whose location and his state was still vague. The Platoon was broken up into smaller units and sent in all directions to look for them. They repeatedly shouted the name of Abang Bolhi. At around 0900 hours in the morning they heard a very faint reply in the silence of the jungle, "I am here, I am here". He was found in a very weak state. There were maggots in his wounds. This was good news indeed for Cpl Abdul Rahman who felt very guilty and responsible for Rgr Abang Bolhi. He gave his praises to God for answering his prayers. Not long after that the body of Captain Chandran was discovered. Rgr Abang Bolhi and the body of the Captain were carried to a nearby hill, located not far from the enemy camp. Rgr Abang Bolhi and the body of Captain Chandran were winched out of the area after which they were flown to the Ipoh General Hospital. After that, they conducted a search on the Enemy Camp. It was very well constructed, located on a strategic location, dominating all approaches to it. It was constructed on a small hill, on the slope of a ridge, not easily detected with a very narrow approach to it. It would have been very difficult to detect, as sometimes hunters and soldiers always used the easier route by following a ridge. To reach the Enemy camp one had to scale a very steep incline. It would have been very difficult to conduct an attack. It would have taken at least a Battalion to successfully conduct an assault. There were many tracks and trails out of the camp, left by the Enemy. It was a large camp which could accomodate around 60 men. The camp had communication trenches to enable the Enemy to move around without being exposed to outsiders by sight or fire. The communication trenches were 3 feet wide and 4 feet deep, connecting their fighting trenches.The communication trenches were dug in the direction that would be the probable approach of an attacking force. Logs were used to reinforce the parapets of the fire trenches. The sleeping accomodation of the Enemy was dug into the ground. It was constructed to withstand aerial and artillery bombardments, unless of course, there was direct hit. They constructed a piping system, using bamboo to bring water to their camp, having a continous supply of clean water. They left behind their supplies of "belachan" (prawn paste) and salted fish in their haste, fleeing. From these observations it was assessed that the camp was not a temporary camp but a permanent camp which was being actively used. Ranger Abang Bolhi relates his story :"I prayed to God to keep death away from me. I also prayed that there be heavy downpour to wash away the blood trails left by me, so that the enemy would not be able to detect me. God, granted this request by a heavy downpour. I am grateful for this. I lost my strenght to move due to the gunshot wounds. As I was not able to move, not hearing the voices of my comrades anymore, I assumed all of them were dead killed by the Enemy. I decided to rest there by sleeping, in my weakened state. Before I closed my eyes to sleep, I recalled Captain Chandran saying if anything bad happens, to use the river as a guide to head for Chemor. I decided to follow his advise the following morning. After getting up on the 14th June, I observed my surroundings, I had lost alot of blood. I had to look for the river mentioned by my Commander. I was very weak, I moved very slowly, to avoid a heavy loss of blood, as the blood flow could not be stemmed. The blood flow was from my chest, behind my arm pit and the palm of my hand. Sometimes I crawled. I managed to reach a very small tributary, which flowed into the river mentioned by Captain Chandran. Once I reached the stream I wet my "good morning" towel to clean off some of the blood. As I was late in cleaning my wounds, flies and little bees had visited my wounds. They had laid eggs in my wounds. As I tried cleaning the wounds at the back, I discovered that the wounds were infested with maggots. I had a field dressing, could not do much as I was injured in both the hands, I did not have the strength. Whilst I was cleaning the wounds I saw a small cave in front of me. I decided to spend the night in that cave. " At exactly 1845 hours, he observed his watch which was a "Rado", he saw 7 Communist Terrorists fully armed and equipped enter the cave. "My heart gave a leap and I let out a stifled cry of "God". I thought of throwing a grenade into the cave, I was not capable to toss the greande that far, I realised that, after thinking about it. I was too weak. The other reason was my grenade was coated with blood and had been soaked with water, the chances of exploding might not be a hundred percent. I then thought of opening fire, then I was too weak. Anyway I checked the rounds in my magazine and cocked my sub machine gun and decided to fight it out if I was discovered. I stayed awake and alert with bouts of tiredness and dizziness until the morning. At 0500 hours the Enemy came out of the cave and left the area. On the 15th June, even though I had not eaten for two days except drinking water I felt my strength return. I was wondering whether to head for the river, my guide to safety. My spirits returned, I knew I would not die. I decided I would not follow the river to head for Chemor, I climbed up the hill where I spent the previous night. I reached the spot where I had slept. I heard someone calling out, I knew it was search party, I yelled out to them with all the strength I could muster, "Heelppppp". The returning voice asked me to identify myself. I replied by shouting out my name, deceiving myself that it was a shout, it was a very weak voice of mine which said, Ranger Abang Bolhi, 4th Rangers", whilst slowly moving toward the voices. I made it to the boys from B Company, 4th Rangers, a small group which was commanded by Cpl Morni. I was carried by them uphill where they set me down, brewed hot tea and gave me a can of pineapples. After awhile I was taken to an LP, where I was winched out by a helicopter. After spending time in a Hospital in the town of Ipoh, I was taken to Camp Terendak to recuperate at the Armed Forces Hospital there. I was treated and rehabilitated there for 6 months. " This is Cpl Osman's story : "We were already at the location, below the hill, when the firing started, as ordered by Captain Chandran. We thought that the firing was a signal by Captain Chandran to signal the start of the attack on the Enemy location. Once the firing started we started moving closer to the foothill. We could not assault due to the steep incline of the hill, the superior strength, devastating firepower and the strategic location of the Enemy. The Enemy had started directing fire upon us. The Enemy could not effectively engage us as they were too high up. The bullets passed above us. We moved into better cover position and returned fire. After that I and 2Lt Donald who had joined up with me decided to relocate. To enable this relocation I released two round from the M79, I took from Ranger Zainal. This enabled 2Lt Donald to relocate. After which 2Lt Donald and his group brought fire to bear on the Enemy, enabling Rgr Zainal and me to relocate. At around 1800 hours, we went up onto the slope of the hill to the location, behind the enemy engaging Captain Chandran and his group. That location we assumed would be the withdrawal route of the Enemy. We made a linear ambush, disappointingly the Enemy did not use that route. The following morning, we met up with a group, who were reinforcements from 4th Rangers, with the news that Captain Chandran had fallen." Captain Mohan Chandran a/l Velaythan was the son of Seremban, Negri Sembilan and a son of Malaysia. He was awarded the "Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa", posthumously by his Majesty the King, for his actions which were beyond the call of duty in the highest traditions of the Ranger Corps. He was killed in action aged 24 years old in the prime of his life, so that Malaysians of all walks of life did not end up living under the yoke of communism. He was the role model for many a Ranger Officer. The valour award was received by his father. Cpl Osman and Ranger Bajau were awarded the "Pingat Gagah Berani" for valour. From the onset of the fire fight Ranger Bajau displayed his grit and determination to destroy the enemy by exchanging his Sterling sub machine gun (9mm) for a Light Machine Gun (7.62mm). He along with Captain Chandran and others exchanged fire with the enemy.When the time came to assault the heavily defended enemy position he did not hesitate to follow his leader during the assault. Ranger Abang Bolhi was awarded the "Mentioned In Despatches (KPK)". Captain Chandran was born on 15th May 1947 and the youngest in a family of 4. His mother passed away whilst he was still only a year old. His dad did remarry. He was raised and brought up by his grandmother, Madam T. Athyletchumi in Kuala Lumpur. He used to visit his step mother frequently, they did become close. His step mum loved him as her own. He received his early education in Kuala Lumpur until Form 5, where he got a grade 2 for his MCE. He started his career as a Regular Cadet on the 11th July 1965. He graduated from Port Sea He was commissioned as a 2Lt Lieutenant into the 4th Battalion Ranger Regiment on the 11 June 1966. His bravery and courage always astounded his brother Officers and his much loved men. He used to be a physical fitness fanatic. He had his men dig pits and wrestled with them in the wet and muddy pits. They were to throw out their opponents from the pits. Whoever left behind was the winner. He and his men had great fun together, he loved being with his men. On operations he used to visit his sub-units on his own in the jungle, which were distances apart. Sometimes he took his batman along visiting his platoons and sections, which lay scattered in the operational area. To move alone in the jungle, where the enemy actively operated, took alot of courage. Cpl Osman bin Sharif was selected to participate in the operation. He was from the 3rd Reconnaisance Regiment. He was directed to follow 2Lt Donald's group. The reason he was commanding a Ranger Section, was that the original Ranger Section Commander fell ill and he was tasked to act as one. Cpl Osman was born in Kampong Legong Ulu Kota, Negri Sembilan. He was the eldest of 7 children in the family. He was born on the 26th March 1941. His father's name was Sharif bin Hasan and his mum's name was Jamaah bte Ludan. He received his early education in the Melayu Legong Ulu Primary School until Standard 6. When he was a teenager he worked as a contract labourer in Singapore, after which as an estate labourer in Legong. He started his Military career on the 15th April 1961. The Military life to him was easy, as he had faced greater hardship when he was a labourer. As he showed great potential he was selected to become an instructor at the Recruit Training Center in Port Dickson. After 5 years as an instructor where he held the rank of a Corporal, he was transferred to the 1st Reconnaissance Regiment in Port Dickson. His Squadron was responsible for the formation of the 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment in Camp Ramilies in Ipoh in 1970. After that he continued serving with 3rd Recce. He finished his career with the rank of a Warrant Officer 1, becoming a Regimental Sergeant Major. He also was an instructor at the Royal Military College in Sungei Besi. He served the nation for 24 years. He is now in a Felda Scheme (agricultural scheme) in Palong Lapan in Gemas. 929223 Ranger Bajau anak Ladi is an Iban, who was born in Kampong Sebemban, Lundu, Sarawak on the 20th March 1947. He began his career in the Military in 1966. He was abandoned by his parents when he was still a little kid. He was raised up by his elder brother and had the opportunity for education until Standard 6 only, at the Bumiputera Lundu School. Before he joined the Army he worked as a waiter for the British Army in the Lundu Camp. He joined the Army after his stint as a waiter. After his completion of recruit training he joined Platoon 8. C Company 4th Rangers in Ipoh, after which they moved to Serian in Sarawak. When the troubles of May 13th 1969 broke out he was assigned in the Kual Kurau area in Perak. He was involved in the dispersion of rioters who tried to storm the Police Station in Kuala Kurau. Rgr Bajau was a member of the elite Tiger Platoon of 4th Rangers(Unit Combat Intelligence Squad). He ended his career on the 25th June 1976 after serving for ten years with the rank of a Lance Corporal.
REMEMBERING OUR MILITARY IN THE CONGO (ONUC ) 1960 A MOST MEMORABLE NIGHT
Monday, January 04, 2021
The Greyhound Armoured Car armed with a 37mm gun.
The original plan of the Malayan Special Force (MSF) called for a three week retraining in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and then be deployed in Kasai Province in support of the Ghanaian Brigade.
But it was not to be, the minute we arrived at Leopoldville on 02 November 1960, we were immediately given unscheduled tasks like guarding Key Points and installations and a host of other duties besides road patrolling. The troops created a favourable impressions among ONUC staff and the few expatriates including some Belgians in the city. We were considered well disciplined and smart in turn out. The Ferret Scout Cars created an impact whoever they went; always drawing curious attention from the awe stricken local populace.
We scheduled our Presentation Parade on 22 November. The night of 21 November 1960 turned out to be a most memorable night for me. I was Duty Officer which meant I was the only officer in Camp Chanic after working hours. The rest of the Officers were at our Officers Mess located about five kilometres away. There were a few officers deployed elsewhere, one was 2/Lt Borhan Ahmad whose No 4 Platoon was guarding the residence of Patrice Lumumba, the deposed elected Prime Minister. The Platoon task was to prevent Lumumba from being captured by the Congolese army.
By this time Colonel Joseph Mobutu, the Chief of Staff had staged a Coup-de-Tet and assumed power. He broke off dipolamatic relation with Ghana and declared the Ambassador persona non grata. Mobutu gave him 48 hours to leave but the Envoy waas defiant and remained at his Residence after the deadline. He had a Platoon of Tunisian troops guarding his Residence. As a comparison a Tunisian Platoon had more men than our Rifle Platoon, their Infntry Company consisted of 200 soldiers and commanded by a Lieutenant and the Brigade Commander was only a Colonel in rank.
The explosive situation of 21 November at the Ghanian Ambassador Residence caught us unaware. Certainly as the Duty Officer holding the Fort, I was not briefed. By 1600 hours truckloads of Congolese troops had surrounded the Residence. Prior to that the Tunisians had beefed up their strength to two hundred men. At 1800 hours the Congolese brought in five more truckloads of soldiers plus one Greyhound Armoured Car armed with aa 37mm gun. The highly charged atmosphere exploded around 1945 hours. A point to note, our 2 Recce Regiment prior to 1960 was a full blooded Cavalry unit equipped with the Daimler Armoured Car (DAC) and the Dingo Scout Cars.
Our DAC armed with a 2 pounder similar to the 37 mm gun of the Greyhound. In Gunnery we were taught T&A (testing and adjustment) of gun barrel with the telescopic sight. The Congolese obviously did not do T&A or sheer bad gunnery, possibly both, when in the heat of battle the Greyhound took aim at the Ghanian Residence and fired one round. The neighbouring house was the Officers Mess of the Royal Canadian Signal Regiment. Horror of horrors, that round meant for the Ghanian went through the ceiling of the Officers Mess.
As related by a Canadian officer, they were having dinner when the round came through and caused a total blackout. The officers dived for cover, the end of dinner!!
The whole incident occured less than a kilometre from our Camp. Tracers could be seen flying all over the sky. At Leopoldville we were placed under command of the Tunisian Brigade whose HQ was located adjacent to our Camp. Seen clearly were the battle ready Tunisian soldiers in full battle order on standby at their HQ. Two senior officers approached me and a
sked for our Ferret armoured escort. I told them to contact my Squadron Leader, Maj Zain Hashim at the Officers Mess.
There was no escort and nothing moved from the UN side during that night. During the fighting the shooting was wild and indiscriminate. A ceasefire came into effect at 0700 hours the next morning. There were many casualties but those killed in action were relatively light. The Tunisian suffered two killed and the Congolese four deaths but it included the Leopoldville Garrison Commander, Colonel N'Kokolo. Camp Leopold the largest military camp in Leopoldville was renamed Camp N'Kokolo in his honour.
The aftermath of the incident was swirling hot rumours of a imminent revenge attack by the Congolese Army on ONUC HQ. That's another story for another day!
Military Parade In Malaya, 1960's - THE PRESENTATION PARADE
Courtesy of Lt Col TAN SIEW SOO (Retired) , ARMOUR. Postscript : this historic video was captured by our two Malaayaan Film Unit officers, Hon Maj Zain Syed Hassan and Hon Lt Amir Shamsuddin who were with us during the first three months.
Remembering Our Military In The Congo (ONUC) 1960.
Tuesday, November 03, 2020
On November 3rd 1960, C Squadron 2 Recce (now 2 Armour) minus the Rifle Troop had arrived at the Leopoldville (Kinshasa) Railway Station in the morning. Despite the ongoing strike, we managed to successfully unload all our vehicles, aa great deal through our own effort by the afternoon.
All our Ferret armoured cars were lined up and ready to roll by 1500 hours. It was going to be a show parade driving past "Le Royal", ONUC HQ enroute to our new Camp Ozone.
This was a nice PR exercise to showcase the Armoured element of our Malayan Special Force to the UN and the local populace. No soft skinned vehicles, only the 18 Ferret Scout Cars coloured in Port Dickson green driven in a single file. The irony was, we were led by a non Armoured Volkswagen Beetle driven by Maj Desmond Furney, an Irish man seconded to 1 Recce Regiment and employed as our Senior Liaison Officer at ONUC HQ.
At around 1600 hours, the long thin line of 18 Ferret Scout Cars followed the the Volkswagen of Maj Furney on a momentous journey for the drive past to our new camp. Maj Zain Hashim led in the leading Ferret, 2/Lts Tan Siew Soo in the 3rd Ferret, Philip Lee Khui Fui in the 7th Ferret, Tee Bua Bian in the 11th Ferret and Teoh Say Chee in the 15th Ferret.
Unknown to most of us then, Lt Gen Carl Von Horn (a Swede), UN Supreme Commander appeared smiling at the window of the 6th Floor. What was more obvious and very touching was clearly the friendly wave of hands by the many UN staff particularly the Secretaries who had gathered at the balcony to greet and welcome us.
It is an occasion like this that makes one extremely proud of the uniform and the Regiment to which one belongs!!
On this day, 60 years ago Malaysia's(Malaya then) first ever contribution to the UN Peacekeeping Operation
Thursday, October 01, 2020
MSF officers with the USN officers of LST 1169. Front row: 2/Lt Philip Lee, Capt Loh Sai Kee, USN, Maj Robert Mahmud Yusof, Lt Cdr LST Capt, Maj Zain Hashim, USN, Capt EWC Rodriques, Capt(Dr) Dennis Lopes. Rear: Capt Zainal Dato Ahmad, 2/Lt Tan Siew Soo, Capt C Dorairaju, 2/Lt Ahmad Che Wan, Hon Lt Syed Alwi Syed Hassan, Lt Omar Musajee, 2/Lt Aziz Saif, 2/Lt Annuar Hashim and 2/Lt Tee Bua Bian.
The Malayan Special Force (MSF) departed for the Congo. Earlier on 28 September, the wheeled element consisting of 18 Ferret armoured cars and all soft skinned vehicles and stores motored down to the Royal Malaysian Naval Base in Woodlands, Singapore awaiting the arrival two US Navy Landing Ship Tank (LST). When loading waas completed we departed Woodlands on the evening of 02 October for Port Swettenham (Klang).
The Troop Carrier
The two LSTs arrived at Port Swettenham in the morning and berthed around 0800 hours. At the wharf we joined the main contingent which was already formed up for the address by the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj. The Port scene was spectacular, packed with relatives, friends, well wishers and others to senf off this Special Force. The full compliment of 43 officers and 613 men paraded at the wharf, led by the Commanding Officer, Lt Col Ungku Nazaruddin Ungku Mohamed (Bruno).
All the Officers
One significant point the Prime Minister mentioned was :
".... while you are abroad you will uphold the good name of the Federation of Malaya. I hope you will remember the Malay proverb, Biar puteh tulang, jangan puteh mata, (better death than dishonour )...."
This piece of advice was taken to heart by this first group of MSF.
As soon as the speech was over, Single Pioneer and Twin Pioneer aircrafts of our young RMAF flew past in salutation. The troops then boarded the two LSTs to begin a most memorable 28 day non-stop voyage to the Port of Matadi in the Congo.
Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku
TAN SIEW SOO, Lt Col (rtd) ARMOUR.