Dad told me to look after family. He did not speak again...... from the Straits Times Singapore Tuesday January 1, 1957
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Jokes and Laughter then into a bandit trap.
Dad told me to look after family. He did not speak again.................
AMBUSH BOY'S STORY
Arnold (15) refused to quit by Nelson Rutherford
Mentakab, Monday. It took 15 minutes for Arnold Harris to become a man, 15 horrifying minutes in which he saw his father and seven other men shot down in a terrorist ambush.
Arnold 15, told me about it today. Quietly. Dispassionately. He did not cry. I spoke to him in an army mess near here. He is a slightly dark haired. Only his vacant expressionless eyes tell of his ordeal.
All in high spirits. His story began at 4 am on Boxing Day when he and 10 men of the 6th Battalion Malay Regiment, set of for Ayer Hitam to repair a broken down scout car. In the Land Rover with him were his father, Staff Sergeant William Harris, 38, Captain Shukor bin Chik and two Malay soldiers.
They were all in high spirits. Arnold was thinking of his aircraft carrier kit his father had given him as a Christmas present.
He would start to build it as soon as they got back. Behind was a breakdown wagon with six Malay soldiers aboard. The time was 1.45 pm as they approached a bend in the road. Beyond it 34 terrorists waited in concealed positions. Arnold told me, "We were all laughing; Captain Shukor had just made a joke. Suddenly I heard firing. I thought something had happened to the engine. Then the windows were shattered and Captain Shukor shouted to me to get down.
Hit by pellets
The two soldiers sitting in the back with me jumped out and were shot. I was hit by shotgun pellets but didn't feel it. I put my head down near the floor. There were more shots. Then I heard voices. I looked up and saw two Chinese terrorists behind me.
They were taking the canvas roof off the Land Rover. They were fully uniformed and wore peak caps with red stars and twigs for camouflage. All carried guns. One asked me if I or my father had a gun. I shook my head.
Then a short fat man carried me to the road and laid me on the grass verge. He was very gentle. He gave me two aspirins. I swallowed one but decided not to touch the other because I thought it might be poison.
AMBUSH BOY DRAINED RADIATOR WATER FOR DYING FATHER
Then they threw everything out of the Land Rover and took the two young mouse deer we were taking back to the camp and bayonetted them. The gang went over to my father who had been hit in the first burst and searched him.
They also searched the bodies and took everything they could find.
The Reds stole two rifles, a pistol, two watches, Sgt Harris's camera containing shots taken the previous day at a Christmas party, jungle boots, wallet and shirt.(They also took Arnold's hat.)
As they had finished a PWD jeep with 3 men in it arrived from the direction of Bentong. The bandits stopped. It was the man sitting next to the driver.....(undecipherable - edit) I saw him give something to one of the terrorists.
I think it was a piece of white paper. Then he got back in his jeep and drove away. The driver saw me beside the road but pretended not to notice me.
A few seconds later a terrorist on the bank above the road began shouting and waving his hands. The whole gang ran up the bank and disappeared. I knew they had seen the recovery wagon. It had been traveling about four minutes behind us.
The bandits opened fire above me with Bren guns from three different positions.
A soldier sitting beside the driver of the wagon leaped out of the window with his gun at the ready. He was about to shoot when a bullet caught him.
Then dad called to me. He was lying beside the Land Rover and told me to drive it away. I said I couldn't leave him behind. "Never mind me," he said. I dragged him into the vehicle and was trying to start it when the gang started firing again. I thought they were firing at me so I took cover.
My father fell out. He asked me for some water and told me to find a stream. There were no streams. Then I remembered the radiator of the Land Rover. I hoped it wasn't punctured. I filled the lid of a cardboard box with water and gave it to dad. One of the soldiers lying in the drain had come to and I tied a piece of string round his legs. It was bleeding badly. Suddenly my Dad said, "I’m going Arnold. Look after the family." He didn't say anything more.
Arnold paused for a moment his eyes on the floor. Then he continued. "I waited beside Dad for a car to come. Five minutes later a black car packed with people arrived. I shouted to the driver but he would not stop."
Arnold paused again, " I can't remember any more," he said. Then he got up and walked away.
Police interviewed Arnold today and showed him photographs of terrorists, including Tam Fook Loong the Negri Sembilan bandit boss who is believed to have led the gang
He could not identify any of them.
His full citation in The London Gazette reads:
Iban Tracker, Johore, Federation of Malaya.
During operations against the bandits in Malaya a section of a platoon of the Worcestersbire Regiment was ambushed by about 50 of the enemy. The leading scout was killed instantly and the Section Commander fatally wounded.
Awang anak Rawang was hit through the thigh bone and at the same time a soldier, moving behind him, was hit below the knee, the bullet completely shattering the bone. Awang anak Rawang, although wounded and lying exposed under heavy rifle and automatic fire, collected his own weapons and that of the soldier and dragged him into the cover of the jungle. In view of the impending bandit attack Awang, completely disregarding his own wound, took up a position to defend the injured man.
There he remained, firing on every attempt made by the bandits to approach, and successfully drove off several attacks. Ultimately Awang was again wounded, the bullet shattering his right arm and rendering further use of his rifle or parang impossible. Despite loss of blood from his undressed wounds, be dragged himself over to the wounded soldier and took a grenade from the man’s pouch.
He resumed his position on guard, pulled out the pin of the grenade with his teeth and with the missile in his left band defied the bandits to approach. So resolute was his demeanour that the bandits, who had maintained their attacks for some forty minutes, and who were now threatened by the other sections, withdrew.The coolness, fortitude and offensive spirit displayed by Awang anak Rawang were of the highest order.
Despite being twice severely wounded he showed the utmost courage and resolution to continue the fight and protect the injured soldier.
Worcestershire Regimental History records the following action:
On 26th May 1951, 12 Platoon, “D” Company (2/Lieut. W. O. Morris, R.A.O.C. att. 1 Worc. R.) were encamped in some rubber on Ulu Paloh Estate, three miles West of Niyor. At about 1530 hours one of the platoon sentries was fired on by a party of eight terrorists.
The sentry returned the fire and the terrorists withdrew in a North-Westerly direction. The Platoon Commander then took two sections in pursuit of the terrorists, but after making a wide circling movement through the jungle could find no trace of the enemy and returned to base.
The following morning (27th May) the Platoon Commander, with two sections, set out once more in search of the enemy.
They moved due West into the jungle and followed a narrow track, which had jungle on the left and felled jungle on the high ground to the right. The track was used by woodcutters who were engaged in cutting the jungle further back.
Having moved about a quarter of a mile into the jungle, the leading section came under very heavy automatic fire from the front and left flank. The patrol went to ground and returned the fire.
In the first few minutes Private Dykes, the leading scout, was killed. The section commander (Corporal Stanton), two more privates (Hughes and Payne), and the Iban tracker (Awang anak Rawang), were wounded. The Platoon Commander shouted several times to Corporal Stanton to withdraw his section, but he received no reply. 2/Lieut. Morris then moved back and deployed the rear section to the left; they then engaged the terrorists as best they could. 2/Lieut. Morris moved forward again to investigate the state of the leading section. During this time he fired two complete magazines from his carbine.
The Platoon Commander was killed shortly afterwards, but the Platoon fought on for about forty minutes, when the terrorists withdrew.
The sound of the firing had been heard back at the Company base, and the Company Commander, with two platoons, moved out and arrived at the scene of the action about an hour later.
During the action Private Hughes fell wounded in the middle of the track, and Awang anak Rawang, the Iban tracker, although wounded himself and lying in an exposed position, dragged Private Hughes under cover of a fallen tree.
From behind the tree Awang defended Hughes and continued to engage the terrorists when they tried to approach. For his gallantry Awang anak Rawang was subsequently awarded the George Cross. He was the first, and at the time of writing the only, Iban tracker to receive such an honour.
The casualties in the action were 2/Lieut. W. O. Morris, Corporal B. Stanton and Private N. Dykes killed, and the wounded were Private G. Hughes, Private N. Payne and the Iban.
The enemy lost three killed, including Lap Kwang, the company commander and a terrorist leader of repute. The terrorists numbered about fifty and were later identified as 3 Platoon and 7 Platoon, 4 Company, of the 9th Regiment. The two sections of 12 Platoon had a total strength of between fifteen and twenty. That's the spirit of the Rangers who evolved from the Iban Scout-BM.
Blood Money by Colonel Peter Hall DSO of the Worcestershire Regiment
Our lucky break occurred when we received a coded message from the Intelligence Officer, John Parry. When decoded, the message read that John, with a police interpreter, would be arriving in my Headquarters at 11.00 the following day. The purpose of the visit was to bring with them an SEP who claimed that he had information about a CT courier party, which could lead to a successful ambush.
What was an SEP? The initials stood for Surrendered Enemy Personnel - an ex-CT who had surrendered himself to the Security Forces. For some time the psychological warfare unit of the security forces had been printing leaflets in Cantonese, Malay and Tamil. These urged CT’s to surrender. The pamphlet offered the promise of amnesty to a surrendered enemy; transportation to another district (to minimise the risk of reprisal) and, a considerable amount of cash - if the information given resulted in a successful operation by the security forces. In fact, we were offering ‘blood money’ to someone who was willing to betray his ex-comrades.
The propaganda leaflets were distributed by the following means:
1. The RAF dropped them in selected jungle areas. This was not very successful because most of the leaflets lodged in the jungle canopy. They only descended to the ground when they had become rain-sodden and unreadable.
2. Foot patrols left them on jungle tracks, which had given signs of recent use.
3. Foot patrols also left them in the rubber estates - in the hope that they would either be picked up, directly by CT’s, or handed to them by sympathetic members of the labour force.
A good deal of money, time and effort was involved in this exercise and, rarely, did the effort justify the results. BUT - this time it DID! At the appropriate time, John arrived in a 13/18 Hussars armoured car. Hidden in its bowels were the police interpreter and the SEP. They were well concealed from any prying eyes! John Parry and I, through the excellent services of the interpreter, questioned the SEP for about two hours. To coin a phrase from the modern TV detective ‘soaps’, he sang like a bird!
a) The approximate time that the CT party would pass through a jungle clearing and the sort of undergrowth that existed there. I became excited. It was an excellent ambush position.
b) He told us that we could expect to encounter between 2 and 5 CT’s. Their task would be to collect supplies from certain food dumps where local, indigenes had laid in supplies for their collection.
c) VERY UNFORTUNATELY, his description of the area could not be identified on our operational maps because he could not read a map.
I, suddenly, thought of Striv. Not only did he know his own estate like the back of his hand - but, also, a great deal of the jungle areas adjacent to it. I phoned the estate manager’s bungalow. My call was answered by Helen. “Please may I speak to Striv.” “I’m afraid he isn’t here but I expect him back soon. That’s Peter I think?” “Yes. It’s Peter here. Would you, please, ask Striv to call me back urgently. I have a crate of beer for him and there is no room in our fridge!”
This was a code phrase that we had agreed upon if I needed Striv to call back. I could not give details over the open line. Helen nearly gave the game away. She gave a short gasp and recovered herself. “I’ll tell him, Peter. Thanks for the beer!” Within half an hour, Striv was in our operations room. Not only was he a fluent Malay and Tamil speaker, but he could read a map and, as I have indicated, knew the terrain. Eventually, after detailed questioning of the SEP and drawing various sketches on bits of paper, Striv got up, took a pencil and pointed to a particular spot on the map.
“Peter,” he said, “I am 75% confident that this is your ambush area!” He was dead right! I held my orders group 15 minutes later. Striv asked to sit in. John Parry sat in as well, with instructions to take the plan back to the Colonel.
Briefly, my plan was as follows:-
1. Ambush Party - Mike’s platoon - with me in command.
2. Diversion Party - Derek and Roger’s platoons - to patrol the rubber estate and distribute propaganda leaflets. I hoped to convince any of the CT inclined labour force to believe that the Company was engaged, totally, in routine patrolling that day. This was under the command of Derek.
3. Timings - ambush party to move out from camp at 05.00 and be in position by 06.30. Diversion party out at 07.00 through rubber estate areas recommended by Striv – where labour forces would be most likely to see them.
4. I would spring the ambush with first shot. Then the whole party would fire. NO FIRING BEFORE ME!
5. The SEP would accompany the ambush party to confirm that the area of ambush was correct.
It was made very clear (a phrase that politicians use constantly) that, if there was any treachery, the first dead man would be him! For once, the whole operation went according to plan. I had 15 minutes of anxious waiting. Was this going to be another ‘busted flush’? Had I been bamboozled into leading my men into a wellconceived counter-ambush trap? The wait before action is an intense strain on one’s nerves. Almost on cue, a short, squat figure appeared in our selected killing zone.
About five yards behind him, a second figure came into view. I sprung the ambush by firing the first shot. Immediately there was a fussilade from three light machine gums and approximately 30 riflemen. Both CT’s spun over as if they had been hit by a bus. I have no idea if my personal shot registered a hit. Knowing my own inaccuracy as a ‘deadeyed dick’, probably it did not! Nevertheless, there were two enemy dead, riddled with bullets. At last, we had managed to contact a very elusive enemy who, now, lay literally, like a couple of ghosts.
I told Mike to take a section forward to investigate the possibility of a follow-up of a third CT. Mike moved off with one light machine gun, seven soldiers and the Eban tracker. Later, Mike reported to me that there had been a blood trail going through the bush. At about 100 yards from the killing zone into the jungle, they found a large, bloodstained pack which they brought back. - So there had been a third CT, and he/she had been wounded! Mike continued the search. They came to a shallow river where the trail petered out.
Mike assessed that the wounded CT had, probably, taken advantage of the river to obliterate his spoor.
For another hour they searched - but the trail was dead. Mike called off the search and they returned to base. I would have done the same in his 'jungle boots’! Meanwhile, I, with the two remaining sections of the ambush group, had improvised two stretchers. We started to move our ‘kills’ back to ‘A’ Company encampment. Ahead of us the SEP started to caper about. I felt a sudden spurt of loathing for the despicable little creature.
He was celebrating the fact that he would receive ‘blood money’ for his betrayal of his erstwhile companions. I moved up behind him. In a rage I broke his nose with the back of my hand. I was well out of order - but I felt better for it.
One of the corporals moved up behind me. “If you hadn’t done that, Sir, then I would have shot the little shit!” His face looked as disgusted and as angry as I felt that mine did. The SEP did not enjoy courteous treatment or any sympathy from the soldiers of the ambush party on our way back to base.
We arrived back at about 13.00. Mike and his party returned about two hours later. The Colonel had been in contact with my Headquarters and ordered me to get in touch as soon as I arrived back. He, obviously, needed a report. I was astonished at the tremendous fuss that this minor skirmish incurred. I had, after all, employed 75 armed men, expended a good deal of ammunition and we had succeeded in killing only two of the enemy. Congratulations flowed out of all proportion, I believed, to the success of the operation. Undoubtedly, this was brought about by the enormous amount of effort that was generated - and the limited success that it achieved!
Following the events which I have just described, there were a number of follow-up procedures that were necessary. The information that Special Branch had extracted from the documents in the packs, contained various locations of medical supplies and food and ammunition dumps in my parish. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there were no map references, which pinpointed their exact areas. We had a broad idea (within a map square) where they were. But -we had to search for them. Within a week we had located and removed most of these dumps. We, thus, deprived the CT’s of vital supplies to support their operations in this area.
Although the Company worked hard by day, this short phase in operations did give me the opportunity to bring them all back to the encampment every night. They were able to enjoy a good meal and an uninterrupted night’s sleep. This, also, applied to the three subalterns - and me! One particular evening, after a hard day followed by a welcome whisky, I stripped off and, with my soap and towel, wandered into the officers’ bathroom. I needed to pick off the daily crop of leeches and to spruce up my scruffy, smelly self.
I will attempt to describe the bathroom.
The floor was concrete and slightly sloped towards the centre. This allowed a central drain (approximately 3” wide by 4” deep) to carry away the used water to an external drain. This, then, gave access to the septic tank which, also, accommodated the waste from the loo. The bath itself was a large, stone jar. It was 3½ feet high and about 3 feet in circumference. When one climbed into it, one felt like one of Ali Baba’s forty thieves!
At the foot of the bath was a large, cork bung. When ablutions were completed, the bung was pulled out and water flowed away into the open drain. There were two cold taps.
To get hot water it was necessary to organise assistance from the cookhouse. Hardly 4-star (or even 1-star) luxury. But, it sufficed. I was enjoying my bath when, I saw, slithering sinuously along the open drain, a 6- foot long snake. Although its hood was not extended, I recognised, from the markings at the back of its head, that I was sharing my bath with a cobra!
The snake stopped. For seconds we stared at each other. Then, it turned and disappeared through the drain hole which had provided it entrance. I leapt out of the bath and, regardless of modesty, dashed into the room where the others were relaxing with a drink.
“I’ve just seen a bloody cobra in the bathroom!” I shouted. “Oh, yes!” replied one of them, “I expect that that was Charlie. He’s been here before!” I went to the fridge and poured myself a large Scotch. Then I thought that it was about time to put some clothes on.
Later that evening, Roger mildly complained that I had forgotten to take the bung out of the bath. I told him rather briskly, to go and do it himself. I added that, if he was contemplating a bath, I hoped that he, also, would be sharing it with Charlie! Perhaps I scared Charlie as much as he scared me. At any rate, he was never seen again. For my part - I NEVER went to the bathroom again without soap, towel - and a loaded pistol!
The Assassination of Sir Henry Gurney.
Shortly after Colonel Graves-Morris had assumed command of the Battalion, an event took place which had far-reaching consequences on the final outcome of the Emergency. The British High Commissioner for Malaya was ambushed and murdered by the CT’s. The incident took place on the only road from Kuala Lumpur to a hill station in the Cameron Highlands. This was called Fraser’s Hill. Sir Henry and Lady Gurney had an armoured car escort but the ambush was expertly sited. The car in which they were travelling was riddled with bullets. The last act of Sir Henry’s life was one of great courage.
He leaped from the car and walked towards the firing. Thus, sacrificing his own life to protect his wife. Lady Gurney, escaped with her life because the ambushers’ fire was concentrated on her husband.
General Sir Geoffrey Howlett (then a Lieutenant), told me in a recent meeting that he had been on the spot soon after the ambush. He said that the car in which Sir Henry and Lady Gurney had travelled was riddled with bullet holes. It was miraculous that Lady Gurney escaped un-hit! The reaction of the Security Forces can be imagined!
Practically every infantryman in the country was turned out in a massive search and destroy operation. It was too late! We slammed the stable door after the horse had bolted. The CT’s had disappeared into their protective jungle fastness.
Chin Peng and his guerillas had achieved a great propaganda success - but it rebounded on them. In fact it could be marked as the turning point of the campaign. The new High Commissioner was General Sir Gerald Templer. In no way would I wish to denigrate a very gallant gentleman, Sir Henry. He was a highly respected and very senior Colonial Civil Servant and skilled in the arts of diplomacy.
Templer was a different kettle of fish. An Irishman with a strong streak of ruthless determination and a professional soldier with an impressive track record. All of us - security forces, civil servants, the civil population and, most of all, the CT’s soon felt the full weight of Templer’s hand on the operational tiller.
Gerald Templer, on his arrival in Malaya, immediately set about a fact- finding tour of the area. He visited practically every military and civil unit in the Malay Peninsular. He was not interested in the delicate diplomatic niceties. He was, totally, preoccupied with the problems of bringing the Emergency to a satisfactory conclusion.
If he trod, in the process, on some sensitive senior toes - well, hard luck to the owners! He was accorded great powers by the British government of the day. Not only was he the British High Commissioner (the Monarch's representative in Malaya) but he was, also, Director of Operations of the Security Forces. This was a position that his predecessor, Sir Henry, had had to delegate to General Briggs.
Templer’s main problem was that the CTs had a great stranglehold on the indigenous rural and, to some extent, urban population. This enabled the communist guerrillas, operating from the comparative safety of their jungle bases, to collect money for arms, food supplies and information about the movement and deployment of security forces.
These collections were often done by brutal means - “You give us, or else!” Chin Peng was one of the most successful ‘protection racketeers’ since Al Capone in Chicago in the 1920’s. Templer knew that if he could reduce the monetary ‘tithing’ imposed on the rural population (smallholders and rubber estate field forces) he could, dramatically, reduce the influx of guns and ammunition from gunrunners. If these people did not get paid then they would not run the delivery risks. Deprived of a steady flow of armaments the CT’s could not operate indefinitely. Neither could they do so if deprived of an adequate food, medical and equipment source of replenishment.
These facts were obvious to Templer’s predecessors. The problem was how to achieve results? Templer found the answer. Typical of the man, it was ruthless and pursued with determination against considerable political opposition. The solution was, briefly, this.
The creation of New Villages. Small townships were built into which the rural population was concentrated. A typical New Village accommodated about 600 people who, before, had lived in rubber estate labour lines, or small huts adjacent to their smallholdings. These townships created some minor inconvenience because people no longer lived next to their place of work.
This was offset because they were no longer visited at night by CT’s demanding protection money or goods. The original new village concept was not Templers’ idea but that of his military predecessor General Briggs. Briggs, however did not have the political muscle to implement it, Templer did.
An unattractive feature of the New Villages was that they were enclosed by wire fencing. Also, a curfew was imposed from after dark until first light. Each village was guarded by a detachment of Malay paramilitary police. I have been told that it was for this reason that Sir Henry Gurney had resisted the idea.
He was persuaded that such a concept would smack of British Imperialism and the resurrection of concentration camps. Templer had no such inhibitions. By and large the New Village idea was a great success. Chinese traders were offered financial encouragement to set up shops. The villages were landscaped; schools and medical facilities were established; sanitation and washing facilities were provided and adequately maintained. In short, the majority of the New Villagers enjoyed a higher standard of living than they had ever experienced before.
The cost of this enterprise was surprisingly small. Most Malayan houses are built of wood and atap (the plaited leaf of the palm tree). Labour costs were cheap and the Royal Engineers welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate their sanitation, road construction, plumbing and other skills. Of course, there was some opposition. Certain politicians, Malay and British, bleated about ‘concentration camps and restriction of the individual to live where he wished’.
The average New Villager, with the instinctive good sense of the peasant population anywhere in the world, dismissed these bleatings with the contempt they deserved. Not surprisingly, so did Gerald Templer. Another admirable innovation was the introduction of New Village Councils. These gave the inhabitants a sense of corporate identity in the resolution of community problems. How did this dramatic social upheaval affect the guys with the guns?
1. The CTs
a) They found that their supply of monetary contributions for the purchase of arms changed from a flood to a trickle.
b) Similarly, their supply of clothing, medication and food was dramatically reduced.
c) They were no longer able to extract, by threats, contributions to their cause.
d) The information they gained about security forces movements and deployment was considerably lessened.
2. The Security Forces -
In brief, the CT’s loss was our gain. For the first time inthe Emergency,we- not the enemy - had gained the initiative. Also, for the first time, we could move into Chin Peng’s territory and, gradually, choke his jungle chickens to death.
The transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of our operations required some tactical re- thinking. As described in a previous chapter, our Stage I task was the protection of the Malay-an economy by denying the enemy’s efforts to destroy it. Basically, a defensive operation. Stage 2 was to move onto the offensive and to eliminate him.
This meant deep jungle penetrations; at least in Company strength with the increased logistical problems that this would involve. But enough of tactical and strategic worries. Remember, too, that I only saw them from a comparatively junior commander’s viewpoint. I think that it is time to call ‘half- time’!
Ambush of a sub unit of the Royal West Kent Regiment in Tanjong Malim - This was amongst one of the bloodiest battles of the Malayan Emergency
Having arrived at the scene a short time later, the police started their search of the plantation where the manager with his police guard had been carrying-out routine inspections. We in the scout car were able to cover the police from the dirt road as they searched the area.
It did not take long before the bodies of the manager and his guard were found, both brutally slaughtered. The police loaded the bodies onto the Gharry and returned to base. I was keen to get back and report the incident by radio to HQ knowing it would be a few hours before I could report to the platoon commander at the at RV pick-up. Had it not been for what had happened almost simultaneous that day, I am sure there would have been an immediate follow-up; the intelligence was good, numerous CTs had been seen in the area and the trail was red-hot.
After returning to the platoon base at Tanjong Malim and making what limited preparations we could for an immediate follow-up, should the platoon commander decide?
Leading up to the events of the RWK ambush.
It was about an hour later when Major V Dover MC from BNHQ arrived at the base, he said it was a matter of urgency to mobilise the platoon for an immediate operation of the utmost priority, although there was over an hour before the platoon was due for the pick-up.
I was ordered to make hast to the pick-up location to minimise any delay.
The platoon mustered at the base for immediate operations.
First, the major addressed the platoon and stated he had grave news. This morning No 11 platoon of ‘D’ Company had been ambushed on the Ulu Caledonian Estate at Ulu Yam. The battle lasted for over an hour and a half; and there had been many fatalities with the rest wounded. Medics had already been despatched to the scene with some supporting troops.
But you of No.1 platoon are the nearest available troops to carry-out the follow-up operation to search out the CTs and bring them to battle. He went on to say - The CTs did not have it all their way; they left a number of their own dead.
There was no time to lose; we left for Ulu Yam in a matter of minutes in a convoy of two scout cars, one upfront the other at the rear, with two 3-tonners and the Land Rover between. Only three men were left behind to guard the base with some assistance from the police.
The events of the estate murders were of low priority compared with the magnitude of the West Kent’s ambush, and unfortunately there were no resources available for a follow-up operation.
We arrived at Caledonian estate, the scene of the ambush perhaps an hour later. The drive along the twisting road had frustrated our urgency to get to the scene, but caution prevailed as the opposing forces could outnumber us, and perhaps try their luck again.
The ambushed vehicles, a 3-ton and a 15-cwt truck, with a scout car remained stationary where they had been shot-up - holed and bloodstained.
The casualties had already been evacuated; in fact we had passed an ambulance and truck on our approach to the scene. The Brens on the scout car were still in place, but the support carriage had been hit, causing the guns to slew and swing to one side
Lieutenant Beale’ at once ordered the platoon up the slope above the dirt road and into the CT ambush positions. We found two CT bodies; others had been recovered on the road where they had been killed during the attack. We were ordered to spread out and mop-up, and not to take any chances, and to fire into any suspect hiding place, bush or undergrowth.
The major and the platoon commander waited for the CO to arrive to make an appreciation and issue his orders for the follow-up operations. He was an embittered and worried man, he had lost nearly a tenth** of his operational fighting force in just one battle - dead or wounded.
It was just after the arrival of the CO when firing broke out from the high ground. He immediately ordered his escorting scout car gunner to train his Brens in the direction of the firing, but to hold fire. He shouted. Who’s firing? I replied not knowing it was the CO. We are mopping up! No enemy in sight! *
The initial operation lasted for two days following the tracks and blood trails left by the retreating terrorists; then the rain came to obliterate any further signs. Our Iban trackers had all but refused to assist, they had lost all confidence. Three of their comrades had been killed in the ambush. Stubbornly they believed there had been a bad omen, and their lucky charms had not saved them. The following day our platoon was ordered back to base at Tanjong Malim leaving the depleted ‘D’ Company’ to seek out and avenge their lost comrades.
Other units assisted in the operations, supported by heavy concentration of mortars and air strikes over a wide area. There were a few brief contacts with the enemy resulting in several eliminations, although it was not established if these were the ambushers.
More than forty-five years later an article appeared in a Malayan Veterans News Letter relating to this action, letters were exchanged.
Tony Mansfield’ the CO’s scout car gunner confirmed he clearly remembers the events of that day; his comment was ‘it was a good job the CO’ did not order him to open fire?
An Account of the Battle at Ulu Yam, Selangor.
It was during the morning at about 10.00 hours of 22 October 1951. No.11 platoon ‘D’ Company 1/RWK had completed a three day routine patrol. Transport had arrived at the rendezvous to pick them up for the return to Kuala Kubu Bahru (KKB). As they drove through the Ulu Caledonian rubber estate at Ulu Yam they entered a defile with a high embankment. There were three vehicles, the first a 3-ton truck, the second a 15-cwt and the third a scout car at the rear, when all three vehicles were in the embankment.
A sudden intensive burst of automatic fire ripped through the vehicles, with the 3-tonner taking the initial full blast of the attack. It was thought that the company commander and the platoon sergeant were instantly killed together with several men and the rest were wounded. Seconds later more automatics opened up and other small arms and grenades rained down, a distinctive loud single explosion was heard as it struck the scout cars gun carriage effectively rendered the twin LMG’s useless. The gunner brought out his Owen gun and kept firing from the scout car.
Suddenly eight CTs charged down to try and grab the weapons from the dead soldiers; several of the charging terrorists were killed.
Many of the occupants of the 15-cwt, returned the fire before jumping from the truck into a ditch at the side of the road, it was difficult to fight back firing up the steep embankment. The CTs had chosen their site well. Heavy firing continued with grenades still raining down and exploding in and around the trucks as the troops leapt from the vehicles. The platoon commander was wounded twice.
Some of the surviving troops managed to take cover under the embankment, others were pinned in and around the vehicles, few men were able to return the fire, and those who could were directed by the only remaining NCO, a lance corporal, until he too, was wounded. A senior experienced private (37 years of age, Johnny Pannell a former NCO) took command and rallied the men to fight back; he personally repulsed several enemy attacks with his Sten and grenades although he too had been wounded four times. He undoubtedly saved a complete annihilation of the young men around him. All the time the CTs were yelling obscenities, some in English, at the soldiers below.
Victory was clear-cut or so they thought? But, they had under estimated the sheer guts and determination of the ‘White Horse’ soldiers from Kent. As the battle continued, denying the CTs a chance to capture a haul of weapons, including five LMG’s and an assortment of other small arms. In their attempt they left six of their dead, and when they withdrew they carried several wounded comrades with them. They had charged down the embankment to capture the weapons from the dead and wounded soldiers but were cut down by withering SMG fire. The rest of the ambushers retreated and split into groups.
Towards the end of the battle a planter and four policemen bravely reinforced the surviving West Kent’s. They too sustained casualties.
The casualties of the Royal West Kent’s were, one officer and ten other ranks and three Iban trackers killed, and one officer, eleven other ranks and one civil liaison officer wounded. This was amongst one of the bloodiest battles of the Malayan Emergency.
It was sometime before any Ibans were prepared to join the affray again, they were convinced that, there was some premonition, a warning of a lurking death; the lucky charms of their fallen comrades had failed them.
Private J. L. Pannell was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal
Lance Corporal J. C. Martin was awarded the Military Medal.
The CTs failed to achieve their objective to capture weapons and took heavy casualties in the attempt, but they did learn a lesson.
‘Not to mess with the West Kent’s’.
It was later established that some of the CTs ambushers were involved in the ambush and killing of Sir Henry Gurney the High Commissioner - just a few weeks before.
They failed then to achieve their objective to capture badly needed weapons and they had failed again.
** The battalion was well under strength, the establishment should have been in the order of 600 - 650 all ranks, but in 1951 was probably about 450 strong, ‘D’ Company the lowest in numbers. Base personnel in support reduced front-line operational troops and sickness could run at 10% due to environmental and jungle conditions.
Most companies operated with just two sections to a platoon instead of the normal three. There were new drafts coming-in that needed training, thus giving an operational force in the order of 250 – 300 personnel.
The ambush at Ulu Yam cost the Royal West Kent’s 27 casualties dead and wounded; therefore 10% loss in one action is plausible at that time.
John Burrows2006Foot Note
Tanjong Malim was one of the most notorious areas for terrorism in Malaya at that time. Just a few months later it would reach worldwide headlines when General Sir Gerald Templer’ the High Commissioned who was so outraged by recent ambushes of security forces and murders of civilians. That he imposed hash, but effective measures to counter the communist terrorists. The source.
There were long range fighting patrols, where their fatigues virtually rotted on their bodies, as they spent day in day out in the swamps hunting down the killers. Everyone in Seventh Rangers wanted to very much close up with the enemy and kill them.
There was one patrol led by an Officer Commanding, he was Captain Sabdin Ghani.
They were airlifted for the follow up to the most likely enemy escape route. They jumped off the hovering helicopter into waist deep brackish and a foul smelling swamp. The helicopter left them there. They started looking for signs of the enemy, soon they came across a trail. They had picked up the fleeing trail of the enemy. They pursued the enemy by day until nightfall, where they continued pursuing the enemy aided by the moonlight in the swamp.
They suddenly came upon solid ground, which was covered by "mengkuang" leaves. These large leaves if stepped upon would make a crackling sound. Captain Sabdin Ghani split his men into two groups, one led by himself and the other led by Sergeant Lucas. Sergeant Lucas moved his men into a flanking movement.
In the moonlit night at a distance they came upon two huts connected by a walkway.
Captain Sabdin's group got on their knees and started crawling, clearing the "mengkuang leaves" so as not to give away their positions. Soon his group started climbing up the huts which were on stilts. The enemy became aware of the presence of the Rangers. The moment the enemy became aware Captain Sabdin Ghani opened up with his Sterling sub machine gun. His group too opened up. The short and fierce encounter resulted in two of the enemy being killed.
Another group led by Captain Abdullah of A Company laid a claymore ambush. This was a linear ambush. A group of six of the enemy who were also fleeing walked into the ambush position. One of the enemy realising that they were in an ambush position started stomping his feet into the ground trying to warn the others. The Rangers were not going to let them get away. The person holding the M57 firing device fired the claymore mines.
The mines got four of the enemy, two others managed to flee. When the clearing patrol, led by Lance Corporal Rahman Putih, saw one of the wounded enemy crawling trying to escape, he was badly wounded at the hip. Lance Corporal Rahman Putih was not feeling merciful that morning, thinking of his 15 dead comrades in arms. He finished off the wounded enemy with a burst from his Sterling sub machine gun. A total of 4 dead enemy were recovered by the clearing patrol.
Over 500 former officers and soldiers of the 4th Battalion Royal Ranger Regiment, along with their family members, attended a reunion at the mess hall of Camp Syed Putra on Saturday, March 26. The get-together was for a reason.
The date coincided with the battalion’s 50th Anniversary. It was one of nostalgia, hugs and tears. The Ranger battle cry, “Agi Hidup Agi Ngelaban” filled the hall.
Fifty four, inclusive of five widows and five disabled veterans, received their long over-due meritorious medals, the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM), in recognition of their service to King and Country.
Formed on March 28, 1966 with its nucleus at Camp Syed Putra (Sulva Lines), Ipoh the battalion is presently stationed at Camp Oran, Kangar.
It remained in Ipoh for a good eight years (1966-1974) before being rotated to other bases in the country. Organising chairman, Col (Rtd) Dato’ Syed Othman bin Syed Ali Alsagoff, recalled with much emotion how the football field was used as a helicopter landing point to bring in wounded soldiers and casualties in the early 1970s. It was at the height of the Second Malayan Emergency (1969 to 1989) and the jungles around Tanjong Rambutan and Ulu Kinta were Communist hotbeds.
The audience was moved to tears when Brig-Gen (Rtd) Dato’ Kamarudin bin Mantan, the deputy organising chairman, narrated how Capt Chandran a/l Velayuthan and his men successfully dislodged a band of Communist Terrorists operating in the Ulu Kinta forest in 1971. Chandran and his men charged up the enemy position. He was shot twice in the head. In spite of being mortally wounded he kept firing at the enemy until his last breath. Cpl Rahman bin Jaafar, Rjr Abang Bolhi and Rjr Bajau anak Ladi were with Chandran during that fateful day on June 13, 1971.
Ipoh Echo spoke to two of the pioneering members of the battalion and this was what transpired.
Cpl Abdul Malek bin Puteh, 57, from Kuala Selangor began his service in 1979 and served the battalion for 15 years. “I still remember the many operations we did in Sarawak, especially in areas such as Bau, Biawak, Lundu and Sri Aman,” he recalled.Lt-Col Yap Chok Sang (Rtd) joined the army in 1966 and was commissioned into the Rangers in 1968 as a subaltern. “It’s so nostalgic, especially when I had a look at the barracks.
Way then I was a young officer and my formative years spent with the battalion were my most memorable,” he remarked.
Johor-born Yap came all the way from Melbourne, Australia, where he now lives, to attend the gathering. His advice for all serving soldiers, “Carry on soldiering like we used to.”
Present at the ceremony were Dato’ Aminuddin bin Md Hanafiah, state assemblyman for Hulu Kinta who represented Dato’ Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, Minister of Finance II, Maj-Gen Dato’ Fadzil bin Mokhtar, General Officer Commanding 2nd Infantry Division, Brig-Gen Mas’od bin Hj Muhammad, Commander 2nd Malaysian Infantry Brigade and Lt-Col Mohd Nazri Madjan bin Abdul Rahman Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion Royal Ranger Regiment.
Thanks to Adam John Makam : In the pitch darkness of Mogadishu’s tight maze of streets on the night of 3rd October 1993 Malaysian soldiers fired 300,000 rounds of ammunition in six hours, the largest amount ever fired by the Malaysian Armed Forces in a single action.
Even in the darkness the 32 Malaysian armoured personnel carriers (APCs) must have made easy targets as they inched their way forwards under intense fire because they were a gleaming white with the only distraction from their obviousness being the “U.N.” painted on their sides and the Malaysian flag, which looks strikingly like the American flag and so offered no immunity from the constant fire from thousands of Somali militiamen.
The Malaysian Condor APCs employed on this deadly night are from Germany and can carry 10 soldiers, but that’s 10 Malaysian soldiers. On that night in Mogadishu they were barely able to carry 8 US soldiers. The APCs were already 20 years old but they were mechanically reliable and armed with a 20mm cannon in a roof turret and a further machine gun behind. The rear machine gunner was completely exposed to enemy fire whenever he popped out of his hatch to take aim at a target located by his commander.
Otherwise the APC was impervious to the AK47 bullets but, as they were to discover, the APCs were horribly vulnerable to rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) being fired at point-blank range. When the four-man crew of each of the APCs woke up that morning to a mee goreng breakfast they could not have had any idea that their day would culminate in such mayhem or that one of their number would be dead with a further eight wounded and that four of their APCs would become burning wrecks.
The Malaysian soldiers were in Somalia as part of a United Nations peace-keeping mission of nearly 30,000 troops from 36 nations, with the America having the largest contingent although they were somewhat removed from UN command. Malaysian soldiers have been sent on almost all the UN peace-keeping missions since their first mission to the Congo in 1960 and have since been deployed to Bosnia, Lebanon and the Iran/Iraq border to name but a few. MALBATT, as the Malaysian contingents are called, are a very popular addition to UN peace keeping missions because the Malaysian commanders have a reputation for readily agreeing to any task they are given.
The UN mission in Somalia in 1993 was meant to deliver food to the Somali people on the brink of a catastrophic famine but with food deliveries being hijacked by Somali warlords (most notably, general Aidid) and after 28 Pakistani soldiers had been ambushed and killed the leaders of the massive American deployment decided to expand the mission by seeking out and capturing the heads of the Somali militias. Because the militiamen were hidden in the utterly dysfunctional city of Mogadishu, which most UN soldiers never ventured into, the capture or killing of militia leaders inevitably led to civilian deaths, which in turn resulted a surge of hatred for the UN troops.
Operation Gothic Serpent was supposed to be all over in half an hour (why do all US military operations sound like songs by the Scorpions?). At noon, 160 US Army Rangers and Delta Force troops were ferried from their base outside Mogadishu and into the Bakara district at the very heart of the city on board a fleet of state-of-the-art Blackhawk helicopters in order to capture two of general Aidid’s senior lieutenants. A further US force was on the ground, rushing into the city in Humvees for the extraction.
One American soldier died almost immediately as he descended from a hovering helicopter onto the target building and yet despite the fatality the mission could have been considered a success because the two senior militiamen were captured. Then everything unraveled in an instant. Two helicopters were shot out of the sky and crashed onto the streets of Mogadishu and the wrecks became rallying beacons for anybody with an AK47 or an RPG, and the Bakara marketplace was awash with AK47s and RPGs.
The US Special Forces, now on the ground and on their way out of the city, immediately turned back to rescue the crews of the helicopters but the “soft skinned” Humvees offered zero protection against AK47s, let alone RPGs and truck mounted anti aircraft guns. Soon nearly 100 US soldiers were cut-off and completely surrounded. Escape on foot was impossible, extraction by helicopters was impossible. Their only hope was a relief force of hard-skinned vehicles: tanks and APCs. Unfortunately the US military did not have any APCs in Somalia, but the Malaysians did.
The battle that ensued is well told in Ridley Scott’s 2001 movie Black Hawk Down but the movie does not cover the role played by MALBATT, apart from a solitary line shouted by the US commander to “Call the May-lays!” Without the crews of the 32 Malaysian APCs the annihilation of the trapped 100 US soldiers was virtually certain. The big-budget Black Hawk Down made famous this deadly day-long battle on the streets of Mogadishu, and yet few Malaysians know about the Malaysian military’s essential contribution to the rescue mission.
A young Malaysian documentary filmmaker plans to change that very soon.
Ahmad Yazid and his production company Rack Focus Films have been steadily building a reputation with an impressive roll call of documentaries for the Discovery and Crime and Investigation channels. His films include the Al Maunah - The Malaysian Arms Heist (the theft in 2000 of army weaponry by a Malaysian militant group and the subsequent siege), Mas Selamat – The Fugitive Terrorist (the escape from a Singaporean jail and the year-long manhunt of an alleged terrorist), and most recently a documentary about the behind-the-scenes negotiations in the lead-up to Merdeka in 1957.
For the last four years Ahmad Yazid has been painstakingly researching the story of that night in 1993 and interviewing the Malaysian and US servicemen for his feature length documentary to be released in 2016, The Battle of Bakara. People at the Ministry of Defence (MinDef) had told him about Bakara when he was filming the Al Maunah story and he was intrigued but he couldn’t find a story-telling angle until he was introduced to the retired Major General Dato’ Rozi Baharom, who had been the Malaysian commander in Somalia and a Lieutenant Colonel at the time.
In this quiet spoken yet determined man Ahmad Yazid knew he had found his central voice. MinDef is not in the habit of advertising its stories and yet they gave rare permission for Ahmad Yazid to interview the servicemen involved, and the US Pentagon readily agreed. Now Ahmad Yazid has conducted 24hrs worth of interviews in both Malaysia and the US. Throughout his journey of discovery he has always been drawn to the central story of how two very different people from such different cultural and institutional backgrounds could somehow succeed when suddenly thrown together.
As Mark Hollis of the US 10th Mountain Division told him: “I didn’t speak their language and they didn’t speak English so it was…it was…it was interesting.”When conducting his interviews Ahmad Yazid found there was a marked difference between the way the Americans and Malaysians told their stories. The Americans had vivid recollections of that night, expressed certainty about the order of events and were happy to tell of their own personal contributions. Meanwhile, the Malaysians were somewhat harder to draw out because they generally considered their contributions as being simply a task that had to be performed.
Ahmad Yazid characterizes the reserved Malaysians as, “Yeah, this is what we did but nothing-lah, it’s OK” whereas the Americans were, “This is what I did.” With their vivid and certain storytelling it is perhaps inevitable that the American version of the battle has dominated, and that until Ahmad Yazid found the story the Malaysian version has not even been told. Black Hawk Down does not credit the Malaysian contribution in the rescue at all and shows the APCs as being driven by Pakistani soldiers but all the US servicemen Ahmad Yazid interviewed remembered the Malaysian contribution. Tom DiTomasso was one of the US Rangers trapped in the city that night:
“We had to be rescued by ground forces or not at all. The only way was with APCs. The only people that had them were the Malaysians, and who were willing to come into the battle. We really do owe them a debt of gratitude. I'll never forget them."
By midday two Black Hawk helicopters had been shot down, nearly 100 US Special Forces troops were trapped in the middle of Mogadishu and the Americans did not have any APCs or tanks in Somalia. Pakistan had tanks and Malaysia had APCs and at 4pm the Americans asked for assistance. Up till that time the Malaysian missions had been to shepherd food convoys and although they had been fired upon they did not expect to be involved in any heavy fighting.
Lt. Col. Rozi received the call from the Americans at around 4pm and at first they asked for the loan of the Malaysian APCs and not the crews. The Americans were determined to drive the APCs themselves. Lt. Col. Rozi asked if any American soldiers knew how to drive the fairly old Condor APC with its eight gears? No, so could they loan the APCs and just the drivers? But the drivers didn’t speak English and did the Americans speak Malay?
Er, no. If the Americans wanted the APCs then they would have to take the 4-man crews as well. The Americans agreed. The issue of refusing the request altogether or calling Kuala Lumpur first never seems to have arisen. This was simply a task that had to be performed.
16 Malaysian APCs arrived at the UN’s operations base at 6pm where they were greeted by the sight of dozens of helicopters, many of which had been badly shot-up and had crashed landed. The soldiers were all fully expecting to drive straight into Mogadishu but instead there followed an unexpected lull.
For five nerve-wracking hours there was nothing to do but be warily sized-up by the Americans. Ahmad Yazid interviewed Jeff Struecker, a US Ranger who was about to join the rescue mission and is now a church pastor. He explained that he and all the Americans had always looked down on the Malaysians and now he wondered if he could trust them with his life and with the lives of his trapped comrades. When the Malaysian soldiers returned after disappearing for fifteen minutes he asked where they had been. The Malaysians had been praying.
It was at then that this devout Christian decided that, yes, he could trust these men. Would his intuition be proved correct during the long night that followed?
At 9pm there was some movement with the arrival of the remaining 16 Malaysian APCs that had been away on patrol, two Pakistan T48 tanks and several more US helicopters. Col. Larry Casper, the US Army Aviation Commander laid out a map on the bonnet of a Humvee. A route into Mogadishu had been found and it would have to be circuitous because all the direct routes had been barricaded. The troops would move out to a rallying point at National Street and then split into two columns to head for the two separate Black Hawk crash sites. Pakistan tanks would lead the columns with the APCs behind carrying 100 soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and US Rangers.
Col. Larry Casper talked to this multi-national force just before the column’s departure: “Motors are running. You have flashlights and you are trying to figure out who you are talking to. We are trying to pull together an operation. You don't pull an operation like that. You rehearse. For weeks! In the meantime about 5 kilometers away you can hear explosions. But I look at the Malaysians and the Pakistanis. I had a flashlight with me and I look at them and I knew they had some fear. They knew that they were going to take some casualties. But I look them in the eyes and there was determination. They knew they had to do it. Now here's the problem.
Language. I had them nodding yes, yes but I knew they were thinking, ‘what the hell was he saying?’" The language barrier simply added to the confusion of an ad hoc and unrehearsed military operation. Lieutenant Khairul, platoon commander of 4 APCs: "My OC [Officer-in-Command] said that the mission is to drive into the city and pick up the Americans. I ask him where? What is the position? My OC said he doesn't know. Just drive. The Americans kind of gave us a brief on the location but they didn't tell us exactly where it is. They said just drive to National Street and at a junction there, there will be someone who is going to direct us towards the location."
The convoy 2kms long column left the base at 11pm.
Immediately upon arriving at the rallying-point, there was more confusion. The Pakistan tanks refused to go any further because they did not have night-vision equipment. Neither did the Malaysians but according to Major General Rozi Baharom, MALBATT never says no. They carried on with the mission and now they had to lead the two columns. The APCs entered the city. There was no street lighting, their headlights were switched off and overhead hovered was an armada of 26 helicopters as they crawled along the unknown streets at 5kmh.
The helicopters above and the US soldiers on the ground were able to communicate with each other and direct fire and Lt. Col Rozi Baharom was at base camp directing the APCs. Lieutenant Juraimy (translated from Malay): “Every now and again we heard prap! brum! The sounds of gunshots increased whenever we tried to move forward—but I couldn’t tell from which direction. The sound of gunshots was just everywhere.” And then more confusion. The two lead APCs in one column had disappeared, having taken a wrong turn. Lieutenant Juraimy:
“I received orders to conduct a search and rescue for two lost ‘bravo’ vehicles. I didn’t know who was lost and why he was even in my area, but orders were orders, so I sent three vehicles to search for lost personnel. We searched and searched and searched. Suddenly, a shot rang out. My left side had been hit.” Two APCs were now on their own in a hostile city. For more about the lost platoon check out Ahmad Yazid’s teaser trailer on Youtube. Search for “Battle of Bakara.”
There were two Black Hawk crash sites, one north and one south. All the besieged US soldiers were in the north while in the south it was just a wreck site. Both locations were equally remote and the routes towards them were equally dangerous.
Along the way there were several crossroads where APCs and US soldiers had to be deposited so that an exit route would be secured for the return journey. This meant that a dwindling number of APCs were proceeding forwards, making them more vulnerable. Already 2 APCs had been lost, presumed dead, and another had been knocked out. For Lt. Col. Rozi Baharom directing operations was a difficult task requiring strict radio discipline. There could be no pointless chatter so when one of his men came on the radio and said he could see angels he was told to get off the airwaves immediately.
It was only later that Lt. Col. Rozi Baharom discovered that these were the dying words of Pt. Mat Aznan Awang, the driver of an APC. His driving cabin had taken a direct hit from an RPG. Fearing the wholesale loss of his command Lt. Col. Rozi Baharom briefly considered pulling out the APCs but his men wanted to continue. His company commanders felt they could not leave because otherwise the Americans would be killed. One gets the impression that the Malaysian military places great faith in the initiative of the man-on-the-spot.
The southern column approached the crash site at 1am and found nothing but the wreckage of a helicopter and three dead Americans. The helicopter pilot had been taken prisoner and so the column made it slow way back. The northern column of by now only 10 APCs reached its target much later. Mike Goodale, one of the trapped US Rangers: "Early in the morning, we could hear the MALBATT convoy coming up to our location and the gunfire got louder and louder. RPGs increased as the convoy approached.
It was a welcome sound, but it was also very scary... I first saw the APCs around 2:30am. Their turret gunners were going through ammo [laughs], which was a good thing. All the fire power they brought was very impressive and we were all glad to have it."
Up to fifteen soldiers crammed into the APCs but there simply was not enough room for all of them. Dead bodies were placed inside and on top of the APCs and the remaining US soldiers had to run alongside for the entire return journey to the exit point, which they reached at 4am.
Even then the journey was not over as the APCs crawled along an exposed highway to ultimate safety. But by this point, after over 12 hours of fighting, the militiamen were tiring and probably reeling from their own losses. At 7am the battle was over. The dead included 18 US soldiers, one Pakistani, one Malaysian and an unknown number of Somalis. The UN estimate is 800 Somalis killed while the Americans estimated 4000.
But it was over. Or was it? Lieutenant Khairul: "I couldn't sleep for many nights after the incident. I couldn't stop imagining the American bodies that were in my vehicle. There was one that had an exploded head.
There was another one that had its eyes protruding. I just couldn't sleep thinking about it that night." Many years later in North Carolina, Ahmad Yazid interviewed Tom DiMassio, one of the rescued US Rangers. Ahmad Yazid was the first Malaysian Tom DiMassio had met since the battle and as the retired US Ranger greeted the Malaysian documentary filmmaker he was holding a small Malaysian flag that he had swapped with a Malaysian soldier after the battle. He told Ahmad Yazid that he knew he was going to die that night but that when he saw the white MALBATT APCs he suddenly believed he might live and that he owed his life to those Malaysians.
After Mogadishu he carried the flag in his pocket as a good luck charm through his tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and he truly believed that it was the flag that got him through unscathed.
We may rarely agree with US foreign policy or with the methods of its military but on that night in 1993 two very different peoples were suddenly thrown together to conduct a rescue mission in the darkness of an unknown city and under constant fire. And yet they managed to work together and win a successful conclusion to a mission that could so easily have ended in complete slaughter.
The soldiers of MALBATT rose to the occasion on that night even if they would later remember their actions as, “Yeah, this is what we did but nothing-lah, it’s OK.” Black Hawk Down brought the battle to the world’s attention but the absolutely essential Malaysian contribution remains virtually unknown, even in Malaysia. But that will all change in 2016 when Ahmad Yazid releases his feature length documentary, The Battle of Bakara.
Words by Kam Raslan. Art direction by Rebecca Chew. This feature originally appears in the 2015 August Freedom Issue.* Note- Amended Belgium to German in relation to the make of the Infantry Fighting Vehicles named Condors. One more additional fact, the Pakistani tanks that were leading turned tail and fled, the moment they started receiving fire. The Malaysians continued, even under heavy fire. The author of this was being too kind to the Pakistanis.