Valour and Courage: Firefight in Elizabethville, Congo – Lt Lee Ah Pow PGB of C Squadron, 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment
Death or Glory
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“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God


Which must always come to pass

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He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?


Have you always turned the other cheek?


To My Church have you been true?"


"No, Lord, I guess I ain't


Because those of us who carry guns


Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around


Except to calm their fears.


If you've a place for me here,


Lord, It needn't be so grand,


I never expected or had too much,


But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Firefight in Elizabethville, Congo – Lt Lee Ah Pow PGB of C Squadron, 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment
Sunday, April 10, 2011
C Squadron of the 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment was chosen the second time to be part of the Malayan Special Force (MSF). It was chosen to be on a peace keeping mission in the Congo under the auspices of the United Nations. This was in June 1962. The MSF was commanded by Brigadier Mohammed Noor bin Hajji Tamin (927). The Squadron Leader was Major Asna bin Mohamed Sutan (200004). The Second in Command was Captain J.C.Rodrigues, the Troop Leaders being Lt Tan Siew Soo of No.1 Troop, Lt Tee Bua Bian of No. 2 Troop, Lt Lee Ah Pow of No.3 Troop and 2Lt Raja Hj. Ahmad of the Rifle Troop.

C Squadron had 14 Ferret Scout cars and 101 men; the accompanying Infantry Battalion was the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Malay Regiment (2RMR) which was commanded by Lt Col I.W. Lloyd H. Jones MC (262925). They embarked to the Congo from Port Swettenham, now known as Port Klang with the SS Blatchford, to the port of Mombasa in Kenya. There, C Squadron separated from 2nd Royal Malay Regiment and flown directly to Elizabethville to act as an Independent Squadron. 


<The Squadron was placed under the command of the Indian Independent Brigade Group, which was commanded by Brigadier R.S. Noronha MC (Military Cross). Other units deployed to Elizabethville were the Irish Battalion, Tunisian Battalion, Ethiopian Battalion, 2nd/5th Gurkhas, a Battalion of the Madras Regiment, a Battalion of the Rajputana Brigade which comprised of 63rd Cavalry Squadron and the 4.2 inch Heavy Mortar Company, in direct support was the Indian Airforce from Kamina. C Squadron took over duties from A Squadron of the 1st Reconnaissance Regiment, which was commanded by Major Amiruddin Al Bakri. 

Elizabethville then, was the largest town in Congo. It is located in highlands surrounded by jungle. The temperatures were low and especially very cold at night. This was something not expected as every one of the Malayans expected Africa to be hot. . Elizabethville was connected to other towns by air only. To ensure that these airways were opened all the time, the UN Forces were tasked to keep the Air Port secure. The town was run in an efficient manner by the former colonial masters, the Belgians. Some destruction of basic amenities caused by two previous wars was noticeable, but they were still operable. 

War broke out in Elizabethville, due to the fact that the ruler of Katanga, President M.Tshome refused to take orders from the Central Government in Leopoldville. The situation in Elizabethville was very tense. The UN laid two layers of defense around the town. 

All entry points into Elizabethville were guarded by Military checkpoints; this was to ensure no one was carrying in weapons. Apart from manning checkpoints they went out on reconnaissance and fighting patrols, especially into areas considered as “No Man’s Land”. This was done to ensure that the area was clear of rebels and to dominate the ground. Sometimes they came across the Katangese soldiers; these instances just raised the tensions. C Squadron’s troops frequently went on patrols supporting the Infantry Troops of the various nations involved in the peace keeping effort. Sometimes they went on independent patrols when the situation arose due to uncertainty in some areas. 

The Officers frequently attended “Officers day” which were study periods organized by the troops of various nations to study one another’s operational procedures to enhance inter operability amongst them. The Troop’s of C Squadron, 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment were frequently rotated with other troops and various places, their duration per rotation was approximately about a month. The Troops were frequently rotated so as to prevent the soldiers from becoming bored or complacent in one area, due to familiarity. This way they stayed alert. No.3 Troop under the command of Lieutenant Lee Ah Pow was attached to 2nd/5th Gurkhas which was guarding the Airport in Elizabethville. On the 12th September 1962 Lt Lee Ah Pow was ordered to escort a section of the Gurkhas on a reconnaissance mission to the north of the Airport. The area was just taken over by the Gurkhas from the Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army. That area was about 5 miles away from the Airport. 

The patrol comprised of 4 Ferret Scout cars. Lt Lee himself was in the leading scout car. Cpl M. Yusof was in charge of the second scout car, the 3rd scout car was commanded by Sgt Abdul Razak and the 4th Scout car was commanded by Cpl Edward Skading. The 4 drivers involved were Trooper Lye Tuck Joo, Trooper Zainal Abidin, Trooper Sidin and Trooper M.K.Lam. They left the Airport in the morning at around 8 am escorting the Gurkhas, whose commander was Major Gupta. All the Gurkhas were mounted in two Land Rovers for this combined patrol. The Land Rovers were positioned between two scout cars in front and two more behind. They were sandwiched by the scout cars. The terrain they patrolled was flat covered by shrub and tall grass. After conducting the patrol for around 3 hours they did not find any traces of the Enemy. As they were returning Lt Lee entered a lane which led to a junction called “Martini Junction”. 

After going into the lane for about a kilometer he saw 30-40 Katangese soldiers, who tried to stop them by jeering and shouting at them. At first he was not at all worried ordering them to withdraw. They did not withdraw; in fact they surrounded the patrol of 6 vehicles. The vehicles were too close and bunched up within this hostile Katangese emplacement. The Katangese soldiers were jeering and yelling at them. After a little while Cpl Edward Skading who was in the rear reported to Lt Lee that his Ferret Scout car was surrounded, he turned around to take a look, it was true. The Gurkha, Major Gupta, who surrounded too was yelling at Lieutenant Lee Ah Pow, “Do something Lieutenant! Lieutenant do something!” This Lt Lee heard distinctly over the Katangese voices. All the Gurkha soldiers had leapt off the Land Rovers and were lying in the prone position with their rifle pointing towards the Katangese. 

Lt Lee ordered the Katangese to disperse, reacting to these orders from Lt Lee, the Katangese responded by opening fire in his direction. The sound of the gunfire deafening his left year temporarily. He ducked into the turret and contacted HQ, about the problem facing him. Simultaneously he relayed orders to all the Ferret Scout cars under his command to open fire with the Browning machine gun which was mounted in the turret, if the Katangese attacked them. He further gave instructions that if the Katangese were to clamber up his vehicle, they were to fire at his vehicle and to be not bothered about his safety. That this instruction be applied to all vehicles and further to conserve ammo, not to fire blindly. The Katangese continued firing at them. As all the vehicles were too close he instructed them to spread out, this was to avoid being burnt, just in case any one vehicle caught fire due to a grenade being lobbed at them. The Katangese retreated a short distance when they saw the vehicles move out and jockey into firing positions. Before that move, they were barley 20 yards from the Katangese. To get out of this tight situation they fired a short burst of automatic fire from the Browning’s at the Katangese who were firing at them. They saw the Katangese soldiers running helter skelter from their trenches. Seeing that the Katangese were fleeing he gave the orders to cease fire. 

Lt Lee was cool and controlled, he was very professional and so were his men as peacekeepers. His men obeyed him to the letter, to move when told, fire when told and cease fire when told to do so, under tremendous pressure and threat to their lives. The Katangese soldiers who fled were led by a white man, believed to be a mercenary. Without wasting time they conducted a search of the area. In the abandoned trenches they found a lot of firearms and ammo that were left by the Katangese in their haste to flee from the Malayans. They, the patrol of Malayans and Gurkhas had actually by fluke had ended up in the center of a Katangese defensive position. The Katangese were too surprised and shocked. The Katangese machine gun which they found abandoned was actually aimed directly at their patrol. They were puzzled, why the Katangese had not opened up on them when they had the whole patrol in their sights. Some Katangese rocket launchers too were recovered. Two dead Katangese soldiers were recovered, which were handed over to the UN HQ. Major Gupta thanked Lieutenant Lee profusely and promised Lee that the matter would be reported to the UN HQ. After that Lieutenant Lee reported the incident to 2nd Royal Malay HQ and then to his Squadron. 

When Major Asna bin Mohd Sutan heard the initial communications between Lt Lee and the rest of his Troop, on radio, he himself got “saddled” onto his command Scout car, raced with a Troop accompanying him to assist Lt Lee. When he arrived at the Airport he saw the Indian Commander Brigadier Noronha already there. Major Asna dismounted to pay his respects to him. The Brigadier queried him on the reason for him coming to the location, to which Major Asna said he was there to assist his Troop that was in a firefight. He stopped Asna from going any further; he further ticked off Major Asna by saying that, this was not a war, that they were not there to fight a war. He returned to base and was anxious about Lt Lee and his Troop. Lt Lee arrived an hour later with his 4 vehicles. Major Asna then went to UN HQ, where he was further ticked off, that the UN Peacekeepers were not supposed to project their firepower and act aggressively. 

Anyway Brigadier Noronha acknowledged that the Katangese lost large amounts of equipment due to the actions of Lt Lee. The Brigadier further told Major Asna, that he as the Commander of UN Forces in that area would accept all responsibility in relation to the firefight and advised Major Asna to go back and not spread the news of the firefight around. The following day all men under the Command of The Indian Brigade were not allowed to go out. This was because President Tshombe used the two dead Katangese killed by Malayan Forces to rile against the UN. The killing was exploited for his political mileage. All papers sympathetic to him carried stories of the firefight calling it a killing by the UN Peacekeeping Force. The newspapers carried stories saying that the Katangese soldiers only wanted peace. After that incident, the hatred against UN Forces rose, especially against Malayan Troops, this hatred was strong amongst the supporters of President Tshombe. In Elizabethville the Congolese supported the actions of the Malayan Forces. 

Major Asna as instructed, by Brigadier Noronha kept quiet about the incident, after a few days he received a message congratulating and thanking him for rescuing the Gurkhas on the 12 September 1962. The message especially emphasized the exemplary role played by Lt Lee and his Troop. Major Asna was further cited to recommend Lt Lee for a valor award. This acknowledgement was rewarding as before this, MSF failed in protecting the 13 Italian Airmen killed in Kindu. After this incident in Elizabethville, all the UN Forces started looking upon the MSF with respect. Two weeks after the firefight a group of Gurkhas who were unaccompanied by the MSF ran into a “jumping minefield” planted by the Katangese. Two Gurkhas were killed and four of them were wounded. 

During the funeral for the two killed Gurkhas, C Squadron was honored by being given a place of honor closest to the cremation. Major Asna was placed last, which by itself was an honor to place a wreath for the two dead Gurkha soldiers. It was considered an honor according to Gurkha traditions, just before the setting of fire to the bodies. 

After a few months had elapsed during a farewell for Brigadier Noronha, the Brigadier suddenly approached Lt Lee Ah Pow and asked him, “What has happened to the award for you?” To which Lt Lee replied that he did not know, as he had given the Brigadier’s letter of commendation to his OC, Major Asna, which was forwarded to the Sector Commander. To which Brigadier Noronha responded by saying, “Lieutenant Lee, if they do not respect my rank they should at least respect my white hair. I have served 36 years in the Indian army. Tomorrow come to my office, I will give you a letter, give it to your Commander”. Lt Lee did as he was told. The letter to be handed over to Lt Lee’s superiors written by Brigadier Noronha is as below: 

From: Brigadier R.S. Noronha MC
Command HQ: Indian Independent Brigade Group
Elizabethville
Congo

LIEUT. LEE AH POW, who commanded a troop of Scout Cars from C Squadron
2nd Recce MSF in support of 2nd/5th GURKHA RIFLES patrol of 12 men on the
12th September 1962 played an admirable part and showed exemplary courage
when the patrol was surrounded by about 100 armed KATANGESE
GENDARMERIE on MARTINI TRACK JUNCTION, ELIZABETHVILLE.
With a high degree of restraint and presence of mind LIEUT. LEE AH POW
deployed his troop in a position of all round defense to take on the Enemy should
they open fire, and thus provided a screen around 2nd/5th GURKHA RIFLES.
With undaunted courage and high quality of leadership he controlled his men
from opening fire until the enemy opened fire first on the patrol. Only then under
a most difficult situation knowing of the UN PEACEFUL AIM, he ordered his
troops to open fire with short bursts, in which they did and killing only two
Gendarmes and wounding one. The Enemy then dispersed leaving behind boxes
of ammunition, side arms, greatcoats and equipment. For gallantry and the
correct execution of orders and a high degree of discipline displayed in the face of
the enemy LIEUT.LEE AH POW has set a glowing example of leadership against
overwhelming odds in the eyes of the enemy and the GURKHA RIFLE
PATROL.


XXXXXX
Signature
Brigadier R.S. Noronha MC
Command HQ: Indian Independent Brigade Group

Major Asna bin Sutan recommended that Lt Lee Ah Pow be bestowed with the “Pingat Gagah Berani”. The King at that time, Tuanku Syed Putra ibni Almarhum Syed Hassan Jamalullail presented the award to Lt Lee Ah Pow on the 2nd June 1964.

Lt Lee Ah Pow was born on the 9th October 1937 in Rompin, Negri Sembilan. He was the second child in a family of 6 siblings. His father Lee Seng was a contractor in a rubber estate who was married to Mesah bte Ahmad. He got his early education at the Tsung Hwa Primary School, in Bahau for 4 years and then transferred to the Anglo Chinese School in Seremban. On his own steam he joined the Boy’s Wing of the Federation Military College, in Port Dickson. He completed his education there until he became an Officer from there. His father strongly opposed his choice of career in the Army, as his father still held strongly onto old Chinese beliefs that ‘good sons do not join the army’. The factors that made him skeptical to his father’s beliefs was the situation then, the Emergency. The other strong factor was that, quite a number of his relatives were killed by the Communist Terrorists.

For two years after he joined the army his father did not speak to him. His estrangement with his father ended one Chinese New Year when he knocked on the door of his father’s house at night. Lee Ah Pow was a Regular Cadet of the 1st Intake of the FMC. He was commissioned in 1957. Even though he was commissioned in the Federation Armored Car Regiment, he was attached to 1st Royal Malay Regiment, as a Platoon Commander on operations in Gurun, Kedah. After his return from Congo he was promoted to Captain and was appointed the second in Command of B Squadron, 2nd Recce. He was involved in the fight against the Indonesians during Confrontation in Tawau, Sabah. Throughout his career he never served in any other unit apart from 2nd Recce and in Mindef.

Soon he was a very young Major decorated with a “Pingat Gagah Berani”, he was bitterly disappointed when his early orders to become the Second in Command of 2nd Recce Regiment was cancelled and another to become the Camp Commandant of 4 Brigade, too was cancelled. The cancellation was from high up as he had disobeyed orders to give preferential treatment to a particular unit*. The second posting was probably with a bad motive from the higher ups. He refused to be intimidated. With that he decided to change his Corps to the Military Police or to leave the service. In March 1971 he was absorbed into the Military Police.

While he was an Officer in the Military Police, a senior Officer was advised to leave for misappropriation of funds, scandal of supplying kangaroo meat to soldiers was discovered, resolved the end of hostilities between the youths of Kuching and the army. All these, through the efforts of Major Lee Ah Pow, who was then Deputy Provost Marshall of the 1st Infantry Division. As his chances of getting promoted to a Lieutenant Colonel grew slimmer even after numerous recommendations by the Provost Marshall, that promotion became elusive. To avoid this pressure of not going up the ladder in promotions, he decided with a heavy heart to leave the service after 20 years of dedicated and loyal service, which was done hastily.

After he left the service he and his wife Alice Tan and his 5 children had the misfortune of losing their home, which Major Lee had bought. He could not fulfill the conditions imposed by the Military Co-operative, where all the balance of the loan should be paid up before leaving the service. He left without awards or benefits as awarded to Officers who leave the service early. That was a dark spot and one of the worst moments in his life and his family’s when they were deprived of their house. He being a man of strong character and a resourceful personality, rebuilt his life and that of his family's.

*No known details.

Reference : Pahlawan, Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, Penerima S.P. dan P.G.B. Jilid 1, Syed
Othman Syed Omar, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kementerian Pendidikan
Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1993
posted by D.Swami Gwekanandam @ 5:34 AM  
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