Tribute to a respected commanding officer By Adrian David - June 4, 2022 @ 5:59pm
Sunday, June 05, 2022
Col Harchand Singh during his service days
New Straits Times : PORT DICKSON: The late Col (Rtd) Harchand Singh had the distinction of having commanded four Royal Ranger Regiment battalions. Till today, he still holds that record of helming the 4th, 2nd, 5th and 9th battalions.
Harchand, who turned 92 on April 7, died following an illness at his
Port Dickson home on May 24 and his remains were cremated at the
Sendayan Fairy Park, the next day.
At his funeral, Harchand's former student, Major-Gen (Rtd) Datuk Toh
Choon Siang had high praises for his master, someone he has known for 45
Harchand left a lasting impression
among his charges, whom he had often described as his 'precious jewels'
who fought alongside him in many battles against communist insurgents,
the Confrontation (with Indonesia) and the two Emergencies.
"I had known him since the day I joined the Army way back in January
1977, when my Short-Service Commission Intake 31 batch mates and I
reported for training at the Pre-Officers Cadet Training Unit (Pre-OCTU)
at Sebatang Karah camp in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan.
"Harchand was the facility's commandant (as a lieutenant-colonel),"
said Toh, in his eulogy at Harchand's funeral in Port Dickson, recently.
Present to pay their last respects were Harchand's widow Eva Guest
and son Zoraveer Singh, Army Senior Officers Institute commandant
Brig-Gen Inderjit Singh and his deputy Col Suthan Venkatachalam, Army
Training and Doctrine chief of staff Col Jagjit Singh and its Colonel
Doctrine Col Norulhisham Mohd Shuib, Army Infantry Directorate deputy
director Col Wan Edenin Wan Mahsin, Negri Sembilan Veterans Association
secretary-general Major (Rtd) Sahi Kassim and Harchand's close buddy
Major (Rtd) A. R. Ramachandran.
Also there were Toh's batch mates Lt Col (Rtd) Lee Chee Kiat, Capt
(Rtd) Loo Choon Chew, Capt (Rtd) Chong Phi Lip and Capt (Rtd) Steven
Liew Hon Seng.
They gathered around Harchand's coffin to accord him a final salute
as the 'Last Post' was played, before Toh handed over the national flag
symbolically to Zoraveer.
Toh, who retired as the Sibu, Sarawak-based Army First Division
commander in 2019, said Harchand's appointment to command four Ranger
battalions was something anyone could pride himself of.
Reminiscing his earlier service days, Toh said between 1983 and 1985,
he had the honour of serving under Harchand again as an instructor at
the Army Combat Training Centre (Pulada) in Ulu Tiram, Johor.
"A true officer and gentleman, Harchand was a great commander,
leader, father and elder brother to all of us in the Armed Forces.
"He sacrificed a good 33 years of his youth serving the Army with
distinction," said Toh, adding that Harchand was among the first group
of multiracial officers who joined the Pre-OCTU of the Federation
Military College in 1952.
"Harchand was among the early ones selected for cadet training, after
the famous 'Templer's 12' (12 young men hand-picked by British High
Commissioner, Field Marshal Tun Sir Gerald Templer to form the nucleus
of Army officers).
"After six months at Pre-OCTU, Harchand's group of 36 potential
officers were initially sent to Eaton Hall, England for a six-month
"He was among 24 who proceeded to the Royal Military Academy
Sandhurst, England for another six months before being commissioned as a
second-lieutenant in 1955 into the 1st Battalion Federation Regiment,"
Harchand was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1968 and first
commanded the 4th battalion (based in Ipoh, Perak), then the 2nd (Kota
Kinabalu, Sabah) a year later, 5th (Port Dickson) in 1972 and 9th
(Penang) in 1978.
He was promoted to colonel in 1981 as Pulada commandant and retired in 1985.
"Harchand lived a long and colourful life and we are going to miss him dearly.
"Though we are sad that he has to leave us but we should be happy at
the same time, because he need not have to endure anymore pain due to
his recent illness.
"On behalf of all his comrades, I would like to thank Eva for having taken such good care of him all these years.
"He would not have enjoyed the good life he had, without you," Toh said.
He thanked the church for organising the wake and the funeral service.
Toh commended the 8th Battalion Royal Rangers Regiment (Parachute),
led by commanding officer Lt Col Zahari Affandi Mat Noor, for arranging
the pall bearers to ceremoniously send off the Malaysian flag-draped
coffin of Harchand's cortege.
"Lastly, on behalf of Eva, Harchand's friends, relatives and former
comrades in arms, I will like to bid him a heartfelt farewell and may
you have a smooth journey to the better place.
Lest We Forget: 7th Rangers on the Rebounce, Lundu, Sarawak, 1972 By Lieutenant Colonel Baldev Singh Johl (Retired)
Tuesday, May 03, 2022
On 26th March 2022, I stood in silence for one minute with Lt Col Bathamanthan M, to honor those killed in an ambush 50 years ago due to some major tactical miscalculations. There have been many Whys, no answers.
I prayed for their souls to rest in peace. No one was under my command but we belonged to the same unit, 7th Rangers, one of the most scarred units in our army.
A monument has been built at the site of the ambush but there appears a lack of will to launch it. Do we not feel the pain?
Sabdin Ghani as a 2nd Lieutenant in 7th Rangers who should have at
least been bestowed with a SP or PGB, when lesser individuals than him
were disgracefully honored because of connections
The bitterness is still in the mouth and the pain deep in our hearts. Fifty years have passed, the lives lost should not be lost in vain.
It was that un-fateful day on 26th March 1972, that an admin convoy from 7th Rangers, comprising an assorted group of ‘bottle washers’ was ambushed by a group of about 30 - 40 Communist Terrorists (CTs) along the Lundu-Biawak road. At that time, 7th Ranger’s main fighting force was operating in the Serian area in a special operation under 3rd Malaysian Infantry Brigade, Kuching, Sarawak. In the ambush, 15 soldiers were killed, 4 were wounded and the CT group captured a number of weapons and a TRA 906 radio set.
As this news dawned upon the unit’s fighting echelons in Serian, blood boiled past threshold levels. Having lost 15 of our soldiers there was little we could do from Serian, some 150km away from Lundu where 7th Rangers was stationed. Under our breaths we wowed revenge. Operation BELA was launched.
Redeployment, 27th March 1972
In the early hours of 27th March, we redeployed directly into our redesigned Area of Operations (AO). A Company (A Coy) was flown from a landing point (LP) at ferry point (intersection of road Lundu-Bau/Sg Stamin) and off loaded into the swampy area of Kg Mengkudu, some 10kms south of the ambush site. We spent the next 3 weeks searching with no joy. We were too far south. My platoon (No 3 Pl) was in a bad shape – fatigued and badly in need for some fresh cloths. I had returned the previous day from my Company Support Weapons course at PULADA, to be confronted with this tragedy. My Officer in Command (OC), Capt Sabdin Ghani, was on course in Australia. The company was commanded by the Company Second in Command (Coy 2IC), Lt Abdullah Hj Yusuf, a joyful officer but at this time there were no smiles, instead I could see he was breathing fire.
FIRST STRIKE, LT ABDULLAH HJ YUSOF, OPENING ACCOUNTS!
Rest & Replenishment, 15th April to 18th April 1972
On 15th April, A Coy was withdrawn to Tac Hq, at Lundu for some rest and replenishment. I was quick to get my boys their clothing exchanged, cleaned up weapons, ammunitions and conducted a hygiene inspection of the platoon. We caught up with some rest and I took some time to orientate myself to our unit’s AO. There was always a lot of activity going on in the operations room (Ops Room) and I guessed it was on enemy assessments and where we would be redeployed after our short rest.
There was also some time to catch up with the other officers in the unit. Generally, there was a gloom hanging over our heads. A major strike was needed to change this.
CT Signs Emerge, 18th April 1972
On the 18th April, at about 1500hrs, I was informed that a border scout had brought some “information”. We needed that! Lt Abdullah was called up to the Ops Room and when he returned, he called the Coy’s Orders group: “This morning (18th April) a CT group made inquiries about crossing Sg Stamin at a jungle fringe at Kg Perian (about 20 kms south of Lundu). They were dressed in green and carried weapons. It is assessed this group intends to cross Sg Stamin and head to Bau using the track leading to the Lundu-Bau road. Coy Hq and No 2 Pl will investigate this. When we make contact, Baldev, you will do the follow up. Be ready to move from here (Tac Hq)”. I was ready.
The Move Out
At 1800hrs, A Coy Hq and No 2 Pl moved out on 1 x Land Rover and 2 x 3-ton trucks: WO2 Abdul Rahman, also known as ‘Rahman Harimau’, the Company Sargeant Major (CSM) instructed the group “masa kita keluar kem, jangan pandang balik!” Whatever meaning it carried I took it was for good. I bided the group luck and saw them leave Lundu camp. They crossed the ferry point at Sg Stamin and debussed some 8 kms up road at a track junction branching off the Lundu – Bau road to Kg Perian. I geared up my platoon and waited for developments.
Under the moonlight Abdullah’s group moved silently along the track towards Kg Perian/Sg Stamin. At around midnight Lt Abdullah decided to stop and continue the move at first light. He set out a linear ambush along the track and carefully laid 2 claymore mines covering the killing area – the track towards the river. Once set, the group waited. The moonlight was bright enough to watch the front.
The Ambush is Sprung
About 30 mins later, four (4) figures (dark shadows) appeared walking slowly along the track heading towards the road junction. The figures suddenly stopped in the killing area. They must have sensed something unusual. The lead figure stamped his foot 4 times on the ground and the figures started moving backwards. Abdullah sprung the ambush igniting the claymore mines. This was followed by a brief fire fight before the peace of the night returned amidst the strong smell of gunpowder. Then it was a long wait to dawn as the ‘fogs of war’ crept it.
Abdullah reported the contact by morse code as there was heavy atmospheric interreference. I alerted my platoon and moved to the Communications Centre and kept myself updated on the situation. Details were sketchy but sufficient for my deployment. By 0600hrs my platoon crossed the ferry point and we deployed to the north of the contact site.
2 CTs Killed, TRA 906 Recovered!
At first light, Abdullah searched and mopped up the killing area. One CT lay dead close to the killing area and another was found a short distant away.
Abdullah reported the findings: “2 CTs KIA!” That was great, we got them! A short while later Abdullah reported the finding of 2 weapons and 4 packs.
A search of the packs was made. To our joy Abdullah found the radio set we lost in the ambush of 26th March 1972. It was neatly packed in one of the packs.
He reported: “We have recovered our TRA 906 radio set!”
At that moment, a voice rang out on the other side: “Golf Oscar Charlie speaking, confirm that you have recovered the lost radio set?”
Abdullah: “Yes! Confirmed it our radio set!”
The voice: “Well done! Keep it up!”
That was all we need, a good result. That day, 19th April 1972, our revenge began! These kills also marked the first operational success for of 7th Rangers since formation. There was great joy especially on hearing the recovery of our radio set. This was a morale booster: the gloom was lifted! The unit’s battle account was opened and we needed to put in more credit into the account.
In the follow up operation, we found heavy blood trails and bits of human flesh scattered along the track to Sg Stamin where the trails were lost. It appeared another CT was severely wounded. It was later confirmed through other contacts, that the blood trail was that of another wounded CT who succumbed to the wounds. The information was decoded from letters captured during contacts elsewhere.
Charlie Company Scored Too, May/June 1972
The following months were spent on search and destroy just waiting to make the next contact. There were strikes by Charlie Company under Capt Ropee Adnan and Lt Zulkifly Abdul Rahman (late). Two CTs were KIA in the Titiakar area, about 15 kms away from Lundu in May/June 1972. In this contact again, atmospheric interference was heavy and communications difficult. I was deployed to set up a rebro station midway to relay results and instructions.
SECOND CONTACT, CAPT SABDIN GHANI, VALOUR DISPLAYED!!
More Information Surfaces, 24th July 1972
During our next standby at the Tac Hq, there was a similar report to that of our first contact in April. This time my OC, Capt Sabdin Ghani was back in command.
At about 1600hrs on 24th July 1972, Capt Sabdin was called to the Ops Room by the Commanding Officer (CO), Lt Col Hussein Ali Piah. In the Op Room, the unit IO, Lt Dan Yunan and a scruffy looking border scout were waiting. Behind the scruffy looks, the information we needed was splashed: a CT group had been conducting regular visits to an outlaying hut/house (isolated) in Kg Kabong, about 10 kms east of Kg Selampit, a village located along Sungai Stamin, some 50 kms south of Lundu. The group usually stayed long hours till midnight and had been coming almost every night. That was all Capt Sabdin wanted. If this border scout travelled some 60 kms to pass this information, then there was high chance it to be true and an opportunity to be exploited.
After some detailed discussions, Capt Sabdin returned to the Coy lines. It looked like he had a plan worked out in his head.
“We are going to get this group!”
Capt Sabdin called his Orders Group, selected his light strike team and tasked me as the standby again for follow up. His orders were brief and to the point: “We are going to get this group! Baldev, you will be on standby here at Tac Hq. You move immediately when we make contact”. Capt Sabdin had a style of delivering his orders – short, sharp and he had a very menacing look on his face. I noticed how he gritted his teeth. I saw determination on his face, it inspired me.
Preamble – I Report to 7th Rangers, April 1971
I commissioned on 16th April 1971 at the Royal Military College (RMC), Sg Besi or Iron River as many of us referred it to. I was the lone ranger to report to 7th Rangers at Tac Hq in Kelian Intan, Kroh, Perak. The unit was then on Ops Kota. After a brief orientation to the unit, thanks to the noisy group: the Adjutant, Capt Norman Sta Maria (late), the IO, Capt Soman Selvaraj (late) and our Regimental Medical Officer Capt Dr Yong (Uncle ‘Fangs’- big eater!), I was set to move on. The orientation included initiation of the ‘Rainbow Special’, seven “assorted drinks” to signify 7th Rangers, to be downed in one go at the mess: I do not know how but I did it! Capt Ropee Adnan, the OC of C Coy, had me disappear from the mess during the 2 nights at Tac Hq, into the bunker beside the mess. It was very cold at night and the mess staff were kind to throw me some blankets. Some orientation it was, whatever was thrown at me I took it! But I looked forward to joining the subunit I was meant to be in.
The CO, Lt Col Hussein Ali Piah after welcoming me said: “You will join A Coy in Kg Alai”. It was located some 15 kms down the Klian Intan-Grik road.
I report to Capt Sabdin Ghani, OC A Coy
A Coy was commanded by Capt Sabdin Ghani, a Sabahan with some dashing looks. I was to command no 3 Pl, Call Sign 13 – it was a great coincidence, I was from Regular Intake 13 and my order of merit was 13th at my commissioning! I liked it – 13!.
Capt Sabdin welcomed me to the coy. He was warm but stern and after my interview I felt I had reached ‘home’, after being transformed from a milk-selling schoolboy into a cadet and then a 2nd Lt, the output of our proud RMC.
Capt Sabdin was very uncompromising on op discipline. On my very first op in the Kg Kerunai area in Grik, Perak in May 1971, one of my boys, lost a GPMG 7.62mm link-belt of 250 rounds. He only reported the loss on our return to base at Kg Alai. Naturally I had to report the loss to Capt Sabdin. He was not happy!! Bad start for me! He gave me a pounding and sent my platoon back immediately to recover the ammunition. Luckily, we found the belt at the place we based on the first day. On my return, I got the second dose, a lesson on leadership and responsibility that I never forgot. Capt Sabdin made me go through my first day sitrep in which I should have reported the loss. It was first lesson for me and it came quick on my very first mission.
Over some time, I got used to Capt Sabdin’s style of command. Many of his attributes I picked up and applied them myself. He coached me well and there was always plenty to learn. I walked tall in the unit. Obviously, Capt Sabdin became my mentor. He was a great sportsman too and I was pleased that we were in the unit’s hockey team. We displayed our skills well in local competitions in Sg Petani, Kedah where we challenged some top-ranking clubs, won some lost some.
Critical Considerations, 24th July 1972
Having analysed the requirements for the mission, Capt Sabdin selected a lean group – it was obvious, he wanted to travel light and fast. A vital criterion was the move upstream Sg Stamin at night for about 50 kms in two local boats. This needed experience and sound knowledge of the river especially at night. The Military Intelligence Officer (MIO) staff assisted in identifying two experienced boatmen. They were ready but unaware of the mission ahead.
Capt Sabdin’s strike team comprised Sargeant (Sgt) Lukas, a tough looking Sabahan, who took his orders and kept them in his memory - he was unable to read and write, so he remembered the orders well in his head. Lukas was also a feared sergeant and a disciplinarian. Capt Sabdin had full trust in him. Others in the group included Lance Corporal (LCpl) Rahman Puteh, a lively and very nitty character but at this time he walked around biting his lips. LCpl Ibrahim, my basketball teammate was the medical orderly. There was a radio operator and 7 others – rough and tough looking. Morale was high and they appeared very excited of the mission. I guessed they like it as it broke away from the routine search and destroy stuff.
The Night Move
At 1800hrs, I followed the group down to the Lundu jetty and saw them off in the 2 boats on local hire. The boatmen knew the river well and their night navigation skills were excellent. I stayed at the jetty till they disappeared into the night, again under the moonlight. I got back to the barracks and checked on my platoon, yes, the boys were ready. I found a comfortable place close by, leaned on my pack, felt my weapon beside me and visualised what laid ahead.
The group made steady progress and by 2130hrs reached Kg Selampit. They got off the boats and moved immediately to Kg Kabong, about 10 kms away, led by the border scout. The moonlight was a great advantage as it enhanced movement. The route to the target area was partly over swampy waters connected to dry points by bamboo stilts. Some in the group slipped off the stilts, recovered and made the stilts slippery but the group kept up with the pace moving quietly.
Just past midnight, they reached the target area, Kg Kabong. From the jungle fringe, some 200 meters away Capt Sabdin saw the two isolated huts with an open platform connecting the huts. And seated around a lighted lamp, the CTs were busy in conversation - 2 CTs were clearly seen while the other figures were mixed of locals.
“Dia akan balik tak lama lagi (they will be leaving very soon)” the border scout said, recalling that the CTs used to leave at around mid-night.
Sgt Lukas to Cut Off
Capt Sabdin called Sgt Lukas as he glanced at his watch: “Cepat, bawa 4 orang, buat cut-off sebelah hujung rumah! Saya akan serang dari sini! (Quickly, take 4 boys, move round the house and form a cut-off on the far side! I will attack from here)”. Lukas went off.
The border scout said: “Saya sini saja Tuan, saya tak mau ikut, takut! (I will wait here Sir, I do not want to follow, I am afraid!)”. That was fine with Capt Sabdin and withdrew him to the rear at the jungle fringe.
A little while later, Capt Sabdin and his group of 7 started crawling forward to get closer to the huts. As they crawled forward, they pushed away dried mengkuang leaves - big dry leaves that made a cracking noise if stepped on. The CTs were still in conversation as Sabdin’s group inched forward. Sgt Lukas in the meantime had moved in and taken up his cut-off position.
Sabdin’s group closed in to about 50 meters from the huts. Suddenly house dogs started barking. Surprised was compromised, the CTs were alarmed. They said quick goodbyes and moved hastily to get away. As the CTs descended the stilt steps of the huts Capt Sabdin’s group charged forward firing at the CTs. The CTs returned fire and disappeared into the darkness on the far side. The quiet of the night was shattered as Sgt Lukas also opened up from his cut-off position. As the firing ended the stillness of the night crept in again. Capt Sabdin organised an adhoc defence and reported the contact, as the ‘fogs of war’ reappeared.
I had monitored the reports. I moved my boys down to the jetty ready to deploy with our Riverine Unit in 4 assault boats manned by the unit Assault Pioneers. By 0500hrs we were off.
2 More CTs Killed
At first light, Capt Sabdin and his group searched and mopped up the area in the direction of CT withdrawal. LCpl Rahman led the mop up group, he moved forward and found a dead CT. Some 50m further, he found another wounded and motionless CT, seemingly having suffered some serious injury.
“Mati la gua!” the CT said. LCpl Rahman: “Puki Mak! Mati la lu!” and he planted a short burst of 9 mm rounds of his SMC into the CT. Rahman felt a sense of relieve seeking revenge for his fallen friends, he later told me. No wonder he was always biting his lips!
Capt Sabdin reported the 2 kills, morale rose high! We were midway to Kg Selampit in our boats and as I passed the information to the boys in the other boats, there was excitement and joy, we were beaming with great pride. I felt the adrenaline rush in my system and at that moment I felt I could fly!
The Follow Up
By 1000hrs I linked up with Capt Sabdin at the contact site. I got a quick brief and the direction the CTs withdrew. I followed the route, zig-zagging along the track to the Indonesian border. At that point all traces of movement were lost. After two days the follow up was called off and the Kg Kabong area was sectorised into an AO for me to operate, to protect the residents of the two huts in case the CTs returned to seek revenge.
MAJ SABDIN GHANI SUFFERS A STROKE
Failed Attempts to Recover Contact Documents
Capt Sabdin Ghani was promoted to Major later in service. He left the army in 1975. In 2002, he suffered a stroke and was half paralysed. I visited him in 2007 and 2008 during some safety training assignments (after my retirement from service) in Kota Kinabalu. He was a pale shadow of the dynamite he once was. It was very hurting to see him such. He was able to recognise me and made many gestures which I could not understand. His wife, Kak Noor Jamilah Bee Binti Abdul Majid Osman, a wonderful lady, explained that Sabdin often recalled the contact he had in 1972, even before his stroke, but was greatly disappointed at not being able to get any documents nor visit the site. I too tried to reach out to the documents of the contact but failed. But I promised him I would get it documented.
RIP Maj Dato Sabdin Ghani, 2015
Major Sabdin Ghani was bestowed Datoship by His Highness the Governor of Sabah in 2014. In 1972 he received a federal AMN award. As fate would have it, Dato Sabdin Ghani passed away in 2015. He remains one of my most admired officer and it was a privilege to have served under his command. He deserved better especially of the contact in Kg Kabong in July 1972 where he displayed great valour. May his soul rest in peace forever.
Reflecting back, the past 50 years has brought about much change. 7th Rangers has changed from the foot slogging infantry to mechanised infantry. Documents and records of pervious contacts are rare to find, not only in 7th Rangers but quite widespread in the army. War diaries are not maintained, if at all only found in a few units which know their value. The old officers and soldiers have faded away into the horizon, and their experiences have gone with them. Lessons learnt that ought to have been captured in Contact Analysis Reports are no longer found, hence the gap between the past and the present generation is quite wide. However, there are intriguing aspects of the late 70s and 80s that are worth recapturing.
Changes in Warfare
Insurgency, more so in the local environment is no longer fought from the jungles. Instead, it has found its place in urban areas which calls for doctrinal reviews in combating urban warfare (scope for separate study).
Intelligence formed the basis for operational deployment. The role of Special Branch (SB) and the MIO was paramount. In the contacts of A Coy, border scouts played a vital role in bringing in the information/intelligence thus enabling the unit to make accurate assessments that led to successes. In particular, the border scout who provided the information in Capt Sabdin’s contact, travelled on his own for some 60 kms to reach 7th Rangers Tac Hq. He graded well as a source and substance/information.
However, why was there no information leading to the CT ambush of 26th March 1972? Was the intelligence assessment in the unit’s AO correctly done before being redeployed to Serian? The planning and execution of an ambush takes days. Surely the presence and movements of the CT group (30-40 CTs) could have been detected. Obviously, there was failure to correctly assess the intelligence situation.
The redeployment of the unit’s fighting-echelon to Serian, meant all four rifle companies were committed to Serian. There were no fighting elements left behind to protect the unit’s line of communication (L of C) at Lundu. Those left behind were some “bottle washers” comprising clericals and left out of battle (LOBs). Was 7th Rangers not given time to clear its own AO and secure its L of C before being deployed to Serian? Was consideration to leave behind a credible force to protect its rear done? Some unanswered questions, could the tragedy have been averted?
Movement at night enables concealment and the achievement of surprise, a vital Principle of War. Both, Capt Sabdin’s and Lt Abdullah’s groups were inserted into their mission areas by night. This paved the way to achieve surprise and success. Small groups travelling light move fast. Capt Sabdin exploited this and was able to reach his target in 6 hours and surprise the CT group.
It is a basic requirement that any attack must be preceded with a plan which includes a detailed recognisance. This requirement is more stringent in a night attack. In both the situations confronting Capt Sabdin and Lt Abdullah, decisions made to attack and ambush were made in split seconds. What had gone through the minds of both the officers is hard to predict but both carried consequences of failure. But their decisions bore success. Some aspects of their courses of actions are:
• Lt Abdullah decided to stop at around midnight and to continue movement at first light. As he halted, he laid the linear ambush on the track maximising on the use of claymore mines. About thirty (30) minutes later, the CTs walked in. Had Abdullah continued his march, it would have resulted in a chance contact, the result of which is hard to predict. Would we have recovered the loss of our TRA 906 radio set? A credit to Lt Abdullah, he may have said his prayers right. Did WO11 Rahman Harimau’s statement as they left Lundu camp have any bearing? Or was the element of luck at play?
• Capt Sabdin’s actions were ‘impulse decisions. He was confronted with a time constraint but he held the initiative, he knew the CTs were present but they were unaware of his presence. His decision to send Sgt Lukas immediately to cut-off while he assaulted the CT group was very commendable – it is just what officers are trained to do – make decisions. Defying principles and basic night attack requirements are normally made by risk takers and Capt Sabdin took this bravely. Some key factors influenced the outcome:
o Team selection, Capt Sabdin knew what outcome he desired and selected a lean team. He knew his boys well and they too were excited.
o The moonlight enabled the team to move at a good rate of advance. On reaching his destination Capt Sabdin had a good view of the target itself.
o The team practiced good fieldcraft to the final moment before the assault. In doing so, the element of surprise was achieved to the last possible moment. Credit.
o Capt Sabdin ‘won the fire fight’. He opened fire first and retained the initiative. Fire was further intensified from Sgt Luka’s group.
o The CTs obviously had been complacent in staying long hours and without posting sentries. Perhaps they did not expect a night threat and were over confident.
Morale, the intangible Element of Combat Power
The 3 elements of combat power: firepower, manoeuvre and morale were visible in both contacts, though morale is hard to identify as a physical entity. Both groups were speedily moved into their operations and exerted enough fire power to win the fire fights. With Lt Abdullah’s opening accounts for the unit morale in the unit rose. Needless to say, at company level it was at peak.
Capt Sabdin and Lt Abdullah displayed highly visible leadership qualities. They led from the front. They saw opportunities open and exploited them. They were clear in their orders. They maximised on natural terrain and used the approaches to the targets well. Capt Sabdin displayed raw courage in deciding to launch a quick night attack and was duly rewarded.
There may have been an element of luck in both contacts, Lt Abdullah deciding to stop and lay a linear ambush while the CT’s complacency gave Capt Sabdin an advantage he exploited. Luck is neutral and, in both cases, it fell to the officers of A Coy.
7th Rangers was badly hit in the ambush of the 26th March 1972. Not having any adequate resources to protect its own AO and operating in another AO had its risks and the unit paid the price. Was it fated or could it have been mitigated, only those in authority can tell. Morale in the unit had seeped low. It was a wakeup call and an expensive one.
Lt Abdullah opened the accounts with the contact in April 1972. It brought about a change in the unit. Morale rose. Capt Sabdin raised it higher with his courageous assault on the CT group, warranting gallantry, did someone forget this deed? A Coy contacts created some momentum against the CTs and this was carried further by C Coy. By the time 7th Rangers returned to Peninsular in December 1972, the account against the CTs was almost balanced. The gloom was lifted but the pain and memory of the fallen remains.
Finally, was there any display of gallant action and is there a need to recognise it? Capt Sabdin never at any time asked to be rewarded. He just did his job and moved on. There is a famous saying by a poet, Rudyard Kipling: “In time of war not before, God and Soldier we adore. In times of peace and all things righted, God is forgotten and the Soldier slighted”.
Today Capt Sabdin is dead and gone but he has left behind a legacy of his deeds, his intangible raw courage and valour that has gone unnoticed. Fifty years have passed, it lives on oblivious to the powers that be.
Needless to say, lessons learnt in any contacts or incidents pave way for improvements in tactics and doctrines. These should be captured, replayed in seminar groups and at training institutions. Organisational and technical developments need to be taken into account in order to be current in dealing with insurgency operations of today and the future. However, the lessons of these contacts are worth sharing and deliberating at various levels lest they be forgotten for good.
26th March 2022, 50th year from the Black Day in Biawak!
During our service to King and Country we experienced some very proud moments which we cherished forever. This is one of mine.
In June 1962 on a cold Wintry afternoon, 'C' Squadron 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment (2 Recce) landed at Lumumbashi Airport, Katanga to an exceptional warm welcome.
At hand to receive us were Senior Officers of the Indian Brigade. When the door of the DC4 opened, the Brass Band of the Rajputana Rifles struck up some military marches.
Led by our OC, Major Asna Sutan we trooped down the gangway and were immediately garlanded, this honour was extended to all Senior NCOs as well.
What a fantastic reception! It is moment like this that made one feel so proud of the uniform and the Regiment to which one belonged!!
Some of the senior NCOs with personnel of 16 Cavalry Squadron who were there to greet us. When India was partitioned in 1947, the Army was split up. 16 Cavalry remained in India while 15 Cavalry went to Pakistan. That was how it waas done, by numbers.
I Announced 'Buka Puasa' With My Canon TAN SIEW SOO, Lt Col, ARMOUR (Retired)
Sunday, April 03, 2022
My Daimler Armoured Car armed with a 2Pounder and a Besa Machine Gun. This photo taken at Titi Akar, a Siamese village in Kedah, April 1959.
It was a long time ago, way back in 1959. I was then a proud 2nd Lieutenant, a gazetted Division One officer commanding No 1 Sabre Troop, 'C' Squadron, Federation Armoured Car Regiment (FACR).
We were based at Aboukir Camp, a former British Cavalry Squadron Camp along Circular Road Kuala Lumpur, the present location of PNB and Tabung Haji Buildings, Jalan Tun Razak.
I was tasked to assist with the announcement of 'buka puasa' on the first day of Ramadan, 10 March 1959. From Aboukir Camp, I drove my Daimler Armoured Car up to Bluff Hill (now called Bukit Aman) where I positioned my Daimler facing the Selangor Club.
At the precise and exact time on cue, I let fly one round from my 2 Pounder Gun! That would signify breaking of fast for all Muslims in Kuala Lumpur. That was how it was done during the era of pre-TV days.
After this unique experience, my 'C' Squadron FACR was despatched up north and deployed for seven long months on active service chasing the remnants of Chin Peng's men across the border into Southern Thailand from Kedah and Perak.
Obituary Lieutenant Colonel Zulkapli 410707 (Retired) - Royal Military College April 1970 Regular Intake 14
Sunday, March 20, 2022
Lt Col Zul left the service on the 1st of July 1993, there were teary eyes all around when he was towed out in an Armoured Fighting Vehicle, himself included.
He was commissioned into 7th Rangers as a 2nd Lieutenant and after that came back as as the Commanding Officer. He was one of the most dynamic and loved Commanding Officer 7th Rangers ever had. Soldiers of 7th Rangers described him as "my best friend". They loved him.
You will not find an officer like him, on Fridays when the Muslims go for their Friday prayers, he allowed the training wing to be used as a place of prayers and gatherings for the Christians. When the Hindus conducted their pilgrimage to the Maran Temple by foot from all over Malaysia from as far as Kuala Lumpur which is 178 km, he had tents placed in front of the camp, with medics to attend to the pilgrims plus refreshments, the Battalion Regimental Sergeant Major was a Chinese under him.
Every faith festivals were celebrated on a grand scale be it Gawai, Deepavali, Christmas and Hari Raya. He was one person who did not look at the color of your skin or faith. He told one officer during the color parade in Ipoh, "You leave an organization, when you are at the best. That's leaving gracefully". That is the reason he left early.
He led the Battalion converting it from a standard infantry battalion into a Mechanized Infantry Battalion, prepared it for it's mission to Somalia. Under him the Battalion emerged champions for the shooting competition in the Brigade. The Battalion had more than 270 marksman class soldiers.
His mentor when he first joined the unit in the 70's was Captain Ropee. Sadly the Colonel left us on the 14th of December 2021 at around 1029 hrs. His place of rest is at "Tanah Perkuburan Raudhatul Sakinah, Taman Selasih, Karak". Rest in Peace, sir!
Death in Mogadishu (First Published on the 29 April 2007 at 2156 Hrs)
Thursday, February 17, 2022
MALBATT Commander Colonel Radzi sending off the fallen to Malaysia
Major Len Olivero and his boys recovered the fallen and the captured some fiction had been created to steal the glory and valor of Major Len and his boys!! Do not believe other BS stories. Colonel Vezzalini told Major Len : "Your boys were brave". To which Major Len replied : "Then why aren't you dead?"As Major Len was totally pissed off!!! They went in unarmed even while being surrounded by technicals, (armed vehicles).
COL Ferdinando SALVATI : Postscript: I forgot to tell you a few more details that you might be interested in:
- Warrant Officer Hare (NZ) was newly assigned to U2, Captain Sen was an operation staff officer and they were in the patrol to have a familiarization tour of the area:
- Captain Sen was slightly wounded on his face during the fight as Colonel Vezzalini was at his arm;- The day of the repatriation of the bodies of the Malaysian killed during the action Colonel Vezzalini was in the airport to honor the heroes. I was not there because I was in the Pakistani field hospital under surgery for removing one bullet from my shoulder. - The Malaysian troops assigned to U2 duties were daily patrolling in the most dangerous and remote area of Mogadishu.
That was the first time in one year, that our patrol included people that was not from the U2 Human Intelligence Team :
COL Ferdinando SALVATI IT AD/Cos Training and Readiness NATO SOF Coordination Centre Commercial: (+32) (0)65-44-8286 Cell: (+32) 478-677-617 firstname.lastname@example.org
The day was a blistering hot day, the rainy season had just ended, leaving tufts of green mingled with garbage along the narrow streets of Mogadishu, on the 18th of July 1994. It was like any other day. It was a mixed bunch of Italians, a New Zealander and Malaysians. This team consisted of 3 Officers and 10 Other Ranks. They were on a patrol
The Malaysian Commander, Major Len Olivero did not know that this patrol for the Malaysians was not led by an Officer. His explicit instructions were that all Malaysian involvement was to be led by a Malaysian Officer. In this case a Captain Rizal was to be involved, unfortunately for reasons beyond comprehension he did not participate in this patrol.
Major Len Olivero with his boys at K4
There was this Staff Sergeant Azman Mohamad Tahir from the Malaysian Special Forces Regiment from Malacca and Corporal Ghani anak Binjoi from 6th Rangers who was from Kampung Koran Mawang in the district of Serian. There were two companies from 6th Rangers and a Troop of Special Forces guys attached to 7th Rangers (Mechanized). Corporal Ghani had a wife whose name was Dora anak Buki, both of them were blessed with 3 children, one aged 6 years old, another aged 3 years old and the youngest 7 days old, born about 7 days ago on the day Corporal Ghani went on this patrol.
The man who led this patrol was an Italian Colonel, he was Colonel Fulvio Vezzalini, a very experienced soldier. In conducting patrols for information gathering and intelligence there were restrictions; UN patrols could not go beyond Bakara market, the site of “black hawk down”. That rule did not apply for intelligence gathering activities.Beyond that no UN personnel were allowed to conduct patrols as there were many armed militia consisting of the Hawadle and Habar Gidir clans.
Both of them being rival clans, clashed constantly. More so the Habar Gidir clan was jealous that the building rented by the UN for Malaysian soldiers was from the Hawadle. The Hawdle got paid by the UN and the Habar Gidir was not. The convoy moved slowly, it drew the attention of the Militia there. The first group of Militia that spotted the convoy alerted the rest of the militia strong points.It was about 0900+ hrs when Major Len noticed a UN convoy of soft skinned vehicles (non-armoured) passing his location which was K4. He rushed down to check with his sentries whether the boys in that particular patrol were his.
The sentries confirmed to say that they belonged to Bravo Company of 6th Rangers. They could specifically identify Ranger Martin as he had waved to them as he was passing.There were 3 vehicles that made up this convoy. Major Len immediately radioed back to UNOSOM Hq to get some more information on the convoy that went past K4. Lieutenant Sulaiman, a platoon commander of Bravo Company who was on duty at UNOSOM Hq informed Major Len that the convoy was being led by an Italian Colonel, who was the Commander of U1, an intelligence gathering apparatus.
The Colonel had requested for an escort to gather Intelligence of some sort, which everyone thought only he knew. Apart form manning K4, a strong point, Major Len’s men provided escort services for UN contingents. Strong Point 4 was located at a roundabout which was connected to 4 routes Afgooyee -Lenin-Medina-Gesira Street. There were two buildings in K4, one facing the North and another facing South.
Before the Malaysians occupied it the Bangladeshis were the previous tenants. The Malaysian contingent took over duties from the Bangladeshis on the 17th April 1994. The area was secured by two rifle company platoons from 6th Rangers, the Company was later declared to be known as ‘D’ Company. It had two detachments of 106 mm recoilless guns, along with two IFV’s equipped with 20mm Oerlikon guns to support them.The area around K4 was one of the tensest places in all of Mogadishu.
There used to be fierce gun battles around K4 since the 14th April 1994. The Bangladeshis were just not equipped to maintain K4. The increase in tensions was contributed by the increase in the number of Technical’s in that area.This made Major Len reinforce his location. The surrounding buildings were concrete and close. The defence of K4 called for the defence from two buildings. Since taking over that location from the Bangladeshis, many stray rounds and mortar rounds landed in and around the strong point.
On the 18th May 1994 at around 2100 hrs an RPG round penetrated one of the buildings, into the accommodation of Major Len’s boys. Fortunately no one slept early that night, thus there were no fatalities. Staying at K4 is likened to Chinese New Year festivities where huge amounts of fire crackers are lit. Major Len Olivero had the unenvious job of commanding it. Len being in K4 for many months knew that it was against UN Forces Standard Operational Procedures to go further than K4, as the infamous Bakara market of “Black Hawk Down” fame was just a kilometer plus from K4.
That area beyond K4 was very volatile with Militias having a free reign over that area. Major Len did not know that Intelligence operatives were not restricted by this rule.Major Len then thought to himself, that the Commander of the Convoy must really know what he was doing or that he was foolishly taking a big risk. He pushed the thoughts of the patrol to the back of his mind He then went on doing his daily routine without giving further thought about the convoy any more.
After having the normal evening games of football and “sepak takraw”, these were games to keep the boys of Bravo Company fit in a very confined area in a war zone. Soon the games were over, Major Len went to have a shower, he went to his sentries to inquire about the convoy, which was subconsciously lingering in his mind, to his horror, the sentries informed him that the convoy had not returned and the time was already 1730 hrs (5.30pm). Major Len’s instructions to all his boys were that they advise whoever they are escorting, that they must return to base by 1700hrs.
The reason for this directive was that it gets dark early in Mogadishu. The likelihood of ambush towards dusk was a high probability, especially in Mogadishu’s closely built up area.Staff Sergeant Azman was driving the UN white Toyota pickup, he tried avoiding the potholes filled with water, he had to slow down; on the left of them, in front, he passed a Militia strong point when a .50 calibre machine gun belonging to the Somali Militia opened up.
The rounds thudded through the sides of the Toyota pickup (left hand drive) and slammed through Staff Sergeant Azman’s body like a hot knife through butter. He died instantly. Corporal Ghani instantly opened fire in the direction; the .50 calibre machine gun had fired, with his M16, after exhausting the entire rounds in his magazine he took out his M79. He tried to live up to the proud traditions of the Rangers.
There were too many of them and they closed up all around the pickup very fast.The armed militia men started firing from the crowd of old men women and children. Ghani tried, desperately to fight then off, unfortunately the rest of the mixed patrol of different countries were not able to assist him. Ghani hesitated because of this screw-up, one of the Somalis yanked the rifle from his hands and another pumped some rounds into Corporal Ghani’s head. He fell down dead. The Italian Colonel, the two Italian Captains, the New Zealand Army Warrant Officer, the rest of the Malaysians and the sole Malaysian Intelligence Officer were taken prisoner.
The bodies of the two Malaysians were seized. Colonel Fulvio Vezzalini, the two Italian Captains were captured along with the New Zealand Warrant Officer.The women and children started looting the equipment of the patrol. The weapons and the vehicles were seized by the Somali gunmen. In that incident two Malaysians were killed, the wounded were Sergeant Zaidi bin Hanafiah, Malaysian Special Forces (under command of Major Len), Lance Corporal Ahmad bin Ab Rahman, Malaysian Special Forces (under command of Major Len) and Ranger Martin anak Regip (Major Len’s boy).
The other person wounded was Captain Ferdinando Salvati from Italy.The ambush position was well covered. There was an 8 feet wall which blocked any avenue of escape and limited cover from fire. The Colonel and the men were interrogated by the Somalis. They were moved from house to house. The gunmen told the Colonel that he would probably be questioned by General Farah Aided. The reason for the attack upon the convoy as related by the Colonel was that the Somali gunmen had mistaken them for Americans and had opened fire.
The fact was all Americans had withdrawn on the 31st March 1994, leaving a token few amounting to a platoon plus (30+ men) to take care of the American Embassy in Mogadishu. The Americans had actually stopped patrolling the streets of Mogadishu since after the “Black Hawk Down” incident on the 3rd/4th October 1993. Patrolling was done by Malaysian Forces only.Meanwhile Major Len, who was feeling very uneasy by then, radioed back to his Company Hq (University Mogadishu compound), hoping that his boys were back.
HQ informed him that his boys were not back. He then got into touch with his Platoon commander, Sulaiman who was on duty at UNOSOM Hq, who also happened to be the Duty Officer. He instructed Lt Sulaiman to find out about the status of the patrol from the other UN resources. His next avenue of information was from Bravo Company of 7th Rangers (Mechanized), via Major Christopher Joseph who was the Officer Commanding, after a short conversation he was instructed to cease all discussions by a pen pushing senior officer, as the senior officer felt irritated, that it was idle chatter.
Lt Sulaiman meanwhile was frantically contacting officers from other contingents who too were on duty at UNOSOM11 Hq. It was of no avail, no one knew anything about the patrol led by the Italian Colonel. Lt Sulaiman after much trying, radioed back and reported that he could not get anything on the patrol to Major Len Olivero.As no information was forthcoming Major Len resignedly went for dinner and told his boys in K4 to say a prayer for all the UN guys in that particular patrol.
He visited the sentries before retiring to bed, as he was exhausted physically and mentally. At about 0010 hrs a sentry knocked on his door saying that there were some Somalis that wanted to talk to him. He dressed up and went down, there he saw the Italian Colonel. The Italian Colonel informed him that his patrol was ambushed and that two Malaysian were dead, two seriously injured (stretcher cases).
Along with the Italian Colonel was the Malaysian Intelligence Warrant Officer. Major Len who just awoke was in a state of confusion, his mind was reeling with the words of the Italian Colonel, “we have got to save them”.Major Len then went to meet the Somali Elders who had accompanied the Italian Colonel. The Elders told him that he could take a few soldiers to bring back the dead, the wounded and the prisoners. That they would not be allowed to bear arms, they had to recover their men unarmed.
He considered that they were Rangers and that they did not need fire arms to prove to people how good and fearless soldiers they were. So, after a rough calculation, 2 dead and 2 stretcher cases, he needed 8 for stretchers (good terrain so 2 per stretcher), another 3 to help the walking wounded and himself to command the group. There were no Somalis, there was no information and no feedbacks as the Somalis around K4 had shut down their ramshackle stalls and fled the scene as they were terrified that the Malaysians would indiscriminately retaliate against them.
They walked unarmed towards Bakara Market and as they passed each alley that came to a main road, there was a Technical (a vehicle mounted with a .50 gun), indicating that the Somalis were scared shit of the Malaysians, as they were expecting severe retaliation.On the 19th of July 1994 at around 0300 hrs the bodies of the two soldiers who fell and the captured UN personnel were handed over to Major Len and his entourage of unarmed soldiers.
A casual dining area was cleared in K4 to place the bodies, in the patio of the building. An armoured ambulance along with a heavily armed escort was sent by MALBATT 11 to recover the dead, the wounded and the captured.The men involved in this tragic incident were:
1. Colonel Fulvio Vezzalini - Italy
2. Captain Ferdinando Salvati - Italy
3. Captain Emilio Sen - Italy
4. Warrant Officer Hare Kent - New Zealand
5. Warrant Officer Mohamad Baharom - Malaysia (Intelligence)
6. Staff Sergeant Azman Mohd Tahir -Malaysia (MSSR)
7. Sergeant Zaidi Hanafiah - Malaysia (MSSR)
8. Corporal Ghani ak Binyoi - Malaysia (Rangers)
9. Lance Corporal Bakar Selamat - Malaysia (Rangers)
10. Lance Corporal Ahmed Ab Rahman - Malaysia (MSSR)
11. Ranger Adnan Abu Bakar -Malaysia (Rangers)
12 Ranger Gerry ak Tugan - Malaysia (Rangers)
13. Ranger Martin ak Regip - Malaysia (Rangers)
This was something interesting I found on the net, for easy reading I extracted from this link below as the material in it was very long. I copied only the relevant parts. It is in Malay, my apologies to my “English speaking only“readers.
I will not translate this. If you understand it, ok, well and good. It is for us, Malaysians to ponder on the sacrifices, rewards, promises and politics. Just remember the kind of people you want to vote for during the next election. I do not know what was the outcome of the events below and I do not want to speculate.The PDF file below will take a long time to download, as there are 217 pages.
Extract Parliament's proceedings in PDF format.
Tuan Richard Riot Anak Jaem [Serian]: Terima kasih, TuanPengerusi. Saya merujuk kepada B.25, Butiran 020000 Bantuan Bersama.
Kalau kita ingat tiga tahun yang lalu, iaitu pada tanggal 18 Julai 1994, dua orang anggota tentera kita yang berkhidmat dengan Pasukan Pengiring Keselamatan Markas Unosom II di bawah Panji Pertubuhan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu (PBB) di Somalia telah terbunuh dalam satu serang hendap di Mogadishu. Seorang dari dua orang yang terbunuh itu ialah Koperal Ghani anak Binjoi dari Rejimen VI, Renjer Diraja yang berasal dari Kampung Koran Mawang iaitu sebuah kampung di daerah saya, Serian. Saya mengambil kesempatan ini untuk mengucapkan berbanyak-banyak terima kasih kepada kerajaan khususnya kepada Angkatan Tentera Malaysia kerana amat prihatin dan telah mengambil berat akan kebajikan keluarga yang telah ditinggalkan oleh mendiang, iaitu seorang balu berusia 33 tahun waktu itu dan tiga orang anak.Seorang berumur enam tahun, seorang berumur tiga tahun dan seorang lagi baru sahaja dilahirkan tujuh hari sebelum mendiang koperal Gani meninggal dunia. Bantuan dan sumbangan yang telah diberikan oleh kerajaan seperti Insurans Kelompok, gratuity, pencen termasuk membina sebuah rumah di kampung balu mendiang dan sebagainya telah dapat mengurangkan bebanan keluarga mendiang. Jadi, saya bagi pihak balu kepada mendiang ingin mengambil kesempatan ini untuk sekali lagi mengucapkan berbanyak-banyak terima kasih kepada kerajaan khususnya kepada Angkatan Tentera Malaysia.Tuan Pengerusi, saya ingin mengungkit satu perkara iaitu satu janji yang telah dibuat oleh sebuah syarikat. Syarikat yang bernama Syarikat Bukit Rambai Development Sdn. Bhd. yang beralamat di 231A, Jalan Merpati of Jalan Raja Laut, 50350 Kuala Lumpur yang telah berjanji atau pledge untukDR.17.11.97
memberi sebuah apartment tiga bilik bernilai RM63,000 di Taman Desa Ria, Batu 10 Tangga Batu, Melaka. Jadi, kalau diizinkan saya akan membaca kandungan surat:“22 Julai, 1994.Menteri Pertahanan,Dato' Seri Haji Mohd. Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak. Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri, Sumbangan Dua Unit Apartment Tiga Blok Kelas G di Fasa II,Taman Desa Ria, Tangga Batu Melaka Kami bagi pihak Pengerusi dan Lembaga Pengarah Syarikat ini ingin merakamkan ucapan takziah di atas kematian dua anggota tentera kita semasa bertugas di Somalia pada 18 Julai 1994.
Memandangkan hasrat Allahyarham Staff Sarjan Azman Mohamad Tahir untuk memiliki sebuah rumah untuk keluarganya, syarikat kami sukacitanya menyumbangkan satu unit apartment untuk keluarga Allahyarham Staff Sarjan Azman Mohamad Tahir dan juga untuk keluarga mendiang Gani anak Binjoi, di projek kami di Taman Desa Ria, Tangga Batu Melaka.
Apartment yang bernilai RM63,000 tersebut mengandungi 3 buah bilik sedang dalam pembinaan dan dijangka siap dalam masa 12 bulan lagi. Kami berharap Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri dapat menyampaikan hasrat kami kepada keluargaDR.17.11.97178>Allahyarham Staff Sarjan Azman Mohamad Tahir dan keluarga mendiang koperal Gani anak Binjoi dengan harapan sumbangan yang tidak seberapa ini dapat mengurangkan bebanan kedua keluarga ini.” Susulan kepada itu pada
9 Ogos Syarikat Bukit Rambai Development Sdn. Bhd. telah menulis sepucuk surat kepada Puan Dora anak Buki iaitu balu kepada mendiang koperal atau Sarjan Gani anak Binjoi. Jadi, dalam kandungansurat itu berbunyi:“Puan,Surat ini merupakan pengakuan sumbangan syarikat ini kepada Puan sebuah unit apartment tiga bilik bernilai RM63,000 di Taman Desa Ria, Tangga Batu Melaka sepertimana yang dinyatakan di dalam surat kami kepada Yang Berhormat Dato' Seri Haji Mohd. Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Menteri Pertahanan Malaysia pada 20 Julai 1994.
Sumbangan kecil kami ini merupakan penghargaan syarikat ini di atas sifat-sifat keperwiraan yang telah ditunjukkan oleh mendiang Gani anak Binjoi untuk bangsa dan negara. Kami akan memaklumkan kepada Puan sebaik sahaja apartment ini siap dibina untuk upacara penyerahan kunci. Sekian dimaklumkan, terima kasih.”Tuan Pengerusi, hampir tiga tahun telah berlalu, tetapi sehingga kini belum ada berita dari sama ada Syarikat Bukit Rambai development Sdn. Bhd. mahupun dari Kementerian Pertahanan.
Oleh yang demikian, Tuan Pengerusi bagi pihak balu kepada mendiang saya mohon agar pihak kementerian membuat siasatan atau membuat follow-up tentang janji atau pledge yang telah dibuat oleh Bukit Rambai Development Sdn. Bhd. kepada balu mendiang ini. Dengan itu saya menyokong rang undang-undang ini iaitu di bawah Maksud B.25.Sekian, terima kasih.Yang Berhormat dari Serian tadi membangkitkan tentang perkara anggota tentera yang terbunuh dan mendapat perhatian oleh pihak kerajaan.
Saya juga ucap terima kasih di atas ucapan terima kasih Yang Berhormat tadi kepada pihak kerajaan yang telah dapat sedikit-sebanyak membantu para keluarga ataupun balu-balu Allahyarham Staff Sarjan Azman bin Tahir dan juga Korporal Gani yang terkorban di Somalia. Kedua, perkara yangdibangkitkan juga oleh Yang Berhormat bersabit dengan dua buah apartment yang dijanjikan oleh syarikat yang disebut tadi, saya telah pun mencatat nama syarikat yang berkenaan, tetapi eloklah juga tulis surat kepada saya dan saya
akan minta pegawai saya pergi menyiasat tentang janji-janji yang telah diberikan oleh syarikat tersebut untuk menghadiahkan dua buah apartment ini kepada waris kedua-dua anggota tentera yang telah pun terkorban demi menegakkan nama baik kedaulatan negara kita. Insya-Allah, kita akan bertindak agar janji mereka itu tetap ditepati.Itulah sahaja Tuan Pengerusi, apa yang dapat saya jawab daripada pandangan, saranan serta teguran Ahli-ahli Yang Berhormat.
Yang mana perkara yang tidak sempat saya menjawab, saya harap pegawai-pegawai saya yang ada di Dewan ini dapat mencatatkan dan mengambil tindakan seterusnya daripada komen-komen Ahli-ahli Yang Berhormat berkenaan. Seterusnya ucapkan terima kasih.
The Early Merdeka Years: My Story by Lt Col (R) Tan Siew Soo KAT, KMN, AMT (Armour)
Tuesday, January 04, 2022
During the immediate post-Merdeka years in the 1960s, there were three events I would
categorise as milestones in our nation’s history. While I was involved in all of them, this story is
essentially about the third milestone, the involvement of the Malayan Special Force as United
Nations peacekeepers in the Congo.
Tan Siew Soo, Lt Col (R)
My relationship with our army began in January 1954 when I enrolled in the Boys Wing, Federation
Military College. Three years later in January 1957, I was among 18 ‘Budak Boys’ selected to join
the inaugural Cadet Wing Intake One as regular officer cadets. Having graduated on 13 December
1958, I was commissioned into the Federation Armoured Car Regiment (FACR) as a 2nd
Lieutenant in C Squadron FACR.
The FACR, like the Federation Regiment, was a major multiracial unit created by General Sir
Gerald Templer in 1952. A Squadron was raised in Rasah Camp, Seremban on 1 September 1952.
Although only a squadron, it was referred to as the Armoured Car Regiment. B Squadron was
added in 1957 and C Squadron in 1958.
I joined the newly formed C Squadron, which had no operational experience, so together we
earned our stripes in Kedah and Perak in 1959. Chasing the remnants of Chin Peng’s men across
the border, C Squadron FACR was deployed on border operations for seven long months from
March to October 1959. It was active service seven days a week, 24 hours a day, but every 40th
day, the soldiers were granted four days of operational leave with free railway warrants to return to
base in Kuala Lumpur to see their families.
This Squadron was based in Hobart Camp, Gurun, with one troop detached at Titi Akar in Pendang district, and another troop in support of the infantry battalion (4 Royal Malay Regiment (4RMR)) at Kroh on a one-month rotational basis. When back at Hobart Camp, we were often deployed to carry out ambush operations at likely communist terrorist tracks and ‘dead letter boxes’ — the latter were rendezvous points for communists to meet their sympathisers to collect information, mail and, sometimes, supplies.
On 1 January 1960, the Federation Regiment and the FACR were amalgamated to form the Reconnaissance Corps (Peninjau); 1 Federation Regiment became 1 Recce, and FACR became 2 Recce (later Cavalry and now Armour).
. Daimler Armoured Car No 1 Troop C Sqn FACR at Titi Akar, April 1959
From a full-blooded Cavalry, we became half-Cavalry and half-Infantry; the big Daimler Armoured Cars were discarded, retaining only our Scout Cars. However, the role and traditions of Cavalry were retained together with our smart ceremonial uniforms.The first post-Merdeka milestone for our country was the passing of the first King, DYMM SPB Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Rahman Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Muhammad. His face is possibly the most recognisable face in the whole country; you see it on every ringgit note you carry. He died halfway through his reign.
The Royal Funeral Procession entering Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, 02 April 1960. (The Cenotaph is now located at Tugu Negara.)
I am proud and honoured to have participated in his state funeral procession, the only one of all our monarchs conducted in the British tradition. This involved personnel of the Royal Malayan Navy towing the royal casket on the gun carriage. Right ahead of the sailors, leading the royal procession, was the Recce Sovereign Escort led by Major Zain Hashim while I was bringing up the rear. All VIPs and mourners were behind the gun carriage.
With reversed arms we marched all the way from Istana Negara on Bellamy Road to the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station en route to Sri Menanti. This was also the one and only time that the sovereign escort was dismounted. I still remember it being a hot, sunny morning and beads of sweat were streaming down our foreheads and dripping onto our faces, which some in the crowd mistook for tears. Being the first royal funeral procession, the roadsides were overflowing with spectators paying their last respects.
The second milestone was the End of the Malayan Emergency parade on 30 July 1960. The Emergency, declared on 18 June 1948, officially ended on 12 July 1960, lasting a total of 12 years, three weeks and five days. According to official records, over 500 soldiers and 1,300 police personnel died during the conflict, while over 6,000 communist terrorists were estimated to have been killed, and another 12,000 surrendered or were captured.
End of Emergency Parade, 30 July 1960. My Troop passing the Saluting Dais.
The mammoth parade held on 30 July 1960 was to commemorate ‘victory’ over the Communist Party of Malaya. CPM members who got away fled to southern Thailand. This gigantic parade lasting many hours can be considered the progenitor of all subsequent Merdeka Day parades held in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. I am indeed proud to have been a participant.
Led by the Federation Army, followed by the Royal Malayan Police, including the Special Constables and the Home Guards, the Commonwealth forces were fully represented by those who had served the country fighting the communist terrorists. The many British units came in a long line, followed by the Gurkhas, the Kings African Rifles, the Fijians, the Australians and the New Zealanders. The grand finale was the fly past by our young Royal Malayan Air Force, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force.
A few days after the End of the Emergency Parade, my Regiment moved from Kuala Lumpur to Port Dickson into a brand new camp — the Sungala Barracks. We had hardly settled down when the third milestone appeared on the horizon.
The Third Milestone
On 24 August 1960, we received news that C Squadron 2 Recce was selected for UN Peacekeeping service in the Congo. Everyone was excited; perhaps I was even more excited as I was going to the exotic land of my boyhood fantasies, the land of the legendary Tarzan of the Apes in the former Belgian Congo.
Our nation was merely three years old and we were able to answer the call of the United Nations Security Council for peacekeeping duties in another newly independent country, the Congo, which had descended into chaos only days after declaring independence on 30 June 1960. The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) created a new unit called the Malayan Special Force (MSF), comprising 4 Royal Malay Regiment (4RMR) with three Rifle Corps: A, B and C. To ensure this new unit was a multiracial force, C Squadron 2 Recce with its 40 per cent non-Malay composition, was added. Additional non-Malay elements came from other multiracial units, such as the Signals Regiment Detachment. At the same time, elements of the Service Corps, Ordinance and Workshop were also added to HQ Company, called Force HQ.
The man chosen to command this Special Force was Lt Col Ungku (Bruno) Nazaruddin bin Ungku Mohamad, then the CO of 4RMR. C Squadron 2 Recce was officially designated the Recce Squadron of MSF and was commanded by Major Zain Mahmud Hashim. All assembled at Imphal Camp (located opposite Mindef) on 13 September for a fortnight of intensive training. Crowd dispersal, air portability, French lessons, were some of what we were taught. In hindsight, only learning French proved valuable for our mission.
On 28 September, all the wheeled elements of the MSF departed for RMN base at Woodlands, Singapore, to await the arrival of the two United States Navy Landing Ship Tanks (LST) to convey us to Africa. When all vehicles and heavy stores had been loaded, the two LSTs sailed on the evening of 3 October for Port Klang, and arrived there the next morning, on 4 October 1960, to pick up the main MSF.
The LST 1169 which I boarded departing Port Klang, 04 Oct 1960.
At the farewell parade at the wharf, the whole contingent was addressed by Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Al-Haj, followed by a fly past by our infant RMAF Single and Twin Pioneers in salutation. The port scene was simply a fantastic send-off for the sons of Malaya going for overseas service for the very first time.
Before noon, the two LSTs sailed for Africa on a most memorable 28-day voyage for the Port of Matadi, Congo, arriving on 31 October 1960. A Moroccan Guard of Honour was on hand to receive us. Col Ungku Bruno took the salute and inspection. Formalities over, unloading and loading began in earnest. Three trains were scheduled to convey the entire MSF into the capital city, Leopoldville (Kinshasa), located 365 km away. The First Train catered for all the infantry men, including the Recce Squadron Rifle Troopers. The Second Train conveyed all the Ferret Scout Cars and other vehicles while the Third Train was for B Echelon heavy vehicles and stores. It was not plain sailing.
The First Train departed Matadi at midnight, 31 October. Before reaching the city, it was derailed. By sheer good fortune, a nasty accident was averted but it caused a delay of about six hours to the Second Train, which departed some two hours later. The Third Train did not take off for another two days.
The Second Train conveyed the four young troop leaders of C Squadron. Besides myself, as No 1 Tp, there were No 2 Tp 2/Lt Philip Lee Khui Fui, No 3 Tp 2/Lt Tee Bua Bian, and No 4 Tp 2/Lt Teoh Say Chee. Of the four, three were of the same seniority but before departure from Matadi, our OC Major Zain Hashim verbally announced that I was in command of the Second Train.
Due to the derailment, the Second Train was stopped at a small Railway Halt KM236 for several hours. No one carried any rations but at Matadi Railway Station, we were each given two bottles of soda water. The KM236 location had an abundance of Congolese mangoes so it was soda water and mangoes for breakfast and lunch.
KM 236 Railway Halt, 130 km to go. A forlorn six-hour wait here.
Thankfully, the unripened mangoes were not sour.Around noon, our train continued the journey into the city. In the late afternoon, we arrived at the outskirts at Limite, a huge railway yard complex surrounded by miles of high chain-link fence. Here, we were left abandoned by the train pilot. It was the first day of a three-day port and railway strike, we would find out later. Without food and communications, it was a forlorn situation. As the one in command, I had to take the initiative.
In the distance, we could see some vehicles moving. So I asked my squad mate, Lt Teoh, to accompany me to find a way out. We walked around the chain link fence for a long while before suddenly finding a gap and crawled out to a road. We were in luck! The first vehicle that came by was a UN Ghanaian jeep. Here, the bonds of the Commonwealth showed; English was the link. We were dropped off at ONUC HQ and met my OC.
The next morning, the pilot came early to take us to the port and railway station. But just as we were about to move off, a sizeable number of striking workers gathered to prevent the pilot from taking off. In that tense situation, my OC Mej Zain Hashim ordered the few soldiers around him to cock their Sten guns to protect the pilot. The workers stood back and our train proceeded to the city. It was a big bluff because we carried no ammunition then. They were all still in boxes
The original plan for the MSF called for a three-week retraining and familiarisation period in Kinshasa before being sent to Kasai province in support of the Ghanaian Brigade. This never happened. On arrival, we were immediately given unscheduled tasks. The Rifle Company was assigned to guard many key installations and buildings besides patrolling. The city had been sectioned into various zones, and the Ferret Scout Cars created an impact everywhere we went, always drawing a curious crowd whenever we stopped.
The MSF Presentation Parade on 9 Dec 1960 at Leopoldville (Kinshasa). My No 1 Troop with me, extreme left.
The general smartness and discipline of our soldiers drew favourable comments from all quarters. The next big event was our Presentation Parade scheduled for 22 November 1960. This was postponed to 9 December 1960 (see the Finas video on the MSF in Congo).
A Close Encounter with Combat
A shooting incident between ONUC and the Congolese army on 21 November had caused the postponement. Prior to this, tensions had been building up in Kinshasa when the de facto leader of Congo, Joseph Mobutu, declared the Ghanaian ambassador persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country. However, the diplomat was defiant; he had a platoon of UN Tunisians guarding his residence. By 1600 hours, the Congolese had surrounded the place. The Tunisians had earlier increased their troops to around 200 men. Then, at 1800 hours, the Congolese brought in another five truck loads of soldiers, plus one Greyhound Armoured Car.
It is not known how the fighting started but at about 1930 hours, fireworks lit up the entire sky with tracers flying all over. This was visible from base at Camp Chanic. I was Duty Officer on 21 November, the only officer present. Besides those deployed on duty guarding installations, the majority of our officers were at the Officers Mess located about five kilometers from the camp.
MSF was under command of the Tunisian Brigade whose HQ was adjacent to our camp. Two senior Tunisian officers came to see me and wanted our Ferret Scout Car escorts. I politely told them to call my OC at the Officers Mess. They never came back. In the meantime, in response to the tense situation in Kinshasa, the whole MSF at Camp Chanic was in full battle order on standby, physically commanded by a 2nd Lieutenant.
The wild and indiscriminate shooting continued all night. Earlier in the evening, the Greyhound Armoured Car with its 37mm gun had been called into action. It fired one round aimed at the Ghanaian Residence… but hit the neighbouring house, which was the Royal Canadian Signals Officers Mess. What atrocious gunnery! The officers were having dinner when that shot smacked into the ceiling causing a total blackout. They dived for cover. That was the end of their dinner.
Me and my trusty Ferret Scout Car.
At 0700 hours the next day, a ceasefire came into effect. The wild shooting had resulted in relatively light casualties. The Tunisians and Congolese respectively suffered two and four killed in action, with many more wounded. However, the Congolese suffered the loss of their Leopoldville Garrison Commander, Colonel Nkokolo. Camp Leopold, the largest military camp in Leopoldville, was later renamed Camp Nkokolo in his honour.
Following the death of the Congolese Garrison Commander, tensions once again reached fever pitch in the city. Rumours swirled that the Congolese army wanted to take revenge on the UN by attacking ‘Le Royal’, the nine-storey HQ of ONUC. The MSF’s weakness was a lack of rocket launchers, which had all been left behind at home. HQ ONUC ordered the Indonesian KKO Battalion deployed in the northern Equator province to dispatch a Detachment of their anti-Tank Troops to be attached to our MSF. The Detachment of two Sections consisted of two officers and 4 x Jeep mounted with 4 x 75mm Recoilless anti-tank guns. They were based at our Camp Chanic and we worked seamlessly with the Indonesians as language was not a problem.
"Stand To" during first light and last light everyday at Nyunzu.
The task of defending Le Royal fell on us, the MSF. One Rifle Company, one Scout Troop (4 x Ferret), and a KKO Detachment (2 x Recoilless gun) were deployed for this purpose. We were stationed in the basement car park — not the healthiest place to be located — and were rotated every 24 hours. The Troops quickly nicknamed it ‘the Dungeon’. Unpleasant as it was, it allowed us, especially the officers, to interact with the UN civilian staff, who remarked to us how they had great confidence and faith in us and felt much safer with the Malaysians rather than others guarding the place. This boosted our morale.
The sojourn at Le Royal was uneventful save for 4 January 1961, when the second UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, paid a visit. There was a large gathering of deposed prime minister Patrice Lumumba’s supporters protesting with placards that read ‘UN go home’ and ‘Free Lumumba’ at the open ground opposite Le Royal where the helicopter ferrying Hammarskjöld was scheduled to land. All HQ had to do was send out two platoons with fixed bayonets from the basement to secure the landing ground. The crowd was kept at bay and Mr Hammarskjöld was in safe hands. We were respected by everyone alike, even the few Belgians whom I met — they had nothing but praise for MSF and ironically, nothing but contempt for the UN.
Patrice Lumumba, the iconic Prime Minister of Congo elected on 30 June 1960, was illegally dismissed by President Kasavubu on 5 September 1960. On 13 September, a coup d'etat supported by the CIA was staged by the Army Chief of Staff, Colonel Joseph Mobutu, the very man Lumumba had handpicked for the post and given the rank of Colonel. Lumumba then sought UN protection and was confined to his residence. The villa was situated by the River Congo. Initially, a Ghanaian Platoon had provided security, later replaced by the Tunisians. When we arrived in November, B Company 4 RMR No 5 Platoon commanded by 2/Lt Borhan Ahmad (later General, Tan Sri) took over guard duties. We were there to prevent Lumumba from being captured. Further up the road was a Congolese Army roadblock to prevent Lumumba from escaping.
. Entering Congo from Burundi at the border checkpoint.
On the fateful day of 27 November 1960, Lumumba and entourage staged a spectacular escape in the night on small boats on the River Congo. The convoy of three vehicles was headed for his stronghold in Stanleyville (Kisangani). Lumumba had a large following in Leopoldville but he knew his only hope of a fightback lay in Stanleyville.
His convoy got as far as near Port Francqui (Ilebo) in Kasai province before he was recaptured on 2 December after five days on the run. Flown back to Leopoldville, Lumumba and his two ex-ministers at Ndjili Airport were badly treated. They were handled roughly and paraded at the back of an army truck with hands tied behind their backs, on their way to imprisonment in Camp Hardy, Thysville (Mbanza-Ngungu).
By sheer coincidence, I had been talking with another officer near our camp entrance when the truck with Lumumba passed by. That pathetic image of Lumumba with both hands tied was the last picture of him seen alive by the world. That is etched in my mind till today. I saw the last of Lumumba at close range. I remember one of the soldiers guarding him eating an apple. With news of Lumumba’s recapture, the atmosphere in Leopoldville again became highly charged.
Some time in early January 1961, ONUC had a change of Supreme Commander. Lt Gen Sean McKeon, an Irishman, took over duties from Lt Gen Carl Van Horn. Gen McKeon was a practical man who wasted no time in visiting outlying trouble spots. At the cocktail party given by MSF in his honour, I asked him about the prospects of MSF leaving Leopoldville. According to him, there were two factors governing this: firstly, the MSF had the reputation of being friendly, smart and efficient; secondly, the reputation of being good fighters (most likely referring to the successful ending of the Malayan Emergency).
Meanwhile, at Camp Chanic, ONUC had converted one of our buildings to accept refugees. MSF became the first unit to operate a refugee camp in the history of our army. Political refugees, including former ministers of the Lumumba government, high-ranking officials, party activists, as well as family and relatives of Lumumba, sought refuge at ONUC and were channelled to our camp. The flow of refugees commenced after Lumumba’s recapture and climaxed with his death announcement.
On 17 January 1961, Lumumba was transferred to Elisabethville (Lumumbashi) from Thysville to be delivered to his arch enemy, Moise Tshombe. During the long flight from Leopoldville to Elisabethville, Lumumba and his two associates were badly beaten up. On landing at the airport in Elisabethville, he was taken to a nearby house where he was further tortured before being taken outside, tied to a tree and shot to death. The news was withheld by Katanga until 13 February when they announced that Lumumba and his two colleagues had escaped from prison and been killed by wild tribesmen. All hell broke loose in Afro-Asia and Eastern Europe.
From Leopoldville to the Kivu Province
After three months in the city, we managed to get deployed out of Leopoldville to Kivu province, the smallest in the country but the most beautiful in eastern Congo. We took over from the Nigerians at Goma. The 5th Battalion Queen’s Own Nigerian Rifle (5QONR) was commanded by Lt Col Johnson Ironsi; he would become the first president of Nigeria in 1966.
The first buildup of our MSF at Goma began on 4 February 1961. MSF Tac HQ, one Rifle Company, Squadron HQ and one Scout Troop began loading at night. The loading was chiefly a self-help job with our own drivers operating the forklift. The initial air fleet at our disposal consisted of 3 x DC4 and 3 x C119 aircraft. This modus operandi went on for several weeks. Loading would commence after midnight. At the crack of dawn, the first aircraft took off.
At 0300 hours on 16 February, I personally escorted Lumumba’s family — his wife, Pauline, and their children — and others from Camp Chanic to Ndjili airport, to be flown back to safety in Stanleyville (Kisangani) by UN aircraft. Pauline Lumumba was by then clean shaven, a local customary sign of mourning.
The event that triggered our sudden departure from Leopoldville to Goma was the Congolese ambush of a Nigerian platoon in Kindu on 3 February 1961. A fierce battle followed between the Nigerian Company based in Kindu and the Congolese army. Having handed over to us in Goma, 5QONR was scheduled to be sent to Kindu to reinforce the Nigerian Company. Kindu Port Empain was a strategic location, with a river port, a rail head and an airport. It was the capital of Maneima district in western Kivu.
At Dar-es-Salaam awaiting boarding. Photo taken on 16 July 1961, with 2/Lt Borhan Ahmad.
The unexpected change of plans saw MSF being deployed in Kindu instead. A small Rear Party was left behind at Goma. The main force was flown into Kindu. The first wave, comprising Tac HQ and a Rifle Company, could not land at the first attempt due to the runway being blocked by 44-gallon drums. The third attempt proved successful. Once the airhead was established, we rushed in two Scout Troops of Ferret Scout Cars. Those Ferrets had a great demoralising effect on the Congolese soldiers among whom they inspired fear and commanded great respect.
The build-up at Kindu continued and reached a climax by mid-March 1961. The biggest task performed at Kindu was the rescue and protection of civilians, in particular the European population who were victims of cruel beatings and rape by the Congolese troops. Prior to our arrival, they — in particular the missionaries — were experiencing living in hell. Now they came streaming by the hundreds as refugees for homeward repatriation through MSF. Many were plucked from their missions by our patrols and brought into town.
Having pacified and stabilised Kindu town and the nearby surrounding areas, we worked progressively outwards by conducting Long Range Patrols. One very interesting Long Range Patrol occurred on 19 March 1961. On that morning, we had received a report that an illegal fanatic sect of the Balubakat cartel — also known as the Leopardmen — was terrorising the population of Kasongo, a town located over 200 km southeast of Kindu.
A mounted column was quickly assembled consisting of Tac HQ, one Rifle Company, Squadron HQ and one Scout Troop. Also included in this patrol was a most interesting personality. It was a phenomenon that Elaine Shepherd, an American freelance correspondent, succeeded in talking her way into the heart of Africa, arriving in Kindu on 17 March 1961.
She became the first woman journalist to set foot in the Congo since the post-Independence troubles erupted. The Kasongo Long Range operation is best summed up in her own words:
…Colonel Nazaruddin accompanied by Major Zain Hashim went to greet their leader when they appeared at the edge of the Malayan camp at dusk. I watched them shake hands with the Leopardmen who blew a whistle. Out of the darkness came 34 Africans. All were armed to the teeth with bow and barbed arrows, clubs and a strange, lethal-looking weapon made with a leopard’s claw, each finger of the claw a curled knife blade, honed to razor sharpness.
Col Nazaruddin stepped calmly into their midst and handed each of them a cigarette. This pleases them but they never dropped their weapons, although some of their suspicion began to disappear. The Leopardmen were hungry and were immediately won over when the Malayans fed them. Later, the Malayans succeeded in tactfully disarming the Leopardmen of some of their weapons by buying the bows and poisonous arrows.
Some time during April, ONUC decided there should be a UN presence at Nyunzu, a strategic town located about half way between Kabalo and Albertville (Kalemie) in northern Katanga. ONUC had an Ethiopian battalion at Kabalo, and an Irish battalion at Kalemie with nothing in between. This was not a straightforward or routine move. Earlier, President Tshombe of Katanga had announced to the world that he did not want any UN troops in Nyunzu and any entry into Nyunzu would be resisted by force.
Leaving D Company 4RMR behind at Kindu, the battle group for this mission comprising Tac HQ, A, B, and C Company 4RMR plus C Squadron 2 Recce, began the long journey to Kabalo of a few days. This battle group was prepared to fight its way into Nyunzu. (For details, read “The Looming Battle of Nyunzu”.)
On 17 May, 4RMR and C Squadron 2 Recce departed Nyunzu for Kalemie after handing over duties to the advance party of the Indian brigade.
The Last Leg
Albertville, now called Kalemie, located on the western shores of the African Great Lake Tanganyika, became the base for 4RMR until departure from home on 18 July. However, C Squadron 2 Recce bid adieu to 4RMR and departed Kalemie for Bukavu on 17 June by a unique form of transportation, voyaging on Lake Tanganyika for two days and one night before arriving at Bujumbura in Burundi, stopping for a night and driving up the next morning to Bukavu on the splendid Burundi mountainous road.
Three days later on 24 June, the officers flew back to Kalemie for the Congo medal presentation cum farewell parade. This original group of MSF was the only group of MSF (officers only) that was privileged to receive the Congo medal personally from the Supreme Commander. Excerpts from General McKeon’s speech sum up our performance:
… You have been given many difficult assignments since your arrival in November last year. These tasks have been performed in a magnificent manner. It has been a pleasure to deal with you and to see the readiness with which orders were accepted and carried out efficiently. You have every right to return to Malaya, proud in the knowledge that you have given a good account of yourselves. I hope your people, your army and your country will come to know fully of the very fine record you have gained for yourselves here in the cause of peace in the Congo and indeed peace in the world as a whole…
That night, 4RMR gave a most extravagant, fabulous farewell party dubbed ‘Malaya Night’. It was certainly the biggest social event post-Independence in Kalemie.
My stay at Bukavu was very brief. Just over a week later, we were ordered to rejoin my regiment at Goma. My regiment, 2 Recce, had arrived together with HQ Brigade MSFin April 1961 as reinforcements to ONUC forces in the Congo. After the death of Lumumba was announced, some countries protested and withdrew their contingents. The UN Secretary-General appealed for more troops to replace them. Malaya was one country that responded to his call.
As part of the original MSF, my squadron had been away from the country for over ten months. On 15 July 1961, we bade farewell to Goma and flew by DC 4 to Dar-es-Salaam via Entebbe on our first leg home. 4RMR took off from Kalemie and 'marry up' with C Squadron in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The ship that took us home, the troopship USNS General Blachford, was five-star compared with the LSTs we had arrived in. The voyage lasted only ten short days.
On 30 July 1961, the original MSF disembarked at Port Klang and boarded a special train to Kuala Lumpur. The journey from Port Klang to Kuala Lumpur was surreal, truly fantastic. On both sides of the rail tracks, people emerged from their homes to wave at us. It was one super duper continuous friendly wave of hands throughout the forty kilometre route to welcome us home. This spontaneous gesture touched the hearts of everyone on the train. To me, if ever there was such a thing as a reward for soldiering, this was it.
At Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, thousands of well wishers jammed the platforms to welcome us with placards. My mind quickly flashed back to the early Leopoldville days when we faced hostile demonstrators. After the welcome home address by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein, we dispersed.
C Squadron headed home to Port Dickson and 4RMR returned to Mentakab. I had the honour to serve my country twice in the Congo. The First Tour was from September 1960 to July 1961, and the Second Tour from June 1962 to April 1963. The Congo service remains the best experience of my military career. Ask any Congo veteran and you will get the same answer. During General Ungku Nazaruddin’s farewell visit to my unit, I asked him what the most memorable experience was in his distinguished career.