2Lt Pan and I were commissioned in early December 1964 and were posted to 2 Arty. We were given the standard, but well deserved 14 days annual leave before reporting for duty. The very morning we reported for duty at Sg Besi Camp, we were given the warning order for immediate operations. The Adjutant called all officers in and briefed us. All officers and gunners were to be recalled from leave and a regimental roll call was to be made at 2200 hrs that evening. The regiment was ordered to be deployed to Johore in 48 hours. 2 Arty was Army reserve troops at that point of time. Regt Tac HQ, D Bty and E Bty were deployed to the Kota Tinggi / Mawai area, Johore. We were all deployed as INFANTRY COMPANIES and PLATOONS, making up of 2 companies of 4 platoons in all. Officers were regrouped to take up the platoons.
Indonesian troops had parachuted and landed in the Johore jungles east of Gunung Panti and along the Selangor coast. (1 Arty was deployed to the Selangor coast) The Indon troops were from their national strategic crack commando group. They had landed with only their personal weapons and very little combat rations. They were hopeful to survive through local sympathies and support. But immediately after regrouping and moving towards the populated areas, they caught a platoon from 1 SIR (now Singapore Army) camping in the vicinity of Gunung Panti Forest Reserve. They assaulted the camp and slaughtered / wiped out the full platoon of 18 soldiers. They mutilated the bodies and blatantly radioed the platoon’s Company HQ using the platoon’s radio and call sign. They boasted of their kills and challenged the Malaysian army to capture them. 7 Infantry Bde was deployed immediately to cordon off the area. A massive search and destroy mission was launched. 2 Arty was deployed to join the cordon and search ops. See map above. Red Marker shows Regt HQ in Mawai area.
The regiment was readied in full ORBAT within 24 hours. 2Lt Albert Manaseh and I were platoon commanders with E Bty. BC was Major John Lane RA. I felt very excited and was very confident of my command as I was still fresh from the FMC. Platoon battle drills, field craft and search and destroy ops were still very fresh. We were armed with the 9mm SMGs for officers and senior ranks and the good old 7.62mm SLR for the gunners. Platoon support group had HBSLRs. The enemy carried ARMALITEs AR15. The weapon of the era then.
The two Btys were ready at the old Sg Besi International Airport by about 36 hours from warning order. We were flown directly to Changi Airport Singapore, by the RAF transport planes at 1500 hrs and immediately airlifted by RAF Whirlwind Helis to a school padang in the Mawai FELDA scheme. We were received by 7 Bde HQ. My BC was given an ops briefing, followed by the ops deployment plan. My platoon was in our first ambush position with the help of a guide before last light at 1830 hrs the same day we took off from Sg Besi. I was operational and facing a real enemy within 48 hours of reporting for duty.
The first two nights were uneventful. The third night had a bit of excitement. It was full moon. I received a report that the enemy were moving towards our general direction. I briefed my platoon that this was it. Our first action faster than others. It was past midnight and we were in a linear ambush layout. I recalled my platoon sergeant whispered to me “ Tuan, musuh !” I triggered our silent alarm scheme by pulling our signals D10 wires. The whole platoon was ready but very tense. The silence was killing. Nothing happened for more than half an hour. My sergeant then informed me that our left flank sentry L/Bdr Bakri had panicked and crawled 15 metres alone, out of his firing position into our killing zone. I know I had to crawl out to him, to calm him down and to bring him back to his position. I did that in semi darkness. When I reached Bakri, he whispered to me quietly that he was alright and that he had moved out to a better observation and firing position. I said he was right but that we should crawl back as we were in our killing zone. I was glad he understood and we crawled back into our positions together. The enemy did not come pass our position but was ambushed by another 7 Bde platoon, about 1 km to our flank.
The whole ops was successfully completed in 2 weeks. All enemy troops were killed, captured or surrendered. E Bty managed to capture 5 enemies, Albert’s platoon had one enemy KIA and we recovered all their weapons and cash RM5000.00. We returned to base all safe and exhausted and clocked up some Bty history. We had a regimental party, curtesy from our enemies. Cheers.
I am glad I was never deployed as an infantry platoon commander again. GPO was so much better. I am glad I am a Gunner and will always be.