Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Days

Wallace Bay

Sebatik Island is about 10 Km off Tawau in Sabah. It has an area about 450 square km. The island is split half across in the middle, east to west, between Malaysia and Indonesia. The island forms the main battlefront during Confrontasi. Troops deployed in Sebatik include an Infantry Bn and our special forces GGK and an Arty Bty. Infantry cum Arty gun positions were located in Wallace Bay (HQs), Sg Limau, Bogosong, and Semantan.

I was deployed to Sg Limau and later to Bogosong. Operational life in the front line was very much war-like. The single gun troop comprise the GPO and about 18 gunner ORs. All gun positions were firebases, providing HF and DF fire for supported troops, including Commonwealth SAS troops. The gun position was always co-located with an infantry platoon for local protection. Our one gun troop comprise a comd post, one gun in a dugout gun pit, admin area, ammo dump and dug in defence bunkers of Bowen designs, which doubled as our accomodations. We used a foldable camp bed to sleep in. Everything was under camouflage and with OHP. There was stand-to at first and last lights. During the night stand-to the gun was always loaded and laid onto our DF(SOS) and unloaded during first light stand-to. The infantry patrolled the base perimeter and primed all booty traps covering approaches to the base before night stand-to. Radio silence and lights out were strictly practiced every night.

In the dug in Bowen bunker comd post, we used the Arty Plotter and Arty Board as main plotters. All positions had about 30- 50 DF targets, some datas were as fired but not registered. All targets were recorded in the target record book. A target trace was also used on the Arty Board. Target traces were important as Sebatik Island had two different topo maps. Malaysian maps and Indonesian maps across the border have different fixations and gridlines. The gridlines do not match as both maps originate from different national trig points. Most targets, save local DFs were across the border. Daily metrological data were also not readily available and inconsistent.

Life in the gun position was quite routine, until calls for fire. We did gun drills, CP drills, passing the line, impromptu stand to drills, maintenance, and played sepak takraw and card games. Our soldiers had their daily prayers individually in their Bowen bunkers. We ate mainly compo ration with fresh ration runs once a week. Pucuk Paku and Kangkung were always available from the river bank. Not much fish though. We operated a Bty canteen. Beer was sold at 40 sen per can, most liqueur under RM10.00. Chivas Regal Whisky was only RM7.00 per bottle. Cigarette were issued free on a weekly scale. I don’t smoke and I used my stock of issued cigarettes as capital for my card games. Zippo lighters lighted up in all weathers and were mainly bought by ORs. Officers bought the more suave Ronson Lighter. May Brant matches from the NAAFI were also common. Oh yes, condoms were issued free from the CRS on requests. Luckily no scale imposed.

Newspapers were one week late collections. There were plenty of old books and magazines to read. The GPO conducted one on one counseling and we were always a great team in the gun position. Monthly R&R were scheduled to Tawau, usually cum admin duties. The BK kept all our Sabah allowances for safe keeping and reimbursed after returning back to Taiping. Now looking back, what happened to the bank interest accrued from savings about 6 months in the bank ? I do not recall. I suppose there were no bank interest for savings less than a year. I hope the Arty Board is not discarded in present times. It is a very essential equipment. I suppose it is still being used by safety officers on the firing range. If it is to be discarded I propose the Arty Board to be recycled to make majong tables. Morale was always high. What a life.

Being a GPO was always the best part of my 36 years career. I had my own Comd Post team and guns. I was closest to my men and I knew them better than their mothers. I know all their names, nick names and their regimental numbers in the 650 series. How I wished I could be a GPO on ops again.

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