1000 hrs. All was quiet. We were just settling into the night. Then Crack… Thump. The sound of mortar fire in the jungle. “Stand-to” was immediately ordered from the command post. The first of several enemy mortar bombs would explode several hundred meters outside our gun position. Night mortar fire was quite common in Sebatik Island, particularly in Sungei Melayu. At times we experienced enemy mortar fire two to three times a week. Our assessment was change of enemy troops at their front. New troops almost always were more aggressive than their out going troops. Perhaps they were registering their targets or confirming taken over target data?
Whatever their intention it was no comfort to be under mortar fire. Stand to position would normally last for two hours or so. We had to retaliate enemy fire to end their mission and to uplift our own morale. We would try to determine the enemy mortar position. We would listen carefully to the crack and thump of the mortar fire. First we would determine the general direction from which the fire came from. Then we would measure the difference in time between the crack and thump and that would roughly gives us the distance to the enemy mortar position.
With that crude data information and guesstimate, we would do counter battery fire. We would fire five rounds fire for effect in retaliation. This would stop further mortar firing. I do not think we could accurately determine the enemy mortar position, but that was the best we could do. Maybe exchange of fire was an exchange of hello between confronting troops. The enemy also knows when we do our roulement and change of troops in the position. The enemy had an OP position at the mouth of Sungei Melayu and they could observe the extra movements of our troops moving into Sungei Melayu.
We were mortared once in the daytime, when we brought our gun ammo from Tawau by assault boats. We were unloading and carrying the ammo boxes from the river, uphill to the gun position when the enemy fired several mortar bombs at us. We had to continue to move the ammo boxes under enemy mortar fire. It was very frightening, but we could not leave the ammo unattended. It would be disaster if a mortar round would have a direct hit on our ammo. We must get all our ammo under OHP inside our ammo dump. We had to run uphill with three men carrying two boxes of ammo per team. We could not do counter battery fire as all personnel were assigned to complete the ammo move as quickly as possible. A section from the infantry platoon were also tasked to help out to carry the ammo. All remaining troops maintained stand-to position.
We were thankful that we never had enemy mortar fire falling inside our gun positions. We assessed that the enemy did not deploy their MFCs, otherwise the mortar rounds would hit our positions.