Thursday, June 21, 2012
Ambush at Gubir
Gubir was a hot spot. Central to most enemy activities in the 1970s -1980s. We had our fair share of deployments to Gubir. My Bty Tac HQ and two guns were at Gubir with two other guns at Mong Gajah and Sintok single gun positions. We were covering for 6 Bde which had deployed two infantry battalions in the Gubir AO. 6 Bde Tac HQ was also deployed to Gubir. This was quite a routine major ops with 6 Bde. We had come up from Sg Peatni for the past two weeks when it happened. A platoon from the Rangers Regiment was ambushed 30 km east of Gubir. Adrelinin shot up several notches. Beer cans emptied in a hurry and everybody went on to full battle alert.
Sitreps were coming in at lightning speeds. Contact reports and summaries were handed out by the Bde BM/ G3 ops. This was what we were waiting for; contact with the enemy. The enemy group in this sector had been very agressive of late. It was a show of force and their arrogance in part. Our intelligence had reviewed that there were actual conflicts and show of upmanship between the two enemy splinter groups CPM-RL AND CPM-ML located in the Betong basin. Hence the increase of enemy activities in upper Perak, Perlis and Kedah. Charlie was on their offensive phase.
6 Bde had deployed all its combat troops and resources, including the Bde's reserve troops. It was one of those major deployments in search and destroy ops. We had to match the enemy on holding our ground.
Follow up ops were the standard SOP after each contact with the enemy. Cutting off the enemy from geting back to their safe sanctuary was the key to containing the enemy on our side of the border. The artillery Bty would fire HF fire tasks along known border crossing points and also to cut off the enemy to channel them to our own troops operating in the AO. This latest contact with the enemy was way out of our gun range from Gubir or Mong Gajah, which were the nearest guns to the contact. I had to do quick deployments from Gubir to temporary forward positions in ordaer to support the activities in the contact area.
6 Bde requested for Army/Corp reserves to be deployed. The reserve battalion , 17 RAMD was to come from Johore Baru, expected ETA the following afternoon. 6 Bde resquested my arty support for the reserve battalion. The evening before the arrival of 17 RAMD, I requested for amour escort to do my recce for a temporary gun position to support the reserve battalion to be deployed west of the contact area. My request was approved and my How-1 party and I were escorted out of Gubir driving up the gravel track made for San Tai Wong (King of the Mountain) timber lorries. My recce party and armour escort comprise only our two land rovers and three APCs. Our land rovers and the APCs were at home driving up the timber lorry track in low gears. Four by fours all the way. Even the How-1 land rover with its trailer on tow could move along without getting stuck. We managed to find a temporary forward gun position and returned to Gubir before last light. I briefed the BM for the need for my guns to move forward and requested for the depolyment for the next day before the arrival of 17 RAMD. My request for ealy deployment was approved for 1000 hrs the next morning and 17 RAMD was scheduled for the armour escort in the evening earliest, or latest for first light the following morning, which wasn't unusual.
My troop and I was ready to roll out from Gubir at 0900 hrs. The BC party, CP party, two guns on tow, A-1 ammo truck with first line ammo and Q-1 truck for admin support. I had anticipated this deployment would last about at least 3 weeks. Our grouping married up with our armour escort party of four APC at the guard room. There was still time for a quick cup of coffee and roti canai at the officers mess before 1000 hrs. The G3 came to me and said "Tuan, please hold on your deployment. There may be a change of plans as 17 RAMD was arriving at about now. " And they arrived. The CO party and their first rifle company in the advance group. The rest of the battalion would arrive later in the afternoon.
The CO had just been promoted to take over the battalion and new COs are as energetic and dashing as their new pips on their shoulders. During the orientation and ops briefing the CO had insisted that his advance party of the rifle company to be deployed to their sector without further delay. The Bde Comd agreed to the CO's request for immediate deployment of his rifle company.
17 RAMD had hijacked my escort. We were to deploy later that afternoon. Battle procedures were huriedly prepared and caution was thrown into the wind. The Bde IO was tasked to lead the infantry into their sector. The armoured escorts were given a new task to escort the infantry company first, followed by us later on. Carelesness was seen as the order of the day. Rush, rush, rush. No need for OBATs, no needs for basic battle procedures, no need to test intra comms between grouping commanders in the convoy. Everything was taken for granted.
The enemy was on the run, were they?
The rifle company moved out before noon. Troops all the way from JB, without adequate rest and detailed briefings and battle preparations. The batalion was all Gungho. My guns were still hooked up and ready for the next excort out. A disaster was waiting to happen.
The enemy ambushed the convoy just minutes outside the security of the guard room. A mere kilometer and a half from the camp. A sharp bend along the San Tai Wong track that my recce party had taken the previous evening. All hell broke loose. What? the enemy dared to attack an infantry rifle company? Never in our history and unbelievable. We were all stunt and rooted to the ground. The enemy took on an infantry company with armoured escorts. The enemy ambushed us at our doorstep, under our very nose as it were, and where it was least expected.
We took heavy casualties and the Bde IO was KIA together with several riflemen and troopers. I could not respond to the call for fire support as my guns were still hooked up and ready to roll. The ammo were all loaded into A-1 and guntowers. By the time we reacted and moved back into our gun pits in Gubir camp, it was a bit too late for direct fire support. The infantry anti MT ambush drill was dragging its feet mainly due to poor battle procedures, ORBAT within the convoy and enemy's expertise in selecting their ambush site. The enemy had caught us with our pants down. The enemy had successfully withdrawn and our troops were left in a mess on the ambush site.
In looking back, the ambush site was well prepared months before. The fire trenches were well sited, prepared and camourflaged. The enemy were studying our movements in and out of Kem Gubir all these while. They chose to strike at the time of their own choosing. There was certainly an element of surprise and offensive action by the enemy. They dared to ambush an infantry company comprising 6 X 3 tonners full of soldiers and with armour escorts. Why did they not ambush my recce party the previous day? We would be sitting ducks and would be considered higher target values. ( A Bty Comd is worth several infantry comds) We wouldn't be able to do anti MT ambush to counter attack. We can't do much but to die with grace. Only God knows the answer.
Good Luck, Bad Luck, Maybe. There goes another one of my nine lives.
Posted by Allen Lai at 18:30