Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Season's Greetings

Hi all,

Tis the time of the year again. End of yet another year. A new year round the corner. Time for celebration and merriment. I have not being blogging here for sometime. No excuses. I will try to sort out myself in due time. I have terrible mood swings lately. I could not kick start out of my tardiness.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our Gunners. Blessings and best wishes to you and your families.

Take care

Allen Lai

Monday, December 23, 2013


May you all be blessed with a Very Merry Christmas

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pingat Jasa Malaysia

The Gunners Club has planned the medal presentation ceremony. The Club Secretary's message is as follows:

Persatuan Bekas Artileri Malaysia(PBAM) will org a PJM medal ceremony for 40 Ex Gnr Offrs on Tuesday, 17th Dec'13 @0800hr at Wisma Perwira TD, Kem Perdana, Sg Besi. You are invited with you spouse. Wear a Batik, Suite or Baju Melayu. For medal recipients, there will be instructions sent soon. Call secretariat at 03-41084518 or 019-3179154. 
Join us for another Reunion of Gnrs and Lunch. "Once a Gnr always a Gnr."


Thursday, December 5, 2013


Saint Barbara became the patron saint of artillerymen. She is also traditionally the patron of armourers, military engineers, gunsmiths, miners and anyone else who worked with cannon and explosives. She is invoked against thunder and lightning and all accidents arising from explosions of gunpowder. She is venerated by Catholics who face the danger of sudden and violent death in work.
The Spanish word santabárbara, the corresponding Italian word Santa Barbara, and the obsolete French Sainte-Barbe signify the powder magazine of a ship or fortress. It was customary to have a statue of Saint Barbara at the magazine to protect the ship or fortress from suddenly exploding. She is the patron of the Italian Navy.
Saint Barbara’s Day, December 4, is celebrated by the British (Royal Artillery, RAF Armourers), Royal Engineers, Australian (Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery, RAAF Armourers), Canadian (Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians (EOD), Canadian Air Force Armourers, Royal Canadian Artillery, Canadian Military Field Engineers, Royal Canadian Navy Weapons Engineering Technicians), New Zealand (RNZAF Armourers, RNZA, RNZN Gunners Branch) armed forces. Additionally, it is celebrated by Irish Defence Forces Artillery Regiments, Norwegian Armed Forces Artillery BattalionUnited States Army and Marine Corps Field and Air Defense Artillery, many Marine Corps Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, and other artillery formations. The units and sub-units celebrate the day with church parades, sports days, guest nights, cocktail parties, dinners and other activities. Several mining institutions also celebrate it, such as some branches of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. Although they do not celebrate her saint's day, she is also the patron saint of US Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Ordnancemen
Santa Barbara Night is celebrated by the Norwich University Independent Battery.
In Greece, the day is celebrated by the Artillery Corps of the Greek Army and the Cypriot National Guard. Artillery camps throughout the two countries host celebrations in honor of the saint, where the traditional sweet of loukoumades is offered to soldiers and visitors, allegedly because it resembles cannonballs.[15] Saint Barbara is also the patron saint of the northern Greek city of Drama, where a sweet called varvara, which resembles a more liquid form of koliva, is prepared and consumed on her feast day.
The Spanish Artillerymen also venerate her as patron saint of their branch, and parades, masses and dinners are held in her honour and on behalf of those serving in the branch.
The city of Santa Barbara, California, located approximately 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, is named for the Mission Santa Barbara. The Franciscan mission was dedicated to her in 1602 after Sebastián Vizcaíno survived a violent storm just offshore on the eve of her feast day. Other Spanish and Portuguese settlements named Santa Barbara were established in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela, and the Philippines.[16] Many churches in Russia are dedicated in her name, including one in Moscow, next to Saint Basil's Cathedral, and in Yaroslavl.
In the Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian religions of SanteríaCandomblé, and Umbanda she is syncretized with Chango, the deity of fire, lightning, and thunder.
In Georgia, Saint Barbara's Day is celebrated as Barbaroba on December 17 (which is December 4 in the old style calendar).[17] The traditional festive food is lobiani, bread baked with a bean stuffing.
In Macedonia Saint Barbara's day is celebrated as Варвара (Varvara) on 17 December. Some Macedonians celebrate with their closest family and friends at home, while others refrain, believing that people who step in their house on Saint Barbara's day will give them either good or bad luck for the rest of the year.
In the mining town Kalgoorlie, Australia, as patron saint of miners she is venerated in the annual St. Barbara's Day parade.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another milk run

It was to be the mother of all milk runs. Frustration was all time high and morale was all time low. I had always loved ops and logistics. Any SO2 Log would have no problems running the logistics support for normal operations, even at Div level. Logistics procedures were all written in the SOPs. I just oversee the logistics requirements. But this was to be my biggest ever logistics ops I had experienced.

I was SO2 Log in KL Garrison, handing mostly movement of troops for big parades in KL and bodevacs in transit from all over Malaysia. I thought transiting big body of troops and impromptu bodevacs were big problems. I had also taught Admin and Logistics in LATEDA.
Nothing came near to this experience.

Mid 1980s. Sibu airport. I deployed the DMA to support 1 Div’s biggest ever cordon and search ops in RASCOM area named OPS JALA AMAN ONE. 1 Div had cordoned off a sizeable group of the enemy stretching from Batu 10 to Julau. I am not sure if there was ever a DMA deployed for ops. DMA were for exercises and tutorials. This time I even had to do a staff check for body bags.

Two battalions were deployed from 3 Bde and another 2 battalions from 5 Bde in addition to RASCOM’s own 2 battalion, forming a tight ring to the cordoned off area. Troops were literally deployed shoulder to shoulder.

Two Armoured squadrons were deployed for patrolling the outer ring road and Artillery support was not required, even though a troop of Guns from 5 Arty Lok Kawi was deployed .  At a later stage we had a squadron of RGK deployed from Sungei Udang Melaka. We even deployed a whole infantry battalion from Sandakan, Sabah straight into the cordon line in less than 12 hours. The Charlies came to off load the troops on the airstrip. Nuris were flying out the platoons. One Nuri directly behind the other like a scene in a war movie.

We had the full squadron of 6 Nuri helicopters from Labuan, complete with the GLO in support. The Nuri Squadron operated from Sibu airport.

TAC HQ 1 Div was deployed to Kem Oya, 3 Bde Tac was deployed to Sri Aman, whilst 5 Bde TAC HQ was deployed to Julau. RASCOM HQ remained in Sibu town.

In spite of the cordon and search ops being the biggest ever, we were not doing very well. It became a nightmare when we had casualties almost every night. It was the most tense ops I had ever supported. Contacts every night. Bodevacs by Nuri every day from the ops area to Kuching, and after prayers in the camp Madrasah, bodevac by Charlie to Peninsular.

It was reported that an Iban warrior named Ubong,who unfortunately was an ex Signals personnel, was leading the enemy group. Ubong processed magic powers or so it seems. He was “seen” and “felt” everywhere. Fear was overbearing among the troops. We had contact reports every night. Every shadow, every movement of the leaves was the enemy, causing aimless fire. Much later during the Board of Inquiry we saw troops were actually firing at tree top levels. Branches were scarred by heavy rifle fire. Claymores were triggered off by themselves. Most of our casualties were blue on blue.

All troops in the front line were hysterical. Something most unexplainable.

Redeployment movements of small groups of troop and small arms ammo resupply was a daily tasking. We would drop off small arms ammo at designated drop off points (DZs). There was inadequate helicopter support.

I foresaw that a Board of Inquiry would be imminent after the ops. There was an unprecedented large number of casualties. At the DMA, I briefed my logistics staff. Logistics must not fail in this ops. Difficult as it was, we must not fail the troops. We must deliver. I must deliver. We do not want the blame game pointing to poor logistic support for this ops.

I personally attended to the ammo resupply by air. We were really short of Q personnel and OPDEMs for ammo and claymore kept coming in. One evening we were not too sure for the exact location of the new DZ near Julau. I volunteered to assist the ammo delivery. An infantry section would normally meet us at the DZ. We flew over the DZ area but could not see any marker panels. The Nuri was low on fuel and had to return to Sibu. We spotted an open field near a school. I requested the pilot to drop the ammo there before he returned to base for fuel. There were no soldiers in sight. Luckily there were some civilians near the school. They helped us to off load the ammo for us. The helicopter pilot signaled that he was going back to base and promised to return for me after refueling.

 I was the only person left on the field with the stack of ammo. I had to guard the stack of ammo all by myself. I took stock. I had 4 magazines of 20 rounds each for my M16 and two clips of 9mm for my pistol. I felt like a silly idiot. I wondered how I could have got into a tight situation like that. The SO1 Log was all by himself.

I asked the civilians who had helped us if they knew if there were soldiers nearby. They said yes, in Julau about 2 Km away. I asked them to call for help from the soldiers in Julau. They did and a section of soldiers came and took over guarding the stack of ammo in the field.

It was late in the evening. I had no radio and the helicopter did not return as the pilot had promised. I gave up waiting and walked the 2 KM to Julau. I was stranded for the night in Julau. I could call for my Rover the next day.

2300 hours.  We were still drinking our coffee at the Tac HQ in Julau. A distress call came from the Ironside Net. Officer down. 3 km from Julau by road and 2 km by tracks to the sector. We had a night medevac by air the previous week during the ops. But not so late as 2300 hours. This time no chance of another night air medevac.

We could not do a night medevec on foot either, fearing a blue on blue situation.  The location was inaccessible for the APCs. Rescue could only be at first light. I went to the location with the medevac team, A doctor was with us. Unfortunately we lost the officer who had succumbed to loss of blood and shock.

Flame throwers were just being brought into service by the Malaysian Army. The only unit that had them first was PULADA, which was holding courses in the deployment and use of the flame throwers.
The GOC requested for some flame throwers. I organized it within 24 hours. But not without problems. The fuel for the flame throwers were too volatile to fly out. No civilian airlines will take it. Not even TUDM. The flame throwers came on the next Charlie flight but without its flammable fuel and also an instructor from PULADA. We were to get ingredients for the fuel from Shell Refinery, Miri.
I flew out in a Nuri to Miri together with an ammo technician(AT). We bought the necessary ingredients and flew back to Sibu. Liquid nitrate is very volatile and had to be hand held without shaking it too violently. The AT said  “Tuan tolong pegang ini” I said “Terima kasih, Tuan takut sangat, baik AT pegang, AT pakar, Jaga baik baik ya?”

There was also a lighter side contrasting to the somber mood during the ops. When the flame throwers were in place, and we managed to get the flammable ingredients for it from Miri. The AT need to mix the ingredients by using a weighing machine. A market or kitchen scale would do. So we purchased a standard market scale and flew it to the forward location. The urgent need for a scale was still demanded the next day. What? Didn’t we flew in one the previous day, together with the fresh ration resupply? A quick search found the critical weighing scale in the dapur. The QM had delivered it to his cookhouse instead to the AT.

As in all ops there would be high moments. I deployed light. My Rover Group comprise a batman cum escort and two radio operators. An HF radio on the Div Admin Net and a VHF radio to talk to the GLO located at the air strip, and to the helicopter pilots. I had a foldable butt M16 rifle and a 9 mm Browning pistol. An FFR Land Rover and a canvas camp bed gave me all the mobility and comfort I needed. I slept anywhere and everywhere. My group was as light as could be.

My batman cum escort was Ranger Balloon from HQ 1 Div. He bore the fiercest permanent rifle green tattoos I had ever seen. Agi idup Agi Ngalaban and all. He is a Sarawak Iban soldier. Ranger Balloon would not accept any stripes even after 15 years of dedicated service. He just aspires to be a good rifleman.

The road between Sibu Airport and Kem Oya is a classified Black road. It can’t be any blacker than Sibu- Oya road. It was “their” road. Wives going from Kem Oya to Sibu town for their weekly marketing need heavy armoured escorts.

One morning, I was in the DMA when the GOC at 1 Div Tac HQ called for an O group. I readied my rover group to move to Kem Oya. Ranger Balloon came up to me and said “ Jangan Pergi Tuan. Aku Pergi. Biar Aku mati” Ranger Balloon was concerned for my safety as we had two enemy ambushes along the route just weeks ago. I was most humbled for his thoughts and personal sacrifice. Here for the first time in my entire career, a subordinate offered to die for me.
I could only reply firmly to Ranger Balloon “Terima Kasih Balloon. Tuan mesti pergi Kem Oya pagi ini. Mari kita pergi bersamasama, Balloon jaga saya baik baik.”

The ops raged on. The nightmares rage on and it was a fiasco in the making.

Back in Kuching, our families in both the Kem Semanggoh and Kem Penrissen were not coping with the ops very well. They could not cope with the daily bodevacs by helicopters. Their anxiety broke into fears and hopelessness. The daily and night thalils, just too many, took a toll on our families.

I took a lift back to Kuching by a Helicopter. We landed in Kem Penrisson and I went home for a while. Word got out that I had come home. A dozen wives came to my house and asked for news in the ops area. Peggy told me that our wives were terrified each time they hear a helicopter circling to land. They would gather immediately to each others’ home for comfort and prayers. I took the cue that we should never land in either of the camps. I notified DMA to inform the pilots that all landing areas in our camps in Kuching were out of bounds. Our bodevacs were landed at Kuching Airport and the body bags brought back to the camp Madrasah by three tonners.

My greatest appreciation was to Army Log Div, 1 Div and Bde Logistics staff. I was given full empowerment to act, no questions, and no further clearance needed.  I delivered. Logistics rose to the occasion. We fought the good battle. Thanks also to the superb air support by TUDM.

This ops was our Waterloo. Another milk run not. How do we forget the tears of our widows?

Allen Lai

Friday, October 11, 2013

The milk run

Some milk runs are no milk runs. I know. I run milk runs.

Ammunition supplies are milk runs. Artillery ammunition milks runs are fairly arduous and could be complicated, particularly sending artillery ammunition to Sabah and Sarawak. A lot of factors were taken into consideration before the exercise to send ammunition stock to Sabah Sarawak. It takes two years planning to conduct an artillery ammunition milk run to the main ammo depots in Kuching, Labuan and Kota Kinabalu from Peninsular.

The move entails stock turnovers, shipping, land transport, accompanying Ammo Technical Officers (ATO) and ammo technicians, security, and very tight control measures for safety. Normally naval vessels were used for the task as civilian cargo shipping was very costly. The insurance cover for the run would cost more than the shipping itself. Whenever naval ships were not available for the milk run, we would schedule our civilian chartered cargo ship MV Sang Fajar, two years in advance at the expense of not shipping other routine runs for essential equipment and ordnance stores.

1982. It was my first year as SO1 Log 1 DIV and I took over a milk run planned two years ago and scheduled for mid September. I studied the plan and the movement tables. Piece of cake I thought. I was the SDS in LATEDA the previous year and taught Movements Graphs in the SD wing.

The special milk run was to be shipped by MV Sang Fajah, off loading 105mm HE, Smoke and Illuminating ammo in Kuching, Labuan, and KK being the last port of call. The different types of ammo needed to be loaded in separate hold compartments, with different fire fighting apparatus needed.

All planning and orders were finalized by August. We engaged extra stevedores and army work parties at all the ports of calls to ensure a fast turn around for the ship to return to its routine tasks. Bill of fares, custom forms, hazardous declarations were all in order. Local police were notified and military outriders were made available. All 3 tonners in the stations were centralized for the move, Red flags in front and green flags for the tail end Charlie. All systems go.

But time and tide waits for no man.

The milk runs to Kuching and Labuan were completed as planned and on schedule. But I knew that offloading in KK would be problematic. High tide was in the afternoon and the MV Sang Fajar was no RORO (Roll on Roll Off) ship. The ship could only dock in the early afternoon at the earliest. Time was the essence.

Now for the fireworks. Literally.

I had flown to Labuan and KK by CATW (Civil Air Travel Warrant) ahead of the ship. I knew the off loading at KK would be no easy milk run. The ship would dock on the day Sabah had planned to celebrate Merdeka Day in a big way. Parades, Fun activities and fireworks to boot. It was to be the biggest fireworks display I was told. AND the area for the fireworks was at the waterfront starting at 2030 hours. Bringing ammunition to the port that evening was definitely out of the question. Period.

I reported to Commander 5 Bde to seek permission to off load the ammunition. Major Maniam (Apu) was DQ 5 Bde. He was tasked to control the land transport turn around to off load the ammo in Kem Lok Kawi. He assured me that it could be done. But the Commander was adamant that we should not do it.  I argued very hard to get it done on an operational contingency. He finally agreed but said something I could not accept that it could come from a Commander. He had said that he would not be responsible for anything untoward. Not responsible? What are your stars for?

I grew up being responsible for my rank, status and all the actions by my subordinates all my life. It is part of command and leadership. This was the first thing I had learnt as a cadet officer. Don’t let anybody teach you otherwise.

MV Sang Fajar was 24 hours away when I gave the clearance to dock in KK. My head was on the chopping block. Die Die must do.

The ship came in at about 1400 hours and I had estimated that we needed about 6 hours to unload. We should finish unloading by 2000 hours latest working double time. We could do it. I ordered for more stevedores and extra hands and hoisters. I do not recall the extra expenditures. I don’t care. It was touch and go.

Everybody knew about the challenge to unload by 2000 hours. We even started to unload from all hatches before custom clearance. Franticly but no chaos.

We were making good timing until 1830 hours when the sky darkened and threatened to pour. Ammo should not be wet for long term stock up and shelf life.

We prayed. I prayed. Major Maniam must have prayed too.

We needed one more hour and the sky could cry for all I care. We were just working to our maximum capacity. Everything was clockwork. It was a battle against time. We planned for 10 vehicles per convoy for best turn around time. The 3 tonners were lined up, loaded and sped off led by a military out rider. Local police controlled every junction between the port and Kem Lok Kawi. Such was Major Maniam’s superb organization and support.

It started to drizzle, a couple of rain drops. I continued to pray some more. God must have heard Major Maniam’s prayers. A miracle happened. Heavy rain fell everywhere, one kilometer outside the port area, leaving a halo of dry area over the port. The rain storm covered the whole of KK, but not at the port area. Our 3 tonners returned drenched wet for the turn around. A real miracle. No other explanation.

We completed our mission impossible by 2000 hrs. Just 15 minutes after the last tail end Charlie left the port area, the halo above the port area broke loose and cats and dogs came down.

I adjourned to the little officers’ cabin on board MV Sang Fajar with Major Maniam. He polished his favourite duty free crate of Carlsberg and I had a couple of stiff ones. We did not talk. Our eyes misty, perhaps due to the wet sea breeze that came in from the cabin’s port hole window.
I took the last MAS night flight out of KK back to Kuching. I was in no mood for the grandest fireworks display, which started after the local Bomoh stopped the rain.

Allen Lai

Monday, October 7, 2013

Of Commanding Officers

I had served 5 Commanding Officers. Lt Col Webb, RA, Lt Col Huchingson RA, ( I am still trying to recollect if this is the right name and I will correct it later) Lt Kol Tony Morel, Lt Kol Nagalingam Zain (Bob) and Lt Kol Harbans Singh. The first 4 COs in 2 ARTY in two separate postings and Lt Kol Harbans in 1 ARTY.

My first CO was Lt Col Webb RA, a World War 2 veteran with war wounds to boot. He was tall, slim and walked with a limp. A very stylish kind of walk, impaired by his wounds. If Col Webb wore a black eye patch, he would pass off as a buccaneer. I remembered him as a soft spoken man, a very experienced gunner and perfect gentleman. Unfortunately I had very little direct contact with him except for happy hours and mess nights. And he would be in the center of all the other Mat Salleh officers in the Regiment. I had more contact with my BC, Major John Lane, but was mostly brought up by my first BK, Kapt Mustapha Saad.

Over the first three years in 2 ARTY, I was away in the YO course Larkhill, followed by eight months tours in Sabah. Whilst the Regiment was in Sg Besi and Taiping I was more away on courses and ops. I had spent more time away from the Regiment. I was a 2Lt for two years and hardly 2 years as a Lt before I was posted to FMC on promotion to Kaptain. I never had the chance to be senior subaltern, a Regimental appointment I would like to hold. I was still on Sabatik Island, Sabah when the Regiment moved from Taiping to Kluang. I got my posting direct from Sabah to FMC and I do not recall being dined out from 2 ARTY.

After 2 years as the Gunner officer instructor in the FMC, I was posted back to 2 ARTY and had directly joined A Bty 2 ARTY in Kota Belud, Sabah. A Bty 2 ARTY was my former E Bty 2 ARTY and my BK Mustapha Saad was now BC. As fate would have it I had came back to 2 ARTY because I was not previously dined out.  I met my CO Lt Col Huchingson when my Bty returned to Kluang from Kota Belud.

Lt Col Huchingson was a big man, rough looking, friendly but officious most of the times. He had the biggest set of eyebrows ever. And he could twitched them effectively when angry. By early 1970s, we had less Mat Salleh officers in the Corp. Lt Col Huchingson was the last Mat Salleh CO with us.
I could never forget an incident with my CO. I was back to 2 ARTY as a Kaptain and was qualified to sit for my Kaptain to Major practical exam that year, which was held in Kluang. I was only a couple of months in the Regiment and my CO did not know me well. Over the same time we were preparing for the annual CIV inspection and the CO did not allow me to sit for the practical promotion exam because of the intense CIV preparations. He said that I could always take my exam the following year. CIV came first. I appealed to him to sit for the exam and he finally agreed, provided I would work hard in the preparation of the CIV.

He was really hard on me as I had told him that I would give him a good grading for the CIV inspection and also to pass my practical exam as the same time. The CO would come around and oversee our CIV preparation, inspecting the vehicles with his white handkerchief.

The day came for my practical Tactics Kaptain to Major exam. Tactics was the hardest paper to pass, both practical and written. Time was always the essence.

On the morning of the Tactics exam, we were on a hilltop and were given our scenario and requirement. We were to come back to present our solution to the invigilating DS. The requirement that year was for the attack phase.

Generally I did not have problems with tactical solutions, but time was always against us. We would use our ponchos as models and other aids to deliver our solution. Gunners had an advantage during our exam, we had the Fireplan Performa (AB 545) to show off. The AB 545 was our bread and butter.
I was ready to present my solution to my invigilator, Lt Kol Abu Samah RAMD. I came up to him and had the shock of my life. My CO was seated on his walking stick talking to the DS. He had come to listen to my attack plan.

 Presenting to the DS was tough enough, what with my CO in attendance? Big sweat right? I was already sweating during preparation time and could hardly finish my model poncho and AB545 in time.
Before the start of my presentation I gave a copy of the AB 545 to the DS and also one copy to my CO. And I went on to present my attack plan. I finished by reading the AB 545 to impress the DS.
As I confidently presented the AB 545 with objectives and target numbers ZTs and all. H minuses and H pluses timings to the objectives were emphasized. The DS was most impressed.

My CO did not say a single word throughout my presentation. I was watching his broad eyebrows twitching and raised in utter confusion. I had big sweat drops and goose pimples. Sure die lah.
The DS dismissed me, pleased and winked that I would pass.

As I left, the DS tent, the CO asked me to see him in his office the next morning. He did not give me a hint of why he had wanted to see me.

The next morning, I was in the CO’s office. He had my AB 545 for the attack plan on the table and he just looked at me, speechless.
He finally said “ Allen, I don’t understand your fireplan yesterday”
I replied “ Yes Sir, I also do not understand my fireplan, but the DS did”
“Why? ” He said, not amused.
“Sir, This exam is in theory. It is not a life battle. I had assigned my fire units to their targets. There were target numbers, H minus and H pluses timmings. That were all that matters and it meets the expectations of the infantry DS. They do not normally discuss the fireplan because they all think Gunners are OK with fireplans. I gambled that there would be no discussion on my fireplan and pulled it off”

The CO asked me “What happens if I interrupted and asked you to elaborate on your the fireplan?’
“Thank you that you did not, Sir. I would have failed the exam and sit again next year.”

I had to redo my fireplan and presented it to the CO later that day. He passed me.

All said and done, I had to really do a good job with the CIV inspection.

I had served well with all my COs. Best time was with Lt Kol Tony Morel, worst time was with Lt Kol Nagalingam Zain.

Kol Morel was a thoroughbred gentleman. Gentle, responsible, compassionate and soft spoken. He was a good CO and everybody missed him when he left the regiment under an unexpected  circumstance. He could not serve his Bde Commander, not then, not anymore.

Kol Zain’s leadeship style was best described a Mandor. He does not delegate nor trust his officers.  But he works very hard and was very strict. We had major differences when I was his 2 ic.
Kol Harbans gave me a free hand as his BCs for several Btys in the Regiment that I had commanded including HQ Bty, and also as his 2ic. This had given me a lot of confidence to run the Regiment.

The role of the Regiment 2ic is to prepare, train and administer the Regiment for the CO to command.

All told, I recalled every CO that I had served and had learnt from them. I later became a CO myself. I commanded 1 ARTY for six straight years.

Allen Lai

The time wrapped Regiment

What say I raise the Regiment that I would be happiest to serve in? What say if I could turn the clock back? What say I could pick and choose the officers and ARTY directorate would have no say?

My Reality Distortion Field Syndrome aside, I would interview all candidates for my Regiment. I would do an utopian lineup like George Orwell, and parade them for selection for the various appointments in a time wrapped Regiment comprising an HQ and 4 Gun Btys.

My criteria for selection would be based on the following traits and talents:
Integrity, Leadership, Charisma, Responsibilities, Talent, Knowledge, Sportmanship, Fun, Compassion and of course Gunnery. And in that order for weightage and balance.

CO – Mustapha Saad (Musty)
2IC – Tony Morel
Adjutant – Hung Meng
Assistant Adjutant – Ghazali (King Gus)
QM Gen – Zahir
QM Tech - Harun
4X BCs, Tan Say Loke, Oh Teng Lim, Hew Deng Onn, and Omar Mohammad
4X BK, David Lam, Heera Singh, Maskan Katan, and Aris Salim
8X Troop commanders, Ho Wah Juan, Chong Kok Heng, Ramachandran, Masoud (Timmy), Albert Manaseh, Ganeson, Tan Guan Gui and Yusri
8X GPOs/Section commanders, Aziddin, Maniam (Apu), Chandran, Satwan Singh, Azahar, Mokhtar Pereman, Allen Lai and for Senior Subaltern – Tony Chia(Anthonysamy)

It would be an awesome Regiment. No?

Unfortunately other Gunners may not have the opportunity to serve in this Regiment, but then they could always raise their Regiment of choice.
What say?

Allen Lai

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Major (Rtd) Rahim

Hi all,

We have a surprise visitor to our Artillery Celebration in Kem Gemas on 28 September 2013.

Major(Rtd) Rahim from Singapore. I do not recall much about Maj Rahim, but I was told that he was commissioned to the Federation Artillery around 1963 - 1964. He later joined the SAF and that was the last of what we heard about him. Perhaps we could ask Dato Aziz Hassan or Dato Hadi, if they have more details.

We would like to write more about him later.

Major Rahim with Dato Hadi recently.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Camaraderie at its best

A small group of us gathered at our favourite place. A place where we bond and share. Camaraderie starts here and ends here. Lots of old stories, fond memories flowed with the chilled beers served.

Ganeson, Bernard Nonis, Rama, Allen Lai, Chandran, Satwan Singh

Bernard Nonis

Hi all,

I managed to catch up with Bernard Nonis at last. He was last seen riding his horse into the sunset in the Kota Belud Artillery Range Sabah in the late 1960s as the RLO. Bernard was commissioned into 2 ARTY in the early 60s. We had served together in Sabah during Confrontation. He retired early in mid 1970s.

Bernard Nonis

Thursday, September 26, 2013

With the late Colonel Abu Hassan

The late Colonel Abu Hassan and I clicked well like ducks to water. He was CO 6 RAMD stationed in Kluang and I was 21C/BCs in 2 ARTY. Sometimes 6 RAMD and 2 ARTY btys coincided on roulements to the border ops.

On one occasion I was BC B BTY 2 ARTY and was deployed to 2 Bde Area. Bty Tac was located in Ipoh. We stayed in the Bde officers mess in Asby Road, Ipoh. It was mid afternoon when I got a telephone call from Colonel Abu. He wasn’t on ops but was just passing through.

“Hey Allen, Lets have a drink tonight” said the Colonel in the most official tone over the telephone, pulling rank over me. I could only answer “YES SIR. 2030 hours tonight at a Hotel in Tambun area, where he was staying”.

Colonel Abu was a thoroughbred gentleman and a ladies man to boot. I just couldn’t let him down. After all he was passing through town and he had come to the right place.

I called up my BK, as he was good with organising impromptu things. My BK got the girls ready, one for each of us and the prettiest one for the Colonel. We arrived at Hotel Casurina, Tambun and adjourned for drinks at the bar. After dinner we adjourned back to the bar and drank some more. As the Colonel was to leave Ipoh the next day, My BK and I bid an early goodnight to him and left with our girls for the Bde Officers mess. We had winked our eyes and left the Colonel’s girl with him.

And we waited by the telephone at the officers mess. Our girls giggling.

The phone rang and the Colonel was on the line. “Celaka Allen Lai, Celaka Allen Lai. Now you take HIM away”. Apparently the girl’s wig had come off during some passionate moments at the hotel, exposing his gender to the good Colonel.

My BK and I went to rescue the Colonel at the hotel. We sent the girls off and continued to drink with the Colonel until the wee hours of the morning.

It is with camaraderie that we can pull off pranks like that. No offense, only laughter and memories to last.

Should I write about our trysts at Bukit Iskandar Johore Baru? No I better not, before people gets the wrong idea. I am solid.

Allen Lai


Song jetty - present day

Song, bukan lagu, is a small river town located on the banks of the Sungei Rajang and Sungei Katibas confluence. The town is between Kanowit and Kapit towns Sarawak, about 3 hours by express boat from Sibu. It was an important trading town in the days of old. The town itself was at about 50 feet above the river, with an undulating ridge at the rear of the town. There was an old company size army camp built by the British army. This camp was sited in the most un-tactical location. I still believed that the sitting of this camp was done by an officer who did not make it to staff college. Nor was the camp built by an Engineer Squadron. It was most probably erected by an infantry assault pioneer platoon. The camp was built in a bowl like valley with several rows of Bowen barracks on stilts. Sentry posts were sited on the high features overlooking into the camp.

Kem Song had a platoon from the RAMD battalion in stationed Kanowit when I had first visited Song. I visited Song because I was to pay a courtesy call to the Commander RASCOM. I was promoted to Lt Colonel a week ago and was posted to HQ 1 Div Kuching as the SO1 Logistics. After a week’s orientation in 1 Div, I scheduled to visit RASCOM and 5 Bde in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Otherwise I would never in my life hear of Song, much less visit the place. I still have some doubts if any Gunner had visited Song.

I bring up my visit to Song because I want to write about camaraderie. I believe camaraderie is much lacking in present day soldiering. Camaraderie can originate from the most unusual place. Like Song.
I arrived Song mid morning, smartly dressed in my cheloreng, with new chips on my shoulders, after a three hours ride by the daily Express Boat from Sibu. Commander RASCOM and his G staff were at RASCOM TEK HQ in Song. After the usual welcome, greetings, hellos, salutations and briefings, a happy hour and drinks were in order to celebrate with the new SO1 Log. After all, the commander was non other that Brig Jen Dato Yahaya, RAMD, a stylish beer drinker and thoroughbred gentleman.
I have never met the commander before, although I had heard of his drinking reputation in the likes and league of the late Colonel Abu Hassan, also RAMD. 

And so we drank beer under some coconut trees in Camp Song. As usual happy hour lasted more than an hour and we were celebrating my promotion. Until today, I still do not know why “happy hour” is called “happy hour” in the army. But happy hour it was and still is, despite the fact that it always last much longer than an hour. I had never done a happy hour under the hour. I can only suppose happy hours were needed to foster and cement camaraderie.

Camaraderie starts with a spark, goes through lots of drinks and laughter; and ends with a hangover.
The weather was hot that mid morning and it got hotter into the afternoon and evening. Needless to say with cold beers flowing, it does not make any difference in the weather. All of us including General Yahaya took off our cheloreng shirts and hung them on the branches of a nearby Jambu tree. It was hot.

We drank to almost dusk and “stand to” time. Happy as we were, we weren’t drunk. I was the first to put on my shirt so that we could adjourn for stand to. I buttoned up my shirt, put on my combat webbings and barret. I stood in front of the commander with the intention to take leave from him and the happy group of officers.

General Yahaya stood up immediately and gave me a smart salute to the astonishment of all present. I was awed and speechless. The general saluted me, not me him. And he was not drunk.
I recalled the embarrassing scene very well till this day. I had put on the general’s shirt, stars and all. I was “promoted” twice in two weeks.

Camaraderie with General Yahaya and others lasted to this day.
Drinks anybody?

Allen Lai


There are some things in life that you cannot forget. One of them for me was the late Lt. Col Mustafa Saad, my first CO. Reporting to 3 Arty in Taiping circa 1975, I already had an inkling of how hard life is going to be. What with the forewarning of a formidable CO who loves Boxing, Rugby, Parajumping etc. etc. My god! what a tall order to be a YO in his regiment. Nevertheless, you simply had to meet it head on. For starters, his wife was Mat Salleh! He had a fancy gait which simply meant "watch out, here I come". The saddest part of my life with him was that it was short, maybe a couple of years or so. In that short period, I learnt one most important lesson from him- THE MEN COME FIRST, IN EVERYTHING WE DO AS OFFICERS. He had a "lan tse" air about himself and we never had doubts of his decision making or leadership. We had a tough time with daily, non stop activities that kept us on our toes. To recap some of our activities, they include:

  • Silat Gayong (first thing in the dark morning before sunrise)
  • Gun Drill for officers inclusive practice for alarm stake competition with NCOs and ORs
  • Daily Games evenings with boxing, rugby,football, etc.
  • Unending Mess Nights with Mess Games
  • Weekly Yeah Yeah's (Informal parties with wine, women and song)
  • Gun Salutes
  • Demos
All of the above was in spite of our operational duties,which were either battery tours, or regimental roulement. CO Musty (as he was fondly called by his peers and seniors), was anywhere and everywhere. I always felt that he was Lord,Master and God for the regiment. That was the power of command where his every word is the gospel truth. I shall cover this aspect of Musty's leadership in another post where I was personally involved. 
Did you all know that the first airborne artillery was started by him in 3 Arty? D Bty (my battery) was re-designated as AHMAD SHAH BATTERY (In honour of our Colonel in Chief then- the Sultan of Pahang). Some officers and men were trained to jump at Sg. Udang and the training continued in the regiment. Sadly, this effort was discontinued over time. Musty used to walk around the regiment in jumpsuit carrying his short cane. As part of his "branding" exercise, we used to wear a green muffler with our camouflage on parade. He left the regiment under unusual circumstances to do Law in the United Kingdom. There he spent his final years and I wonder if his wife Kak Bibah is still around? I only heard sometime ago that his son Johnny was in Broadway N.Y. 
Farewell Sir! wherever you are and may your soul R.I.P.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A bachelor Gunner

There are two category of bachelors in the army. Bonafide and married bachelors. The latter, officers being married and behaves like the former. I know as I went through both categories. I believe the categories remain the same today.

I was a bonafide bachelor as all young officers were, until I got hitched up as a Captain in 1970. I got married when I was posted to be the Gunner Officer Instructor in the FMC Sungei Besi in 1968. My bachelorhood days wasn’t too bad and likewise as a married bachelor as well in 2 ARTY, Kluang, which unfortunately lasted only for a year or so, when all hell broke loose. But that will be another story.

As with all bachelors in the sixties and being an officer to boot, I was brash, suave, confident and fun. I was after all a Pegawai. And Pegawais were laku those days. “Oh mama, saya mahu kahwin” a popular song those days, was not our favourite song. We lived like there was no tomorrow. Nor did we care for tomorrow.

We were trained to be an officer and gentlemen always. The latter augurs well with the ladies. We were quick to learn that girls wanna have fun too. Madonna sang it much later in the 80s. Mess dance parties were the order of the day and also moonlight parties at the Garrison swimming pool in Kem Makhota Kluang. We did not have a particular girlfriend for long and most often dated in groups. In those days, just holding a girls hand would mean you were serious and she wants to marry you. But not with us, because we would declare our intent/interest first. Coming or not? We would ask.
One evening I telephoned a girl for a date and asked her if it was alright if I came to pick her up at 8.00 pm. She replied No.

I then asked what time would she be ready. She replied 7.00 pm.

We actually had more girls than we could handle. Firstly there were the Tima Rolling, (Fatimahs), MinaKarans, sometimes aka Perakus, who rolled from officers mess to officers mess. Some are hand me downs from officer to officer. Then there were girls from Airdrops, an effective communication/contact mode. We would drop a note to girls as we droved pass them. The note would contain our officers mess telephone number, and we would get a 80 percent chance of receiving a call within 96 hours. Pegawais were really laku with Malay girls, both in the Kampong and institutional hostels in KL area.

We would patronize the dance halls at BB Park KL almost all weekends dancing the Cha Cha Cha and Off beat Cha Cha Cha. We would organized our own Joget Lambak in the Regment. On one occasion we did not have sufficient time to call up our usual girls. We were so desperate that we actually rounded up a bunch of Orang Asli girls. Most were bare footed and some toothless. Nonetheless girls.
We would also spend weekends chilling and hanging out at our bar in the officers mess. Sometimes we would engage actively and intelligently in debates with the girls. I remember the hottest topic discussed was “Are women boobs sexual organs?”

Talking of sex, I believed the Kama Sutra, which was the most read book by officers, never taught us how to perform on an officers field camp bed, a green canvas contraption with metal rods for legs. Don’t try it, unless absolutely necessary.

I learnt to operate the movie projector during the Tawau days. It was the issued 16mm movie projector. We had films nights on Wednesday. We could get movies, which were mainly uncensored directly from the British AKC Films. (Army Kinema Corporation). I would stop the reels at the “hottest” moments. Most times the intense heat from the projector bulb would burn through the celluloid film. Truth be told, the girls loved it more than us. Whenever we had “nice” scenes (obscene?) I would cut off several frames for our keeping. AKC would always complain. When Japanese/Taiwan logging ships came to Tawau/Wallace Bay, we would get to screen blue movies in the officers mess.

As bachelor officers we had a quality standard with the girls. Just like the ISO 9000, we made measurable and achievable objectives. For your information the ISO 9000 series for quality management were direct adaption from the British Army standards.

Our quality standard for a Gunner officer was to have sex BEFORE dinner. Sex after dinner was the norm but not the gold standard of our times. On one occasion my date objected to sex before dinner as it would messed up her Saloma style hairdo done up for the evening. She later obliged by turning over.

Oh those bachelor days. We loved Cliff Richard’s song Bachelor Boy.

Rama, If this post is too lewd, please censor/delete.

Allen Lai