Thursday, 8 November 2012

In the Lion’s Den

Morning first parade task. On the extreme background is one of the 3 tonnes that was ambushed by the Communist Terrorist in Gubir. It was riddled with bullets and gaping holes, fired from grenade launchers

It was five minutes to 8pm or 2000Hrs and drizzling while I got stuck at the traffic light junction going towards FELDA’s Dewan Perdana to attend the Retired Armed Forces Officers’ Club or RAFOC's dinner last Saturday 3rd Nov 2012. A day before Lt Col Ramli Kinta KPD (R) as he is one of the committees, sent a friendly reminder so to be at the dewan or hall by 2000Hrs. Knowing there will be dignitaries attending the function and though it has been umpty years or 34 years to be precise that I left the service however the drill and indoctrination that has been instilled and inspired in me as a soldier, suddenly that funny familiar panicky feelings come creeping and the consequences that I am now going to be late !! Agi idup agi ngelabah.

Few days before I contacted the Defence Minister’s office to know the status of an appointment meeting with the Minister in regards to the pay anomaly and it was then that I was informed that he will also be attending that function at 2030Hrs. The long traffic queue and waiting for the red light turning to green seems to be forever however I was already in the dewan long before the Minister's arrival though I got to plough and sleepwalk through those ex-high ranking Panglimas waiting at the lobby to welcome him.

If not for that I was in the company of those ex-KPD officers in a same table and as it’s also the first of such events that I have attended, I must say that I was somewhat at lost and unfamiliar with the majority of those that were in the dewan except recoqnising some very high ranking officers during my heyday in the army. I must be one of the senior most veterans in terms of leaving the service at a very much earlier i.e. in 1978. During a conversation with Lt Col Arham KPD (B) best Cadets and recipient of the sword of honour of Regular 14, I told him and considering the occasion that one of the reasons I left the service is also that’s there was not enough war to go around with. I don't think there were much activities in terms of operations after the Communist laid their arms just few years after I left. The highest ranking in KP or Malaysia Service Corp then was a full Colonel while opportunities and positions for promotions were stagnant or just none at all. So why build a dream that cannot come through.

When I resigned my commission and though it was considered bold and a brave move to choose but  it was also like a self imposed sentence to misery and to shed away some of your pride and honour of an officer. With no recognition, alone in the civvy street, I was left in the lurch with no one to turn to. Alhamdulillah through the ups and downs I can now peacefully say to be successful in my own way and presumed those in attendance that evening are also those lucky ones enjoying the success of their career with the ATM. Laid back and enjoying life with handsome pensions as high ranking officers and some are also successful in their business. However there could be that there are hundreds of others not so lucky mark time brother officers that are out there that I can imagine of their reason to shy away from attending such function, let alone to be a member of RAFOC. Hope they do not go through the harrowing experience I endured as now it's their turn of trial and tribulation in life in an unfamiliar situation.The word Club can be too reserve and exclusively social and it's no wonder that during that occasion it was announced that it was substituted to 'Association' probably to reflect the more important welfare and sense of belonging to its entity

I was happy and pleased when Mej Bhagat Ram Thailoo KPD (R) came by to our table. He was the MTO a Capt, when we were together in 20 Transport Company in 6th Brigade in Sungai Petani in the 70's. The AO then was Capt H.A Rahman anEx-Singapore Infantry Regiment (SIR). Both were very senior Captain for reason that there was no post for promotion and there were also many others in waiting. I asked Mej Bhagat, “tuan, can you endorse my statement that I am the only Second Lieutenant in the entire MSC.. now and then, commanding a Platoon that got ambushed by the Communist Terrorist and had his man killed and of course you were the only MTO to have that misfortune privilege”. He responded and told those around him and while pointing at me and said, “he was the fittest convoy commander”. That complimentary remark may not mean anything to those officers in KPD now as they do not go through the hardship and experience during those yester years.

Following is a caption of what I wrote in the subject, Whatever happened to Baton One in regards to that incident : ‘On the 7th of April 1975, that was exactly a year ago during a battalion roulement between 13 MTA and the 7th Ranger Regiment, returning back from Mong (or Nong) Gajah towards Gubir, two of the three vehicles in a convoy carrying a Platoon from the 7th Ranger Regt with Skot Syed Ikmal Hashim, as the Platoon Commander was ambushed, killing over half a dozen soldiers including one of my drivers, Pemandu Hussain from C Platoon, 20 Transport Coy. However I am proud to say that this transport unit has been the most combatant during that time where I was the Platoon Commander.

The Ferret scout car escorting from the rear, raced towards the ambushed zone was however disabled with its gun and radio antennae destroyed. Miraculously a bullet from the enemy fires went through the barrel of the armored car’s Browning machine gun. It was a tense and dramatic moment when the daring enemy, a woman bandit came down from the slope of the road cutting and trying to finish off those soldiers with some already wounded that went for cover under the vehicles and just then when the Ferret arrived. Both trucks stop along side each other, probably in certain sense provided wider shelter for the soldiers. One of the Rangers died in an assaulting position still clutching on to his weapon which has the empty casing stuck to its chamber. The few seconds needed to do the TSM may have cost his life.

Three days later in pursuit of the above incident, when 6th Brigade was just about to mount a major Ops, the Brigade Intelligence Officer, Capt Hardev Singh, leads an advance party in a Land Rover, followed with convoy of trucks carrying a company from the 17 RMR. Hardly just few miles further up Gubir camp, the advance column was ambushed killing him and several soldiers including the Corporal of the armoured scout car. Two of the 20 Transport Coy drivers were shot and seriously wounded however survived. Pathetic, and just about everything went wrong for the 17 RAMD Coy including reason for the Brigade IO to be there. Already seriously wounded he can only afford to verbally challenge the bandits before they gained control over him. It was a rampage and among other things the enemy took off with them were some weapons and a radio signal set and as such every set of that model has got to be re-crystallized. So having suffered with all those tragic loses, it was time to retaliate or at least get even’.

Last Monday I bumped into En. Hamari who was a L/Cpl in charged of a section of the 20 Tpt Coy’s convoy that was hit in the second MT ambush. Please watch his accounts during that incident that was eventually cleared till late night. In the first ambush it was relates that a Ranger’ Heckler & Koch, HK33 weapon got stoppages and before the convoy move from camp Gubir with the 17 Malay Regiment troops in the second incident, they were instructed to test fire the flawed HK33 by the roadside into the jungle. However just about four miles from Gubir camp and going into the balak track, they were mercilessly ambushed. I spoke to Mej Ali Hamzah KPD (R) who was the A Platoon Commander of 20 Tpt Coy where his men was involved in the second ambush. Among others, he mentioned that the late Capt Hardev was riddled with bullets from chest.. down to his feets. There was also a hush of that time that the HK33 incident had implicated a high ranking army officer that eventually led to his dismissal. God knows.

That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah - never will He waste their deeds. Sadaqallahul ‘Azim. Surah Muhamad Ayat 4. 

Back on the RAFOC's dinner and as it was not in the program, I felt a bit awkward when the Club’s Tan Sri President offers a toast however was not served with a decanter but from a mini mineral water bottle and a teh tarik glass. The etiquette as I learn and experienced years ago during Mess Night a customary, God's forbid that have long been forgotten. A bit disappointed as shouldn’t it be more appropriate if they can also offer the al Fatihah and a short prayers in remembrance of our fallen heroes and those that have passed away? To top it all and even the Minangkabau decendant's Arham grumbled when an over excited TUDM Dato' Pencen sang Ayam Den Lapeh. 'Orang Perak nyanyi lagu Minang..", was his remark. Well, I’m not even the Club's member anyway.

The KPD Family: Lt Col Ramli Kinta, Lt Col Arham, Mej Radzuan, Lt Col Zainuddin Buyung and Lt Col Che Dan at RAFOC's Dinner

 L/Cpl Hamari (left) resting and awaiting instruction at camp Gubir just before the 2nd MT Ambush by the Communist Terrorist in 1975

 Hamari at extreme right, in charged of the AD Crew while with 8 Air Despatch unit in Labuan

Saudara Hamari, Ex 20 Transport Coy's personnel as he is now.

Capt Ali Hamzah as parade commander

 The young Second Lieutenant Ali Hamzah pointing at the gaping hole fired from a grenade launcher at the 3 tonnel involved in the first MT ambush by the Communist Terrorist that killed the driver Pmd Hussain and six others from the 7 Ranger Regt. See the laminated windscreen rolled down riddled with bullets holes.

A Ferret scout car. The front flap that the Recce's Corporal tried to close but was shot and was killed by the enemy



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