Feb 1963 - July 1963
............I could not believe that I was actually boarding a Comet 4 Jet Airliner. Up until then I had only seen pictures of them in the newspapers and would never have imagined that one day I would be able walk in side one of these giants. Amazingly, here I was about to take a seat on a flight that would take me halfway round the world. To a destination that was steeped in mystery and hardly ever received a mention on the radio or in the daily newspapers. Until then I had only heard stories of the Far East from returning service personnel who were occasionally on home leave and needed somebody to talk too, so they could re-live their escapades over a pint of English beer.
............If anybody had told me a couple of years earlier that I would one day visit the Orient, I would have laughed in their face. I felt good that I had changed my life around and had broken away from the small town of Stowmarket. Not bad for a young lad who just a few years earlier did not seem to have a future of any description, other than maybe prison.
............I was lucky and found myself sitting by one of the windows on the left side of the aircraft, so at least I would be able to see where we were going. I could feel the excitement brewing inside of me as I anticipated what the experience was about to feel like. After about fifteen minutes, the plane started to move away from the Terminal building, to align its self up on the runway. The excitement within started to increase, as I felt like a young kid who was about to take his first steps across the room. The aircraft suddenly lurched forward with a great thrust of speed, forcing me back into my seat. Then as I watched the tarmac drop away at great speed, I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. It was a great feeling, something that I had not experienced up until then.
............I guess it was the unexpected, of what lay ahead that had me excited, because I had no idea of what I was about to become involved in. The only thing I did know was that the trip was not costing me a penny, in fact I was actually being paid to go. I was thankful that the government was financing this trip, because there was no way that I could have ever saved the money to purchase a ticket. In those days, the only people who travelled around the world were the Millionaires, Servicemen and the Merchant Seamen.
............Then all too quickly we were engulfed in the clouds that blocked my view of the English countryside below, leaving me feeling a little disappointed. It was time to talk to the guy sitting beside of me, it being Jock Minnock who had been a member of the 779 squad and behind us sat his countryman Jock Stone and his wife who was accompanying him on the trip. Jock had also been a member of our squad.
............My attention was suddenly grabbed by a view that lay far below us. We had finally found a hole in the clouds and below us lay the Alps completely covered in snow. I could not believe how beautiful it all looked. After all, I had only seen coloured pictures of the Alps in the National Geographic magazines that we usually found at school. However, the view that was laid out below looked even more stunning and spectacular. Jock and I spent some time discussing what lay below and wondering if some day we would ever set foot on to that type of terrain. The Alps must have covered a very large area, as it seemed to take an eternity to pass over them.
............The next spectacular views that greeted us was the West Coast of Italy. It was about now that I realised how lucky I had been in obtaining a seat on the left-hand side of the aircraft. Somehow, it seemed that most of the spectacular views we were flying over just happened to be on my side of the aircraft. Some of the passengers were walking around the plane trying to peer through whatever window was available to them. While all I had to do was to sit back and watch it all unfold beside me. The excitement and talking amongst the passengers grew even louder as the city of Rome came into view. It was so picturesque and would have been well worth a photo, if I had a camera. Unfortunately, in those days, not many people ............owned one and if you did there was always the hassle of carrying it around everywhere with you.
Then all too quickly we had left the shores of Italy way behind us, as we headed out over the Mediterranean Sea. The view that greeted us gave all on board the impression that it was a deep rich blue in colour. Which caught me off guard, after all I had been reading in the National Geographic Magazine, stories that told of how the Mediterranean was becoming polluted, even way back in the early sixties. Even at the height we were flying, you could see the waves below, as occasionally the white heads became visible as they broke. Whereas Felixstowe my local seaside resort always looked a dirty brown with loads of white froth washing up the beach.
............Very soon, it all changed once more and you did not have to be a brain surgeon to work out why. With the colour changed from a blue to a very light tan colour it was clear that we were now over a desert. What I did fine strange was the vastness of what lay below us. Up until then, I had always believed that only the oceans of the world covered vast expanses of space. Now all of a sudden, the desert below seemed to be as vast as the Mediterranean Sea we had just flown over. As far as I could see it was sand, sand and even more sand. I could not see a single object, other than sand from my viewing platform.
............Suddenly someone further along in the plane announced to everybody on board that there was something in the distance. We all eagerly scanned the horizon in an attempt to be first to recognise what it was. To me it looked like a small short black line stuck out in the desert miles away from anywhere.
............Then slowly as it came into view you could see that it was in fact an Airfield, the black being the tarmac on the runway. Then a small camp along side of the runway came into view and right in the middle of the camp was a beautiful light blue swimming pool. In its own way set in the middle of this vast desert it looked like a paradise, a very lonely paradise, it being all on its own with only sand for company. The thought passed through my mind that at least it would be hard to fall out with your neighbours. I’ve often wondered how they laid the runway believing that they must have transported all of the materials and equipment for hundreds of miles.
............As we landed, the Captain informed us that we had just arrived at The Royal Air Force station of El Adam, in the heart of Libya. He also added that we would be stopping over for two hours as the plane needed to be refuelled and cleaned up. We were further informed that we could walk around the camp, but were not allowed out into the desert or to use the camp swimming pool. The camp was just a refuelling station for all of the military aircraft flying to and from the Middle and Far East. While Tobruk was the closest large town to the camp, but I had no idea how far away it was. I would certainly not want to walk there.
............Tobruk also brought back memories of my Father, who at one time or another had told me that he had been stationed there during the war. During the early part of the war Tobruk had been fortified, as the advancing German Armies surrounded it and trapped thousands of allied soldiers within its confines. Then after a few months, the Allies broke out of Tobruk, advanced on to the German lines and slowly pushed them back. Unfortunately, within just a few weeks, all the Allied gains had been turned into losses, as the Germans held their ground and even started to push the British back. It soon turned into a route as the Germans advanced at such a rate that the Allies were running in retreat. Again, they were pushed past Tobruk, where some of the Allies finally decided to take up a defensive position. The remainder kept running back towards Egypt, never once stopping to take up a defensive position. That is until they got to a place that became known as El Alamein, where they finally dug in. This is just as well because if they had not, then Field Marshal Erwin Rommel would have pushed them all into the Suez Canal. The strange thing is that once Rommel stopped and took stock of what he had, he was amazed to find that he only had four Tanks that were operational. He had advanced so fast that he actually out ran his supply lines, leaving him short of fuel, water and ammunition. If only the Allies had known this, then history might have been changed for the better. However, for a second time the town of Tobruk, was by passed and came under siege by the Germans. The importance of Tobruk was its harbour, it being one of the few places in that area where the Allies could bring their equipment ashore.
............Where the Allies had dug in at El Alamein, they fortified a complete line that ran from the Mediterranean Sea in the North to the Qattara Depression in the South of the country, a distance of almost 200-miles. It was around this time that Field Marshal Montgomery came out from the UK to take over what was left of the Allied Army. It was his job to knock them in to shape and to build up supplies for a major offensive against Rommel. In order that they might chase him, right out of North Africa for good.
............Dad had told me that the night before they broke out from El Alamein, the guns had started to fire on to the German lines as it became dark about 7 pm in the evening and that it continued right through the night. He always remembered that it sounded like one continual roll of thunder that lasted right through the night.
Then at five am and while it was still dark, they were ordered to advance forward, with some of the soldiers having to advance through the un-cleared mine fields. Dad had always felt bitter about how the first to advance were treated in this way by the military. It became a well-known fact that the men were made to clear the mines in order to protect the precious tanks that followed up behind. I guess it was a case of the tanks being worth far more money than a human life. If the situation were to be repeated today, I doubt very much whether things would be any different, with the so called modern Army of today. Dad went on to advance all the way across North Africa, then across the Mediterranean Sea to land in Sicily. Where he had to repeat it, all again on the main land of Italy as they advance right up the middle of the country. I guess he was very lucky, as he was never injured, and came through the whole experience unscathed in body. However, I’ve often wondered if it affected him mentally.
............In order to complete the next leg of our journey to Aden, we had to fly over countries that did not allow military aircraft to pass their air space. Therefore, in order that we could reach Aden, we had to divert around certain counties. Egypt was one of them who did not allow shock Troops, such as Commando’s and Parachute Regiments personnel into their country. An older Marine later told me that on one occasion while he was on board a ship and going through the Suez Canal. All Marines had to remove their Green Berets so that the local people had no way of knowing what type of Servicemen they were.
............There was also a story doing the rounds that during the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 when the British and French governments invaded Egypt to protect the Canal. The British Parachute Regiments parachuted on the Airfields while the Royal Marines Commando’s were landed by sea, taking the beaches.
............Where the Canal meets the Mediterranean Sea there used to stand a thirty-foot high statue of the guy who built the canal. Anyway, during the Marines occupation, one of the Cliff Leaders scaled the statue and placed a Green Beret on its head. It was believed that the statue was so slippery that the Egyptian’s would not be able scale it to remove the Beret, so in desperation they blew it up. Maybe that is why they did not like Green Berets. While another story went on to explain why the Royal Marine losses were very low when they came ashore from their landing craft. The Egyptians, who had been given Bakelite land mines from the Russians, were so scared of them, that they laid them in the sand without arming them. Therefore, when the Marines came ashore they did not go off. Another point worth remembering is that being made of Bakelite and not metal meant that our mine detectors would not have picked them up.
............Our trip took us due south for almost a thousand miles, at which point we turned east for about hour. We then turned and headed North East, a route that took us over the Horn of Africa and finally on to Aden. We landed at night, so not a lot could be seen from my ringside window seat.
............Because of the training I had received while a member of the 779 Squad, my body shape had under taken a dramatic change. So just before I left England, I had purchased a complete new set of clothing. It was also because we had to travel in civilian clothes, just in case our aircraft had to divert to one of these countries that did not like military personnel travelling through their airspace. Unfortunately I was wearing a new pair of shoes that had not been broken in. While on the plane they had begun hurting my feet so much, that I had taken them off for a little relief. Unaware that the cabin pressure would swell my feet once the shoes were removed. Therefore, as we came in to land I could not get them back on. Unfortunately, I had to make my way off the plane carrying them in my hands. This caused a big laugh amongst all of the other passengers.
............Once the Plane had taxied to a halt and the doors were opened you could feel the heat circulate around the inside of the aircraft. Then as we walked of the plane, the gangway lead down in front of the Jet Engines and I could not help remarking to Jock Minnock how hot they were. Even when we were fifty meters away from the Aircraft it still felt hot. I suddenly realised that the heat was everywhere, it being unbelievably hot and stifling. I could not believe that it could be this hot at 2 am in the morning, what was it going to be like at noon midday. The next thing I noticed was that wherever I looked there were Arabs lying around, or sitting propped up against walls. The whole airport just seemed to be bursting at the seams with them and it did not smell very nice either. The whole place looked like Liverpool Street station on a busy weekend, crowded with the usual wino’s and the down and outs of the area. I was told later that they were all airport workers, who did not have homes to go to. At least they would not be late for work each day. I wondered how they got on when they wanted to take somebody home for tea.
............We spent most of our stay in Aden inside of the main terminal building, it being a little cooler than outside. In those days there was no such thing as air-conditioning, so I guess what we never had, we never missed. Although I was thankful that the building had several large circulating fans positioned high above our heads, they were not making us cooler, but at least they were moving the air around the waiting area. At least it was acceptable as we stretched our legs and had a chance to talk to the other passengers over a drink. I was still the topic of conversation having to carry my shoes off the plane, giving most of my fellow passengers a good laugh at my expense. I must have looked funny with a shoe sticking out each of my back pockets.
............After the aircraft had been refuelled, we took to our seats for the next stage of the journey, which would take us to the island of Gann. Gann is located slap-bang in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We headed just east of due south, on what had become a customary four-hour hop. It was still dark as we left so I could not see anything from my window. However, within just a few minutes of passing over the coastline of Aden, the sun suddenly appeared above the horizon filling the cabin with a beautiful golden yellow light. Once again it was lucky for me as it was once again on my side of the aircraft and made a spectacular view.
............The Indian Ocean was so vast and looked a very deep blue in colour. It did not matter in which direction you looked, the ocean was all that you could see. This vast blue expanse went on for almost the full four hours of the flight. Until we approached the Island of Gann, that was like a pin head in the middle of this great expanse of blue. As we approached the small spec looked pure white in colour and seemed to be surrounded by even smaller white specs. Then as we were only a few miles away, we could see that the main island had a runway running its full length and was almost as wide. While all around the larger island were several much smaller islands, all were of the same pure white colour.
............By now, we were becoming seasoned travellers and we all knew the drill. It being a two-hour stopover and that we could look around, but were not allowed to swim in the swimming pools. The two Jocks and I headed straight for the nearest beach, knowing that we were going to find something very spectacular. We were not disappointed because the scene that greeted us must have come straight from the cover of a National Geographic Magazine. The beach had the finest white sand I had ever seen in my entire life. It flashed through my mind of the days I had gone to Felixstowe for a holiday back in England, where the beach was covered in stones of all shapes and sizes. Compared to this very soft fine sand they had felt like large rocks under my feet. The experience was going to be remembered for a long time. For all we knew we might never get another chance, to enjoy one of nature’s wonders of the world.
............Jock Minnock wasted no time in stripping down to his under pants and walking past a couple of small Arab Dhow boats that lay on the beach, into the small waves to sample the water. None of us had a swimming costume as they were all packed away in our suite cases that were stowed away in the cargo hold. Anyway, there was no need to worry about exposing ourselves to the female fraternity. As there was only one woman on the whole Island and she was sixty years old. She was a member of the Women’s Volunteer Service and was there just to add a woman’s touch to the place and to help the fifty of so service men if they needed any feminine help over family matters. The RAF service men had to serve a minimum six months tour in this Garden of Eden, before returning to their unit that was normally stationed in Singapore. It was their job to take care of the aircraft as they passed through, on their way to either Singapore or the UK. I would guess that Gann must have been the prime posting that was well sort after by all the RAF personnel.
Anyway, Jock Minnock was beckoning, to Jock Stone and me to join him in the sea. I must admit we did not need too much encouragement, as we slipped out of my clothes and joined him. Now I had been a swimmer during most of my school days and loved being in the water. However this was different it did not even feel like water, it being Luke warm. It even felt warmer than the bath water that I use to wash in back in the UK. It was certainly much warmer than the Ipswich Baths heated swimming pool that I had visited in the past. The first thing that went through my head was that this was not going to take a lot of getting used to. In fact, they were going to have to persuade me with something good to get me out and that is exactly what happened.
............After Jock Stone had finished his swim he had gone for a wander around the island and had returned with a couple of bottles of beer for us. This was the correct enticement to get me out of the sea, where I’d been enjoying myself for the past forty-five minutes. I finally left the beautiful warm waters of the Indian Ocean to join him on the beach. Boy did the beer taste good, all I needed now was some female company and who could want for anything more.
............We did not have to worry about drying our selves, because the sun did that job for us in just a few minutes, so it was easy to slip our clothes back on. Upon reflection, I think we were the only passengers to take the plunge that day, but why I do not know. All I do know is that it was a great experience and what I hoped was going to be lying ahead of me for the next eighteen months. After all, this was what I had always imagined it would be like in this part of the world, just laying around on a beach of a desert island.
............Finally some good news as we were informed that the plane had an engine problem and that we were going to be delayed for a further couple of hours. What bad luck I thought, as I lay back on the beach and soaked up the sun. I even managed to grab a few minutes sleep, but it is hard with all the excitement going on around you. It had been hard to sleep on board of the Comet, as the seats were very uncomfortable and there was not a lot of leg room either. In addition, the engines were very noisy making a high pitched whistling noise, while all around it felt like a vibration was affecting the whole aircraft. Not like today when the passenger comfort comes first, to us it was all part of the job. Service men being uncomfortable on an aircraft did not seem to come into the equation of protecting British interests in the Far East.
............As we walked around the island none of us had ever imagined a picturesque place like it, to us it seemed like heaven. However, the tranquillity of the moment was interrupted by an RAF guy riding around on a motor scooter trying to round us all up to re-board the aircraft. Because of the break down, most of us had wandered to almost every conceivable corner of the island in an effort to pass the time. Therefore his task was not an easy one and was further complicated by their having to walk back to the aircraft.
............The next part of the journey took us due east as we headed for the island of Singapore. This was also to be another four-hour flight and then on the captain’s instructions most people adjusted their watches forward onto Singapore time. After my first experience with a watch when I bought a lemon while working at E.R.Howards back in Stowmarket. I had never bothered to wear one, something I still do not bother with to this day.
............We continued to fly into the darkness of the night, so my window view was not revealing too many sites along the way. Until that is, we flew over an Electrical storm. I then witnessed a spectacular lightning show that seemed even more spectacular because I was looking down into it, I had never seen anything quite like this. The lightning was also inside of the clouds and seemed to go on and on lighting up the cloud formations below. By now if you including time zones, flight times and stop over’s, we were almost 30 hours into the flight and already I had notched up many firsts. I was wondering what the remainder of my 18 months in this part of the world had in store for me.
............I do not know what I had expected to find when I finally set foot on the Island of Singapore. After all, I had not read any books on the subject, I had not even seen any Television programs, mainly because they just did not exist at that time. Therefore, for me I was going to be walking into a complete unknown and that everything was going to be a complete new experience. The only picture I had in my head was of the coolies that I had seen in the old black and white war films of the day. With their little pointed hats, that was woven from some type of grass and with a wooden yoke across their shoulders carrying a basket either side of them, as they rebuilt the runways and roads during the war. Then according to the Tarzan films of the day, there would be snakes falling from every tree that you walked under. Somehow, I always imagined that the people would be uneducated and even backward and that we were so superior to them in every way. My Schooling had given me a little insight into European History and to how its people lived. However, there had been very little about the rest of the world, in fact, it was always hinted that they were all savages. The other thing about our history teachings is that it had always been mainly about wars and so anybody who was against the British was always thought of as barbaric people. So with these ideas planted in my head, that was the sum total of what I expected to find in the Far East.
............I did not manage to grab any sleep on this part of the journey, as I knew it was the last leg and so the excitement kept me awake. This four-hour stint seemed to pass a little quicker and so it was not long before we were landing in the middle of the night, at Changi Airport. The heat was unbearable because of the humidity. Lucky I had not removed my shoes on the plane during this leg of the journey. Therefore, I was able to walk off the plane this time wearing my shoes, but they were hurting me terribly. Never travel in new shoes, run them in first I remember saying to myself. I had to hobble past the customs and officials that were everywhere in the terminal building. All the Marines on board were going to Burma Camp. We were all herded together outside of the airport terminal by a Sergeant and told to board a three-ton truck for the journey up into Malaya. I sat by the tailgate so I had a nice view of my new home for the next eighteen months, but I was very tired having not slept for such a long period of time. The truck set off at a very fast pace, so my first impression was that there could not be any road rules. The heat and the humidity in the middle of the night was also something I found hard to accept. Then there was the terrible smell of decaying food and the dogs. Dogs were roaming everywhere, it did not matter where you looked it was dogs, dogs, dogs, and they all looked very mangy in appearance. We drove north through Singapore, then over the causeway and into Malaya. We then continued the journey north towards Kota-Tingi. My first impression of Malaya was the same as Singapore, in fact to me it did not seem like I was in a different country, just a continuation of Singapore. Singapore is really one large city while Malaya is made up of lots of small villages and towns. Again, as we drove through the village of Johore Barhu, there were many people lying around everywhere sleeping in the street and in front of shops. What I will always remember from my first night in this part of the world, is the stifling heat and smell.
............Burma Camp was located about twenty miles north of the causeway in an area of cultivated Rubber Plantations. Arriving in the dark, I could not see much of the camp so after being shown a bed and handed some bedding I just crashed out for what remained of a good night’s sleep, which I had not experienced since leaving England. With all the travelling and time changes, I think it was the equivalent of about a thirty two-hour flight. While in real flying time and with the stopovers, it was probably only about twenty hours. Boy was I tired and it was not long before I was blowing zzzs and counting rubber trees.
............Next morning I had a good look around what I believed was going to be my new home. Burma Camp is a very large hillside camp with all of the accommodation huts built into its side. These housed A, B and C Company’s. While on the top of the hill was located the canteen, the N.A.F.F.I. and parade ground. Just back from the top was the Headquarters Company and all of the administration buildings. At the base of the accommodation huts was a very large long sports area that included about four football fields, in fact light aircraft regularly land in this area. On the other side of the football field was a second smaller hill, which housed the Jungle Warfare School. The Gurkhas were usually based here in small-corrugated tin huts, well at least ours were made of wood. In a climate like you experience in Malaya, that tin must have become almost red hot at times and would have felt like an oven in side.
............The two Jocks and I had all been placed in 2 Troop, of A Company, so it looked like we were to spend the next eighteen months together. We were even bunked up in the same hut, each hut at that time housed about a dozen Marines.
............Each Commando unit consists of around seven hundred Marines, divided into three Companies and a HQ Company. Each Company was further divided into three Troops and a HQ Troop. While each Troop is divided into three sections. One section consisted of a two-man Bren gun team, plus a Bren gun commander, a three-man riffle team, a front scout, a rear end Charlie and a corporal in charge of the whole section. If you were lucky the Troop has a total membership of nine men. Unfortunately a Commando unit was usually under strength, because of its manpower turn around program. The unit stays where it is stationed, with only the Marines coming and going. It being a regular occurrence that once a month personnel were either coming or going. This then was 40 Commando and to identify us from other Marine units we wore a light blue lanyard on our left shoulder.
............Our Company Commander was a Major, 'Pug' Davis, the only Jewish officer in the Royal Marines at that time. Pug was a highly decorated officer having a military history going way back to the latter part of the Second World War. At that time he had been parachuted behind enemy lines to work with the resistance in Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia.
............During that first morning we all had to pay a visit the Quartermaster Stores to draw all of our jungle equipment, which we were going to need for the next eighteen months. We then found ourselves on our beds talking, laughing and trying on and altering all our new equipment, while stowing it in our bedside lockers. After dinner, which consisted of the usual food, that we had been used to or hated back in the UK. Then it was back to our hut to finish stowing our gear. Later we where were joined by the rest of our new Troop mates as they assisted us, having finished their training for the day. Because of the heat during the day, we start at 7 am, with a break for brunch at 10.30 am, finishing work at 12.30. Tea and cakes were laid on 4.30 pm, supper was at 6.30 pm and during supper, we all had to take one Paladrin anti Malaria tablet per day. Later it was increased to two a day, even then, I do not think that they worked, I often forgot to take mine and towards the end, I had completely stopped taking them. At one time one of the officers used to line us up with our mouths open. He would then walk down the line flicking one into our mouths as he walked past. We would then store them under our tongue and spit them out when we were dismissed. Lucky for us they did not break down in our mouths, the taste from them would hang around for at least half an hour.
............Anyway, back to the guys who had just joined us, a couple of them I already knew. Don Hackett and Geordie Frith both had been in the 778 Squad ahead of us and had been in 40 Commando for a month. I had only known them briefly back at Lympstone. Anyway, all the old soldiers, as they are known were giving their own advice to us, really trying to mix us new boys up. I played it by ear, not wanting to be caught out by somebody pulling a prank on me. Several people were pulling the Jocks leg, not understanding their Scottish accents, while they were trying to adjust their new webbing equipment.
............We were lucky in the fact that we had arrived at the camp on a Thursday night and this being a Friday, it was the last day of the working week. Therefore, we joined all of the other Marines climbing on board of the three ton trucks heading into Singapore for a run ashore as the Marines call it. I could not believe it, we had only been in the camp for a day and here we were getting a chance to see the sights of our new found home.
............We all disembarked from the trucks near the Britannia Club, in the heart of the city of Singapore. This was where most of the service personnel spent their time drinking through the weekend. The two Jocks and I had different views on that one and headed straight for the beautiful beckoning waters of the club swimming pool. There we stayed in its luke warm waters for almost four hours while soaking up every minute of what I thought was heaven.
............At which time I suddenly became aware that I was starting to burn quite badly. I found it hard to believe because I had been in the water for the whole four hours, with only my shoulder appearing above the water occasionally. Therefore, it gives you a little idea of just how powerful the sun can be in this part of the world. It was also about this time that Jock Stone and I realised that Jock Minnock, who had sat on the side of the pool for the whole time, was starting to look very red. Jock Minnock had light ginger hair, so his skin was very pale in complexion and was very susceptible to the sun. He started to complain of the burning pain that he was experiencing and as we watched we could see his back changing colours until it was almost a dark red. We managed to get him into the shower room and coached him to stand under a cold shower for almost fifteen minutes. It did not help him so we took him across the square from the Britannia club to the Union Jack Club. There we booked a room and Jock Stone went looking for a chemist to get something, we could put on his back. By the time he returned the skin on Jock Minnocks back was one mass of fluid filled bubbles that were starting to burst. Whatever it was, that Jock Stone had bought it was very painful when we applied it to his back. We had to be careful as the skin came off as we touched it. He stayed in bed for the rest of that day and also the following day, with both Jock Stone and I taking turns to apply the bottled liquid to his back.
............We were all worried about what might happen once we returned to the camp, because it was an offence to get sun burnt. It’s known as self inflicted wounds and if you miss your work, you are usually charged. Poor old Jock Minnock he did not know what he was going to do. Sunday evening came and we caught the truck back to the camp making a pact amongst ourselves that we would not tell anybody what had happened and that Jock Minnock would stick the pain as long as he could get away with it. It is to his credit, his guts, determination, and his pain threshold that he got away with it. At no time did anybody at the camp know what had happened to him. For my first run a shore, I did not get to see too much of the city, but I thought at least there will be other times.
............After a couple of weeks in the camp, a few of us were in the hut one morning when the door suddenly flew open and in strutted the Company Sergeant Major, balling at the top of his voice. Telling us that we were his lovely lads and that we had to listen to what he had to say. He then told us to get our gear packed for a long journey and that everything we needed was on a piece of paper that he then threw on to one of the beds by the door. Finally, he urged us to get a move on, as we only had one hour, to fall in outside of A Company main office building. Where we were to load the company stores onto the trucks, this would also include our own kit bags. He then proceeded along to the next hut, where he repeated the very same message word for word. As soon as he had left the hut all pandemonium broke loose, everybody was trying to talk at the same time, trying to find out where we going, what was the trouble, was it for real etc etc. The general opinion was that maybe we were going to Borneo, there had been rumours going around for some time, as 42 Commando was already in that area. 42 Commando had lost a few Marines as it under took an amphibious landing in the town of Limbang, in Brunei. The rebels had been getting greedy wanting to take over the country by force, mainly for its rich oil deposits. Like I said earlier with hindsight, some people get very greedy. Only this time instead of it being the young students who were the culprits, this time it was all backed up by the Indonesian government, but from a distance. So far they where only involved from behind the protection of their own borders, offering military aid and a safe haven for those that wanted to upset the Status Quo.
............In this instance, the terrorists had taken several western hostages and had them imprisoned in the local police station at Limbang. The Marines had gone up the river by landing craft to storm the police station. The raid had been very successful and all of the hostages had been released unhurt. Unfortunately, 42 Commando had paid a high price with the lives of several of its Marines.
............I grabbed my kit bag and started replacing articles of kit, I had only just unpacked and placed in my locker, while checking the paper list as I went along. Several of the old boys were helping us new lads, by telling us what to pack and what to leave behind. I then dragged my kit bag down to the company office, where all hell had been let loose with Marines running everywhere. I then returned to get my tin trunk full of all my unwanted belongings, these were to be locked away in the Company stores over the back of the hill until our return. This took some time as it took two of you to carry the damn things, so we had to make at least four trips and at quarter of a mile one way, it was tiring in the tropical heat that surrounded Burma Camp.
............Having completed our own personnel tasks, we all had to muck in and help to load up A Company’s stores onto three, three-ton trucks at the bottom of the hill. Most Marines by this time had settled on our destination as being Borneo, I did not even know where Borneo was, okay I had heard the name but never checked a map to find out where it was.
............All the stores that would be making the trip with us had been loaded by 6 pm that night. After a final inspection by the Company Commanding Officer Major 'Pug' Davis, we were all loaded aboard a convoy of Royal Navy Buses. That left the camp and headed for the Singapore dockyard. It was pointless looking out of the windows, with the interior lights on, as we could not see anything. The buses made their way down through Malaya, through Johore Barhu and crossing the causeway into Singapore. We then turned left into the dockyard that was all lit up so I could see out of the window. The buses wove their way around HMS Terror and finally we parked alongside a large ship. That's 'Old Rusty' one of the Marines yelled, continuing to tell us all that it had been an old aircraft carrier, but had been converted into a Commando Carrier, only now-a days it went by the name of H.M.S. Bulwark. The Sergeant ordered us all off the bus and up the gangway to board the ship. We all fell in on the flight deck in our respective Company's and Troops. Where we were issued our billets and lead by a seamen through the bowels of the ship, to show us our mess deck and finally our bunks. We did not have to unload the trucks as they were all brought on board fully loaded, so at least that was one chore we were spared.
............I thought I would get a haircut before leaving the ship having heard that we could be away for anything up to six months. The hairdresser was in a very small room under a set of stairs, with about a dozen sailors and Marines all queuing up outside. I got talking to a Sailor with a Liverpool accent, it turned out that he lived in Ipswich. We got on well and would you believe that in the mid seventies I would meet up with him once again, when he came to work for me. At a time when I was working for a construction company building the Ipswich to Stowmarket Bypass.
............After stowing our backpack gear in the small lockers provided, everybody just sat around talking. Most of us were still wondering what was happening and where the hell were we going. However, I must say at this point I was never scared, more to the point I was very excited and wanted to get going. Shock Troops are not normal people, the only thing that’s different about us is that we have been trained to do a job and kill if required. The general public must not be surprised if occasionally a couple of us come off the rails and do something silly.
............Morning on board of H.M.S. Bulwark saw a tremendous amount of movement amongst the Marines Commandos and the ship’s crew. All the Marines had been formed up on the flight deck into their respective companies. While all around them was stacked large amount of ordinance. Each man was issued with his quota of 7.62mm ammunition, along with a couple of hang grenades. Once it had all been distributed amongst the Marines, we were allowed to sit on the deck loading up the SLR magazines. Then primed all of the hand grenades that had been issued. Which meant unscrewing and removing the base plate insert the detonator and to then replace the base plug. The deck of the HMS Bulwark was made of steel, as a favourite trick some of the older Marines would throw a grenade at one another, just as a sailor walked by. It would then be dropped on purpose so that it landed with a loud bang on the flight deck. The passing sailor would freeze to the spot, expecting the grenade to blow up right there and then. Most of the sailors did not share our sense of humour where explosives were concerned.
............Once A Company was fully loaded up with ammunition we all had to report to the landing craft that were attached to the sides of the ship. These were the same type of craft that we had all training on, while we were at Poole in Dorset. We were all loaded on board, there being one Troop of Marines to each boat. In this way, the whole of A Company was distributed evenly amongst all four of the landing craft and ready to leave the ship. While B and C Companies were eventually to go to other districts of Sarawak by Chopper, yes Sarawak in Borneo was the destination.
............When the landing craft were fully loaded with cargo, they were lowered into the water. Where upon, a given signal, they all pulled away from the side of the ship, taking up a circling pattern awaiting a signal so that they could all advance towards the objective together. When the signal eventually came, we all set off in a single file heading for the coast of Sarawak and in to my very first adventure. I was surprised to find that the atmosphere was very relaxed. Once we were away from the ship, most of the Marines had their shirts off and were playing Uckers on the side of the boat. This is just a naval version of Ludo, only each player has a double set of counters. Other Marines were just laughing and joking amongst themselves. Nobody seemed worried that in couple of hour’s time they might be shot at. Even the Sergeant was relaxed, which was unusual for them. After about two hours in the open sea, the landing craft that was still in single file, preceded up a river. The river was very wide at its mouth, it being more than a mile a cross. After a further hour, we reached the small village of Lundu, where we disembarked. This was to be A Companies home for the next three months.
............The village was very small, but it was the main one in this particular district. Having a Police station made it a prime target for attack from Communist Insurgents, backed by President Sukarno of Indonesia. Their main aim was trying to steal weapons in order to help their cause. The cause being to take another country by force, but the main prize was the oil fields in the state of Brunei. A big prize that president Sukarno would have loved to get his hands on. I was once told that the Indonesian air force was so hard up that it could only afford to have one plane in the air at a time.
............It was decided that 2 Troop would stay behind to guard the Police Station. This was one of my first big disappointments, as I watched the other Troops go out to other areas and on their own. While we were going to be stuck guarding A Companies H.Q and all the spit and polish that would go along with it, the 'Yes Sir’s, No Sir’s, Three bags full Sir'.
............1 Troop would be flown by chopper to guard the Kampong of Bau, about fifty miles away. Kampong is the Malay word meaning village. The choppers were always based on board H.M.S. Bulwark sitting just off the coastline and out of sight of land, but only twenty minutes flying time from Lundu. Therefore, it was comforting to know that help was only twenty minutes away, mind you a lot can happen in twenty minute.
............3 Troop would go by landing craft to guard Sematan, another Kampong on the coastline also located by a river mouth, but not our river, this one was about fifty miles to the west.
............The first task for 2 Troop was to fortify the Police Station, this being just a wooden hut perched on four-foot high stilts and overlooking the river. Sandbags were place all around the base and on the balcony a Bren gun was positioned, to cover the full width of the river. A very high wire fences was then erected around the entire living quarters out the back, while a guard rosters was worked out to patrol the whole area 24 hours a day. Because the Company Head Quarters was being set up here, it meant that there would be several officers around at all times. This meant that we could expect a lot of discipline and there was.
............Out the back of the station and away from our wired compound was a very large football field. This was to be used as a helicopter landing strip. At that time the Marines were mainly using Wessex Choppers for bringing in personnel and light gear, any heavy equipment always came by landing craft docking at the jetty just in front of the Police Station. At least the Bren gun on the balcony could give good cover, as the supplies were unloaded.
............One of my pet hates and chores was to roll the forty-gallon drums of AV Gas for the choppers, from the jetty to the airstrip. I would judge the distance to be about seven to eight hundred meters. Boy a long way when you are rolling a full forty-gallon drum. Add to that about three dozen drums each time the landing craft arrived. That added up to a lot of exercise and cut hands, from the rough edges around the barrels, there being no leather gloves in those days. The choppers use a lot of fuel and one of their main tasks was to fly patrols from Lundu, to different locations around the area. Sometimes they flew into just holes in the trees down to the ground. At times the tree branches were only inches away from the rotor blades, relying on the theory that the draft from the blades would peel back the branches. Other time’s ropes would be dropped through the trees for us to abseil down to the ground. On the other hand, sometimes they would hover about two or three feet above flooded terrain. We would then have to jump into the water catching our gear that was kicked out behind us. Failure to do so meant that all your gear would get very wet. Talking of getting wet, during the monsoon we would be wet throughout the whole day. We would never be caught with our trousers and boots off, just in case we were attacked, so we wore both until they just about fell off us.
............After a few days, everybody dropped into a boring routine. All of 2 Troop was involved in the guarding of the camp. Not so headquarters personnel, they were always very lucky and got out of the menial tasks. The guard consisted of two hours on and four hours off. This went on around the clock, day in and day out. At all times, one person was always manning the Bren gun on the Police Station balcony and three Marines were roving around the compound. At nights, the roving guards would stay put, in strategically placed slit trenches. It was felt that any shadow movement, might attract somebody with an itchy finger to shoot at their own men by mistake.
............In addition, during the day there was always work to be done around the camp. On top of all this, almost every day a patrol was sent out to different areas. So that we became very familiar with the area and we got to know it like the backs of our hands. It was also to show a military presence amongst the local tribesmen. This was an exercise that became known as showing the flag.
............There were no sealed roads in this division, unless you call dirt tracks roads. A division is much the same as a county in England. The whole area was littered with many rivers. Therefore full advantage was taken and they were used whenever possible, to get the Marines around.
............For patrols that needed to go across country, they would have to either follow very narrow existing jungle tracks or to cut their own through the jungle. This was a hard hot work, but a much safer way of travelling, hoping to eliminate any chance of an ambush. It was not long before most of the Marines became tired and fed up with these dull dreary routines and complacency soon started to creep in.
............One morning four of us along with a Corporal Bwana, unfortunately I cannot remember his real name, but we all called him Bwana, after a character in an old Bob Hope Film. Anyway we were called in for a briefing and then set off up river in a long boat. This was a dugout canoe with a forty-horse power Mercury outboard motor fitted on its stern. We were too proceed up the Batang River on a routine patrol. After travelling for about two hours, the trees and the riverbanks started to creep in, until they were only a few yards apart. Half an hour later they were touching each other across the centre of the river, cutting out most of the sunlight. We travelled a further hour and by now it was late into the afternoon, so we pulled onto the bank, by a very small Kampong known as Salami.
............We decided to stay the night, because this village had a small trading store. Corporal Bwana ordered everybody to search the area thoroughly. I decided to search a small building that looked like the local store, but saw nothing much until I looked up and to the back of one of the shelves. There to my amazement stood two bottles of genuine Irish Guinness. I gave the storekeeper a Dayak tribesman two dollars (25 pence UK then). Back outside Bwana had found a heap of papers under an old abandoned hut. Going through them we found it contained a lot of pornography and leaflets containing servicemen’s names, along with names of their wives and men friends they were supposed to be sleeping with. Clearly, a propaganda war was about to break. There was nobody to arrest, so we just made camp for the night out in the jungle, but after this find, a watchful guard was set up. I suddenly produced the two bottles Guinness and told the boys they could have a swig. Jock Stone was rubbing his hands while telling everybody that he could not believe our luck. Here we were a thousand miles from nowhere, but at least we had a bottle of Guinness. While everybody was laughing I opened the first bottle and took a big swig, but I soon spat it out declaring that it was Vinegar. The second one was just the same, so nobody got to have a drink that night. Bwana told everybody that it had probably been hid on the shelf for nearly twenty years.
............Realising that we were in an unfriendly area we all had a restless night. That was not helped by the presence of a plague of mosquitoes that had decided to feast on our bodies that night. Unfortunately, we had no mossy nets to protect us and nobody wanted to use the Mossy repellent liquid we had been issued with, because it had a horrible aroma about it and you couldn't wash it off. There was also the worry that being a strange smell the enemy might pick up on it. Mind you I used to tell people that if it didn’t keep the moosies away at least it might make the terrorists move off in a different direction.
............The next morning we headed back down the river calling in at another Kampong called Seband-Ulu. The idea was to show the flag and our military presence in the area, while hoping to make friends and allies. We also hoped that we might pick up some fresh meat for the lads back at Lundu. All the Kampong consisted of was one very large long hut, containing about forty families all living together under the one roof.
............The hut was built up about six feet off the ground and was sitting on stilts along side of the river bank. Getting out of the boat, Bwana strode up to the chap who he thought looked most like the headman and held out his hand. Telling the guy that he was pleased to meet him. The local man looked amazed and clearly did not understand a single word he had just said. I did not believe he was the head guy, to me he looked more like the local toilet cleaner. Jock laughed and so did I, while Bwana was clearly not amused. I walked up to another guy and in pigeon English tried to make conversation with him. Bwana left it to me and I succeeded in obtaining a very small pig and a local drink for the boys, it was called Toddy and was the sap from a tree. It was tapped from a tree trunk, in the same way that rubber is extracted from the rubber tree. Being quite potent we were soon very merry, but not the Corporal he would not drink the stuff. He soon ordered us back into the boat that was moored to a large floating log that stuck out into the river.
............Bwana never spoke much to us on the return trip, I guess he was feeling a bit of a fool. About ten minutes away from Lundu, he turned to one of the Marines, a Scotsman we called Big Mac. Telling him that his gun barrel was red with rust, to which Big Mac told him that it was red partherising, although it really was rust and was a crime in the Marines. Bwana just muttered something under his breath and turned away to continue looking at the riverbank, while everybody else in the boat just grinned at each other. I might add that we called him Big Mc long before the American food giant arrived on the scene.
............After reaching Lundu the Company Commander held a de-brief, at which all the leaflets were shown around. It had been learnt by Radio, that some of the other companies had experienced similar leaflet drops around their camps.
............That night I had to go on guard with a policeman from the local Dayak tribe. Sitting under the Police Station behind a few sandbags, we began talking in a low voice, because whispers travel very easy through the night. All the time he kept holding on to a small little leather pouch around his neck. According to Mogumbo as I called him, it was full of bones, herbs and lucky charms. As long as he kept wearing it around his neck then nobody would be able to shoot him. What a load of rubbish I thought, I bet I could prove him wrong. Still I did make very good friends with Mogumbo, over the next couple of months as we went on many patrols together. He was one local guy I know I could have relied on in an emergency situation.
............The days became more and more boring, knowing that some of the tasks we were given, like digging trenches, digging latrines (toilets) etc, was just to give us something to do. Most Marines started to moan that this was the only camp that had all the disciplines of a conventional military barracks back in the UK. Here we were in the jungle and somebody was picking us up for have dirty boots. Although I realised that it was mainly because Headquarters group was located with us. This was not what I had expected when I was back at Lympstone, dreaming of operating in the jungle.
............I acquired a pet Monkey one-day from a local villager, for only five dollars just sixty-two pence in English money. According to the local villagers it was an albino. It being ginger in colour and only about four inches long, with a tail that measured a further six inches. It was clearly too young to have been removed from its mother. At nights I would lay on my camp bed with my hand in an old cardboard box with the monkey cuddled in my palm, for heat. Every time I moved the monkey would cry out and wake everybody in the tent, I was not a very popular guy. During the day I took it around with me, sitting in an empty magazine pouch hung by my side, with the top cover down, even the officers never knew I had it. However, it only lived a few weeks, upsetting me for a few days when it eventually died, one of the sick birth attendants told me that it had died of pneumonia.
............Two Marines were charged for Accidental Discharges from their S.L.R. Rifles. In both cases civilians were nearly shot, one bullet had actually passed through the Police Station roof. After being charged, the Marines were very heavily fined and had extra work added to their already congested daily routine. Money meant absolutely nothing to us, as we could not spend it on anything. I smoked and bought tobacco to roll my own, that was flown in by choppers and that was about it. By the end of a tour in Sarawak, we went back to Singapore to a fair amount of back pay that had accumulated in our accounts.
............Another incident that happened, was whilst I was on guard one night. I was walking along the back of the living quarters, when I stood on something and heard a crack. Looking down with my torch I saw I was standing on a Scorpion and its tail had come up and hit the heel of my leather boot. Lucky it had not gone through the leather, if I had I been wearing my canvas jungle boots I would have been stung. If you did take your boots off to sleep at night, you always had to knock and shake them in the morning. Before you put them on, because at least one very small scorpion would always fall out, but I do not know how they got in to the boots in the first place as these boots were about eighteen inches high.
............At night, we all slept on camp beds in tents so when the guard came in to wake their replacement they usually awoke everybody else in the tent. One night after nearly a month of this dull routine, the whole tent got up around midnight to go on guard. Somehow nobody noticed what was happening and we all staggered out to change guard. The officer checking weapons noticed that there were too many people standing in front of him and asked who should be on guard. To which everybody replied 'Me', then as we all looked at each other along the line we suddenly woke up to the fact that some of us should still be in bed. We all burst into a low laugh and those that could, went back to bed. That is how tiredness can affect you sometime.
............Ginger Walters a fresh Marine joined 2 Troop, Ginger had been a member of the 40 Commando HQ, in the intelligence section, but had asked for a transfer so he could get involved in a little of the action. I often wondered what he thought of digging trenches and twenty four-hour guards, something he never had to do before. I made very good friends with Ginger and over the next eighteen months, we got up to a lot of mischief and had some great times together.
............One morning Ginger, Don (Hackett) and I went to the football field to await a chopper that was arriving with some stores for us and a patrol that had been stationed at a border fort, for about a month. When the chopper eventually arrived it was a two bladed Belvedere flown by the RAF. I had never seen one of these before, it being a lot bigger and longer than the usual Wessex choppers that the Navy used. I spent a little time walking around it and having a good look, while the other Marines did all the unloading. It looked like it could carry about seventeen Marines, here in the hot climate of Sarawak, while the Wessex could only manage about eight. However, back in the UK where the air is much cooler and denser Wessex could probably carry about ten people.
............A four-man section of Marines jumped out so, I signalled them over to where I was standing. Not wanting to try and talk under the still revolving blades above our heads. The first thing that struck me about these guys was how white they all looked. As I shook hands with the Corporal in charge I could not stop myself asking why they were so white, when everybody else in the camp sported a lovely dark tan. The Corporal told me that at Rassau, the fort they had been stationed at was amongst very dense jungle vegetation and that no sunlight ever penetrated down upon them. Having spent a month at Rassau they looked very anaemic, but they were hoping to get a good tan here at Lundu, where they were hoping to take it easy for a few days. I laughed at them telling them that around here nobody takes it easy. This place is known as 'Fort work your butt off'. Suddenly their expressions changed and I left them looking a little dejected.
............One morning a landing craft came up river and tied up at the jetty in front of the Police Station, being loaded with the usual minimum amount of supplies to support a fort. Most of the Marines that had nothing to do were suddenly press ganged in to reporting to the jetty to unload. A very long, hot job was in store for all who could not come up with a reasonable excuse. A human chain was made to pass the gear from the jetty to the make shift trolleys that a couple of Marines had earlier designed. This would then be pulled inside the camp by a team of four Marines acting the part of a Brewery Drey team of Shire horses. The stores consisted of the usual items required to supply a base for about a week, although it usually included several cartons of beer. As the equipment was slowly being unloaded two of the Marines began hatching a plot to relieve the Quartermaster of a carton of beer. As the officer who was supervising the unloading turned and looked away for a few seconds, one of the Marines lowered a carton of the beer into the water by the bank, while another Marine threw a large stone into the river further down to divert the officer attention. Anyway, the whole idea was to come back later to retrieve the carton.
............Once the job was completed most of the Marines made their way up to the camp, leaving a couple of them and myself by the side of the water looking at the carton of beer. Looking is about as far as we got, as the carton was completely covered with bull leaches, a bull leach can suck up to a pint of blood at any one time. Eight of these things on you and your history, they would just about suck you dry. In the end I left the other Marines to figure it all out, I never did know what they came up with, but for days they would disappear into the jungle for ten minutes at a time and reappear smelling of grog, I guess some how they found a way. Although upon reflection all you had to do was to just put your hands into the water pull out the carton and to burn the leeches off your arms. Sooner said that done because at that time we were not experts at jungle warfare, however, later on when we understood the environment we were now living in, I’m sure that’s what we would have done.
............Sarawak is a beautiful country, its birds, its animals, its people the rivers and the jungle, just the air around the place. I used to love the cool misty mornings, I even l enjoyed the rain and there was lots of it. I used to love to lie on my bed listening to the rain pounding on the roof. I guess it was the sense of security, of knowing that I was dry, while outside everything would be soaking wet. Even if you were caught in the rain, once the storm was over and the sun came out your cloths would dry on you in about an hour. Unfortunately by then, your cloths would be ringing wet once again, only this time it was with sweat. So really, your cloths were always ringing wet. To prove a point the material soon became rotten and would tear quite easily.
............The Lundu Division only had one decent road and that was just a dirt track which was about 17 kilometres long. Can you imagine your country only having one road. At least the road accident rate would be a little lower than today’s unrealistic figures.
............I would love to visit Sarawak today, but I’m sure I would be in for a bit of a surprise. I believe it's called progress but it is not always for the better. Western progress to me is sometimes a backward step, I would always like to remember the country as it was way back in 1963. Yes Sarawak was a beautiful country and I will always carry its magnificent pictures around in my head for a long time to come.
Kampong Stung Gang
............It was flag showing time again, so Bwana took Ginger, Don, Dal (Dalrimple) and I on an overnight patrol up river to visit Kampong Stung Gang. The kampong was only a couple of hours distance up river and in a so called friendly area. Once again we set off in our dug out with the outboard motor. As it was only to be a one night stay Bwana ordered us to travel light. We had an uneventful trip up the river, just staring at jungle and talking quietly amongst ourselves.
............Kampong Stung Gang consisted of just one long hut that had been constructed on eight foot high stilts and was positioned along the river bank. Several logs were fixed to the bank all sticking out into the river with dugout canoes tied to them. We manoeuvred our boat amongst them and tied up, we then disembarked and balanced our way towards the awaiting villages on the bank.
............These people were known as Iban tribe’s the whole village lived together in a long bamboo constructed hut. We all shook hands with the headman who spoke very good English, however, this was usually a bad sign. If they spoke good English they were educated and education to me meant trouble, because too many ideas had been places into their heads while at a white schools, or at least that’s what I believed at that time.
............At the time, Sarawak was being slowly taken over by young Communists upstarts. Who were usually plucked from obscurity and educated in a big Russian University. Once in power it was always hoped that these new leaders would look favourable upon Russia who wanted to station their troops in the country, which would then flood the country with Rubbles. Then if he was extra smart he could play the Russians against the Americans, but not the British because by this time they were running out of money. I believed that most third world country leaders used their education to take everything for themselves. Their ideas and views meant absolutely nothing, all they were after was the power and all that goes with it, money, money, money. The plain un-educated villagers were usually swept along with their big words and promises, but ended up with absolutely nothing. Mean while the leaders ended up with all the riches of war. Believe me in wartime there is a lot of money being thrown around to buy favours. These poor villages were usually very expendable as well, they were always the real losers. Just take a look at some of the so called rebel leaders in Africa who became Presidents and how rich they became once they had wrestled power from whoever was running the country at the time. To me they were not rebel leaders they were just thieves and murderers. I’ve never seen a poor Africa leader, but I have seen very poor village people trying to survive under their regimes. It must also be remembered that while they were so called freedom fighters, all committed murder in one way or another and all later became Presidents one even had the cheek to accept Nobel prizes for his cowardly acts. I can still remember, how he ordered his men to place a bomb on a train. The only people he killed that day were very poor innocent villagers. If you want to blame a government for something, at least go after them or a military target.
............Presidents Mugabe and Amin are two good examples of people who used the villagers of their respective country to get what they wanted. However, once they had control they had to exterminate their opposition so they were never deposed. Both set about destroying complete races of people, while the west sat back and did nothing. To me the United Nations is a joke a complete waste of time and money. Once again it’s come down to money. I hope this is not becoming a yard stick for the so called western world to follow. Sorry for this little outburst but that’s how I felt at the time and I’m trying to be honest in writing about what I did and what I believed at the time. I feel that as a fighting man I’m entitled to say what I think on this subject, as its always people like me who have to go into situation like that to help sort it out, I’m not just an arm chair critic like most people. It’s all very well talking about it but let’s see you sort it out.
............The headman’s speaking of English was a little surprising and caught us all off guard, as they still displayed shrunken human heads around the outside of their huts. However, we were assured that these were mainly Japanese soldiers from the last war. During the Second World War most of the Ibans tribesmen were still practicing headhunting cannibals. In fact there were still stories doing the rounds that it was still being practiced to this day by some of the tribes in our area. The young Ibans all carried long Parangs knives tucked in their belts around their waists and attached to the handles were usually tufts of human hair.
We spent a long time just looking around the area, being observant and getting used to the people. However, at all times we had our riffles cocked and ready for action, not knowing what to expect. In fact, we did everything with our riffles by our side and that even included while we slept and went to the toilet.
............After spending a couple of hours checking out the area we made our way into the main long hut. As with most long huts, there was usually an open area right through the hut from one end to the other, along the front. While along the back were dozens of smaller rooms that housed the villagers. Once inside we all sat down in front of the headman’s section of the hut in a circle, he then placed his daughters amongst us. Then the headman’s wife brought out an old rusty kettle full of rice wine. By this time, we had already taken out our water bottle mugs in anticipation and we were all given a mug full of the rocket fuel. This was very strong, powerful stuff and most of us were completely unaware of its possible effects on us and started knocking it back as though it was going out of fashion. As soon as the old woman's kettle was empty, all the other women folk brought out their kettles. I winked at Ginger lip shaping the words that it was going to be a good night and there was going to be a few thick heads in the morning. Even Bwana was sipping his full mug, it being the first time that I had seen him take a drink, and I guess he did not want to offend the villages.
............Most of us started making a pig of ourselves, knocking it right back as fast as they could fill our mugs. While I imagined that I was making head way with the headman’s eldest daughter, who was sitting beside me. After an hour the noise level started to get louder, with us singing and the locals chanting and dancing. I also noticed that Ginger was making out nicely with one of the other headman's daughters. Ginger was a lucky guy, as he had red hair and nobody in this part of the world had ever seen anything like it. The attraction always drew large crowds wherever he went and he was always treated like a Royalty.
............While we drank the rice wine, we were also expected to eat the rice sediments that earlier had been drained from the wine and lay on a large green leaf on the floor in front of us. If you thought the wine was powerful, it was nothing to the handful of sediments that you were expected to munch into after every sip from your mug.
............Dal was the first to collapse right where he sat, just as I got up to go to the toilet. This was just a small hole in the floor over in one of the corners of the hut. Without warning I suddenly fell through the thin bamboo slotted floor matting. Almost falling into a load of pig dung that was heaped up under the hut. Whenever the locals needed a toilet they just did it through the hole in the floor onto the pigs below. How these people were disease free, I will never know. In fact it’s a wonder that we did not end up in a hospital. Ginger helped me from my predicament and after much giggling we made our way back to rejoin the party.
............Bwana was next to keel over to a cheer from those of us who were still enjoying the festivities. Boy there was no way that we were going to let him forget this day. Ginger and I saw it as future blackmail material. Then slowly we all started to collapse one by one into very untidy heaps on the floor right where we sat.
............As daylight started to shine through the holes in the side of the hut, I could not believe the sight that greeted me. It was not a pretty one as all of the Marines were out cold and looked a right mess. While sitting all around us were the local young men holding our riffle and sitting at the ready guarding us. They had spent the whole night watching over us, but I doubt they would have known how the riffles worked, or at least I would like to think they did not. If an officer had seen this sight, he would have gone bananas and threw the book at all of us. It was a good job that my earlier assessment of the headman had been wrong, otherwise we would have all been killed that night. The whole incident had turned into a big learning curve and I like to think that most of us learnt by the experience.
............I staggered up to get some water and threw it over some of them to wake them up. No use having breakfast in this state, as I do not think anybody would have been able to stomach it anyway. Therefore, we grabbed our gear and tried to make our way back to the boat, thanking the headman and his daughters on the way. What followed was one of the most comical sights I had seen for quite some time. It was not only comical for me, even the villagers had also gathered to see the great British Servicemen make fools of themselves.
............The Marines started to balance their way along the log towards the boat, but in their drunken state, they looked very clumsy with no sense of balance. One by one we all fell into the river. Ginger and Dal had to be rescued by the locals who by now were all rolling around laughing and pointing at the funny antics the Marines were displaying. It took almost half an hour to get us all into the boat safely and being a dug out it wobbled all over the place. Well that is my excuse and I am sticking to it even after all those years. Then with a final wave, we managed to shove off from the log and to head out into the main part of the river and head back towards Lundu.
............Not wanting the officers back at Lundu to see the state we were in Bwana beached the boat a couple of miles before Lundu, so we could all clean ourselves up, Bwana being the worse for wear. During this time we all had a swim and something to eat. If we had learnt anything from this whole trip it was to leave the local grog alone, or at least to only drink it in moderation. This jungle patrolling work was becoming a bit of an experience, not what I had imagined during my battle training. Maybe this was the type of experience we should have been pre-warned about and trained for.
............Whilst we were back at the Headquarters, just sitting around in our tents after dark was a little boring. Luckily we were allowed two cans of beer per day. Coupled with smoking, drinking, cracking jokes, and stories became the only pass time of the evening.
............Like the one about Arthur who was attached to I think it was B Company. His section was patrolling along the border with Indonesia and based at a fort known as 'Fort Little Big Horn'. Unfortunately, they had an officer stationed with them and so they were a little regimented in their behaviour. On this particular occasion they had a dead terrorist to dispose of. Therefore, the officer ordered Arthur to bury him down near the river. Arthur placed the body in a hole he had just dug, but owing to the rocky terrain unfortunately the hole was not quite big enough. So Arthur chopped off the arms and legs and folded them, in such a way that the lot just about fitted into the hole. He then threw on some dirt and jumped on the heap a few times to flatten it all down. The officer watching just turned away and walked back up to the hut in disgust, where dinner was about to be served. Dinner usually consisted of hard tac biscuits. Anyway Arthur just walked straight into the hut and without washing his hands, grabbed a hand full and tore into them. The officer had to go outside the hut, where he gagged a couple times. Most of us had come across Arthur at one time or other and knew that he was capable of such an act, to us it was just Arthur.
............Another time was when an Iban tracker called Leo brought in a paper parcel and then laid it on the table amongst all the food right in front of his officer. "Did you get anybody" asked the officer, "Yes" said Leo. "And did you get any identification". "Yes" said Leo, adding, "It’s in the parcel sir". The officer opened the parcel expecting to find badges of rank or something like that. Instead, he found a bloodstained hand with rings on the fingers. The officer covered up the hand and went outside for some fresh air. "The body was too heavy to carry back" Leo called after him. Once again, the Marines just grinned and laughed at each other.
............We also had Gurkhas stationed with us at different times and I made very good friends with some of them. They were all very young boys, some as young as sixteen. One night in my tent, one of them showed me some photos, explaining that they were of a ceremony for the Gurkhas taken back in Singapore. The Photo's were quite gruesome, showing bullocks and goats tied to posts, with a Gurkha and his legendary Kukri sword chopping off their heads. Apparently, they have to cut the heads off with only one blow, if not they are disgraced. Then a big feast follows, after the cooking of the carcasses. Everybody in the camp wanted to see these photos. However, most Marines felt sorry for the poor old animals tied up like they were, they hadn't a chance in hell of survival.
............After one of the longest most boring months of my life, we finally managed to get away from the over disciplined dreary Lundu Camp, I could hardly contain my relief. As 2 Troop headed down river on board one of the landing craft and once out to sea headed further along the coastline to the west. Where we relieve one of the other troops and took up a defensive position near the very small Kampong of Sematan, by the mouth of the Serayan River. The main purpose of the Kampong was as a supply village for the nearby Bauxite mine that was run by an American. The settling in period was made easy for us, by the fact that we had relieved another section that had previously set up the camp and fortified it.
............We had taken with us a new infrared riffle night scope to be tested under battle conditions. Everybody stripped it down and had a good look at its inner workings. Then as soon as it was dark, we set it up outside the main bunker in the compound and took turns playing and fiddling in the darkness. It consisted of an infrared lamp that was on top of a small tripod, while a special scope was attached to a rifle. All very primitive by today standards, but being the first of its type in the world, it was enthusiastically received by the Marines. The idea was that you sighted your rifle scope in a certain direction and then with your other hand you operated the lamp by slowly moving it to point in the same direction, as the gun was pointed. The best results were not too spectacular and I soon lost interest, however anything is a great help to us, especially at night. It used a red coloured beam of light unfortunately everything looked a pale shade of red through the scope. It was very hard to distinguish a man from a tree if he were stationary. However, the more we used it the more are eyes became accustomed to what we were watching and found it a little easier to use. At least if we were attacked it was in our favour and not the enemies. It was set up by the Bren gun emplacement so everybody on guard was able to try it out at some time or other. After a few days most of us agreed that it would be very useful for us even if we only used it to look around after dark. Trying to find what had made those annoying noises that are always heard during the night.
............Once again, the fort had been built around the police station and there was the usual arrangement of barbed wire and booby traps around the perimeter of the camp. The compound was quite large with many wide-open spaces that I considered as being bad for our well-being. It housed four main buildings on five foot high stilts and all built soundly of timber. All around these huts were positioned a number of slit trenches and an underground bunker for the armoury. Unfortunately it was only accessible across those wide open spaces. I guess it had been positioned this way just in case it took a direct hit. If it were to explode it would not take any of the buildings with it.
............2 Troop comprised of four sections at that time and two of them were to stay and guard Sematan, whilst the other two sections would man smaller forts along the coast further to the west. From there we would patrol to the furthest point west of the Sarawak coastline. Kampong Serabang and Kampong Samunsam were both on the coast but the border was only about two miles in land. This was an area where Indonesia and Sarawak came together and stuck out into the sea as a peninsular. Both these forts were only accessible from the sea by boat and sections would change over at fortnightly intervals.
............It was during one of the change over times that a section set out in a double skinned aluminium assault boat with a forty-horse powered mercury engine out board. Unfortunately, they set out as the tide was almost in, along with seven men and all their gear, so the boat was well down in the water. As they tried to leave the estuary, the waves were very high and rough. A dozen times, they nearly went over as they were hit by wave after wave and then they started taking in water. Frantically they started bailing out and somehow they survived and proceeded to make their way along the coastline. About two and a half-hours later as they were broadside onto the waves, they were hit by a big one. The wave half filling the boat with water, the Marines started to bale frantically, but then another big wave hit them filling them right up. One of the Marines stood up shouting don’t panic, but it was all too late, panic had set in and over the boat flipped. Suddenly they were all in the water thrashing around and trying to survive. Two of the Marines were not very good swimmers and were still wearing their very heavy clothes that were now even heavier in the water. Amazingly, all seven Marines survived and made it safely to the shore, but they had nothing with them and they were in hostile territory. Therefore, they made their way up to the back of the beach and hid in the bushes while they rested from their ordeal.
............After about an hour the fittest of them decided to go for help, he made his way along the beach back to Samatan, taking nearly three hours. Where he blurted out his story to the remaining Marines.
............Ginger, Don, Corporal Pearse and I set out to try and find them, leaving the survivor to rest up. We took an extra couple of rifles with us just in case we were attacked, knowing that the ship wrecked Marines would need some sort of fire power. Marching quite fast it only took us about two hours to find them, although we had been worried in case we were walking into ambush. The enemy might even be using the capsized boat as a lure for us to come along the beach. We found the Marines lying on the edge of the jungle just beyond the high water line and most had already recovered from the ordeal. We set up camp for the night and gave them all a good feed, we also watched the tide waiting for it to go out. By then the beach was very flat and about half a mile wide to the point where they had capsized. Somehow we managed to recover everything, the boat, the outboard motor, guns, packs it was quite unbelievable, there was nothing missing it was just wet.
............We then spent a very uncomfortable night amongst the ever-biting sand flies and swarms of mosquitoes that plagued us all night. Not much sleep was had by any of us, so we were all glad to see the warm morning sun when it finally poked its head up above the horizon. Wasting no time we set off back to Samatan, leaving only the boat behind we would pick it up another time.
............One day, an airdrop of mail and stores by parachute was found to contain a movie film, the Ten Commandments. It was arranged with the local Bauxite mine manager for the Marines to go to the mine and use his projector to view the film, allowing any locals who wished to watch it. We all looked forward to the viewing, instead of drinking our two cans of beer each night we saved about a week’s supply and we had one big binge the night of the film showing.
............Came the big night and half the fort personnel were allowed to go to the mine for the showing, all were carrying their supply of cans and becoming well drunk, but they still had their weapons slung over their shoulders. By the time the film started, everybody was quite merry and started wise cracking and telling jokes during the film, which lucky for us was in English. Most of the locals could not understand a single word but they all watched in amazement, as none of them had seen moving pictures before. They laughed whenever the Marines laughed, not realising what we found funny. By the time the film reached the scene where Mosses is being chased across the Red Sea, Jock Stone was well and truly drunk. Mosses was about to be shot by a pursuing Egyptian with a bow and arrow, Jock picked up his S.L.R. rifle and fired it at the Egyptian. Most of the locals dived under the chairs while others ran off screaming in to the night. It was lucky that we were viewing this film outside and that the screen was just hung on the back of one of the out buildings. Jock just laughed and said that he could not see what all the fuss was about as he had just saved the day and Mosses from a fate worse than death. The bullet tore a hole through the screen and the hut behind it, lucky for us nobody was hurt. Otherwise all hell would have been let loose. It’s a good bet that Jock would have been jailed for his little escapade. It might sound incredible but we still watched the end of the film. Funny but we were never invited back to the mine again, I often wonder why. Jock was also very relieved that no charges were laid against him. I guess it was put down to high spirits by our Corporal. It was even more surprising that we managed to keep it from Headquarters. If Pug Davis had found out Jocks feet would not have touched the ground, until he ended up behind bars.
............One morning a group of us took an aluminium assault craft down to the river mouth and on to the far sand bank to have a go at water skiing. None of us had ever attempted it before, so we were all novices. We took with us a small plank of wood about six inches wide by about five foot long. Once we had arrived on the sand bar, using a machete we rounded a point on one end and nailed on an old sand shoe, (Plimsoll) onto the middle of the board. We then got one Marine to sit on the sand near the water’s edge, with one foot in the ski shoe. The rest of the Marines positioned themselves around him, with their hands under him to assist him in trying to stand up. In order to keep the weight down in the boat and the speed up, only the coxswain was allowed on board. Therefore, you can imagine the speed at which he accelerated forward. As the boat attempted to tear the Marines arms out of its sockets, on the command of "Go".
............We had some great fun and most of us got at least fifty feet before falling off. Because there was about eight of us all waiting around to have a go, the time seemed to drag. Therefore, another Marine and I went for a swim across the river mouth. However, I now know that it was crazy to even attempt it. Then I was just young guy who did not have a care in the world. We reached the other bank and then swam back. It is a wonder we were not swept out to sea for a start, whilst someone later told us that they had seen sharks four miles upriver. The river mouth would have been at least half a mile wide at this point and at times had been quite treacherous. Try telling that to a young upstart from Suffolk who imagined he was bullet proof and thought he knew it all.
Morning found 2 Troop, including myself boarding a Malaysian patrol boat from the Sematan jetty. I was feeling happy because I would be getting away from an office-controlled fort. We were to be split into sections and man very small out-post fort along the coast. We shoved off from the jetty and headed west along the coast of Sarawak towards the peninsular that juts out into the South China Sea. The journey would take us almost four hours, while on the way we dropped off another section at Samusan and took on board the section that was being relieved. They all looked quite pleased at are arrival and were looking forward to a break back at Sematan. We then continued our journey along the coast to Serabang and on to Kampong Milano it being the furthest fort that we had a presence. We were to be the first Marines to stay there, so we would have to build our own defences. The journey was very uneventful as the patrol boat hugged the coastline line. Then as we neared Serabang, the boat went in to the beach as near as possible, without it running aground. We had to jump over the side and into the sea where we waded ashore. So here we were, Don Hackett, Ginger Walters, Corporal Reg Pierce, Harry Dalrimple and I.
............All we found was a small long hut that sat on the beach containing only four rooms, a barbwire entanglement was scattered around the area. The hut was so close to the sea that the barbed wire was actually under the water at high tide in some places. We had a quick look around, to secure the area and to see what we had to defend. We were on a small peninsular of land jutting out of the furthest point west. The Sarawak Indonesian border ran up the middle of this peninsular of land and was only about three-quarters of a mile back from our new home, the hut on the beach. There were other small Kampongs in this area and we were to show a presence around them all. It was once again a show the flag exercise although we also had to protect them and to assist the local police. The Reg the corporal grabbed one of the rooms, Don and Dal took one and Ginger and I took the other. The last room was for all the gear we had ferried ashore from the patrol boat.
............Everywhere we looked around the camp area there were wild dogs roaming around. A long the front of the hut that faced the sea there was a veranda that ran the entire length of the building. On which lay a very old, but friendly three-legged mongrel dog soaking up the sun, he had probably been left behind or tamed by the last occupants of the hut. Being an animal lover I soon took to making a fuss of him. I’ve often wondered how he came to lose his leg, because there did not seem to be any locals living around the area. I guess I could only assume that it might have been by a wild animal in the jungle.
............There were a few old slit trenches and sandbag emplacements around our fortified new home. Most looked like they were in the correct position and did not need much work to bring them up to scratch. Therefore, after grabbing a place to sleep, we all set about making our enclosure safe for the night. By placing mines and booby traps around the perimeter of the barbwire fence, that was only about twenty yards from the hut. While making sure that, any roaming dogs did not set them off. We then arranged a guard roster, only one guard on at a time, as we were so few in number. We were not happy in the thought that the jungle was so close to where we were setting up camp, but there was not a lot we could do about it. Just the thought of removing a considerable amount of jungle put us off the idea.
............By now it was starting to get dark, so it was a quick meal and those that were not on guard hit the sack, we were all dog-tired, as sleep was always hard to come by in this sort of environment.
............Next morning the first task was for somebody to disarm all the booby traps. We had a motto, 'He who arms them, Disarms them'. Most of them were of our own design and flimsy, so it was only right that the inventor make them safe.
............We were to keep up the one-man guard at all times, in addition three man teams were to patrol the area. This meant that our travel was to be lighter and faster so we could cover a lot more ground while leaving two in the camp area at all time for back up.
............The first patrol was to the Kampong of Serabang, from our fort we could see it right across the bay. We would have to walk around the bay to get to it. Corporal Pierce, Ginger and I set off at a brisk pace. We were travelling in single line with about a five yard gap between each other and I was leading. The jungle was thick, but we were following an old track, something I was not happy about. A well used track is ideal for an ambush and everybody in the area would have seen us landing from the patrol boat the day before. They would also have seen us leave our new home and approach them up the track. Although the jungle is a noisy place with monkeys calling and insect’s clicking or screeching you can still hear unusual noises. It is that different and unusual sound that usually gives your position away.
............The track hugged the coastline so it was very easy to see where we were going. We did have maps but they were very sketchy with not too much detail on them, in fact where it said Indonesia it was completely blank. After a long four-hour march, we finally entered the Kampong that consisted of a few small huts all scattered along the beach obviously belonged to the local fisherman. The rest of the Kampong was built into the side of a steep hill. To us it looked like the whole area seemed to depend completely on fishing and was inhabited by Sea Dayak people and a few Chinese.
............We had a good look around the area, not really knowing what to expect. I guess we were just looking for that little something that looked out of place. Not finding anything, we headed halfway up the hill to what looked like the local store. Where we talked the store owner into giving us a bottle of what looked like coloured water, costing us one Malay dollar, about 1 shilling 2 pence in English money. At least it was not fizzy and tasted like lemonade. Not much English was spoken as by now a few of the locals had gathered in the store. They all seemed to be glaring at us and I guess wondering what three white guys were doing in their village. We talked amongst ourselves discussing the long march we had just under taken and how looking out across the bay we could see our fort. To us it seemed like it was only three-quarters of a mile away, across the bay.
............Using pigeon and broken English Reg tried to explain to the guy running the place that we wanted a boat to paddle across the bay. However, he did not seem to be having any luck and Reg had already made up his mind that he was not going to walk back. Reg was a very forceful guy, so he ordered us out and together all three of us walked back down to the beach, followed by what seemed like half of the village. Upon reaching the beach, he was disappointed because there were no boats. You did not have to be a brain surgeon to realise that they were probably all out being use to do the fishing. Therefore, we had a good hunt along the beach until we found an old dugout canoe half full of water. We emptied the water and dragged it in to the sea. Because nobody tried to stop us, we climbed aboard and grabbed a paddle and off we went. The beach must have been sheltered from the sea as it looked like a millpond with not a wave in sight.
............As we picked up a little speed, we heard a few cheers from the beach. Reg who was sitting in the rear just waved his paddle without looking back. Being his job to steer he had to keep an eye on where we were going. Ginger was in the front while I was in the middle. It was only now that Ginger mentioned to us that he was not a very good swimmer and I could see he was a little apprehensive of what lay ahead. Especially as the water level was only about six inches below the top of the canoe. We were soon out into the open water and a few small waves had appeared from around the headland and were becoming bigger and bigger as we progressed out into open water. We were trying to head across the bay, but the direction had us broadside onto the waves. By this time, the waves were starting to come over the side. To complicate matters worse, as it was a log dug out, we were starting to roll. Ginger was getting more and more worried and I was starting to think it was possible that we could roll over. Our paddle rate slowed so we could try to steady the canoe. Very slowly, we made our way across the bay.
............Halfway across we came upon a large bamboo structure, sticking out of the water. It looked like some sort of fishing trap, although unknown to us, we were paddling across a shark breeding ground. I do not know how we made it across that bay, but somehow we did. Upon reflection, it was a crazy stunt, more than once we all believed the canoe was going to turn over. Then as we hit the beach right in front of our hut, Ginger who by this time was as white as a ghost. Climbed out and dropped to his knees kissing the sand and making a sign of a cross on his chest. He suddenly bounce back laughing, while under his breath repeating the words "Thank you, Thank you". I think even Reg was relieved that we had finally made it, but he never showed it by his facial expressions.
............Boy did I sleep that night especially after I completed the first guard watch for the night. A couple of the guys found it hard to sleep with all the jungle noises going on around them, but not me. That night I realised I could sleep anywhere. The jungle could be a very friendly place and its sounds tell you a lot, or should I say sometimes the lack of sounds, tell you that there are bodies moving around out there. If used correctly it can be of great help to you and not the scary place I had once believed when I was a young kid visiting the local cinema watching Tarzan films.
............The following morning was treated as a lazy day, so we could wander around the camp and surrounding area. Getting to know the place and seeing what we could find. Just through the jungle we found an old store, with a glass display cabinet intact, plus a few items of stores.
............It all seemed out of place because these people do not normally leave anything lying about, they usually recycle everything. After removing everything that was of use to us, Reg ordered us to smash all the glass cabinets, but I had to ask him why. After all, it was a good bet that some local might be coming back for it, it being his only worldly possessions. Reg was adamant that we must not leave anything that can be of advantage to the enemy. I must say that some of Reg’s decisions left a lot to be desired. I sometimes thought he had lost all his marbles. After all what good would a glass cabinet be to a terrorist, maybe he would want to place all of his weapons on display. Sometimes Reg’s decisions were just plain crazy. While I wouldn’t mind betting that the cabinet’s owner sat down and cried when he saw our handy work.
............The next morning Reg said he would be staying in the camp, but a patrol could go up to Milano and meet up with the section that was staying there. Ginger, Don and I volunteered as we had friends in that section and anyway it was only about a six-hour march. Therefore, we radioed up ahead so they knew that we were coming, no use walking into one another and blasting hell out of our comrades. Before we left we had a short briefing so that Reg knew our plans and what way we would be heading. It was decided that we would stay one night at Milano and because there would not be many left in the camp, they would be doubling the booby traps around them.
............The trip to Milano was uneventful but hard work, not wanting to be ambushed we cut our own tracks most of the way. It was a gruelling six hours but the end result would be worth it. A couple of places along the track that we had cut, we placed a cigarette lighter and further on a pen. So on our return trip if we found no lighter or pen then we would know that somebody else had used our freshly cut track. We would then get off it and cut a fresh one, cutting down our odds of being ambushed. Although it was slow hot work it was still the safest way to travel.
............At Milano we arrived by late afternoon, I met up with my old squaddies Jack Stone and Jock Minnock, we had a lot of talking to catch up on. While Don met up with Geordie Frith his old squaddie from the 778 squad. The section at Milano let us off guard duty that night knowing that we had a six-hour hike back to Serabang the following morning. Therefore, after we had all swapped stories we settled down to a good night’s sleep.
............We set off early in the morning heading back to Serabang, hoping to use our old track if it had not been detected, that way we could complete the journey in about two thirds the time. The lighter and pen were still where I had left them undisturbed. Halfway back with Ginger up front he raised his hand, we never talk much on patrol, voices carry a long distance in the jungle, we usually use hand sign language. Anyway, Ginger raised his hand and beckoned us forward. He picked up a long stick and started poking something in the vegetation by the side of the track. When I got to where he was standing I saw he was poking at one of the biggest snakes I have ever seen. Ginger said it must be at least thirty feet long, at its middle was a very large bulge, it must have eaten a goat or an orang-utan and was sleeping it off for a month. Looking again at the size of the lump, Don mentioned that it could be a small man or child, while I added that he would not be alive now. Ginger was quick to tell us to let it sleep it off. I could not help asking if he meant the snake or the man. I then poked Ginger in the ribs telling him to get going before it wakes up for a nightcap.
We arrived back at Serabang by the early afternoon, swapping stories of our trip with Dal and Reg. Reg then radioed Milano to tell them that we had arrived back safely. He then called in for our daily chat with Sematan to tell them that all was quiet along the western front, just a joke among Marines.
............In the morning Reg took a radio message from Lundu and we were very upset by what we were told. We had been ordered to shoot all of the wild dogs we could find in our area. Doctors in other camps had found that many of these dogs were carrying decease. A couple of Marines had picked up viruses thought to have come from handling these dogs. I love animals and I would never want to ill-treat any one of them. Humans I have no problems with, I have no feelings towards them. I would shoot a person long before I would shoot a dog, but an order is an order. The message read all dogs, no exceptions, Reg and Ginger said they would do it and I believe Don later shot a couple. We had to be a little careful, because a lot of shooting might draw attention and bring unwanted people to our area. With all the other forts having to carry out the same order on the same morning, it was going to be one hell of a battle area all along the coast.
............Reg walked around with his sub machine gun slung over his shoulder looking like John Wayne and shooting from the hip at anything that moved. These guns use 9mm ammunition and were not as powerful as our rifles, while Ginger was using his SLR riffle. The dogs started running everywhere trying to avoid the hail of bullets heading their way. A couple of pups I had become attached to, one a four-month old black one copped it first from Reg. Although I was not shooting I followed Reg and Ginger around, but do not ask me why. This poor little puppy had about three shots in its back and it was still moving. I pleaded with Reg to finish it off but he would not, "Cannot afford the ammo", he said, (the bastard). I watched that poor little thing laying in agony, later Ginger did finish it off for me.
............Halfway through the day Reg and Ginger were getting bloodthirsty and even drew up a kill chart in the sand on the beach with a stick. Kills, maims, wounds and who got what. Sickening I thought, but still we will see what they are like when there are bullets being returned. Most of the killings went on all day, but by then many dogs had run off into the jungle to dodge the hail of bullets. However, the ever-faithful old three legged dog, that spent all day on our veranda. Somehow he must have thought I am the pet around here, they will never shoot me they are my friends. He was never so wrong, that poor old dog had stayed on the veranda the whole day listening to the shooting. By mid afternoon Reg was losing his temper because the easy shooting was over, now he had to stalk the older dogs that had run into the jungle. He just walked up onto the veranda for a cup of tea, took one look at the old three legged dog, then walked up to him and placed the barrel of his gun to his head, the dog looked up at Reg as if asking for a reprieve. Then Bang! Reg never gave it a second thought. I still believe that the old dog never thought that he was going to be shot. Like I said earlier, some of Reg’s decisions were questionable, he is not a man I would ever want to meet again. I was upset for hours over this entire incident.
............That night shots were fired, we believe into the compound because a booby trap was also ignited, but nobody got hurt and I don't believe we shot anybody in return. We were not sure but we believed that there was only one person shooting, but at whom we were not sure. We radioed Sematan in the morning and because of our low numbers on the ground, it was decided to pull us out. About 11 am, a small aluminium assault boat came as close to the beach as it could to pick us up. We had already disarmed all of the booby traps and mines and took on board everything that we had arrived with, we were closing down the fort for good and nobody would be replacing us.
............What a waste, if only this order had come just twenty-four hours earlier all those poor old dogs would still be alive. Life is so cruel and hard to understand some times. I guess I will never get used to it no matter how hard I try.
............The trip back should have been uneventful. However, Reg soon put paid to all that. I guess he was still experiencing the excitement of the previous days shooting round up. Anyway Reg had seen a small shark playing around the back of our boat, I suppose it got on his nerves a little and pointed it out to Ginger. Why don’t you shoot it he told Ginger and Ginger never one to miss a chance just stood up and shot it. Now we had never seen any of the TV programs of today about sharks, it was all new to us and we thought it was a big joke. We just did not know what we were about to unleash, the blood from the wounded shark suddenly attracted more sharks and I might add much bigger one. It was still fun for Ginger, as he started shooting at more and more sharks. By this time the water was starting to turning into a red frothy broth, it was amazing. I have not seen a frenzy like it, Ginger must have shot about a dozen by now, sat down to replace his magazine. The sea was now alive with thrashing sharks and not just behind the boat. Now they were all around us even bumping the sides and bottom of the boat. We started to worry in case we were knocked into the sea, because we would not stand a chance amongst that lot. On reflection and with what I have since seen on TV, it was another one of the most stupid thing we did. Reg put the engine on full blast and we luckily got out of the area as quick as we could. It was something we never did again. Later we heard of another section that went out for target practice with sharks towing a dead dog on a rope as bait. They soon cut the rope and headed back to shore having learnt just like us, the hard way. Again, nobody was hurt, so the Marines were once again very lucky.
............When we were younger, we did very silly things, not thinking about the consequences. I guess being young, we just have no fear, but put in the same situation and being that much older, we would make a very different decision. It always amazed me, that a lot more people were not hurt, doing these crazy things, maybe lady luck still helps us sometimes.
............Even on guard duty’s we would fall asleep completely relying on, dogs, trip flares or booby traps to protect us. I do not think we even thought about it, we just did it. I must also add that it was always the single guys, who did most of the crazy stunts and always came out of it without a single scratch. However, most of the married guys were worried stiff about not making it home to their wives and children. Therefore, when they were on guard we all knew that we were being well guarded that night. It’s also worth adding that it was usually the married ones that attached the major injuries, it’s as though they were trying too hard to return safely to their loved ones and that every hurdle possible was being thrown their way.
............After only a couple of days rest our section was ordered to relieve the Marines at Kampong Samunsam, this time the trip would be in a small double skinned aluminium assault craft. All our gear was stowed aboard and Reg took the helm and with the forty horse power Mercury out board fixed to the transom away we went, heading west again, but not quite as far as Sarabang. The departure was timed to coincide with a high tide so it would be easy to reach the open sea, with not too much trouble.
............After half an hour, we had cleared the estuary, it being the most dangerous part and we settled down to an easy trip along the coast. We were all enjoying the scenery and chatting about things in general. About two hours out from Sematan and half way through our journey. We were suddenly surprised by a school of Dolphins that just appeared all around us. There seemed to be hundreds of them breaching the water, all were a darkish grey in colour. Some came out of the water and so close to the boat, that you could lean out and touch them. We were all shouting and pointing in great excitement it being a big joke. Until Don said what happens if one comes up under the boat, it would turn us over. The mood suddenly changed, as we all stopped shouting and started to hang on to the sides of the boat. Blood thirsty Reg even made a suggestion to shoot a couple of them, telling us that perhaps it will scare the others away. Thanks Reg for another brainwave of a suggestion. I dread to thing what this guy would have been capable of, if let loose within a children’s nursery.
............Then just as suddenly as the dolphins had appeared they simply disappeared. Nobody said a word, but just in case we still kept hold of the side of the boat. I made the remark that they had probable heard what Reg had proposed and had fled in terror. Then after what seemed like hours, but was in actual fact was only a couple of minutes, they suddenly broke the surface about half a mile ahead of us. Hundreds of them, what a beautiful sight something I will always remember. Once they were out of sight, we all settled back into the boat and started chatting once again, as we continued our journey.
............As we reached Samunsam we beached the shallow draft boat, and were greeted by the section we were to replace. We all unloaded our gear onto the beach and then re-loaded up the section that was making the return trip. The two Corporals walked around the camp showing each other different items of interest and what to watch out for. Then it was goodbyes all round, followed by and usual handshakes and we found ourselves alone in our new home. Our small band consisted of Corporal Reg, Dal, Don, Ginger and I.
............Samunsam was almost like Serabang, it being positioned on the coast by the river Sungai Samunsam’s estuary which was about a mile wide at this particular point. At low tide you could wade across to the other side. Once again, our barbed wire perimeter fence got wet during high tides, as it became half submerged. This camp had a twin fort on the other side of the river estuary. At this camp the idea was to move about, to throw the enemy off our scent and not let him know too much where we were, or where we would be going. Therefore, a couple of nights would be spent in each fort, while occasionally a few were spent out in the jungle. This main fort had been named by earlier Marines as 'Fort Blood', having been attacked a few times, which had claimed a few victims. It was constructed of the usual corrugated tin and looked just like a rather large garden shed. Inside it was divided into four rooms, while around it was positioned a few underground bashers, all neatly sand bagged up. The tin on the roof was only to keep the rain out, not mortars and rocket shells. The main hut was also protected by sandbags that were neatly stacked around the outside the hut about waist high in some places. This gave those inside a little protection from the sides, but not from above. So it was back to the old routines with guard rosters, booby traps, mines and of course, a good scout around to get to know the area.
............One of my favourite booby traps was to nail an old bean tin through its base to a tree about two feet up from the ground, with the open end of the tin facing across a track. I would then attach a very thin piece wire to another tree pulling the wire across the track and attaching it to a hand grenade and then holding the clip I would remove the pin. Then gently slide the grenade into the tin, making sure that the clip slid inside as well. If anybody was to walk past and hit the wire, it would pull the grenade out of the tin and the clip would fly off exploding right beside of them. This was very plain but a simple idea that over the years had claimed many victims. Its only drawback being that anybody who under stood jungle warfare would feel the tight wire as it touch their legs, as it needed a little force to pull it out of the tin. Therefore, in a way it would only catch those who were walking at a considerable pace, so they hit the wire with a little force. If they were taking it slowly and watching where they walked, it was possible to feel the wire.
............That night we were all awoken by shots out in the jungle, they sounded near but were not directly outside our wire perimeter fence. In order to play it safe we had to stand too all night just in case. That first night nobody got any sleep it being a new location and our surroundings being strange to us. The next day we all spent a considerable amount of time making our position more secure and easier to protect. It was hard work but it had to be done, if we wanted to survive and sleep a little more easily. Then half way through the day Reg pointed across the river to the fort on the other side of the estuary. It being just visible on the edge of the jungle, smoke was rising from the main hut that should have been empty. We all decided that this must have been the enemy taking advantage of our situation, they must have known that we were thin on the ground and could not do much about it. Therefore they had made it their headquarters using all the pots and pans that had been left by earlier Marine patrols. On the other hand, it could also have been a trap to try to lure us over the river and in to an ambush, or maybe to lure us into an ambush as we left the fort we were now settled in. Reg decided that we should stay where we were for a couple of days, because these guys were not that easy to catch out. One of Reg’s smarter decisions I thought. We also decided to double our nightly guard, two on at any one time in two different slit trenches either side of the fort. This was hard, as there were only five of us, but we managed, we had to if we wanted to survive. We also decided to change guard at twenty minutes past the hour. Every guard around the world changes on the hour or half-hour. It being a good time to catch guards out of their positions, I might add once again not a lot of sleep was had by all for a few nights. For once at least Reg’s brain seemed to be working to our advantage.
............A seasoned jungle fighter usually tries to get your moral down by depriving you of sleep and that is easy, one man can fire a single shot into your camp once or twice a night. Net result, everybody inside the camp has to stand too to keep watch all night, one man can do this for a week and the end result is a very tired enemy camp, easy for the taking especially one hour before dawn when the light plays tricks on your eyes.
............In the morning, Reg took Don and I up river to cross it well into the jungle so we could try and sneak up on whoever was making the smoke in the other fort. We returned after only a couple of hours, having found a good river crossing and an old deserted Kampong. There were no locals anywhere, maybe the enemy had chased them off, but we also found what we thought was an old enemy camp. We had returned early because Reg wanted to change his plans, everybody got as much rest as we could and the next morning just before day break we all slipped quietly and unseen out of the fort carrying only what was necessary, everything else had been hid or buried.
............We all proceeded along the route we had checked out the day before and cross the river. By now it was starting to get light which was just as well, because it turned out to be a little harder than the day before, as the tide was higher. Unfortunately, we all made it over quite easy except that is for Dal who got very wet. Dal was more worried about something he had seen at Lundu and that was a shark several miles upriver. No time to worry about that here I told Dal, because it was about one hundred-feet wide and at least four feet deep.
............Silently we made our way to where we knew the fort was positioned, by about 8 am we were just outside the fort’s barbed wire entanglement. All was very quiet, there did not seem to be any life around. Reg ordered Ginger and Don to check it out, cautiously they made their way through an open entrance and went around the huts looking for people and booby traps. Suddenly Ginger appeared, claiming that there was nobody around. With this we all made our way into the camp having a further good look around, just in case Ginger had missed somebody. It took about an hour to completely secure the camp. Once Reg was happy that the place was okay, he told us to have break and make a cup of tea. For those of us who needed a drag of the additive weed, he told us to use the local tobacco. Therefore, the locals would not detect our presence. Their keen sense of smell is so good, that anything that smells unusual, or out of place to the normal jungle smells, would be picked up by them from a great distance. Therefore, we used their tobacco and tea, no toothpaste, soap or anything like that, because it would stand out like a nudist at a country wedding. However we had all failed to realise that our body odours were quite different to the locals and stood out like a sore thumb.
............After an hour, Dal called us all over to see something that he had just spotted. He then pointed over to the fort we had just left about four or five hours earlier and to the smoke that was rising from the main hut roof. I could not help ribbing Don that he had not put the fire out before we left. However, the situation was quite serious for us, we were beginning to believe that these guys knew what they were doing. Somehow, they had known that we were coming and had got out before we arrived. They would have most likely crossed the estuary, although it was at high tide, in an effort to avoid us. Still it proved that they were not prepared to confront us for a fire fight. Instead they were adopting the usual Guerrilla tactic of hit and run, which usually unsettles and frustrates their prey, who just want to shoot it out with them. If successfully enticed into a battle the Guerrilla usually loses against a well organised fighting outfit. Therefore, we did not have to worry too much about a confrontation later.
............We decided to stay in a new fort that we named 'Fort Disappear' for a couple of days, so we could have a good look around. We decided to play them at their own game, at night we would fire a couple of riffle rounds into the other fort across the estuary, whenever we felt like it. As far as I can remember they never once fired back at us, maybe they did not like their own medicine. Maybe they did not have weapons, who knows. Although it could have been the locals, trying to get their hut back.
............We were always in touch with Semantan by radio, if we did not radio in each morning by a certain time, then a search party would be sent out to find out where we were. It was one of these early morning radio messages that told us of an accident in another fort. A Marine going out early one morning to re arm his bean tin booby trap, had walked into his own trap wire. The grenade had popped out of the tin and exploded right beside of him. The explosion had torn a big hole in his side. Luckily he had survived the explosion, being flown by helicopter to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak and from there to Singapore. He was then placed on a special care flight to England, the aircraft being allowed to fly at a very low altitude for the whole trip. A doctor was seated beside the Marine at all times, ready to inflate his lungs if they were to collapse, or to massage his heart at anytime during the flight. Last we heard of the Marine was that he had made it home safely and was doing okay. Unfortunately, once he had made a full recovery it was a foregone conclusion that he would be invalided out of the service.
............After an uneventful couple of days, early one morning while it was still dark, we crossed the river estuary back to 'Fort Blood' and as you might have guessed, nobody was there when we arrived. Mind you, all the pots and pans we had left behind were sitting around a smouldering fire, one even had warm water in it.
............One night automatic rifle fire slammed into the sandbag walls of our enclosure. We could see the flashing from the gun, so we all trained our weapons into that area and just kept blasting away. After only a few minutes the firing stopped, but we were all kept on our guard for the remainder of the night. In the morning while making sure it was safe, we made our way to the spot we had all been shooting at the night before. There by the perimeter wire, but on our side was a heap of spent ammunition casings and a small trail of blood that lead back through the wire and into the jungle. We tried to follow it but it just faded away into the jungle and we lost it. We were very lucky, this guy had got through all our booby traps and defences and so straight away, we set about improving them. Like I’ve mentioned earlier one of our big concerns was the short distance from our huts to the perimeter wire. It meant that when attacked we were so close to each other that it was very easy to lob a grenade at each other. Something I always expected the enemy to do, but lucky for us I never once heard of this happening. The clearing of tree’s in and around our fortified positions was not easy, remember there were no chain saws in those days. It all had to be undertaken with a very small hand held saw, or an axe which none of us carried. However, once cut down if you could not move the main trunk it became an even better place for guerrilla’s to take cover behind. Left standing at least only one person could hide behind it and he had to be standing.
............After another uneventful week at 'Fort Blood', our replacement section of Marines arrived to relieve us, in the aluminium assault craft. Reg did the usual walk around of the camp with the incoming Corporal showing him the usual, traps, tracks and what else to watch out for. Then with all our gear neatly stowed on board, we were on the move once again, only this time back east to Sematan and maybe a little rest.
............At Sematan, it was thought that we should indeed have a well earned rest, however we still had to take part in the usual two hours on and four hours off guard roster. We had been at Lundu for just over a month, Sematan and Serabang each for two weeks, a week at Samunsam and now a final two weeks at Semantan a grand total so far of around three months. Suddenly it was all about to change. Only this time we were moving away from the coastal area and heading inland. 2 Troop was heading for a fort next to the Kampong of Kandai, about ten hours hard march in land south west of Lundu.
............The Chopper flew us to Lundu, from there it was a full pack march over several hours’ one hell of a slog. Most of the area we passed through was known to be friendly, but it paid to keep alert and careful. It was a new area and unknown to us, so we treated it as a normal deep penetration patrol, but lucky for us it was uneventful.
............Kampong Kandai had a little bit of a history to the place. 42 Commando had been in this area before us and one of their sections had been pinned down in a tin hut that was perched on a cliff edge. Which I thought was positioned incorrectly, as there was no way of escaping if you were attacked from the front. Anyway, the five man section came under fire while they were all in the hut during the late afternoon. The attackers were reported to have numbered about forty, although it is always hard to put an accurate number on your enemy as the bullets are whistling past you. Most of the Marines were hit during the exchange, while the wireless operator was shot twice. However, he still managed to keep his radio open during the whole attack, for which he received a Bravery Award. Somehow, the whole section was rescued by another section of Marines the following day, but sadly, I believe one of the Marines died from his wounds.
............This then was the reason that found Corporal Bwana, Ginger, Don, Dal, the two Jocks and I on our first patrol in to the Kandai area. The march to Kandai was very exhausting, it being over very rough terrain, rivers and thick dense jungle. While doing what we did not really like, that is following existing tracks through the jungle. However, it was wonderful countryside and I just loved the jungle. There must have been more shades of green than I had ever seen in my life. I loved lush green colours of the vegetation, the animals and even the smells especially after a rainstorm. The trip took us about ten hours, with me as the front scout, I just liked being up the front. It kept me alert and on my toes, something you should always be in this type of environment. Walking in the pack behind, you tend to get a little complacent and let your guard down and if you are ambushed your brain just takes that little bit extra time to work out what’s happening and to how you are going to respond and react.
............As we arrived at the Kampong we became extra alert, not knowing how we would be received by the locals. We carried on through the village of Kandai, acknowledging a few of the locals who had stopped to see what we were up to. By now we were steadily climbing until we came out the other side of the Kampong. Then just a couple of hundred yards further on and around to the right we came upon the hut where 42 Cdo had been trapped. All un-eventful as it turned out, but how were we to know that. This hind sight thing is a wonderful tool to have, especially if you could have it before the event.
............The border with Indonesia was only a further fifteen-minute stroll away. With this in mind we had to stay alert at all times, here there would be no playing around the position we were in was serious. Sloping up and away from the front of the hut was the remains of a large old landslide. Upon are arrival at the hut, we all set about fortifying the hut to protect us for the first night. We used all of the usual trip flares and booby traps that we had perfected since are arrival in Sarawak. It was also decided to double up on the night guard roaster. Directly in front of the hut were many large boulders so at least we had good cover. The hut being made of tin was not going to be a place where anybody would want to stay if we were attacked.
............The first night was uneventful, not many of us managed to get much sleep, as we all expected to be attacked at some stage. We all knew that the area had a bad history, so we were expecting the lightening to once again strike in the same place.
............First thing in the morning Bwana lead Ginger and myself down into the village to meet the head man. It was his idea that we show the flag and our presence. Something that had been drummed in to our heads to undertake at every opportunity. It was felt by the big guns in the military that it was better to have tribesmen on our side if possible. The usual idea was to give first aid to any of the locals and maybe a present to the Headman. Usually a dead wild dog if possible, as they are a delicacy to these people. Bwana had shot one earlier in the morning, this he then presented to the Headman. Ginger had brought with him the Bren gun, he then stripped it down and showed the villagers the parts, he then re-assembled it showing the villagers where all the parts went. By now a large crowd of Dayak tribesmen had started to gather, all were displaying their Parang swords around their waist with human hair attached to the handles. Ginger who had been ordered by Bwana, pushed the crowd to one side and singled out a small tree with a trunk about fifteen inches thick, about twenty-five yards away. Then standing with the Bren at his waist, he intended to blast away at the tree, using up a complete magazine. Each magazine contains twenty-eight rounds of 7.62 mm, it should hold thirty, but we only placed twenty-eight rounds within, allowing protection of the spring. We would then tape two magazines together, with one of them upside down, for the ease of changing while in a battle situation. With the SLR riffle, it was much the same, but with only eighteen rounds of 7.62 mm for each magazine. The good thing about this is that the Bren and SLT magazines were both interchangeable and could be used on either weapon.
............Anyway, Ginger blasted away at the tree, using only one magazine and chopped the tree right in half (about four to six inches thick). All the villages started shouting after the banging had finished scaring them. All were amazed at the firepower and at the tree toppling over. Ginger then reloaded the Bren and we gave it to the Headman to have a go. Bwana was a little worried, he could see the Headman swinging the Bren about and there were a lot of villagers trying to get closer to get a better view. Ginger stood behind the Headman and pointed him towards another tree, encouraging him to point the Bren a little lower down the trunk. As the Headman started to blast away, the force of the shots lifted the barrel of the Bren and forced him backwards. All the time Ginger was pushing the Headman's shoulders forward trying to hold his ground. The Headman soon let loose the complete magazine. All the Dayaks were continuing to shout and dance around, all very excited. Unfortunately, he did not chop the tree down, not only that most of his rounds missed the target as the barrel slowly raised skywards. As soon as things had quietened down Bwana, Ginger and I were invited into the Headman’s hut for the usual drinks. The hut was a very old and rickety, being made of bamboo and attap leaves to keep out the rain, being built on stilts that were ten feet high. While hanging around the roof on strings were about two dozen shrunken heads. The headman explained that they were Japanese soldiers from the last war. Where have I heard that one before. All though I thought these ones looked a little newer than the earlier ones I had seen. After sitting cross-legged on the bamboo slotted floor, we were all offered some rice wine, now we knew all about that stuff. After our earlier experience with the stuff, it had been well named as 'Rocket fuel'. We made sure that we only drank the cloudy liquid, and did not indulge in the eating of the sediment. We could not afford to have a hangover in this place, the enemy would have taken full advantage of that situation. A large Union Jack flag hung on the wall above where the headman sat and beside it was a colour photo of Queen Elizabeth II in a nice wooden frame. There was also a black and white photo of Queen Victoria hung over the door. This all looked out of place in a grass hut stuck in the middle of the jungle. Up until then I had only seen these types of items above a fire place back in the stately home of the UK.
............After thanking the headman for his hospitality, we decided to head back to our hut, as by now it was midday. We also decided that the headman had been won over and would be friendly towards us, wondering if he would be loyal was another question.
............Bwana decided to lay an ambush that night on the border-crossing track, which just happened to be a log across a rather large ravine, the ravine marking the border with Indonesia. Bwana decided he would take an Iban tracker, Ginger, Jock Stone and I. This meant that Dal, Don and Jock Minnock were to be left behind to guard the hut.
............We set out for the border leaving enough time to settle in to a position before it got dark. As I have said, the ravine marked the border and a log lay across it. I was to lie on the ground only twenty yards from the end of the log on our side of the border. With the Bren gun facing along the length of the log pointing in to Indonesia, with me was Jack Stone. The other Marines were up on the top of a very large boulder to our left and looking down on us and the log across the border. We had a vine for communication, strung between Bwana and Jock Stone. By now the whole area was bathed in bright moonlight, so we all settled down for a long night. I was lying on a poncho pointing the Bren at the log. If anybody was to cross here tonight, then there was no way that I was going to miss. If I did then it would be easier to spit on them.
............We had all decided to stay awake just in case somebody appeared, unfortunately after only two hours it started to rain. Then what started as drizzle suddenly developed into down pour. Jock and I were wet through in a matter of minute, as the area around us started to flood. Within just a few minutes, the water level started to rise dramatically. Suddenly we heard some sort of roaring noise, but had no idea what is was. It got louder and louder and we had to shout at each other just to discuss the situation. To me it sounded just like a landslide. Both Jock and I were starting to get worried as the floodwater steadily rose all around us.
............Suddenly all hell was let loose as the trees seemed to lay over at about a forty-five degrees, as a deafening wind started blowing and to cap it all it rained even harder. It was now like a cloud burst and it just went on and on and on. It was raining so hard it was impossible to even talk to Jock, in fact I was getting worried that the torrent of water flowing past us would eventually wash us out in to the ravine. By now Jock was frantically pulling on the vine attached to Bwana’s wrist up on the rock, who I might add were not even wet, having covered themselves with their ponchos. Bwana had to climb down the rock to see the problems we were in, I tried shouting to him that we would drown if we kept lying where we were. Jock and I then pleaded with him to let us get up on the rock with him. Instead, Bwana decided that we would all go back to the hut together. I would rather drown here than be shot by my own men Jock told him. Bwana told us not to worry as he had a plan to let the guys back at the hut know we were returning. Therefore, they all got down off the rock and we got our gear together to return. It was still raining very hard and it would be difficult to find our way back in the darkness that was pitch black.
............It was about a fifteen-minute walk in normal conditions, but the way we were going slipping and sliding on wet rocks, while feeling our way along the side of the mountain. It was going to take a lot longer than any of us thought. Slowly we made our way back and it took us nearly one and a half-hours to cover the normal fifteen-minute journey. We finally reached the area where the hut was perched on the cliff edge. The rain had eased up by then, I told Bwana to be careful, or he would be shot by mistake by our friend’s inside. Firstly, it was an unwritten rule of the jungle that you do not move at night amongst your own troops without giving them a prior warning. With the rain banging on the tin roof of the hut, nobody inside would hear us. It being a good bet that their guard would not be outside in the rain. Anyway they would think that they were under attack and shoot anything that moved. As soon as we were within the area of the trip flares, Ginger, Jock and I got down behind some handy large rocks. Bwana started shouting at the top of his voice, but there was no chance those inside were going to hear him. In desperation and knowing where the trip flares were he threw a rock at one and ignited it, lighting up the whole area.
............The Marines inside the hut, dived out of the door, cocking their weapons as they landed behind some rocks, two had already started shooting. Incredibly, someone recognised Bwana and they stopped firing. Not one round had hit him as he stood there in full view waving his arms and shouting, "It’s me Bwana". Yes by now, he had accepted his nick name. Once the firing had ceased, slowly we all rose up to show our selves. After we realised that they had recognised us, we made our way into the hut. Everybody was soaking wet, cold and shivering. The only thing we had in the hut that was dry, were a few old parachutes, which had drop supplies on an earlier occasion. We all stripped off and rolled up together in the parachutes hoping to warm each other up. The last thing I remembered that night was Ginger telling me, that he thought Bwana was just plain bloody crazy. Adding that he wondered where the hell they were picking up this latest crop of Corporals, he even wondered if Bwana and Reg were related in some way.
............During the next day, Ginger and I had a wander around the village to see if we could find some fresh fruit to supplement our bland service ration packs. While walking around our attention was attracted to a young Iban boy with a blow pipe. There had been a few stories circulating amongst the Marines, that Indonesia troops had been using blow pipes and had been moved up to the border area with Sarawak. It had also been said that, the Indonesians were also using women troops as well, unheard of in the sixties, but nobody had seen proof of this one either.
............I walked over to the young man and asked him a few questions. The pipe was six feet long with a small hole burned right through the centre, but it was not straight, it had a slight bow in it. I asked if the young Iban would demonstrate how he used it, the man stood up and took a small sliver of bamboo from a pouch around his waist, then from another pouch he took out a small amount of clay. I noticed that the bamboo sliver had a dark substance on its tip, guessing that it was poison, but I really had no idea. The Iban then rolled up a small ball of clay attaching it to the other end of the bamboo sliver, he then place the sliver, point first into the pipe. He lifted up the pipe to his mouth and pointed the other end at a target. Instead of holding the pipe with both hands spread evenly along the pipe to balance it. He held both hands together right near his mouth. To counter the weight of the pipe his back was gently arched backwards, while slowly he took aim. Then suddenly he made a snorting noise and to our amazement, thirty feet away we watched a large butterfly in full flight, fall to the ground. "Some shot" Ginger said, "Yes and I would not want to be on the receiving end of that one", I replied. The young man seemed happy at the shot. Ginger gave the Iban a packet of cigarettes with only five left in it. The Ibans face lit up with a broad smile and he nodded a gesture of thanks to him. Ginger was breaking rule number one about smoking English cigarettes not being able to find any local tobacco, which usually consisted of old leaves.
............One morning just as day was breaking, we were all awoken, as one of the trip flares was ignited and lit up the area around the track leading from the village past our hut. As we all piled out of the hut cocking our weapons and expecting incoming shots. To our amazement a young woman was hopping about on the track near where the flare had gone off, it must be to our credit that we never shot her. Meaning that we had been trained well and had good battle sense, to identify our target before shooting at it. What had happened was that the villagers loved eating frogs and the place where they were caught was near the border just past our hut. The best time to catch them was very early in the morning just as the sun was coming up. Without us knowing and while our guard had been left down, she had gone out without telling us. They even knew where the trip wires were and would jump over them, but this girl had hit the wire by accident setting off the flare. Anyway, nobody was hurt during the incident, but it made us more vigilant and we had a word with the Headman about future hunting trips. The frogs were massive things with legs on them like chickens, the meat was white as well and cooked correctly they even tasted like chicken. I also have to add that the woman had what I was later to learn was called Elephantiasis, one of her feet was at least three times larger than the other one. It amazed me how she still managed to walk let alone jump over our trip wire.
............Walking over to a very large clearing that over looked the valley below, I saw a small group of boys flying what I thought was a kite. As I got nearer, I discovered that it was indeed a kite. So, I sat on a log and just watched them for about half an hour. As the kite landed in the clearing, I walked over to have a look at it. To my amazement, it was made of a very old newspaper. I started talking to the boy who was flying it, asking the usual questions about how he had made it. I then picked up the kite and started to glance at some of the articles, it was an old English newspaper, probably left behind by some of the earlier serviceman. There right in the middle was a picture of Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street a British TV soap queen. I asked the boy where he had found the newspaper, he told me his brother had received it from the Marines before us. I must admit that it made me think of home, it being the first reminder I’d had from England for a long time. Up until then, I had not received any letters from home. It would not do to think about home too much, in these conditions it could cost you dearly, you had to keep your mind on the job and your hands on your guns. You had to eat, sleep and live the jungle, if you wanted to survive.
............A couple of weeks later while I was feeling lonely and bored, and with a little help from Ginger (assisting me with my use of the English language) I wrote to Elsie Tanner, whose real name was Pat Phoenix care of Coronation Street Manchester and told her what we had found. Several weeks later I received a great letter and signed photos from her, unfortunately I never did meet her. Sadly, Pat has since passed on to that great big soapy in the sky, but I still have the photos she sent me.
............Kandai was a great place and of all the Kampongs that I have visited this was the place that I would have loved to have stayed at and to this day I would love to go back and visit it, but I think I would be very disappointed. Probably by now all the grass huts will have satellite dishes fixed to the roof and Japanese cars parked alongside the house.
............After about ten days we had to return to Lundu, another section was coming up relieve us. Therefore the friends we had made would now be lost and the new section would have to start up their own. The jungle is a constant learning exercise, the villages at Kandai had taught me to live off the jungle. The number one rule being you do not eat anything red, it’s probably poisonous and anyway doesn’t red stand for danger. Another thing I have neglected to say up to now is that many villagers did not wear clothes. In fact, I do not think that some of them had ever seen a white person, until just a few months earlier when the Marines first arrived. Some of the women wore a sarong around their waist, but nothing else. During a visit by a high-ranking officer several weeks later, he became very embarrassed and ordered a load of brassieres to be dropped by parachute and distributed amongst the village women to cover them up. I must say it was the most ridiculous sight I ever saw, nobody got a size that fitted them anyway. I think it was the start of us ruining the country, setting them up onto the road to western ruination. Unfortunately, I also contributed to this by getting a young girl to wash my clothes in the river, for which I would give her the handsome price of one cigarette. If another Marine became jealous over that same girl, he would give her two cigarettes and so it went on. When we left Sarawak, I think it was up to twenty cigarettes a shirt, such a pity it was a wonderful country before we arrived. Unfortunately, it is the price we pay to bring third world countries into our so called twentieth century as we call it. In addition, it is always our military presence that starts the inflation cycle off on its never ending spiral. I’ve often wonder if the powers that be, have thought that maybe these people did not want to be dragged kicking and screaming in to the twentieth century.
............Although looking at it from another angle our military presence was to assist these people by giving them some form of protection. Like somebody once wrote before me, the only countries that are under a military threat of invasion are the weak ones, the ones that have no military defence. After all, you never hear of the UK being threatened with invasion.
............With the completion of a week's rest at Lundu my section was once again on the move, this time it was a full day’s march up to Kampong Biawak. Earlier Marines had named it 'Fort Laramie', again the name had been borrowed from an old American cowboy movie.
............'Fort Laramie' was only reachable through some very thick jungle, so a track had been cut earlier. Therefore it was now open to ambush and booby traps, so great caution was needed during the march. My section consisted of Corporal Reg Pearce, Ginger, Dal, Don, Big Mac, Geordie, two new Marines and myself. Unfortunately it also included the Company Sergeant Major who would be staying with us for a couple of days. Wanting to see how we were coping with the loneliness of fort life. The section had also been given the use of one of the new war dogs and his handler Marine McGinty.
............One of 40 Commando Royal Marine newly formed dog-handling team, Marine McGinty turned up at Pang Te Bang one morning with his new dog Sheba. Mac had been a regular member of A Company before volunteering months earlier for the vacant position of dog handler. Having been accepted he had been away for several weeks on a dog-handling course back at the dog school that adjoined Burma Camp in Malaya. There are three types of war dog, usually Alsatians (German Shepherds).
............The Guard Dog, just simply that. There only function is to guard, with its handler or sometimes they are let loose in a secure compound.
............The Ambush Dog, these dogs are trained to sniff out an ambush position. They would walk along a track and if a scent were picked up, they would just sit and point along the track in the direction that they believe an ambush was lying in wait.
............The Mine Dog, these dogs could detect a mine or anything metallic buried underground and would just sit and point at the spot on the ground where it suspected the mine was buried.
............Sheba had all three of these skills. She would also be very good at picking up the scent of any local inhabitants miles away. We were told stories of the dogs training and why they could do this. The dogs would apparently be on a chain approximately six feet long. Then a local with a bamboo pole would daily beat the dog. Result was that the dog would hate any brown fellow who carried that type of a scent and I must admit that it worked. These dogs would pick up a scent long before the local person came in view.
............The march to Biawak was almost uneventful, it was just a long hard slog and we arrived at 'Fort Laramie' late in the afternoon around 6 pm, just before dark. To be greeted by the section we were relieving, with a large mug of tea, which was truly welcome. Not much time left to look around, so a good night’s sleep was had by all and luckily for us no guard duties.
............In the morning as daylight was breaking the outgoing Corporal showed the incoming Corporal around the camp. The usual positions of the tracks and where they lead to, mines booby traps and the fortified positions. After breakfast, we said farewell to the outgoing Marines, as they left on their long march back to Lundu, and we settled into our usual routine around the camp. The Company Sergeant Major wanted us to strengthen up the fortifications, so a lot of hard work was going to be needed. I recon he was only trying to show us his authority. Digging a few more slit and trap trenches, plus a new much deeper toilet which was positioned further away from the main living quarters. By the end of the day most of the heavy work had been completed, but in doing so we were all shattered to exhaustion, especially after the long march of the day before. Guard rosters were worked out with only one guard on at any one time, in two hours stints, the Bren gun which was set up by the main gate being with whoever was on guard.
............The next morning Corporal Pearce and the Sergeant Major took Ginger and me for a small look around patrol, just within the close vicinity of the fort. First place we visited was the Kampong, a flag showing exercise. As we walked into the village, we were greeted by the Headman who took us to his own hut. Where he offered us the usual drinks of Toddy and Rice Wine, but we knew by now just how much to drink and not to make a fool of ourselves. Somehow, Ginger can just pour the stuff down his throat without too much effect. After about an hour of broken English conversation and drinking, the Sergeant Major wanted to move us on.
............Ginger and I could see that this guy was going to be a bit of a pain. As Ginger got up he started to stagger about on the bamboo-slatted floor. Standing on a weak area he went straight through the floor and fell about six feet onto the ground, landing amongst a heard of pigs sniffing about in a heap of dung underneath the hut.
............I got down from the outside of the hut and went to help Ginger, but when I got to him, seeing he was all right, I took one sniff and backed away. He did not need too much encouragement or persuasion to return to the camp to take a wash. The fort was only about one thousand yards away, Ginger told us that he could have crawled back if need be.
............When we got back to the fort the Marines were entertaining a few local girls, as they seemed to be choosing who was going to wash their gear. As Ginger stumbled in amongst them, all the girls rushed over to see him, that Ginger hair magic was working once again. These people had never seen Red Hair before and they looked on him as some kind of God. Everywhere we went he always had the pick of the girls.
............Ginger made his way to a small stream just outside the wire compound with three bare breasted girls following him. In the river he stripped off and two of the girls then washed him down while the third washed his clothes. Believing that Gingers luck had once again struck, I thought it was time to see if any of it would rub off onto me. I joining him in the stream and striped off, plunging into the water. I have two eyes tattooed on the cheeks of my backside, something I had done as a joke one night while I was drunk in Singapore. When the girls saw the eye's they ran off in the direction of the village, screaming and shouting. Ginger became upset that I had just driven the girls away. Five minutes later, the whole village came down to the stream for a look at my eyes. Suddenly in the villagers eyes I had also become a God along side of Ginger, they had seen nothing like it before. Just like Ginger, I now had the pick of the girls. Although I have to admit that most of them were only around sixteen years of age, but looked a lot younger. Two of the girls had no clothes, so we gave them some parachute silk from the hut so they could make a Sarong to wear.
............Once again we had started the inflation spiral here at Biawak. Wherever we were in the camp these girls followed both Ginger and myself around. Even tying to carry our gear when we were to go on patrol, but the Sergeant Major was having none of that. However, they would always wash our clothes in the river, although we would put them straight back on again ringing wet. There was no way that you wanted to be caught off guard with your trousers off, by the enemy.
............Just before dark all the locals would be turned out of the camp, so that all of the wire entrances could be sealed up for the night, we would also reset most of the booby traps and trip flares. The living quarters had been left open during the day allowing the locals to come in and have a look around. This was not really a good idea, because if any of the locals were friendly with the enemy, they could describe the lay out in fine detail, so camp beds were laid out behind sandbag barricades.
............At one fort, the Marines left the camp beds on the floor, but would sleep in parachute hammocks strung in the high roof rafters. Every time they were shot at, all the rounds would be fired into the bottom section of the hut and nobody was ever injured. Most forts had a couple of single shots fired into their compounds at least once or twice a week. These were not really considered as an attack, more like a vandal type action of hit and run tactics, but it made us lose a lot of sleep.
............That night we had a couple of shots fired at us, but in the morning, we found no evidence of the attack not even one spent empty ammunition casings. Later Big Mac, Don and I were asked to patrol up the track outside our fort, which led up to the border about half a mile away, just to have a look around. We travelled very light, just weapons, ammunition, and half a bottle of fresh water. This track was the only known border crossing for several miles, so it was constantly being used. Therefore, we had to take our time and be vigilant, although there was also the chance that unbeknown to us the enemy had cut a new track somewhere else. At that time we did not have the luxury of daily chopper flights patrolling along the border, looking for things like that.
............It took us about half an hour to reach the border where we found a crude wooden sign on a post telling us that we were now entering Indonesia, while on the reverse side it claimed that you were now entering Sarawak. Don took up a secure position behind a tree giving us some cover just in case. It did not pay to take too many chances, while we were so close to Indonesia. After about ten minutes we decided to head back to the fort. Suddenly we heard a light aircraft flying low overhead and riffle shots could be heard from the Indonesian side of the border. The plane kept flying around over our fort, so we knew something was wrong, immediately we started running back to the fort as fast as we could.
............Back at the fort the Sergeant Major was on the radio talking to the aircraft pilot, on board was Major Pug Davis, who was having a look around the forts within the area he had been allocated to protect. The usual chit-chat took place, until we butted in and told the Sergeant Major to report that shots had been fired from the Indonesia side of the border. Apparently Pug Davis just laughed, until we added that they were firing at him. That plane disappeared in double quick time, it was luckily that nobody on board had been hit.
............One of the other Troops actually found an American Armalite riffle, their dog had led him to it. At that time, it was the latest weapon to come out of the USA. It was wrapped in plastic and had been buried in the middle of a human dung heap, the dog handler’s arms had smelt very high on the nose, but it had been worth the effort. Whoever buried it must have believed that the prim and proper pommy would not put his hands in all that muck. Well they were in for a big surprise. This was the first time that we had been informed that this type of weapon was actually in Borneo. Anyway, the riffle was sent back to our Headquarters for testing.
............We had heard stories of Armalite riffles being fired at people and the bullets killing its enemy without even hitting them. When the bullet leaves the barrel, as well as twisting it was also supposed to tumble creating a shock wave that damaged the brain. Our weapons experts said that one shot in a thousand would actually do just that. That was in 1963 can you imagine what riffles might be capable of today.
............On their way back to the compound, Don, Dal and Geordie went up to the border and low and behold the border sign had already been moved. It was now in a position, fifty yards inside of Sarawak. Somebody was having a laugh, so the enemy is human after all. Before leaving, Don repositioned the sign a further fifty meters inside of Indonesia.
............That day we also took a radio message of an arranged airdrop that would take place the following morning around 10 am. The drop would include tinned food for the dog. These dogs did not have a very long life in the jungle and it was even less if they lived on bush tucker. Therefore, a decision had been made to use tinned food with all its vitamins. We just took a chance of its smell, giving our position away to the enemy. We were also to get some cash, so we could barter with the locals for food supplement.
............Early next morning we all got ready for the airdrop, then at 10 am bang on time, an RAF Argosy aircraft arrived overhead, with its back doors open for the drop. On his return low level run a single crate came out of the back, the chute opened okay and we watched it all the way down to the ground, as it landed in our compound clearing. The plane then did another run and this time out came a small bag with a large red ribbon attached to it that was flapping in the wind. It came down in the jungle somewhere, having missed the camp. Mac and Sheba went to try to find it, but after an hour they had not been successful, so the Corporal and Ginger joined them, unfortunately they all returned empty handed.
............The search had been fruitless, so the Sergeant Major got on the radio, apparently the bag had contained our mail and $350 in cash. The cash was to be part of our wages, so none of us was very happy about the loss. I would have only earned about eight-pound per week and that is around $56.00 to $60.00 (Singapore) per week depending on the exchange rate. Anyway, over the radio it was decided to make a duplicate drop the next morning. We were all relieved when it was also decided that the lost money would not be deducted from our accumulating wage.
............At 10 am right on cue the next morning the Argosy aircraft appeared and did one low level run and out came another bag, this time there was no mistake as it slammed into the side of our main hut. Also spinning down with it was another of Gingers National Geographic magazines, one of these days I thought he is going to lose one, but he never did. That magazine must have been one of the most read amongst Marines in those days.
............A few rumours spread that the cash had been found and re-hidden, to be collected by a Marine on another occasion, but nothing was ever proven. In addition, it’s not right to point the finger, but there was only one of the searchers who was suspected dare I say who?, but we’ll never know.
............Amongst the crated supplies that came in by parachute on another occasion, was a new night sight to be assessed by us under battle conditions. What is tested in this war is in common use for the next war. The first one that we had tried out had not been very successful, it being too cumbersome, big and awkward. This new one was a very small compact unit with the infrared lamp and the sight all in one. This unit was fitted on the top of the riffle and was all lined up just like the normal sight, much the same as a telescopic sight. Once fitted to an SLR riffle, it would then be left out all night so that whoever was on guard could have a play with it.
............As soon as it got dark there would be a couple of hours before we bedded down, during this time we played a lot of cards and read under a small paraffin lamp. Big Mac was always game for a laugh, just like me. As we were all in one big room there was no privacy and the Sergeant Major was becoming a bit of a pain. Therefore, we tried to drive him out, by playing very childish games. Just to give him something to think about and to maybe report to Headquarters with. We used to play, I spy with really stupid subjects, then we had a 'Yes no interlude', taken from an old English TV competition called 'Take Your Pick', using an aluminium mess can for a gong. I will swear that the Sergeant Major thought we had all flipped our lid a couple of times, God knows what his reports read like.
............A village local arrived in our compound one morning with a bamboo pole, about two foot long and a large leaf tied over each end. The pole would have been four inches in diameter. He came into our hut and uncovered one end of the pole. He then tipped the contents on to our table and out tumbled a dozen witchery grubs. Well we all knew about witchery grubs, but up until now we had never seen any. The villager even showed us how to add them to our stew for the evening meal and I must admit that it tasted very good. The local guy also showed us how to cook snake in a type of batter, we fried it and found it tasted just like Rock Eel that you would purchase from any English fish and chip shop, its flesh being quite white.
............That night while I was on guard, I spent most of the time playing around trying out the new night sight. It was much like the earlier one with everything looking red, although trees and people etc definitely looked a paler shade of pink compared to the surrounding area. At least there was a difference so it would definitely help you watch out for the enemy. The more you used it, the easier it became to work out what you were looking at. During my guard duty, I had to go to the toilet. For this function, a large square biscuit tin had been placed away from the hut, but amongst a few trees. On my return, I picked up the gun and continued to scan the wire area, really enjoying what I could see. Yes, the more I used it the easier it did become. It was easier than the last one as you did not need to use your left hand to move the lamp. Suddenly the sight focused onto our urinal tin I had just visited and wrapped around it was a very large snake. I must admit I went cold for a few seconds thinking of what might have been. I decided to leave it alone, to kill it would make a lot of noise. I just warned the next guard and told him to pass the message on. Nobody else saw it and all laughed at me saying that I had fallen asleep and dreamt it. I must admit to this day I wonder if I really did see it. Mind you from then on, every time I went to the urinal in the dark I always used the night sight to check it out first.
............In the morning, Corporal Pearce took Ginger, Geordie and I on a patrol. Now although it was not really allowed, Corporal Pearce crossed over the border and headed cautiously into Indonesia. Here we go again I thought, Corporal Calamity was up to his old tricks. The basic idea was just to go and have a look around, to check out the area, or at least that’s what he told us. After about three hours we came across a deserted village of about ten huts all built of attap leaves and branches. The Corporal had told us all to be careful and to watch out for booby traps. We were to have a good look around and report anything unusual. It was very evident that it had been used by military personnel and in the past couple of weeks, most likely twinned with another one maybe within say about ten mile radius.
............Using the same sort of system as our selves, by staying in one village for a week and to then move to another one for a week. The Corporal called us all together and to our surprise ordered us to burn it to the ground. Calamity gave the orders, we just carried them out, isn’t that what most military people say at their trials. Anyway, everything looked tinder dry, so we did what we had been commanded and lit it up. It only took a few seconds to turn into a burning inferno. We then high tailed it out of the area and back along the track that we had arrived on, before the flames and smoke brought unwelcome sightseers. Just before, we crossed back over the border into Sarawak, which was about one thousand feet above the village. We were able to look down at our handy work. It looked like half the jungle was a blaze, the Corporal’s only remarks to us was that we had better be on our toes, as they will probably retaliate after this.
............When we arrived back at Biawak, another larger section had arrived so the camp looked a little crowded with Marines. Immediately the Sergeant Major ran up to the Corporal and asked what had happened. "I have just burnt down an enemy fort sir", he replied. Reg was feeling quite proud of himself. The Sergeant Major went bananas and jumped on the radio back to Lundu Head Quarters. The end result was that our section including Reg was ordered back to Lundu. Somehow I just knew that what we had done, under orders I might add, would lead to trouble. The incident almost coursed an international crises in England and Singapore, who at that time were about to announce the signing of a Federation agreement between Malay, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo. To be known as the Malayan Federation. The last thing they needed at this stage of the negotiations was an incident that might grow out of all proportion.
............The new section that had arrived was made up largely by new recruits, so they were here to learn. That night we had to go out on an ambush, just to show them what it was all about. The Marines we had left in the camp had been shown around and how to defend the fort. So an hour before dark off we set to find a sight to lay the ambush, our Corporal Calamity was confined to the hut with the Sergeant Major. Ginger, Don, the four new boys and I would be lying out for the night. We chose a pepper plantation that was elevated and ran alongside a track, laying amongst the pepper bushes for a little cover. Making it easy to see and cover the track, looking down is always a lot easy than lying at the same level, while at no time do you set one looking up. Anyway, after all the trouble we took to camouflage our position, nobody came so it was all a waste of time, for us anyway. However, I guess the new guys learnt from the exercise. I had brought with us the new night sight fixed to my SLR riffle. Therefore, I had a little fun playing with it, but I also had to stay awake all night, as I was the only person who would have been able to see any likely suspects who came along the track.
............At daybreak, we disbanded our position and moved down the slippery muddy bank of the plantation. I had the riffle on my shoulder and took one step forward and down I went, as I hit the ground the riffle and especially the night sight smashed on a large rock. Tearing it right off my riffle, it was a total right off and had been smashed to pieces. I can remember saying that did not last long.
............Back at Biawak I had to tell the Sergeant Major about the night sight, he then radioed Lundu, that guy never did make a decision of his own. We were then told the news that we had to march back to Lundu next day with all our gear including the broken night sight. Our Corporal Reg was the main reason we were returning, he was more or less under house arrest, for his burning escapade.
............When I spoke to him, he could not understand what all the fuss was about. At one stage, he even thought he was going back to receive a medal. I really did not know where this guy was coming from.
............The trek was to take all day, first we marched to Kampong Mengeris and there we boarded three aluminium assault crafts that had come to meet us from Lundu. That was the easy part of the trip, it being a time when we could sit back and enjoy the break, which is wrong because you should never drop your guard in situations like this. About halfway into the river trip we rounded a bend to hear what we thought were soldiers hacking their way through the jungle. We all grabbed our riffles and cocked them ready for action.
............All three boats cut their engines and we just drifted with the current down the river. It would have been about two hundred yards wide at this point and the jungle was very thick and hanging over the riverbanks, there would be no place to beach. As we drifted further down river, the noise became louder and now sounded like somebody was tearing branches off the trees. Then as we rounded another bend we came across a beautiful sight of a large troop of Orang-utan’s, with the big domineering one at the top of a very large tree. Below him was his harem and below them the young juvenile delinquents. I guess there was about fifty in all and most of the younger ones were shaking the branches. Those with cameras spent a few moments taking photos and then we restarted the outboards and carried on down the river.
............The Sergeant Major had been looking at Big Mac's red riffle barrel, for a few moments. He then made the point that he had rust on his riffle barrel, now where have I heard that before. Big Mac answered him by saying "No Sir its red partherisation". I could not believe it Mac got away with it for a second time, but this time he had even flannelled over the Sergeant Major. I do not know how he managed to get away with it a second time.
............It was a hard job trying to keep our weapons rust free, because of the humid climate. Coupled to that, most of the time we were near water or it was raining and very damp. The only way was to keep it coated in oil, unfortunately the oil gave off an unusually smell and that was the last thing we wanted. The rest of the trip was uneventful as we arrived at Lundu just before dark for a well-earned rest. However, the Corporal was whisked away and we never saw or heard another word about him. While my report on the night sight to the powers that be, was well received. Everybody agreed that it had been a great success, only adding that maybe they should make it a little stronger in the future.
............We had one lovely week off, and enjoyed ourselves every single minute, but we still had to be involved in the usual guard rosters. It was a good way to keep us match fit and on our toes. Ready for any future patrol, that could be ordered upon us at a minute’s notice, but for now we could relax during the daytime for this week.
............At the end of our leisure week, we were called into the commanding officers office for a briefing. We were to relieve a section at Kampong Rassau. Our section was to leave the next day and we were to take two army officers along with us, who were to survey the area bring our maps up to date. These two guys were to give us many laughs, they spoke in very posh English and wore civilian clothes most of the time. They also carried three times as much gear as us and that was only clothes and belongings.
............The section set out at first light, as the trip was a two-day hike. The first part was to be by assault craft that would take us up the river. Taking all day to reach a point somewhere up river just passed Kampong Selampit. We beached the boat at the best spot we could find and then we posted a guard and stretched our legs. We then set up a camp for the night, before having a good feed and settling in for a bit of a sleep. Next day we carried on up the Batang Kayan River to a point where the Rassau River joined the Kayan. From there, we had to leg it to the Rasau fort. After leaving the boats and coxswains, to hang around until the outgoing section at Rassau was relieved and would meet up with them later. After two days, we finally reached Kampong Rasau, arriving in the middle of the afternoon. Most of us were in good condition, but I felt sorry for the two surveying officers, they looked absolutely worn out. I could see we would have to take it easy if ever we took them out mapping.
............There was a good name for this fort, it was known as 'Fort Forgotten' and that's how the outgoing section felt, being so far away from any back up. Being so isolated, only a chopper would be able to get in here. Unfortunately there was no landing strip, just a few trees chopped down making it a tight fit for one chopper to get in. The only other way to get into the camp would be to hover above the trees and abseil down ropes through the trees to the ground.
............We lost no time in going round with the outgoing section, checking out living quarters, sand bag emplacements, booby traps, the perimeter wire, gates etc. It was arranged for the outgoing section to leave at first light the next morning, to walk to the boats. The Marine’s left to guard the boats had to hide up for two days, there being only three of them.
............In the morning, we all said our goodbyes and watched them leave the compound that was to be our new home for the next couple of weeks. So here we were Big Mac, Dal, Don, Ginger, Geordie, a Sarawak Ranger Scout, Corporal Bwana, a Gurkha and myself, oh and the two Army Officers we were to escort. Twelve of us two days away from anywhere, so we set about the usual tasks making ourselves secure, a few extra sandbags here, or there. A few extra mines or booby traps dig another toilet and of course make up the usual guard roster.
............The first few days were a little boring looking around and getting to know the area. Just outside of the fort was a small narrow stream, where we would all wash and shower ourselves. This stream must have washed threw an area of bauxite, because the water just looked like it had gold dust floating in it and we would emerge looking like we were covered in a light film of gold. Once dried, it could be dusted off us, so nobody worried about it. Life was becoming a little boring I could understand the fort name 'Forgotten' because that is just how we felt. No news filtered in, our only contact was by our daily morning and evening radio in, procedures. This was strictly a military routine, so no normal chatter was allowed, because we never knew who was listening in.
............Taking the two surveying officers around eased some of the boredom. We would take them out daily to areas they requested. The patrol consisted of a three-man protection unit that had to accompanying them. As I wrote in earlier chapters, we would never be caught with our trousers down, so we slept in our full jungle green clothes, but these two Army Officers slept in silk pyjamas. I could not believe it and in addition, they never did take part in any of the guard rosters. Silk pyjamas, I ask you!!!
............One Sunday morning we received a radio message that during the day 40 Commando unit’s Vicar would fly over most of the border forts including ours, and would use a radio to deliver us all a Sunday message. However, he never reached our fort and we were told via radio and later by word of mouth about what had happened. Apparently his Army Auster light aircraft had begun circling one of the forts when suddenly they heard automatic weapons fire, everybody had dived into their sandbag emplacements and slit trenches expecting the worse. The Corporal stayed with the radio to inform the pilot that he was possibly being shot at. The pilot then replied that the aircraft had been hit several times. The Vicar was in a bad way, having taken a couple of rounds in his back and that he had also been hit in the arms. He was trying to fly the aircraft with his knees. The Corporal informed the pilot that the nearest landing strip was back at Kuching airport, about eighty miles away. His reply was that he would not be able to make Kuching and that he would have to land immediately. He would have to crash land into the very small helicopter-landing pad, which was just a hole cut into the jungle, the smallest size possible to take one helicopter. In addition, it was full of tree stumps sticking up about two feet with just a very small flat area right in the middle. Everybody was of the opinion that normally the pilot wouldn't even consider the attempt, so he must have been in a very bad way. There was no time to talk him out of it, without any further warning he suddenly dived into the small clearing with the engine cut, gliding at about fifty miles per hour. He clipped the top of the trees, which slowed him down a little, then dived straight into the small clearing. He was flying so slowly that everybody was worried he would stall and crash in sideways. Mind you they also realised that whatever he did he was still going to crash. The pilot then tried to level out into what small area he had left in front of him. His under carriage caught the tree stumps and he then slammed into the trees on the other side of the clearing. The trees tore off the wings, in addition, the sound of a loud crunch could be heard as the whole plane just disintegrated in front of them, but luckily, there was no fire. Everybody ran over to the plane, while still clutching their weapons at the ready, not knowing where the shooting had come from.
............They could not believe the mess that was scattered all around the landing pad. Some of the Marines started pulling at bits and pieces looking for survivors. The Gurkha found the pilot who was not too bad, but had been shot in both arms. While the Vicar was still alive, but he was not so good, he had taken two bullets in his back that had come up through the back of his seat so they had virtually gone up through his whole body. The Corporal on the radio was speaking to Lundu, ordering a chopper to air lift the pair to hospital in Kuching as fast as possible. There was blood everywhere, while the bucket seat that the Vicar had sat in had two bullet holes in its back. The Vicar by this time had been laid out on the grass, one Marine had spread his shirt over him and another one under his head for a pillow. He looked as white as a ghost, but I guess that was because he had only just arrived out from the UK and did not have a suntan yet, or maybe it was through the loss of blood.
............The Vicar was mumbling about having had a good life, and had enjoyed himself and was not worried that his time was over. Everything possible was done to make him comfortable. The pilot was quite jovial and seemed to accept the situation and somehow knew he would be okay.
............The chopper arrived in forty minutes and came into the landing pad easing in gently to miss the wreckage strewn around the site. It took only a few moments to load both people onto the chopper and away it flew to Kuching. Everybody was told later that the Vicar had died during the trip back to Kuching. While the pilot survived and went on to make a full recovery and returned to operations after about four months. He was also mentioned in dispatches for his heroic landing.
............Late one afternoon, we heard the sound of aircraft approaching so we were looking skywards to see what it was. By the sound of the engines, it was flying high. We all agreed that it was a Russian Bear Bomber. The Russians had always supplied the Indonesians with all their air cover, anyway we radioed Lundu to report it. They were probably having a look or photographing where the incident had taken place in the morning. We had all heard reports that the Indonesians air force was so short of money that President Sukarno had ordered that only one aircraft was allowed in the air at any one time. I guess we had just seen its one and only flying plane during that hour and it was a Bear. We worked out that it had flown right along the entire border passing over most of our forts, because everybody had radioed in with the same information.
............Radio messages from Lundu ordered us to lay ambushes around the Rassau area. So we split the section into two, one half would lay an ambush at night, while the other half would guard the camp, the sections would then be alternated on a daily basis.
............I set out with my half section at midday, we cut our own track through the jungle parallel with the border. With the idea of looking for any new tracks that might have been opened up by the enemy as they crossed over the border. So that they could infiltrate their troops into Sarawak safely and then hit at local or military targets.
We were cutting our way through the jungle for about three and half-hours, when we finally found a new track crossing the border. So without disturbing any foliage along the track we had found, we retreated back fifty meters and made our plans for that night’s ambush.
............About one hour before dark, we moved back to where we had found the border crossing and took up our ambush position. By approaching the track from the side and settling down without leaving a trace of our presence on the enemy cut track, we had a better chance of not giving our own position away. We had estimated that we were possibly half a mile inside Sarawak. Once in position we all tied vines to some part of our bodies, wrist, legs anywhere, covered our heads with mossie nets or sweat rags and settled down for a long night. Although we heard constant noises all night and we were all kept on our guard nobody walked in front of us that night. In the morning, we made our way back to the fort to make a full report on the night’s activities.
............Another night we went out to set an ambush, we headed up towards the border along the track that passed close by our fort. Not wanting a long walk we decided on a small clearing just before the border, the track ran along by the jungle in which we would lay. The clearing being on the other side of the track, we placed trip flares in the short grass of the clearing, working on the idea that the enemy would run that way, we also set some hand operated flares and mines. We had taken our ponchos to lie on and were expecting rain, we had also brought some extra ones to cover us with. Just as we thought, a couple of hours into darkness it started to rain, not much but enough to get you wet, but luckily it only lasted an hour. There was still no sign of movement along the track, so no village people were breaking the curfew as we had suspected. About 2 am, I had lightly dozed off for a few moments, when somebody using a raised voice suddenly awakened me. He was cursing and hitting his poncho on the ground. It took me a few dazed moments to work out what was going on, somebody else was giggling and other Marines were muttering. Dal had laid his poncho on an ant’s nest and they had swarmed all over him almost eating him alive, or should I say stinging him, very badly. Although we do not usually move in situations like this, we had to let him move he was scratching himself crazy. We were lucky nobody was in the area that night, otherwise the noise would have given our position away and we could have been attacked. An hour after first light we packed up our flares etc and moved back to the fort, that night we were all very lucky. While the next night, which was our turn in the fort, a couple of shots were fired into the fort from outside the compound. Luckily nobody was injured and we never hit anybody when we returned the fire into their direction. Things were starting to hot up so we had to be very vigilant and not take anything for granted.
............We also had another false alarm at night using the new and third trialled night scope, I cannot remember who it was on guard using the sight, but they thought they could see somebody crawling around out front of them and opened fire. In the morning we found a dead wild pig, so at least it was pork on the menu for the rest of the week. Another night we went without sleep. Have you ever seen a zombie, well neither have I, but I do know how they feel.
............We learnt a lot from the jungle, it could be your friend rather than an enemy. Just the noise could be of help to you, especially while you were on patrols. Usually the jungle was a very noisy place, but upon the sounds of people moving around, the jungle would suddenly become very quite. While at other times animals being surprised, would dash through the under growth screaming in animal language.
............The climate was very damp and humid, so our weapons would become rusty very quickly if not cleaned and oiled. As big Mac had learnt from day one. We usually only stripped down one weapon at a time just in case you were attacked. Same as when you strip washed or went for a swim we always had one men fully armed at all times who would stand guard over you. I do not know how long we were at Rassau, but after what seemed like a couple of weeks we were given a well-earned rest. We were picked up by choppers and taken back to Lundu, but not before we had showed the new incoming section all the usual do's and don’ts of the place.
............Back at Lundu, we had some reinforcements in the form of three new recruits who were here for experience. One of them was a young Scouse who was very easy for practical jokes, of which we took full advantage. The jokes got increasingly bigger and bigger and one morning as a chopper arrived with some stores that included another night sight, would you believe we had broken another one. Boy, they certainly were not built to last or take a few knocks. Anyway, Scouse was told to go and climb up the side of the chopper and ask the Pilot if he had brought the ice powder and did as we had asked. The pilot must have read the situation and told him that he would bring it on the next trip.
............During further store trips by the chopper, Scouse was told to ask for Atomic Cigarette lighters, so we did not have to keep refuelling our old ones. On another trip, it was atomic fridges, so we could keep our milk cool. Funny thing was we never even had any milk. We also told him that at one of the Kampong there was a supermarket. However, he caught me out one day, when he overheard that I was going out on patrol and was going by this particular Kampong. Anyway he asked if I would pop in and get him some fags. On my return I told him they were shut it being early closing that afternoon.
............One night Big Mac was on guard with Scouse and after arranging with us first, he staged a mock attack just for Scouse’s benefit. After being on guard for a short time, Mac ignited one of the trip flares. He then pretended to be scared, as we all did having been made to stand to. I must admit fair dues to Scouse he handled the situation well. I would go as far as to say, he really did think we were all scared and that he was actually protecting us. I would say that if we had been under a real attack that night, Scouse would have won a medal for his heroics. At one time, he climbed up on the sandbags and opened fire with the Bren gun at the waist firing into the jungle. While Big Mac cowered in a corner pretending to cry and pleading with Scouse not to let the enemy get to him. Scouse was heard to have told Mac that he was safe with him and that he would look after him. It went so far, that we all told him that we would recommend him for a medal.
............One night I was on guard with him looking at all the fire flies in the night, I convinced him that it was somebody with a cigarette running around. The guy was so gullible and easy to con, or maybe we were the ones being conned by his supposed stupidity, I really don’t know.
............On another occasion whilst Scouse was on guard and thinking that we were about to be attacked, he crept around awaking everybody and telling them to stand to. After about two fruitless hours, Scouse crept round once again to tell everyone that they could stand down and go back to sleep. Upon reaching sadistic Big Mac’s sandbag emplacement he found him asleep, so Scouse woke him up just to tell him he could go back to sleep. On being woken up Big Mac went mad and jumped up, Scouse upped and ran off, no creeping around at this precise moment for him, to hell if anybody saw him better to be shot than caught by Big Mac. Leaving Mac screaming at him in the silence of the night, informing him that if he got his hands on him he would kill him.
............Some of the joking got a little out of hand with Scouse, when we convinced him we were running a drug ring. Then using the malaria tablets that we all had to take. We would crush one and show him the dust in the palm of our hand, trying to convince him it was drugs. Big Mac would put on some sort of act that he was craving for a shot, by rolling around on the ground. Somebody would then give him the dust to swallow and slowly he would start to calm down.
............In the end, it was decided to tell him the truth, but Scouse would not believe it. Big Mac finally ended up losing his temper and hitting him. Unfortunately, it was a sad ending to a good laugh, which we had all enjoyed over a few of weeks.
............On some of the lonelier nights, I along with Gingers help started writing to hospitals and factories back in the UK, to their female staff. I was trying to get the girls to write to us lonely Royal Marines serving and fighting in the jungles of Borneo. On one of the mail drops, I received a very big surprise. To my amazement, three signed photos and letter arrived from Pat Phoenix, I still have these today. I also received three signed photos from Kim Novak, the American film star. I had written to her about six weeks before whilst I was at Lundu and I still have these three photos to this day.
Kampong Pasir Llir
............We had only been back at Lundu a few days and already we were being ordered right back into the thick of it. We pushed off from Lundu jetty in our assault craft all loaded up for a few days patrol, it was to be just an observation trek. A recce trip, to report on what we found while trying not to get involved in any skirmish, to see and not be seen. The section was made up with the usual members they being Dal, Don, Geordie, Big Mac, Ginger, Corporal Bwana and myself, accompanied by the local policeman Mogumbo as our guide. We had chosen 8 am as our departing time, so we could take full advantage of the incoming tide, the effects of which could be felt up to ten miles up the river. After a few hours travelling, the riverbanks started to close in on us. Here the river had closed to about fifty meters across, the banks being covered with very thick jungle. Most of the trees were hanging over the river in this area. We were now passing small Kampongs spread along the riverbanks, consisting of long huts and a few out houses. With a dozen or so dugout canoes beached in front of the huts on the bank.
............Soon the river was down to about ten feet in width with the trees hanging over from both banks now joined up over the river centre and blotted out the sun. Everywhere looked quite dark, as we rounded a bend in the river and came upon the Kampong we had come to investigate, it being Kampong Selampit.
............We beached the boats about three hundred yards down river from the village, not knowing who would be living in the huts and if they were friendly. The noise of the outboards had more than likely announced our arrival. Therefore, we jumped out of the boats and took up defensive positions on the riverbank. Ginger helped pull the boats up the bank and secured them by ropes to overhanging trees. He was to be left to look after them, while the rest of us took up patrol positions and slowly made our way along the bank towards the Kampong. We were well spaced and keeping our eyes open for hostiles and booby traps. These guys do not use mines, they used the jungle and large animal traps made of bamboo that are spring loaded. The end result is not very pretty, usually ending up with somebody being speared through the stomach. As we started to enter the Kampong, we got Mogumbo to go in with the lead man, as he knew the language. There were plenty of women and children around but not too many young men. In addition, nobody had come to investigate noise of our boats. We all took up defensive positions leaving Bwana and Mogumbo to do all the talking. Then the kids started to gather around the Marines, shouting and touching, I do not think many of them had ever seen white people before. We were just looking around, just seeing if anything was wrong or out of the ordinary. Just like the lack of young men, maybe the enemy had recruited them. Bwana and Mogumbo made their way over to the headman’s hut from where he had just appeared. We were to show the villages that the local police forces were still in control of the area. In addition, Mogumbo was a very good interpreter, the Headman held out his hand and Bwana shook it firmly, as did Mogumbo. His name was Jia and he spoke very good English, then pointing up some steps into a hut, he invited them in.
............The hut was on six-foot stilts and was made of bamboo and housed about forty families. It was about sixty-foot long and cubicled off. Inside Jia's room, the walls were decorated with pictures of the Queen and of the Royal family and a couple of long Parang Swords. From the roof over the door hung about a dozen shrunken heads, Japanese Jia told them, but you did not know whether to believe him or not, it being the usual story. They all ended up sitting on the floor and the usual toddy drink was brought out, the Headman’s daughters passing it around. Bwana did not want any, knowing just how powerful it could be and anyway he wanted to keep a clear head. Mogumbo drank his full mug right down in one gulp. These guys were used to it and could knock the stuff down all day and still walk a tight rope home.
............They spent about twenty minutes asking questions and according to Jia there had been no strangers around the village and that his young men were off hunting. Whether you could believe him or not, nobody really knew. The picture of the Queen meant nothing. It could easily be changed to one of Sukarno if the enemy was to enter the village, but you could not blame these people really. They only wanted to be left alone, to just get on with their simple way of living.
............Bwana strolled around the Kampong, giving us all orders. Nothing had been found, so it was decided to stay here the night in an old empty hut on the Kampong's outskirts just inside the jungle. Nevertheless, we would have to mount a guard all night to play safe. The night was uneventful and so we had no problems. We did not tell the Headman when or where we were going. We wanted to implant the idea that we would be coming and going at any time and they would have to get used to it.
............As the night was very uneventful, we decided to just slip away in our boats at first light, which is what we did. Starting the engines as first light appeared over the trees, we all boarded and headed down river. Because the trees joined up over the river, it still seemed quite dark and with the early morning mists, it looked a little spooky. After about an hour and a half, the river widened and the sunrays broke through the trees, lighting up the river, which was a muddy colour. We came to a fork in the river, here we doubled back up the other contributor to check out another Kampong. Now we were going up stream once again, so our progress slowed a little. After about another hour we calculated that around the next bend would be Kampong Pasir Llir, so we beached the boats and took up defensive positions while Ginger tied them up. We then took up a patrol formation and slowly worked our way through the jungle in the direction of the village, we soon found a track heading in our direction, so slowly we made our way along it.
............We had to be very vigilant, just because the last village was friendly, it was not to say this one was. We stopped at the edge of the Kampong clearing to have a look around, before moving in. People were walking and running around, so we decided to rush in and take up positions throughout the village, so nobody had time to hide things or pass messages to a would be enemy. As we did, Mogumbo made a bee line for the steps of the Headman’s hut. Who did not even know we were in his village, he was a frail old man with very white hair and looked quite scared, further more he spoke no English. Therefore, Mogumbo did all the talking, we all noticed that once again the young men were missing from the village. Mogumbo got the usual answers from the headman, all out hunting so we were all very cautious while we looked around the village for any tell tale signs. One of the Marines was out the back of the Kampong and found another clearing. He also found a tattered shirt with blood on it, plus a spent 303 cartridge case and some tailor made cigarette butts, which could have been Indonesian. We had a very funny feeling about this village, we just did not feel at ease, so at all times two of us kept up a guard. As we had slipped away early in the morning from the other village, we decided to have some food and take a couple of hours rest. We also decided to stay the night picking a hut in the middle of the village this time. There were other huts clustered around it, so if a fire fight was to break out they might think twice about shooting amongst their own people. We were thinking more about the young ones returning. That idea seems a little stupid now upon reflection all these years later. Things like that did not worry these people, they did not seem to worry who they killed even if it was their own families just as long as they got rid of the Dirty British as they called us.
............In the morning we slowly took a look around, but there no sign of anybody, just the locals. The Headman knew nothing but still looked very scarred, that we had found a few empty ammunition shells and so once again with no food in our bellies we got back to our boats and then headed back to the relative safety of Lundu to report what had happened.
............We arrived back at Lundu by late afternoon bubbling with excitement to tell of our suspected contact, but were caught off guard by some even bigger news. Our term in Sarawak was over, we were to return to Burma Camp for some well earned R & R. Hopefully we would be entitled to plenty of rest and recreation around the streets of Singapore. A time to talk over our failures and problems would hopefully come a little later. There would be plenty of time to rectify most of our mistakes.
............Within the week 42 Commando would be replacing us. Therefore, everybody was very excited at the prospect, that in just a couple of days time we would be flying out, unfortunately nobody wanted to go on patrols at this late stage of our deployment. It would be so cruel to go through all this only to be killed in the last couple of days while on a patrol. We had been there an unbelievable six months. For me I had enjoyed most of it and the time had just flown by, but most Marines could not wait to get out. They hated it, for me well I had been trained for it, I volunteered for it, I got it and I was very happy to have come through my first active service tour totally unscathed.
............We were flown out of Lundu by chopper to the ever waiting Commando Carrier sitting just off the coast and within two days we were back in Singapore. Then after just a short drive north and we once more in our old home of Burma Camp, the home of 40 Commando Royal Marine’s and to my amazement it was the middle of July 1963.
© Copyright Terry Aspinall 1994 ....All Rights Reserved