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40 Royal Marine Commando

Based at Burma Camp Malaya

1962 to 1966


The Grenade Attack at Biawak in 1963

By Geoff (Tex) Webbon........

..........When A company left the Albion in May 1963 after being the floating brigade reserve, company HQ was established at Lundu.  2 troop went ashore by LCVP into Sematan and established themselves around the telephone exchange on the padang. The troop commander Roger Linn decided that troop HQ would actually live in the exchange, and as the troop signaler I sorted out my operating place and rigged an antenna to be able to talk to Lundu.
..........After settling in and digging in around the exchange, patrolling was started both by boat and by foot. 2 aluminium assault boats provide the waterborne transportation and patrols went out upriver and along the coast to Tanjong Melano, which was an abandoned Chinese village towards the tip of Sarawak, a trip of about 3 hours by boat.
..........We were later tasked with providing a standing patrol of a section in Biawak , a kampong about 1 km from the border and with an Indonesian army position called Sedjingan approximately the same distance on their side. We rotated out and back to Sematan about every 10 days.
..........The section grot was a newish timber hut in the centre of the kampong with a long house 50 m from the hut to the NE and the village shop some 20 m to the south. The headman lived in a large house about 100 m from the grot closer to the border. The helicopter pad was about 150 m to the SE. We had 2 sentry positions, one facing the helo pad and one up the slope at the back of the building.
..........The grot was on two floors with a large area on the ground floor and up a flight of stairs were two rooms, one of which was locked and the key held by the headman. We all slept in this area upstairs on pussers  campbeds with the green box mossie nets. The main problem with this arrangement was that the grot was plagued with rats, with the rats hopping from on net to the other during the night.
..........On arrival I had rigged an antenna and operated out of the upper section at a home-made desk. One day whilst trying to improve my antenna I had cut my big toe and had bandaged it to keep it clean. That night I awoke to find a rat had chewed through the mossie net and was having a go at my toe. At that point I decided that I did not like rats and that I was going to be revenged.
..........A41 radios had a fairly large battery with 4 voltage tapping points, the largest being 135v dc which was sufficient to give a belt if mis-handled, and dead batteries were never actually dead, there always being some residual voltage. My plan was to use some batteries to make an electric rat trap.
..........I took an empty compo tin and made a hole in each side towards the bottom of the tin and fed in a piece of electric cable. I put some nutty in the tin and then connected the cables to 3 A41 batteries in series, giving a voltage of 405 volts dc. I then placed this on a shelf above the operating table. I told Sam Shilitoe, the section commander, what I had done and he just grinned. Nothing happened for a couple of days and life went on pretty much as normal, with half section patrols going out and half  a section doing fatigues.
At about 2am some days later there was a flash and a bang, followed by a scream. Some one shouted  “grenade” and in no time flat we were all outside in our defence positions. The sentry was shocked to see us as nothing was happening and after about half an hour we all turned in.
..........The following morning I called into Lundu as normal on the radio (we couldn’t get Sematan from there), and then noticed that the compo tin had moved. In fact it hadn’t just moved,  it was burnt black and inside it was the calcified remains of a rat, and the cause of the turnout the previous night. I lost a few brownie points over that with the section!!! We later imported a snake to keep the rats down.

© Copyright Geoff (Tex) Webbon 2014.