We saw the Unit’s success at Bukit Besar, Kulim, Kedah as revenge for the brutal killing of seven of our soldiers in Sungai Kuak, Kroh, Perak on April 20, 1970. In a special cordon and search operation code named Operation Radak on May 14, 1971, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Looi Kum Chuong, we eliminated seven of the eight CTs that had regrouped in the area. It was an eye for an eye.
A group of 8 CTs from the 8th Assault Unit in Kedah were to rendezvous at Bukit Besar, Kulim, Kedah on May 14, 1971 to hold a meeting. The Plan The Battalion was given a mission to conduct a cordon, search and eliminate a group of CTs at Bukit Besar, Kulim, Kedah. The cordon troops which consisted of B, C and D Company of 3rd Rangers, A and C Company of 9th and 10th Royal Malay Regiment respectively were to be in position by 6.30 a.m on May 15, 1971. A Company of 3rd Rangers was to conduct the search. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Looi Kum Chuong and his Tactical Headquarters was to move immediately behind A Company.
Preparations for that special operation began on May 9, 1971 – the day we were warned of the impending operation. We carried out night navigation exercises to familiarise ourselves with the difficulties involved in night movement. Ground reconnaissance was carried out only a few hours prior to the insertion and positioning of the forces involved. Markers and guides to ensure troops debussed and took up the right positions were put in place. This was particularly important at night when visibility was almost non-existence. Secrecy of the operation was kept to the maximum and the need-to-know rules strictly adhered to. We didn’t know when and where the operation was going to be mounted, until the very last minute when our company commander, Lieutenant Edward Tay gave his operational briefing just before we jumped into our trucks.
I remembered the pitch-dark night. Our trucks rumbled on and on. At about 3.00 a.m on May 15, 1971, we debussed and positioned our men at an interval of about five meters. By 6.00 a.m, we were in position and ready. The search troops also moved in to their position on the same night. They were ready by 5.00 a.m. At 6.45 a.m, A Company commenced the sweep. They adopted an extended line formation with No.1 platoon on the left, No. 2 platoon in the centre and No. 3 platoon on the right. Art 8.55 a.m, No. 1 platoon commanded by Second Lieutenant Kassim Abdul Kadir, a Sabahan, came across a cleared patch on a spur which was planted with ground nuts. The whole area was a dirty rubber estate. As they advanced down the spur with two sections up front and the third held in reserve at the rear, they came across some civilians and detained them for questioning by the MIO team which was moving closely behind. Meanwhile, No.2 platoon commanded by Second Lieutenant Patrick Wong Sing Nang came across two huts down a valley. They found a woman with three children there and detained them.
is on my right.
At 9.05 a.m, as the MIO team was moving to where No. 2 platoon was, they heard a shot and shouted “enemy!” The enemy sentry had sighted the MIO team! Second Lieutenant Kassim rolled down from one rubber terrace to the next in his attempt to locate the enemy position. His light machinegun gunner, Ranger Mering Imang, a Kayan from Baram, Sarawak, saw the enemy first and opened fire with his machine gun. Kassim rolled down the slope to join Mering. They found themselves under intense enemy fire. Disregarding their own safety, they continued to close in on the enemy by fire and movement. Eventually, they were within ten to fifteen yards of the CTs. From their position they could see the bodies of three dead CTs. A female CT kept shouting “Kill! Kill!” every now and then. Meanwhile, the section on the left flank under Corporal Basri had worked themselves to a favourable firing position and fired on the enemies. They killed one CT.
The battle raged on for about thirty minutes. Finally, the CTs fled, leaving four of their dead and dragging a badly wounded female comrade. No.2 platoon, under Second Lieutenant Patrick Wong Sing Nang made an immediate follow up. However, the fear of being shot at by the cordon troops made him limit his follow up to a distance of two hundred yards only. Following the contact by No. 1 platoon, who had accounted for four CTs dead, the cordon troops were warned of the remaining four fleeing CTs who would definitely try to find their way out.
At approximately 5.00 p.m on the same day, No. 8 platoon of C Company saw three CTs approaching – two males and a female. They were coming up a spur following a terrace of rubber trees. Unfortunately, the leading female CT saw the troops first and opened fire. Second Lieutenant Jagdeesh Singh and his men immediately returned fire. The female CT was seen to be hit and fell into a thick undergrowth. The other two CTs had taken cover behind the rubber trees and were returning fire. At this juncture, Jagdeesh took the initiative to organise an immediate assault, as he was closest to the enemy position. With three of his men, he launched the assault and in the ensuing fire fight, killed both CTs. They searched for the female CT who was shot earlier but couldn’t find her body. She must had dived into the thick undergrowth and escaped.
Six of the eight CTs had been accounted for. All of them were male. The two remaining CTs were females – one was seen wounded during the first contact with No. 1 platoon and the other who was shot by No. 8 platoon.
Next day on May 16, 1971, it was decided that “a sweep and flush out” operation was to be mounted. The sweeping force comprised of C Company of 3rd Rangers, B Company of 10th Royal Malay Regiment and reinforcements from B and C Companies of 13th Royal Malay Regiment. Major George E. Simon, the company commander of C Company 3rd Rangers was the commander of this phase of operation. At 12.15 p.m, the four companies began the sweep eastwards from the point of contact where No. 8 platoon attacked and shot two CTs.
At approximately 3.30 p.m, B Company 10th Royal Malay Regiment who was moving on the right flank made contact. A shot was fired. It was followed by a burst from a light machine gun. There were shouts of “enemy on hilltop”. At this point, C Company 3rd Rangers was in a valley about two hundred yards to the left flank. On hearing the shots, the Company veered right and climbed the hill through the rear, to cut off the CT’s withdrawal route. Halfway up, they were spotted and fired at. Three hand grenades were lobbed at them.
When they finally gained the top of the hill, the CT had fled but the corpse of the female CT who was wounded and dragged by her comrades in an earlier contact with No. 1 platoon was found there. The sweep continued till last light but failed to find the last female member of the 8th Assault Unit. It was getting dark. In order to avoid untoward accidents, the commanding officer ordered the sweep to stop and returned to their original cordon positions.
The following morning on May 17, 1971, tracker dogs from the Dog Wing of the Army Training Centre (PULADA) in Ulu Tiram, Johor was brought in to assist. Unfortunately, the heavy downpour that night had washed away all traces and scents of the remaining CT. The dog couldn’t do a thing. An Allouette helicopter mounted with loud speakers was used to persuade the remaining CT to surrender. Safe passage leaflets were dropped into the area. Pleas by relatives were also broadcasted into the hills where the CT was suspected of hiding. All the efforts proved futile.
If she hadn’t succumbed to her injuries, then she must have fled the area. The operation that was planned for only one day had dragged on for four days! We were not geared to last that long as we didn’t bring any rations and spare clothes. Accustomed to having breakfast at 8.00 a.m, our stomachs began to rumble. I could imagine the frenzy our Quartermaster was in – trying to cook breakfast for a battalion at a short notice was by no means easy and sending them in to us was another herculean task.
Understandably, the first day was chaotic. Our breakfasts reached us by lunch time and lunch came at dinner time. If the timings of meals were atrocious, the quality and freshness of foods were even worse. They were stale and not fit for consumption! From the second day onwards, as the rear echelon was better organised, the timings and quality of meals were so much better. As it stood, our success remained at seven CTs killed. One of those killed was a District Committee Member who was twice decorated for bravery against the Security Forces along the Malaysian/Thailand border areas. Subsequently, 3rd Rangers received a congratulatory letter dated May 17, 1971 from the Prime Minister, Tun Haji Abdul Razak Bin Hussein.
Second Lieutenant Kassim Abdul Kadir and Lance Corporal Mering Imang were awarded the Nation’s highest bravery award, Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) for their exemplary courage in the battle against the CTs on May 15, 1971 that accounted for five CTs killed.