Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Held in High Esteem

One of the Ibans Royal Marine Commando
David Lagan and his Tracker Dog
Presentation of a Green Beret (RM Commando) to a Sarawak Ranger by CO of 42 Cdo RM, Lt Col B.I.S Gourley, in Semenggo Camp, Kuching in 1963. This soldier has just recovered from a wound.
An ex 40 and 42 Commando Royal Marines, David Lagan, stumbled into me in The Manchesters website where I'm a member. The Manchesters was one of the British Regiments where the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers were attached to during the First Emergency in Malaya 1948 - 1960. The site is my source of information. Indeed, the guys, like Apai George, who are ex Manchesters themselves have fond memories of the Ibans attached to them at that time. David Lagan who was 18 years old then, was involved in the mopping up operation of the Brunei Rebellion in 1962, together with soldiers of the Sarawak Rangers. The Royal Marine Commandos held the Iban soldiers in high esteem. According to David Lagan, "The Ibans are a part of Commando folklore and are regarded as the loyalist comrades we ever worked with." David Lagan wrote, " When the Commando Brigade left Malaya all the Ibans were presented with a green Beret. British Army personnel were not able to serve with the Commando Bde unless they had completed the Commando course. It says a lot about the esteem they were held in by the Brigade!"

Saturday, 5 December 2009

A Mysterious Sarawak Rangers Grave.

A Mysterious Sarawak Rangers Grave.

According to the record, there are only four Sarawak Rangers buried in Taiping Christian Cemetery. When I visited the graves on 3 December 2009, I saw a fifth headstone with the inscriptions (some words were missing): ".............Malaysian Rangers died on 16 Jul 1958 11 months 10 days Rh Gawang, Sg Pakan, Julau, Kanowit." Firstly, the 1st Battalion Malaysian Rangers was only formed on 16 September 1963, when Malaysia was formed. If any members of the Rangers had been buried there on 16 July 1958, it definitely was not a "Malaysian Rangers" but a "Sarawak Rangers". Who could have been buried there? This headstone is not the usual standard granite with the Sarawak Rangers badge inscribed on it. Even the words are roughly written. As the age of the deceased was 11 months and 10 days, could it be the child of one of the Sarawak Rangers? Following this, there are a lot of questions in my mind. Were Sarawak Rangers allowed to bring their wives/families along with them to Malaya? Were they given proper housing? Where were they based at that time? Were there any of them in Taiping, Perak? As of now, we do not know. There are very little documented records kept by the Malaysian Army. Most, if not all are kept by the British Army/Administration in various archives in London.
The four Sarawak Rangers Graves with a fifth mysterious grave.
The mysterious Sarawak Rangers grave
900815 Pte Kumpang ak. Tinggi
900665 Pte Nyambik ak. Pasang
900601 Pte Letan ak Kusing
900172 Pte Ugap ak Utut

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Manchester Regiment - An Illustrious Link from the Past.

The Manchester Regiment - An Illustrious Link From the Past.

In the middle of 2009, Robert Bonner from the official website of The Manchester Regiment of the British Army found my blog Since then I have been communicating with “Apai Tuai” George and the later. ( “Apai Tuai”is an Iban title respectfully given to an elder.)

Through the blog they knew about my attempt to research the exploits of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers and their involvement in the First Malayan Emergency 1948 – 1960.

“Apai Tuai” George was with the Manchester Regiment in Malaya in the early 50s and he personally knew some of the Iban Trackers such as Cpl Adrian Tandang, who died later in a contact with the CTs. He has fond memories of them.

My two-way relationship with Apai Tuai George has been very fruitful. He has given me a lot of invaluable informations that have thrown lights on the otherwise mysterious Iban Trackers in Malaya.

The Manchester Regiment had suffered a number of KIAs. Six of them were laid to rest in Kamunting Christian Cemetery (Taiping).

Apai Tuai George had requested if I could take pictures of the burial sites and send them to him through their website, which I finally did on 3 December 2009. Sorry George for the delay.

I went down to Kamunting Christian Cemetery that morning. The Cemetery is situated along the Taiping - Kamunting road - just about two kilometres from the centre of Taiping town and about 200 metres from TESCO and Taiping Sentral. It is sandwiched between residential / business lots and a BHP petrol station. The Cemetery is no longer in use. There are a number of Commonwealth Forces KIAs buried there. When I came in, I met two Tamil men (father and son) who were apparently the caretaker of the place. They seemed to know the locations of each and every headstone there. When I inquired about the six Manchesters, they brought me to the locations without hesitation.
Entrance to the Cemetery
J. Grady, T. Arands & T. Traynor
J Grady
T. Arands
T. Traynor
R H Smith, W M Baillie & M Harrison
R H Smith
W M Baillie
M Harrison

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Op Ngerapuh is Back on Track

Op Ngerapuh is Back on Track After 6 months of inactivity and not knowing whether the project is on or has been derailed, I finally received the good news on 10 November 2009. A 15.4 acres site at Kota Sentosa near Penrissen Camp has been identified. On 20 November 2009, I made a press release through the States' Borneo Post:

Kota Sentosa 15-acre site for heroes

With monument and cemetery plot identified, remains of rangers and trackers set to return home

KUCHING: The dream of bringing home the remains of Sarawak Rangers and trackers who were killed in the peninsula and Singapore during the Emergency is now a step closer to realisation with their final resting place identified.‘Ops Ngerapuh’ organising chairman Lt Col (Rtd) Robert Rizal Abdullah announced yesterday that Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) chairman Datuk Talib Zulpilip had helped to locate a piece of land for the Heroes’ Monument and the cemetery near Kota Sentosa.

“A 15.4-acre state land has been identified by the Land and Survey Department as the site for the Heroes’ Monument where the remains of the Iban trackers and Sarawak Rangers killed and buried in Semenanjung and Singapore during the First Malayan Emergency will be relocated to,” he said in a press statement yesterday. Robert said according to Talib, who played an important role in helping the committee realise the plan, “the next phase is to get it officially approved and alienated to SEDC for that purpose”.

“The proposed design and layout has also been made. It will have to go through the committee before it is approved,” said Robert.

He said a fund-raising campaign would be launched and he hoped the states where they had given their lives to would also contribute to the fund.

Any remaining balance from the fund would be used to improve the welfare of trackers and members of the Sarawak Rangers still alive today, said Robert.

He said part of the fund-raising effort was the sale of multi-coloured T-shirts now in progress. According to him, a percentage of the sale would go to ‘Ops Ngerapuh’ Fund. Those who wish to make orders can call Lian Hun at 016-8950203.

Robert was inspired to organise the return of the dead Sarawak Rangers and trackers by the late Lance Corporal Ungkok Jugam, a Sarawak Ranger whose grave was found on a patch of green on a road shoulder in Jalan Langgar, Alor Setar last year.

Ungkok, who is from Lubok Antu, had served at the height of the first emergency in Malaya from 1948 to 1960. He was reburied in a more dignified grave at St Michael’s Catholic Church at Jalan Sultanah on April 28, 2009.

Since learning of Ungkok’s case, Robert had tracked down 21 Sarawak Rangers and trackers, including one border scout. They are buried at Batu Gajah Christian Cemetery, Cheras Road Cemetery, Kamunting Road Christian Cemetery, Batu Gajah Christian Cemetery and Kranji Military Cemetery in Singapore.

Robert’s plan had received the support of the state’s leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang.

Proposed Layout of the Heroes' Monument

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Iban Trackers and the reformed Sarawak Rangers (1948 - 1960)

In my effort to research the little known Iban Trackers and the beginning of the modern Malaysian Rangers, I have received these pictures from friends across the Globe, in particular George Swetman of the 1st Manchester Regiment to whom the 1st Experimental Platoon was attached to in 1953, soon after their training in Siginting Camp,Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan. Shaun Aumua of New Zealand also have sent me some invaluable pictures that have helped shed some light on this elite band of trackers and soldiers.
The 1st platoon with the Commanding Officer, Lt Col C.J Baird OBE.
Seated (L to R): Cpl Samat, Sgt George Swetman (1st Manchester), Mr D Johnson (QM), 2Lt Schwarz (1st Manchester), Lt Col C J Baird OBE (Commandant Sarawak Rangers), WOII B Simmonite (1 RWK), Mr B Jarrow (Dayak LO), Cpl Safie (Malay Regt) and Cpl Adrian Tandang.
The 2nd platoon with the Commanding officer Lt Col C.J Baird OBE and Officers from 1st Manchester Regiment. Cpl Adrian, who was killed in a contact with the CTs later is seated on the extreme right.

A rehearsal for the passing out parade in Siginting Camp, Port Dickson.

The Early Beginning

Sir James Brooke was proclaimed the White Rajah of Sarawak on 24 November1841 by the Sultan of Brunei for his assistance in putting down a rebellion against the Sultan’s district chief in the area around Kuching. That started the Brooke family’s rule of Sarawak for 105 years, until it was ceded to the British Crown on 1 July 1946.
Sir James Brooke died on 11 June 1868 in Devon, England and on 3 August 1868 and Charles Brooke was proclaimed the successor. On 2 September 1972, he gazetted Sarawak Rangers, a small force that he formed on October 1862 which consisted of 32 Dayaks. They were to become the nucleus of every expeditions he mounted against the rebellious Dayaks. He knew that to kill Dayaks, he must use Dayaks.
The Great World Economic Recession of the 1930s had its toll on Sarawak Rangers. On 29 February 1932, Sarawak Rangers was officially disbanded. Some of its personnel were amalgamated with the Sarawak Constabulary.
World War 2
The involvement of Sarawak Rangers during World War 2 was not clear but they were said to be involved in the defence of Lutong, Miri and Kuching against the Japanese invasion in December 1941.
Against the might of the Japanese Army, they were defeated and retreated to their long houses in the interior.
During the Japanese Occcupation, many ex personnel of the Sarawak Rangers joined Major Tom Harisson of the Australian Force ‘Z’ who was involved in harassing the Japanese Army.
The Australian forces liberated Sarawak on 11 September 1945. On 29 October 1945, ‘Z’ Force disintergrated and personnel from Sarawak Rangers also returned to their long houses.
Nothing was heard of them until they were called in to help the Commonwealth forces in fighting the Communist terrorists in Malaya on 8 August 1948, some 7 weeks after the Malayan Emergency was declared.

Iban Trackers
On 8 August 1948, seven weeks after the Malayan Emergency was declared on 16 June 1948, the first group of 49 Iban Trackers was sent to Malaya to assist the Commonwealth forces in fighting and tracking down the Communist insurgents in the thick jungles of Malaya. Initially, their term of service was 3 months only. Some chose to stay longer. 

Twenty-four of this original group of 49 Trackers were attached to the newly-formed Ferret Group No. 4, a unit comprising Gurkhas and ex-members of Force 136. The remaining 25 were attached in small groups to the various Gurkhas, British and Malayan battalions already deployed in Malaya.

By the end of August 1948, a further group of 55 Ibans had arrived and by October 1948 there were some 170 Ibans at Seginting Camp, Port Dickson. On completion of their three months service, each group of these Trackers were flown back to Kuching.
By mid December 1948, all, except 29 who had agreed to extend their service for an additional three months to meet a special request by the British Guards Brigade, returned to Sarawak. This last group finally returned home on 7 March 1949.

More Involvement
However, the Malayan Government again requested for the service of the Iban Trackers. In April 1949, a new group of 40 trackers was raised and sent to Malaya on a six months service. With more demand, this number was increased and by December 1952, the numbers had reached 301 Iban Trackers. By this time too, some 1,168 Ibans had completed a tour of active service with the various security force units in Malaya. Of those, 8 were killed in action and 10 wounded of whom 5 were invalidated.

The first fatality occurred on 12 March 1951 when Tracker Jaweng anak Jugah of Ulu Gaat, Kapit, who was deployed with A Troop 42 Commando Royal Marines, was accidently shot by a special constable who mistook him for a CT.

In that same year, Tracker Awang anak Rawing of Skrang was awarded a George Cross, the civilian equivalent of Britain's highest military award, the Victoria Cross and Malaysia's equivalent of the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP). The award recognised Awang's exemplary courage and devotion to duty by saving the life of Private Hughes, a member of No.10 Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment, after the platoon was ambushed by a big group of CTs on 27 May 1951.This award was the first in history to be awarded within the Malayan Archipelago and the only one awarded during the Malayan Emergency.

On 13 November 1952, Tracker Menggong anak Panggit, appointed as Acting-Lance Corporal and Second-in-Command of an Iban platoon, led an assault on an enemy camp, after his platoon commander, Lieutenant R R G Bald of the 1st Battalion The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), had been killed instantly in the initial engagement. For his gallant actions, Menggong was awarded the George Medal.

Undoubtedly, there would have been many more awards given to the Iban Trackers than the two mentioned. However, the Iban Trackers were still recognised as civilians and therefore not eligible for military honours and awards.
Sarawak Rangers (Malayan Unit)
The Iban elders and leaders in Sarawak were not happy with the para - military roles their young men were given and had asked that they be given full military responsibilities and status.
On 1 January 1953, the Trackers were re-formed into Sarawak Rangers (Malayan Unit) with Lt Colonel C. J Baird as the first Commanding Officer. They were performing the same duties that they were doing when they were trackers.
The Ibans had impressed Britain so much that they were taken in as a part of the British Army – just like the Gurkhas.
Sarawak Rangers (Far East Land Forces)
On 31 March 1960, Sarawak Rangers (Malayan Unit) was disbanded and the following day, 1 April 1960, it was renamed and reformed into Sarawak Rangers (Far East Land Forces) to become a part of the British Army. They now could be deployed to any parts of the world – just like the Gurkhas. On this same day, Sarawak Rangers saw its first Governor – Commissioned Iban officer, Second Lieutenant James Tomlow anak Isa.
On 31 July 1960, the Malayan Emergency ended.
The Brunei Revolt.
The Brunei Revolt, led by Azahari, broke out on 8 December 1962 at 2.00 a.m. when the self-styled National Army of North Kalimantan attacked police stations, the Sultan’s Istana, the Prime Minister’s house and power station. The Fifth Division of Sarawak and the Western edge of North Borneo was also involved.
By 12 December 1962, a complete Company of Sarawak Rangers (FELF) commanded by Major Bruce – Merrie was sent to Brunei together with other troops. They were in support of 99 Gurkha Infantry Brigade as trackers as well as infantry roles.
On 19 December 1962, a twenty-man Ranger patrol from No. 2 platoon under the command of Lieutenant McNeil of East Anglian saw action at Danau in the Fifth Division of Sarawak against 13 rebels from Tutong River, Brunei.
One rebel was killed, two wounded and the remainder were captured.

Malaysian Rangers

The illustrious history of the Sarawak Rangers was coming to a close. A day, 15 September 1963, before Malaysia was formed, Sarawak Rangers (Far East Land Forces) was disbanded. The next 
day, 16 September 1963, the day Malaysia was formed, it became the 1st Battalion, Malaysian Rangers. A little more than one hundred personnel from Sarawak Rangers (Far East Land Forces) volunteered to join and form the nucleus of the new unit. The remainder opted to return to their long houses in Sarawak.
Exemplary Courage and Prowess in the Battlefield
The Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers had been an outstanding fighting force with their exemplary courage and prowess in the battle field. They had been an inspiration to the other Commonwealth forces. They had impressed the British so much that towards the end of the Malayan Emergency, they were taken in as a part of the British Army and like the Gurkhas, could be deployed to any parts of the world.
Within the twelve years of fighting, they had suffered a surprisingly very low casualty rate – bearing in mind that they were always at the front of any fighting patrols they were in. They had lost twenty warriors killed in actions and twenty five wounded. This statistic was indeed impressive in any military records.
The awards they had won spoke of their exemplary courage and prowess in actions:
One George Cross
One George Medal
One Military Medal
One British Empire Medal
Nineteen Mention-in-Dispatches
Twenty one Commander-in-Chief’s Certificates
If they had been recognised as a military unit right from the time they came in as Iban Trackers, they would have won more awards.
Today, not many of these gallant warriors are still alive. It is our responsibility to recognize them and their next-of-kins for the sacrifices they had given to this beloved nation of ours. It is our responsibility to see that the legacies they had left behind are kept alive. Let they become guiding beacons for the present and future generations to follow, so that they too will become exemplary citizens that will create an exemplary Sarawak.

A nameless Tracker / Sarawak Ranger
Another nameless Tracker / Sarawak Ranger
Trackers Dana, Tampi and Dani in Kroh 1951
Some of the Sarawak Rangers at the British Jungle Warfare School in Johore
Tracker Mangi with Sgt George Swetman of UK's 1st Manchester Regiment
Modern Malaysian Rangers Cap badge
A soldier of the Sarawak Rangers showing his head gear and cap badge
Collar dot of the Sarawak Rangers
Cap badge of the Sarawak Rangers. The crossed kris and 'parang ilang' is the same as the modern cap badge - except for the crown.
Some insignias of the Sarawak Rangers
The modern cap badge of the Malaysian Ranger. Note the colour of the backing. In the 60s and 70s, each Regiments had their own colour. Red backing was worn by the 3rd Battalion.

Insignias worn by the Border Scouts. Many of the members were former soldiers of the Sarawak Rangers. Some served in Malaya towards the end of the First Emergency. Indeed, one was killed and had his name written on a memorial wall in Terendak Military Cemetry. They played a big role during the Confrontation with Indonesia.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Increment of Allowance for Bravery Award Receipients

Increment of Allowances for Bravery Award Receipients They fought for the country at a time when they were most needed - during WW2, the Malayan Emergency 1948 - 1989, the Communists Insurgency in Sarawak and the Indonesian Confrontation. The majority of these heroes have retired and are in their 60s/70s and even 80s. Sad but true, before the year 2000, there were very little recognition given to these heroes. Only the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP) was given an allowance of RM200 a month. Promises had been made but never honoured. In the year 2000, I brought up the case to the then Defence Minister, YB Dato' Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, who promised to take up the case. A year later, the Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB)receipients were given a monthly allowance of RM300 and RM400 to the SPs. The allowance was backdated to 1976 - a princely amount. Life has changed in the last few years and we found that many couldn't make ends meet. About a year ago we decided to write to YB Dato' Seri Najib again and asked for an increment of at least RM1000 for the PGBs and RM1500 for the SPs. What we received today surpassed what we had expected. Thank you very much. You have given us the breathing space. Breakdown of recipients (still alive): SPs Armed Forces - 3 Police - 8 PGBs Armed Forces - 60 Police - 15 GC Iban Tracker - 1 (Awang ak. Rawing) MC Royal Malay Regiment - 2 MM Royal Malay Regiment - 8

YAB Dato Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, the Prime Minister, taking the salute from the Guard of Honour at the Prominade of the Ministry of Defence.

Right to Left: The Defence Minister, the Prime Minister and Senator Abdul Ghani, the President of Persatuan Bekas Tentera Malaysia. I received the cheque from the Prime Minister
At the tea reception after the function
NST cutting highlighting the function (the next day, August 1, 2009)
The other recipients and I comparing our cheques.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Op Ngerapuh - Bringing the Remains of Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers Home (to Sarawak).

Op Ngerapuh - Bringing the Remains of Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers Home (Sarawak)

On 18 July 2009 I was told by my committee members in Kuching that the Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Alfred Jabu ak. Numpang wished to see me and the committee members. Understandably, it was to brief him on Op Ngerapuh and what we have planned for and done, before he begins work and see the Chief Minister after a long medical leave.

The following members accompanied me: the Chief Editor M Rajah, Editor Aden Negrace and Churchill of the Borneo Post daily, Major Monday Juhid, Director of Jabatan Hal Ehwal Veteran ATM Sarawak Branch, Major (Rtd) Micheal Riman PGB and Roland Duncan Klabu. The nation's most celebrated hero WO 2 (Rtd) Kanang ak. Langkau SP PGB was in attendance.

YB Tan Sri was most happy with the plan and assured us of the State Government's solid backing and will undertake to do what is required in order to push for the next move.

Briefing YB Tan Sri Alfred Jabu on what we have done so far and at the same time showing him some old photographs.
Looking at the list of the fallen Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers who were killed and buried in Malaya during the First Malayan Emergency 1948 - 1960
My Committee members with YB Tan Sri Alfred Jabu at his residence. The Borneo Post of July 21, 2009 carried my meeting with YB Tan Sri Alfred Jabu.
Borneo Post July 21, 2009: I (in green batik) with the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Dr Alfred Jabu ak. Numpang and some members of my committee.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Tracker Penghulu Jinggut ak Penghulu Atan

Tracker Penghulu Jinggut ak. Penghulu Atan - Leading the Way. He was hand-picked by Britain's Commissioner-General for South East Asia, Malcom MacDonald, whom he called a friend to lead the first batch of Iban Trackers sent to Malaya six weeks after the Emergency was declared on August 8, 1948. He was only 17 years old. MacDonald knew, being a Penghulu and a leader of his community, he had the influence to attract the other able-bodied men to join him as Trackers. Initially, according to Jinggut, it was difficult to get the young men to join. Possibily the idea of leaving their paddy fields, pepper gardens and family behind were the deriding factors. He was asked by Malcolm MacDonald to bring 300 men with him but he brought only 48 who were mostly elderly men. In his subsequent recruitment, he was more successful. He brought in about 200 young men and by this time too, other Ibans from the Second Division of Sarawak, including the only receipient of the highest bravery award of the Emergency, the George Cross (civilian equivalent of a Victoria Cross) also volunteered his service in Malaya. In fact, by the time the Iban Trackers was conferred a military status and reformed into the Sarawak Rangers in 1953, more than 1000 trackers had rendered their services to the Malayan Emergency. Of these, 20 were killed in actions and 25 wounded. The number of gallantry awards and certificates they had won, spoke of their courage and prowess in the battle fields. Fate had forced Jinggut to be a man much earlier than others. In 1945, when he was just 14 years old, his brother, also a Penghulu, was killed by the Japanese when he resisted and fought them. Jinggut found himself became a Penghulu at this tender age. He was paid a handsome allowance of $15 a month. Two years later in 1948, he answered friend Malcolm MacDonald's call to go to Malaya to become a tracker, which gave a better salary of $120 a month and a Patrol Allowance of $8 a day. According to Jinggut, contact with the bandits were very frequent - almost everytime they went for patrol. He was caught in an ambush in Kampar, Perak once and was lucky to escape the hails of bullets. He jumped into a vehicle that was running away from the ambush only to ram into another military vehicle that suddenly appeared from a road junction. For his services, Jinggut was awarded a number of awards which included a QMC and OBE. On his return to his long house he became a Temenggong and went on to serve his community when he was elected to become a Member of Parliament of Sarawak for two terms. He was awarded a Dato' by the State.
Commissioner-General for South East Asia Malcolm MacDonald, Temenggong Jugah ak. Barieng, Penghulu Jinggut ak. Penghulu Atan and Penghulu Sibat.
Temenggong Jinggut as he is today Awards and medals he had earned
Update March 2011.
Dato Seri Jinggut passed away early in the year 2011.