Thursday, 7 May 2009

Mission: Bringing the Remains of Sarawak Rangers and Iban Trackers Home.

Mission: Bringing the Remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers Home to Sarawak.

The Iban Trackers

They fought alongside the British and other Commonwealth Forces in Malaya from 1948 to 1960. On August 8, 1948, 6 weeks after the Emergency was declared in Malaya, the first group of 49 Trackers were sent for a three months contract. By the end of the month, an additional 45 were sent. By October 1948, there were some 170 Iban Trackers attached to the various units.

Due to the expiry of their contract, by March 7, 1949, they all returned home.

However, in April 1949, another group of 40 arrived in Malaya and by December 1952, there were a total of 301 of them, and by that time too, some 1,168 Iban Trackers had served in Malaya. Of these, 8 were killed in action and another ten wounded. It was unfortunate that the Trackers were not a military unit and therefore not eligible for military honours and awards. Only Tracker Awang ak. Rawang and Tracker Menggong ak. Panggit were awarded the George Cross ( a civilian equivalent of the Victoria Cross) and the George Medal respectively.

In 1952, the Government of the Federation of Malaya had sought the consent of the Government of Sarawak to recruit Ibans for military services in Malaya, as opposed to their original role as civilian trackers. Consequently, in late 1952, two experimental platoons were formed and attached to British units for thorough training. These platoons were commanded by British Officers. The more experienced Ibans were appointed as non-commissioned officers.

On November 5, 1952, one of the platoons made its first kills when they killed two insurgents. On November 13, 1952, the other platoon was in action that resulted in Tracker Menggong ak.Panggit being awarded the George Medal.

The Sarawak Rangers

The Sarawak Rangers had an early beginning in 1862, when Rajah Charles Brooke found the need to have a standing army made up of Ibans. He believed that only Ibans can kill Ibans. The Sarawak Rangers became the nucleus of every expeditions he mounted against the rebellious Ibans. Rentap was finally beaten in his third expedition on the 3,000-feet Sadok mountain.

The Sarawak Rangers was the pride of the Rajahs. However, due to world economic recession of the 30s, it was disbanded. Some of its personnels were absorbed into the Sarawak Police Constabulary.

There was no record of its former members involvement in the War but it is believed that some of them were helping the Allied Troops working behind the enemy lines.

After the two successful experimental platoons, the Sarawak Government announced its intention to confer military status on all Iban Trackers serving in Malaya. Thus started the reformed Sarawak Rangers. However, the Sarawak Rangers Ordinance no. 22 of 1953 was not passed until 16 September 1953. The Sarawak Rangers was officially reformed with effect January 1, 1953. The Ibans were enthusiastic.

By this time, there were some 380 Sarawak Rangers deployed in Malaya. By 31 March 1960, Sarawak Rangers (Malayan Unit) was disbanded and a new unit, Sarawak Rangers (Far East Land Forces) was formed. Sarawak Rangers had became a part of the British Army and like her other units, it could serve anywhere in the world.

In the twelve years of fighting (1948 - 1960), the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers were bestowed with:

One George Cross, one George Medal, one Military Medal, one British Empire Medal, nineteen Mentioned-In-Dispatches and Twenty-one Commander-In-Chief's Certificates.

The glory were, however, not without sacrifices. Twenty of their warriors were killed in action and 25 wounded. Considering that they were deployed as trackers and therefore forward most, these statistics are indeed impressive in any military records.

The dead were buried in Malaya (19) and Singapore (2).

Taking the iniative to bring the remains home and setting up a Heroes Memorial in Kuching, Sarawak.

November 6, 2008.

In conjunction with my book-launch by the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, I brought up LCpl Ungkok's grave predicament and suggested at the same time to set up a Heroes Memorial and bring back all the remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers and rebury them in the Memorial.

The CM agreed but he said all the next-of-kins must give their consent.

The priority was to exhume and relocate LCpl Ungkok's grave which was located by the roadside in Jalan Langgar, Alor Setar, Kedah. I wrote to the Veterans Department in November 2008. After an initial dificulty, the grave was finally relocated to a Christian Cemetry nearby in Alor Setar on April 28, 2009.

After this phase has been successfully implemented, I then started on the big plan to bring home all the remains and relocate them in a Heroes Memorial in Kuching which will be set up.

April 30, 2009

I wrote to YB William Mawan ak. Ikom on the proposal to set up a Heroes Memorial and the plan to bring back all the Iban warriors from the Peninsula and Singapore.

May 3, 2009

I released the informations regarding the plan through a local paper, the Borneo Post on May 3, 2009 - the cutting is attached below.

Meantime, I'm working with a friend who has volunteered to assist me in getting more informations on the deceased - their home addresses and next-of-kins. This is to ensure a smooth and fast follow up actions later on.

As of now, there is nothing I can do, except keeping my fingers crossed and pray the plan can be realised for the good of the future generations of the Ibans.

The casualty list: 8 Iban Trackers, 12 Sarawak Rangers and one Border Scout.
On April 28, 2009, LCpl Ungkok ak. Jugam's grave which
had been in an undignified location due to development was
moved to a Christian Cemetry in Jalan Sultanah, Alor Setar, Kedah.
At the same time, a plan to set up a Heroes Memorial for the
relocation of all Iban warriors from the Peninsula and Singapore was mentioned.
May 29, 2009
I received the good news today by way of a news paper report through the Borneo Post that the Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr Alfred Jabu ak. Numpang has pledged support and financial contribution (RM7,000) to bring the remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers who died during the First Emergency from 1948 to 1960 and laid to rest in the Peninsula and Singapore. This the best Gawai Dayak gift for me. I shed some tears of joy. There are a total of 21 of them. Those in Terendak Military Cemetry in Malacca are, however, just names inscribed on memorial walls.
My attempt to get details of the deceased from the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur was unsuccessful. There was no response to our querries. Should I go to the British War Museum in London to do the research? If the Veterans Affair Department or Sarawak Government could spponsor the trip, it would be most ideal, as I would like to make a research on the battles fought by these 21 warriors that led to their deaths. It is my hope that this book could be ready at the same time as the official opening of the Heroes Memorial in Kuching.


  1. Col,
    Up until now I have receive no feedback from the British High Com. Even the last email asking about the whereabouts of the L/Cpl Ungkok was also the same. I wonder if they just could not bother enough.


  2. Dear Rano,

    I think we must have been a bother to them and getting the informations we need must be out of their way - unless we officially write in to them (knowing the British strict adherence to rules.

    We have to find out from the High Com, how best can we obtain the informations.

    Robert Rizal

  3. This is a very noble of you. These warriors deserved the highest recognition. They must be remebered.

  4. RIP, LCpl Ungkok ak Jugam.

    Now his story must be told in full. I am sure the brits have the records.

  5. Hi Kay,

    Thank you. The younger generations of Ibans (maybe for Sarawak too?)need to be reminded of their illustrious forefathers who had been world renowned for their bravery and tracking skill.

    I pray that the State of Sarawak will realise this dream of bringing all the remains of these heroes back home to Kuching and rebury them in a Heroes Memorial. This should not be politicised.

  6. Hi Gangticus,

    We have tried to get his story through the British High Commission but failed. Possibly the Brits do not entertain correspondences.

    I hope somebody can sponsor my research trip to UK to get all the stories of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers who were serving with the Commonwealth Forces from 1948 to 1960. Twenty one of them died during that period.

  7. I have to inform that my great grandfather Maon was a Sarawak Ranger (1909- 1918)holding the rank of Lans Corporal No. 274 under Commanding Offcier Capt Stuart Cunyghame. I still has in my possession his original Sarawak Ranger [Certificate of Discharge No. 30] dated 30th June 1918 when he was 39 years old. I bet many of u have not seen one - an old one. I have the scan copy if any one of u are interested to look at it.

    Abdul Rani (1964) Bin Kamarudin (1935) Bin Salleh (1900) Bin Maon (18??) bin Bisar (18??)
    Kuala Lumpur

  8. Hi Anonymous,

    I didn't know they have Malays in the Sarawak Rangers. Yes Captain Stuart F. Cunynghame was the commanding officer from 1906 - 1913 and again from 1917 - 1929. What are those names you mentioned: Bin Kamaruddin, Bin Salleh, Bin Maon and bin Bisar. Do you have the full names?
    Please email me all details you have to

  9. Maon was my great grandfather who served in Sarawak Ranger. Salleh was my grandfather, Kamarudin is my father and i am Abdul Rani.
    Captain Stuart Cunyghame was the Commanding Officer as late as 1918 from the original document in my possession, and was also present in Kapit during the Peace Making Treaty of 1924 at Kapit. This treaty was gazetted and i have a copy of the agreement. I will email u the Sarawak Ranger (Certificate of Discharge) of my great grandfather Maon (a Malay). For the Peace Making Traty of 1924 where Captain Stuart was present will take some time (3 days) to allow me to scan it.

    Abdul Rani Bin Kamarudin

  10. Dear Abdul Rani,

    Thank you for the informations. Please email me the documents. They will be a great when I write the book. Do you think we have a record of those people who have joined the Sarawak Rangers?

  11. Dear Lt.Colonel,

    If my great grandfather (Maon)had a Certificate of Discharge, others should have too. These records cannot simply disappear from the Sarawak State government's archive. I myself is at a lost to find out about my great grandfather Maon.Save that certificate - i know next to nothing. i did not even know that i had a direct link with Kuching, Sarawak. What i know, my grandfather (Salleh)joined the Straits Settlement Police from 1925-1935 in Singapore as Lans Corporal 11. My father (Kamarudin) was born in Singapore including me. I am still tracing Maon's roots because my grandfather and my father did not say much about their ancestor, and i was too young then to be bothered. My mother did say long time ago "kau orang ni anak dayak", i thought main-main because i have six brothers and one sister.
    I found the Renjer certificate by chance when out of curiosity, i seeked permission from my auntie to look into my grandfather's safebox last year. Since he died in 1984, no one ever opened and scrutinised what were in the safe box.

    Abdul Rani Kamarudin
    i have emailed u the Certificate - i do not know much about him beyond that cos i got it from the safebox last year.

  12. Dear Abdul Rani,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I saw in your great grtandfather's discharge certificate the word "bandsman" was written in bracket behind his name. That mean he was employed in the Ranger Band, the pride of the Rajahs at the time.

    Most of the members of the band were imported from the Philipines.

    I'm going down to Kuching on 22 June to do some research on the Sarawak Rangers. If I find anything on your great grandfather Maon, I will inform you.

  13. Dear Lt.

    thanks, i appreciate. What i need is a lead to start with.

    For your research, u shld link up with University's academic staff. There is load of funds available - contact any university Research Centre and the academic staff would love to work with you. Fund is not a problem including travelling cost to UK. 30% of the fund can be allocated for travelling.

    By tracing the Sarawak Ranger No. and the Certificate of Discharge, u should be able to trace the pioneers of Sarawak Rangers.

    Abdul Rani Bin Kamarudin

  14. Dear Abdul Rani,

    Thanks for the advice. Will do that.