Sunday, 31 July 2011

Reviving Sarawak Rangers.

Firm in the belief that "only Dayaks can kill Dayaks", Rajah Charles Brooke formed an all-Dayak 32-men strong force that was later to be known as the Sarawak Rangers on October 1862. But it was only gazetted on 2 September 1872. From then on, no military expeditions were launched without it. Sarawak Rangers became the nucleus of every expeditions he mounted against the rebellious Dayaks. Sarawak Rangers must never disappear into the folds of history. It is an important link to our illustrious past. It is the pride of the Ibans and Sarawak. This I had mentioned in my speech on 27 July 2011, during the reburial ceremony of the 21 Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers killed during the first phase of the Malayan Emergency 1948 - 1960. Sarawak's top leaderships were present, including the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, Deputy Federal Home Minister, YB William Mawan, YB Tan Sri James Masing and Sarawak's top brass, amongst the many.

Sarawak Rangers had been the pride of the Rajahs who had taken great personal interest in it. All its Commanding Officers and trainers were the personal choice of the Rajahs.

However, due to the Great Economic Recession of the 1930s, the Rajah could not sustain the Force and on 29 February 1932, Sarawak Rangers was officially disbanded. Most returned to their long houses while some were absorbed into the Sarawak Constabulary.

In August 1941, just before the Japanese Army invaded Sarawak, the Rangers was re-raised and it was involved in the defence of Miri/Lutong and Kuching.

The Japanese Forces were too strong for the Rangers. They conceded defeat and dispersed. Later they were to join Major Tom Harrison and the Z Force to fight and harrass the Japanese. Sarawak was liberated by the Australian forces on 11 September 1945 and by 29 October of the same year, Z force disintergrated and the ex-Rangers also went home.

Eight weeks after the Malayan Emergency was declared on 16 June 1948, the first group of 49 Iban Trackers were sent to Malaya - to meet the request of the Malayan government. The Commonwealth forces need the tracking skills of the Ibans to track down the communist terrorists in the thick jungle of Malaya.

What happened after that had been mentioned in my other write-ups. The Iban Trackers was an astounding success. As requested by the Iban leaders back home that their warriors be given full military responsibility, the para military Iban Trackers were re-formed into the Sarawak Rangers - a full-fledged military unit with Lt Col C.J Baird as their first Commanding Officer on 1 January 1953. Oganised into two platoons, Sarawak Rangers continued to perform the same task that they were doing when they were Iban Trackers.

Then on 31 March 1960, Sarawak Rangers (Malayan Unit) was disbanded and the next day, 1 April 1960, it became Sarawak Rangers (Far East Land Forces), to become a part of the British Army. They could now be deployed anywhere in the world.

However, on 15 September 1963, it was again disbanded and on 16 September 1963 it became the 1st Battalion, Malaysian Rangers. Only 100 members of the Sarawak Rangers (FELF) volunteered to continue their service while the rest opted to return to their long houses.

Between them they had earned many awards, including:

1.   GEORGE CROSS    Tracker Awang ak. Rawing.
2.   GEORGE MEDAL   Cpl Menggong ak. Panggit.
3.   MILITARY MEDAL   LCpl Sanggau ak. Janti.
4.   BRITISH EMPIRE MEDAL    WO 2 Gou ak. Samada.
5.   MENTION IN DESPATCHES    23 of them were awarded.
6.   COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF'S CERTIFICATES     21 of the were awarded.

Continuing the Legacy
DON'T LET THIS ELITE UNIT DISAPPEAR. They must be revived to remind us of our illustrious past. Let it be a beacon and an example for our future generations to emuliate. The least we can do is to give it a new responsibiity. Create a new SARAWAK RANGERS that will perform ceremonial duties at official residences, offices, premises and other places of public interest. Give them uniforms that reflect their illustrious past and to add colour and dignity to Sarawak. 

Sarawak Rangers had had a long and illustrious history since its inception in 1862 by Rajah Charles Brooke. What they had done and achieved during the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960 were something that all Sarawakians must be proud of.

In the twelve years of fighting, they had a very low casualty figures - bearing in mind that they were always at the front most in all operations. They suffered only 21 KIA and 25 WIA.

In the process, they had made a name and a reputation as being the best trackers in the world and known for their bravery and prowess in the battle field.

This is a legacy that Sarawak must be proud of. This is the legacy that we must emulate. This is a legacy that we must not allow to disappear into the fold of the history book. We must keep it alive by re-forming it so that the present and the future generation will be reminded of what our fore fathers had achieved and with the hope that the future generations will strive to be better.

Members of the New Sarawak Rangers performing the ngajat welcoming dance.

In full traditional regalia

Another possibility of dress.

Update No. 1 (3 November 2011)
Had an appointment to see and brief YB Tan Sri James Masing today (3 Nov 11) to seek his advice and help to forward our plan to revive Sarawak Rangers as a ceremonial unit for Sarawak only.

He was supportive of the idea and would help bring the matter up to the highest attention. But first, we must get Sarawak Rangers Veterans Association registered vide Veterans Council which should be in force by December 2011.

At the same meeting we offered him as the Advisor to Sarawak Rangers Veterans Association which he accepted. We will follow this up officially with an offer letter.

Waiting for our turn to see YB Tan Sri James Masing. L to R:  Temenggong Datuk Kanang ak Langkau SP PGB, Capt Johari Ibrahim (Rtd), me Lt Col Robert Rizal Abdullah PGB (Rtd) and Capt Dr George Kurka (Rtd) and not in picture is Major Micheal Riman PGB (Rtd). 

Briefing and discussing the issue with the Minister.

After the meeting / discussion, I presented the Minister with a copy of my book, My Adventure.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Home at last - after 60 long years.

For many, they left their long houses against the wishes of their parents. For most of them, the spirits and thirst for adventure in foreign land was too hard to resist. They couldn't hold back their warrior spirits and there was no better place than the turmoil in Malaya to let it loose.

Most were still young men of about 17 years old. Some were already married and had children. It was a one way journey for many - 21 of them to be exact. 

For the parents and wives who had lost their loved ones, there had been no hope of ever seeing their loved ones again - not until Operation Ngerapuh and later called Operation Mai Pulai (Operation Bringing Home) was mooted by me at the end of 2008, with the consent of the Chief Minister.

Three years later on 27 July 2011, the 21 remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers were brought home. They were laid to rest at their final resting place at a Heroes' Graves in Kuching, Sarawak. They are home at last - after 60 long years. It was a tearful "reunion" for many and tears flowed freely that day. Here are some of the scenes.

The pall bearers brought the 21 remains to the burial ground.

.....and carefully placed at the alloted graves.

As the prime mover of the project, I was given the honour to give a speech, where I read a poem and proposed the revival of the Sarawak Rangers. It received an applause from the ex trackers, ex Sarawak Rangers and the next-of-kins. I also suggested what George Swetman had suggested: have a display corner where artifacts, documents and photographs related to the Trackers and Sarawak Rangers could be displayed. Sarawak Museum will undertake this job.

Some of the VIPs - the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, Deputy Federal Homes Affair Minister, a number of the State Minsters, General Officer Commanding 1 Infantry Division, Brigade Commander of 3 Brigade and 9 Brigade, ex servicemen and Gallantry award holders. 

The flags were carefully folded.

......handed over to the next-of-kins by the CM

Placing the caskets in the graves.

Pte Ugap's elder brother placing a bouquet of flowers over his brother's grave.

A tearful and inconsolable mother, daughter and grand daughter placing a bouquet over Nyambik's grave.

The Heroes' Grave

The epitaph

Sharing the same entrance to the WW2 Heroes' Grave

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Some Final Preparations Before the Reburial on 27 July 2011.

The State of Sarawak is doing its utmost to ensure that Iban traditions and ancient rites are adhered to in bringing the remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers home to Sarawak and rebury them in the Heroes' Graves in Kuching on 27 July 2011.

Here is the latest report from The Borneo Post daily.

These are the little jars where the remains will be kept in.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Shooting had been one of my favourite events during my cadet training days from 1967 to 1969. I had taken all aspects of training very seriously. I wanted to make sure I achieved what we were supposed to be when we were commissioned as Second Lieutenants. I wanted to be an all-round soldier who had the strength and stamina, stand the harsh battlefield conditions and have the courage to lead my men into battles. I had visualised these even before I joined the Army.

I had taken a great interest in weapon handling and shooting. I'm not bragging but I'm proud to say that I was a marksman in rifle shooting and I was a champion in the pistol category during the 1967 Rifle Meet in the Royal Military College.

I carried this confidence with me when I was posted to 3rd Rangers after I passed out from RMC in 1969. My successes in battles with the communist terrorists spoke of my shooting skill. I shot at least 5 CTs. You will never realise how much confidence your shooting prowess and skill can give you. That was how I felt, everytime I went for jungle operations looking for the CTs.

I'm standing second from the right. Picture courtesy of Zamri Ismail.
It shows the Champion Team (Abdul Rahman Coy) in RMC's Rifle Meet 1967.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Poetry: In Honour of the Brave Iban Warriors.



Lt Kol Robert Rizal Abdullah PGB

(In honour of the fallen Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers who had sacrificed their lives in the Insurgency War in Malaya from 1948 to 1960)

O Ye men of war!
Your name will live forever.
To you, courage is a virtue.
We are forever indebted to you.

You seek the path of danger.
Where death lurks spewing fear.
Behind every nooks, lurking.
Waiting to sever life’s string.

O Ye warrior most noble.
The bravest and most able.
Strength unparalleled and mind of steel.
Matched by swords tempered to kill.

Protected by the spirits and gods of war.
You marched forward without fear.
Firm in the belief you were right.
On you, weapons of evil have no might.

In battle, withdrawal was a weakness.
Come what may, march forward, nevertheless.
Your beliefs were your strength and victory.
We pray there are many more with your tenacity.

After 60 long years seemingly eternity.
You are coming home, finally.
By your deeds you had sown the seeds
For the world to know your courageous feats.

Rest thee well O noble warriors.
You had set a tradition most precious.
A legacy that your generations must live by.
A tenet of life that mustn’t die.


This is it. The reburial of the remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers has been set for 27 July 2011 in Kuching. As the prime mover of this project, I have been asked to give a short speech and I hope to read this poem which I had written for the occasion.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers - a Spiritual Encouragement

It is heartening to note that what I had written in my blog had affected the lives of many readers - in a positive way. I had wanted to make sure the exploits of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers are not forgotten and buried. They had played an important role in helping the Commonwealth forces in the war against the Communist Terrorists as trackers.

In the 12 years of fighting (1948 - 1960), 20 of them were killed in actions and another 25 wounded. One of them, Awang ak. Rawing earned the only George Cross awarded in the Malayan Emergency, a civilian version of the Victoria Cross.

It had been their brave exploits that had affected my life. I vowed to be a soldier. I got my wish granted and became a Ranger myself.  I tried to emuliate them and in the process had fought many battles with the Communist Terrorists in the 70s and 80s both in Malaya and Sarawak. On 11 October 1973, I attacked one of their camps in Kuching. I was awarded a Panglima Gagah Berani, an equivalent of a Military Cross of the British Army.

Since I embarked on Op Ngerapuh, now Op Mai Pulai in 2008, I had received many calls of encouragement and gratitude from fellow Sarawakians. Their feeling of gratitude had been my rewards. Now that this project is nearing completion, invited or not, I will witness the reburials of these brave men who had sacrificed their lives for this nation of ours.

A few days ago, one of the Ibans working with Petronas Carigali in Iraq had told me that he had been inspired by the exploits of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers that he had read in my blog. He took the challenge to work in Iraq, which was then at war. Their base had been bombarded with rockets and mortar fire every night. It was the spirit of his Iban forefathers that had kept him strong.

He read of my exploits too in my blog and had just ordered 3 of my biography, My Adventures, which I have just couriered to him in Iraq this morning.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

My soldier, a bobby trap victim: lost and found.

In 1976, 3rd Battalion, The Malaysian Rangers was a part of a Divisional Group operating deep in South Thailand alongside the Thai Military Forces. Forty kilometres to be exact - in an area called Ban To.

The area showed signs of the presence of the Communist Terrorists (CTs): Terrains above 1000ft was said to be bobby trapped. Well-used tracks hugging the Malaysian-Thai Border existed. There were many spent rifle cartridges found in open spaces and well-used tracks. We were told the CTs used to shoot at the Royal Malaysian Air Force helicopters flying in the vicinity.

Towards the end of the joint operation, 3rd Rangers became the stay-behind party - all other forces were withdrawn from the area.

With the help of a Special Government Agent (SGA), I located the vegetable plot where the SGA used to work in from 0600 to 1900 hours daily. I scanned the surrounding area with my binocular and saw a few CTs climbing up a slope with sacks on their back. I knew there were CTs in a hut whose roof top was just visible from where I was about 600m on another ridge. I saw a sentry under a papaya tree looking the opposite direction.

I made a plan to attack them and called the rest of my "C" Company to rendezvous with me (I was actually on a reconnaissance patrol and had only 5 men with me). By the time we were ready, it was already quite late. After unsuccessfully trying to bear artillery fire on the target, I decided to "soften" the target area with my own company support weapons - a 60mm mor, a GPMG and a 40mm M79 Grenade Launcher. After about 5 minutes of heavy fire, I sent down a platoon to search the area. No CTs.

Early the next day, we swept and searched the area again. I heard a loud explosion and cringed at the thought that one of my men had stepped on a bobby trap. My fear was confirmed when I heard a shout. I went to the location and saw one of my men lying on the ground with his left foot shattered. Even after 3 jabs of morphine, he was still groaning in pain. An hour later, a helicopter came to pick him up and sent him to the nearest hospital in Penang. That was the last I saw of Ranger Amiruddin.                                                     

I met him yesterday (3 July 2011) at a get-together organised by a few of my ex soldiers - retired WO2 Asri Yusof and retired SSjn Mohd Mokhtar in Taman Ria, Sg Petani, Kedah. I couldn't even remember his name, let alone recognise him. It was not until our conversations had drifted to Operation Cahaya Bena in 1976 in South Thailand that somebody pointed him out to me. All these years, I had been trying to remember him but just couldn't. It had been a long 25 years.

According to him he was in GH Penang for 3 months. His left foot was amputated below the knee, immediately.

At the moment he is living solely on his pension. What are his hopes? Looking forward to the promise made by the former Defence Minister on an invalidity allowance for bobby trapped victims. Can the Government make good the promise? Let's hope this article gets to the right ears.

Rgr Amiruddin flanked by me on the left and my "batman" (retired WO 1 Azmi (RSM MTD)) during that operation.

Reunion at WO2 Asri's house in Taman Ria, Sg Petani, Kedah.
WO2 Asri is seated on the left.