1st Battalion

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders



Borneo - Second Tour

February 1965 to June 1965

All photographs are the property of RHQ Argylls and may not be reproduced or copied without permission from RHQ Argylls.


On 31st January the Commanding Officer left for Borneo followed on 1st February by the Advance Party, consisting of 95 all ranks and 6,000lbs of freight, in two parties: the first under Major J G B Somervilie, in a Beverley aircraft, the second under Major J R A MacMillan in a Hastings aircraft. The Main Body of 385 all ranks sailed from Singapore at 1700 hours on 5th February in HT Auby under the command of Major ACS Boswell MBE, followed on 6th February by the vehicle party under the command of Captain W Dunbar MM, the second Quartermaster.  It consisted of 10 vehicles and 32 men, 20 of them drivers and included Basha, the contractors barber!

Click picture to enlarge


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 HMT Auby docked at Kuching on 6th February and the main body disembarked on 7th February. The majority drove direct to BALAI RINGIN camp, a company base of the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles, which was to become the Headquarters of the Battalion. The Companies were helicoptered forward as follows:


D Company to NIBONG

A Company remained as reserve Company in the school at 8ALAI RINGIN. At 1405 hours precisely on Monday 8th February Lt Col Malcolm Wallace took over command of the area from Lt Col Hugh Hamill, Officer Commanding 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles. On the same day the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment visited on a reconnaissance as they were due to relieve the Battalion in 6 weeks time. Other visits followed quickly; On 11th February the DADAH and the SMO visited and as a result the water at BALAI RINGAN was condemned; future supplies came from a water trailer filled at SERIAN. On 12th February the Director of Operations Borneo, Major General W C Walker CB CBE DSO visited the Battalion HQ and each Company. On the same day a short evening conference was held at 1830 hours, which was to become routine, and was known as "Prayers". It was unfortunate that a welcoming message from the Director of Operations arrived just after his visit. It read, "Welcome once again, I think you will find your new wicket rather more worn than the previous one. Certainly the bowling will be more hostile, but your eye is in and I have no doubt in your ability to take six off every stroke however, the opposition is not to be underestimated and I therefore enjoin you to take heed of my words of 23 April. Last, in them lies the essence of success. Good luck to you all". The records do not reveal what the Director of Borneo Operations said on 23rd April, some ten months earlier, but presumably the Commanding Officer, to whom the Signal was addressed, remembered! 

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 On 15th February at Kuching the Commanding Officer met the Chief of the Defence Staff. Admiral of the Fleet The Earl of Mountbatten of Burma KG PC GCB GCSI GCIE GCVO DSO.  The CDS accompanied by Sir Solly Zucksrman KCB FRS.  They, together with the Director of Operations and the Brigade Commander, Brigadier W W Cheyne OBE, ex-Seaforths, mere shown round the Battalion Area by the Commanding Officer. Later the Commanding Officer attended a meeting of the Divisional Executive Committee, the Division in this instance being a Civil Administrative Area and not a military formation. This meeting took place each Monday in Kuching and where possible all Commanding Officers in the 1st Division Area attended.


On 18th February a party of 13 Indonesian refugees gave themselves up between BALAI RINGIN and SERIAN and were interrogated by the I0. More refugees were reported east of BALAI RINGIN near TELAGOS. A party of A Company under Captain J D B Younger and Lieutenant D P Thomson proceeded to investigate the report and discovered there were some 73 refugees who claimed they had been forced to leave their kampongs in Indonesia by the military elements there. This was the largest refugee exodus since the Emergency began. The Commanding Officer, I0, QM and Signals Officer left in the afternoon to carry out their initial reconnaissance of the Lundu area which the Battalion was to take over from the 2/10 Gurkha Rifles, returning the next day.


A further 25 refugees arrived on 21st February, from the Kampong MOEKEN, a known enemy held area, and were interrogated by the I0 Captain A N Dewar-Durie, and on the next day began the first phase of one of the more complex moves the Battalion had ever taken part in, with A Company, under Major R F Wilson and D Company under Major J R A MacMillan moving positions, as D Company were shortly to take over BOKAN, one of the forward positions of 2/10 Gurkha Rifles in the LUNDU District.  The reconnaissance party of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment arrived on the same day.


The first real contact with the Indonesian Army came on 1st March when Major J R A MacMilian, OC 0 Company, reported that 30 enemy had been seen in the area close to NIBONG, and that their tracks were possibly 24-48 hours old. A follow-up operation was mounted. The Advance Party of 2 Para arrived the next day and a number were immediately moved to the three forward positions. The shuttle forward and backward of 2 Para and the Battalion continued, using two

Belvedere aircraft. This proved to be particularly exciting when airdrops took place at GUNAN GAJAK and NIBONG during the shuttle.


The Battalion Advance Party, under the Paymaster, Major J G Sharpe, consisting of 2 Officers and 57 rank and file left BALAI RINGIN on 4th March by road, and later sailed by Ramp Powered Lighter (RPL) for Lundu, where they were joined by the Second in Command on 5th March. The handover to 2 Para continued until l2th March, when at precisely 1405 hours command changed from Lt Col M R Wallace to Lt Col E EBERHAROIE. By the end of the day the only Argylls left in the BALAI RINGIN area were the QM, Signals Officer and approximately 62 rank and file, while Major Somerville and two platoons of B Company were still forward in PLAMEN MAPU completing an operation. This was completed on 13th March, and Major Somerville and his party left for Kuching by road, but by the time they got there HMT Auby had had to sail due to the tides, carrying the party who had spent the night at BALAI RINGIN.  However, Auby anchored at the mouth of the river, and the B Company party were ferried out by RPL.


The following day A Company disembarked from AUBY and travelled by RPL to SEMATAN, on the coast, their new position.  B Company, followed by Battalion HQ and Headquarters Company followed shortly afterwards by RPL and the EMPIRE KENYALANG. A Company were firm in SEMATAN by 2.30pm and Lt Col Wallace took over command of the area from Lt Col P Myers MC at precisely 4pm. 


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 B Company, who were relieving D Company 2/10 Gurkha Rifles, mere complete by 6.25pm. D Company were still in command of BOKAH, in LUNDU District, which they had taken over from 2/10 Gurkha rifles some fourteen days earlier, where they were constantly on the watch for terrorists; the intensity of patrolling meant that men came in one day, relaxed and cleaned up the next day and prepared to go out on patrol again on the second or third day. The days were getting noticeably hotter, and the marches across the wide open spaces of grass and padi were proving unpleasant. To the climate and terrain must be added the weight of the loads carried, which included the Self Loading Rifle, which was definitely too heavy, and cumbersome for jungle work. Maps were inaccurate, and the local guides unreliable, for they had rarely strayed more than a mile or so from their kampongs, keeping away from the jungle covered hills.


On 18th March B Company reported shellbursts across the Border from a suspected enemy gun. Bearings were taken on the exact position. Two days later enemy were reported in the GUNAN GADING area near the relay broadcast station. An operation was mounted. A Company under Captain Younger, and a platoon under 2nd Lt Neilson were used as a cut off party whilst the Tracker Team carried out a search of the area where the enemy had been seen.


23rd of March was an important date in the Battalions tour, for on that day the Air Platoon joined for the first time. It consisted of two Sioux helicopters, and its personnel were:

Platoon Commander and Senior Pilot - Captain J Smeaton Stuart, RUR

Second Pilot - Lt C B H Walsh, Staffs

S/Sgt B Rye, REME

Sgt B Larter Hilling, REME

Cpl B Davies, REME

Cpl A Harrison, REME

Crewman - L/Cpl J Miller, A and S H


There was also an RAF Whirlwind stationed at LUNDIN, which was used to re-supply detachments such as the remote-relay station, which was at the top of a hill.


On 26th March a cordon and search operation was mounted by A Company, on information received from Brigade HQ, an operation which lasted until 29th March, by which time the tracker teams had failed to pick up the scent; later that day the Commanding Officer stood the operation down. The training in watermanship and in the maintenance of outboard engines now proved its value, on 6th April D Company were re-supplied by boat, the trip normally taking three hours, the outboard engines being Johnsons.


At this time the airstrip at Lundu was completed. This was able to handle single and twin engined Pioneer aircraft, and on 7th April an RAF Hunter jet aircraft arrived, enabling the Intelligence Officer to practice as a Forward Air Controller.


The Air Platoon and the RAF whirlwind were now much used, the Sioux in reconnaissance and casualty evacuation, the whirlwind on re-supply. The Whirlwinds were changed round every ten to fourteen days, while the Sioux were allowed forty hours flying a month, which the Battalion was just able to keep within. Artillery were deployed at BOKAH and BIAUAK positions, and on 10th April Major Somerville carried out Artillery Registration from a Sioux, while on the llth the whirlwind, piloted by Pilot Officer Brian Ounger traced a missing two-man Special Air Service patrol, roped them up into the aircraft and brought them back to base. 


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Visits continued. On 14th April the Commander Far East Land Forces, Lt Gen Sir Alan Jolly KCB CBE DSO; Major General Peter Hunt QBE DSO, Commander Land Forces Borneo; Brigadier W W Cheyne OBE; Major R McFarlane, MA to the Army Commander, and Captain Powell-Jones, ADC to Comlandbor visited BOKAH, LUNOO, SEMATAN and BIAUAK.


It had already been discovered that the SLR was too heavy and cumbersome for jungle operations, and American Armalite rifles had been issued on a trial basis. Everyone was extremely sorry to see the last of them returned to KUCHING on 14th April because they were undoubtedly an improvement on the SLR in jungle operations.


On 26th April came the first real contact, when A Company reported killing one of the enemy, with no casualties to themselves. Major R F Wilson, Sergeant Lauder and a soldier of the company, whilst on a forward reconnaissance came across an enemy sentry. Sergeant Lauder shot him dead. The party then withdrew as there were a large number of enemy in the area, and they had been alerted by the shooting. The following day heavy machine gun fire was reported by 4 platoon

which was operating in the KANDAI area. It appeared to come from across the border at ACHAN. An enemy party was seen in the BOKAH area, and the following day a tracker team led by Sgt Gallon was lifted in to assist in the follow-up.


On 9th May 1 platoon A Company had a contact with the enemy, resulting in three enemy dead, and two members of the platoon wounded:  Pte McColm shot through the left forearm and Pte Morrison through the left leg.  Neither were serious and both were casevac to Kuching.


On 13th May, at 6.25 pm, the Coastal Reconnaissance Flight reported spotting an open boat with approximately ten passengers heading towards an inlet to the west of SEMATAN. Later in the evening Brigade ordered the Commanding Officer to move in Company strength into the area and to investigate. This was easier said than done because A Company were already heavily committed and were relatively tired as they were just completing a five day long operation south of SEMATAN, and one of the tracker teams was already deployed. B Company and D Company were each committed in their own area. Finally, at 2300 hours, Lt Tullett, second in command of HQ Company, and such members of the Pipes and Drums as were available, were briefed and despatched to SEMATAN by road. A Company were alerted, and the Commanding Officer flew to brief Captain Younger at 0445 hours the next morning, the plan being to fly in troops to the suspect area, the whole operation to be under Captain Younger's command. 

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Meanwhile a previously planned operation to pick up six suspect Chinese Communist Party sympathisers took place, with complete success. On 12th May everything went according to plan, and Pilot Officer Symonds lifted a party to the suspect spot in his whirlwind. The search began, but by 0645 hours it was obvious that the suspects were locals who had scuttled off when they saw the Coastal Reconnaissance. The search was therefore terminated.


The first signs of the end of the tour appeared on 19th May when the reconnaissance party of the 2/2nd Gurkha Rifles arrived on a three day visit.


The Battalion was to suffer its first fatal casualty when B Company made contact with the enemy near BIAWAK on 26th May.  One enemy was killed and two wounded, but sadly Pte W Hill was shot dead. His body was flown to Kuching and a fund was started for his widow, who was in Singapore, where he was buried on 28th May. The following day the first move in the return to Singapore was made when the Second-in-Command returned to Singapore as a one man pre-advance party.


There was an unusual gathering at Lundu, Battalion Headquarters location, when on the 1st and 2nd of June the Lundu Regatta was held. Lundu was full of people from all over the District, and some very exciting paddle races were run, with anything from four to forty man boats. The Pipes and Drums, who had been described as a "blow pipe" band, performed in the morning and evening, surrounded by a rapturous audience.


On 2nd June two platoons of A Company were lifted to a location near the border in preparation for an operation, which resulted in Lt D P Thomson and 3 platoon laying a successful ambush in the KANDAI border area; in which eleven enemy were killed. The only Battalion casualty was L/Cpl Hunter, who was shot through the left hand. The operation included the use of artillery, in conjunction with an Air Observation Post. BIAWAK was mortared shortly afterwards.  A Company suffered a further casualty when Private Scott shot himself in the right foot accidentally. On 6th June Lt Thomson and his platoon were lifted by helicopter out of KANDAI and returned to SEMATAN, where they were later visited by the Commanding Officer and the Brigade Commander.


On llth June the Battalion was strengthened by the arrival of a Company HQ and two platoons of the Police Field Force, which were to operate in the LUNDU area. An unusual accident took place on 14th June, when Pte Pearson was lifted out of the jungle after a tree fell on him! The return to Singapore was brought nearer on 16th June, when the first party of the relieving Battalion, the 2/2nd Gurkha Rifles arrived, followed a day later by the 2/2nd company commanders.


The company bases were now veritable fortresses consisting of trenches and dugouts strengthened by thousands of sandbags, and surrounded by barbed wire and sharpened bamboo stakes with anti-personnel mines sown amongst them. The size of these defences and also the size of the air re-supply system was shown on the 18th of June when 41,000lbs (19,000 kilos) of defence stores were dropped into BIAWAK by BELVEDERE aircraft. The following day the Advance Party left in two parties, one sailing and one flying to Kuching, for onward move by air to Singapore. 


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 If anyone can put names to faces with rank, company, date and location. Please e-mail with page name, row number and picture letter to                ayoung287@msn.com

 On 22nd June it was announced that Sergeant B Baty of B Company had been awarded the Military Medal for his outstanding leadership in the contact on 4th August, and the Major ACS Boswell MBE had been mentioned in Despatches.


The handover to 2/2nd GR continued and on 26th June the main body sailed for Singapore from SEMATAN on board MV AUBY, the Commanding Officer returning by air. The ship arrived at Singapore on 28th June, carrying 9 Officers and 293 men, with its Pipes and Drums playing on deck, the Military Band playing on the quayside and the Commanding Officer pinning the ribbon of the Military Medal on Sergeant Baty's chest on the quayside. Also on this day Captain JDB Younger assumed the appointment of Adjutant, relieving Captain A F Bell, who had been evacuated earlier in the month after suffering from heat exhaustion after taking part in a cross country run, part of the Lundu Regatta celebrations, and had ultimately been returned to the United Kingdom. Captain Purves Hume, the Signals Officer, had acted as Adjutant in the interim period.


On 1st July the second party of 7 officers and 77 men arrived on the L.S.T. MAXWELL BRANDER. This included the vehicles and the helicopter which drove and flew direct to 5ELARANG Barracks. Leave began almost at once, and continued

until 2nd August when the official leave period finished.


Singapore 1964-1966


Third Tour - November 1965- April 1966


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Updated: 11 October 2014