1st Battalion

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders


Borneo - Third Tour

November 1965- April 1966

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


       The move of the main body to Borneo began on 25th November when twenty five vehicles, and A Company, were embarked and sailed in M.V. AUBY, being played away by the Military Band, to be followed 24 hours later by 296 all ranks on board L.S.L. Sir Lancelot, while the Commanding Officer, 13 other ranks and 2 tracker dogs flew from RAF Changi to Kuching in an Argosy aircraft. Both ships discharged their passengers and vehicles on 28th November, and the Companies moved to locations as follows:-


A Company to SERIAN

B Company to PANG AMO

D Company to PLAMAN MAPU

HQ Company to SERIAN


As early as 1st December it was thought that contact had been made with the Indonesians when Lieutenant C R C Wilson found footprints in the PLAMAN MAPU area but when D Company carried out a follow up, the footprints proved to be those of Borneo Border Scouts. Tracks leading to the border were also found by B Company on 8th December, while on 12th December portable cooking fire smoke was engaged with 15 rounds fired by D Company's 81mm mortar.

Click picture to enlarge

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On 15th December the London Gazette published the award of the Military Cross to Lt Thomson, and also the award of Mention-in-Despatches to Major R F Wilson and 2nd Lieutenant G A Neilson. The Battalion was now settled into the new location, with regular air supply drops, and patrols on foot through the jungle and by boat, often a local longboat, but while machine gun and rifle fire was occasionally heard, and helicopters shot at, no contact was made. On 17th January A Company moved to TEBADU and D Company to TEBAKANG, where the clandestine Communist Organisation might have been training terrorist gangs, or preparing to harbour terrorists who had been trained in Indonesia. The calm was shattered rather rudely on 15th February, when a Border Scout reported tracks of 30 men, 5,000 metres north of TEBADU. This was confirmed and A Company and the Tracker Team were deployed. The next day saw B Company and elements of D Company placed under command of the Adjutant 2nd Battalion 7th Gurkha Rifles, and the Pipes and Drums deployed on the TEBAKANG road. 2/7th GR made several contacts and sustained casualties that were treated at TEBAKANG prior to being sent to KUCHING. It was later confirmed that the Gurkhas had killed three enemy. The battle continued at a furious pace, and the Brigade Commander ordered Battalion TAC HQ to move to TEBADU on 18th February, and on that day the Battalion was withdrawn from the direct follow-up and were to be deployed along the border area, to cut off the anticipated retreat of the enemy.  However, no sightings of the enemy were made, but it was thought that this may have been because the enemy were lying low because of the deployment of the troops in the area. In general the Battalion, together with A Company 1/10 GR and 1 platoon of 2/7th GR under command, were deployed in a line running parallel to and north of the border, east and west of TEBADU. It was intended that any enemy trying to return to Indonesia would have to pass through this cordon.  By 20th there was little activity and A Company returned to TEBADU, leaving the line to be held by elements of B Company, D Company and the assault Pioneer Platoon. A composite platoon was formed at SERIAN, consisting of Orderly Room Staff, Regimental Police, QMs Staff and others, all under the command of Captain Smeaton-Stuart, the Air Platoon Commander who at that time had no aircraft to fly. On 21st February the Tracker Team contacted one or two enemy, but unfortunately support was unable to link up in time and they escaped, leaving their equipment behind. The next day single tracks were discovered by a civilian and by a platoon of the Battalion, but they unfortunately led over the border. On 23rd February tracks were again found of 3 enemy leading to the border. It was being proved that no matter how diligent the Battalion efforts might be, cutting off 10,000 metres of difficult jungle was no easy task, but by the next day enemy activity seemed to be coming to a halt, with no new sightings reported. There had been numerous excitements, small incidents such as a Battalion Tracker having his sub-machine gun shot out of his hands, and everyone in the Battalion had worked extremely hard and acquitted themselves well.  But owing to various switches, the honour of the actual kills fell to the Gurkhas and the Police Field Force in the very rear areas. One by one the brave stubborn enemy were chopped down and only a few ragged, starving stragglers remained. A very definite victory was won by the Security Forces. 

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 By the beginning of March, TAC HQ and the Companies returned to their former locations. Casualties from lepto-spirosis, a rat-borne disease were beginning to appear, due to the recent operations, including 13 men from A and D Companies. Although the Battalion was not due to return to Singapore until the end of March, the first sign of the move was the arrival of the reconnaissance party of 1st Bn The Buffs, led by Lt Col MacDonald on 3rd March.  But the recent incursion seemed to have been the signal for a general increase in enemy activity, and on 5th March D Company carried out a highly successful ambush on an enemy camp, inflicting a number of casualties without injury to themselves, while on 9th March the I0 was fired on by a heavy anti-aircraft machine gun whilst on a recce of the border area in a Sioux helicopter. On 17th March 8 platoon and 5 platoon of B Company came under aimed mortar fire while on a reconnaissance at PERIPIN. The Forward Observation Officer brought down artillery fire support. Both platoons then came under sporadic long range small arms fire. 5 platoon replied with 2 inch mortar fire, but unfortunately the last of the six bombs hit a branch and exploded, slightly injuring three members of the platoon; who were evacuated by helicopter to KUCHING. On 23rd March a Scout helicopter was again engaged by anti-aircraft fire in the PERIPIN area, and the 105mm howitzers of 40th Light Regiment RA at PANG AMO and TEBADU returned the fire, an action that was repeated two days later. But by the end of March things had quietened down, to the extent that on 3rd April the Military Band arrived at SERIAN to start a Borneo tour and the Pipes and Drums were able to play at Kampong PICHING, where they were very well received by the locals. 

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The return to Singapore began with A Company less one platoon moving from TEBADU to SERIAN by Beverley on 13th April, flying on to Singapore, 80 all ranks strong, on 14th April as the Advance Party, followed 24 hours later by their last platoon.  On 16th April the Pipes and Drums and Military Band beat retreat on the Padang in KUCHING; the salute was taken by the Brigade Commander, Brigadier W W Cheyne and the Chief Minister for SARAWAK, Dato Stephen Kalong Ningkin.  A further party flew to Singapore on 19th April and another, under Major A J Ward, sailed on LST Empire Gannet on 20th April, and on 21st April news was received that Sergeant Lauder had been awarded the Brigade Commanders Gallantry commendation. Finally on 26th April 230 all ranks commanded by Major C P R Palmer embarked on LSL Sir Lancelot. Before sailing on 27th April, the Chief Minister of Sarawak presented the Commanding Officer with a replica of the State Shield of Sarawak. The Battalion was paraded on the decks of the LSL, and both bands were on parade, also aided by the Police Band. In his speech the Chief Minister referred to the hard work of Major David weeks, the Battalion doctor, and his team of Medical Orderlies who had given a tremendous amount of assistance to the local population. 

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 Only D Company remained, and they sailed on 29th April in their old friend, the AUBY for the last time, arriving at Singapore on 1st August; then the Battalion was complete in Singapore, having completed their third and last Borneo tour that started very quietly, flared up in the middle and then died away again as the situation became quiet following an abortive coup d'etat in Jakarta, the subsequent defeat of the Indonesian Communist Party and the removal of power from President Sukarno, General Soeharto taking over executive control of Indonesia. Confrontation ended with the signing of a formal agreement on llth August in Jakarta. 


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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



Mr Dennis Healey, as British Defence Minister stated in the House of Commons that this campaign "in the history books will be regarded as one of the most efficient uses of military force in the history of the world".


What the campaign meant at the Company level and below was well described by Major J R A MacMillan in 1966, and no better way exists to close this account than to reproduce it here.        Borneo Life


  Singapore 1964-1966


Borneo Pictures


More Borneo Pictures


Borneo Life



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Updated: 11 October 2014