Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ulu Pandan Heritage Trail (7) – The famous Kota Tinggi-2SIR Incident: Part 2 (by Peter Chan)

The two photos below were scanned from the book, Singapore, An Illustrated History, 1941 ~ 1984, Information Division, Ministry of Culture.

Top photo notes read: Members of the Second Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (SIR) in the jungles of Johor, Malaysia. The SIR was deployed to combat armed Indonesian infiltrators in Malaysia.

Bottom photo notes read: An ambush by the Indonesians at Kota Tinggi led to the deaths of eight SIR soldiers. Suspected Indonesian infiltrators are escorted from a mangrove in Pasir Panjang on 29 December 1964. Local security forces working in close cooperation with British forces succeeded in rounding up many infiltrators and saboteurs and in keeping terrorism generally under control.






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As a NS recruit, I did not know much about the Kota Tinggi details but later as a staff officer I had the opportunity to meet these personnel from 2SIR during the usual Friday Tombolo Night.

At that time when Singapore was a part of Malaysia our two SIRs were renamed as 1MIR and 2MIR. 2SIR was operationally responsible for the Singapore and southern Johore area. 2MIR (2SIR) was raised in 1962 and billeted at Holland Road Camp.

According to my superior who was then a young 2LTA in 2 SIR, Dalgit Singh was already a platoon commander, together with LTA Mejar Singh. 2SIR's CO was a Colonel Campbell, a British seconded from the British Army.

It was the crack Indonesian paratroopers from the "KKI", an elite Guards unit from Jakarta which was sent on this mission. The Malaysian police post at Kota Tinggi were alerted of the parachute-landing and the nearest infantry garrison to Kota Tinggi was 2 SIR in Singapore. 1SIR at that time was deployed to the Sabah border with Indonesia.

One platoon of 2SIR was sent inside the jungles of Kota Tingi. For those who have ventured into Kota Tinggi (which I did as a child and as a teenager), it has a waterfall as the key attraction. The killing zone was north of the waterfall.

2SIR made no contact with the Indonesians for about a week. However, unknowingly the Indonesians were tailing one of the SIR sections. Not finding them for a week, that section grew tired and went for a bath at one of the nearby Kota Tinggi streams. Everybody left their weapons at the riverbank with no personnel on sentry-duty.

For those trained in the SAF doctrine, you are not supposed to do this and at all times, your rifle must be with you. The Indonesians pounded on our boys but one injured personnel managed to sneak away and ran for his life into Kota Tinggi Town. All this time, there was "radio silence" because this was a mission. It was only after the injured personnel emerged from the jungle that the incident became known. When the dead were recovered, their bodies were infested with maggots and were very gruesome

Reinforcements were rushed up from Singapore. On that mission were names like James Teo (who was the 5SIR CO for BERSATU PADU in 1971), Jimmy Yap (CO Officer Cadet School), Mahinder Singh (Dy Director SAFTI) and Dalgit Singh (CO 3SIR). They were “young lieutenants” then. James Teo was the unit signals officer. This time, the Indonesians scattered in different directions. It must have been somewhat of a surprise that no Indonesians were caught alive. I leave it to you to guess what must have happened next because I saw some of the photographs taken at that time. Don't forget our jungle-weapons also included the machete. The two Singhs were later involved in the Labis incident and again credited with many enemy killings.

The decomposed bodies were brought back to Holland Road Camp for the Malay burial rituals. The slain men were given a full-military burial.


Photo of the funeral at Bidadari Muslim Cemetery. Men wearing songkok were Malaysian regulars working side by side with their Singaporean counterparts in 2 SIR


##Akan Datang (Coming soon): The bridge that I 'blew up' twice - Lam Chun See


Related Posts:
1) The Famous Kota Tinggi-2SIR Incident Part 1
2) The Famous Haunted Camp

17 comments:

Ivan Chew said...

I guess readers would be clamouring to know what happened during the hunt for the Indonesian soldiers. A "Singapore Tom Clancy Novel" in the making?

Kevin said...

Wow, quite a dramatic story! Those photographs were great to see too. :)

Tom said...

Tom said...
Peter I remember the Kota Tinggi Incident, I know that area very well, the company I was in use to Ulu Tiram and Kota Tinggi , we did alot of jungle Training there, the jungle area was so dense, if you were looking for some one It would take you weeks to find them , know wounder that patrol took the chance , and drop thier guard, deep down I still feel for them.

Lam Chun See said...

"2SIR was operationally responsible for the Singapore and southern Johore area."

Looking back, we can see how vulnerable we were during those days. Only 1 battalion to look after such a huge area. Luckily we had people like Tom Brown around!

PChew said...

I was a school cadet at RI and during an arm drill my commanding officer said to the recruits "treat your rifle as your wife and never leave her out of your sight. Your life depends on it". The incident at Kota Tinggi during the confrontation was a costly lesson that our soldiers must not forget. Hope it will not happen again to our guys.

Brian Mitchell said...

This is a fascinating tale, I had not realised that Indonesian units had actually landed in Johore at this time of conflict. There had of course been conflict within Indonesia for some time including earlier in the 1960s when I was in Singapore. I can't remember the details but I do recall a top secret operation (well not quite top secret as me and my plane spotter friends had got wind of something happening) and one morning we were in the Lloyd Leas estate overlooking what was then the end of RAF Changi's runway to see two aircraft arrive, one from Indonesia, and an exchange of prisoners from the conflict then going on - transferred from one aircraft to another if I recall correctly. My friend Malcolm has probably the only photos of this event but I am no longer in touch with him. But it was another small episode in the sometimes troublesome relationship with events in Indonesia.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Lam,

i truly enjoy yer blog and this current john le carre style story about the Indonesians.

Thanks for taking the time out to blog yer memories. Yer site is a treasure cove to young Singaporeans like me.

Unlike some other guy from an older generation who goes around chaining bikes and doing nonsense things outside National Library@Bugis, you are doing something memorable for the right reasons and kudos to that.

Jarrod said...

Hi Mr Lam,

I have heard about this incident too, from my instructor in SISPEC who is a warrant officer. This incident is also the reason why the Regimental Colours of 2SIR bears streamers, as only units that have seen active combat are eligible to be awarded such.

On a side note however, my warrant officer also told me that the bodies were recovered in a terrible condition not just due to the decomposition, but from the mutilations done by the Indonesian troops as well. The bodies were said to have been found with their genitals cut off from where they should be, and stuffed into the mouths of the corpses....

This is probably the reason why none of the Indonesian troops were able to be captured alive. I know for certain I will not leave them alive for such grievous insults performed upon the people who died defending our land either. It is indeed a hard way to learn the lesson about the importance of safeguarding our weapons with us at all times.


Jarrod

Cool Insider said...

Certainly a very captivating and dramatic real-life tale, done with the right mix of factual content and personal narrative. Look forward to more of such stories that bring back the lesser known facts of our past.

peter said...

Jarrod,
Can you explain about the regimental colours + streamers of 2SIR - how does it look like and the difference with other SIR units.

For the sake and respect to the deceased families, I did not want to highlight any description not show any photos. It is a Malay custom not to speak about those who are departed.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Anonymous for your kind compliments. Maybe I should suggest to my friend The Rambling Librarian to recommend to NLB to punish the guy who chained up the Library doors by making him write 10 'grand father stories' for this blog or Yesterday.sg :)

Jarrod said...

Peter,

with all respects due to those who died defending our land, and their loved ones, I meant no insult to them nor did I desire to distress them by bringing up the grim details. My sole intention was to honour them by remembering the exact circumstances of their deaths, that those who come after might learn from it and never commit the same mistakes as them again. However, I apologize freely if anybody thinks otherwise.

As for the Regimental Colour, it is what civilians would call "Unit ceremonial flag" and it is representative of the spirit and honour of the Unit it stands for. On major occasions such as National Day Parades and SAF day, all the Colours of every unit in SAF that carries one will be on parade in the "Colours Party" contingent, right behind the Parade Commander.

A streamer looks like a strip of ribbon and is a sort of decoration bestowed upon a Unit as a commendation for exceptional service, or in commemoration of a campaign served in by the Unit. It is attached above the Regimental Colours. Do not confuse it with the tassel, a pair of embroidered drops twisted together with red and gold trimmings, used for folding up the Colours in preparation for re-casing/storage. All Regimental Colours have tassels, but not all have streamers.

Another unit Regimental Colour that bears streamers would be the one belonging to HQ Commandos, for their success in putting down a hijack attempt onboard a Singapore Airlines Flight SQ 117 on 27th March 1991.

I hope that cleared things up abit.

Cheers,
Jarrod

peter said...

Thanks Jarrod for this enlightening lesson on regimental colours.

Lam Chun See said...

I have been informed by a reader that Col Daljit's name is spelt with a 'j' and not 'g'.

He was one of the early SAF officers interviewed in the "Making An Army" film at the National Museum.

Nor Azmi Latif said...

my father who was a SIR during confrontation with Indonesia is still alive...He was one of soldiers who managed escaped during accident at Kota Tinggi...My dad name is Latif Mohammad Sharif..
If need more info may contact me his son azmi 0192037285

Anonymous said...

Azmi
Please provide us more details about the incident.
There are many versions.
What and how it actually happened?
Hope your father's version can set the record straight.

Nor Azmi Latif said...

Sorry for late reply as laden with office workload..My dad was at Temasek camp and his number 600747..I am on my way to get vivid story of the incidents from my dad..My dad is really happy if someone is willing to meet or ask him about this historical incident..Now he is 77 years old...We are in Selangor Malaysia..