Lest We Forget: 7th Rangers on the Rebounce, Lundu, Sarawak, 1972 By Lieutenant Colonel Baldev Singh Johl (Retired)
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
On 26th March
2022, I stood in silence for one minute with Lt Col Bathamanthan M, to honor those
killed in an ambush 50 years ago due to some major tactical miscalculations.There
have been many Whys, no answers.
I prayed for their souls to rest in
peace. No one was under my command but we belonged to the same unit, 7th
Rangers, one of the most scarred units in our army.
A monument has been built at the site
of the ambush but there appears a lack of will to launch it. Do we not feel the
Major Sabdin Ghani as a 2nd Lieutenant in 7th Rangers who should have at least been bestowed with a SP or PGB, when lesser individuals than him were disgracefully honored because of connections
LEST WE FORGET: 7TH RANGERS ON THE REBOUNCE IN LUNDU, SARAWAK, 1972
Lt Col Baldev Singh Johl (Retired), 1971 to 1974, 7th Rangers
The bitterness is still in the mouth and the pain deep in our hearts. Fifty years have passed, the lives lost should not be lost in vain.
It was that un-fateful day on 26th March 1972, that an admin convoy from 7th Rangers, comprising an assorted group of ‘bottle washers’ was ambushed by a group of about 30 - 40 CTs along the Lundu-Biawak road. At that time, 7th Ranger’s main fighting force was operating in the Serian area in a special operation under 3rd Malaysian Infantry Brigade, Kuching, Sarawak. In the ambush, 15 soldiers were killed, 4 were wounded and the CT group captured a number of weapons and a TRA 906 radio set.
As this news dawned upon the unit’s fighting echelons in Serian, blood boiled past threshold levels. Having lost 15 of our soldiers there was little we could do from Serian, some 150km away from Lundu where 7th Rangers was stationed. Under our breaths we wowed revenge. Operation BELA was launched.
Redeployment, 27th March 1972
In the early hours of 27th March, we redeployed directly into our redesigned Area of Operations (AO). A Company (A Coy) was flown from a landing point (LP) at ferry point (intersection of road Lundu-Bau/Sg Stamin) and off loaded into the swampy area of Kg Mengkudu, some 10kms south of the ambush site. We spent the next 3 weeks searching with no joy. We were too far south.
My platoon (No 3 Pl) was in a bad shape – fatigued and badly in need for some fresh cloths. I had returned the previous day from my Company Support Weapons course at PULADA, to be confronted with this tragedy. My Officer in Command (OC), Capt Sabdin Ghani, was on course in Australia. The company was commanded by the Company Second in Command (Coy 2IC), Lt Abdullah Hj Yusuf, a joyful officer but at this time there were no smiles, instead I could see he was breathing fire.
FIRST STRIKE, LT ABDULLAH HJ YUSOF, OPENING ACCOUNTS!
Rest & Replenishment, 15th April to 18th April 1972
On 15th April, A Coy was withdrawn to Tac Hq, at Lundu for some rest and replenishment. I was quick to get my boys their clothing exchanged, cleaned up weapons, ammunitions and conducted a hygiene inspection of the platoon. We caught up with some rest and I took some time to orientate myself to our unit’s AO. There was always a lot of activity going on in the operations room (Ops Room) and I guessed it was on enemy assessments and where we would be redeployed after our short rest.
There was also some time to catch up with the other officers in the unit. Generally, there was a gloom hanging over our heads. A major strike was needed to change this.
CT Signs Emerge, 18th April 1972
On the 18th April, at about 1500hrs, I was informed that a border scout had brought some “information”. We needed that! Lt Abdullah was called up to the Ops Room and when he returned, he called the Coy’s Orders group: “This morning (18th April) a CT group made inquiries about crossing Sg Stamin at a jungle fringe at Kg Perian (about 20 kms south of Lundu). They were dressed in green and carried weapons. It is assessed this group intends to cross Sg Stamin and head to Bau using the track leading to the Lundu-Bau road. Coy Hq and No 2 Pl will investigate this. When we make contact, Baldev, you will do the follow up. Be ready to move from here (Tac Hq)”. I was ready.