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7th Rangers: Exercise Taiaha Tombak (Taiaha – Two-handed striking weapon in Maori, Tombak – Spear in Malay) - Edited

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Exercise Taiaha Tombak (Taiaha – Two-handed striking weapon in Maori, Tombak – Spear in Malay) - Edited
Thursday, July 04, 2024

When Col Habhajan was the CO, under him we participated in Exercise Taiaha Tombak (Taiaha – Two-handed striking weapon in Maori, Tombak – Spear in Malay). This was an exercise with the New Zealanders. The New Zealanders, Royal Malay and 7th Rangers were the blue force under 4 Brigade.

The red force was 8 Brigade. The Royal Malay and the New Zealanders were to advance by vehicles on road to Gua Musang by road from Kuala Lipis. Whereas Seventh Rangers were to advance on foot cross-country. The road distance is 95.3 kilometers whereas cross-country is 117 kilometers. This was an exercise under the 4th Division.

We had many bounds to cross which was to monitor the progress of an advance. We were advancing to contact (to get into grips with the enemy). We were tasked to bypass all red force areas at the earlier stages We were carrying combat rations and in full battle order. From Kuala Lipis to Gua Musang we had to trudge through young oil palm plantations, cross numerous streams and rivers.

The heat in the young oil palm plantations was very intense as they were still very short and did not provide cover from the sun as we were worn down by thirst. I was having problem with my knees and suffered pain of inner thigh chafing (bruising) by friction. The pain too was intense.

Which never happened to me before, whilst walking long distances. Meanwhile at Division Headquarters they were betting that Seventh Rangers would take a week to arrive at Gua Musang. Major Muhammad Sultan bin Ismail, who was previously an OC of D Company, Seventh Rangers said that it would only take 4 days.

There was a hill overlooking the Kuala Lipis - Gua Musang road. It was given a name “Ramona”. We were heading towards it to occupy and dominate it. As we were moving I was in front of the Battalion column with the Battalion Headquarters. In front of us were two other rifle companies.

I saw a land rover with Military Police from 8 Brigade, they were in a rubber plantation I was thinking hey, they are screwed. The Military Police realized we were the enemy and fled, had we been a bit quicker we could have a captured land rover in our possession. We gave chase and opened fire at them with blanks.

I guess the Military Police did not report to the higher ups, so no one knew our presence. A convoy, of trucks were passing by from 8 Brigade, they were sending freshly cooked food to their forward troops. We captured the convoy of two trucks. Took their food and the men as prisoners. Our boys ate the food.

They were protesting that it was for their boys in front. Told them to stop protesting, we were the enemy. At night another disaster happened to them. The enemy Brigade Commander was a Chinese convert, apparently thinking he was Rommel, drove past a fighting section (10 men) commanded by Corporal Jack Minan.

He hurled a thunder flash at the staff car in which the General was. The General stopped the car, got out and was very furious, “Do you not know whom I am? I am the 8th Brigade Commander”. Corporal Jack Minan replied, “General or not general, do you want to be captured or killed sir?”

Seriously due respect was given, even if the General was bloody stupid getting shot at by a mere Corporal and his men. The General was in an apoplectic fit. The red force was thinking we were still very far away. We were moving towards Gua Musang. We hardly slept during the 3 days and nights. That is why we managed to break everyone’s perception that we could not do it that fast.

They underestimated us. Assumptions are the mother of all fuck ups. Even the New Zealanders could not believe we were that fast. The reason was there were so many streams and rivers with quite high hills. We had an advantage, the UCIS Platoon was leading. Not under me but under another younger Commander, who too qualified from the Special Warfare Training Center.

The GOC, the Commander of the 4th Division under whom were 4th Brigade and 8th Brigade, operated was flabbergasted as his exercise plan was in a disarray, it did not go according to the script.

I managed to complete this route this time with my swollen knees and my chaffed thighs, Ranger Tararasen and Ranger Ducy Sid helped me to complete this route, without them, I would have not completed the route. They stuck with me through thick and thin, crossing all the rivers and streams as I was not a very good swimmer. They helped to carry my load and cook for me and prepare my place for the short rests we had. Seventh Rangers screwed up their plans.

Shit happens, which was a blessing we stood down for 3 days. We indented beers and rested under the oil palm trees to catch up on our much-needed blissful sleep.

Lt Colonel Harbhajan Jagat Singh

If one, who does not know the Colonel, his demeanor is that of a calm and a very unassuming person. Don't be deceived, when the call came, he answered.

The Colonel in Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng's Book Nation Before Self and Values that do not die, Page 215

The Colonel was from Intake SSC 11, Royal Military College 1967. He was commissioned into 4th Rangers, served there for 6 years. After that went on to become an Instructor at the Recruit Training Center in Port Dickson.

As for normal Officers from the Infantry have to move on, from RTC to 3rd Rangers at Camp Kukusan in Sabah, then the Unit moved to Camp Terendak, he was then the 2IC of the Battalion, the Battalion received it's Colors in 1980. Recent photo of the Colonel Then it was time to move on, he was made an Instructor in the Company Commander's Course of the Army Combat Training Center.

He was made the OC of the Company Commander's Wing for his remarkable training skills. After that went on to become an Instructor at Officer Cadet School. Soon he was posted out to 5th Rangers to become the 2IC at Camp Wardieburn. From there he became the Commanding Officer of Seventh Rangers located in Sri Aman, Sarawak in May 1987 until they moved to Mentakab, in Pahang.

His favourite sport was Sepak Takraw, without fail he played the game nearly every evening with his boys and officers. He was very adept at that game. From there moved to the 509 Regiment in Penang, before his compulsory retirement in 1995. He is proficient in many languages, of course he speaks Punjabi as he is a Punjabi, fluent in Tamil, many an Indian soldier or Officer got their shellacking in Tamil.

He is very fluent in Hokkien too, sadly, not enough of them to receive his wrath but sufficient and he could tear a hole in any Dayak soldier fluently in Iban. The Battalion was on Counter Insurgency Operations in 1973, Col Harbhajan's Alpha Company was kept in reserve. Being the reserve Company, a very dangerous mission fell on his head.

One of the most outstanding and life threatening mission undertaken by him was in the peace negotiations with NKCP leader Bong Kee Chok to surrender along with 481 of his supporters.This negoatiation was led by the Head of the Special Branch of the Royal Malaysian Police, Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng.

In the Book "Nation Before Self" written by him he mentions Lt Col Harbhajan Singh on page 215. Lt Col Harbhajan Singh served in Sarawak in 1967 with 4th Rangers as a Platoon Commander, in the Serian area for 6 months. After which he returned to Ipoh, his base camp.

Served on other operational duties in various parts of Malaysia. In 1972 he returned to Sarawak and served as an Adjutant of 4th Rangers in Camp Wong Padong about 10 kms from Simanggang (now Sri Aman). Camp Pakit was not in existence then. He was involved in various hearts and minds projects in and around the villages and Long Houses in the Engkilili area.

The Military presence there brought about a sense of Security for the people in that area. The duration he operated there was 9 months. At the end of 1972 he returned to the base camp in Ipoh to carry out operational duties at the Malaysia/Thai border against the Communist Party of Malaya Insurgents.

In 1974 he was transferred to Sibu, Sarawak for two years, stationed at Camp Oya, under the Rajang Area Security Command (RASCOM). He carried out operations in the Bintangor and surrounding areas during the peak of the Communist Insurgency. An outstanding and suicidal mission was tasked to him.

He was to provide security for the Head of the Special Branch RASCOM, Superintendent Yuen Yuet Leng (later promoted to Commissioner and was made a Tan Sri after retirement). This was a top secret mission to discuss the terms of surrender with the Leader of a group of 100 Communist Terrorists.

They wanted to discuss the terms only with Superintendent Yuen Yuet Leng. That started the launch of Operation Sri Aman in 1974. The meeting with 8 section leaders was to be held at a location in the Paradom area, where the Landing Point for the helicopter would be prepared by the Communists themselves. The orders for this operation was given by the RASCOM Commander himself, the mission was termed ‘Suicide Mission’.

 He served in various assignments in the Army after that. On the 1st May 1987 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel to Command 7th Rangers in Camp Pakit, Bandar Sri Aman. It was an after thought by Tan Sri Yuen, where he squeezed in the role played by the Colonel, when he recollected the role payed by Col Harbhajan.

Which was indeed an important one. Col Harbhajan at that time was the OC of A Company 4th Rangers, he was based in Camp Oya, Sibu, Sarawak. His operational playground was in the Rajang Area Security Command (RASCOM). He was called up, his orders were given by the GOC himself, General Jamil.

He was to select 15 of his best men to provide close protection to Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng the Head of the Special Branch. The thoughts running through his head was whether he will come back and see his beloved family again......or feel the sweet flow of ice cold beer downs his thirsty throat.

This was a do or die mission, he held on to the highest traditions of the Ranger Corps and pushed aside his doubts. The following day they were deployed by Nuri to an LP. That LP was constructed by the Communist Terrorists, no one was sure if that location was booby trapped. The LP was located in a valley.

The helicopter hovered over the LP. The down wash from the helicopter's rotors were very strong and the elephant grass and bushes were swaying on that misty morning, the Booby Trap Clearing Team and some members of the protection team jumped down avoiding the stumps on the ground. The BCT cleared the LP giving the 'all clear' that the LP was not booby trapped.

The Colonel sent his men into whatever good fire positions there were. He realized that they were outgunned and outnumbered. Then again he would give them a fight that they will remember. Once the all clear was given an Alouette Helicopter carrying the Head of the Special Branch, Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng landed.

In another Alouette was a Major Maniam from the Artillery Regiment, took up his role as the Forward Observation Officer in an Air Observation Post, to rain down fire on that area with an Artillery Barrage, in the event things did not go according to plan. That area was a registered target.

During the operation if anything untoward were to happen it was Col Harbhajan's call to bring out the Head of the Special Branch, dead or alive at all costs!! That, the Head of the Special Branch did NOT know! The operation was nicknamed "Suicide Mission". Col Harbhajan located a GPMG team around the LP, the Commander of the team reported via radio that there were around 80 CT's all around the LP, ready to open up on Col Harbhajan and his merry men if they felt threatened.

The Head of Special Branch handed over a list of names of all the CT Leaders named after cigarette brands to Leong Chee Wah, the Depury Head of the Special Branch. Fortunately nothing happened which resulted in the CT's returning to Society. One of the conditions was that they be termed as "Returned Enemy Personnel" NOT Surrendered Enemy Personnel.

Amongst the Head of Special Branch's team was a Sergeant Lim who had the uncanny ability to determine if the CT's were sincere or not, this Sergeant had the ability to recognize the CT's even with old photographs. No one knew about this mission, Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng added Col Harbhajan as an afterthought on page 215, as he himself had forgotten about that "Suicide Mission".

It was a mission where everything could have gone wrong, resulting in his death and of his men. Yet the Colonel stood up to be counted, the nation and the people owe him, not many can say that they were on a suicide mission. He can and he did!!!
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 8:31 PM  
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