Borneo

 

 

In 1963 22 SAS was sent to Borneo under the overall local command of Major General Walter Walker. Indonesia was sending troops and insurgents across the Sarawak border to destabilise the region. Walker, impressed by the SAS in Malaya was convinced that a “hearts and minds” campaign would also work in Borneo. Lieutenant Colonel John Woodhouse, a Malayan Veteran commanded 22 SAS in Borneo, he is considered by many to be the farther of the modern SAS. It was here that he refined and honed the “classic 4 man patrol”, as the war developed it was decided that the best kind of defence was attack, to hit the Indonesians before they crossed the border. It became the SAS's role to penetrate the Indonesian border undetected and gather intelligence; these “claret operations” became the new sting to the refined “hearts and minds” campaign. These patrols minus any form of identification would disappear for months at a time, having located the enemy, elaborate ambushes were planned involving the Gurkhas, strike aircraft and heavy artillery, the “claret raids” were a complete success. Harassed and demoralised the Indonesians will to fight had been crushed, commonwealth forces killed more than 2000 Indonesians at a loss of 115 servicemen, 22 SAS lost 3 men and 2 were wounded. The war came to an abrupt end when the Indonesian Government was overthrown and the new one ended the campaign.

 

SAS trooper in Broneo (1966)

 

 

An inscription found on a tree near the border with Kalimantan read………

 

"Go No Further, Winged Soldiers of England"

 

 

 

The isle of Borneo consists of the regions Sabah (former North Borneo), Brunei, Sarawak, and Kalimantan. Kalimantan, the biggest part, belongs to Indonesia.

 

Natives originally named the whole island Brunei. The Europeans later called it Borneo.

 

In December 1962 a revolt broke out in Brunei which that was crushed with the aid of British troops.

 

In 1963 Malay, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah together wanted to create the Federation of Malaysia. The Indonesian president Sukarno had his own plans for the region and wanted to add the countries to his empire.

 

 

SAS medic practising hearts and mind policy

 

 

Iban Longhouse

 

The SAS was eager to get involved in the region, as there were possibilities for the expertise of the Regiment. At first General Walker wanted to use the SAS as a mobile reserve unit.

This would have been a waste of their talents.

 

A lot was learned from the time in Malaya but this proved to be another type of conflict.

Malaya was considered an emergency; Borneo was called a confrontation.

The SAS operated in three stages:

 

Main goal was the protection of the Sarawak border about 700 miles long.

A lot of the terrain is covered with thick sometimes-unmapped jungle.

The terrain was often mountainous with steep edges and some large almost impenetrable swamps. Some rivers could also be used to get near the borderline.

 

 

 

Back into the jungle

 

In 1963 “A” squadron started their first four-month tour.

 

They started with 21 SAS patrols of two to four man each.

 

Each patrol covered a distance of 150 km of land and the villages in that area.

 

As the SAS had insufficient men to seal off the entire border the 'hearts and minds' policy was used as they made contact with the local population. The SAS lived outside the villages, making contact with the local people during the day. SAS patrols would provide early warning of incursions across the border by Indonesians and/or Chinese Communists. A large reaction force of infantry could then be called upon to deal with the problem. Large distance radios were taken along on patrol. Small SAS patrols lived in the jungle (ulu) for months at a time.

 

The SAS had not enough men to seal off the entire border so the heart and minds policy was used to make contact with the local people. Living outside the villages the SAS made contact during the day with the local people. Respect and real friendship, and later living with the tribes inside the longhouses provided the support needed. Medical help, and speaking the language and dialects became important.

 

The villagers became the eyes and ears of the SAS. Information of enemy movement across the border was obtained from the villagers who went across for trading and hunting.

Some jungle forts with British infantry were set up close to the border.

 

 

Hearts and minds

 

Border crossing by the SAS was not allowed in the beginning. Officially, war was not declared by Britain or Indonesia and any large escalation of the "confrontation" was to be prevented.

 

Some local tribesmen were trained by the SAS to assist as Border Scouts. Their training was later taken over by the Ghurkhas.

 

All the border areas were visited and in some cases mapped in the process. A squadron commander John Edwards travelled almost the whole border on his own to contact his teams.

 

Shoot 'n' scoot

 

The jungle is hard and very dangerous in wartime. Great caution was taken by the patrols not to leave any traces. Walking was done off tracks, and the vegetation could not be cut away. Leaves and grass were sometimes put back as to leave no sign of passing.

 

Moving is a disadvantage in the jungle. Lots of time is spent waiting and listening for signs of the enemy, sometimes 20 out of 30 minutes. The mental pressure is intense. Visibility is often not beyond a couple of meters, and around every corner there may be an enemy ambush. Most of the time it is hard routine; no lights, smoking or hot food. Canned sardines became very popular.

Moving should be silent and without a trace. Whispering became standard. Some men still even whispered when back in England...

 

Nutrition is also a problem. Because of the duration of the patrols a maximum weight was set to keep the soldiers fighting fit. That resulted in about 22 kg of supplies, sardines and dehydrated food etc. in the rucksacks. The needed energy was higher than given by the food. The men lost a lot of weight out on patrol and looked like ghost when they emerged out of the jungle.

 

Some SAS soldiers did not think highly of their enemy because they were easily found. Traces of urine, crushed grass, bruised moss, broken bark on exposed tree roots and sometimes even cigarettes gave them away.

 

 

 

Uphill with rucksack and webbing

 

Map reading, notice the Armalite AR15’s

 

Jungle routine

 

In 1964 permission was given to cross the border into Kalimantan.

These ultra-sensitive operations were called Claret operations. The first patrols were limited to 3 km across. Later the maximum distance was about 20 km. Four man patrols of experienced men were to leave nothing behind.

 

Main goal was information on kampongs and the forward bases of the enemy.

Detailed maps were made and suitable ambush sites marked.

Counter strikes by artillery and later by infantry groups led by SAS guides were the next step. The enemy got no rest on his own ground and his morale was lowered.

 

SAS patrols later, also, attacked enemy approach routes, ambushed tracks and rivers. Sometimes they only succeeded after several attempts, as with the ambush at Koemba river. Finding a way across the swamps was very difficult. Eventually, after hard study of air pictures and with info of preceding patrols, success was achieved. A large vessel was ambushed and sunk.

 

The rivers are the highways of the jungle and the Indonesians used them for transportation.

 

The SAS soldiers called themselves The Tiptoe Boys. They hit swiftly and then vanished into the jungle. Booby traps were also placed. The Claymore mine was taken into use. The American Armalite became popular. This light rifle is ideal for use in the jungle. In some cases however the penetration power of the SLR was preferred.

 

The small SAS patrols avoided direct contact with the enemy, however, if enemy fire contact was made the policy was to break contact as soon as possible so as to live and fight another day.

 

The enemy came often grouped in large groups of 10 to 50 men. In some cases two hundred men crossed the border.

 

The Australian SASR and New Zealand SAS also served in the campaign. The New Zealanders had the best trackers in the world.

 

In 1964 B squadron was raised, trained and deployed.

 

The SBS was also active in the region.

 

The SAS worked closely with the Guards Independent Parachute Company (in 1966 some of them formed C sqn.) and the Ghurka Independent Parachute Company. They were trained in the SAS jungle role.

 

In 1965 operations across the border got more intense. The hunter-killer teams became bigger. In some cases success was achieved because the Indonesians attacked what they thought to be small SAS teams.Slowly the Indonesians withdrew their forwards bases close to the border.

 

Another patrol

 

A coup in Indonesia replaced Sukarno and in 1966 the war ended. On 11 August 1966 peace was declared.

The SAS had played a vital role in the conflict.

 

The British and Commonwealth troops lost 115 men and 181 were wounded.Six SAS soldiers died.Among them three staff veterans due to a helicopter crash.Helicopters played an important role in the campaign.

 

The Indonesian troops had 590 men killed and 222 wounded. (Of those who could be counted.)

 

The number is higher for casualties across the border.

 

Another 771 were captured.  

 

 

The SAS in Borneo

 

When the North Kalimantan National Army launched a revolt in the Sultan of Brunei on 8th December 1962 the Indonesian Confrontation began. British Forces Borneo Territories was set up in late December 1962 and within days Lieutenant-Colonel John Woodhouse, of 22 SAS, and his signaller arrived in Borneo with new Morse radio sets, which were the only method of reliable communication in jungle operations. Three days after Woodhouse's visit, 'A' Squadron 22 SAS was deployed to Borneo.

Although numbering less than 100 men, 'A' Squadron deployed along the 1,500km border between Indonesian Kalimantan and Sarawak and Sabah. Aided by local tribesmen, the SAS four-man teams could supervise vast areas of jungle tracking signs of Indonesian activity and the jungle itself prevented Indonesian fast movement allowing reinforcements to be helicoptered in ahead of the Indonesians to set up ambushes.

Most of the tribesmen spoke Malay as did many of the troops, most of whom had operated in Malaya. Some had not seen many white men before so their confidence had to be gained. Each team located the largest village in its area and set up a hide nearby to monitor movements through the village. They introduced themselves once they were satisfied that the Indonesians were present in the area and paid their respect to the village headman.The troopers accepted food and hospitality from their hosts before retreating to their hides. In each four-man patrol was a medic and medical aid was provided to the villages building up mutual trust. As mutual trust built up the patrol moved into the edge of the village and would help the villagers with daily tasks when not out gathering intelligence.

Once established, the patrols moved out to spread the word along the border of the threat from the south. If the headman was unimpressed, they told him to cut down a patch of trees and the army would arrive to protect them. The patrol then called up a helicopter-borne company of Ghurkhas once a clearing was established and they arrived on cue.

When the Indonesians made their first major raid into Sarawak against the police post at Tebedu, 'A' Squadron was already established in the villages, but the SAS were not in position, at this time, to block this retreat.

In mid-May, 'D' Squadron relieved 'A' Squadron in the villages and continued the hearts and minds campaign, spreading the word of the threat from the south and eroding what little support the Indonesians had among the tribes.

There were too many tribesmen to move into fortified settlements so some of the young men from each village volunteered and were trained in the use of firearms and defensive tactics. The British Army supplied rifles and ammunition and this native force became known as the Border Scouts. After three weeks of training they returned to their home regions led by small teams of Ghurkhas. The Border Scouts were not properly trained troops, and although ideal as trackers and couriers were no match for a regular soldier.

As the conflict in Borneo escalated, selection at Hereford was accelerated as 'B' Squadron was reformed and became operational in January 1964.

Following the Indonesian attack on Kalabakan, the Indonesian Army became openly involved in the conflict and 'B' and 'D' Squadrons had sufficient manpower for cross-border raids into Kalimantan. Slowly, SAS patrols, guided by local tribesman, established the lie of the land south of the border into Indonesia. The first patrols wore normal British Army uniforms and carried standard issue Self-Loading Rifles so that the claims of lost soldiers could be upheld if the patrols were discovered.

Later, the SAS reverted to their specialist weapons including shotguns and Armalite rifles. The SAS had two specific tasks - long-range patrols and guiding regular forces on cross-border operations. The long-range patrols were tasked with finding Indonesian supply lines, bases and reconnoitering suitable ambush sites. These patrols usually lasted three weeks with all supplies carried by the patrol, and supplies were reduced as the patrols penetrated further to allow fast movement eventually reaching just 15lb of dehydrated rations per man in a pack with water bottles, survival kit and ammunition all being carried on the belt.

The men had less than a week at the end of each patrol to recuperate due to the shortage of manpower, and at the end of a three-patrol tour they were normally flown back to Hereford for a few weeks rest. The troopers were limited to shoot and scoot operations to keep casualties to a minimum as helicopter casualty evacuations in Indonesia were not possible.

Full cross-border operations by British infantry units began in June 1964, which were guided by SAS troopers and these missions remained top secret for a long time due to political sensitivity about putting British troops into a country not technically at war with Britain. These were the Claret Operations.

The Claret Operations are covered elsewhere in this chapter. The SAS four-man reconnaissance patrols were not strictly classified as being part of these operations and were not normally subject to the stipulations made on the raids. Occasionally the Indonesians would bounce the SAS patrols in their territory, but the superior training and experience of the SAS were often enough to regain the advantage. Some troopers were injured and a small number killed, and one is believed to have been captured and tortured to death.

In April 1965, the Indonesians mounted a major attack on the British 2 Para Company base at Plaman Mapu. The raid was eventually routed by the garrison but two of the paratroopers died of their wounds and another eight were injured. This raid galvanized the General Staff and overt cross-border raids were authorized with Ghurkha and British Army battalions penetrating Kalimantan over the next few months, killing nearly 100 enemy soldiers for the loss of only four men.

Indonesia mounted one last 50-man invasion in March 1966 that ended with the loss of 37 men. Following this raid Indonesia began negotiations with Malaysia and a peace treaty was signed on 11th August 1966.

 

Video - Jungle Green - 1964

 

Link for full version :- http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00hhrf6/Jungle_Green_Borneo/

NOT QUITE SAS - but YOU GET THE PICTURE ?

 

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ARTICLE - WEEKEND TELEGRAPH SUPPLEMENT JULY 1966

 

 

 

 

 

Article: Weekend Telegraph Supplement: No.95: 22nd July 1966.

 

 

Written by IAN WARD.

Photographed by SEAN FLYNN.

 

They joined a SAS patrol in the Sarawak jungle.

 

“These Men are Dangerous” The words: Adolf’s Hitler’s. The year 1942.

 

The Special Air Service had just been formed to raid enemy lines. Hitler ordered that its members, if caught, were to be shot. The SAS, one of the least-known British units, is now even more dangerous, and far more experienced. In Borneo, its men work in small teams to obtain information about guerrillas. They live in the jungle for months – using its dank undergrowth and crawling insects as defence.

 

The four sun-tanned Englishmen sit low in the long native canoe. Their faces are set and silent as eyes scan the tumbling jungle hugging the river banks which slip by on either side.

 

The rushing water tearing at the sides of the narrow wooden craft driven by an outboard motor sets a monotonous accompaniment to the staccato jungle sounds all round. Perched high on the overhanging prow, two Iban boatmen, their muscular bodies beaded with sweat, fend off rocks with bamboo poles, while a third in the stern struggles against the current to steer the perilous up-stream course.

 

The angry lurching of the boat is unnoticed by the Englishmen. All attention is focused on the hanging, matted greenness which is slowly closing in on them the further they push in to the olive headwaters of Sarawak’s Rajang River.

 

SECRET ASSIGNMENT, Upper Rajang, Sarawak. Three thousand yards from the Indonesian border the river narrows and cascades over rapid after rapid. The long native canoe, its 40 horse-power outboard motor racing, buffets the current and the rocks as the four man SAS team brace themselves against the sides.

 

The scene is clearly alien to the plush, cocktail-world of James Bond. Yet the four pairs of eyes straining into the tangles vines and creepers are as keen and perceptive as any that seduced a curvaceous enemy agent across a vodka martini. These are the eyes of real-life intelligence gatherers. Britain’s Special Air Service troops…the present 007’s of the Borneo jungles, whose activities are always shrouded with secrecy.

 

Their licences to kill rest across their arms as they squat in the canoe. American-made M16 Armalites are a far cry from the pearl-handled German Walther PPK 7.65mm revolver carried by Bond. There is, however, no comparison in the punches packed by the respective weapons.

 

On land, the SAS men sometimes commute by Landrovers. But mostly travel on foot. Never in a Bond-type Bentley.

 

Like Bond’s, their clothes are carefully chosen. Regular Army issue fatigues. Much of their equipment, including miniature radio transmitter/receivers, maps, codes and survival gear is specially designed. So are most of their tactics which, derived from 25 years of experience, have developed to sophistication unequalled the world over.

 

They are the cream of the British Army, the minute percentage pass-rate of a gruelling selection course designed primarily to test a man’s mettle and his ability to withstand conditions beyond the reaches of normal human endurance.

 

The SAS originated during the North Africa campaign in the summer of 1941. Permission was granted to the then Lieutenant David Sterling to form a small and elite parachute force to raid the enemy lines of communication. Initial operations were carried out on foot. By the summer of the following year the detachment had been issued with Jeeps armed with Vickers and 50 cal. Brownings. The popular targets became enemy airfields. Discussing the qualities needed by the SAS men at the time Lieutenant Stirling has written “Most of the work is night work and all of it demands courage, fitness and determination in the highest degree; but also, just as important, discipline, skill, intelligence and training.

 

As a result of the raid on Dieppe in August 1942, Hitler issued an order of the day stating that all commandos, parachutists and SAS would be treated as saboteurs and shot. “These men are dangerous,” said the Fuhrer. Time has passed, but nothing has changed, really.

A BROKEN TWIG, crushed foliage, depressed soil……all can point to a near- by enemy. These are some of the signs SAS men are trained to spot and evaluate.

 

MOST VULNERABLE MOMENT for the patrol: when rapids are too treacherous for the shallow-draft canoe. Then it’s out and push. But weapons are never out of reach.

 

Each theatre, be it in Europe, the Middle East or South-East Asia, presents its own particular SAS requirement. In Borneo the accent is on intelligence information, whether the enemy be armed Indonesian infiltrators or bands of local Communist guerrillas lying low in jungle hideouts.

 

Small SAS patrols vanish in to Borneo jungles for days, weeks, sometimes months at a time in search of data. Throughout their missions the only link with civilisation is via radio.

 

THE RADIO OPERATOR is also the cook. He dishes up iguana, but not monkeys….”When they’re skinned they look like human babies”.

 

Most other Western countries –notably America- reject the small size of British SAS patrols as being far too dangerous for combat conditions. But the theory behind the controversial operation is that minimum numbers offers a greater clandestine efficiency. The SAS achieves results far out of proportion to its relatively small strength.

 

Success or failure of a mission largely rests on the ability of a few highly trained individuals, all specialists in different fields, to work as a closely co-ordinated unit. Training has taught them to master the jungle’s natural hostility. Once done, the dank, stifling undergrowth with its fierce hornets, blood-sucking leeches, malarial mosquitos, and all the other crawling, creeping life that abounds there, becomes a friendly protector.

 

On patrol, regulations are rigid. No talking. Communications is reduced to hand signs. No smoking. In the airless jungle, smoke hangs and can easily be spotted or smelt by a suspicious enemy. Keep off tracks – SAS men who have devised near-to-silent methods of moving through the jungles will only tread on un-trodden ground.

 

A JUNGLE TEA BREAK. A stream provides water which, with sterilisation tablets added, is quite fit to drink.

 

Although armed with M16s and hand-grenades, an SAS jungle parol has a highly mobile role and is not intended for front-line combat.

 

If detected, the usual procedure is to break contact and withdraw. An SAS soldier is an interrogator’s dream so the rule is: no dead or wounded to be left on the battle field.

 

There’s no typical SAS team. The nature of their work demands too much individualism. The patrol that Sean Flynn and I joined was led by a 33 year old sergeant from Portsmouth. Married with two children, he served in Korea before joining the SAS in 1958. “It’s the autonomy of a patrol that’s so rewarding. Control accepts your word and acts,” he said.

 

Second member of the patrol: a 30 year old lance corporal from Gronant, Flintshire. Married with one child. Served in Malaya, Oman, Aden, North Africa. One of his skills is treating injuries-particularly gunshot wounds.

 

Another lance corporal, aged 28, from Coventry is skilled in operating the radio. He is a bachelor and former heavyweight boxer. Prides himself on his jungle culinary expertise. Alligator, iguana and snake dishes a speciality. Is squeamish about cooking monkeys though. “After you’ve skinned them they look just like babies.”

 

The last member of our patrol is a 34 year old trooper. A bachelor and ex-coalminer from South Yorkshire. Has natural language aptitude, speaks Arabic, and Malay. Chest tattoo reads “ Blood Group O Pos.” Laconic. “If we get lost in these jungles don’t worry. I’m a desert navigation specialist.”

 

WHEN PREPARED RATIONS RUN OUT, a patrol must live off the land. Fish or crocodile are equally edible and the patrol knows the easiest way to catch them.

 

 

THE THICKEST, dampest, most insect-ridden jungle makes the safest camp site. Reluctantly writer Ian Ward (centre) prepares to obey the order to bed down.

 

 

SICK PARADE, LONGHOUSE STYLE. The patrol’s doctor attends to a boy’s infected foot. If a case is too serious he calls for a helicopter ambulance.

 

IN A LONELY RIVER HUT, the “doc” stitches a parang wound, dispenses antibiotics and examines a sick baby while the rest of the patrol takes time off.

 

In Vietnam, “hearts and minds” operations have been smothered under the expanding conflict. In Borneo, where admittedly vastly different circumstances prevail, SAS teams skillfully spearhead kampong and longhouse programmes to a point where co-operation fform the hinterland population at last becmae virtually complete.

 

Admirable though this all seems, altruism is not the sole motivation. A grateful and sympathetic indigenous population is frequently the source of valuable jungle intelligence.

 

Nowadays the approach of an SAS patrol signals a time for celebration at an Upper Rajang longhouse. A welcoming party of heavily tattooed longhouse elders, giggling dark-eyed children and young men soon gathers. The invitation is quickly extended for the patrol to stay the night.

 

In the late evening light the patrol medic will hold his sick parade. First, bare-breasted longhouse women emerge with any sick or injured children. Then, courage bolstered, youngand old line up to receive treatment for cuts, sore throats, fever,stomach upsets and all other minor afflictions that seem constantly to plague longhouse life. Should there be any serious case the radio operator will call for immediate evacuation to hospital by helicopter.

 

Native food is then prepared for the visitors and the inevitable bottle of the potent longhouse brew, tuak is fetched….then another ….and another.

 

Conversation with the longhouse elders will often stretch well into the early hours as the SAS team delves for news of any local development which might throw light on enemy activity.

 

 

THE PENGHULU MASAM, an 80 year old Iban chief, wears a long-service medal to welcome the SAS patrol.

 

 

Jungle Warfare School

FARELF

Training Notes

Sept. 1968

Copied on CD in .pdf format

£4.50 each + p&p

to order email oddbod13@wingedsoldiers.co.uk.

Contents

 

1. Introduction. 19. Jungle Ranges.

2. Platoon Organisation & Equipment. 20. Booby Traps.

3. Silent Signals. 21. Searching Villages.

4. Immediate Action Drills. 22. Assault on Defended Village.

5. Navigation. 23. War Dogs.

6. Health. 24. Combat Tracker Teams.

7. Radio Communications. 25. The Attack.

8. Living off the Land. 26. Air Reconnaissance.

9. Poncho Shelters. 27. Air Supply.

10. Sentries. 28. Helicopters

11. Harbouring. 29. Joint Operations Room.

12. Visual tracking.

13. Movement by MT

14. Crossing Water and use of Waterways

15. Patrolling.

16. Ambushes.

17. Night Lighting

18. Tree Demolitions.

 

217 Pages

 

MALAYA

Jungle Training "Calvert" Style - Air guns at the Ready

Note- the fencing mask for protection.

Tree Jumping

 

Supply Drop

BORNEO

Helicopter Drop

Hearts and Minds

Gurka Support