The Real-Life Army Stories and Experiences of Corporal Beh Huat Soon S/NO 602060
Hi, I am Beh Huat Soon and I am going to share some stories based on real people and true events. Recalling all these stories and events are like opening the pages of my memories going back more than fifty years in time. I was born a Penang-kiah on 16th February 1945. I grew up at Air Hitam and had my early education at Methodist Boys School (MBS) Air Hitam.
Above picture is my Recruit Passing Out Parade at 2nd Battalion (Bn) Singapore Infantry Regiment (2 SIR) in 1965 when we were wearing short pants. I enlisted on 7th of December 1964 and recalled seeing an Army Recruitment Advertisement in New Strait Times back in 1964 regarding a Recruitment Team which will be in Penang to look for potential Army recruits. I spoke to my seniors in MBS who encouraged me to attend the interview. With other Kampong boys, I went for the interview and sat for an IQ Test which I passed and off I went to seek my fortune in Singapore.
I was trained in 2 SIR located at Temasek Camp, Holland Road and was given a month leave after my Passing Out Parade. When I returned to Singapore after leeave, I was a trained regular soldier, a rifleman with No. 3 Section, 6th Platoon (Plt), Bravo Company. At that time, I heard of how eight soldiers of Charlie Company were killed by Indonesian soldiers in the jungles of Kota Tinggi.
The above picture show soldiers from the 2nd Bn Singapore Infantry Regiment (Regt). They were the pioneers of 4 Royal Regiment Rangers (4 RRR). Following are the names of some of those people depicted in the picture which I still can recalled. Rahman Badak, Rahman great escape Dollah, Mat Remput, Hitam, Khamis, Loke Kok Heng and Yahaya Those in the same section with me were Rahman Dollah, Hitam, Mat Remput and Khamis.
One day one section of Charlie Company was on patrol in Kota Tinggi jungle. They were ambushed by Indonesia soldiers and eight soldiers including the Plt Sergeant (Sgt) were shot and killed. Rahman escaped unhurt and made it back to Temasek Camp. I have just finished my basic training and returned back to camp. I was ordered to smashed moth balls in the bathroom where I sat in a corner. I was smashing two large packets of moth balls when the first body was brought in and placed on top one of a G10 table. It was the Plt Sgt's body. There were several people around the dead body and I went for a closer look. It looked like he had taken a bullet in the back of his head and exited the right side of his face. It was a gaping hole. There were also parang slashes. There were maggots and there were worms. The whole bathroom did not smell good.
The Commanding Officer (CO) walked in and as he turned around and shouted at me and ordered me to take the shoes off the dead man. I buried them alongside the fences which was in front of my barrack. My troubles were not over yet. My Plt Sgt was looking for me. He told me to take my gun and wear clean fatigue and carry along pouches. We were going to send the Sgt body back to Tapah.
Inside the truck was a coffin with a decaying corpse sitting on a white mattress. The smell was overwhelming. Throughout the whole journey I stood behind the driver, looking ahead taking in fresh air, avoiding the unpleasant smell and sight It was many hours then we reached the Kampong. There were many people there and the box was quickly taken away, our truck turned around and we were on the way back to Singapore. I was tired and sleepy, the rubber mattress was still there, and it looked very comfortable and irresistible. Overcome by fatigue and sleepiness I slept on it. When I reached Temasek Camp, breakfast time was over, So I missed my breakfast, What a lousy@#$% deal but someone have to do the job though unpleasant as it is. I m glad that I did it as a token of respect for the demised Sgt and from one soldier to another.
Private Yahaya was my room mate during our recruit training. This time the operation (ops) was not in the jungle of Kota Tinggi, it was in a deserted Kampong. The truck took many hours to reach its destination. As I walked along the dirt path, I saw long rows of wooden houses standing on stilts.
On the right were many abandoned paddy fields. We went many miles inland and came to a place about 150 yards in front was a thick dense jungle. On the right was a river with dark looking water. And to the left were many coconut trees. There were no civilian, no piped water or electricity. We searched and patrolled for more than 10 days. There was no sign of Indonesian soldier. For more than 10 days we were out in the open. I did not at any time erected a tent with my poncho. Daytime was hot and humid; comes night-time it was raining and cold. My Section Commander was a 2nd Lieutenant, a Singaporean Chinese. He ordered each of us to take cover behind a coconut tree. They were going to bomb the jungle. He must have communicated with Tac HQ (Tactical Headquarters) and given them the coordinates for the bombing. Shoot anyone you see coming out of the jungle. It was raining and I did not see anyone because it was so dark, it was hard even to see my fingers placed in front of my own eyes.
The bomb came every hour on the hour. It stopped after midnight. In the morning there was no call for 'Stand To' because we were up the whole night. Then came new orders. He came yelling pack up and move. Go to main road. I ran and walk and ran and walk and saw a truck already there. It took about 20 to 30 minutes for the truck to reach our destination. The truck turned left into a dirt road. I saw there were many paddy fields overgrown with tall and wild plants. At the far end of the field, hiding in the bushes were 7 Indonesian armed soldiers. We did not know that. We moved along in a single file formation. At about 40 to 50 yards shots were fired at us I hit the ground.
But the Plt Commander (Comd) was still standing and gave orders and shouted get up.. get up.. extended line. He gave us the order to shoot, I sat on one leg and putting the gun to my shoulder I squeezed off with a rapid fire into the bushes. I change my position and empty all my bullets. All this happened very fast. Then we walked towards the bushes where the firing came from. I saw dead Indonesian soldiers. We found 2 alive hiding in the bushes. They were told to pull the 5 dead bodies out into the open. About 20 to 30 minutes later a truck came with Private Yahaya in it. He called and beckoned us to bring the dead bodies into the truck. I grabbed the wrist of a dead man and another man grabbed the other wrist, together we dragged it to the back of the truck. Yahya bent down and grab the dead man arms and pulled it into the truck.
It was difficult to load dead body onto the truck. It was soft limb and heavy. The black and blue bullet holes on the body and face wasn't much help. The ops were over. We were home in Temasek Camp in Singapore. It was 2 to 3 hours before dinner and I have to wash my dirty uniform, I was reluctant going into the bathroom. I wanted to get it over fast They have washed 8 dead bodies before in the same place.
It was still sometime before dinner. I woke up to the sound of bugle calling for dinner. It was a wonderful dinner as it was the first decent meal after so many days. After cookhouse I headed to the canteen and I saw there were already many people there. As I approached the canteen, I remembered I had only 50 cents. It can get me a pack of cigarette or a tin of cold tiger beer. The beer went down quickly after a couple of gulps. I felt light-headed and join the group shouting and talking to no one in particular. There was a black and white TV in the canteen. Someone switched on the TV and yelled Shindig.. Shindig.. it our favourite program. It was the 60s rock band a sing and dance musical. Everyone was so happy and enjoying themselves. All the happy and joyful mood it was trying to hide the fear, frustration and loneliness. All these soldiering wasn't…
I was still with 2 SIR back in the 60's. One day we were on our way to Tawau on board a ship named Auby. The ship stopped at a port called Jesselton, I managed to have a group photo taken in front of Jesselton Custom House.
I stayed at Tawau Camp for about two weeks, I was posted to Pulau Sebatik. In Pulau Sebatik there was a town called Wallace Bay. Tac Hq was based here, I didn't stay long at Wallace Bay this time. I was going to an outpost called Simpan Tiga. It was a long journey and we reached there late in the evening. Simpan Tiga was a place surrounded by heavy and thick barbed wires. Everyone lived in bunkers. There was trenches and was connected to every bunkers. There were also two Mortars in the trench. My Plt Comd and Sgt were already there when we arrived. They must have used the assault boat, upon seeing us the Sgt came over to give us a welcome lecture.
He pointed his finger towards the mountain. There is an enemy observation post watching our Camp. This place used to be their home ground and they remembered all those soldiers killed in the jungles of Kota Tinggi by 2 SIR. They enjoyed bombing the shits out of us. They got into our Bn; frequencies often and seemed to know a lot of things about us. On my third day I was detailed to go Mentadak, I was still preparing for the journey ahead when I heard the warning of bombs coming. They came closely following one another. I was already in Mortar bunker when the incoming bombs landed all around us. They were so near I could hear the impact. There landed with a thud followed by the explosion. There must have used delayed fuses.
Mentadak was a small base. It has bunker and trenches. It was on the top of a small hill and have the capacity to accommodate one section at any one time. From the base to the end of the ridge was about 150 yards further down the slope of the ridge was the Indonesian border.
On the evening of my second day we were ordered to lay ambush at the enemy. There were two trenches with helmets inside them. The bombs came this time and there was no one to warned us as all was already in the trench. The bombs rained into the jungle of the Indonesia border. It wasnt 'funny anymore when the incoming bombs fell nearer and nearer. Then one hit the top of a nearby tall timber tree leaves and branches came crashing down.
Amid all the noises I heard Mat Remput shouting: “ Cabut Cabut!! ” I stood up and I saw him pointing towards the base shouting Cabut Cabut. We ran together towards our base and standing in front of the entrance was our Plt Comd, one hand holding his SMG (Small Machine Gun)and his left hand pointing at us shouting; Get back Get back !. We dared not mess with him. We went back to the trenches, pissing was no big deal but shitting in the in the confined of a small trench did not smelled so good. Our relief came and we were on our way back to Simpan Tiga. This time the bomb came again. It felled very near, lying down face pressed hard to the ground I could feel the hot flashes of the exploding bombs. They must be using smaller bombs; the size of the craters was about two kitchen woks. If they have used an eight pounder; I wouldn't be around to type and tell these stories today, we reached base safely.
Now it's the end of our tour of duties in Sabah, we were now on our way back to Singapore on the same tin can of a ship. Upon reaching shore we were told that we cannot return to Temasek Camp. We lived under canvas tents in Farrer Park for many months. One day we were told to sign forms if we wanted to resign. I was given RM 200.00 and a train ticket home. They no longer neede us now after we have served 2 SIR dutifully and putting our lives in arms way. I am going home with only RM 200.00 to give to my parents. I was in the railway station when two soldiers came over to me. They told me if I want to join the Malaysian Arned Forces (MAF), I would be accepted as a trained soldier.
"1 SIR was formed in 1957, under the British auspices and 2 SIR followed in 1963. For two years between 1963 and 1965, Singapore was part of Malaysia, and the regiment was renamed the Malaysian Infantry Regiment. Both battalions saw service in the Confrontation, with 1 SIR posted to Sebatik Island in Sabah and 2 SIR to Labis, Johor. On Singapore's independence in 1965, the regiment regained its former name."
Source: Singapore Infantry Regiment; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_Infantry_Regiment
Later me and others from 2 SIR was met by representative Officers from the MAF who spoke to us about joining the Malaysain Army. I recalled around 20 of us were guided to a truck which took us to Batu Gajah Camp. We stayed a few days and were sworn in as regular soldiers of the Malaysian Army. We became the nucleus of 4 RRR which was formed on 28th March 1966 in Ipoh and our first CO waas Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Abdul Latif.
The Bn first visit to East Malaysia was to Serian. It was Christmas eve in Serian. I wanted to go to Kuching for a couple of days. As it was raining I took shelter in front of a row of shop houses. I was standing in front of a shop called Syn Syn Bookstore when a taxi came. As I was walking towards the taxi, I saw 2nd Lieutenant (2Lt) Chandran came saying we share, we share the fare. We were already near Kuching when five motorcycles followed us. Pointing to a row of wooden houses he directed the driver to drive into the back lane. He drove in as directed but he did not want to get out of his taxi. They came to drag him out, I saw they were pushing, shoving and pointing fingers at him, I then asked Chandran, do you have your browning with you? He replied no, I went over and talk to them; I spoke in Hokkien very nicely. I spoke to them I said we are soldiers and we have important things to do in Kuching. One of you drive us to Kuching what you do to him is not our business. I waited awhile not certain what was going to happen not knowing if they understand Hokkien. I was back in the taxi then I saw them pushing and pointing at the driver. The driver came back running towards the taxi. We were on the way to Kuching away from a bad situation. Back in Serian, Delta company moved to Balai Ringgin. It was a camp loccated between Semanggan (Sri Amam) and Serian. Across the road were jungles and the border.
One day a section from Delta company went out to patrol. Leading the section was 2Lt Alias, a Plt Comd and the radio operator was Osman, my sub-unit. When Osman came back, he did not report to me that he had lost a battery. We used A13 radios, the batteries were alkaline battery small and heavy. It must be tightly secured, or It will easily dropped out of its compartment. It was about 3 or 4 days later, it was nighttime, I heard someone at my door. He said, “Osman sudah hilang satu bateri, Tuan Alias suruh dia jangan cakap.”. The next morning, I checked and found one battery missing. By then Osmann had gone to Serian. I later found Osman and confronted him in his barrack. I said to him, “Osman awak sudah hilang bty dan tak bagi tahu saya. Tuan Alias sudah mengaku, lebih baik awak mengaku ssja.”. He stood up and said, “baik baik kalau dia mengaku, saya mengaku lah.” Will never know if 2Lt Alias did really tell him not to report the loss.
That was enough for me. I went to the RSI (Regiment Signal Instructor) in the radio storeroom. I found him and duly reported the lost battery situation to him and returned to the ration truck. Back in Balai Ringgin, I was still short of one battery. But I was not held accountable nor responsible for the loss.
My duty includes receiving and sending daily sitreps (Situation Reports) and delivering it to the OC (Officer Commanding). I was managing the radio alone and there were three radio operators, one for each Plt. They were young soldiers; privates(Pvt) and I do not recalled any of them offering to help me in my daily tasks. They were having an easier routine not have to attend parade and perform guard duties. Once in a while, they do local security patrol when their name turns up.
I was mostly on my own, sometimes I went to R&R by myself. It was a small room with a G10 table and some chairs. I took with me 2 tins of tiger beer and my guitar. I was enjoying myself. I found out that in the wrong crowd; working honestly by the book does make one unpopular. A few people including the three plt radio operators came in and they sat around the table. Then one of them started harassing and hurling personal remarks. I took it for a while but there was a limit to my tolerance. I went to him and hit him on the face. He felled backward onto the floor. Immediately I realized it was a wrong thing to do.
After Sandakan, the Bn went to Semanggan (Sri Aman.) Tac Hq was in Wong Padong and Delta company was based in Engkelili. The camp was surrounded by barbed wire. The OC was Captain (Capt) Voon Kah Cheng. I have three radio operators. The guards in the guard room make sure the names of all personnel leaving the camp are recorded and no one are allow to stay out late night. Late one night, one of my radio operators was missing in his room. I went to the guard room; I was told he, left last night and did not returned yet. I found him in the market, slumped over a table, there were some locals too. There were many empty Chap Lang Kow bottles on the table. I carried him on my back, piggyback home to his bed. Late next morning I heard him shouting "I have lost my wristwatch". His name was Raub.
I befriended an Iban Corporal (Cpl), a border scout. One morning he rushed in to see me. He said to me, you must go to the long house quickly. You must bring him out of the long house now. The headman is very angry, and many people don't like him. I ask him what it was about. He answered, Cpl Akam is getting married to that girl from the long house.
It was then the implications struck me. His presence was a threat and a danger to himself at the long house. I wanted to go and take my gun, but the border scout told me not to because it'll take too long. I was running to the gate, the border came behind me and said, take my gun. He handed me his Beretta semi-automatic 9mm. I pocked his gun and ran fast as I could. I found him in the long house. I grabbed his hand pulling him I said, we must get out quickly, look at all those people they were all carrying parangs their faces looked grim, angry and hostile.
A short story about Cpl Akam. It was in Engkelili, one section led by Capt Wong Kah Cheng, carrying seven days ration, we were on a long-range jungle patrol. One day we stopped and cooked our meals. It was already late in the evening Cpl Akam came to me and said to follow him. It was already dark when I saw a long house. He handed me his gun and he walked up the kitchen and climbed up the wall, separating the kitchen and bedroom. He must have got into the bedroom. Until today I still cannot figure out what was he doing in the long house. The story of Engkelili ends here as we prepared to go back to Ipoh. My last unit before leaving the Army was Penang Garrison where I was put in charged of the weapon store.
Corporal Beh Huat Soon S/No 602060 retired from the service on 7th December 1986 after serving with pride and dedication for 22 years He currently reside with his wife Mdm Lim Bee Geok in Bercham, Ipoh. MACVA is very proud of his service and sacrifices for King and country and wished him good spirit and good health in this retirement.
Recorded for MACVA Archives.
Maj Wong Kwai Yinn (Rtd)
7 Apr 20