In my last article, there was a mention made of Brig Gen Yusof Abu Bakar, who was popularly known as Jimmy Yusof, the first HQ 6th Brigade Commander. It was quite normal then, that officers who were trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, United Kingdom would return home with an English name. Hence, we had names like ‘Freddy Hashim’, ‘David Daud’, ‘Jack Yacob’, Jo Ghazali who all rose to become Generals of the Army. However, for those officers who were trained locally at the Federation Military College (subsequently renamed Royal Military College), somehow does not have English names.
Prior to his promotion as a Brigade Commander in 1969, Brig Gen Jimmy Yusof was the Director of Territorial Army, and was succeeded by the late Col Mokthi Jabar, whom I served, when he was the Commanding Officer 6th Royal Malay Regiment based in Kluang, Johore. Col Mokhti Jabar also had an English name and was fondly called ‘John Mokhti’.
Upon receiving my posting orders to HQ 6th Brigade sometimes towards the end of 1969, I was instructed to report to Mindef, to be interviewed by the newly appointed Commander. It was there, that I was told to move to Sg. Petani to take over the Gurkha Boy’s Brigade HQ, that was to be the HQ of the newly raised 6th Brigade.
I received further instructions from Major Zarazilah Ali who was the newly appointed DAA & QMG of the Brigade, (presently referred to as Staff Officer Grade 2 Administration and Logistics) who had a temporary office at Mindef. He told me that I was the Staff Captain ‘Q’ (presently Staff Officer Grade 3 Logistics), and that I was to lead the advance party to Sg. Petani, with four vehicles loaded with stores and equipments. I had never been to Sg. Petani before, and neither would I dare show my ignorance by telling Major Zarazilah that I do not know where Sg. Petani was. As junior officers, we were told never to say I don’t know, but to show a face of confidence all the time.
The following day, after having collected the stores at Batu Cantonment, and having loaded them onto our vehicles under the charge of WO 2 Subari, we proceed to Sg. Petani. We arrived Sg. Petani in the evening after a torturous 10 hour drive. Please note that the North–South highway was non existence then. Non of us knew where the HQ was located; hence we had to ask a local who guided us to the abandoned Gurkha Boy’s Brigade HQ along at Jalan Sg. Layar.
It was getting dark when we arrived, and the electricity to all the buildings had been disconnected. We checked into some of the buildings which were not locked, but because it was dark, we all decided to sleep in the garage next to the main entrance to the HQ, where the street lights had brightened up the surrounding area.
The next few weeks, officers that had received their new posting orders began reporting to the HQ for duty. It would take a few more weeks, before more stores would arrived at Sg. Petani, both by train and vehicles from Kuala Lumpur, to equip the offices, and the other rank’s accommodation. Since there was no proper Officers Mess, the officers that had arrived unaccompanied, were accommodated at the Sg. Petani Rest House, until such time that the Officers Mess was fully renovated, and this took several months.
Here, I wish to recall from memory, the first batch of officers to be posted to HQ 6th Brigade, as under:
1. Brig Gen Yussof Abu Bakar - Commander
2. Maj Malcom Campbell - Brigade Major
3. Maj Zarazilah Ali - DAA & QMG
4. Maj Kam Yoon Sang - OC Signal Squadron
5. Maj Omar Ibrahim - Camp Commandant
6. Capt Ghazali Ibrahim - G 3 Ops
7. Capt Aziddin Othman - G 3 Int
8. Capt Lian Yoon Meng - SC ‘A’
9. Capt Mohd Arshad Raji - SC ‘Q’
10. Capt Taib Mohamed - BOO
11. Capt Gerry Albuquque - BSTO
12. Capt Darus - Bde Paymaster
13. Capt Dalbir Singh - SO 3 TA
14. Capt Raja Harun Raja Ismail - Brigade Education Officer
15. Capt Teoh - Second-in-Command, 6 Brigade Signal Squadron
16. Capt Abd Rahman Khir - Signal Squadron, Troop Commander
The Commander had arrived at the HQ unaccompanied, and since there was no available military quarters for him, he had to be accommodated in a rented house at Harvard Estate, that had a 9 hole golf course. It was a reasonably large brick house built for the Estate Manager, that had 3 large bedrooms. During the night, the house being isolated, can be very lonely and scary too. And knowing that the Commander was not a person who likes to live in the house alone, officers were ordered to accompany the Commander for the night on a rotational basis. I had on several occasions been tasked to accompany the Commander, and had to sleep in the same bedroom, on a bed close to him. This was where the Commander would tell me lots of bedtime stories of himself and his family, and it was only then that I knew how close my Commander was to his wife, and his 5 children, who were all girls.
It took the Brigade almost a year to be fully operational, and the Brigade was designated the Border Brigade that was responsible for all military operations astride the Thai-Malaysia border, stretching from Perlis in the West, to Kelantan in the East. It was the beginning of the ‘Second Emergency’, and the Brigade had troops deployed all along the border areas. Military operations then was rather intense and troops coming in contact with the communist terrorist was quite a regular feature. Manning the Operations Room during period of intense operations can be worrisome for those officers assigned as Duty Officers. And if a contact with the communist terrorist is established by troops, a Duty Officer for that day was sure not to have sleep for the night. This was because, the officer on duty would have to be alert to calls that comes in at odd hours, and the regular reports that he had to make to the Commander, and to the higher headquarters.
The Commander being responsible for military operations throughout the border areas, will have an exhaustive time travelling on a helicopter to visit troops. And each time the Commander makes his visit, an officer will be assigned to accompany the Commander. I am one of those who hates travelling in a helicopter, and the Commander happens to know this. During one of the Commander’s visit to Kelantan, and on our return to Sg. Petani, the Commander who must have observed that I was restless in the air, had ordered me to disembark from the helicopter at Alor Star airport, and told me to return by road in his staff car, back to Sg. Petani. How glad I was upon being ordered to return by road, as this saves me the agony of having to continue to visit several more places in Kedah, by helicopter.
Ten years on i.e. in 1980, I was once again posted to 6th Brigade to assume the appointment of Brigade Major, and with Brig Gen Jack Yacob as its Commander. My second posting to 6th Brigade was not as exciting as the first, although I now held a more senior appointment. Military operations was not as intense, and the HQ was now involved in military exercises, something that I had no particular interest. I would prefer to work all night on actual operations, rather than on exercises.
It was only a year ago that I travelled to Sg. Petani, and stopped in front of HQ 6th Brigade. The landscape had not change much, and the HQ itself is still the same old solid grey building. But what had changed was the garage where I slept during my first day at the HQ in 1969, that is now Guard Room.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION