recollections of 1 Topo Troop
in 3rd Division Sarawak1965
I have had my thinking cap on and here is the sequence of events,
as far as I can remember, from the start of the scheme up until I left
the Troop in September 1965.
Roy Wood assumed command of the Troop sometime in January 1965. I was away in Simanggang with Bob Barkhouse at the time, undertaking a survey for the proposed extension of the airfield there. The Troop at the beginning of January 1965, comprised Mick Pooley, Jim Butterworth, Andy Thomas, Al Claxton, Brian Houldershaw, Steve Fulford, Bob Barkhouse, Pete Mansell, Scouse McQueen and Jock Fergusson (Storeman). Brian Worthington, VM & Outboard Motor Mechanic had just been posted in from 54 Plant Sqn RE. He was still a Sapper at that time later transferring to REME. On my return from Simanggang, the Troop had relocated from an old house on the airport road to Bukit Lima camp and Roy Doubtfire, (Driver/Storeman and all round Fixer) had replaced Jock Fergusson.
Hill clearing commenced in late January, early February with Al Claxton playing a leading role and probably clearing (with Pete or Bob) the existing trigs at Mersing and Lumut. Al was awaiting a premature return to the UK on compassionate grounds although he didn't really want to go back. He took no further part in the scheme. Andy and one or other of the last named probably cleared the existing trig at Semalong and the new site at Dema. Bukit Batu was reserved for Mick Pooley and Myself as this was thought to be the one mountain which would cause us the most grief. It was thought that the choppers might not be able to hover at 6,000ft and that we might have to winch in much below that height and find our way to the top. In the event, we found a sparse plateau at about the 6,000ft mark and were able to jump out. This job took about a week and Mick and half the lads got out at that stage but I was marooned, due to thick cloud, and had to exist for a further 4 days on Jam Rolly Polly pudding and black tea before getting back to the Gaat. At this point I then had to return to Sibu and with only 4 days notice, sit my Tech II Trade Test. After this, the rest of the lads who were to be engaged in the observing of the scheme also came down to Sibu where we were fully briefed on the job in hand. We were joined at this stage by Pete Frampton (SSM) and Herman Basson (Staff Surveyor, L&S 1st Division Office, Kuching). After a few days we set out for Kapit together with all the new stores, in 2 LSTs belonging to the RASC/RCT and then onwards to Nanga Gaat by longboat.
Deployment commenced a few days later, late February, early March and was as follows:-
Echo 1-1 Pete Frampton and Steve Fulford (T3 an MRA2) to Bukit Lumut.
Echo 1-2 Mick Pooley and Brian Houldershaw (5inch Tavi and MRA2) to Bukit Mersing.
Echo 1-3 Herman Basson and Pete Mansell (T3 and MRA2) to Bukit Batu.
Echo 1-4 Andy Thomas and Bob Barkhouse (Tavi II and MRA2) to Bukit Semalong. Andy had to observe 32 rounds to everyone else's 16.
Each party was equipped with A13 radios and there were 5 radio checks each day. Base at Nanga Gaat had a C11 radio, call sign ZULU-ZULU. The initial task was to double triangulate and height Bukit Batu from the three existing trigs of Mersing, Lumut and Semalong. This took some 2 to 3 weeks, due to very bad weather. I was struck by lightning on my first evening on Mersing. It was also held up by Herman Basson's insistence on only measuring the EDM lines when conditions were exactly equal along all parts of the line. When all measurements had been completed, Echo 1-2 was transferred to Bukit Dema. The other teams remained in place and Dema was fixed and heighted. All in all, Phase 1 took some 6 weeks to complete.
Pete Frampton was medivaced (?) at the end of week 4. I cannot recall who replaced him but it must have been one from three, (Norman Brindle, Jim Cumpsty or Malcolm Scott). These lads had arrived in the Troop after our dispersal to the hills. Mick Pooley was medivaced at the end of week 5. He had cartilage problems and could not stand due to a badly swollen knee and he had handed over all the observations on Dema to me. He was replaced by Jim Butterworth, fresh from his honeymoon, which was a shame as all my obs were complete and we only had to light keep at that stage. We were finally extracted on Easter Monday, sometime in mid April. Do you have a calendar for 1965? We were then allowed a few days leave down in Sibu before returning to the Gaat to prepare for the next phase. Further hill clearing was in progress at this time, utilising the spare surveyors.
Here my memory becomes a little hazy but I will lay out what I believe to be correct. The deployment would commence early to mid May 1965.
Echo 1-1 Jim Butterworth and A.N. Other (T3 and MRA2) to Bukit Kayu.
Echo 1-2 Brian Houldershaw and Pete Mansell (5inch Tavi and 2 x MRA2) to Bukit Tasu.
Echo 1-3 Steve Fulford and A.N.Other (T3 and MRA2) to Bukit Majau. (Light keeping and EDM).
Echo 1-4 Andy Thomas and Bob Barkhouse (Tavi II and MRA2) to Bukit Dema.
After a couple of weeks we were then switched around and I believe Echo 1-1 was deployed to Bukit Punan. Echo 1-2 definitely went to Bukit Robertson. Echo 1-3 went to Batu Bora and Echo 1-4 remained on Bukit Dema. A braced quadrilateral was observed. Roy Wood joined Echo 1-2 for the first week on Bukit Robertson during which time all the observations were completed. He then returned to Nanga Gaat to do some more planning and we remained in place for another week, before being sent to Batu Bora, to complete 3 EDM lines which had only been half completed. Tim Holt joined the team for this last week on Batu Bora. He had escorted a couple of MRA 2s back from Singapore after repair and had volunteered his services but he was not required so Tuan Kayu allowed him to come with us to experience the sharp end. This whole phase took about 5 weeks and then it was as before prior to the next phase.
During this break, Pete and myself were lifted onto Bukit Majau (TT82) and tasked to observe the horizontal angle between TT81 and Bukit Tasu. TT81 and TT82 were the last two stations of a tellurometer traverse run from the coast, up the Rejang and then the Baleh, terminating at Bukit Majau. This traverse had been completed by DOS and I believe Capt. Ben Maguire RE was involved in the last stages of it. He had been my Postings Officer at No. 1 TRRE. A Light Party comprising Bob Barkhouse and Scouse McQueen went by boat to TT81, a distance of some 5 or 6 miles down the Baleh. It was hoped that I would be able to pick out the beacon on Tasu and this proved to be the case and the obs were completed during the evening of our first day of occupation. No arrangements had been made to pick us up and we did not have any radios. The next day, all was quiet at Nanga Gaat with no aircraft lifting off. At one stage I fired off about half a dozen rounds from a SLR, which I had borrowed from a Royal Marine but to no effect. After lunch, Pete and I decided to descend on foot and set out skirting the beluka and the hill padi fields. We eventually came out on the Baleh, some 2 miles upriver from the Gaat. We hitched a lift in a passing longboat and were back home in time for dinner. The light party was recovered the next day. I also inserted a hill clearing party onto Bukit Entemu, see below. I previously told you that this trig was Bukit Kawi but when I compare my trig diagram on the 1:1,000,000 against my 1:500,000 of 1987 it has to be Entemu.
The objective of Phase 3 was to fix Bukits Kumbong and Jimbong and this would have begun sometime in July 1965. I cannot recall which party went to which Trig but Echo 1-2, (Self and Charlie who had recently arrived in the Troop), went back to Bukit Tasu. The other teams retained the same Observers, i.e. Jim, Andy and Steve but different partners were assigned. These teams went to Kayu, Kumbong and Jimbong. It was during this phase that Charlie was struck by lightning, a week or 10 days into the exercise. He was replaced by Jim Cumpsty and the job was completed in about 3 to 4 weeks. It was then back to the Gaat and was in fact the end of my direct participation in the scheme as I was coming to the end of my posting. Roy Wood did, at this time, send me to Long Jawi to help Norm complete a Tachy survey for a proposed airstrip.
I was still at the Gaat when the lads flew out to complete Phase 4 of the scheme, early September 1965. (I've checked my discharge papers for this one). Scouse took my place and together with Bob Barkhouse, I believe they went to Bukit Tasu with a T3. (Ref Andy's Cine film). The rest of the lads would occupy Majau, Emtemu and Goram, thus completing the southern belt of trigs. After this, It's all down to you Albie.
PS I've checked my Sabah reports and I did draw 2 x A13 radios from 5 Signal Sqn, Malaysian Armed Forces, in Tawau. They were the same as the ones we used on the trig scheme. I think with hindsight that the VHF ones which we spoke of this morning were the 88 sets. I hope that this information will be of use to you but it would obviously help a great deal if Roy Wood can come up with the Goods.
This is an e-mail from Norman Brindle with some observations on Brian's recollections
I am suggesting that my
memory is not perfect but I feel Brian is in error on more than one
occasion. E.g. It was i who was with Andy on Semalong during the
observation phase in early ' 65.hence the photo of Andy, Pete and
myself at a refuelling point having been lifted off Semalong and then
Punan en route to the Gaat. I actually drew the panorama at Semalong,
a labour of note .we actually stopped at the longhouse of the Punan en
route and I had my first taste of arak ! On Punan I had an ear
infection and 845 flew in medication for me. You don't forget big
earaches. Early in 65 when Bernie Pollard left Sibu I had a beer with
him at Sibu airport; also I met Sid Hoyland on his arrival (this was
early 1966). I was never in the field with Jim Cumpsty. I also
remember Mal Scott loosing his cherry in Sibu.
When Chas was hit by lightening on Tasu I was with Jim Butterworth on Robertson. I distinctly remember that night as we were in the most perfect observing conditions as we sat on the chopper pad and watched this heavy build up of cloud descend on Tasu and explode into a major electric storm.
After the end of phase 1 I returned to Bukit Lima and sat my a2 theory, slide rule and calcs mainly on the toilet. I finally completed my instrument adjustments under Robbo at the SMS in April 66 having left Sibu on 17 April with my son Ross and ex-wife Bridget sitting on two hastily assembled seats at the rear of an RAF Argosy. We never touched the ground till UK.
The very morning after 848 took over from 845 I was lifted in to clear Jimbong during March 66 just after Ross was born. The exact date escapes me but you don't forget choppers dropping off beer for your birthday. After Jimbong (photo on rea site of yours truly and Ibans) Chas & I were lifted into a trig on the border near Loie (Melatai?). We were lifted off Jimbong and dropped at Jackie (refuelling base by the river) they then lifted us up to the border trig (my memory fails me as my original computer was stolen and with it my maps) the RAF lifted us back to the Gaat. My point is in march 65 we were on Semalong etc and Jimbong was cleared after Brian left in Sept 65.
Other trigs I occupied were, Dema, Batu Bora, Tasu, Majau with Andy on Phase one then Semalong and Punan. Later I went to Robertson and Kayu (Jim Butterworth-hornbill story).
Thatís all I have to offer at this stage. I don't mean to imply anything other than what I remember. I cannot exactly remember when 848 took over from 845 as i didn't keep a diary.
Keep well and all the best,
With thanks to Brian Houldershaw for this contribution.