Thursday, June 25, 2015

The forgotten jungle heroes of Borneo

Troops from the Parachute Regiment, outnumbered by more than 10 to one, withstand a ferocious enemy attack lasting more than two hours.

A firefight which should have ended in bloody defeat instead becomes an astonishing victory against the odds.

The feat has been likened by one senior officer to the Battle of Rorke’s Drift during the 19th century in Africa when a garrison of 150 British troops fought off up to 4,000 Zulu warriors.

But you will struggle to find much in the history books about the battle for Plaman Mapu, which happened 50 years ago on the border of Malaysia and Indonesia.

That is about to change with the imminent screening of a new documentary about this largely forgotten incident.

The latest in the We Were There series on Forces TV reveals the story of the brave 36 soldiers and shows three surviving veterans revisiting the scene of their triumph five decades later.

It is a bittersweet experience as the men are feted by locals and pay tribute to fallen comrades.

Back in 1965 Les Simcock, then 18, was on leave and in a cinema with a girl when his name flashed up on the screen.

The message was to alert him that he had received a telegram ordering him to report back for duty.

Les and his colleagues in 2 Para were bound for Malaysia, a fledgling state that was being supported by Britain.

Over the next six weeks they received intense jungle training before being deployed to the island of Borneo where they were posted to a base on the 1,000-mile border with communist leaning Indonesia.

Their job was to help prevent an invasion. It was a hellish, mosquito infested place that was teeming with snakes and rats.

There were frequent torrential downpours and the awful humidity left the men constantly drenched in sweat. This small garrison usually comprised 140 soldiers but on the night of April 27 two of the three platoons were out on patrols that lasted between three and 10 days.

The remaining 36 men including Private Les Simcock were dug in but the attack starting at 5am came as a surprise. Most of the Paras were sleeping and a downpour helped camouflage the sound of the advancing Indonesians.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The forgotten jungle heroes of Borneo