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Nanga Gaat is at the confluence of the Sungai Gaat and the Batang Baleh, it is overlooked by Bukit Majau also known as TT82. Nanga Gaat was the forward base for the infantry battalion from 1964 to 1966. The resident company during my time was from the King's Own Scottish Borderers. Air support was provided by 110 Squadron RAF flying Whirlwind 10s. Air support was also provided at the time by another RAF Squadron flying Bristol Belvederes known by the Ibans as the flying longhouse. Previous air support had been provided by the Royal Navy in the form of 845 Naval Air Commando Squadron using Wessex 1s, Whirlwind 7 and Hiller. They were followed by 848 using Wessex 5s before 110 Squadron RAF took over. 3 Flight Army Air Corps were also involved with Scouts AH1.
For aircraft details see here in the Britain's Smallwars web site
There are three video clips which can be downloaded and played
they are wmv files which can be played with
Windows Media Player
Nero Media Player
There are probably other suitable programmes
The clips are from cine film shot by Andy Thomas, transferred to VHS by Brian Houldershaw
and edited by myself.
As a result of problems experienced embedding the files and downloading
the video has been split into three small sections
Right click the buttons and download according to your browser,
note the longhouse on the right
Many thanks to Brian Houldershaw for the photographs shown above
Our Iban labourers were from local longhouses, Rumah Moris, Rumah Lalut & Rumah Tingang to name a few, I'm afraid that other names escape me. A lot of the Troop members would spend the nights at longhouses rather than Rumah Topo. It was prior to my time when the Navy ran the Anchor Inn and during the RAF time the Troop didn't make a great deal of use of it. We would sometimes repair to the Chinese Cadai, where Tiger or Anchor beer was on sale.
One notable memory of my time at Nanga Gaat was during the early part of 1966, when, after a period of heavy rain the river rose in the order of 30 ft in only a short time, The helicopter pads were reached and several barrels of aviation fuel floated off down the river. A group of our Ibans accompanied by Chas Hilder went out in a longboat in an attempt to salvage some. Chas was more than a little annoyed when after one of the Ibans had fallen in, a RAF spectator on the bank ran back. Not as Chas thought to call for help, but to get his camera! That night the river was still high and when I went to Rumah Tingang we could hardly make any progress up the tributary to the longhouse the outboard motor was working overtime but progress was painfully slow. It is worth noting that the next load of fuel for the RAF was in mud stained barrels!
THE NANGA GAAT MEMORIAL
As part of Britain’s response during the Confrontation with Indonesia, HMS Albion deployed to the region with Royal Marines and 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadron embarked. 845 NAS deployed to Sibu in Sarawak and also established a forward operating base at Nanga Gaat in November 1963. Detachments from 845 NAS served at Nanga Gaat from 1 November 1963 until 23 June 1965 and 848 NAS from 23 May 1965 to 15 September 1965. HMS Albion arrived in the area in November 1962, handed over to HMS Bulwark in February 1964, but returned later in 1965.
Sadly, 845 Squadron’s time was marred by a number of tragic accidents.
On 17 November 1964, Acting Petty Officer Michael Parry was killed when the long boat in which he was travelling capsized. He was buried in St John’s Anglican cemetery in Sibu, but transferred to Cheras Road Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur in August 2001.
Then during operations in March and April 1965, there were three serious fatal accidents:
On 4 March 1965 while carrying troops of the Royal Malay Regiment, Lieutenant M R Thompson RN had an engine failure in Wessex 1 XP108 and crashed at Ulu Sungai Puro, not far from Nanga Gaat, resulting in the death of six men from the regiment and his Aircrewman, REA A J Williams.
On 9 April 1965 Lieutenant J A C Morgan RN, piloting a Hiller 12E XS164 used for liaison duties, was killed shortly after take off when his aircraft went out of control and crashed as result of losing the tail rotor to severe vibration. The tail rotor had been damaged in a previous incident and Lt Morgan had tried to make an ad hoc repair as getting a replacement in such a remote area would have taken considerable time. Apparently the first incident shaved off an inch or two from the tip of one of the tail rotor blades. In a bid to rebalance it, Lt Morgan cut off a similar amount from the other blade. Unfortunately he killed himself as a result.
On 12 April 1965 when returning form a troop lift and in formation prior to landing, two Wessex 1s piloted by Lieutenant R Robertson RN and Sub Lieutenant J C Hapgood RN collided and both aircraft plunged out of control into the river. Both pilots were killed as well as NAM A Rothwell, who was the Aircrewman in Hapgood’s Wessex, 2nd Lieutenant C J Johnson, Sgt P McNeilly, L/Cpl W H Murray, and Pte R G Green from 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment and L/Cpl W J Jack from the Royal Army Medical Corps. Only three survived, the Petty Officer Crispin who was the Aircrewman from Robertson’s aircraft and two men from the Parachute Regiment. Crispin had a miraculous escape as he was flung out of the rear cabin door on his dispatcher harness, but was quick enough to release himself and fall into the river sustaining only relatively minor injuries.
Those serving with 845 NAS thought it would be fitting to erect some form of memorial to those who had died at Nanga Gaat. Lt N Burns-Thompson RN sorted out the design and through local contacts, arranged for the public works department from Kapit and the District Headquarters to erect it. A site overlooking where the two rivers meet was chosen so that all those passing by would be reminded of the men of 845 NAS.
Contributions came from squadron personnel, 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment and despite having very little money, the local Ibans. Two local Iban Chiefs, Penghulu Kumbong and Penghulu Jimbong also gave their full support. However, the land on which the memorial is erected and also the site of the helicopter base belongs to the Linggi family, who are the descendants of Temongong Tun Jugah, the one time leader of the Iban people. The memorial has inscriptions in English, Iban, Malay and Chinese, which read “erected in 1965 to memory of those members of the British security forces who lost their lives while serving at Nanga Gaat.” The English panel also lists the names of those who died. The memorial was completed and a dedication ceremony was held in mid June 1965.
In 1990, Nanga Gaat was visited by Mr J Millward, a logging consultant from Seremban in West Malaysia and he found the memorial in a very run down and neglected state. Under his supervision, the memorial was cleaned and repainted and in addition he made a ‘surround’ from concrete and riverbed stones with a wooden post at each corner.
The memorial is now included in the Non War Graves maintenance contract and responsibility for maintenance rests with the Defence Section at the British High Commission at Kuala Lumpur, however, it is worth noting that without the support of Y B Alexander Linggi, who is the MP for Kapit District and whose family own the land on which the memorial is built, much of what has been recently achieved would not have been possible.
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