The Battle for Plaman Mapu. A Battalion against a Company.
Lieutenant-Colonel John "Patch" Williams MBE, DCM. Patch was a true hero of Britain's Forgotten Wars.
Plaman Mapu was a small hilltop village in Borneo positioned 1,000 yards from the border with Indonesia. By 1965 its unique position had been recognized by the British Forces and it had been fortified into a forward company base with a connecting trench system, bunkers and with a command post in the centre. In February 1965, B Coy 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment arrived to make Plaman Mapu their home for the next few months. Foot patrols were organized for most days and sent into the surrounding jungle near the border to look for signs of Indonesian infiltration. The Commanding officer of 2 Para Ted Eberhardie, wanted as many of his men to get jungle experience as soon as possible, therefore only a small part of B Coy was left to defend the base while the rest were out on patrol. Over the next few months the foot patrols started to find signs of Indonesian forces in the area. Newly cleared areas of the jungle were thought to be prepared ambush positions, which the Indonesians intended to use against the Para's patrols. Signs of enemy troop movements also gave indication that the Indonesians planned to attack one of the local British bases soon, but which one? The security forces did not know.
On the morning of the 25th April they got their answer when the IBT (Indonesian Border Troops) attacked Plaman Mapu in force. At the time of the attack only 27 Paras were defending it. The senior Para officer was Captain John Fleming, a company commander. Under his command he had an artillery control officer, Captain Webb, a Platoon commander Captain Thomson, and seven men from the mortar section. He also had a Corporal Baughan who was in charge of a 15-man platoon of 18 year olds who had just arrived in Borneo after completing their jungle training in Malaya. Lastly, Company Sergeant Major John "Drummie" Williams, was to be decorated for his bravery on this night.
The first indication the defenders got of an attack was when the Indonesians launched a surprise artillery barrage. The main targets of this attack being the base's three machine gun bunkers and the two mortar bunkers killing or wounding most of the their occupants. This brought the defenders number down to 18.
C.S.M. Williams who was off duty and asleep at the time, woke up with a start, realized what was happening, leapt out of his bed and grabbing gun, boots and webbing he got dressed more or less on the run.
Outside he ran into one of the gunners from a machine gun bunker that had just been hit. The soldier's head was a mess, blood was running down his face and nose and he was wandering around like a drunk who didn't know which way was home. Then as if someone had doused him with water he became alert and screamed as he waved a revolver, "They're in the position, they are in the bloody position” Then he saw Williams and shouted " You’re one of them " and pointed his SLR at the C.S.M.'s stomach. Williams disarmed the man and ordered another soldier to get the wounded man to the aid post. Williams then made his way to the command post were he had a quick word with the company commander and smartly organized a counter attack with Captain Thomson’s section
As Williams and the platoon ran across the open ground to confront the Indonesians, a mortar round landed in the middle of them seriously injuring the platoon commander and about half the platoon. Undeterred by this, Williams lead the remaining 5 men across open ground to engage about 30 Indonesians who were advancing from the other side of the base. Cpl. Baughan, with another section gave William's and his men support fire. Williams shouted, "Anyone in front of us is the enemy and keep going but watch yourself". What followed was some of the most deadly hand-to-hand fighting of the war.
The Paras realized that if they did not push the Indonesians from their position they would be dead men by morning. Because of their survival instinct and training the Paras persevered and pushed the remaining Indonesians off the hill. It had been a bloody battle on both sides.
Williams now started to re-organize the defence of the base, but before this could be achieved the Indonesians launched a second attack on the same position they had just been removed from. Williams, seeing that only a heavy amount of firepower would stop this new attack, jumped into one of the abandoned bunkers and found one of the new GPMGs still in working order. He managed to lace several belts of ammo together and then opened fire on the advancing Indonesians. When the Indonesians realized that some one had got the GPMG going again, they attacked the bunker in platoon strength (30 men). The attackers charged the bunker firing machine guns and throwing grenades.
Williams kept firing until all his attackers were either dead or wounded. His GPMG was hit several times during the attack and he received a serious head wound. He also lost an eye in this action. Later after recovering from his wounds he was always affectionately known as "Patch".
While "Patch" Williams was engaged in his one man war, Cpl. Baughan's section had managed to drive off the second Indonesian attack with the help of the mortar platoon Sgt. Armstrong who, using the only surviving 3 inch mortar was bringing fire down on the advancing enemy. With the enemy so close the mortar was aimed so close to perpendicular that the firer was in danger from his own rounds. To do this required immense intestinal fortitude.
With the second attack now over, Williams, who was quite unaware of his terrible wounds, started to collect the wounded from the first attack and bring them back to the command post where they were being treated. They were now down to 14 men. After conferring with the company commander who tried unsuccessfully to get Williams to have his wound looked at, Patch returned to the perimeter, knowing the Indonesians would soon attack again.
Sure enough the defenders could hear the Indonesians preparing for the next assault and were gathering in some dead ground 40 yards down hill.
The Battle had been going for about 1 hour and the Paras knew that if they were to survive they would have to hold out until dawn when reinforcements could be flown in by helicopter.
Williams managed to get hold of two boxes of 36 grenades which he, Cpl. Baughan and what was left of the Platoon started throwing into the dead ground where the enemy was gathering. The 3-inch mortar was also brought back into action. From the screams that followed they knew they were hitting the enemy.
As the first light of dawn appeared, the Paras knew they had won the battle. There were no more attacks and the enemy could be heard moving back from the base of the hill, firing the occasional mortar round as they retreated. When this fire faded out William's called for volunteers to come with him to carry out a clearing patrol. All 14 men volunteered. The day before they had been fresh faced new guys, now they were
battle hardened veterans and "Patch" was very proud of them.
Soon after first light, helicopters arrived to evacuate the wounded. The Medical Officer was shocked to see Williams still standing with what seemed like half his head missing covered in blood and dressed in only his trousers and webbing. With the battle finally over C.S.M. Williams allowed himself to be cared for and was soon in a helicopter being airlifted out of what was left of Plaman Mapu. The Battle of Plaman Mapu was one of the turning points of the Confrontation. Never again would Indonesian forces cross the border in such force.
Pvt. McKeller who had received a serious head wound during the battle, died later in Singapore Hospital. Patch Williams attended his funnel in a wheel chair due to his own wounds.
Six months after the battle C.S.M. Williams, having recovered from his wounds and less one eye, received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for " One of the most outstanding acts of bravery and leadership witnessed during the Borneo Confrontation".
Cpl. Malcolm Baughan was also awarded the Military Medal for his part in the Battle and Private Mcataghert, who was wounded in the first counter attack, received a Mention in Despatches.
Having only one eye did not stop John Williams from soldiering and he fought hard to save his military career and after many medical fitness exams was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of the 2nd Parachute Battalion. In 1983 Patch was appointed Staff Quartermaster (Lieutenant-Colonel) of the Army Staff Collage in Camberley, the senior SQM post in the British Army. That year he also received the MBE. Williams retired in 1989 with forty years of service under his belt.
Outstanding story of a very heroic action by dedicated and highly motivated soldiers, Airborne, no less. It is proper and respectful to share this knowledge of such a memorable battle that has escaped the publicity it deserves with those of us that feel them to be brothers in arms and kindred spirits. Bravery was in abundance by these men on that day and probably the only reason the battle was won over such overwhelming odds. Thank you for posting it here.
Hi 03FOX, the lads that fought that battle had not long finished "Selection" and the Parachuting Course before joining the Battalion. I reckon the average age would have been 19 to 21.
As this happened before photo journalism got "hot" the stuff we did in Borneo never made the news or the newspapers. Mind you we all had the deepest contempt for the press who would screw up anything they heard into a lie or a beat up.
Drop me a line sometime mate.
In my war, we grunts had no use for the media either. On my level, we were invisible to them. If you wanted to know anything, ask an officer and avold the peons. Too bad they never realized that not only did we know the truth, but we had no problem telling it like it is. I suppose that's why we were kept at arms length from them, that and the way we looked and smelled. I can identify with your boys being young and inexperienced as that was also the way of most of us. Six months after enlisting, one month after my 19th birthday, with Boot Camp and Infantry and Advanced Infantry Training and some Escape and Evasion and Jungle Warfare training under my belt, I found myself slogging through rice paddies on patrols and ambush and finding that OJT was what mattered, if one was to survive.
By the way, I paid a short and memorable visit to your beautiful country in June of 1969 when I went to Sydney for R&R.
The above account of the battle of Plaman Mapu is fairly acurate but one intgeral, and without doubt a major contributory fact that the battle was won was the action of the only remaining mortar section. When the position was taken over by B Coy 2 Para it was immediately noted that it was very vunerable as it was towered over by high enemy controlled ground just 1000 mt away.
The perimeter was cut back, defences tightened, and the mortar pits were moved outside the original perimeter. It was was from this mortar pit, outside the original perimeter that the first sounds were heard. This was reported to the OP but were dismissed as the result of the heavy rain.
When the attack began one of the mortar pits was hit, 2 men were killed and another wounded, putting that mortar out of action. The No 3 of the second crew shuttled ammo under heavy fire through the trench system from that pit to the remaining mortar. As the enemy breached the perimeter the mortar which was on maximum elevation was still dropping rounds behind them.
The No1 then took the bypod from the barrel and started aiming the mortar manually, in atrocious conditions the No2 and 3 kept the mortar supplied while the number 1 dropped the rounds just 25/30 mts to their front. The riflemen of B Coy will tell you that without this action they could never have repelled the 2 attacks alone. Not one of the mortar men were given a mention in the forthcoming awards.
Ex 2 Para Mortar man.
Plaman Mapu the aftermath
In 1965 I was serving in A coy 40 Commando RM when our particular company was occupying a jungle fort next in line to Plaman Mapu, called Kampong Kujang Sain. Our B coy were posted at the new Plaman Mapu which after the attack by the Indonesian forces on the Para's was moved to higher ground. I remember being posted to Plaman Mapu for a short period of time following the disastrous fire at Kujang Sain when our accomodation was burned to the ground and we were left in the clothes we stood up in plus our SLR's. Compared to Kujang Sain with it's Ghurka depth slit trenches, this new location was a palace. At KS we had observation posts set up to cover arcs of fire. Unfortunately they were built from the ground up with about 10 sandbags which just about came up to your waist. There was an attap roof to keep the rain off but you were sat there like a duck in a shooting gallery. In the new PM there were sleeping places in the underground bunkers which were totally covered by earth roofs and all you had to do if there was a "stand to" was to roll out of your pit and stick your rifle through the observation port. At KS you had to exit the underground sleeping accomodation which was Ghurka size(ie small) run along slit trenches which were waist high, and dive into a sanger with half a dozen other blokes. As I remember the new PM was on a much higher hill and you could look down on the old position, as no doubt the Indonesians did before attacking. Whoever built the original Plaman Mapu should have been there when it was attacked, then they would have realised what a complete balls up they had made in the siting of the position.
Intersting post ginger and welcome to MI.net
Another Version from Indonesia side
unfortunately, the story told in Bahasa Indonesia
hope you can find the english version .
the first British SAS soldiers killed by a South East Asian soldier
Ini cerita tentang the first British SAS soldiers killed by a South East Asian soldier (yg tentu saja diwakili oleh prajurit dari RPKAD/Kopassus )
Setting ceritanya adalah bulan April tahun 1965, ketika Indonesia sedang berkonfrontasi dengan Malingsial. Lokasi pertempuran di desa Mapu, Long Bawan, perbatasan Kalimantan Barat dan Sabah.
Saat itu batalion 2 RPKAD (sekarang Grup 2 Kopassus) baru saja terbentuk. batalion baru ini segera dikirim untuk misi khusus ke kalimantan barat. Mereka mendarat di Pontianak bulan Februari 1965, dan segera setelah itu mereka berjalan kaki menuju posnya di Balai Karangan yang jaraknya puluhan kilometer dari lapangan terbang.
Pos Balai Karangan merupakan pos terdepan TNI yang sebelum kedatangan RPKAD dijaga oleh infanteri dari batalion asal Jatim. Sekitar 1 km di depan pos Balai Karangan adalah pos terdepan tentara Inggris di desa Mapu yang dijaga oleh satu kompi British paratrooper dan beberapa orang SAS. Menyerang pos inilah yang menjadi misi khusus batalion RPKAD. Pos Mapu tersebut sering digunakan sebagai transit bagi personel SAS yang akan menyusup ke wilayah Indonesia. TNI ingin hal ini dihentikan dengan langsung melenyapkan pos tersebut.
Pos Inggris di Mapu tersebut terletak di puncak sebuah bukit kecil yang dikelilingi lembah, sehingga pos ini sangat mudah diamati dari jarak jauh. Selain itu, pos tersebut juga cukup jauh dari pasukan induknya yang kira-kira terpisah sejauh 32 km.
Pasukan RPKAD yang baru datang segera mempersiapkan setiap detail untuk melakukan penyerangan. Prajurit RPKAD yang terpilih kemudian ditugaskan untuk melakukan misi reconnaisance untuk memastikan kondisi medan secara lebih jelas. Mereka juga memetakan pos tersebut dengan detail sehingga bisa menjadi panduan bagi penyusunan strategi penyerangan, termasuk detail jalur keluar masuknya.
Tugas recon ini sangat berbahaya, mengingat SAS juga secara rutin melakukan pengamatan ke posisi-posisi TNI. Jika kedua recon tersebut berpapasan tanpa sengaja, bisa jadi akan terjadi kotak tembak yang akan membuyarkan rencana penyerangan. Oleh karena itu, recon RPKAD sangat berhati-hati dalam menjalankan misinya. Bahkan mereka menggunakan seragam milik prajurit zeni TNI AD untuk mengelabui musuh apabila terjadi kemungkinan mereka tertangkap atau tertembak dalam misi recon tersebut.
Setelah sebulan mempersiapkan penyerangan, pada 25 April 1965 gladi bersih dilakukan. Dari tiga kompi RPKAD yang ada di pos Balai Karangan. Komandan batalion, Mayor Sri Tamigen, akhirnya memutuskan hanya kompi B (Ben Hur) yang akan melakukan penyerangan. Sementara 2 kompi lainnya tetap berada di wilayah Indonesia untuk berjaga-jaga bila terjadi sesuatu.
Dalam penyerangan ini, kompi B diharuskan membawa persenjataan lengkap. Mulai dari senapan serbu AK-47, senapan mesin Bren, peluncur roket buatan Yugoslavia, dan Bangalore torpedoes, mainan terbaru RPKAD waktu itu, yang biasanya digunakan untuk menyingkirkan kawat berduri atau ranjau.
Selesai mengatur perbekalan, Ben Hur mulai bergerak melintasi perbatasan selepas Maghrib. Karena sangat berhati-hati, mereka baru sampai di desa Mapu pada pukul 0200 dini hari. Setelah itu mereka segera mengatur posisi seperti strategi yang telah disusun dan dilatih sebelumnya.
Pos Mapu berbentuk lingkaran yang dibagi ke dalam empat bagian yang masing-masing terdapat sarang senapan mesin. Perimeter luar dilindungi oleh kawat berduri, punji, dan ranjau claymore. Satu-satunya cara untuk merebut pos ini adalah dengan merangsek masuk kedalam perimeter tersebut dan bertarung jarak dekat. Menghujani pos ini dengan peluru dari luar perimeter tidak akan menghasilkan apa-apa karena didalam pos tersedia lubang-ubang perlindungan yang sangat kuat.
Beruntung, malam itu hujan turun dengan deras seolah alam merestui penyerangan tersebut, karena bunyi hujan menyamarkan langkah kaki dan gerakan puluhan prajurit komando RPKAD yang mengatur posisi di sekitar pos tersebut.
Setelah dibagi ke dalam tiga kelompok, prajurit komando RPKAD berpencar ke tiga arah yang telah ditetapkan. Peleton pertama akan menjadi pembuka serangan sekaligus penarik perhatian. Kedua peleton lainnya akan bergerak dari samping/rusuk dan akan menjebol perimeter dengan bagalore torpedoes agar para prajurit RPKAD bisa masuk ke dalam dan melakukan close combat.
Pada jam 0430 saat yang dinanti-nanti tiba, peleton tengah membuka serangan dengan menembakkan senapan mesin Bren ke posisi pertahanan musuh. Segera setelah itu, dua peleton lainnya meledakkan bangalore torpedoes mereka dan terbukalah perimeter di kedua rusuk pertahanan pos tersebut. Puluhan prajurit RPKAD dengan gagah berani masuk menerjang ke dalam pos untuk mencari musuh.
Prajurit Inggris berada pada posisi yang tidak menguntungkan karena tidak siap dan sangat terkejut karena mereka tidak menduga akan diserang pada jarak dekat. Apalagi saat itu sebagian rekan mereka sedang keluar dari pos untuk berpatroli. Yang tersisa adalah 34 prajurit Inggris. Hal ini memang telah dipelajari recon RPKAD, bahwa ada hari-hari tertentu dimana 2/3 kekuatan di pos tersebut keluar untuk melakukan patroli atau misi lainnya. Dan hari itulah yang dipilih untuk hari penyerangan.
Dengan susah payah, akhirnya ke-34 orang tersebut berhasil menyusun pertahanan. Beberapa prajurit RPKAD yang sudah masuk ke pos harus melakukan pertempuran jarak dekat yang menegangkan. Dua prajurit RPKAD terkena tembakan dan gugur. Namun rekan mereka terus merangsek masuk dan berhasil menewaskan beberapa tentara Inggris dan melukai sebagian besar lainnya. Tentara Inggris yang tersisa hanya bisa bertahan sampai peluru terakhir mereka habis karena mereka telah terkepung.
Diantara yang terbunuh dalam pertempuran jarak dekat yang brutal tersebut adalah seorang anggota SAS. Ini adalah korban SAS pertama yang tewas ditangan tentara dari ASEAN. Namun sayangnya Inggris membantah hal ini. Bahkan dalam buku karangan Peter Harclerode berjudul "Para! Fifty Years of the Parachute Regiment halaman 261 pemerintah Inggris malah mengklaim mereka berhasil menewaskan 300 prajurit RPKAD dalam pertempuran brutal tersebut. Lucunya klaim pemerintah Inggris ini kemudian dibantah sendiri oleh penulis buku tersebut di halaman 265, ia menyebutkan bahwa casualties RPKAD hanya 2 orang. Secara logis memang angka 300 tidak mungkin karena pasukan yang menyerang hanya satu kompi. Pemerintah Inggris melakukan hal tersebut untuk menutupi rasa malu mereka karena dipecundangi tentara dari dunia ketiga, bahkan salah satu prajurit dari kesatuan terbaik mereka ikut terbunuh dalam pertempuran tersebut.
Pertempuran itu sendiri berakhir saat matahari mulai meninggi. Prajurit RPKAD yang sudah menguasai sepenuhnya pos Mapu segera menyingkir karena mereka mengetahui pasukan Inggris yang berpatroli sudah kembali beserta bala bantuan Inggris yang diturunkan dari helikopter. Mereka tidak sempat mengambil tawanan karena dikhawatirkan akan menghambat gerak laju mereka.
Sekembali di pos Balai Karangan, kompi Ben Hur disambut dengan suka cita oleh rekan-rekannya. Para prajurit yang terlibat dalam pertempuran mendapatkan promosi kenaikan pangkat luar biasa. Mereka juga diberi hadiah pemotongan masa tugas dan diberi kehormatan berbaris di depan Presiden Soekarno pada upacara peringatan kemerdekaan tanggal 17 Agustus 1965.
Let me help you to translate the story :
Originally Posted by Unregistered
THE FIRST BRITISH SAS SOLDIER KILLED BY A SOUTH EAST ASEAN SOLDIER
This is the story of the first British SAS soldier killed by a South East Asian soldier (told by a RPKAD/KOPASSUS soldier).
The setting of this story was in April 1965 when Indonesia involved in Indo-Malay Confrontation. The location of the battle was Napu Village, Long Bawan (near the border of Indonesian West Borneo Province and Malaysian Sabah State). At that time, 2nd batallion of RPKAD (recently known as Group 2 Kopassus) had just formed (with its base in Kartosura, Central Java). This batallion was deployed in West Borneo Province for a special mission. This batallion was landed in Pontianak (the capital of West Borneo Province) in February 1965 and soon heading to their post in Balai Karangan, which located several kilometers away from the airfield.
Balai Karangan Post was TNI’s outpost which previously guarded by an infantry batallion from East Java. There was a British military outpost one kilometer in front of Balai Karangan Post, which guarded by British Paratrooper Unit and a few of British SAS soldiers. Attacking this outpost was the main objective of this RPKAD batallion. This British military outpost was considered as transit post for infiltrating purposes into Indonesian territory. That infiltrating activities usually done by British SAS soldier. So, TNI planned to eliminate that post.
That British military outpost located at the peak of a small hill, surrounded by valleys and located far enough from its main unit (about 32 kilometers). It made that outpost became easily observed from the distance.
RPKAD batallion that had just arrived soon preparing every details for the ambush and doing recon mission to ensure the field condition more obvious. They also mapped the post for the guidance purpose of ambush strategy planning, including the details of incoming and retreating path. This recon mission was highly dangerous, considering that British SAS soldiers were also regularly observing TNI’s position. Unintentional fire contact between those two opponents would revoked the ambush plan. So, RPKAD team was doing that recon mission in high vigilance. They even wore the uniform of Indonesian army engineer unit to deceive the enemy, in case of captured or killed by the enemy.
After one month of preparation, finally the team choosen April 25th 1965 as the D-Day of the ambush. Based of recon mission that previously done to observe the habit of the outpost, known that there was a day that 2/3 of the guard soldiers would be outside of the outpost for regular patrol purposes and another missions, and that condition would occurred on April 25th 1965. The commander of RPKAD batallion, Major Sri Tamigen, finally choosen company B (also called Ben Hur Company) as the executor team of the ambush mission, while another two companies remain stand by in Indonesian territory.
In ambush mission, company B equipped with complete weaponry. Include in the weapon list are AK-47 assault rifle, Bren machine gun, made in Yugoslavia rocket launcher and bangalore torpedoes, which was the new toy of RPKAD at that time, usually used to destroy barb wire fence or mines. After all of logistic had completely loaded, Ben Hur Company started to cross the border after dusk. Due to their high vigilance, Ben Hur Company arrived at Mapu Village at dawn (about 02.00 o’clock) and the company immadiately arranged position as they had set in previous drill.
Mapu Outpost was circular shaped, divided into four section with machine gun in each section. The outer perimeter protected by barb wire, punjis and claymore mines. The only way to occupy the outpost was by rushed into the outpost and performing close quarter battle. Firing Mapu Outpost from outside perimeter would be useless due to many foxholes provided inside the outpost.
The rain that falled at that time also disguising the noise generated by the footsteps and movements of Ben Hur Company which arranged position around Mapu Outpost. A few minutes before the ambush, Ben Hur Company divided into three platoons, spreaded to three different direction. The first platoon would attracked attention, while another two platoons would blowed the bangalores and rushed into the post for a close quarter battle.
At 04.30, the first platoon firing Bren machine gun to the enemy’s defence position. Soon after that, the other two platoons blowed bangalores and rushed into the post and seeking enemies. The British soldiers were in bad situation due to suprising attack of Ben Hur Company and they were also not ready for a close quarter combat. But finally those 34 British soldiers manage to arrange defence position. In initial attack, two RPKAD soldiers were killed, but the rest of them were manage to kill some British soldiers and injuring most of them. The remaining British soldiers hold until their last round. One of the casualties from British soldier in that ambush was a British SAS soldier named James Condon, who was considered as KIA in that ambush.
But British government denied that fact. In a book written by Peter Harclerode, titled “PARA! FIFTY YEARS OF THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT” page 261, British government claimed that 300 RPKAD soldiers were killed in that ambush. That claim later denied by the book writer in page 265. The writer said that there were only two RPKAD casualties in that ambush. Logically, 300 casualties were imposible because there was only one company that attack the outpost. British government did that to cover their shame due to their loss In a battle against the third world countriy’s soldiers. Even one of their soldier from the best unit was killed in that ambush.
After RPKAD company finally manage to occupy the entire post, they immediately retreated due to incoming enemy soldiers and their reinforcement deployed using helicopters. RPKAD team didn’t take any British soldier as hostage considering that it would make their movement more slowly. After all of Ben Hur company members manage to reach Balai Karangan outpost, their awaiting comrades greeting them with joy. All of Ben Hur company members got exceptional promotion, withholding of service and honorary invitation to march in independence day ceremont, witnessed by President Sukarno.
thanks for the translation,
When the smoke has cleared and the bullets cease.another soldier rests in peace. The politicians who caused the fight, rest at home no danger in sight