I lost nine friends in Konfrontasi

I lost nine friends in Konfrontasi
REMEMBERING: Retired Major Abdul Samad A. S. Athambava learned that nine of his platoon mates were shot dead in an attack on Feb 28, 1965.

Monday was the anniversary of the fatal MacDonald House bombing in 1965. SHAFFIQ ALKHATIB reports on another aspect of Konfrontasi that also took lives - armed incursions of Indonesian troops.

The memory of his army buddies who died at the hands of Indonesian troops has never left him.

They were all from the same platoon, Platoon Seven, and had been tasked to hunt down Indonesian troops in Kota Tinggi, Johor. When the nine were deployed, he could not go with them.

Retired Major Abdul Samad A. S. Athambava, 71, said: "I was not there (at first) because after my recruit training, I became a radio operator. I was the commanding officer's signaller. I was still in Singapore at Camp Temasek in Holland Road when my friends were patrolling the jungle (in Malaysia)."

Mr Abdul Samad who was with the 2nd Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment, was 22 when the incident took place on Feb 28, 1965, and his platoon mates were around the same age.

He heard about the tragedy through army radio communications and told The New Paper that the Indonesians caught the men by surprise.

"We found out that nine of my platoon mates were shot dead. They died on the spot. I knew them since recruit training. I was very sad when I found out. It was a hard-hitting event that woke everybody up," he said.

The grandfather of four boys and five girls between eight and 17 years old, recalled that his platoon mates' deaths shook the battalion. Mr Abdul Samad, who joined the army in December 1962, said: "All of us were airlifted by helicopter for deployment in Kota Tinggi the next day.

BODIES

"We sent one platoon to recover the bodies, which were recovered about four days later. By then, the bodies had decomposed," he said.

He added that while he did not kill any enemy troops during the operation in Malaysia, he will never forget the time when he had to transport the bodies of four dead Indonesians, killed in a gunfight, from the jungles to the battalion headquarters in Kota Tinggi.

His uniform became soaked with blood as he had to carry the bodies, which were riddled with bullet holes, over his shoulders to a nearby Land Rover.

He added: "I felt numb when I carried them because these guys had killed nine of my friends. I had no feelings towards (these Indonesians).

"The Land Rover was so small that I had no place to sit. I had to sit on the bodies. We had to take the bodies back to HQ for the Special Branch to come and photograph them and identify them and so on before they were buried in Kota Tinggi."

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