An unsung hero on a suicide mission

Lieutenant Colonel Harbhajan Singh a/l Jagat Singh (200684) – Photo: Valour and Courage blog
By Major (Rtd) D Swami |  MALAYSIA | PEOPLE |

If one, who does not know Lieutenant Colonel Harbhajan Singh a/l Jagat Singh (200684), his demeanor is that of a calm and gentle person. Don’t be deceived, when the call comes, he answers. The Colonel was from Intake SSC 11, Royal Military College 1967. He was commissioned into 4th Rangers , served there for 6 years.

After that went on to become an Instructor at the Recruit Training Center in Port Dickson. As for normal Officers from the Infantry have to move on, from RTC to 3rd Rangers at Camp Kukusan in Sabah, then the Unit moved to Camp Terendak, he was then the 2IC of the Battalion, the Battalion received it’s Colors in 1980.

Then it was time to move on, he was made an Instructor in the Company Commander’s Course of the Army Combat Training Center. He was made the OC of the Company Commander’s Wing for his remarkable training skills. After that went on to become an Instructor at Officer Cadet School. Soon he was posted out to 5th Rangers to become the 2IC at Camp Wardieburn. From there he became the Commanding Officer of Seventh Rangers located in Sri Aman, Sarawak in May 1987 until they moved to Mentakab, in Pahang. His favourite sport was sepak takraw, without fail he played the game nearly every evening with his boys and officers. He was very adept at that game. From there moved to the 509 Regiment in Penang, before his compulsory retirement in 1995.

He is proficient in many languages, of course he speaks Punjabi as he is a Punjabi, fluent in Tamil, many an Indian soldier or Officer got their shellacking in Tamil. He is very fluent in Hokkien too, sadly, not enough of them to receive his wrath but sufficient and he could tear a hole in any Dayak soldier fluently in Iban.

The Battalion was on Counter Insurgency Operations in 1973, Col Harbhajan’s Alpha Company was kept in reserve. Being the reserve Company, a very dangerous mission fell on his head. One of the most outstanding and life threatening mission undertaken by him was in the peace negotiations with North Kalimantan Communist Party (NKCP) leader Bong Kee Chok to surrender along with 481 of his supporters. This negotiation was led by the Head of the Special Branch of the royal Malaysian Police, Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng. In the Book Nation Before Self written by him he mentions Lt Col Harbhajan Singh on page 215.

The Colonel in Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng’s Book Nation Before Self and Values that do not die, Page 215

It was an after thought, when he recollected the role payed by Col Harbhajan, which was indeed an important one. Col Harbhajan at that time was the OC of A Company 4th Rangers, he was based in Camp Oya, Sibu, Sarawak. His operational playground was in the Rajang Area Security Command (RASCOM). He was called up, his orders were given by the GOC himself, General Jamil. He was to select 15 of his best men to provide close protection to Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng the Head of the Special Branch.

The thoughts running through his head was whether he will come back and see his beloved family again……or feel the sweet flow of ice cold beer downs his thirsty throat. This was a do or die mission, he held on to the highest traditions of the Ranger Corps and pushed aside his doubts.

The following day they were deployed by Nuri to an LP. That LP was constructed by the Communist Terrorists, no one was sure if that location was booby trapped. The LP was located in a valley. The helicopter hovered over the LP. The downwash from the helicopter’s rotors were very strong and the elephant grass and bushes were swaying on that misty morning, the Booby Trap Clearing Team and some members of the protection team jumped down avoiding the stumps on the ground. The BCT cleared the LP giving the ‘all clear’ that the LP was not booby trapped. The Colonel sent his men into whatever good fire positions there were. He realized that they were outgunned and outnumbered. Then again he would give them a fight that they will remember.

Once the all clear was given an Alouette Helicopter carrying the Head of the Special Branch, Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng landed. In another Alouette was a Major Maniam from the Artillery Regiment, took up his role as the Forward Observation Officer in an Air Observation Post, to rain down fire on that area with an Artillery Barrage, in the event things did not go according to plan. That area was a registered target. During the operation if anything untoward were to happen it was Col Harbhajan’s call to bring out the Head of the Special Branch, dead or alive at all costs!! That, the Head of the Special Branch did NOT know!

The operation was nicknamed “Suicide Mission”. Col Harbhajan located a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) team around the LP-, the Commander of the team reported via radio that there were around 80 CT’s all around the LP, ready to open up on Col Harbhajan and his merry men if they felt threatened. The Head of Special Branch handed over a list of names of all the CT Leaders named after cigarette brands to Leong Chee Wah, the Depury Head of the Special Branch.

Fortunately nothing happened which resulted in the CT’s returning to Society. One of the conditions was that they be termed as “Returned Enemy Personnel” NOT Surrendered Enemy Personnel. Amongst the Head of Special Branch’s team was a Sergeant Lim who had the uncanny ability to determine if the CT’s were sincere or not, this Sergeant had the ability to recognize the CT’s even with old photographs.

No one knew about this mission, Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng added Col Harbhajan as an afterthought on page 215, as he himself had forgotten about that “Suicide Mission”.

It was a mission where everything could have gone wrong, resulting in his death and of his men. Yet the Colonel stood up to be counted, the nation and the people owe him, not many can say that they were on a suicide mission. He can and he did!!!

The original article entitled ‘Lieutenant Colonel Harbhajan Singh a/l Jagat Singh (200684) an unsung hero on a suicide mission’ was published at Major (Rtd) D Swami’s blog Valour and Courage. See here.


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    Sarmit Rendhawa: Salute to u cacaji. So proud of u

  2. Great risks n sacrifices made while serving our nation. It should be taken note of in our history by the relevant agencies to remember and recognise the contributions made by the Sikhs and the other communities of Malaysia towards preserving our beautiful nation Malaysia. Proud to be a Sikh.