HARI INI DALAM SEJARAH - OUR MSF IN CONGO
On this day, on 31st October 1960, the original Malayan Special Force (MSF) after a 28 day non stop voyage landed in darkest Africa.
The last leg of the voyage (28days for C Squadron MSF departing from Woodlands, Singapore on 02 Oct 1960) was the smoothest. Sailing up the mighty Congo from the Atlantic Ocean in the early hours of 31 October 60 for the Port of Matadi, 160 km up river was indeed plain sailing. Landed at Matadi around 1700 hours, there was a Moroccan Guard of Honour.
Lt Col "Bruno" Ungku Nazaruddin, the Commanding Officer of MSF, took the salute and inspection. Formality over, unloading of vehicles from the LSTs began in earnest. The city of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) our final destination was another 365km away. Three separate trains were scheduled to lift the entire MSF into the capital city. The first train departing at midnight ferried all the infantry element and the Rifle Troop of C Squadron. The second train departed at 0130 hours on 02 November carried all the Ferret Scout cars.
Here all the Troop leaders, No 1 Tp: 2/Lt Tan Siew Soo, No2:2/Lt Philip Lee Khui Fui, No3: 2/Lt Tee Bua Bian and No 4: 2/Lt Teoh Say Chee had a very rough ride. This train consisted of open wagons and each wagon carried 2 Ferret Scout cars. At the speed the train was travelling, it was near miracle no Ferret left the coaches and no accidents.
But the first train encountered a derailment before entering the city and it was sheer luck there was no casualty. Due to this, the second train was halted for a few hours at a small railway station KM236, meaning we had covered that distance.
The arrival of the MSF into darkest Africa, land of the legendary "Tarzan of the Apes" was fraught with dangers. There was an ongoing rail and port strikes and we were stranded for a while. The Ferret Scout Cars finally were unloaded using our own initiative and expertise of the EME personnel.
At about 1600 hours 04 November 1960, all the Ferrets lined up, ready for a good show, driving past 'Le Royale', HQ ONUC enroute to our very first camp, "Ozone Camp." This was an excellent PR exercise to showcase the Armoured element of the MSF to the UN HQ and the local populace. No 'B' vehicles, only the 18 Ferret Scout cars driving in a single file. The irony was it was led by a soft skinned Volkswagen Beetle, driven by Major Desmond Furney. Major Furney, an Irishman seconded to 1st Reconnaissance Regiment was employed at HQ ONUC as the MSF Senior Liaison Officer.
The Volkswagen was the leading scout to a long thin line of "PD Green" Ferret Scout cars. Major Zain Hashim led in the first Ferret, 2/Lt Tan Siew Soo No 1 Tp at the 3rd Ferret, 2/Lt Philip Lee Khui Fui at the 7th Ferret, 2/Lt Tee Bua Bian at the 11th Ferret and 2/Lt Teoh Say Chee at the 15th Ferret.
Unknown to most of us at that time, Lt Gen Carl Van Horn, the UN Supreme Commander appeared smiling at the window on the 6th Floor. What was more obvious and very touching was clearly the friendly wave of hands by the many UN staff, particularly the secretaries, who had gathered at the balcony to greet us. It is occasion like this that makes one feel extremely proud of the uniform and the Regiment to which one belonged!
Article and photos courtesy of Lt Kol Roger Tan Siew Soo (Bersara)