September 21, 2002 - Limbang 40th Reunion: Limbang 40th Reunion, Lima Company 42 Commando Royal Marines

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By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - 2:16 pm: Edit Post

Limbang 40th Reunion, Lima Company 42 Commando Royal Marines

Limbang 40th Reunion, Lima Company 42 Commando Royal Marines

Limbang 40th Reunion, Lima Company 42 Commando Royal Marines

Observations by Thaine H. Allison, Jr. RPCV

Caption: RPCV Thaine H. Allison, Jr. Reads Letter From Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez

My experience with one or more Peace Corps Volunteers is that they seldom are lined up in any formal formation; it’s rather like herding cats, some of which seem to have wings or other means of skirting the formalities. It is therefore somewhat of conundrum to watch a group of Royal Marines, most in their late sixties and early seventies, assemble and present themselves for inspection by their ranking officers.

To begin the formalities on a clear and crisp fall afternoon, two on duty marines carried the British flag, followed by a drum and bugle corps in full dress uniform. Next the retired marines, some on crutches or in wheelchairs, marched onto the parade grounds at the Imperial War Museum in Manchester England. The formal Limbang 40 Commemoration had begun, September 21, 2002.

The organizer of the event Peter Down, Royal Navy ret., said at one point, "This was supposed to have been a half dozen guys get together and have a couple of beers. Somewhere it got out of hand." And it did, more than a hundred former marines, their loved ones, various dignitaries and representatives of the Imperial War Museum gathered to salute the survivors and honor the memory of the nine men killed in action between December 8 and December 12, 1962 in that far off corner of the world known as Limbang, Sarawak. Peter Down was an executive officer on a minesweeper and commanded one of the makeshift landing craft used in the raid. (See map below)

The Royal Marines stood for inspection by their presiding officer Mag Gen SIR Jeremy Moore. He spoke with each man and reviewed the troops and the color guard. At each turn a little history was reviewed and remembered. Their point of embarkation was Brunei Town and they traveled up river to Limbang near Begawan.

In order to celebrate the moment it is necessary to reconstruct a little history, specifically as to why a couple of aging returned American Peace Corps Volunteers stood by for the parade and participated in the ceremonies of the Royal Marines. In June of 1962, 102 volunteer trainees assembled in the gym at the Hilo campus of the University of Hawaii and began an intensive ten-week training program. We arrived "in country" one steamy afternoon in September and were assigned to our posts in North Borneo and Sarawak, both British colonies, around September 15, 1962.

As a fresh collage graduate in agriculture I trained with approximately 25 other agriculture volunteers and was assigned as the Assistant Agricultural Officer for a region in North Borneo. One of my fellow trainees, Fritz Klattenhoff was assigned to work with youth to establish 4-H clubs in and around Limbang, 5th Division, Sarawak. Fritz found a place to live with a local policeman and started working in the schools and the local agricultural officer in residence.

Like me, Fritz knew agriculture, he knew how to work with kids and he struggled with a new language and culture half way around the world from his home state of Washington, where he was raised on a dairy farm. Fritz was barely a week out of high school when he came to Peace Corps training, one of the youngest Peace Corps volunteers to serve. In the meantime Great Britain was turning over its Borneo colonies to establish a new country of Malaysia. As it turned out not every one liked the solution that was proposed. Indonesia laid claim to the territory as did the Philippines and some local political "rebels". The complete story is told elsewhere (see ), but needless to say on the night of December 8, 1962 rebels started firing on the local policemen in Limbang. Brush Fire Films of Dallas, Texas is developing a documentary film highlighting the events of December 12, 1962. The Producer, Director Martin Spirit is currently assembling his team and finishing the script. He recorded several interviews during the reunion and will film in UK and Sarawak in spring 2003.

After a four-hour stand off, out numbered and with four of their local policemen dead the Resident Administrative Officer for the Division, Dick Morris surrendered the outpost to the opposition. Mr. Morris, his wife and two Anglican priests were placed in a make shift jail. The rebel leader was aware that there was another "orong puteh" (white man) in the area and sought to capture him. Fritz eluded the militants for three days. His roommate had been killed in the initial skirmish and his body had been left in the road as a warning to others. Fritz managed to sneak into town, retrieve his roommate’s body and provide a temporary burial. This act alerted the rebels that he was in the vicinity. He was hiding in the attic of one of his friends, when the rebels threatened to shoot his friend’s children. Fritz overheard the conversation and surrendered and was placed in the jail with the other hostages.

On the night of December 11, 1962 the rebel commander issued an ultimatum, meet his demands or the hostages would be executed at daybreak. The British Royal Marines were on the move and before dawn on December 12, approximately 120 men attacked the positions held by the rebels with the goal to free the hostages.

During the assault five Marines were killed by enemy gunfire. In the meantime some of the rebels turned their weapons on the jail and randomly shot at the hostages. Fritz received a flesh wound on the thigh during the tense moments of retaking of the town by the Royal Marines.

When the fire fight was over Fritz administered first aid to rebels, civilians and Marines. Later he was evacuated to safety on one of the makeshift landing craft. Some how in what Martin Spirit calls the "Forgotten Wars" no one from the US government said "thank you" to these Royal Marines who clearly saved the life of one of the first 1,600 volunteers to serve overseas.

On September 21, 2002 that oversight was rectified. I had the privilege of carrying a letter from Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez, which said in part:

We honor the valor and the commitment to freedom and to peace that was displayed by Royal Marine Robert Formoy, Royal Marine Richard Jennings, Royal Marine Gerald Kierens, Royal Marine Sergeant Walter MacFarlane and Royal Marine Fred Powell, who made the supreme sacrifice. To the Royal Marines and especially to the Formoy, Jennings, Kierans, MacFarlane, and Powell families, please know that we are forever grateful and that we will never forget.

The thoughts and prayers of the Peace Corps and the 7,000 Peace Corps Volunteers currently serving around the world are with you as you honor the fallen heroes of the Royal Marines who gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom.
I also carried a resolution from the Friends of Malaysia (see the web site ) which included a similar message. The National Peace Corps Association president Dane Smith sent a letter thanking the Marines and honoring the fallen heroes. A group of volunteers that trained together in New York and served in South America also sent a resolution thanking the Marines.

The Resolution by the Board of Directors of Friends of Malaysia read in part:
Whereas: RM Sergeant Walter MacFarlane, Marine Gerald Kierans, Marine Fred Powell, Marine Ronald Formoy, Marine Richard Jennings members of Lima Company 42 Commando Royal Marines, were killed in this action. These men are remembered and honored;

Be it therefore resolved that: Friends of Malaysia, an affiliate of the National Peace Corps Association, does here by declare its heart felt gratitude for the rescue of our fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Fritz Klattenhoff and does extend to those brave Marines and their families our thanks and appreciation for their ultimate sacrifice in our mutual quest to create a more peaceful world.

We congratulate Lima Company 42 Commando Royal Marines on its fortieth reunion September 21, 2002. We are inspired by your selfless dedication to duty.
A special letter was addressed to the current Royal Marine Corps Commander from Doris Wilder, Fritz’s mother, thanking the Royal Marines. The cover letter read in part:
I am writing a letter to the British Royal Marines, I am happy to get a chance to let them know my appreciation and my thanks, through their great efforts and bravery, they were able to save Fritz and five other hostages, I feel sorry for the marines that were hurt and great sorrow for the ones that were killed, and also sorrow for their parents, it is very hard to lose a child.

Through their great efforts I had Fritz thirty-seven years and eight months longer. Fritz passed away August 30th 2000 due to multi-myaloma.

Thank you , Doris Wilde
After the parade, inspection and formal words of greeting and remembrance there was a brief ceremony of prayer and playing of taps by the bugle corps. The Marines and guests assembled in a reception area for a round of traditional grog and a toast to those who had gathered. Lunch was served and families had a chance to reminisce.

One of the guests was the sister of Royal Marine Richard Jennings, one of the Marines that killed in action. Carol Needham was grateful for the opportunity to hear more about her brother’s death. The family had expected him home for Christmas. On December 23, 1962 they received a two-line telegram informing the family that Marine Jennings had been killed in action. That was the only communiqué they had regarding his death. She knew nothing of the events and the activities that occurred on that December 12, 1962 morning.

We talked for a while and the reality of the loss and the bravery hit me. Real men were caught up in these events and their families and loved ones still cry and remember their losses. Perhaps the messages that I carried will give them a greater understanding of the events and the gratitude of a mother, a friend and the United States Peace Corps community.

Early in the afternoon I presented the plaque and resolution from the Friends of Malaysia to Warrant Officer John (Taff) Jones. RM. I also carried a resolution from a group of Peace Corps Volunteers that trained together in New York and served throughout South America. Sandy Snowe, R.N. put together the resolution thanking the Marines and provided some financial assistance to cover the cost of getting the materials to the celebration.

Two other special guests were in attendance at the reunion. Mr. and Mrs. Morris were from Australia and had two young children going to school in Australia. They were planning to come to Limbang for the Christmas holidays. Luckily they were still in school when the events of December 12 took place. Geraldine Bull and her brother Adrain Morris were at the reunion. They thanked the Marines for giving them forty more years with their parents. They noted that their lives would have been markedly different if their mother and father had not been rescued that day so long ago. This was a very touching moment for all who were in attendance.

The Imperial War Museum, North, Manchester, United Kingdom was an ideal place to hold the reunion. First of all the architecture is spectacular and offers wonderful display areas for the exhibits. But more importantly it is a museum that is dedicated to understanding the causes of armed conflict and wars and seeks to find answers to the age old question of why do men so easily resort to war to achieve their goals? The multimedia presentation reviewed recent wars. It was impossible to avoid watching and listening to the presentation. It is shown on virtually every wall in the building’s expansive exhibit area. At the same time I was watching and listening to the presentation I was in the presentation because the wall behind me was a screen for others that are watching from across the room.

The formal reunion ended late in the afternoon and all gathered for a Chinese meal downtown. The meal was a chance to get to know some of these men and their families and hear first hand their life stories. Some have lost kidneys; others have had reoccurring health problems as a result of their service. Many went on to fight in other British wars and carried out their duties with distinction. There were toasts to comrades lost and those who were to weak or ill to travel and there were remembrances of those who had passed on. Each reminded of the events of December 12, 1962 in his or her own way, a mother, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a friend. Thank you Lima Company, 42 Commando for saving the life of my friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Fritz Klattenhoff.

My participation in these events could not have been possible with out the assistance of Martin Sprit and Brush Fire Films, Dalles, Texas. I would also like to thank Dane Smith at the National Peace Corps Association and Gaddi Vasquez, Director of the Peace Corps. All errors or omissions of course are my own.

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Story Source: Limbang 40th Reunion

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Malaysia; Safety and Security of Volunteers



By I Evans ( - on Saturday, August 04, 2007 - 4:58 am: Edit Post

I am ex RM Ted Evans,trying to get in touch with Bill Lester who won the MM at Limbang.He was my Drill Cpl at Deal in 1961

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