Borneo (Kalimantan to the Indonesians) is the second biggest island in the world. One third of the island was three British dependant territories – Sarawak, the Sultanate of Brunei and North Borneo.
In 1961, Tungku Abdel Rahman, Prime Minister of Malaya, proposed the formation of a Federation of Malaysia to combine Malaya, the colony of Singapore and the three dependant Borneo territories. Despite initially agreeing eventually Brunei and Singapore would drop out.
Meanwhile neighbouring Indonesian President Sukarno saw the Malaysian proposal as a way to diminish British influence and there were pro-Indonesian activists also in Brunei such Sheikh Azahari, an Indonesian ‘freedom fighter’ who had earlier fought against the Dutch. A recruitment drive saw these forces grow in strength.
Azahari’s uprising started on 6th December 1962, but, it lasted only eight days as British reinforcements arrived from Singapore.
To secure the area in the longer term, a force of Border Scouts was raised, bringing in the SAS, the Independent Guards Parachute Squadron and the Gurkha Parachute Squadron, plus further strong reinforcement of Gurkha and British units. Azahari eventually escaped to Manila, but remnants kept fighting for some time. There were sporadic confrontations throughout 1963 and 1964.
By March 1965 2 PARA was established in fortified jungle bases, dependent on helicopter re-supply, within 2,000 yards of the Indonesian border. Ten-day jungle patrol programmes were implemented. C Company was converted into the first of the parachute battalion ‘Patrol’ companies by 22 SAS, to operate four-man jungle patrols on SAS lines.
On April 27th an Indonesian battalion launched a ferocious assault upon B Company’s camp at Plaman Mapu, lightly held due to a patrol changeover. Two of the defending section were killed and several wounded by the enemy who penetrated the wire in driving monsoon rain at dawn and overran a mortar position. They were ejected by counter-attacks and the close-quarter battle lasted nearly two hours before the Indonesians were beaten off with 50 casualties.
Patrols, ambushes and skirmishes continued throughout the remainder of this intense Far East tour, which ended in July, earning the battalion a DCM, two MMs and three MIDs.
'D' (Patrol) Company, 3 PARA were involved in the campaign, from January - August 1966, under the command of Major Peter Chiswel and returned with a BEM and a Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.