Brave Imban – facing death fearlessly!
By:James Alexander Ritchie

Is that what death would feel like? The nicest, warmest, heaviest never-ending nap? If that’s what it’s like, I wouldn’t mind. If that’s what dying is like, I wouldn’t mind that at all.

The British Gurkhas soldiers have a motto that goes, “Better to die than be a coward!”

Similarly, Brookes’ Sarawak Rangers war cry of Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban is the pride of the Iban warriors who would rather die in battle rather than surrender!

For that reason, the renowned Gurkhas and Iban have won numerous gallantry awards!

In 1951, Iban tracker Awang Raweng became the first Malaysian to be awarded the George Cross – Britain’s highest award for civilians – when he fought communists in the Malayan Emergency in Johor.

Fourteen years later in 1965, Gurkha Lance Corporal Ram Bahadur Limbu received Britain’s highest gallantry award, the Victoria Cross in Bau, Sarawak.

Both men had one thing in common; they did not fear death and fought to save the lives of their injured compatriots!

On November 21, 1965, Limbu risked his life twice to save two of his men at the Bau-Kalimantan border area during Malaysia-Indonesia Confrontation.

Limbu, 26, from 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles, was in an advance party of 16 men when they were outnumbered by 30 terrorists with two machine guns, holding a strategic position on a hill.

When Limbu and his men were close to the invaders, he killed the sentry and all hell broke loose.

Armed with two machine guns, the terrorists wounding two of his colleagues, one a Bren gunner.

An extract from London Gazette 22 April 1966 reads: “When he saw two of his men seriously wounded, he crawled forward, in full view of at least two enemy machine gun posts who concentrated their fire on him.

“After a pause he rushed forward, hurled himself on the ground, picked up the man and carried him to safety.

“Without hesitation he immediately returned for the other wounded man and carried him back through the hail of enemy bullets. It had taken twenty minutes to complete this gallant action.”

Exposing himself for a third time, Limbu then ran back in the open to retrieve the Bren light machine gun and charged at the remaining invaders killing four and causing the enemy to flee in panic and abandon the assault!

It was a similar story for 20-year-old Awang Raweng who was shot twice, fought 50 terrorists single-handedly and saved the life of injured British private Griff Hughes.

Awang’s citation in The London Gazette read: “Awang completely disregarding his own wound, took up a position to defend the injured man.

“Ultimately, Awang was again wounded, the bullet shattering his right arm and rendering further use of his rifle or parang impossible.

He dragged himself over to the wounded soldier and took a grenade from the man’s pouch, pulled out the pin of the grenade with his teeth and with the missile in his left hand defied the enemies.

So resolute was his demeanour that the terrorist, who had maintained their attacks, withdrew.

The coolness, fortitude and offensive spirit displayed by Awang Rawang were of the highest order. Despite being twice severely wounded he showed the utmost courage and resolution to continue the fight and protect the injured soldier.”

In another incident 70-year-old headman Penghulu Imban Medan from Nanga Skuau was forced by the communists to choose between life and death!

He chose the latter!

Imban’s story goes back to 1940 when at the age of 17 he swore allegiance to the government and was prepared to die for his country.

A special report on the incident stated that 60 CTs arrived at the Imban’s longhouse to persuade him to join them or die!

“Surrounding the longhouse late that afternoon, they ransacked the rooms, seizing eight shotguns and 200 cartridges and tore up all the photos of the Malaysian King and Queen, the Prime Minister and other key politicians.

“At 10 pm on February 25, the armed CTs surrounded Penghulu Imban’s longhouse and ordered the frightened residents out of the rooms and herded them to the penghulu’s veranda at gun-point.”

As they gathered there one of the inhabitants called out to the old chief who was sick.

They also seized eight shotguns and about 200 cartridges belonging to the residents.

Instead of trying to escape, Imban followed his captors to the far end of the longhouse to meet his fate.

When he refused to pledge his loyalty to the communist cause, they tortured and threatened to cut off his genitals.

In the final act, the CTs removed his ancestral “pengaroh” talisman and charms before he was shot dead.

After his killing, two of Imban’s sons swore to avenge their father and joined the Border Scouts.

For his ultimate sacrifice Imban was posthumously awarded the title “Dato Sri” by the Governor of Sarawak Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud on October 8.

Imban’s granddaughter received the award from Tun Taib in Miri.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.

New Sarawak Tribune e-Paper


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New Sarawak Tribune is a Sarawakian news portal that highlights Sarawak-centric news and other stories of relevance to Sarawak.

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