The Pipeline Ambush
The 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) arrived in Malaya during October 1955 having become the first troops to experience the rigours of Canungra's Jungle Training Centre since the end of the Second World War. After a further period of training in Malaya the battalion began operations in January 1956. In late April they embarked on their second operation, Shark North, in Perak Province, a known centre of guerrilla activity.
Some 50 percent of Perak's inhabitants were Chinese. Many of them were considered to be communist sympathisers and the Malays in this area were also regarded as unreliable. Perak's population was thus regarded as being, to a greater or lesser extent, hostile. Shark North aimed to cut off insurgent forces from their sources of supply through a series of patrols and through the tedious process of searching people, their belongings (including the repellent task of stirring the contents of night soil buckets to ensure no contraband was secreted beneath the human waste) and their vehicles as they left villages. Ambush positions were manned, sometimes for days at a time, but more than a month passed before 2RAR had their first contact on Shark North.
The operation's first phase lasted until the latter part of June 1956 and all of the evidence suggested that the enemy was indeed active in Perak. During Shark North's second phase the Australians experienced their most intense action of the Emergency when on 22 June A Company's 1 Platoon ran into a well-prepared communist ambush.
Having patrolled the jungle fringe abutting the pipeline which carried water from the Sungei Bemban reservoir to Sungei Siput during the morning, a patrol led by Corporal John Allen were making their way back to their patrol base alongside the pipeline when the waiting guerrillas set off a landmine and opened fire on the dazed Australians with Thompson and Sten guns. Allan was killed as he tried to cross the track on which the patrol had been walking. Another Australian, Private Geoffrey Fritz was wounded but kept firing his Owen gun until he died from his injuries. The guerrillas meanwhile kept up a heavy fire from concealed positions in the thick undergrowth near the track. As the fight continued two more Australian patrols raced to the scene, one group taking advantage of some high ground overlooking the ambush positions from which they joined the fray, losing another man, private Cedric Ingra.
As the guerrillas began to break contact and withdraw, two of their number were killed. An Australian sweep of the area after the battle yielded some weapons while blood trails indicated that they had inflicted further casualties on the enemy. A Company had three men killed and a further three wounded.