A King’s Own Royal Border Regt. Patrol In The Cameroons

15 Feb

Hello Everybody, I get a lot of visitors to my blog, reading about the Grenadier Guards attack on a terrorist Camp in the Cameroons. This camp had been attacked two or three months previously by patrols from the King’s Own Royal Border regiment led by Lieutenant Olsen and the camp was completely overrun. When the Grenadiers made their attack on the camp through difficulties they endured in getting to the vicinity it was mid-morning. Obviously the terrorist knew they were coming and were prepared.
To further your knowledge, I have written below about the attack made by platoons of (S) company of the King’s Own Royal Border Regt, on this same camp a few months before. The lads on this patrol were mostly national servicemen and came into the army most definitely green as grass but, it is how they were trained by the regiment that got the final results. The Support Company platoons of Mortar and Anti-Tank who were made up to be rifle companies during the Kings Own Royal Border Regiments stay in the Cameroons. Both platoons had set off the day before the raid and were camped in bivouacs in the Magga region, which is high up in the hills. Lieutenant Olsen, a very capable officer, briefed everyone that he would lead off before dusk, taking with him over twenty men of his own Mortar platoon. He was hoping to make some ground before it was too dark.

Sergeant Smethhurst would follow just before dawn with the Anti-Tank Platoon and make as much ground up as possible. It was hoped that the Mortar Platoon would find the location of the terrorist camp before bedding down for the night and basically our platoon was their back up. As arranged Lieutenant Olsen’s platoon move out in fading light, each carrying a Sterling sub machine gun and two loaded magazines of twenty eight 9mm rounds of ammunition. The Sterling sub machine gun was most lethal over twenty to thirty yards and was just the job for close encounters. Lucky for us it was a beautiful night with a blanket of stars overhead, with not a sign of rain. Our platoon spent the night talking quietly in-groups, with just the odd occasionally dozing off. Along with my fellow comrades, although feeling a little nervous we were able and ready for whatever task that lay before us. As instructed before first light we assembled and set off in pursuit of the Mortar platoon. Barring the NCOs, who had Sterling sub machine guns, the rest of the patrol carried the 7.62 Self-loading Rifle and one or two magazines of twenty rounds. Our popular Officer Commanding Support Company, Captain Dunand surprisingly said he was coming with us, although Sergeant Smethurst would lead the patrol. We set off in the early morning mist at quite a steady pace. We hiked for about a mile, heading towards the pre-planned area, with the conditions very favourable. We were quickly taking the elements in our stride, when without warning; the early morning calm was suddenly shattered, by the sound of automatic gunfire,not too distant away. We also knew it was the sound of the Sterling Sub machine gun and that meant our lads had run into trouble. An anxious radio   contact was made and the message, attacking terrorist camp crackled out,followed by the words “Please make haste immediately!” As the crow flies, we were under a mile away, but it was not that easy, because of the rugged terrain and bamboo thickets to contend with. Not undaunted, Sergeant Smethhurst led the patrol at a near on jogging pace covering a considerable amount of   ground in what seemed in no time at all. The adrenaline was really pumping in all of us, each united in the same common reason, to reach and help our friends in the other platoon.For the last few   hundred yards the gunfire had stopped and we could see smoke looming from trees on top of a hill. In seeing this, we knew the exact spot of the confrontation and again this saved time. As our patrol reached the lower slopes of this large bamboo wooded hillside we were nearly at running pace. Making our way, quite quickly up the narrow path that led to the summit, the smelly smoke was thickly bellowing through the bamboo trees. Although we couldn’t see him, we all heard the over agitated voice of an NCO, urging our platoon to hurry up. Seb Coe could not have reached them any quicker, than we did that morning and Sergeant Smethurst replied to him in very strong language indeed. I am positive even to this day, that as we climbed the hill to the summit, I heard voices to the left of me. I reported it to Captain Dunand and Sergeant Smethurst but, because nobody else heard the noises, we just carried on. It may have just been as well, because we were in no mood to parley.

Moving quickly to the top of the hill, the first thing that met our eyes was the body of a terrorist lying sprawled on the ground. With no time to stop, we fanned out quickly to join up with the relieved looking Mortar Platoon who had made the attack. Each one of them looked wide eyed and excitable, with adrenaline still pumping in their veins. This was quite understandable for what they had all just been through. They had by luck more than judgement, stumbled on the terrorist camp during the night, then quietly bedded down until first light. Just in the early light of dawn they were spotted by a terrorist who was wandering about, Even with the knowledge that the back-up platoon, were on their way. Lieutenant Olsen had no time to wait now they were spotted. Leading from the front of his platoon they charged into the terrorist camp, with all guns blazing. The terrorists were completely caught with their pants down, fleeing in all directions in utter confusion and disarray. Ever so carefully in line, we made our way through the terrorist camp until we reached a bamboo thicket at the bottom end. I never knew exactly, how many people were in the camp at the time of the attack, probably in the region of twenty to thirty. What I do know, there was one confirmed dead and two captured. The two captured, were a man and a woman. They can count themselves very fortunate; they did not lose their lives. Thick blood trails were all over the place, especially in the bamboo thicket at the bottom of the camp. The camp itself, in its complete entirety was truly amazing, so perfectly camouflaged and certainly helped by the surrounding bamboo. The camp had been laid out in six twenty-yard long streets that had been dug out and stepped down the hillside, one below the other. Each street had a covering of corrugated iron sheeting and pieces of wood with a thatching of dried grass for camouflage. The streets were each sectioned off into living quarters; and stores, both for food, water, and menthol cigarettes, which were in abundance. I only saw one chicken running about, no doubt the others must have run off in during the confusion, but it wasn’t running around for long, because Private Patterson, put it under his tunic. I saw meat hanging up in one of the sectioned off streets, but there was no sign of any cattle. The camp also had a primitive medical section, which had an assortment of antiquated equipment. The one thing that impressed me most was a forge they had built. It sounds so ridiculous but, it is true, built very much in the mould of a primitive blacksmith’s shop of bygone days It was complete with a make shift blower. It was in this forge, where they made their own weapons including guns. All the guns made, consisted of a carved handle and stock, inferior quality tubing for the barrels, complete with forged and filed out triggers, incorporating a firing pin. Each gun made, was shaped similar, to old flintlock pistols, as seen in pirate films back home. Unlike those, these guns were made to fire a twelve bore cartridge. There were guns in various forms of completion, with each having similar base plates that had been hammered out in the forge. For added extra strength, copper wire was tightly wrapped round the barrel and stock, making them quite lethal at close range, but personally, I would not have liked to fire one and definitely not shot by one. There was also five hundred or so spiked twelve bore cartridges.The lads in the patrol collected up about seventy guns including a few rifles and a couple of revolvers and I would say about half of these guns, had been made at this camp. These kind of terrorist groups were organised to cause mayhem around the countryside and if by attacking and killing these people saved innocent lives, then no doubt it was a job done with great satisfaction. Everything in the camp that was burnable was burned, anything that was useful was destroyed, especially the forge. Quite obviously, we generally made the place as best we could, unusable. Once a terrorist camp had been rumbled, an alternative site would have to be found. After seeing what they had made for themselves on that hillside, I am sure that would have been no problem. To build such an organised camp, miles from any proper civilization, still makes me shake my head, at the ingenuity of it all. The camouflaging was first class, because when at Sante Customs we would watch a French plane vainly bombing the hillsides looking for this camp. All bombs dropped by the French fell on the wrong hills.
In my opinion, the terrorists had made a brilliant job in making  this camp and whoever was their leader must have been trained by professionals. In writing that, they were routed by soldiers who were taught, by much superior professionals of the King’s Own Royal Border Regt. Each member of the platoon on leaving the terrorist camp carried one or two of the captured guns; give and take about seventy guns in all. Due to the number of guns captured I can’t give a definite figure of how many terrorists were in the camp at the time of the attack. The ammunition, which was quite heavy, was put into two rucksacks for the two prisoners to carry. Both prisoners looked downcast, pathetic, and very much frightened. After the initial none friendly approach to them, one felt a little sorry for the plight they were in, but who knows, they could have been a ruthless pair! I was at the back of the patrol on the return journey, with the two captured terrorists, just in front carrying the ammunition. I was told if they try to escape, shoot them. I assure you, they did not try to escape, nor did I want them too. Engrossed in personal thoughts, the return journey firstly to the camp we set up the night before and then onto the rendezvous point, I kept on glancing back to where the terrorist camp was situated. Even then the only clue to its whereabouts was the smoke bellowing from the bamboo-infested hillside. Once again, I can only describe it as truly amazing. Arriving back at the rendezvous point, where the three-ton lorries were waiting to pick the patrol up. There was no chance of keeping any of the weapons for a souvenir, because of the diligent way we had to hand them over. I am sure Lieutenant Olsen kept hold of a stainless steel revolver, because it wasn’t amongst the piled up confiscated weapons and ammunition!
It came as a surprise and a most welcome sight that also at the rendezvous point, was the most respected Commanding Officer of the Bamenda camp, Major Brough DSO. MC. He was waiting by the side of the transport with a V.I.P, who was possibly a Member of Parliament on a visit to the Cameroons. Major Brough congratulated the men of our patrol; on a job well done and said we were all a credit to the King’s Own Border Regiment. I must admit, coming from such a brave man, what he said was most appreciated and gave one and all, a certain amount of satisfaction, in the knowledge that what we had been trained for had been successful.
Lieutenant Olsen for his outstanding leadership in the operation, was awarded the Queens Commendation for Bravery This award was thoroughly deserved and definitely it should have been a higher award. He took all his men in and brought them all safely out, what more can I say. Knowing the British Army code of early morning attacks and the regular soldiers who instrumented it. On behalf of my fellow comrades we thank you all, because through their expertise, all members of the patrol came back safely without a scratch.
I hope you the reader is enlightened by what I have written. There are a few things I have left out on purpose, mainly whilst in the camp. Which can be read in full in my story on.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Get-in-Out-Away-Serviceman-ebook/dp/B0050I6A2E

Alan

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