Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tanjung Kupang Tragedy

Ruby Kuan Guat Choo (KGC) is a Penang author of many books. She helped me to locate Datuk Paduka Dr Abdul Wahab's wife who lives in Tanjong Bungah, Penang. Mr Tan Hock Chuan at GH Penang also knows Datuk Paduka Dr Abdul Wahab's wife.

This message below is dedicated to KGC, who lost her son, her sister and brother-in-law in the aircrash at Tanjung Kupang.


Date of tragedy: Sunday, 4 December 1977
Flight number: MH653
Flight route: domestic, Penang-Subang
Departure: Penang 7.15 pm
ETA: Subang 7.55 pm
Type of aircraft used for flight: Boeing 737
Number of passengers: 100 people (93 passengers + 7 crew)
What happened?
When the aircraft reached Subang, it did not land. The pilot had radioed, "Hijackers aboard" and the flight was diverted to Singapore.
Crash site: Tanjung Kupang, Johor
Nature of crash:
Possibly vertical gravitational accelerated nose dive, ending in inevitable high impact crash with total disintegration. The resultant explosion on impact and fire razed everything. The blast possibly further disintegrated all life forms and objects. No survivors.
Lives lost: 93 passengers + 7 crew (all 100 people died; no survivors)
Pilot: Captain GK Ganjoor, an Indian expatriate pilot with MAS
Cause of air crash: Unknown (no bullets found, no evidence of hijack found)
Post observation:
Site was severely burnt, no skull found, all remains unidentified, nothing identifiable except for 10 limbs found.
Description by loved ones after visiting the crash site:
Totally burnt site, petrified odour of corpses/blood, flesh? sticking to objects, etc


Reconstructed based on MAS, news and newspaper accounts.

Night flight, Sunday, 4 December 1977
Depart: 7.15 pm, flight MH653 left Penang
ETA KL 7.55 pm (40 min flight)
7.54 pm
Malaysian air traffic control informed MAS of hijack
Overflying KL to Singapore.
Pilot attempted to land at KL ... in landing approach ... got landing clearance
Pilot told Subang authorities that he had to overfly Subang airport.
Pilot said to control tower: "Hijackers aboard."
The plane immediately proceeded to Singapore.
MAS went on an emergency alert.
8.04 pm
MAS received info from Singapore.
ETA Singapore 8.30 pm.
8.30 pm
Description from a resident and eyewitness who was attending wedding party in village. He saw a plane shrieking over the coconut tree tops, flying erratically. Then heard a loud explosion followed by flames, area lit up, loud bang left ringing in ears. Plane careered upwards after the blast and then dipped to crash into the swamp. There was a second explosion.
Several police officers at nearby Kg Ladang also heard the twin explosions within minutes.
They summoned help: fire engines, ambulances and a medical team from GH JB, scores of reserve unit troopers.
8.36 pm
KL air traffic control advised MAS operations despatch that the plane had crashed in Singapore.
9.15 pm
KL air traffic control confirmed that the crash took place in Tuas, Jurong.
Later MAS learnt
Paya Lebar control tower (in Singapore) had advised the pilot to descend from 10,000 feet to 7,000 feet. Nothing else was known.
9.30 pm
CPO JB and CID chief AC arrived on scene to direct operations.
Cordon off area as rescue workers went in.
1 am (after midnight)
There were no survivors found.


Monday, 5 December 1977

Shortly after 1 am (still dark)
Foreign press corps and next-of-kin of some passengers arrived.
They were prevented from entering the cordoned area.
7 am (early morning)
Malaysian Minister for Communications and a 23-member investigation team
(comprising CAD and MAS officials) arrived from Singapore, flyout from KL.
They were taken to the scene.
Studied the scene for 1 hour.
By evening
Police and military officers recovered 54 plastic bags of human remains.
These were taken to GH JB mortuary for examination.
At night, the DG reported
The 3rd DG MoH was Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin bin Raja Shahbudin.
He told reporters that the remains would not be returned to relatives.
They would be buried by the Government.
None of the victims was recognisable.
The hijacking was still being investigated
Relatives of the victims in Penang and KL waited for MAS to fly them to JB
'to identify bodies of the dead'.



Memorial site: Jalan Kebun Teh, Tanjung Kupang, Johor. Memorial bears the names of the aircrash victims.

What is in our memory?
This was the first aircrash in MAS history. I was in 2nd year university in California when I heard about it. I only met KGC at Gurney Hotel in Penang when she came to see me about my book, The Early Malay Doctors.



YouTube videos
Tanjong Kupang Tragedy (with initial flight animation)
Tanjong Kupang Tragedy (names of passengers)

Newspaper links
PHOTO NEWS SPECIAL 1 There was no need for these stretchers
The Straits Times, 6 December 1977, Page 10
- has 3 photos of the crash site
- article gives exact times of flights and ETA in Subang and Singapore
- when the airplane was at Subang, it did not land but overflew and headed for Singapore.
- OTW to Singapore, the airplane flew low (over the tops of coconut trees) exploded in mid-air, nosed up and crashed, exploded a second time. The engine was buried in the swamp mud.
- stretches were brought by emergency rescue, but there were no survivors. Only a few limbs, burnt pieces of flesh.
- the air smelled of kerosene (aircraft petrol) and stench from the burnt corpses.
- there were witnesses from among the nearby villagers who were at a wedding reception that night.
- police officers at nearby village also heard the twin explosions
- the (third) Director-General of Health at the time was Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin bin Raja Shahbudin. He had instructed for the remains to be buried in a mass grave.

- - - - - 
This is from KGC:

On Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 8:17 AM, kuan guat choo wrote:
Dear Dr Faridah,

Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. It is 35 years now but I still grieve for them.

My son's name is in the 1st row - Go Soon Teik
My sister's name is under 'K'  -  Kuan Guat Hoon
My brother-in-law's name is under Chuah Leong Hai.

Have a good day.

- - - -

These photos are from Tanjong Kupang Tragedy

Friends will come and friends will go,
The seasons change and it will show,
I will age and so will you,
But our friendship stays, strong and true.
May your loved ones rest in peace.

Sir Gerald Templer

Field Marshal Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer KG, GCB, GCMG, KBE, DSO (11 September 1898–25 October 1979) was a British military commander who fought in both World Wars.


Gerald Templer on the right

Gerald Templer on the right

Gerald Templer

Templer Park, Jalan Templer, Dataran Templer, and Taman Pinggiran Templer were named in his honour. Dataran Templer is near Stadium MPS (Majlis Perbandaran Selayang). Taman Pinggiran Templer is near Masjid Al-Firdaus, where Adibah Huda bt Muhammad Farid got married on 20 September 2014.

Gerald Templer is best known for his defeat of the guerrilla rebels in Malaya between 1952 and 1954. 

On 22 January 1952 Winston Churchill appointed Templer British High Commissioner in Malaya to deal with the Malayan Emergency.

Working closely with Robert Thompson, the Permanent Secretary of Defence for Malaya, Templer's tactics against the communists were held up as a model for counter-insurgency. In military terms Templer concentrated his efforts on intelligence. Templer famously remarked that, "The answer [to the uprising] lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the people." He demanded that newly built villages, where ethnic Chinese were resettled away from the jungles and beyond the reach (and influence) of the guerrillas, look inviting. To further gain the "hearts and minds" of the non-Malays, who were the main source of communist support, Templer fought to grant Malayan citizenship to over 2.6 million Malayan residents, 1.1 million of whom were Chinese. Templer sought "political and social equality of all" Malayans.

He later advised the British Government on the response to the Suez Crisis.

Dr Mustapha bin Osman was a Member of the Legislative Council of the Federation of British Malaya in 1951 and governor of the new Lady Templer Hospital in 1952 in Kuala Lumpur.
Photos of Lady Templer Hospital 

Weeratunge Edward Perera MBE (22 June 1898 - 23 September 1982) was awarded the MBE by Sir Gerald Templer.
WE Perera in Wikipedia (pic below)

Mr WE Perera being awarded the MBE by Sir Gerald Templer

External links:







YouTube videos:



Templer visits Malacca on 3 September 1953 &
Templer flies home on 31 May 1954:

List of British High Commissioners to Malaya

List of British High Commissioners to Malaya

Sir Henry Gurney (1898-1951)

Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney KCMG K.St.J. (27 June 1898–6 October 1951) was a British High Commissioner in Malaya in the post-war, 13 Sept/1 Oct 1948-6 Oct 1951. His story is also covered in Wikipedia on Kuala Kubu Bharu.

Hospital Kuala Kubu Bahru

The Henry Gurney School for juvenile delinquents was established in Malacca and was named in his honour. The Gurney Drive in Penang was named after him.

He was assassinated by communist insurgents while on a weekend trip from Raub to Fraser's Hill during the Malayan Emergency. His silver Rolls Royce was ambushed and had 35 bullet holes. He stepped out into the firing squad so his wife and his secretary could escape unhurt. His tombstone has this inscription:

'Greater Love Hath No Man Than This That A Man Lay Down His Life for His Friends' 

His Rolls Royce was later used by Raja Sir Tun Uda Al-Haj bin Raja Muhammad, the first Governor of Penang 1957-1967. The Rolls Rice is now part of the open display at the Penang Museum in George Town, Penang.


Mokhtar Petah wrote a different story about Sir Henry Gurney's death. He wrote that Sir Henry Gurney did not die in the hands of communists. Sir Henry Gurney was shot by a Malay independence activist and soldier named Awang Ali from the 10th Malay Regiment, Pahang. He was shot while on his way from Kuala Kubu to Fraser's Hill. Sir Henry Gurney died on 5 October 1951, at the height of the Malay uprising following the dissolution of the Malayan Union, during the Malayan Emergency.

From Facebook

13-19 September 1953
Photo from my grandfather's & father's collection.

Rumah Pasong


Guillemard, Sir Laurence Nunns (1862-1951) Knight, colonial governor

Sir Laurence Nunns Guillemard (1862–1951) was a British civil servant who served as high commissioner of Malaysia when it was under the British Empire. Guillemard was one of the promoters of British policies favouring the Malay ethnic group.

Preceded by: Arthur Henderson Young
Succeeded by: Hugh Charles Clifford

The Japanese war in Malaya and Singapore 1941-1945

The Japanese war means different things to different people. I was born 13 years after the war ended so I wouldn't feel much but reading helps me to understand. I understand it was an ugly war. Which war was pretty?

I watched TV documentaries of the Japanese capture and officers. I haven't read any Japanese accounts because I can't read Japanese text (my late mother lived by her Japanese books instead of her English books. My mother never had Malay books).

From my research on the early Malay doctors, only three Malay doctors served in the Japanese Military Administration. They were Dr Mustapha bin Osman, Dr Che Lah bin Md Joonos and Dr Haji Abbas bin Haji Alias. There maybe more doctors who served the Japanese.

When I visited the Penang Museum in Georgetown, my husband said I must come and take a look at the Japanese documents and I did. I have never seen those Japanese documents before. They were travel documents, the same ones that Dr Abdul Wahab wrote about in his book which was published in 1987. 

When I was there a team of Japanese tourists had arrived and I could hear them conversed in Japanese which I didn't understand. I wanted to ask them about the war but decided not to as I had no first hand experience of that otherwise painful war.

I once had a Japanese grandmother in Penang when I was growing up. She was old and almost bent double. She spoke Malay. [Please refer to my post on Ami Aziz.]

These photos below are from the Penang Museum display at the Japanese section and also from the Governors section.

The Japanese surrendered at City Hall in Singapore on 12 September 1945. Another signing ceremony was held at the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur on 15 September 1945. Thus, there are 2 dates recorded for the Japanese surrender in Asia.