KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia marked 63 years of independence on Wednesday, war veteran Ujang Mormin recalled his role in fighting the Japanese during World War II.
Ujang, 99, who hails from Kampung Kundur, Rembau, Negri Sembilan, recalled in bits and pieces how he fought alongside the legendary war hero Lt Adnan Saidi during the Battle of Pasir Panjang, when the Japanese forces began infiltrating Singapore.
The frail Ujang, or Tok Ujang as he is affectionately called, is spending his twilight years at the Tuanku Mizan Military Hospital where he is cared for by doctors and nurses.
He used to drive until he was 95, but due to failing memory and a feeble body, the hospital is now his home as he has no living relatives.
Ujang served as an army private with the First Battalion of the Royal Malay Regiment (1RAMD), after joining the British Army in 1939, undergoing basic training until 1941. That year, he was deployed to the Gap Ridge in Singapore.
The Gap Ridge was the last standing British military fort as the British retreated when the Japanese forces pushed through Malaya from the north in 1942.
Ujang who was 21 years old then, was one of the handful of men from 1RAMD who survived the Battle of Pasir Panjang.
He recalled crawling through trenches and jumping into dugouts. However, with dwindling food and water supply, and the news of Lt Adnan having been killed, Ujang and his comrades retreated to the jungle.
“The English officer told us it was over and ordered us to gather any weapons that we had and pile them by a tree. He said we were free to go our separate ways or follow him to surrender to the Japanese.
“Of course none of us wanted to follow him. We’d rather find our way home, ” he told reporters at the Tuanku Mizan Military Hospital.
When night fell, the men found a house left behind by its occupants which they took refuge in and changed into the clothes found at the place.
A few Malay families living nearby who came to know of their presence provided them with food and water during their stay.
As days passed, the men parted ways one by one and, fortunately for Ujang, he met a Malay family in Jalan Serangoon who took him in during the height of the Japanese Occupation.
After two months in hiding, Ujang returned home to his village after the family gave him some money and a written testament claiming that he was a relative of the family in Singapore.
Ujang managed to sneak on board a freight train and arrived in Rembau two days later, where he paid some money to a local to smuggle him into his village by car and to avoid the Japanese army patrols.
“When I arrived in Kampung Kundur, I was surprised to see so many relatives and friends coming to greet me. It was like a party. As I saw my parents’ faces, I immediately hugged them and just cried. It is something I will always remember, ” he said.
Ujang later married a girl from his village, Che Nah Bahauddin, who has passed away.
His two daughters have also died. The whereabouts of his son remain unknown until today.
The Armed Forces is trying to locate his descendants.
When the war ended in 1945, he reported for duty at the British military headquarters in Port Dickson and returned to the First Battalion of the Royal Malay Regiment, until the end of his service in February 1947, after which he served as a prison warden until his retirement.
He is one of the most decorated soldiers in the Malaysian Armed Forces, earning numerous medals, including The Pacific Star and Pingat Jasa Malaysia. — Bernama