A small bite of history.
An extract from a British Royal Navy ship's magazine.The pirates were southern Filipinos.Those that swarmed the state of Sabah.We do need some of them for our labour force but not to the extent of what we have now.
May 17, 1961
The British frigate St Brides Bay has detained a suspected pirate vessel in the Celebes Sea, a Royal Navy statement announced in Singapore today.
The Naval statement said two motor boats carrying 21 men - 11 of them armed - intercepted a motor trading vessel on May 12 and pirated her cargo of 207 bags of copra.
We left Singapore on the May 9 and made a quiet and pleasant passage to North Borneo, having rendezvoued with HM Ships HOUGHTON and FISKERTON returning from their patrol in order to gain the benefit of their experiences. By the evening of Saturday 13th we had rounded the northern tip of Borneo and made the remainder of the passage darkened in order to avoid making our presence too readily apparent.
At 0600 the following morning we met a police launch out from Tawau and embarked Mr R H Hansen, the police commissioner, together with six victims of piracy to assist in identifying any suspects, and three local policemen. Within an hour of this we had sighted and hauled alongside our first 'kumpit' -which proved a fortunate meeting. The kumpit, the 'YOUNG STAR', had been involved in a running battle with a pirate the previous evening. Although she had escaped capture, one member of the crew had been killed by a home-made bomb, and six others had been injured by splinters or rifle fire - these we were able to bring on board for medical treatment. This incident, before breakfast on a calm, sunny Sunday morning, brought home to all of us the fact that our patrol was not to be just another cruise. From the 'YOUNG STAR' we now had some definite information and were able to plan our search accordingly.
Sorrowful bunch contemplating future
For the next thirty-six hours we continued the search whilst the trail became slowly colder During this time we stopped and searched or questioned numerous sailing and motor craft but gained little useful information, and the sight of our armed boarding-party 'standing-to' became quite commonplace. There were numerous false alarms, for we found the Celebes Sea to abound in floating trees, which, at a distance were difficult to distinguish from the small craft for which we were looking. This difficulty was increased at night, and on at least one occasion we illuminated a clump of trees which the boarding-party had been waiting to board.
Engineer - tethered
Shortly after 2100 on the second night on patrol we closed a radar contact which began to take evasive action when the range had closed to about one mile, to the extent that the ship had some difficulty in placing her in a position in which we could properly use the searchlight. When this contact was illuminated she was seen to be a fast motor-kumpit resembling that discribed by the crew of the 'YOUNG STAR'. She was stopped and the crew brought on board for questioning whilst the boat was searched - a search that revealed two automatic weapons, a rifle and ammunition hidden beneath a pile of copra. The discovery of these arms, together with the results of questioning, gave sufficient grounds for arrest. A prize crew was embarked, and the real crew were kept on board the ship under guard except for the engineer whom we kept with us in the kumpit. By 2230 we in the kumpit were underway again and heading for Tawau, some 120 miles distant, escorted by the ship. I shall remember that night for a long time, for the smell of rancid copra takes some getting used to and permeates everything - clothes, food and even cigarettes: in the heat of the day it becomes worse still. The native engineer that we took with us was given little freedom by his police guard and spent most of the time tethered like a dog by a halter round his neck; had one not seen their victims in the 'YOUNG STAR' two days earlier it would have been easy to have felt sorry for him.
Attacked by pirates.Motor kumpit 'Young Star'
Shortly after sunrise the following morning the ship left us to go on into Tawau and we followed at our best speed of about nine knots. Our arrival in Tawau in the afternoon caused great interest ashore and the interest heightened into excitement when the haltered engineer was led to the local gaol.
A report of the incident was released to the press by the Admiralty and during the next few weeks we were entertained by numerous press-cuttings which told our story in various ways - and not always very accurately. The most accurate report that reached us originated in the ship as a letter home and came back as a full back page article in a local Ulster newspaper complete with one of the Buffer's photographs of Able Seaman Hodge at his best (with pirates).
We have recently heard that our captives have each been sentenced to twelve years imprisonment.