The “Mystery” of the Jamaluang Crocodile

The reason why legends get started are complicated and often lost in the mist of time. Perhaps, on the other hand, the mystery of the “Jamaluang Crocodile” may have a more simpler explanation.  On the 28th of May 1953, we the 11th Hussars P.A.O. set sail from Liverpool on the H.M.T. Empire Clyd, bound for Malaya.  The regiment was to take over from the 13th/18th Hussars who were engaged in jungle patrols and escort duties with the 2nd Battalion The Princess Mary’s Own Ghurkha Rifles.

 We arrived in Singapore on the 22nd June.  There the regiment was split up into different patrol areas, our lot, B Squadron, was sent to Majedee Barracks at Johore Bahru which we shared wit the Ghurkas.  I was then sent, as part of an advance party, on detachment to Jamalung. When we arrived in Jamalung we discovered, oh joy of joys, there was a deep, clear spring fed pool in a nearby quarry, just the place to plunge in and cool off after a long, hot and sweaty patrol.  Our euphoria was short lived for on closer examination we discovered, to our horror, a large notice board next to the pool which said.

Beware of Crocodile

What to do?  It was decided to ask the rear party of the 13th/18th about the notice, they confirmed that there was indeed a crocodile living in the pool and advised us not to risk going in.  That clear cooling water was immediately put firmly, OUT OF BOUNDS by the O.C.  As he said, “I have few enough men as it is to do the job we were sent here to do without b***** well feeding them to the local wild life”.

Each day when we returned from patrol all hot, sweaty and fly blown, longing to be able to plunge our tortured bodies into the “Jamaluang Lido’s” cooling waters but it stayed firmly closed.  Things were getting desperate, this situation could not go on, something had to be done!  A council of war was convened and it was decided that Staff Sgt. Scott, our Quarter Master, should take charge, after all he had once read a book, all-be-it some time ago, on crocodiles.

Despite his only scant knowledge of crocodiles, our intrepid Q.M. felt confident that he could rid us of the monster of the lake.  When we heard this there was cheers all round, were we finally going to be able to sink our aching bodies into that wonderful pools healing waters?  Our Q.M. not known as “Scott of the Jungle”, set about his task with the enthusiasm of a hunter with the scent of his prey in his nostrils.  He first demanded an animal carcass to use as bait, he said that he was going to lure the beast out of the water and then shoot it.  A dead dog was duly found for the bait.  With all the guile and professionalism of a real Big Game Hunter, he placed the carcass in the spot where he said that the croc was most likely to come out and waited.  For three long days and three long tortuous nights our intrepid Q.M. waited by the pool, each day getting more bleary eyed and cross from being attacked by every insect in Malaya.  Finally, more we suspected out of exhaustion than conviction, Staff Sergeant Scott declared that the pool was now definitely free of crocodiles!

You might think that would be the end of the story but there are a couple of post-scripts to this tail.  A short while after one of the lads was fishing in the pool for catfish.  He left his rod and keep net, which had some fish on it, to go for a Tiffin.  When he returned he discovered a snake in his keep net eating his fish.   When we asked some of the locals about this they said “oh yes there are lots of snakes in the pool, it’s full of fish which the snakes feed on”.  After that the pool seemed to lose much of it’s attraction.

Many years later, after I joined the N.M.B.V.A. I met an ex-13th/18th Hussar who said that he was part of the detachment that we relieved in Jamaluang.  Our conversation turned to the pool in the quarry.  “Yes” he said “I know all about the crocodile notice, it was put up as a joke, surely you did not take it seriously?”  “Of course not”, I replied, crossing my fingers firmly behind my back.
Ron Thew
11th Hussars in Malaya from 1953