The Jungle Beat – Roy Follows, of Fort Brooke and Cameron Highlands

Running this Travel Destination Cameron Highlands web site sure is interesting. You never know who would contact you. That’s the power of World Wide Web. The information reaches far and wide as long as there is an online telecommunication available, you could just about reach every far flung corners of the world. The world may be big, but the internet brings people closer and hopefully helps to foster a better understanding of each other’s culture and eventually a closer relationship.

Recently, Mr. Roy Follows of Newcastle, Staffordshire, United Kingdom, contacted me to inquire about Fort Brooke, which is located somewhere near Gua Musang, Kelantan. Roy is no stranger to Malaysia (though at that time it would be known as Malaya), being a war veteran serving with the Malayan Police field force fighting against the communist terrorist insurgency deep in the vastly unexplored hilly jungles and mountainside of Malaya. Now retired and residing in Newcastle, he is now embarking on writing his next book.

Young Roy heading for high adventure

Roy was young, about 22 when he joined the Police Field Force and raring to go for high adventure. His basic training in the national service did not prepare him well for the guerrilla jungle warfare of the tropical rainforest. With a bit of luck and help from his comrades, he quickly picked up his jungle warfare skills and within a year became the youngest commander of a jungle fort and platoon operating deep within enemy controlled territory. The platoon not only has to deal with the unpredictable climate weather of jungles, insect swarms and prowling tigers, and the sometimes inefficient bureaucracy and command centre, they still had to seek out and do battle with the communist terrorist.

In his own words about the weather,”… about hujan in the hutan. I once did an operation that for the month we were in the jungle, it rained at least once a day or during the night, susah-lah! When up to my chest wading in the mangrove swamps in the then uninhabited SE coastal region of Johore , I always wished I was in the mountains, then when amongst the packed Bukits and Gunongs I longed to be in the swamp – you can’t win.” And yet if you asked any intrepid jungle trekkers, going through the mud and lugging a heavy bag pack, they still wouldn’t trade it in for anything else in the world. The thrill of adventure seems to mask any of the inconveniences and after a grueling trek; the sense of achievement is satisfaction indeed. Of course we don’t have to deal with any terrorist these days in the jungle, just the usual unpredictable weather, humidity and irritating insects and leeches in jungle.

Well recommended book with reading pleasure

‘The Jungle Beat’ was easy to read, written in a straight forward manner made for a easy reading unlike some of the fiction based war books where the author threw in some intrigue and politics into the fray; this book is about the man in the field facing the real dangers of routing out enemies and ridding the land of terrorism. Unfortunately I had tons of things to do and I’m still halfway through the book. Hopefully I would find the time to finish reading it soon. Apparently this book in its earlier edition was a required reading for any officers who would be posted in jungle operation.

And what about Fort Brooke? From the operational maps that Roy passed to me, I couldn’t quite make head or tails to the exact location except that it is in the Ulu Kelantan area. As far as I can tell it seems to be located near Gua Musang perhaps off the main road from Blue Valley Cameron Highlands and in between to Gua Musang or perhaps further. It is located near the mountain Gunung Korbu, however using Google Maps also didn’t yield me any good guide to the actual location of Fort Brooke. Roy’s interest with Fort Brooke was because of his time and operation in that location. He wanted to know how’s Fort Brooke now and how well it has progressed and modernized, perhaps even have McDonald branch set up there! Hamburgers? Somehow I think not. However some amount of development could have happen though it is so far deep and remote such development would be quite slow.

Who is Fort Brooke?

We did some search online and still did not quite get any info about Fort Brooke though there was one blog belonging to Mr Tan Boon Foo that came close when he and a group of friends went for an expedition in April of 1985. The scanned pictures of a bridge to Fort Brooke were really faded. We attempted to contact Mr Tan but there was no reply from him. Well perhaps one day, if I ever do drive through the route from Cameron Highlands to Gua Musang and on to Ulu Kelantan, perhaps I might find the road leading to Fort Brooke and snap some updated photos for Roy Follows. Or perhaps any of you intrepid road adventurers might chance upon it, do drop me a line, ok?

For now, I just republish the correspondence with Roy Follows and his submitted photos for your reference. Good historical info too and some insights about his time during his operational duties while in Malaya. And if you want to know more about his exploits, go grab yourself a copy of “The Jungle Beat” either from Amazon or your nearest book store (if they do carry a copy, try your luck!) and learn a bit of history, the people and the tumultuous times of that period.