Skip Navigation

Roll Call Lieutenant-Colonel John Williams, MBE, DCM {Patch} - – 11 January 2002

John Williams joined The Parachute Regiment as one of the first 'boy' bandsmen in 1949, aged 15 years. By 1961, after transferring to regimental duty, he was a W02 and had spent a considerable amount of his service in the Middle and Near East. It was for his conduct during the Borneo campaign in 1964-65 that he won his Distinguished Conduct Medal. 

In March 1965, 2 PARA, under command of Lt Col Eberhardie, relieved the 1st Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. B Company's forward base at Plaman Mapu was a strong point of linked trenches defended by two 3 inch mortars and three GPMGs, supported by 105mm guns but overlooked by the border ridge 1000 metres away. The company had just received a young platoon direct from training.

The small and vulnerable outpost posed an attractive target and increased enemy activity within the company's area soon became evident. On the night of 27 April, when the new platoon was deployed in the forward base, a force of approximately 400 Indonesian troops launched an attack at 5.05 am in pitch darkness.

This first assault succeeded in taking part of the position, including one of the mortars. Amid considerable confusion, CSM Williams, bare to the waist, organised a speedy counter-attack. Running over open ground laced with fire the ad-hoc force engaged the assaulting enemy in a savage close-quarter battle and forced them back.

Having successfully repelled the initial Indonesian assault, CSM Williams reorganised the defences, attempting to secure the camp perimeter. Whilst re­supplying ammunition and moving casualties to the command post he realised a second assault was imminent. Relieving an injured machine gunner, he attached several belts of ammunition to the GPMG as incoming fire and bangalore torpedoes preceded the second enemy assault. Supported by the remaining mortar and the 105 howitzers that were shelling the enemy axis, CSM Williams, firing the GPMG from the hip, led yet another counter-attack repelling the enemy again.

Despite appalling head injuries, and being blinded in one eye, he continued to move casualties, re-supply ammunition and encourage the remaining soldiers.

A third and final assault just before dawn was not pushed home with the vigour of the preceding two and the Indonesian forces began to withdraw. CSM Williams organised and led a clearance party with volunteers from the remaining soldiers. Upon return to the camp he was immediately ordered to a casevac helicopter by the doctor.

CSM 'Patch' Williams was awarded a DCM for his bravery and leadership that morning. The Indonesian forces never again attempted a concentrated attack across the border.

After the Borneo Campaign he was posted to The Parachute Regiment Battle School as CSM. From there he was promoted to RSM and did tours with 2 PARA and 10 PARA.

In 1972 he was appointed to a Quartermaster's commission and served with various airborne units. It was during this period that he was appointed team manager of 'Great Britain II' skippered by Chay Blyth in the 1973-74 'Round the World Yacht Race'.

His last posting on promotion to Lt Col was as Staff Quartermaster Army Staff College, Camberley, from 1983 to 1989.

He retired from the Army in October 1989 having spent 40 years continuous service in The Parachute Regiment.

He was briefly President of the Gallantry Medallists' League before his death.

Compiled by Harvey Grenville, with assistance from Col David Mallam

Personal Account of the Battle of Plaman Mapu by John 'Patch' Williams

Read the personal account of Lt Col John 'Patch' Williams about the Battle of Plaman Mapu in Borneo, 1965 originally compiled for 'Men of the Red Beret', by Max Arthur. Compiled for ParaData by Harvey Grenville and reproduced by kind permission of Max Arthur.

Find out more about Personal Account of the Battle of Plaman Mapu by John 'Patch' Williams

Reproduced by kind permission of Max Arthur.

Listed Operations

01/12/1955 – 01/12/1959 Cyprus (EOKA Campaign)
05/11/1956 – 11/11/1956 Suez (Operation Musketeer)
06/12/1962 – 30/05/1966 Borneo

Airborne Forces service history

1949-1954 The Parachute Regiment, (Bandsman)
1954-1966 The 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), (Warrant Officer Class 2)
1966 Company Sergeant Major (CSM), Parachute Regiment Battle School Brecon Wales, (Warrant Officer Class 2)
1968-1969 Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), The 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), (Warrant Officer Class 1)
1972 Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), The 10th Battalion The Parachute Regiment (10 PARA), (Warrant Officer Class 1)
1983-1989 Staff Quartermaster, Army Staff College, Camberley, (Lieutenant-Colonel)

Paradata Survey

Close