Dayak Ambang : Major W L Sochon, Z Special Unit

Accession Number REL48106
Collection type Technology
Object type Edged weapon or club
Physical description Bone, Hair, Metal, Rattan, Resin
Maker Unknown
Place made Borneo
Date made pre 1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

'Ambang' (knife) made by the Dayak tribesmen of Borneo. Sometimes known as a 'Parang' or in its more elaborate form as an 'Mandau', the blade is steel, concave on the thicker, non cutting side, and slightly convex on the cutting side. The blade form of this particular weapon is peculiar to the Kayan tribe, and is made from trade steel. The hilt, however, is of Kenyah style, (a neigbouring tribe of the Kayan), and is made from bone or horn and is intricately carved in a bird's beak, with inset tufts of dyed goat hair. The weapon is 620mm overall length. The scabbard (Kumpang) is wooden, made from two pieces glued together with rattan binding. Attached to the scabbard is a smaller thin scabbard, with added decoration of animal hair. The smaller scabbard, which although is now empty, probably contained a Langgai Puai (whittling knife). A smaller knife fashioned from part of a bullet casing is with the relic.

History / Summary

William Sochon served in the British Army and was part of Z Special Unit. He was born in about 1905 in Middlesex. He worked as a Civil Servant in Sarawak until 1933, when he travelled to Enlgand. During the war he served with the British Army as a Major with the service numer VB325894. He was awarded the DSC for his actions in Borneo.

Sochon served as a Major with Z Special Unit, a joint Allied special forces reconnaissance and sabotage unit formed during the Second World War to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia. Although predominantly Australian, Z Special Unit included British, Dutch, New Zealand, Timorese and Indonesian members, predominantly operating on Borneo and the islands of the former Netherlands East Indies.

The Mandau is a native weapon, associated with the Dayak people Sochon worked with and came across as part of his work, including leading Operation SEMUT 3. The weapon's owner would pierce the blade with holes denoting the number of victims the knife had claimed.

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