UNIVERISTY OF TEXAS, AUSTIN. |
LOW’S GULLY ARMY EXPEDITION |
A case analysis |
Willie Okpoyo |
The Low’s gully army expedition traces the journey of a 10 man team of 2 British Officers, 5 British non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and 3 ethnic Chinese NCOs in the British Army’s Hong Kong Corps, each with varying levels of mountain climbing and jungle survival skills, as they traversed Low’s Gully – a 10 mile schism that split the North side of Mount Kinabalu. The exercise began with the troops hiking up the mountain carrying 80Ibs worth of supplies in their rucksacks. By the third day, the 4 more fit soldiers begin forward reconnaissance (Reece) leaving behind a 5 man main party and 1 runner to convey messages between both groups. Due to a combination of nature and illness, the leader allows the Reece team, which now includes the runner, abseil to the gully floor on the 7th day. After both teams failed to rendezvous on the 8th day, the Reece team travels down river leaving the main party behind. An alarm is sent out on the 20th day that the 5 man main party is in distress. What was supposed to be a ten day training exercise turned into a nightmare that drew global media attention and ended with a ‘just in time’ rescue operation on the 33rd day.
The outcome of the expedition was affected by 3 salient issues: the motive behind the expedition, the composition of the team and the decision to split the team during the exercise. The officer cadre of the team saw the assignment as a swansong and was willing to go above and beyond board to ensure success – they did this in a number of ways. The 2 officers had previously undertaken this expedition and were well aware of its difficulty. They did not clearly communicate this to the ethnic Chinese volunteers – their requirements of “a head for heights, an ability to swim and abseil”2 were clearly misleading. The NCOs were also not fully informed on Neill’s expertise with regards to...