This is a true-life story of national servicemen called up and sent to the other side of the world into the jungles of Malaya to fight the Communist Terrorists (CT’s) still remaining there after almost twelve years of fighting from 1948 onwards.
It all started when we arrived at the drop-off point at the jungle edge from the three-tonner’s we jumped off and deployed at the road side to await our move-off orders. It appeared that there would be a race for each platoon to reach their appointed base camp map-reference.
As I remember, to my immediate front lay a large rectangle of green grass, this appeared to extend around 500 yards to our right and a further 500 yards to our left flank. The officers then started off into the ulu (jungle); some went to the right flank of the grassland, and others went to the left. And YES, you guessed right; we, to gain time, went straight into the grass.
Oh no! After only a few yards into the grass, we realized that it was quite wet! The further we went in, the wetter it got. There were shouts of joy from the other platoons who had chosen the easier route – if a slightly longer march – as they saw us splashing through the swampy area!
Our officer, after choosing this route couldn’t really change his mind half way across, so we continued, but at a very slow rate. We had a lead scout in front (shotgun) then myself with the radio set, and following me was the Bren gunner, then the remainder of our platoon following in our footsteps.
We were walking on the large grass tussocks like you might find in a meadow, large lumps of grass standing up like cabbages. As you can imagine, as each of us stepped onto the tussock, by the time the last person had passed he was up to his knees or worse. We all carried around 70lb of equipment, food and ammunition, and other necessities (I also carried the radio set).
We were cursing our luck having to go through this torment even before we entered the jungle! Morale was quickly sinking and I turned round to speak to Kenny Holland the Bren-gunner about our situation (he had the added burden of the the Bren-gun of course). When I looked back to where I should tread next………there was nobody there!
All I could see was a black, swirling mess and a jungle hat floating on top of the black water. I immediately laid myself on what was left of the firm tussocks, grabbed the muzzle of the Bren gun with my right hand at the same time plunging my left arm into the black mass as far as I could, groping and trying to locate something of our man. After a frantic frightening few seconds (It seemed like a really long time), I felt some hair and a head, held onto the hair and shouted to Kenny to pull me up, he did and as I was being pulled up by Ken a black mess rose out of the black mass like a monster.
I then held him by his webbing and noticed that he did not have his weapon! I told him that he has to go down again and try to find his shotgun. There was some sort of a mumbled answer something about procreation. Anyway, what-ever we thought, he went under again, with him holding one of my hands, with me holding the Bren-gun barrel; Ken lowered us down as we were before!
After a few seconds, we pulled him up again this time with his shotgun plus a weak grin on his rather black face. Next thing we heard after these frantic couple of minutes (if that), was a request as to what the holdup was? Oh, nothing much chaps; shotgun decided he wanted to see how deep the swamp was!
When we eventually reached some water we all cleaned ourselves and carried on. The incident at the swamp was, I believe, accepted as just one of the many incidents one had during our time in the jungle.
As the years passed and the memories faded, we all had some sort of feeling for those long off days when we were young men and on the other side of the world. In the following years I joined the NMBVA (National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association) hoping to find old friends from my regiment the 1/3rd East Anglia Regiment. I did in fact find three old jungle bunnies, David Peck a dog handler, John Doel an NCO in Charlie Company, and Mick Broyd who was in Support Company.
It was not until December 2007 that Dave Peck and I came up with the idea of trying to form a group of Veterans who fought and served in Malaya from 1959, when the regiment embarked on the epic journey, to 1962 when the regiment ended the tour.
As the time passed, our numbers grew, bringing together men who had not seen each other for 50-odd years. At our first reunion in 2008, in the Royal Anglian Regiment’s Museum (by kind permission of the curator, Mr Andy Murkin), there were “many a wet eye”! We had another reunion in 2009 at Duxford with even more veterans, creating the feeling that we had succeeded in our quest to form our own circle of friends, “THE MALAYA VETS GROUP”. We were both proud to have made our idea work.
But with a heavy heart I had to inform our Group of the passing of our great friend David Peck. The attendance at his funeral was very moving, as was the service, together with the Last Post played by a Ghurka serving-soldier. “The Little’n”, as he was affectionately known by all of us, as well as his family, will be missed but never forgotten!
At this time we had a member of our group who was/is heavily involved with the church (as was our David), at Hemsby, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. This guy, Mick Holder, who served with us in Malaya (he actually looked after the regimental mascot, a Monkey called ‘Jacko’) held a service at the same time as David’s in Maldon, which we thought was very touching and kind, and very much appreciated by all.
The Group held a little get-together at Seacroft Holiday Park and, through the Group’s newsletter, Mick read about the holiday break and asked us to meet him there one day for a chat and to browse through a few photo’s, together with a wee drink. The day arrived and Mick appeared. “That’s him!” I said to John Doel, and sure enough it was.
We sat in the bar-area and the photo-album come out of the Tesco’s bag. We chatted about Mick’s monkey and different events and memories, some we could recall others we could not. He then said “ I remember falling into a stinking flipping swamp once, nearly died I did” and he then said he had to go to the toilets.
I could not believe what I had just heard. I asked John to repeat what Mick had said, as John knew that in the past I had been trying to find the “unknown guy” I’d pulled from the swamp, (just out of curiosity as to how he was, or if he was even still alive).
When Mick returned we casually asked him about the swamp thing he had mentioned earlier. He described the incident and asked why the interest? It was a very emotional period that followed when I told him it was me that had pulled him out. He had not known me, nor I him, except as another chap doing what was required at that time so long ago!
Since that meeting at Seacroft, Mick and I, together with John, have kept in close contact with each other. I never thought that I would ever know who I had saved that day 51 years ago.
This unique group of veteran’s from the Jungle/Ulu-days so long ago has bought together old mates and memories that I believe would have never come to light otherwise.
LONG LIVE THE MVG !
Copyright: Richard Faulkner, submitted by Roger Brown.