Big day for veterans of Malaya conflict

04:00, Sep 03 2012

A group of Marlborough war veterans are heading to Wellington later this month for a "long overdue" commemoration of New Zealand's contribution in the Malayan Emergency.

About 14 former army, navy and airforce servicemen from here will take part in the first New Zealand Malayan Veterans' Day Memorial Commemorations on September 16.

A service will be held at the National War Memorial in Wellington before the veterans parade past a reviewing officer within Parliament grounds and take their salute.

The Governor General, members of Parliament, members of the Diplomatic Corps, New Zealand Defence Force and Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association representatives will attend the one-off event.

The Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) came after an attempt by the Malayan Communist Party to overthrow the British colonial administration of Malaya.

The Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation (1963-1966) followed the Malayan Emergency and arose from tensions between Indonesia and the new British-backed Federation of Malaysia which was conceived in the aftermath of the Emergency.


Fifteen New Zealand servicemen lost their lives in Malaya during the Emergency - three as a result of enemy action.

Marlborough man Peter Callahan served in Malaysia for six months in 1959 for the New Zealand army.

Fighting in the Malayan jungle caused all sorts of trouble for Mr Callahan and his comrades.

He recalled one soldier being dragged out of his bed by a tiger. A blast of machine gun fire made the large cat release its grip on the man, who required 57 stitches.

"The problem was he was the only one that knew morse code so had to signal for his own chopper," he said.

Cigarettes and salt were used to remove leeches, Mr Callahan said.

Barry Rolton was part of the Royal New Zealand Navy during the last two years of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation.

The navy was on search and destroy missions along the border with Borneo looking for enemy ships, Mr Rolton said.

He remembers long, sleepless nights in hot warships with no air conditioning.

The Malayan Veterans' Day Memorial Commemorations on September 16 would provide personal recognition for those who served there, Mr Rolton said.

"It's long overdue considering the fact we won," he said. "It will be a special moment."

The Marlborough Express