Veterans remember Malayan campaign
A conflict largely forgotten for more than half a century was remembered in a ceremony in Invercargill yesterday.
Southland veterans of the Malayan Emergency and later Borneo Confrontation gathered under the shadow of the city's cenotaph to remember those who fought and died in the campaign that stretched from 1948 to 1966.
About 30,000 New Zealand Defence Force personnel, including 1000 from Southland and Otago, took part in the conflict.
It was the second year a commemoration had been held to specifically honour Southland's Malayan veterans.
Southland branch of the Malayan Veterans' Association vice-president Bruce Henderson said he was proud to see a bigger turnout at the ceremony, to coincide with Malaysian independence day, after the inaugural event last year.
"There are more veterans and, even more pleasing, more people from Invercargill's Malaysian community," he said.
To the strains of the bugle, ex-servicemen stood at attention before laying a wreath to remember the fallen.
"This day is not just to honour those who died in action but for those Malayan veterans who have passed away since, largely unheralded and forgotten," Mr Henderson said.
The honour of raising the flag was reserved for Private Tukotahi Phillips, of the Fourth Otago and Southland Battalion Group, who wore his father's Malayan campaign medal.
"Dad passed away in 2009. He served four tours in Malaysia so it's special to be able to keep his memory alive," he said.
This month a national ceremony will be held for the first time. It will include a wreath-laying in the National War Memorial Hall of Memories on September 16, before veterans parade to Parliament's Great Hall for a service and reception.
Southland Malayan veteran Brian Duncan will take part in the national ceremony.
"It has taken a long time but finally New Zealand veterans from the Malayan campaign will be honoured in their own country."
In contrast, the veterans had been well respected in Malaysia, Mr Duncan said. "I went back a few years ago for 50 years of Malaysian independence and was treated like a returning hero."
Malaysians Anthonia Wong and her daughter Karen Sia have lived in Invercargill since January.
"As well as a chance to celebrate Malaysian independence, today is a chance to honour and remember the New Zealanders who fought for that independence," Mrs Wong said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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