Fancy an overseas trip?

Last updated 05:00 24/04/2010
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Alan Waldron
JOHN EDENS/The Southland Times
Alan Waldron, of Clyde, served with 1st Battalion, B Company, military transport platoon, in Malaya from 1957 to 1959.
Alan Waldron
Alan Waldron, 1st Battalion, B company, transport platoon, in Malaya.

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Southerners at War

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Alan Waldron volunteered, he says, because he fancied a trip overseas.

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So, in 1957, the 21-year-old boarded the TSS Captain Cook out of Wellington bound for Singapore.

He served with 1st Battalion, B company, military transport platoon, initially in a transit camp, to get acclimatised, then Taiping in northern Perak, close to the Thai border.

Private Waldron's job was to drive troops, in armoured Humber Pigs, to drop-offs in the jungle.

The trick, he says, was to drop soldiers off while the truck was moving, to prevent any enemy spotting where soldiers had entered the jungle.

Conditions were tough.

Tropical, stifling, oppressive heat sometimes got the better of the Kiwi troops, he said.

"Some of the blokes had to be sent home, their health would pack up, but amongst 800 blokes you were bound to get something.

"It was a muggy heat, I reckon it used to get hotter here in Central, but it was very muggy, you'd be sweating all the time.''

For public relations, he said, he and an armed guard would drive water supplies to a village at the height of the dry season.

A guard was needed because villagers would fight over water bottles.

By the end of his two-year tour he had had enough ("six months would have been lovely'') although judging by photographs of the platoon on leave, soldiers had plenty of raucous nights out in ramshackle Taiping.

He believes the campaign worked.

But the difficulty of engaging a guerilla enemy was knowing who was who - there were plenty of sympathisers and instances where MRLA infiltrated nightspots to glean whatever they could.

"You could be drinking with one (a CT) and not know it,'' he said.

- The Southland Times


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