Southerners at War
Alan Waldron volunteered, he says, because he fancied a trip overseas.
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|Serving an adventure: Malaya, Colin Rooney|
|Plenty of eyes in the jungle: Malaya, Des Weavers
|Families well looked after: Malaya, Graeme Henderson
|Fancy an overseas trip?: Malaya, Alan Waldron
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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.
- © Fairfax NZ News