Service left a mark, in more ways than one

21:48, Apr 22 2012
Southland Times photo
Gordon Branks holds a photo of he and his mates in his his D company platoon.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Private Gordon Branks (right) displays his tattoo a permanent reminder of hi-jinx on leave in Malaya.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Kiwi soldiers and Malayan aborigines share the spoils of a fishing expedition with grenades.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Members of Gordon Branks' platoon collect supplies from an air drop.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
The Chinese radio operator attached to a special force made up of Malay aborigine boys aged 13 to 15, known as the Senoi Praaq.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
A Kiwi soldier takes in the view from on top of a Malayan mountain, known as gunung.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
D company soldiers play a game of cards in the depths of the jungle.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
A supply helicopter flies away after a supply drop to soldiers in the gunungs.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Members of Corporal Gordon Branks' platoon pose with a special force made up of Malay aborigines boys aged 13 to 15, known as the Senoi Praaq. They joined Commonwealth soldiers in fighting the communist terrorists.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Members of Corporal Gordon Branks' platoon pose in the Malayan jungle.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Members of Corporal Gordon Branks' platoon take time for lunch in the Malayan jungle.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Kiwi soldiers and Malayan aborigines share the spoils of their catch from a fishing expedition with grenades.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Des Weavers (front left) takes a cigarette break with fellow soldiers at camp in Ipoh.
Southland Times photo supplied by Gordon Branks
Kiwi troops don their finest civvies ready to head into town, Gordon Branks is at right.

Gordon Branks has that glint in his eye that marks him as a larrikin.

His service in Malaya is no exception. And its left its mark a ship with full rigging is tattooed to his chest.

He can't remember the reasoning behind the inking, but he does remember the serious ribbing from other soldiers when he and Bluff veteran Fred Ryan, who had a similar tattoo emblazoned on his back, returned to camp.

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"Mine's on my chest and Fred's is on his back ... they thought I'd been at him.''

A 1st New Zealand Regiment corporal with D company 10th platoon Branks was in active service in Malayan mountains, or gunungs, from March 1958.

There his platoon would work alongside a special force made up of Malay aborigines boys aged 13-15 known as the Senoi Praaq.

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It allowed him to experience their culture first hand, he says.

"There was a woman there with a baby and she had no milk.'' Branks collected tubes of condensed milk from other soldiers and gave them to her.

It was with mixed success.

"Later I visited the longhouse ... every bugger had a tube of condensed milk except the baby ... I did my prunes.''

Radio-ing for a bottle also caused problems.

"I asked for a titty-bottle I kept getting "please repeat'.''

His platoon's dealings with the communist terrorists tended to be with those who surrendered and were taken for work parties, speaking to them they realised just how hard they had been to detect in the jungle.

"One came over and said to my cobber 'you lucky to be alive, you stood on my hand, if you look down I would have shot you'.''

The Southland Times