Service left a mark, in more ways than one

BY JARED MORGAN
Last updated 05:00 24/04/2010
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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.

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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.

"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.

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'.''

- © Fairfax NZ News

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