Service left a mark, in more ways than one

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.

ANZAC 2010, soldiers of South-East Asia
We remember the forgotten conflicts
Fighting for recognition: 'The forgotten army'
Telling their stories: A sense of brotherhood
Service left a mark: Malaya, Gordon Branks
Kiwis held in high esteem: Malaysia, Brian Duncan
Memories will go to the grave: Malaya, Ken Barton
Health problems: Borneo, Neil Hogan
A hard slog: Malaya, Rangi Rickard
Work hard and play hard: Malaya, Fred Ryan
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
Memories of ambush remain: Malaya, Clive Locker
'Emergency' dragged on for 12 years
Not all are allowed to wear their badge of honour

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'.''

The Southland Times