Some memories will go to the grave

21:50, Apr 22 2012
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Press Ken Barton on the details of what he saw and experienced in the Malayan jungle and he does so easily.

Fifty years on he reels off names xx--xx except for one that's just too personal.

"I've got one bloke, I tell him he saved my life and we don't say any more no-one else knows about it ... it's between him and me,'' and it will go to the grave that way, he says.

But when he talks about the naughty nine he is much more open.

These were his cobbers on patrol drawn from 1st Battalion New Zealand Regiment, 12 platoon, D company thrown together because they had something in common misbehaviour during training.

Barton's service in Malaya was his second deployment into Asia.

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He'd served in Korea at the tail-end of that conflict as part of a supply company and still vividly remembers the devastation caused by three years of fighting.

In December 1957 he arrived in Singapore, a then-embattled island off the southern tip of the Malayan peninsula, with the rest of the 1st New Zealand Regiment.

Twelve years after the Japanese occupation ended, the island was a "dirty stinking hole'', he says. They were there to acclimatise before troops moving into Malaya and their camp outside of the city of Ipoh.

Rather than the sprint-like combat seen in previous conflicts, the two year stint of jungle warfare against the guerilla forces they called communist terrorists was more of a walk, he says.

"It wasn't fierce fighting – we had to go looking for them, if we struck them it was good luck...or bad luck for them. We'd go out for a month and not see a soul.''

The Southland Times