Carting gear through jungle a hard slog

Last updated 05:00 24/04/2010
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Tuatapere man Rangi Rickard's gear out-weighed him, he says.

Carrying reconnaissance and communication gear was the role of his 1st Battalion New Zealand Regiment signal company in Malaya.

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For Private Rickard it was hard slog often a three-day march carrying equipment in the oppressive heat of the jungle.

Signals were pivotal in the field, meaning he and his fellow soldiers lived on constant stand-by.

"If anything happened anywhere else we we the first to be called and the first to go in ... we would be shipped out from wherever we were.''

In volatile South-East Asia post-World War II that was a real possibility.

He arrived on the Malayan Peninsula in 1961 based at the then "brand-new'' Terendak Camp.

After training "all the bloody time'', he took part in his first border operations against communist terrorists in August 1962.

"The CTs (communist terrorists) were setting up near the border trying to get back in and cause havoc.''

Spending up to three months on border operations meant living with jungle wildlife.

"There was every bloody thing you could think of.'' Supplies dropped by parachute provided the answer, with the chutes used as hammocks, he says.

"Everyone slept about three feet up.'' When his two year tour finished, Rickard stayed on for a further three months after volunteers were called to make up platoon numbers finishing his service as conflict sparked by Indonesia erupted.

"I just missed Borneo.''

Service in Malaya and Borneo differed from earlier conflicts soldiers were forced to pay income tax on their earnings, he says. "If you were casevaced (casualty evacuated) you were carried on your own blanket they then docked the cost of the blanket from your pay.''

- The Southland Times


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