Work hard and play hard

BY JARED MORGAN
Last updated 05:00 24/04/2010
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Southerners at War

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Distance in the Malayan jungle was measured in yards, not miles, Bluff veteran Fred Ryan says.

ANZAC 2010, soldiers of South-East Asia
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Work hard and play hard: Malaya, Fred Ryan
Serving an adventure: Malaya, Colin Rooney
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Families well looked after: Malaya, Graeme Henderson
Fancy an overseas trip?: Malaya, Alan Waldron
Memories of ambush remain: Malaya, Clive Locker
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"If you did 100 yards in a day you did well.''

Despite his platoon's efforts to gain ground on their targets, the 1st New Zealand Regiment D company private admits to never finding communist terrorists (CT).

Not that they weren't there, Ryan says.

In impenetrable jungle, there were plenty of places to hide.

"They used to dig holes and pull a leaf or something over as a lid like trapdoor spiders.'' After spending a month hunting the CT on patrol, troops had spend a couple of days at Lumut Beach camp, to rest and be checked for illnesses before they could go on leave, he says.

One leave story involves a good mate – and tattoos – and Ryan's version is as amusing as Gordon Branks' take on the same incident.

"It was a bet with a guy in the navy, I was dressed as a sailor ... I fell in the door of the tattoo shop pissed and the wee Chinaman couldn't roll me over, so he put it on my back.''

Posing as navy caused problems when he was recognised and questioned but somehow he managed to talk his way out of it. "That fella swore I had a dead-ringer.''

A lasting memory, backed by veterans from throughout the conflict, is jumping off personnel vehicles to avoid ambush by communist terrorists.

This was done at 50kmh meaning to anyone listening, the vehicles passing by did not give the impression of having stopped or even slowed.

What was good for drivers could be hair-raising for soldiers who, if they landed wrong, could be left cartwheeling in gravel, he says.

- The Southland Times

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