Plenty of eyes in the jungle

21:51, Apr 22 2012
Southland Times photo
Des Weavers holds his jungle boots brought back from his two years' service in Malaya.
Southland Times photo
Des Weavers' record of his time in Malaya.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
Private Des Weavers' platoon pose in Malaya.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
The festive fare on offer to Kiwi troops when they arrived in Singapore.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
Some of the less harmful wildlife found on the Malayan peninsula.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
New Zealand soldiers look a little worse for wear after a drinking session in the NAAFI at Nee Soon Camp in Singapore.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
Private Fred Ryan's naval-style tattoo, etched into the Bluff man's back after a heavy drinking session on R and R.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
Privates Des Weavers and Gordon Branks hit the beach at Mersing, while on leave.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
Jungle bivouac.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
A supply drop in the Malayan jungle.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
Communist terrorist killed during contact with Kiwi soldiers as with any of the Commonwealth forces were brought out of the jungle for identification.
Southland Times photo supplied by Des Weavers
Des Weavers' company is snapped in full-colour.

Detecting the enemy in impenetrable jungle was based on gut instinct, Invercargill man Des Weavers says.

"It was quite scary – you felt someone was looking at you the whole time.''

But those eyes weren't always just those of the communist terrorists.

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Indigenous elephant, tiger, buffalo, rhinoceros, crocodiles, pythons and huge spiders stalked the jungle patrols.

However, the most efficient predator was also one of the stealthiest leeches.

They could attack undetected, Weavers says.

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"You wouldn't know they were on you until you saw the blood...you could trek through the jungle and see them coming to you.''

Private Weavers served from 1957 in 1st Battalion New Zealand Regiment as part of D company based initially at Tanah Hitam camp in northern Malaya.

His platoon patrolled jungle in areas suspected of housing CT after an aerial assault by British bombers.

"They bombed different areas where they thought the CT were, then sent us in to see if they had been there...sometimes they were, sometimes they weren't.''

The closest he came to a firefight was in June 1958.

"I was on guard duty and heard all this firing, all hell broke lose around the camp.''

The next morning all was revealed when his company brought back the body of a CT shot during an ambush for identification, he says.

Conversely, New Zealand casualties were few and confined to soldiers that could easily be isolated by the enemy.

"One of our dog handlers got killed.''

He returned home after two years to find most people were ignorant to why he had gone.

"It wasn't in the news.''

The Southland Times