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10 March 2009

The company had an operation to carry out in the province of PERAK, a so called black area, and the area is known to be quite hilly.   A big river ran through the area that we were to go into, and it will be new territory to us.

We left IPOH at 0400hrs  in the lorries and arrived just before daybreak, then the march began into the jungle, hills you wouldn’t believe it, we would struggle up a mountain then down again then up again, we would be swearing and cursing the bloody thorns that caught on your clothes, the vines that caught your feet and the bloody manpack frame, then we would ask how much further we had to go.  Not far just to the net valley, where was that we thought, who ever made this bleeding place needed his head seen to.  Well eventually we got to where we were to be it was a nice river anyway.  I am quite looking forward to some good fishing.  As usual up with the wire make the calls to HQ and supporting platoons, make the basha, have a meal and a brew up, stand to and the rum ration then on with the spare olive greens (pyjamas).  Which reminds me of a situation I dreaded……….

Walking through the jungle, crossing rivers, being bitten by countless insects, torn by vines and thorns, and worse of all the clinging leeches black slug like things that bit into your skin and sucked the blood from your body.  Sweat and the blood mixed onto your clothes.  Then you stop and make camp do the usual things/ I have to do, then bed.  Get up in the morning and take the nice warm lean sleeping olive greens off, and put the cold wet bloody clothes back on, the ones you took off last night.  Well this particular morning I was quite happy the weather was fine and sunny and I was buggered if I was going to put on the shitty clothes of the day before!  Then it happened, the order to pack up and move camp.  All was well we moved to another location, stopped made camp usual things then bed time, bloody hell I haven’t got any sleeping gear, I get a bollocking.  That was a lesson learned.

The operation went along pretty smoothly, me fishing, one time I was waiting for a bite, bang went the attap rod into an arc what a big one, I yelled for help a couple of the guys came running up, do me a favour, jump in and see what I’ve got on here?  They slid into the water and followed the line down into the depths……….and pulled the line and a bloody great cat fish on the end of it, onto the bank, what a catch, and was the aboe’s pleased with a nice meal tey were over the moon.

Patrols went out to ambush positions, some on recee patrols to try and find the CT’s, none were found, no one was ambushed it seemed all pointless somehow.  The days passed until the resup by the air force, this was quite an adventure in itself.  A typical air drop follows……….

Call HQ I’m packing up to receive an air drop, will call when all is finished.  Proceed to the DZ (Drop Zone) this has been prepared by us earlier, set the radio up with a sky wave aerial and sit and wait for the air craft to arrive, oh yes also set out the identification panels on the ground, prepare the fire a real smokey affair to give the wind direction to the aircraft, then we wait and wait until somebody hears the engines of the aircraft and then I do my job.

HALLO FIVE THREE for VALLETA AIRCRAFT how do you read me over?  This I repeated until the reply is received from the plane, the fire is lit and smoking well.

Allo VICTOR THREE BARS is that you FIVE THREE mate?  Needless to say by the voice procedure they were RAAF but never the less real good guys.  Then they fly over the DZ, a practice run.  Then round again for the drop this time, from around eight hundred feet to a thousand feet out they tumble one after the other some white, some orange, some green they were a welcome sight, and they were all collectable this time.  I would thank them for a good drop, wish them well and that was that.  While we are on the subject of drops an incident happened at one time which was very exciting fun…

To cut a long story short, the parachute came out of the aircraft and floated down to earth in such a carefree fashion it was a beautiful sight, but one of the chutes got tangled up in a dead tree very high up as well.  I packed up my radio and stuff and the Sergeant in charge came up to me and pulled me behind a large rock, “look at that idiot what does he think he is doing” I looked and saw an Officer who had turned up at the DZ, a new type Officer, looking u at the chute that had got stuck in the tree, he had got the Verey pistol and was going to fire at the parachute to catch it alight so as to let the wood case drop to the ground.  But because he was a fool or blind or both, we could see a RED material fluttering from the wooden box, EXPLOSIVES sign, well almost everybody else had seen the red sign and were quickly getting to cover in case of the box catching fire as well as the chute.  The lesson learned by the Officer was a good one, and fortune favoured the fool that day.  Everybody had a good laugh at his expense but he realised the possible consequences, and after that experience he was I think a better man.

When all the parachutes and supplies were gathered up and taken back to the camp it was sort out time.  You see, how the supplies were ordered was that if a soldier wanted six cans of Carlsberg, fifty fags, he would write it down I would also write it down on my message pad along with other requests for items from other guys, also food fort he aboe’s and any ammo or armaments that was needed.  This list of requirements I then sent off to HQ for the airdrop, when the guys got back to the camp they paid for the stuff they had received in the jungle airdrop.  After the stuff was given out the boxes were kept to make furniture, parachute cord was cut of the chutes and quite often the silk canopies were kept and cut up to perhaps send home later.

I  must say the airdrop just mentioned was a pretty normal resup, but sometimes the procedure was altered, sometimes the boxes and parachutes wee put in a heap and burned, what a waste!  How was it burned?  A phosphorous grenade was lobed into the heap and whoosh up it would go in a vivid white glow and burn like fury.  But on some occasions the grenade would not go off, probably because it was left over from the Second World War.  If this happened then after a short wait the grenade was then placed on the heap of boxes and a little target practice took place to ignite the grenade with a bullet, or two bullets.  On this occasion several of us lined up and wee then instructed to fire at the grenade one round per person one at a time, first one, a riffle missed, someone else missed and carried on until my turn came what chance did I have, hardly any really, a 38 Smith & Western revolver at about forty yards MISSED.  What a surprise!  Then the Officer had a go, now this guy was one of the best Officers you could wish to serve under, fair, understanding, and knew his job he was the kind of person who if he told you to do something, then you did it for him.  Anyway it was his turn and his personal weapon was a 12 gauge shotgun single barrel pump action, he moved forward a little to compensate for the shot spread and BANG!!  Well the grenade exploded and the fire burned.  We returned to the camp and our basha’s, mine was next to the Officer’s basha, I made the radio up and contacted HQ, sent a SITREP, started to make a brew for myself and the Officer, I leaned over to speak to him and he was looking at his shotgun very intensely indeed, what’s up I asked?  Look at this, I looked at the muzzle end of the shotgun and I first noticed that the bead was missing from the top of the barrel, on further examination found that the muzzle was slightly funnel shaped, we discussed what had happened and came to the conclusion that the wadding placed in the muzzle was not taken out when he had fired at the grenade.  I did say to him that the report from the gun didn’t sound right at the time, but didn’t think any more about it then.  He was rightly concerned about what the armourer would say about his neglect, and damage to the weapon.  We could when we get back borrow a hacksaw, cut the offending end off and stick another bead on, the Sergeant he had a look and had a wry smile, he wasn’t a bad sort either but he couldn’t think of any way to make the weapon presentable, luckily the thing still worked, thinking about it, it was now deadlier at short range now than it ever was before, it was now like a small blunderbuss.

He was made Orderly Officer for a month.

By Richard Faulkner

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