Marking Malayan service

A Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment marches to the parade grounds in Terendak (military) Camp, on the coast of the Malacca Straits, Malaysia, in the 1960s and (below) Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, speaks to a New Zealand army officer during his visit to the camp in 1965. Photos: Supplied

WE will remember them…

The public, especially anyone with a connection to Malaya, are invited to attend the annual wreath-laying ceremony on Malayan Veterans’ Day, Thursday, September 16, at the South Invercargill War Memorial on Elles Rd.

Normally, the annual event would be held on Hari Merdeka Day — Malaya’s national day on
August 31. However due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it had been moved, Malayan Veteran’s Association Southland Branch secretary Linda Duncan said.

New Zealand soldiers served in Malaya from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s. In the beginning they were part of the British Commonwealth ‘‘response’’ to the ‘‘Malayan Emergency’’ (involving communist terrorist guerrillas) and later in the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation.

In a New Zealand Malayan Veterans’ Association Inc newsletter, president Bill Russell wrote about what was dubbed The Malayan Emergency.

‘‘First came the emergency, then came the confrontation,’’ he wrote.

‘‘Many veterans from New Zealand’s three armed services have from time-to-time expressed concern that due recognition has not been given by the New Zealand public and from the Government for the campaign that was fought and which resulted in the loss of several (New Zealand) lives, some killed in action, some dying of disease and some killed in accidents.

‘‘Sandwiched as it was between the Korean and Vietnam wars with a major power, the United States, behind each of those conflicts, the Malayan conflict was small by comparison: small on a world scale it may have been, but New Zealand’s contribution was significant.

‘‘From the Army, three Infantry Battalions, plus our SAS (purposed-formed), plus logistics.

‘‘From the Royal NZ Navy, most of our blue water ships patrolled the Malacca Straits and the waters around Singapore at some stage during the campaign.

‘‘Indeed it fell to HMNZS Pukaki to be the first to fire a shot in anger by a New Zealand warship when it shelled a communist terrorist camp in the northern part of Malaya around Ipoh.

‘‘From the Royal NZ Air Force; at times always several squadrons based largely in Singapore, consisting of a fighter squadron and transport squadrons.

‘‘All this from a country of then just 2.5 million people. At that time we (NZ) had a defence force of approximately 15,000 personnel…’’

He finishes the newsletter with… ‘‘Sadly today many of our veterans are marching off on their final parade.’’

Organised by the association’s Southland branch, the group hoped many would attend the wreath-laying service.

As well as a time to remember the conflict and the men who served there, the ceremony was to celebrate Malaya’s independence which was granted on August 31, 1957.

Due to the Invercargill Cenotaph restoration, people were asked to meet at the South Invercargill War Memorial, Elles Rd, next to the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, at 12.15pm on Thursday, September 16, for the ceremony.

Seeking a record of service
Online Cenotaph is a biographical database of Aotearoa New Zealand’s service personnel which allows veterans, families and researchers to learn about, contribute to, and share stories of those who served New Zealand.

Recently, Online Cenotaph has been working towards creating and enhancing its records of those who served in Post-World War 2 conflicts including the allied occupation of Japan, the Korean War, Malayan Emergency and subsequent service in Malaya and the Indonesian confrontation.

Online Cenotaph was asking those who served in Malaya to contribute to the records, adding photographs, memories, information on previous and subsequent service with the New Zealand Defence Force, subsequent careers and family information.