Royal Marines

Historial Time Line

1950 - 1974

1950. Wednesday 1st February. Relocation of Royal Naval School of Music from Burford to Deal was completed on this date.

1950. Saturday 27th May. Chatham Group Band heavily involved in the disbandment of Chatham Group, Royal Marines.

1950. Sunday 28th May. Chatham Colours laid up in Rochester Cathedral after being paraded through the streets.

1950. Friday 23rd June. First Beat the Retreat by the Massed Bands of the Royal Marines on Horse Guards Parade, London. The Ceremony was based upon the displays by the Royal Naval School of Music at the 1948 Dedication Ceremony and their Royal Tournament appearance in the same year. This was the first occasion that all thirty two Silver Memorial Bugles were sounded together.

1950. Sunday 25th June. The Korean war saw the Special Boat Service (SBS) teaming up with specially formed 41 Independent Commando Royal Marines and the US Army to create a joint raiding force. Operation Double Eagle was to conduct sabotage missions along the Korean coast, launching raids from submarines and warships. Railway lines, tunnels, bridges and general targets of opportunity were all blown up by the raiding parties, damaging the North Korean's lines of supply and communications.

1950. June. 45 Commando RM arrived in Malaya from Hong Kong.

1950. During the Korean War 41 Commando was reconstituted as 41 (Independent) Commando following a request from the United Nations Command for more amphibious raiding forces. The 'Independent' designation meant that their commander had sole responsibility for their unit and did not have to consult with higher headquarters on operational and logistical matters.

1950. Sunday 16th July. Mne. H.H. Rose of 42 Commando RM died during a firing accident.

1950. July. 562 Kings Squad pass for duty from Eastney Barracks. W. Preston was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1950. Wednesday 16th August. 219 Royal Marine volunteers were assembled in Bickleigh then the Commando School. They were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Douglas B. Drysdale DSO, MBE an experienced World War II Commando veteran who was the Chief Instructor at the Royal Marines Officer school. Later the Commandos travelled to Japan in civilian clothes, with most of the civilian clothing issued by the Admiralty. The unit received more volunteers on route from 3 Commando Brigade involved in the Malayan Emergency.

1950. Thursday 31st August. The Chatham Group officially ceased to exist. The Chatham Band was lost as a result of the closure of the RM Barracks Chatham and its special badge, the White Rose of York awarded in 1902, was lost with it.

1950. Thursday 31st August. The Chatham Group (1st Grand Division) was disbanded.

1950. Friday 1st September. The amalgarmation of Groups Band with the Royal Naval School of Music. No futher direct entry to group bands, all recruiting through School; members of group bands to retain old conditions only until engagement expires; automatic promotion for Group Musicians to become merit based. The Royal Naval School of Music becomes the Royal Marines School of Music; Group Bands become Staff Bands. Musical Director of the RMSM will be 'Director of Music, Royal Marines; other DoMs will be 'Director of Music. 'Portsmouth' and 'DoM, Plymouth'. These bands to retain special cap badges and Portsmouth to retain 'Royal Yacht' flash. All RM Bands on RN ships and at RN establishments became part of the RMBS. Records of Portsmouth and Plymouth band ranks transferred to the RMSM from where new numbers in the RNSM 'RMB' series would be issued. This also applied to Chatham ranks transferred to the new RMSM Band and also to ranks of the C-in-C Nore band. Instructions relating to uniform (Lyre collar badge and wearing of broad red stripe trousers) to be issued.

1950. Thursday 14th September. CHX4772 Marine Ernest J. Nevard was killed in action during an ambush in a jeep along the Tapah-Chenderiang Road in Perak, Malaya.

1950. Thursday 14th September. RM8028 Marine D.C. Keyes was killed in action being ambushed in a jeep along the Tapah-Chenderiang Road in Perak, Malaya.

1950. Friday 15th September. Volunteer Commandos from Bickliegh arrived in Japan and were issued with American winter uniforms and weapons, but retained their green berets, battle dress and boots.

1950. Saturday 23rd September. Sgt. William R. N. Rowe PLY/X3615, was killed while serving in 42 Commando in Malaya.

1950. Monday 9th October. Band Rank of Staff Sergeant changed to Staff Bandmaster 'to avoid misunderstanding of his status in relation to Bandmasters and Band Sergeants."

1950. October. The first mission of the Volunteer Commandos from Bickliegh saw them embarked on two American high speed transports the USS Horace A. Bass (APD-124) and USS Wantuck (APD-125) supported by the destroyer USS De Haven (DD-727), where they executed a series of raids on the North Korean coast near Wonsan to disrupt North Korean transportation facilities.

1950. Thursday 2nd November. RNSM Collar Badge (the lyre) to be replaced by Globe & Laurel except for Boy Musicians who would continue to wear the lyre on the collar and would also retain the thin red trouser welt, not the broad red stripe. The King approved these changes on this date.

1950. Friday 10th November. 41 Independent Commando joined the United Nations advance in North Korea where they served with the United States Marine Corps, the second time the two organisations had served together, the first being the Boxer Rebellion in China. During the Battle of Chosin Reservoir Lieutenant Colonel Drysdale was given command of a 900 man unit of his own Commando, American, and South Korean forces called Task Force Drysdale. Their hard fighting together with the American Marines and Army led to 41 Independent Commando being awarded the American Presidential Unit Citation that the 1st Marine Division earned. However 41 Independent RM Commando was not listed in the original citation. It took much letter writing by US veterans to not only convince their government to award the 'Presidential Unit Citation' to 41 Independent Commando for their performance at Chosin, but to get the British government to approve and authorise it for 41 Commando. It was finally accepted during 1957 by the Captain General of the Royal Marines from the US Ambassador to the UK.

It reads, 41 Independent RM Commando for their gallantry in action on the Chosin Plateau during the fighting withdrawal from Hagaru-ri to Koto-ri between Monday 27th November 1950 and Saturday 11th December 1950.

41 Commando is the only organisation in the armed forces of the United Kingdom that is authorised to fly a 'Foreign' streamer from its colour and it does so because of the 1st Marine Division. The only other streamer displayed on Royal Marines colours is the Gibraltar Streamer.

1950. Sunday 12th November. RM9203 Marine Terence W. Barnett age 19 died as a result of an accident, while serving with 45 Commando. He was buried at Batu Gajah Christian Cemetery, Perak Malaya.

1950. Friday 22nd December. Marine Brian Eaton RM 8111 of 42 Commando died of wounds, while serving in Malaya

1950. Thursday 28th December. PLYX111607 Marine Dennis Parr was killed in action in the Gopeng-Kampar hills in Malaya.

1950. Thursday 28th December. CHX5369 Marine L.J. Turner was killed in action in Gopeng-Kampar hills, Malaya.

1950. 3 Commando Brigade were moved to Malaya.

1950. 41 Independent Commando formed for operations in Korea.

1950. - 1951. Captain R T Highett RM flew the Sea Fury on operations from HMS Theseus during the Korean War.

1950. The Chatham Barracks was closed.

1951. Wednesday 10th January. CHX5389 Corporal John Henry was killed in action during an ambush in Cameron Highlands area of Malaya.

1951. Wednesday 10th January. RM7305 Marine Leslie O. Miller was killed in action during an ambush in the Cameron Highlands area of Malaya.

1951. Saturday 27th January. To mark the occasion of the return of the Royal Marines School of Music to Deal, the Commandant General approved the title 'Commandant General's Squad' to be given to the senior squad of Boy Musicians under training. In addition. the Commandant General approved of the best all round Boy Musician in the Commandant Generals Squad being awarded a Certificate of merit to be called the Commandant General's Certificate.

1951. January David Wilson 852 Squad PLYX4229 Sergeant George Westwood was killed in action during an ambush in Cameron Highlands area of Malaya.

1951. Full Dress for RMBS Other Ranks re-introduced. (Dress1 A: Band Order for the RM Band Service. White helmet or cap, blue cloth tunic, tweed trousers, white belt, white gloves. For ceremonial use as ordered) Dress regulations to be amended.

1951. April. 41 Commando was reformed in Japan and were assigned to what eventually became known as the 1st Commonwealth Division. They raided the North Korean coast with the Republic of Korea Marine Corps.

1951. Wednesday 6th June. Lieutenant P.K. Budgen – died.

1951. Thursday 28th June - Wednesday 11th July. And Saturday 15th September - Wednesday 3rd October 1951. HMS MAURITIUS. Abadan crisis. Buoy-up off Abadan prepared to land to assist protecting/evacuating civilians caught up in the disturbances. Providing boarding parties to protect oil-tankers going to and from Basra. Providing "cutting-out" parties for recovering tugs and small craft concealed in various creeks and backwaters.
All civilians were eventually evacuated and taken to safety. Ship at "cruising stations" for both periods in horrendous temperatures for which the ship was hardly suitable. No official acknowledgement for this unpleasant period. (by Jim Porter)

1951. Wednesday 11th July. CHX4107 Sergeant T.J.H. Genge died of natural causes at a British Military Hospital in Kamukting, Malaya.

1951. Monday 16th July. Marine E. Lamb, RM7798 of 40 Commando RM, - died of wounds while serving in Malaya.

1951. Tuesday 25th September. RM8250 Marine Peter D. Fordham age 20 died of wounds while serving with 45 Commando. He was buried at Batu Gajah Christian Cemetery, Perak, Malaya.

1951. November. 586 C.S. Copmpletes basic training at the Deal Depot. Squad photo.

1951. Tuesday 11th December. Corpral N.S. Howe PLY/X4758 while serving with 40 Commando was killed in Malaya.

1951. December. 41 Commando returned to England. Those who had served less than a year in the Commando were drafted into 42 Commando operating in Malaya.

1951. Tuesday 4th December. The Gillingham bus disaster occurred outside Chatham Dockyard, Kent on the evening of Tuesday 4th December 1951. A double-decker bus ploughed into a company of fifty-two young members of the Royal Marines Volunteer Cadet Corps, aged between ten and thirteen. 24 cadets were killed and 18 injured; at the time it was the highest loss of life in any road accident in British history.

The company was marching from Melville Royal Marine Barracks, Gillingham, to the Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham, to attend a boxing tournament. It was divided into three platoons; the rear platoon consisted of new recruits who had not yet received uniforms. They were generally under the command of cadet non-commissioned officers (NCOs); the only adult present was the contingent adjutant, Lieutenant Clarence Murrayfield Carter, a regular Royal Marines officer. The column was about fifteen yards long and was marching three abreast on the left-hand side of the road. It was showing no lights, there being no official requirement to do so, and the boys in uniform were wearing Royal Marines standard-issue dark blue battledress and berets, although they had white belts and white lanyards on their shoulders.

The cadets left Melville Barracks at about 5.40pm. At about 5.57 or 5.58pm the column was marching down Dock Road, just past the gates of the Chatham Royal Naval Dockyard. The street lighting was very poor, and it was allegedly a very dark/foggy night (although Carter denied this).

As the column passed the municipal swimming pool, a particularly dark part of the street (since a street lamp had failed), it was hit from behind by a bus belonging to the Chatham& District Traction Company. The bus was allegedly travelling at 15–20 miles per hour, although Carter and another witness estimated its speed as 40–45 miles per hour. The bus driver, John William George Samson, 57, had worked for the company for forty years, twenty-five of them as a driver. He was very familiar with the route. He had his sidelights on, but not his headlights; this was perfectly legal and considered to be normal practice at the time. Other bus drivers said that they were using headlights that night and in that location as it was particularly dark. Other drivers defended Samson's decision not to use his headlights.

Lieutenant Carter, who was moving up and down the flanks of the column, told the inquest that he saw the bus coming and told the boys to move into the kerb as far as they could, assuming the bus would move around them. Samson told the inquest that he did not see the cadets at all and was only aware he had driven into something when the bus started to wobble as though it "had run over a lot of loose stones or something", although it was also reported that he felt bumps and heard the high-pitched screams of the cadets. At that point he braked immediately. His conductress, Dorothy Dunster, called out "What's happened?", and Samson got out to see what had happened. Carter, who was knocked over and dazed but not injured, said the bus continued about fifty yards before braking and another witness said he thought about twenty-five yards.

Aftermath: Seventeen boys died immediately and another seven died later in hospital, all but one on the same night. Those who were uninjured were all in the front ranks. The military funeral of twenty of the boys who died was held at Rochester Cathedral on 12th December 1951 and conducted by the Bishop of Rochester. Thousands of local people stood outside the cathedral and lined the route of the funeral procession to Gillingham Cemetery. Royal Marines guarded the coffins and acted as pall bearers and the ceremony was attended by, among others, the Second Sea Lord, the Commandant-General Royal Marines, and the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary of the Admiralty. Three of the boys who were Roman Catholics had a separate funeral at the Church of Our Lady, Gillingham, conducted by the Bishop of Southwark.

An inquest was held on 14th December 1951 at the Royal Naval Hospital, Gillingham, where many of the injured were being treated, before the North-East Kent Coroner. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death. The coroner said that he believed that Lieutenant Carter and the other witness, George Thomas Dixon, were probably mistaken about the speed of the bus and accepted Samson's estimate of his speed. He did not believe that either Carter or Samson had been negligent in legal terms.

Despite the coroner's comments, Samson was charged with dangerous driving. He was found guilty at the Central Criminal Court, but with a recommendation of leniency from the jury. The judge banned him from driving for three years and fined him £20. The parents of the boys who died received a total of £10,000 compensation from the bus company, which accepted liability under the tort of negligence.

The accident resulted in improved street lighting in the Medway Towns and the decision of all three services that a red light would henceforward be shown at the rear of all columns marching along roads at night

The mayors of Gillingham, Rochester and Chatham set up a memorial fund, inviting public donations through the local and national press "to be devoted, among other things, to defraying the funeral expenses, caring for the boys who may be disabled, and then to such worthy cause or causes in memory of the boys who lost their lives, as the mayors may determine". Donations of nearly £9,000 were received. Over £2,300 was spent, but the mayors could not decide how to apply the balance of the funds. A court case later decided that the fund was not charitable and was not saved by the Charitable Trusts (Validation) Act 1954; that the cy-près doctrine could not be applied; that the fund's objects were too uncertain for it to be a valid trust; that the fund was not bona vacantia; and as a result that the funds should be returned to the donors under a resulting trust. Every year on the Sunday closest to the event, the Chatham Marine Cadet Unit still holds a memorial parade at the cemetery in which the cadets were laid to rest.

The boys who died were:
Anthony E. Aindow, 13, died in All Saints' Hospital, Chatham.
Colin Thomas Batty, killed outright.
James David Blomeley, killed outright.
John Henry Burdett, 10, died on 10 December 1951 in St Bartholomew's Hospital, Rochester.
Brian Alfred Butler, killed outright.
Arthur John Calvert, killed outright.
David Alexander Charles, died in St Bartholomew's Hospital, Rochester.
Raymond Peter Cross, killed outright.
James Francis Cunningham, killed outright.
Allan John Evans, killed outright.
Peter Harry Ernest Eyre, died in St Bartholomew's Hospital, Rochester.
John Edwin Lee, 10, died in St Bartholomew's Hospital, Rochester.
Rodney Charles McBride, killed outright.
Garth William Mossop, killed outright.
Laurence Peter Murphy, died in All Saints' Hospital, Chatham.
Richard Charles Ongley, killed outright.
Albert John Rose, killed outright.
James Keith Scott, killed outright.
James Edward Shepherd, killed outright.
William Stone, killed outright.
John Clement Thorndycroft, 11, died in All Saints' Hospital, Chatham.
David Tickner, killed outright.
James Robert Trigg, killed outright.
Keith William Francis Walker, killed outright.

1951. A Royal Marines Routine Order directed that in future the adjective 'Royal Marines' would be used instead of Royal Marine'. This meant that whereas some who had been Royal Marine officers and used to live in a Royal Marine Barracks then became Royal Marines officers and lived in a Royal Marines Barracks

1951. There were ten Royal Navy and Royal Marine recruiting officers in the United Kingdom. Two in London and one in Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne and Southampton.

1951. “What ever happened to Andrew Condron?” It would be easy to dismiss Condron, along with the Admiralty, as a deserter and traitor but there is far more to his story than that.
Andrew Condron was born in London in 1928 the son of very poor working class parents.  He spent WWII in London and was much affected by the devastation of the bombing. One night he was crouched in the Anderson shelter, with his family in their garden, when a bomb obliterated his home. Condrons father was a union man and the politics of the house was very left wing Labour. At the end of the war no-one in Condrons family could understand why the rich seemed unaffected but the poor carried the wait of the nation. Many in Britain and indeed Europe at the time thought that communism or at least a Marxist government was the answer.
Despite his background Condron loved his country and maintained he did until the day he died. Andrew joined the Royal Marines in 1949 and at the onset of war (police action) in Korea volunteered to join 41 Independent Commando. He was accepted. When the 7th US Infantry Division was cut off at Chosin Reservoir 41 Cdo was sent in to rescue them. On the way the convoy that Condron was in was ambushed and as a result 25 of the 41’s marines were captured along with some US marines and US army troops. The ambush and battle that ensued was known as ‘The Battle Hell Fire Valley’. This took place at the southern end of the Chosin Reservoir. Below is a photo of some of our commandos taken prisoner. The photo was taken by a Chinese photographer and appeared in many Chinese newspapers.

In August 1951 another 5 of 41’s marines were taken prisoner near Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea. Of the 31 marines from 41 Cdo taken prisoner during the war 2 were killed attempting to escape, 9 died in captivity, 1, Mne Nicholls, is fate unknown and 18 returned home. Of the 12 POW’s killed or died in captivity the remains of only one Mne Melling has been returned and he is buried in the UN Cemetery in Pusan.
For the POW’s life was far from easy.  Apart from having to march to and between POW camps the life and conditions in the camps was abysmal. UN servicemen captured by the North Koreans were amongst the most badly mistreated. Starvation was mainly the diet of the day. Beatings and death under interrogation and re-education was common. Hygiene and medical facilities were virtually non existent, sick men laying in their own filth. The fleas were so bad that men’s fingers turned black from killing so many. Along with the fleas rats ran everywhere. The daily routine was hard labour in the mornings, lectures on the greatness of communism in the afternoons and study groups in the evenings.  This then was the life for Mne Andrew Condron. Condron had become fascinated with Marxism. Wether he had become indoctrinated in the camp given his left leaning sympathies and ideology  is contentious.
The war was over by the middle of 1951 but with negotiations the armistice would not come about until 1953. The major sticking point was the repatriation of prisoners. Between the North Koreans and the Chinese they held 11,559 POW’s. Broken down that was 7,100 South Koreans, 3,200 Americans and 1,200 from Britain and other UN forces. These figures in no way matched the numbers held in the south. The Americans had listed 11,224 missing, believed captured. Nearly 80,000 South Koreans were unaccounted for. Given the North Koreans penchant for killing captured soldiers the discrepancy was a massive number to have been murdered.
When the Armistice was signed it was agreed, by all concerned, that those prisoners from both sides who chose to stay with their captors could do so.  Captured North Koreans who chose to stay in the south totalled 25,000 which was about half of the total number taken prisoner. Of those captured by the north 328 South Koreans chose to stay along with 22 Americans and Marine Condron from Britain.. The lives of the men who chose to stay was not the Utopian one that they had been promised.  The men were treated like freaks in a circus. They were taken from city to city and displayed as a great triumph of the communist cause. They had no contact with the local people and were kept isolated at all times. When the novelty had died down, after three years, all the Americans chose to return to the US. As they had all been dishonourably discharged and were now civilians no charges were faced by any of the returning men. Condron chose to move to China where he taught English and translated at the University of Beijing. Over the years many letters, telegrams and memoranda went back and forth between the Foreign Office, the Admiralty and the government in Hong Kong and the British Embassy in Beijing enquiring as the activities of Andrew Condron. Foreign correspondents that had been in touch with Condron reported that he was lively and an intelligent man and seemingly undecided on the merits of communism.
The British Embassy in Beijing reported, with some relish, that Condron was becoming an embarrassment to the Chinese.  He had taken to drink ‘on a hearty scale’. He had also formed a liaison with two Chinese girls which put then in serious political difficulties as they were questioned as to why they were cavorting with a Western Imperialist. Further embarrassment was to come but not only for the Chinese but also for the Foreign Office as Condron formed a relationship with Jacqueline Hsiung/Baudet the illegitimate daughter of a senior French Diplomat.  Andrew and Jacqueline were later to marry.
At this time Condron was becoming disillusioned with communism and the Chinese regime. He had some vague thoughts of moving to Czechoslovakia as it had the highest standard of living in the socialist bloc.  Jacqueline was also questioned by the Chinese authorities for consorting with an Imperialist.
In 1961, Condron applied for a British passport even though the Admiralty had plans to arrest him and charge him with desertion as soon as he put foot on English soil. Condron, unlike the Americans, had not been discharged from the Corps. Knowing this Condron speculated that the easiest way to return to the UK would be to travel to Hong Kong and surrender to a Royal Navy ship thus getting a free passage home.
Condron eventually arrived in England in October 1962.  Although records do not show how he actually did arrive back in the UK. His wife and son, Simon, followed close behind.  Condron was not arrested as anticipated nor was he charged. In fact he was given an honourable discharge with back pay for the time he was a POW. It was deemed by the Admiralty and government too embarrassing, too expensive and too time consuming to follow through with the previous threats. He was, however, given a very serious debrief by the security services (MI5/MI6).
In 1986 Andrew Condron attended a reunion at CTC Lympstone and has attended several other Royal Marine get togethers since that time. Some of his fellow POW’s recommended Andrew for a decoration in recognition of his efforts whilst a prisoner to save lives and improve living conditions. This however was a step too far for the Admiralty so the suggestion was ignored.
Jacqueline got a job as a producer for the BBC World Service and for many years Andrew sold encyclopaedias door to door, which he was happy to do.  Eventually he and Jacqueline were divorced and she moved to the US whilst Andrew remained in London.  He passed away in March 1996 age 68.
Some statistics from the Korean War.  More than 90,000 servicemen from the UK took part. Two notable participants were Fusilier Maurice Micklewhite (better known as Sir Michael Caine) and Captain Anthony Farrar-Hockley (who was promoted to General and later commanded NATO).
Although the US provided the majority of the servicemen the countries providing troops to the UN for service in Korea was diverse France, South Africa, Ethiopia, Belgium, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Canada, Greece, Columbia, Netherlands, Philippines, Norway and India. The cost of the war in human terms was Britain killed. 1,078. And the United States killed 36,574.  I don’t have figures for the other countries but they can easily be accessed online. These figures were dwarfed by China and North Korea with losses of 1.5 million.
When the war ended in 1953 82 British prisoners of war were never repatriated.  The MOD has eyewitness accounts of the deaths of 71 and some evidence of the deaths of nine others.  The fate of two prisoners remain a mystery.(from Tony Cude RMAQ President)

1952. Friday 2nd February. 41 Commando was disbanded, having 31 Marines killed and 17 captured with one Royal Marine choosing to stay in North Korea, who later returned to the UK in 1960.

1952. Tuesday 6th February. King George VI died on at Sandringham and was buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 15th February, following a State Funeral in the Chapel. Lieutenant Norman Finch V.C. was a member of his Guard of Honour.

1952. Monday 24th March. Royal Marine D. Smith RM9883 died while serving in 45 Commando in Malaya.

1952. Sunday 30th March. HMS KENYA. Marine David Cook, died at Madras hospital after accidental stabbing on the messdeck some days previously. (by Jim Porter).

1952. May. 3 Commando Brigade left Malaya for Malta, after serving in Malaya for two years.

1952. June. 42 Commando arrived in the UK from Malaya, and occupied St Andrew's Barracks Pembroke.

1952. Friday 4th July. 818 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1952. Thursday 28th August. The South Africa tune 'Sarie Marais' adopted as the quick march of the Royal Marines Commandos.

1952. Saturday 27th September. HM Queen Elizabeth. the Queen Mother. unveiled that impressive Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge: and 10 years ago almost exactly. two Royal Marines Corporals. G. H. Jackson and Spragg, carried out 'a Walkabout on which they reported in the December 1962 Globe and Laurel. And it still rains in Achnacarry. (by A. J. Perrett RMHS)

1952. Thursday 23rd October - Monday 10th November. Mombasa. HMS KENYA. First unit to arrive at the commencement of the Mau Mau troubles. Initial "show of strength marches" followed by daily patrols in Mombasa and surrounding countryside. Came upon some appalling sights, not only civilians but animals! Departed for Med station when UK troops started to arrive.  Received a copy of the local paper some time later where the headlines declared "The timely arrival of HMS Kenya had a stabilising effect on the area then and during the whole period". No official recognition for the ship's company, despite strenuous efforts by some. Not there long enough to qualify for the medal issued. .(by Jim Porter)

1952. Saturday 29th November. The Duke of Edinburgh presented 40 Commando RM, 42 Commando RM, and 45 Commando RM, the units of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, with their own Colours in recognition of their service during the war. There were 1,168 men and 67 officers on parade.

1952. Saturday 20th December - Monday 19th January 1953. Suez. HMS KENYA. Guardship duties providing patrols etc, some even by air! I had the pleasure of transiting the Canal as crew of a Landing Craft (A). The ship's company were deprived of the Canal Zone Medal because we were called away for a few days to assist the French Liner "Champollion" aground in a storm off Beirut. This counted as a break in the qualifying time! (by Jim Porter)

1952. Intake of 100 National Service Musicains to the Band Service.

1952. The correct pace for marching in quick time in the Royal Marines is 116 paces to the minute. Rifle movements are to conform to this.

1952. Presentation of first Colours to the Royal Marines Commandos.

1952. 41 Independent Commando was disbanded at Bickleigh.

1952. The Colours of 45 Commando were laid up in Stationers Hall, London.

1952. Registered Numbers. The Admiralty decided to institute a system to indicate whether or not a Reservist was a National Serviceman:

1). The prefix ‘RMV’ followed by a five-digit number, indicates that a man became a Reservist either prior to carrying out National Service or after his National Service.

2). The prefix ‘RMV9/”, followed by a five digit number, indicates that a man was a Reservist during his part-time National Service.

1953. Tuesday 3rd February. 608 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. G. Wilson was awarded the Kings Badge.

1953. February - October 1954. 40 Commando served in Egypt - Canal Zone. Guarded installations and on desert exercises.

1953. Friday 24th April. "The Royal Marines adopted the Globe and Laurel based on the English air 'Early One Morning' as their slow march. The march was first used at a Guard Mounting at St. James's Palace by the London Bn RM formed especially for London ceremonial duties in 1935." There is some doubt between authorities on such matters regarding when, even if, this slow march was adopted. The late John Trendell stated that it had not been officially adopted whilst Captain Derek Oakley wrote that it was. "later to be adopted as the Official Slow March".

1953. May. 3 Commando Brigade was moved to the Suez Canal Zone.

1953. Tuesday 2nd June. The Coronation of HM The Queen. HRH Prince Philip appointed Captain General Royal Marines.

1953. Tuesday 14th July. 616 Squad started training at Lympstone.

1953.  Honourable Company of Master Mariners adopted the Royal Marines Reserve (City of London).

1953. The Royal Marines brass belt buckle.

1954. 5th February. 616 Squad completed basic training. Squad Photo.

1954. Friday 30th April. 616 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney.. Tom Taylor was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1954. Saturday 19th - 20th June. During the night helicopters from Albion assisted in the search for survivors of a Swissair aircraft that had ditched in the English Channel off Folkestone, Kent. After an initial work up with her air group, she joined the Mediterranean Fleet in September that same year, becoming flagship of Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers. 'Grey Funnel Line' F/B Page.

1954. Sunday 4th July. Nine Years after the end of the Second World War saw the end of Rationing in the United Kingdom.
Here is a breakdown of what and when:
July 1948: Flour and Bread rationing ended.
March 1949: Limits on clothes end.
May 1950: Restrictions ended for canned and dried fruit. Chocolate biscuits, treacle, syrup, jellies and mincemeat. Petrol rationing also ended.
September 1950:Limits on soap end.
October 1952; End of tea rationing.
February 1953: Rationing on chocolate and sweets ended.
July 1953: Meat Rationing ended heralding the end food restrictions in Britain.
Rationing was introduced temporarily by the British government several times during the 20th century, during and immediately after a war.
At the start of the Second World War in 1939, the United Kingdom was importing 20,000,000 long tons of food per year, including about 70% of its cheese and sugar, nearly 80% of fruits and about 70% of cereals and fats. The UK also imported more than half of its meat, and relied on imported feed to support its domestic meat production. The civilian population of the country was about 50 million. It was one of the principal strategies of the Germans in the Battle of the Atlantic to attack shipping bound for Britain, restricting British industry and potentially starving the nation into submission.
To deal with sometimes extreme shortages, the Ministry of Food instituted a system of rationing. To buy most rationed items, each person had to register at chosen shops, and was provided with a ration book containing coupons. The shopkeeper was provided with enough food for registered customers. Purchasers had to take ration books with them when shopping, so that the relevant coupon or coupons could be cancelled.

1954. Tuesday 17th August. 630 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1954. August. After the Anglo Egyptian Suez agreement was signed 3 Brigade was ordered back to Malta.

1954. October. 40 and 45 Commandos were based on Malta.

1954. October. 42 Commando returned from Egypt via Malta to Bickleigh to staff the Commando school in England.

1954. Monday. 16th November. 634 Squad Commenced Training at the Deal Depot.

1954. Wednesday 24th November. 630 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1954. Friday 24th December. Other Commando and Special Service Units. SS Platoon:11 Formed in Singapore on 24th December 1954 this Platoon raided behind Japanese lines during the Second World War.(RMHS)

1954. The Fleet Band scheme introduced.

1954. The Amphibious school RM is moved to Poole.

1954. Autumn. 42 Commando RM was sent back to England to reduce the ratio of overseas to Home Service in the Royal Marines as a whole. The other two commandos (40 and 45) trained in North Africa and in the Mediterranean based on Malta.

1954. 42 Commando RM was moved to the Amphibious school Poole.

1955. Tuesday 25th February. 634 C.S. Squad Completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1955. May. The Freedom of the city of Plymouth was bestowed on the Corps on the 200th anniversary of the Corps permanent association with the city.

1955. Friday 1st July. Registered Numbers. The additional prefix, was abolished, and all Reservists, whether serving on or discharged before that date, were allocated a new number with only the ‘RMV’ prefix. To prevent duplication, this new series had six digits beginning at RMV 200000.

1955. Early September. 3 Commando Brigade received orders to deploy to Cyprus.

1955. Friday 2nd September. 634 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney Barracks. Michael Mead was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1955. Saturday 10th September. By 0900 hours the first elements of 3 Commando Brigade, some 1,300 Marines and 150 vehicles had disembarked in Cyprus. On arrival 40 Commando was based in Limassol in the area of Kyrenia.

1955. September - 16th August. 45 Commando was deployed to Kyrenia Cyprus.

1955. Monday 24th October. Following their seven month world tour HM The Queen and Prince Philip awarded their combined cyphers (EiiR / PP) to the Portsmouth Group Band that accompanied them. This was an addition to the special badge awarded to the Royal Marines Artillery during 1912.

1955. Boy Buglers formed into a separate House, unnamed at this time, for sports purpose. This was intended to intensify competition for House championships.

1955 - 1959. 40 and 45 Commando's alternated operations in Cyprus undertaking anti-terrorist operations against EOKA guerrillas (National Organisation of Cypriot Struggle), during tensions between the Greek and Turkish inhabitants of the island. EOKA were a small, but powerful organisation of Greek Cypriots, who had great local support from the Greek community. On Tuesday 6th September 1955, the United Nations ordered 45 Commando at a moment's notice to move to Cyprus amid escalating tensions and EOKA atrocities. The unit was based in Malta at the time and travelled to the Kyrenia mountain area of the island and by Saturday 10th September, approximately 1,300 Marines and 150 vehicles used by the unit had arrived ready to patrol the area.

1956. January. Ken Cassidy remembers. On a cold rainy morning I said to my mother "I'm going to join the Army." Saying that, I put on my jacket, walked to the bus stop, and caught the bus to the railway station, where I bought a ticket from Kings Lynn to Norwich.

Arriving at Norwich railway station, I asked the Porter, "Can you direct me to the Army Recruiting Office please"? "Leave the station, cross the main road, turn left once you've crossed the road, and it's about a mile up the road." Thanking him, I pulled up the collar to my jacket, because the rain had turned to sleet, and proceeded to walk up the road until I came across the Army Recruiting Office.

After a while, freezing cold, I came across a building flying 2 flags, the Union Jack and the White Ensign. Going inside, I asked the man at the counter if I could join the Army. When told I was in the Royal Naval and Royal Marines Recruiting Office, I then asked him if I could join The Navy. `Sign here" he said, "What am I signing for" (My Step Father told me not to sign anything until I knew what I was signing for)

12 years in the Navy and 5 years in the Reserve" said the man, "17 years, that's along time, haven't you got anything shorter" "Yes those" said he, pointing to a poster of a Royal Marine Sergeant walking down a Mediterranean ladder of HMS Sheffield, in number ones in Malta. "What's he in, and how many years does one have to serve" "The Royal Marines" said the man, "Who are they, I've never seen them before," "Britains Sea Soldiers and only nine years to serve" said the man. (I later found out that the man was a Chief Petty Officer)

With all the formalities done, Maths, English and General Knowledge test papers, I signed on the dotted line, caught the train home, arriving in time for dinner, where my Step Father asked me what Regiment I had joined. When I told him the Royal Marines, he burst out laughing. "You'll. be sorry" "Why" said j, "You've joined Britain elite fighting force, that's why, they are the best Britain has to offer." With that I started to wonder what I had got myself into, but I can honestly say I would do it all over again, if given a second chance, or would I ?

1956. Friday 24th February. 641 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney Barracks. Squad Photo.

1956. Friday 13th April. Change of title from Boys to Juniors.

1956. Friday 13th April. 654 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1956. Saturday 26th May. It’s with deep sadness and regret that we announce the passing of Eddie Naylor 5386. Born 4th November 1865. (from RMA Queensland).

1956. Thursday 5th July. 654 C.S. Completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1956. Friday 20th July. 897 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1956. July - August. The Brigade Headquarters along with 40 and 45 Commandos were withdrawn from Cyprus for the Suez Operation.

1956. July. While 42 Commando was recalled from the UK.

1956. Thursday 26th July. During the summer months Colonel Abdul Nasser, who had succeeded General Neguib as head of the Military Junta Government of Egypt. Dissolved the 'Suez Canal Company' overnight and nationalised the control and proceeds of the waterway. That had been a joint British-French enterprise which had owned and operated the Suez Canal since its construction in 1869. Hoping to charge tolls that would pay for construction of a massive new Aswan High Dam on the Nile River. In response, Israel invaded in late October.
The British Chief of the Defence Staff was ordered to prepare a military expedition against Egypt. The amphibious assault would be launched from Malta. What became known as the 'Suez Crisis' when 45 Commando performed the world's first military helicopter borne assault insertion during British and French military action in Egypt. 40 and 42 Commando undertook a more traditional amphibious landing on the beach at Port Said. The amphibious capability of the Royal Marines was greatly increased and became a key element in the country's capacity to intervene in areas of conflict overseas. The British and French troops landed on Monday 5th November, occupying the canal zone.
Most of the world, was divided over the controversial issue of the British and French invasion of the Suez Canal, shortly after its nationalisation. There was however no disputing the success of the combined sea and airborne assaults by the Royal Marines and Parachute Regiments in the first such outstanding operation of its kind.
However, under Soviet, U.S., and U.N. pressure, Britain and France withdrew in December, and the Israeli forces departed in March 1957. That month, Egypt took control of the canal and reopened it to commercial shipping.
The bodies of 9 officers and other ranks who were killed in the action at Port Said on Tuesday 6th November were returned to England by air on Friday 14th December for re-interment. The coffins were transported to the RN Hospital at Haslar (Gosport) accompanied by an armed escort, under arrangements made by the OC RNB Eastney.
At 1500 hours on Monday 17th December the following were buried at the RN Cemetery, Clayhall, Gosport, with full military honours: -
Lieutenant E. A. Lifton RM.
Lieutenant P. W. McCarthy RN.
Marine Lorin Dudhill - RM/15070 of 40 Commando RN.
Sergeant D. H. A. Dennis - PLY/X4536.
Marine B. J. Price - RM/11202.
Marine B. Short - RN/11158 of 42 Commando RN.
Three others had funerals arranged privately, by their next-of-kin, with the Corps being represented on each occasion:
Marine David Howard - RM/14285 (42 Commando).
Marne Fudge - RMV/202128 (40 Commando).
Marine C E Goodfellow - RM/131833 (45 Commando).
For some inexplicable reason the headstones of those buried at Haslar bear the RN Anchor instead of the customary Corps badge.
Lt. Col. Norman Tailyour the CO of 45 Commando and his signaller Marine Michael Fowler RM14245, were the victims of their own side, when a Fleet Air Arm Wyvern aircraft accidently strafed them with cannon fire.
Marine Fowler later died from his wounds, bringing the total Royal Marine deaths to 10.
Two of the army personnel killed in action were attached to 42 Commando:
Sgt B Kizlo (RAC) and Cpl G Crawford (Somerset Light Infantry).
While 49 Royal Marines were wounded casualties.
The Brigade strength of 2800 was spread amongst 20 ships of the AW Squadron, and two aircraft carriers HMS Ocean and Tuseus bore 45 Command.
The following Awards were announced:
Brigadier R W Madoc OBE ADC, Commander of 3 Commando Brigade.
Lt Cot D C Tweed MBE, Commander of 40 Commando.
OBE - Maj B I S Gourlay Nfl NC.
Bar to MC. - Naj 0 L St M Aldridge MBE MC.
MC. - Naj A P Willasey-Wilsey MBE; Captain N A H Marston; and Lt S L Syrad.
0CM. - Cpl D E Mant.
MM. - QMS GD Buttery; Cpl M E Mead;
W Crossland and Marine C K Davidson.
Another 19 Officers and men were mentioned in despatches.

1956. Friday 19th October. 654 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Chris Garlick was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1956. Tuesday 6th - 14th November. 3 Commando Brigade spearheaded landings at Port Said in Egypt. President Nasser of Egypt seized the British and French owned Suez Canal. The Chief of the Defence Staff was ordered to prepare a military expedition against Egypt. The amphibious assault was launched from Malta. After the military operation, Brigade HQ Royal Marine Commando with 40 Cdo RM and 45 Cdo RM were withdrawn to Malta from Suez. They were based on Malta but departed on regular exercises in Cyprus till 1958.

1956. Monday 10th – 12th December. 45 Commando Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel N.H. Tailyour took part in 'Operation Foxhunter' while in Cuprus.

1956. Naval Party Operation ‘Grapple’ In 1956 this party, No. 2512,18 included a flotilla of RM LCMs and other Marines, about 56 in all, who were deployed in landing stores, and building roads, camps and other installations for the testing of the British hydrogen bombs in 1957 on Christmas Island in the Pacific. Their LST Messina had been modified to carry six LCMs launched by a boom crane.(RMHS)

1956. The ‘Bent-Barrel’ Gun! As member of the ship’s company of HMS BULWARK during the withdrawal of Aden in 1967 I wish to set the record straight as to the circumstances of the bending of the barrel of the field piece that is now displayed in the RM Museum.
In 1956, 45 Cdo Royal Marines was in the forefront of the Suez Crisis. During their fight through Port Said they captured an Egyptian Anti-Aircraft Field piece. This piece became a ‘trophy ’and was carried around all theatre of operations that 45 Cdo RM served in after Suez.
In 1967, on withdrawal from Aden, the Royal Navy, who had been steaming off Masirah for several weeks, arrived to assist in the withdrawal. Major ships involved were HMS BULWARK, HMS HERMES, plus a flotilla of Frigates who were part of the screening force.  Part of the withdrawal plan was to evacuate civilian employees of the oil companies. Another was to embark the Argylle and Sutherland Highlanders and 45 Cdo RM along with their treasured war ‘trophy’. The ‘trophy’ was one of the first pieces of equipment to be flown onto HMS BULWARK.
On recovery to the ship the gun was stowed in the forward hangar adjacent to the Assault Cages. With the barrel facing aft the gun was lashed down and secured for sea. However, such was the position of the gun, that during the transit access to the assault cages was often required. This required the gun, from time to time, to be unlashed, moved in order to gain access to the cages, and then manoeuvred back into place and re-lashed. Unfortunately, on one occasion, the fated gun wasn’t moved back into its original position which resulted in the barrel of the gun over-hanging the forward lift well. Not surprisingly, the next time the forward lift was lowered, there was an almighty grinding sound of metal on metal (the lift weighed 17 tons) as it struck the barrel of the gun and bent it through 90 degrees. Fortunately there wasn’t a helicopter on the lift because it could have skidded off into the hanger and caused a huge amount of damage to itself and a real possibility of fire. The lift was taken up to flight deck level and checked by the Engineers.
The Marine responsible for the well-being of the ‘trophy’ – which incidentally was his sole responsibility - physically wept on discovery of the incident.
The very next day , The Ship’s Newspaper – The Daily BEE -  carried a cartoon. It illustrated the gun, with the barrel bent through 90 degrees, muzzle pointing to the deck under which there was a pool of melted candle wax. The caption that accompanied the cartoon read “I knew it was hot in the hangar, but this is bloody ridiculous”.
Once the ship had set sail for the UK a signal was sent to the Admiral of Plymouth Dockyard explaining the problem asking if the Dockyard workshops could assist in rectifying the bent barrel. Shortly thereafter a signal was received saying that all assistance would be given to solving the problem. From memory, the Admiral of the Dockyard was Rear Admiral Power.
The gun was subsequently repaired and now resides at the RM Museum. If you look carefully you can see the kink in the barrel that originated from the ill-fated accident many years before.
(Then Leading Airman(AH) Tom Challis L090516 (also RMV204613)

1956. After refitting at Portsmouth, HMS Albion returned once again to the Mediterranean for operations relating to the Suez Crisis where her air group struck key Egyptian airfields and covered the paratrooper's landings. 'Grey Funnel Line' F/B Page.

1956. First Royal Marine detachments for frigates was formed.

1956. Corps Strength at that time was 10,000.

1956. RM Band - Drum Majors - Drill with the Staff. "Throwing the staff in the air is not in keeping with the position and dignity of a drum Major. His primary duty is to control and lead the band and not to give a personal display. The practice of throwing the staff into the air by Drum Majors in public or when the public are present is to be made in due course to 'Drill (Royal Marines) 1953 Part V, Band Drill - Ceremonial"

1957. Monday18th February. The 668 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot Squad Photo.

1957. Monday 11th March. 669 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1957. Friday 24th May. The 668 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot Squad Photo.

1957. 13th June. 669 C.S. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1957. May - September. From Cyprus 45 Commando returned to Malta in October, while X and Z troops formed the heliforce in Cyprus during June 1958.

1957. National Service was to end gradually. It was decided that those born on or after 1st October 1939 would not be required, but conscription continued for those born earlier whose call up had been delayed for any reason.

1957. Elements of 42 Commando served in Northern Ireland.

1957. Small Arms School Royal Marines at Browndown closed.

1957. Friday 19th October. 666 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney Barracks.

1957. Friday 29th October. 667 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney Barracks. William Neilson was awarded the Kings Badge.

1957. Friday 1st November. 668 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney Barracks. R. Irvine was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1957. Monday 25th November. 680 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1957. December. 669 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney Barracks. Roy Calder was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1957. Soldiers began using the L (12A) 1 self loading rifle, a British version of the American FN FAL.

1957. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited the Deal Depot. (RMHS)

1958. By this time all cap badges had been anodised.

1958. Wednesday 1st January. The Physical Training School was re-designated Physical Training Wing. It remained responsible for the training and re-qualification of 130 instructors deployed worldwide.
In anticipation of the end of National Service (the last intake was in 1960), a Junior Entry (JE) scheme was introduced for recruits aged 16 and 17. Until 1969 the Junior Marines did their Phase 1 training in Junior Wing alongside Junior Musicians and Junior Buglers before moving on to subsequent phases elsewhere. In anticipation of the end of National Service (the last intake was in 1960), a Junior Entry (JE) scheme was introduced for recruits aged 16 and 17. Until 1969 the Junior Marines did their Phase 1 training in Junior Wing alongside Junior Musicians and Junior Buglers before moving on to subsequent phases elsewhere. (RMHS)

1958. January. 671 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone.

1958.  Thursday 26th February. It’s with deep sadness and regret that we announce the passing of Bill Grainger (RMLI) PO9949. Born 14th December 1978. (from RMA Queensland).

1958. Thursday 27th February. 680 C.S. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1958. Monday 21st April. 689 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1958. May. 'Operation 'Kingfisher' or 'How Grivas Got Away'. By Lieutenant Colonel Peter Thomas RM (RMHS)
1 was serving in 40 Commando RM during the Cyprus Emergency. We were responsible for the Troodos mountain district where Grivas had organised and trained his guerrilla groups at the start of the insurrection against British Rule. Most of the effort of the security forces was aimed at eliminating the terrorist leaders. George Grives was the big prize. With his death or capture the campaign of terrorism waged by EOKA against the British would collapse.
Grivas had nearly been caught a number of times, notably in May and June 1956 when for two months he and his command group were trapped within a cordon of troops in the Troodos district. Operating amongst a sympathetic population, accompanied by only one aide, Grivas proved a frustratingly elusive quarry.
In May 1958 an informer told the authorities that Grivas was going to hold a conference of EOKA leaders in the country north of Limassol.
The reserve Brigade available to the Director of Operations was committed elsewhere. With less than 36 hours in which to react, drastic measures were needed to produce three major units to cordon and search the large area indicated by the informer. Despite the risks it was decided to pull out three infantry units from their areas of responsibility. And so Operation Kingfisher, initially a mere 48 hour cordon and search operation, started.
The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were nearest in the Limassol area. 40 Commando had a 45-mile cross country journey along minor roads and forestry tracks. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had a circuitous 80 mile journey from Potts in the far West of Cyprus. Transport ground its way across country throughout the night. Cordon troops debussed just before dawn and rapidly spread out to link up with neighbouring sub units.
All that day we slowly closed in on the suspected area. The terrorists were experts at making cunningly concealed hides and every suspicious place had to be searched. The first excitement came just before midday when a message came through from the left of my Troop that someone had found a "terrorist haversack". Foolishly I passed the information to Commando Headquarters on the wireless before moving across to investigate. When I reached the place I found one of my innocent newly joined subalterns pointing to a bag I knew full well to be used by villagers to protect the udders of their goats from the ravages of thorn bushes. I rushed back to my wireless and tried desperately to laugh off the gaffe. Communications were bad, and words like 'Truform and 'brassiere' began to lose their humour after being spelt out for the umpteenth time.
In the late afternoon we formed a line of static positions for the night and settled down to ambush routine. Shortly before midnight I heard a burst of firing from the far side of the cordon about 1 V2 miles away. I learned later that some bandsmen from the Argylls pipe band had opened fire at the noise of stones being thrown from within the cordon. Not being very used to military matters, they declined to report the incident when there was no corpse to show for it.
Now it was a known technique of Grivas's when surrounded, to wait until dark and then advance cautiously towards the cordon throwing sticks and lumps of earth ahead of him. This would provoke a reaction from the cordon troops. Instead of retreating and trying to breakout somewhere else he would sidestep 10 or 15 yards and after a long wait, crawl out on a parallel course. He gambled on us never having sufficient troops to close the gaps.
Next day we slowly moved the cordon in, searching carefully as we did so. That evening the three units halted in the final cordon positions which, with a few minor adjustments, were to be occupied for the next six weeks. The cordon surrounded the whole of a deep valley which extended into a ridge of hills. It measured about 800 yards across by 1000 yards long. The cordon could now be thinned out to form search parties. My troop was withdrawn, and we moved into a pleasant camp under some carob trees - much preferred to the tedium of cordon duties.
For days we searched sections of ground within the cordon area. After a week the search was concentrated on a narrow strip of hillside. The bottom was a steep sided wadi. At the top was a Jumble of limestone rocks. In between were terraced fields. Relentlessly the search continued. Every terrace was torn down, the sides of the wadi were dug out and the limestone was shifted with crow bars. Then we found the "stench hole". It was a small fissure in the rocks from which came a powerful smell of ordure. It was too late to do anything about it that day, so we were ordered to ambush the area with the whole Troop, less the Assault Engineers, during the night.
Assuming the stench hole to be the top vent of a hide I positioned my ambush line from the top to bottom of the hillside. Men lay in pairs, each man facing alternately left and right across the hill side. We lay there in silence throughout the night. At dawn we with-drew, and I debriefed each pair. They had seen nothing but reported they had heard a great deal. There had been a constant thumping noise from underground. Scraping noises as of greet sliding doors had been heard. All this was confirmed by several pairs who were debriefed independently.
The CO had come round to meet the ambush party as it withdrew. He was most impressed by what I had to tell him so after I had had a quick breakfast and a shave he took me round to give my report at the Brigadier's daily conference.
As we drove round in the Landrover a nagging doubt began to assail me. I had heard nothing of note during the night, but I had been sitting with my back to a tree. Most of the rest of the ambush party had been lying belly down with nothing except their web pouches between them and the rocky soil. Could the thumping noise have been their hearts beating as they listened in hushed expectation? In which case could not the scraping noise have been the sound of their neighbours shifting position? Over 8 hours the imagination of men waiting keyed up for something to happen can play strange tricks. Remembering the terrorist haversack I told my story but voiced my reservations.
In the meantime the Assault Engineers had been laying charges to blow the stench hole open. We worked hard alternately blowing and clearing the rubble The fissure went down about eight feet and then turned under a great slab of rock. A small, brave marine crawled in but found nothing. The stench had long since given way to the smell of explosive fumes. I suppose those dammed goats had been responsible for raising our hopes again.
The Assault Engineers expended much hard work and explosives laying charges in every likely and unlikely hiding place. To help carry the tools and explosives in and out we requisitioned a donkey train. One evening when we came to leave before blowing the charges, the donkeys were missing. It transpired that the Lancashire Fusiliers had kidnapped them and were demanding a ransom. I decided that one good turn deserved another and after redeeming our donkeys, the Fusiliers camp was raided. Next morning the donkeys plodded into the hills each with a yellow hackle between its ears. Bertram Mills would have approved even if the gallant XXth did not
On another day one of the AEs had the misfortune to loose off his rifle by mistake. Quite correctly negligent discharges are taken very seriously, and I had to drive the offender round to the CO's orderly room where he was awarded the statutory 28 days loss of pay. On return to our camp we found the AE section fallen in. The miscreant was grabbed and marched in front. They presented arms and presented him with a medal on a ribbon made from a Kiwi boot polish tin on which was etched crossed muskets each with a puff of smoke coming from the muzzle. Beneath was the motto 'Where did that one go?" This was probably a far more salutary lesson than the loss of pay.
Every night throughout this period of blasting and digging we had been laying ambushes inside the cordon. Thus any attempt by Grivas to dig himself out of a damaged hide could be dealt with. It had been made clear to me what we were expected to do if we encountered the terrorist leader. Although most of his henchmen could be charged with murder, Grivas could only have been deported for illegal entry.
One day some long awaited infra-red equipment arrived. A sniper scope, which is a night scope for a rifle, was given to the ambush party who were to lie up in the Argylls' sector on their side of the valley. I had the driver's side. This was an Aldis lamp with a thick plate of red glass over the lens, a very large pair of binoculars and a heavy 12 volt battery. All this had to be lugged into the ambush position. The result was the ability to see about 25 yards of green tinted landscape.
When I first scanned our arc I noticed a bright light across the valley. When I looked in its direction without the glasses I could see nothing. Obviously, it was the light source of the Argylls' sniper scope. I flashed my Aldis in acknowledgement and continued to scan my area. At intervals throughout the night we saw the other light In our glasses.
At dawn we broke radio silence. We had nothing to report but were amazed to hear an excited Scots voice report from the other ambush position that " they had seen someone moving around on the hillside opposite with a torch." They had aimed at the light, but the rifle would not fire. They had tried without success to fit the scope to another rifle. I asked if they has seen the light only when looking through the receiver. "Yes" said the Scots voice. Tersely I explained that it was my light they had seen.
On several occasions a small pi-dog was noticed inside the cordon and some bright spark suggested that Grivas was using it as a courier to get messages through to EOKA. Consequently the island was scoured for bitches in season which were then trailed through the cordoned area by embarrassed marines. Either the pi-dog's sense of duty was more highly developed than his natural instincts or he had gone back to his village, for nothing came of this ploy either.
Intelligence sources seemed to indicate that Grivas might be pinned down somewhere. No proclamations signed "Digheriis" had been issued since the start of our operation. Sporadic incidents had occurred which might have been EOKA diversions to ease pressure on the Kingfisher area but there had been no concerted campaign in the districts from which the troops for the cordon had been withdrawn - surely a sign that Grivas was not in control of his forces.
My Troop had done all it could with the lightweight equipment we carried. We were moved back into the cordon. A Field Squadron of sappers made a road onto the hillside and moved in heavy plant to continue the search. The rest we watched from afar.
After six weeks the cordon closed right in to surround the spot where the sappers were working. 40 Commando went back to the Troodos mountains. I cannot remember how or when Operation Kingfisher ended. Grivas was certainly not caught because he was still alive to embarrass Archbishop Makarios and the Greek Government years later. If he was inside the cordon I believe that he slipped out that first night through the band and drums. However we cannot be too critical. If they had not been there to plug the gap perhaps no one would have given him the fright which kept him quiet for so long. (By Lieutenant Colonel Peter Thomas RM (RMHS)

1958. Friday 2nd May. 674 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney. Squad Photo.

1958. Monday 9th June. Massed Bands Beat Retreat on Horse Guards Parade.

1958. Friday 4th July. A memorial chapel to those killed while on deployment was erected at St Paul's Cathedral Valletta, Malta.

1658. Thursday 31st July. 689 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1958. July. HMS Albion had a sample of what she would one day become, when she embarked 42 Commando Royal Marines, with all its vehicles and additional equipment to the Middle East.
The next two years saw her visit the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, before she returned to Portsmouth to pay off. She was considered as a replacement for the Australian carrier HMAS Melbourne but was rejected. 'Grey Funnel Line' F/B Page.

1958. August. 931 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1958. Monday 15th September. 702 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1958. Friday 10th October. 682 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. David Walker was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1958. Thursday 16th October. 5/58 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney Barracks. Squad Photo.

1958. October. 1Je Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone.

1958. Monday 10th November. 708 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1958. Monday 17th November. 709 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1958. December. 689 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. John callan was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1958. Royal Marine Gunnery School at Eastney closed.

1958. Wearing of Dress Cords Royal restricted to Buglers Branch, not Musicians.

1958. In anticipation of the end of National Service (the last intake at Deal was in 1960), a Junior Entry (JE) scheme was introduced for recruits aged 16 and 17. Until 1969 the Junior Marines did their Phase 1 training in Junior Wing alongside Junior Musicians and Junior Buglers before moving on to subsequent phases elsewhere. (RMHS)

1958. Lieutenant Hadyn Mainwaring was the first RM officer to volunteer for fast jet training in response to RMRO 275/56. He was awarded his wings flying Vampires at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in January 1959 but was medically downgraded shortly afterwards during his Seahawk Operational Flying Training course at RNAS Lossiemouth.

1959. Thursday 8th January. 702 C.S. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1959. May. The Freedom of the city Portsmouth was bestowed on the Corps when the Captain General accepted it on behalf of the Corps.

1959. January - March. 40 Commando based In Cyprus, returned to Malta where the whole brigade was assembling, including 42 Commando who had been sent out from England.

1959. Friday 6th March. 708 C.S. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1959. Thursday 12th March. 709 C.S. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1959. Monday 6th April. 718 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1959. Friday 28th August. 709 Kings Squad passed for duty at Eastney Barracks. J. A. Wincott was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1959. Tuesday 15th September. 702 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1959. Lieutenant Terence Joseph Patrick Murphy became the first Royal Marines pilot to fly jets in an operational squadron. He flew Seahawk Fighter Ground Attack jet fighters with 806 Squadron.

1960. Wednesday 6th January. 1/60 New Entry Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1960. Tuesday 16th February. 739 Kings Squad passed for duty from Lympstone. Willie Turnbull was awarded the Kings Badge.

1960. Wednesday 17th February. 1/60 New Entry Squad completed training at the Deal Depot.

1960. Monday 21st February. No 6 Junior Squad formed up at the Deal Depot.

1960. March. 6 Je. Comemnced training at the Deal Depot.

1960. Monday 4th April. 45 Commando main body arrived in Aden after sailing from Malta.

1960. 31st March. 41 Commando Royal Marines (Cdo RM) was reformed. It was assigned to the UK Strategic Reserve.

1960. Monday 2nd May. 742 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1960. Thursday 2nd June. Massed Bands Beat Retreat on Horse Guards Parade.

1960. Monday 4th July. 746 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1960. Thursday 11th August. 742 C. S. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1960. Friday 9th September. 7Je Wing commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1960. Monday 26th September. 939 N.S. Passed for duty. This was also the last National Service Squad to be formed.

1960. Friday 7th October. Warning order regarding wider wearing of Green Beret by officers and other ranks. Restricted to wearing by Commando Formations and Units to be revised.

1960. Thursday 20th October. 746 Squad completed training at Deal.

1960. Thursday 20th October. 7Je Squad completed training at Deal. Squad Photo.

1960. Friday 25th November. AFO decreed universal wearing of green beret. Previously only worn by ranks serving in Commando Units or the Commando School. "Green beret now to be issued to ORs of the RMBS and Buglers on attaining Adult 1st Class status or on first draft to an HM Ship, RN Establishment, or Commando Unit or formation - whichever is sooner. After issue green beret will be part of compulsory kit. RM and RM Band Officers are to provide themselves with the green beret when required.

1960. November. National Service was finally coming to an end, the Marines were again reduced, but this time to an all Commando trained force of 9,000 personnel.

1960. November. 8Je Kings Squad commenced training at Deal Depot.

1960.  Saturday 31st December. The last National Servicemen entered service as the call up finally ended.

1960. HMS Bulwark commissioned as first British Commando Carrier Ship.

1960. Layout of Royal / Corps insignia on Drum Majors Dress Belts checked by Royal College of Heralds and amended to suit current protocol.

1960. Rope tensioned drums replaced by rod tension.

1960. 45 Commando was moved to Aden.

1960. 42 Commando moved to Singapore.

1960. Melville Barracks Chatham closed.

1960. July. Logistic Regiment RM. The permutations of subunits in Commando deployments, were expected to require a flexibility in logistic support which could not be provided from existing formations. After careful study the peacetime and war establishments of new units were determined, and between July 1971 and January 1972 subunits were brought together to form this Regiment. In operations the Regiment HQ became - and becomes - the HQ for the Brigade Maintenance Area (BMA), controlling the logistics to the Brigade’s plan. Among its 400 all ranks in 1980 were army personnel from the RCT, REME, ROAC, RAPC, and personnel of the RN Commando Medical Squadron. The Medics did not provide staff for the sick–bays when in barracks, but were equipped to provide medical services in the field during operations (including those in Arctic areas). The Regiment’s Transport Squadron was equipped to move supplies from the areas of a beachhead to the Brigade Maintenance Area and from there to distribution points for the units deployed. The Squadron could also transport personnel. The Ordnance Squadron held ‘on wheels’ (loaded in vehicles) two months’ needs in spare parts and technical stores, including those for the Brigade’s aircraft and motor transport. In addition men from this Squadron were responsible for stock control in the Maintenance Area and at distribution points, and they distributed the bulk fresh rations, ammunition, petrol, oil and lubricants. The Workshop Squadron’s three Troops repaired vehicles, and electronic and other equipment, including instruments, and was equipped to recover light vehicles. All Squadrons continued to provide these services in 1997.
Deployments and changes in organisation 1981–1997
1981 training in Sillies.
1982 deployed to Falkland Islands in operation ‘Corporate’ setting BMA at Ajax Bay and later at Teal
1985 training in Wales.
Exercise ‘Mainspring’.
Belfast tour in N Ireland.
1991 deployed in operation ‘Haven’ during April to August[?] when strength raised to over 800, but by mid-September returned to ‘a more normal strength of 540 men. The maintenance to vehicles and equipment was completed by 1st October. The configuration of the Regiment as originally laid down, had been modified in practice and was at this time brought up to date.
1993 By late 1993 the First Line Troop of Transport Squadron, the Servicing Bay and the LAD joined HQ Squadron, and the Medical Squadron moved to Coypool (Plymouth) where a new building housed the NAAFI and a purpose built galley for RM chefs who served the new mess rooms. The Workshop Squadron’s hangar was renovated. During this year the Regiment put on many displays, with a section from the Ordnance Squadron,  another from Transport Squadron and one from HQ plus some last minute additions, all climbing Jenny Cliff to show the Regiment’s versatility.
1995 Exercise ‘Rolling Deep’ (where Rgt repaired CVR(T)s of the Household Cavalry).
26th August tasked with establishing an evacuation centre on Antigua for deployment to people evacuated from Montserrat.
Elements in Cyprus supporting 29 Cdo Regt RA.
On 26th October the CO formally took over the former RAF barracks enabling the Regt to bring together its various units. Elements deployed with 45 Commando to Kuwait in operation ‘Driver’.
In November and December the Regiment moved to RM Barracks Chivenor.
1997 Winter deployment preparations for WD 98
Miscellaneous
Memorable date: 22nd May landing at Ajax Bay (in 1982)(RMHS)

1961. January. HMS Albion's conversion begun for her to become a commando carrier. She was eventually recommissioned in 1962. Training with 845 and 846 helicopter squadrons as well as 40 Commando Royal Marines before she joined the Far East Fleet. She was a vital asset in supporting operations ashore in Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation. 'Grey Funnel Line' F/B Page.

1961. Monday 9th Janruary. 754 C.S. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1961. Friday 3rd February. Revised structure of the RMBS Special Duties List. Admiralty approval of changes to promotion and structure. Ranks to remain in the cumbersome form of 'Major (SD (B)) - 'Major, Special Duties, Band.

1961. Tuesday 21st February. 6Je. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1961. Friday 31st March. Closure of Nore Command & disposal of C-in-C's RM Band.

1961. April. 3 Commando Brigade, (Headquarters and 42 Commando Initially) were moved from Malta, where it had been based since the mid 1950s, and returned to Singapore, along with No 6 SB Section. To be based in the Far East for the next 10 years. The Government had decided to keep one Commando Carrier in the Far East, while a second one was to be kept West of the Suez Cannel. At that time there was only two in service HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion, both of 18,300 ton and having been deployed in the mid 1960's.

1961. Sunday 8th April. No 6Je. completed training at Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1961. April. 747 - 748 Squad completed training at Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1961. Saturday 6th May. 754 C. S. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1961. Monday 5th June. 12Je Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1961. Saturday 17th June. 756 C.S. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1961. Sunday 25th June. Abdul Karim Qasim announced that Kuwait would be incorporated into Iraq and a military threat was seen by Britain, as imminent. Britain had accepted responsibility for Kuwait's military protection and urgently sent a strong naval task force known as 'Operation Vantage' which included Royal Marines from 42 Commando on board HMS Bulwark, Britain's first commando Carrier. A Company of 42 Commando were landed by helicopter at the Kuwait Airport, just as a British Squadron of Hawker Hunters jet fighter aircraft arrived.

The British fleet included the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (subsequently relieved by HMS Centaur), destroyers HMS Camperdown, HMS Finisterre, HMS Saintes and HMS Cassandra, frigates HMS Loch Fyne, HMS Loch Ruthven, HMS Loch Insh, HMS Llandaff, HMS Yarmouth, and HMS Lincoln and LST HMS Messina and the 108th Minesweeper Squadron.

1961. Saturday 1st July. Britain had already deployed half of a brigade group (that included 45 Commando) into Kuwait to take up a defensive position ready for action. It's always been regarded as a very fast deployment. However, it's now known that the British had earlier received intelligence of what was about to happen. They had pre-empted their forces sending them to the area but keeping a low profile. In the end Iraq did not attack and a couple of years later the British forces were eventually replaced by the Arab League forces. Under great pressure from other countries in the area, Iraq eventually recognised Kuwait's independence during 1963. The Arab League contingent withdrew from Kuwait following the overthrow of Iraq's Qassem regime during February 1963.

1961. Friday 21st July. Stick drill for Royal Marine Buglers. 'Attention' drill changed. No pause between coming to attention and bringing sticks across the body. Buglers to carry out these movements at the same time.

1961. July. 5Je. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1961. Monday 31st July. 764 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1961. Monday 4th September. 766 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1961. Tuesday 5th September. 43 Commando was reformed in Plymouth and disbanded again at Eastney Barracks in 1968.

1961. Tuesday 26th September. No 6 Je. Kings Squad  passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1961. September. 754 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. C.R. Gilding was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1961. Monday 9th October. 769 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1961. October. 753 passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1961. October. 755 Kings squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1961. October. 8Je Kings Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1961. Monday 6th November. 771 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1961. Monday 27th November. 772 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1961. November. 756 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1961. Tuesday 12th December. 757 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1961. Saturday 16th December. 764 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1961. 29 Commando Regiment RA. These units’ close association with the Commandos began in 1961 when 29th Field Regiment RA began to re-form as 29 Commando Light Regiment RA with four batteries (220 all ranks). The first battery in action, 145 (Maiwand) Bty, joined the Cdo Brigade and was in Borneo firing the 105mm pack howitzer for the Battery’s first shoot ‘in anger’ on 23rd December 1962. By 1965 the 95 Regiment RA of forward observation teams had been reorganised for service with the Commandos, but after the economies of 1976 only one headquarters was retained. The batteries served in Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, Sarawak, Cyprus, Aden, Norway and from 1971 were on tours in Northern Ireland with Commandos.
On 1st April 1977 the first TAVR battery joined the Regiment, 289th Commando Battery. In 1978 the three gun batteries of 29 Cdo Regiment were each equipped with six 105–mm light guns, replacing the pack howitzer, and the TAVR battery was equipped with this light gun. The Commando Forward Observation Battery, 148th (Meiktila) Bty, provided parties to control air strikes and naval support fire, the men being trained parachutists and divers. All ranks of the Regiment wear the green beret on completing their commando training.
Deployments and changes in organisation 1981 - 1997
The Regiment deployed in 1982 to the Falkland Islands. They trained with the Cdo Bde in various exercises including those in Norway and with Commando units in Belize from time to time. They were involved in other exercises including in 1990 a battle run with a rifle company and helicopters. Batteries were detached for service in Yugoslavia on roulement tours in the late 1980s and 1990s.(RMHS)

1961. Lieutenants Roger Learoyd, T.J.P. Murphy and Nick Wise were the first Royal Marines to qualify as troop lift helicopter pilots.

1961. Method of wearing bugle cord described. When carrying a drum, bugle to be carried on a shortened cord passing under the right epautte - bugle to be carried in the right hand at all times.

1961. The last National Service Musicians left the RMBS.

1961. Head Quarters 3 Commando Brigade was established in Singapore.

1961. 43 Commando was re-formed in Plymouth.

1962. Monday 8th Janruary. 13Je. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1962. Saturday 20th January. 766 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. Monday 5th February. 775 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1962. Friday 23rd February. Lieutenant-General M.C. Cartwright-Taylor, CB, had the honour of being received by Her Majesty the Queen upon his appointment as Commandant General Royal Marines.

1962. Monday 5th February. 775 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1962. Saturday 24th February. 769 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. February. 760 Kings Squad passed for duty from Lympstone. D.G. South was awarded the Kings Badge.

1962 February – February 1964. A true account of a ‘Beached Bootneck's return to duty’. by David (Shiner) Wright 1 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.

‘Adrift’ After three months charging round the desert in Sharja and Aden, out flanking “ Percy” by day and by night I ended up a casualty on the last day during exercise First Call at Malindi Mombasa, caused by members of B coy, who's over enthusiastic use of thunder flashes, when attacking my bren gun position, blinded me in my right eye and gave me a hell of a head ache, I remember Alan Bradshaw, yelling “there's one on my back” as he turned to dislodge it, it hit me in the face. Wham! It felt like I'd taken a shot gun blast to the side of my head.
I couldn't hear a thing, my right hand was clamped over my right eye, I couldn't feel anything my ears were ringing, a corporal got a grip on my hand and prised it of my face, then I heard Jesus Christ's name mentioned and someone yelling for the medic.
I was bandaged up by the first aid tiffy, I looked like a Sikh who failed his turban tying course, then flown back to Albion. I stepped out of the chopper and proceeded to walk to the hatch way at the bridge, the ships MO came doubling along the deck with four ratings in tow with a stretcher and promptly ordered me to get aboard, despite my protest that I could walk, I was the guinea pig, loaded onto the bridge hoist and taken below.
That evening as I lay in the sick bay members of B coy came down to say sorry on their way to a run ashore, even the M.O. popped in and asked how I was doing, he was also off ashore, me? I was passed caring, doped up and nowhere to go.
Around midnight, the dope had worn off and my eye became extremely pain full, the M.O. Took a look and said get him off the ship, I heard him say we may have to fly him to Moorfields in London to save the eye.
Bloody marvellous home for Christmas, no such luck, I end up in the European Hospital Mombasa, the Albion sailed for Borneo, leaving me behind, two weeks in dock, eye drops every two hours day and night, daily visits to an eminent Indian eye specialist, an anonymous jag in the arse, for taking the piss out of a jack tar who had penal warts, and my eye sight returns, talk about a green rub.
The naval liaison officer looking after me decided I should go on board HMS Loch Ruthven, (built 1944) to assess my eye injury under normal working conditions, i.e. chipping paint and painting, our part of ship, starboard side abaft of the whaler.
When changing into working rig standing on the RM mess table I heard someone calling “beer issue down aft” and there draped in the door way was what I thought was a jack tar taking the piss by his effeminate pose.
Not to be out done in the piss taking stakes, I purred “ ooh, hasn't she got lovely eye's” wrong! Up went a chorus from my new mess mates “oy , oy , Arthur think he fancies you” oh shit, thinks I, he's the civvy naafi damager, and most likely a raving “Queen”
Well that was it, Arthur virtually chased me round the bloody ship, Arthur was otherwise romantically attached to the RM butcher, named Barraclough, he was an animal but funny with it.
2
I was walking down the companion way behind Barraclough one morning when he stopped outside the cabin and knocked on the door, there was Arthur in pink chiffon frilly house coat, Barraclough grabs Arthur round the neck and gives a deep meaningful kiss on the mouth, “morning darling” he said and carried on.
Must admit to being a wee bit shocked, first time I seen two blokes kissing, ugh! Well you know what goes on in frigate's no? Read on. Still on board at Christmas and I had made up for missing a run ashore, went a bit wild, so they tell me, dancing on tables, careering and cavorting with females of the dusky persuasion, ach well your only young once, everyone on board seemed to know me, must have been some bloody good runs ashore.
Christmas on board, the RM sergeant i.c. of our part of ship got a recommend from the skipper, he had saved his tot in a Lambs navy rum bottle and said here you go boys (three of us) merry Christmas.
I had no idea that in the bottle was navy neater's, took a mighty long pull, Jesus! I couldn't get my breath, fell on the floor gasping and choking, what the f---k was that? Having regained my composure, blown my nose and wiped the tears from my eyes, we decided to take up an invitation to take a wet on the starboard seaman's mess.
Unfortunately my oppo had not put the top back on our rum, it was gone before we got to the bottom of the ladder, the deck was awash with spilt beer, god knows what time they started, there was a rating in full white's rolling round the floor, his rig was in a mess, apparently he was watch on the gangway, fortunately someone took his place before anyone noticed the gangway was unmanned and that the duty man was “steaming”
On my way to the heads I passed the sick bay, there was one of the tiffys crying his eyes out, I thought he'd got some bad news, “what's up doc?” says I, he sobbed that he fancied the M.O. But unfortunately the M.O. was straight and his other boy-friend had been sent home and nobody loved him, well that's Frigates for you, I did invite him to the starboard watch mess for a wet but that just set him off again.
The ship was under sailing orders 02/01/63, New year’s day was our last chance to have a last run ashore, and boy did we have a good one, unfortunately my winger and I got arrested for causing an affray outside The Manor Hotel in Kilandini road, locked up for the night.
In our cell was an army deserter and an ivory poacher, I managed to get out of the cell much to the surprise of the cops in the front office , I requested permission to phone the ship, if we missed the sailing we would be in the rattle big time and I was due to put on a flight to Singers, or so I thought.
One African gentleman dressed in a scruffy tee shirt and even scruffier chinos started raving at me, how did I get out? Who the hell are you, I asked, “I de chief inspector”, bollocks! says I a scruffy git like you, I think I offended him, next thing I know being hurled back in the cell.
Next day we're up before the beak, typical colonial, face bloated with the drink, I'm sure he was pissed, asked how did we plead, not guilty, thrown back into the miscreants holding cage, must have been sixty people in there, a friendly African cop said plead guilty, you'll get find a pound each and you are out of here, that's what we did.
Mark, my oppo had no money, me I had two shillings left, we bought a huge bottle of coke, get some sugar into the system and run like smoking oakum for the harbour, managed to get on the last liberty boat and back on board, we were well adrift.
3
Initially on joining the ships company the Sergeant Major RM was really welcoming, couldn't do enough for me, we had barely cleared the gang way when we were fell in between an escort and marched up in front of the skipper.
I whispered to Mark, to keep quiet and I'll do the talking, the charge was read out “adrift prior to” the skipper asked if we had anything to say. Yes sir, we were having a quiet drink, toasting new year’s day, and long live the Queen etc, when some disenchanted colonial types began hurling abuse and making derogatory remarks directed at our royal family.
In an attempt to keep the situation on an even keel Sir, we made them aware of who we were and requested an apology, this was met by howls of further abuse and an empty beer bottle, followed by several others hurled in our direction.
Not prepared to take this insulting behaviour, we endeavoured to settled the situation by taking cover behind our up turned table and rushing them, yelling “up and at them Loch Ruthvens”.
We decked the opposition but unfortunately the proprietor of the establishment sided with the miscreants to protect his regular trade; and called the police.
Despite several requests to be permitted to contact the ship we were hauled away and banged up, we are duly proud of our ship and country Sir and could not stand by and take that abuse from any one. (of course that lot was pure unadulterated bull dust, we were nicked for trying to hot wire a car)
Dismiss and go to your duty station for leaving harbour, the sergeant major was livid, cannot remember his name but his nick name was “Biffo” due to the prominence of his listening tackle, then it dawned on me, engines running, brow coming in, “ caste off forward”
Despite my informing sern't major, that I'm supposed to be put ashore, the ship was moving, “ you'll get put ashore in Aden sonny” bastard! Off we go seven days sailing to bloody Aden, did a commission there 1960, the arm pit of the world.
As soon as we cleared the harbour it was sea duties for me, Biffo, no more Mr Nice guy, watch on the bridge proved disturbing, my eye sight was still playing up, I was seeing coloured lights when there were none. I was removed and put on life buoy ghost. A station on the quarter deck, the lowest part of the upper deck, standing mid ships against the bulkhead, watching for persons going over-board. Should this occur, the sentry would observe which side of the ship said person entered the water and press appropriate alarm, which automatically put the ship into the respective turn to attempt to rescue “man over board ”I thought a rescue in pitch darkness and a whoring gale was very unlikely.
This was all well and good but at the time we were beating into a head sea with a wind force ten, gusting twelve, yes a hurricane / typhoon, whatever, bloody windy and extremely rough seas, so rough the quarter deck was awash most of the time. To make sure it wasn't me going over the side I unfastened my belt, ran it through the fire hose housing and back around my waist, it was scary and very wet.
There were compensations to the rough weather, a lot of tot's were going begging, people feeling a wee bit too “Uncle Dick” to imbibe, I have always helped the sick and needy and wandered round the ship in a considerably happy state.
Docking in Aden it was run ashore time, it would be the last with my new mess mates up the sharpe end. All togged up in our No 1 K.D. Rig ready to rock the place, Arthur turned out in a white dinner.
4
Jacket, maroon slacks, maroon bow tie and a pink carnation in his lapel button hole,(where the hell did he get the carnation) all the lads gave him a round of applause, that really pleased him.
First port of call the Naafi club in Steamer point, Arthur and twelve Boot necks, the lager flowed, Arthur wanted to dance, a few of us felt obliged, he was a fair dancer, could do the female steps a treat, he was having the time of his life. Come on fellas, let’s go to the Rock Hotel, says Arthur, the best place in Aden.
Nah, they won’t let us in there Arthur, wrong, Arthur had connections, up we went to the penthouse, booze and scran Arthur sorted it. What a night, when we got back on board, Arthur disappeared with a couple of “friends” down to his NAAFI stores where his fridge got raided and Arthur got a “ good night kiss”
I'm sure Arthur never made a profit from his voyage, he just wanted to be with the lads and Barraclough, I think he was a lonely person, kind hearted to a fault, gay and looking for a soul mate, don't think it was the butcher though.
On the tenth of January I left the ship and reported to The Stone Frigate, name of which escapes me, the chief P.O. Told me that I would be billeted in the transit hotel Khormaksar, “do you need any money Royal?” he asked, no thanks (I'd been playing cards successfully), “what happens now” I asked, you will have to wait until someone leaves a through flight to Singapore to get back to your unit. “ How long am I going to be stuck here” who knows, could be weeks/ months.
That really pissed me off, stuck in a dump like Khormaksar. After a week of sitting around, and going swimming I was really down, never felt so depressed, that is not like me at all. Bumped into an oppo from RM Deal, now a corporal, took me out to 45cdo at little Aden(not again, served there 1960 it's worse than an arm pit, it's the pit's)
Got pissed, sort of, in the jnr nco's mess and went back to the hell hotel, after two/three weeks got a flight out, arrived Singers late at night, truck up to Burma Camp, slept in a cell in the guard room.
Went down to the company lines to report my return. There was a new coy sergeant major, “who are you” he asked, “ Wright sern't major returning from Mombasa” Wright! Wright! Your a.w.o l. he called out to a couple of lads and said “you two, escort, march this man to the guard room” back in the cell's.
It transpires that the Naval Liaison Officer in Mombasa was far too engrossed in the cocktail and daisy chain circuit, that he failed to keep an eye on my where abouts, when Loch Ruthven sailed he totally had no idea what had happened to me and I was posted A.W.O.L. What bloody leave and what a bloody liberty.
All sorted out, went to my billet all the lads came round and brought all my back mail, there were messages scrawled on the back of the envelope's, well done Shiner, keep going mate, hope you make it, all the best 1section 1 troop, very touching they all thought I'd legged it. Then it was off to the Naafi for a very huge amount of Tiger beer and war storying, great to be back amongst the good hands of 1section, 1 troop, A coy.
Strange, you moan about it when you are in the unit, with no real rhyme or reason but it's so good to be back, back with the team, where you belong, among the Brilliant Bootnecks once more, Peter “Bodge” Humpries, Ron Twigg, Dave Mathews (696 squad mates), Ray Ives,Denis Shambley Titch Underwood, Alan Bradshaw,George McGarry, and even Scouse Fagan(section corperal)

1962. Saturday 24th March. 771 Squad. Completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. 14th April. 772 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. Thursday 12th April. 779 Squad starts forming up for training at the Deal Depot.

1962. Monday 30th April. 779 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

779 Squad Kit muster and locker Inspection lay out at the Deal Depot. Photo's from Terry Aspinall (779), although they were taken by Basil Kidd of Deal.

 
 

1962. Monday 30th April to February.  The Training of 779 Squad. Taken from Chapter 4 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.

As I stepped off the train at Deal railway station, I was wearing a pair of tight Levi jeans and a black leather jacket. I was also sporting a mop of very long hair that had taken me almost eighteen months to grow. To some of my fellow passengers I must have looked like an alien from another planet. Because all around me other young men disembarking from the same train, sporting short haircuts and wearing smart Italian style suits. This being the style that was trying to replace the long favoured Teddy Boy look that I preferred. The Teddy Boy look featured a long draped jacket, whereas the Italian one featured a short length jacket, it being not much longer than a waistcoat. However, I always felt that the long jacket suited a tall person while the Italian style jacket enhanced a shorter person.

I felt out of place standing there on the platform not knowing where to go or whom I was supposed to meet. However, that was all about to change as I noticed a very tall slim built man in military uniform strutting down the platform and heading in my direction. "You one of mine" he bawled at me, "What's one of yours" I replied sarcastically. "Don't be smart with me laddie, you’ll make a bad name for yourself". "I’m addressed as Colour Sergeant to you". Fine I thought, thanks for telling me. He continued shouting at me "By the looks of you, you must be one of mine, outside and in the van". I could not understand why he had to keep shouting at me, after all we were standing within an inch of each other and he was almost licking my nose. So why could he not talk in a normal voice like everybody else.
He suddenly turned and strutted off down the platform looking like a tin soldier bawling at anything that moved, including other bewildered young men standing on the same platform just like me. I decided to make my way down the platform and out of the station building into the courtyard as he suggested, where I was confronted by a van standing in the station courtyard, just as the Colour Sergeant had told me.
The van was a dark blue Bedford Door mobile, with the letters R.M. stamped on the side. Must stand for Royal Marines I thought, or on second thoughts maybe it stood for 'Right Mess' something I thought I might just be getting myself into. I looked in the back of the van and found it full of other bewildered recruits. Unfortunately, there were no empty seats, however I did notice that the front passenger side seat was empty, so I jumped in. I could not believe my luck or the space I had around me, compared with the other guys all crammed up tight in the back.
I was just settling down when Bang, a wooden stick crashed across the top part of my thighs. Something I was later to discover was known as a pace stick and used to measure out a marching stride. "In the back laddie" the bawling Sergeant had returned with a vengeance, apparently, I was in his seat. "Not making a very good first impression are we", he continued to shout at me. I could see that life with this mob was not going to be a bed of roses like I thought. I jumped out of the front seat and somehow managed to squeeze myself into the back. We then sped off at break neck speed to the Royal Marine barracks.
Upon our arrival we were all ordered out and met up with another group of recruits standing outside of what was known as the 'New Intake Block'. We seemed to spend hours in this building filling out papers and signing forms. During this time, I became very conscious of my appearance, as I compared myself with all the other boys around me. I was beginning to feel a little out of place, standing out like a sore thumb. The Colour Sergeant, who must have noticed this, pulled me to one side and had a quiet word in my ear. To my amazement, he was able to talk in a normal toned voice. Which was just as well otherwise he would have deafened me. "What's your name son" he asked, "Terry Aspinall", I replied, "Well don't worry about your dress Aspinall, tomorrow you will all look the same". "Especially when you get your hair cut and boy is the barber going to love you." "You’re got enough there to stuff a large pillow".
After a time, we were taken into a lecture room where the brain washing began. We must have been confronted by about a dozen different people all telling us what to do and how to do it. However, I could not take it all on board. By the time the third person had spoken I’d forgotten what the first one had said. What I do remember is that I was dying to go to the toilet. I raised my hand so that I could be excused just like back at school. When the officer in charge finally took notice of me and asked what was wrong. I told him that I needed to go to the toilet. To my surprise he declined my pleading because I had not used the correct terminology. I was in the Royal Marines now and whatever I wanted to do I had to use the correct Marine slang word. Well I spent the next few minutes in dire pain crossing everything from my legs to my fingers. Finally, and to my relief a fellow recruit put his hand up and when asked what he wanted, he asked to be excused so that he could go to the 'Heads' whatever they were. However, it was not long before I realised and made the same request only to be told that I had to wait until the other guy came back. The officer went on to explain that he was not going to have two young guys playing around with each other in the heads on his shift. Boy I was beginning to wonder what an earth had I got myself into. I’d only been there for a couple of hours and already I was being classed as some sort of pervert.
The formation of a Royal Marine squad can take anything up to four weeks. During that time, you are given a bed in a dormitory style building. You draw all the necessary clothing and gear to get you started, fill out more forms, have talks about what is expected of you and what you will be doing in return. You also sort out who will be your friends and whom you will be avoiding within the squad. We were given the title of 779 Squad. It was made up of about 43 recruits, 15 came from Scotland, 15 from the London area and the other 13 from all parts of England, Wales and Ireland. Some guys had even managed to be transferred from other services, electing to join the Royal Marines.
One of the guys called Jimmy Jewel had been an R.S.M in the Plymouth junior Royal Marines unit. He started taking charge of us from day one, twenty years later I was to learn that he was promoted to the rank of Colour Sergeant. I also saw him on television on a Royal Tournament show in Earls Court London with his own drill squad, quite an achievement, and something I later admired.
I teamed up with Bob Hodgkiss who had changed over from the Navy, along with Syd Foulston from Kent and Johnny McGuirk from Widnes near Manchester. Widnes is just a few miles from Warrington, where my Father was born. A big talking point amongst us all was football. It just so happened that my local club Ipswich Town went on to win their very first 1st division football league championship that year. While being managed by Alf Ramsay, who later went on to become the England manager and was knighted, becoming known as Sir Alf.
One thing I did find amusing was that we had all come from very different back rounds and occupations. I recall that one guy had been a gravedigger, but the funny thing was, he was the biggest guy in the squad, so all that exercise had not helped to keep his weight down. Most of the officers would always make smart comments to him saying that his work experience would come in very handy on the battlefield, for digging slit trenches, or latrines (toilets). Later in the training, the recruits were to be split in two pairs. Whoever was paired up with this guy was going to have it very easy, when it came to digging trenches. It was a good job that I never mentioned that I used to dig trenches while working for the Eastern Electricity Board. Otherwise some smart Sergeant or Officer might have linked us up to dig the Channel Tunnel by hand. I was learning fast and the first rule that was drummed into our heads was to keep our mouths shut unless you were spoken to.
An essential part of our training was to learn the Royal Marine Corps history. The Corps revolves around its history and is very proud of what it has achieved over the years, something that was drummed into us at every conceivable opportunity. Items like our battle honours and 'Victoria Cross' winners, there being about ten of them at that time. The last one was posthumously won by Corporal Hunter from 43 Commando, while in Italy during the Second World War. It was reported that he sacrificed his own life to save his troop from heavy casualties as they advanced over open ground just north of Comacchio.
Had he survived he would have most likely been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. The main reason being that when you salute an Officer you are actually saluting his rank, not the person. We as other ranks would salute the officer first. The officer would then return the salute acknowledging your gesture. However, there is one exception to this rule. Everybody and that includes Officers, always salute first any person who has been awarded the Victoria Cross. So, at times you can imagine that it could be a little intimidating for Officers to have to salute first. Therefore, the quickest way to cure this problem was to promote the other rank with the Victoria Cross, to the rank of Officer.
We also had to keep up with world events and news. At any time of day, we would be asked questions by almost anybody. At one time I remember being asked about the latest spy scandal that had hit the headlines in1962. Some top government guy called Galbraith had gone over to the Russians. Up until then I had never heard of the guy and it took me quite some time to find out what he had been up to. We also had to learn all the service slang words, things like socks were known as dogs and when they were dirty, they barked. As I had learned the hard way, toilets were known as heads, while to wash your cloths was known as to dhobi them. To get your shoes repaired you had to take them to the Snob shop, although I haven’t got a clue how that one came about.
The Royal Marines were the top service, although they are part of the Navy. Who it’s always assumed are the Senior Service. This was constantly being explained to us, that you could always transfer up to any other service of her Majesty’s armed Forces. Unfortunately, you were not allowed to transfer down. Hence, the Instructors delighted in constantly ribbing us that this was the end of the line for us. From here, there was only one place to go and that was out of the gate forever.
The Deal Barracks was where all the marching skills and drills were to be learnt. Known as square bashing, this was also where taking orders was drummed into your head and thrust down your throat at every conceivable opportunity. You are expected to do as you are told the first time around and not to ask why. At times, it being a very tough lesson to learn for some people. Deal is a place where only the strong and easy to adapt people manage to survive.
Many of the recruits cannot take this type of military regime and either drop out as they say or are thrown out. If you were very slow at picking things up you were what is known as, back squadded. Back squadding is where you are dropped back to the squad that formed up behind you, in our case it would be back to the 780 Squad. It being the dreaded scenario that most recruits hated, not want to go through a repeat of your past months hard training. Another bad thing about being back squadded was that it became hard to make new friends. Nobody liked a recruit who had been back squadded, they were known as losers. Because of this, many recruits dropped further and further back until they were finally kicked out. Although if you were determined and made friends easily you could usually get back on track.
Being thrown out was hated even more, as you would have to return to your hometown. Unfortunately, your fellow towns folk soon found out that you had become some sort of a failure and you would become the centre of many bad tasting jokes. Although All this usually took place behind your back. So, there was a great deal of pressure on you to succeed in all the training.
However, back squadding also applied to the people who broke limbs or became injured during the training. Only they had to wait for the break to heal, before they were finally allocated a new squad. It usually ended up with them being a couple of months behind their original one. In the meantime, they were not allowed to lie around on their beds. Even though they were almost crippled, they were expected to undertake other chores around the camp. Jobs that included cleaning or washing up in the canteen or the dreaded coal delivery to the officer’s mess. However, this category of back squadded Marine was usually accepted back into the fold with out to many questions being asked.
We spent several days undergoing medical check-ups and testing our education. If that was not up to standard, we had to go back to school until we reached a minimum standard. Somehow, I managed to get though all that without the teachers realising that I was dyslexic and struggled with my reading and writing. It being a god send that most of the questions had a multi choice answer. It did not take me long to work out that I had a one in three chances of getting the correct answer. I could usually read some of the question parts and I guess I got the knack of working out which one to tick. Mind you I’m sure that lady luck played a large part in me choosing the correct one. I have since learnt that in those days the qualifications scores were very low anyway. The Military not wanting to turn anybody away, as recruits were hard to get. I sometimes laugh that all you had to do was walk in the recruitment shop door and you had signed on for twenty-two years. The one thing that I did not do in order to pass was to cheat. It being a problem I did not want my fellow recruits to know about and to give them further ammunition to be little me.
Then there was Physical education which was a necessary for all recruits. Having come from all walks of life it was not known how fit we were. Therefore, we all had to participate in a program that included three sessions a day, to be run over a period of four months, the duration of our time at Deal.
The Royal Marines had always prided its self in producing the fittest service personnel in the world. By the end of our training and with what we had been through, I am almost certain that we were. Circuit training was the key to this fitness, something that was very new to me. In addition, there were lots of sport and cross-country running, weights training and much more. Not forgetting the battle training and the drill, all coupled with a yes sir here, and a no sir there.
I tried to stay in the background during those early days, which I found quite hard as I am tall, and I stand out like a sore thumb. I also tend to crack jokes at every conceivable opportunity. Therefore, if I was going to blend into the background, I would have to completely change my approach and keep my mouth shut. Because there was no way that I wanted to be the unlucky Marine, who is picked on at every opportunity. Something I was never completely successful at. A squad is usually formed up with the tallest on the right and the shortest on the left method. It always resulted in me being in the front row and usually right under the instructor's nose. In fact, I can still remember where I stood to the instructor, I was always second from his left. Therefore, it was very hard not to be picked on and it was no good saying that I will not give him eye contact. It is drummed into you to always look straight ahead. If he was standing right in front of you and you moved your eye away from him, you were called shifty. You would then be given a lecture that ended in his famous words, that shifty eyes meant that you had a shifty nature. You just could not win, so I always did just enough. Anybody that stood out was picked on and treated as if being too smart for themselves. Anybody who hung back was picked on as being a malingerer or to being just plain lazy. Every time you did something wrong or something the instructor did not like, you were ordered to run around the parade ground. I’ll make a guess that it was at least half a mile around that Parade ground. Alternatively, you were ordered to do ten press-ups or climb the ten-foot brick wall at the bottom of the parade ground. In doing so you would get your uniform covered in red brick dust, thus insuring that it would take you at least three hours that night to get it all cleaned up. Not to mention before that happened, other instructors would have given you further punishment for turning up to their classes with a dirty uniform, because you had not had time to clean it up.
Sometimes we were marched into the drill shed and told too strip down to our under wear. Anybody found with dirty undies was called crabby and was ordered to be cold water scrubbed by his fellow squad mates in an old iron bath tub. A very painful experience and no it never happened to me, I made sure of that. Especially after I saw the size of the stiff scrubbing brushes that were used. We had to wear a clean set of clothes every day. It being explained to all Marines, that if you are on board a ship or in battle, you must keep yourself clean at all times. It was further explained that decease could spread very quickly throughout a ship. Later while I was on the aircraft carrier, H.M.S. Albion, we had an outbreak of ringworm on board. Even though the ship was locked down and the crew was confined to their own mess decks, the ringworm spread through the ship like wild fire. I’ve since wondered if it spread through the air vents that are connected throughout the ship.
One of the guys in my squad, who was scrubbed, was Alexandra Upsall Barwick. Way back in his family history, he had a connection to the Swedish Royal Family. This poor guy struggled from day one and I could not help feeling sorry for him. He had been forced to join the Marines by his parents, who believed it was the right thing to do, as it was a family tradition. It did not matter what this guy tried to do he was a failure. Whereas when a few of us stronger guys tried to help him, by pushing him over the obstacles on whatever course we were training on. We were only prolonging his agony and hiding the fact that he could not make it on his own, from the instructors. Later the inevitable happened and he was thrown out. He was terrible at everything he tried to do, he should never have been accepted into the Royal Marines in the first place. I often think to myself that at least he had a damn good try, he was certainly not lacking in that department. Although I doubt very much that his family saw it that way. Later I used him as example to myself if ever I was struggling, I used to say to myself that if Alexandra could attempt it, then so could I. I would also like to say that the squad was forced to scrub that guy, if you did not participate and the instructors noticed it, then there was a good chance that he would order you to be scrubbed as well. I did not take part in Alexandra’s scrubbing, although I was in the room pretending to go through the motions. I often wondered what his parents were like when he returned home, I doubt they were very understanding, having ordered him to join up in the first place. I heard later that Alex had become a Vicar, a calling I thought was more suited for him.
An incident that brought it home to me just how hard the training was going to be, took place at the Quartermasters store, that was located the other end of the camp to the New Intake Block a distance of about half a mile. We had just been issued with most of the gear that we were going to use, while we were at the Deal camp. Items that included our back pack 44 Pattern Webbing, along with all its assorted bits and pieces that included a water bottle and mess tins etc. The clothing was made up of four sets of everything, most of which did not fit me anyway. Not to mention a gas mask that was also in its own webbing bag and you know how big they can be. Then there was a sleeping bag and blankets, plus a few other items that for the life of me I cannot remember. Anyway, it was all placed into one of the largest kit bags that I had ever seen, and it weighed a ton.
Corporal Geordie Peart had become our drill instructor, it being his job to steer us through our training while at Deal. He ordered us to place the kit bags on our shoulders, he then preceded to doubled march us, which is a fast trot all the way back to the living quarters. Man, it killed every one of us, however fit we thought we were, we were all dreadfully wrong. And Corporal Peart told us in no uncertain words upon our arrival back at the New Intake Block. While adding that by the time he had finished with us, we would be able to repeat this little stroll, over a twenty-mile distance a couple of times a week. What a baptism to the Corporals first day of training with us, it did not bear thinking about what he had in mind for us for the remainder of the course.
The Royal Marines have an official monthly magazine, giving details of all the Marine units stationed around the world. At that time, they were serving in England, Aden and Singapore, plus Marines were also stationed on board of ships, known as Marine detachments. In the April 1962 issue of the 'Globe and Laurel', there was an article on my walking trek from Edinburgh to Marble Arch.
It also carried an article on twin brothers, who were from the London area and had become members of the 779 squad. Brian and John Ward had been made an exception to the rule. As brothers are usually split up in case of war, because in battle it is very easy for a family to be wiped out with one bomb blast. During the last war, I understand that they would normally split them up into different services units.
This article did not help me in my quest of staying in the back ground, as it suddenly propelled me to the front. The instructors took the view that I was a know-all and so used me for any marching demonstrations in front of the squad. Then there were the taunts about me being able to out walk all my friends in the squad. At one time the Corporal even talked of making a bet with one of the other squad leaders and to setting up a race. To my horror the figure of a hundred miles was being considered. Now I was tired enough with the normal days training I was receiving. The last thing I needed was a further hundred-mile walk. It would have more than likely taken place at the weekend and I needed that time to get over the weeks surprises that had been thrown at me. Lucky for me the race did not take place, once the officers got to hear about it.
The Globe and Laurel gets its name from the Royal Marine cap badge, which is a globe of the world, surrounded by Laurel leaves. (The European part of the globe), a crown on a lion on top, that is the Royal connection. While the fouled anchor at the bottom of the laurels, denoting we are Navy. By the way, the American Marines have the other half of the world globe, (the America’s) on their cap badge. The Royal Marines have always fought throughout the world. They were originally formed in 1664 as boat soldiers, being stationed on ships and placed between the officers and the crew. This was to protect the officers, if the crew were to mutiny or just wanted to kill one of them. Although their primary task was to protect the ship’s crew, as they set foot on newly found lands, as protection against the local inhabitants. As a footnote I later learnt that a marine was the first European to set foot in Australia during the arrival of the first fleet.
Once we had all our clothes and gear issued to us, the Corporal went about showing us how to maintain it. The first thing I was ever taught was how to wash a shirt with a detachable collar in a bucket, (or pail) called a Dhobi bucket. Then it was how to iron a shirt and collar. Then how to darn a pair of woollen socks, nowadays nylon is used, and they are disposable, but not back then. However, wool is good for your feet when you are marching in heavy leather boots. No such thing as detachable collars anymore and I wouldn’t mind betting that the shirts are now drip dry and none iron as well.
It took about four weeks to form up our squad and by then we had moved from the new intake block, into the main building that ran along the front of the parade ground. Then the instructors informed us that we were about to get down to the real hard training. I had thought that we were already doing the so called hard work, surely it could not get any harder. Oh, and how cold I felt round the ears, with my new very very short haircut. I looked just like a skinhead and just as the Sergeant had predicted I did look like everybody else. It is a safe bet to say that I certainly did not stand out amongst a crowd of Marines. However, in those days I would have certainly stood out in a crowd of civilian’s. If we were to go over the wall, as it was called and become AWOL, (Absent without leave) it would not be long before somebody would pick you up, the hair just gave you away.
Life at Deal soon dropped into a routine, of up at 6am, for a 6.30 am breakfast, it being a crime not to have one and was enforced by military law if you passed out on the parade ground. Then there was the 8 am parade, which meant being on the parade ground by 7.50 am to be formed up by 7.55 am. The Parade starts dead on 8 am and I mean dead on. Then there is a roll call, to find out who is late or who had deserted during the night. This was then followed by a full inspection of you and your uniform. Not many people survived without being picked up for one fault or another during those early days. The punishment was usually a further inspection at the guard house later in the afternoon. Somehow, we all participated in this ritual of daily punishment that was dished out by the instructors. Who seemed to delight in the thought that they had to ridicule us every single minute of every single day? Then there was the square bashing, marching here, marching there and marching every bloody where. This was followed by physical training, battle training, educational training, swimming and more physical training, all followed up by more physical training. If you were lucky, you were allowed to finish around 4 to 4.30 pm in the afternoon. To be unleashed into a frenzy of washing all your cloths that had become dirty during the day. Not to mention the ironing, cleaning your boots and polishing brass buttons etc etc. All this had to be completed in the very close confines of your dormitory style room, amongst all the other guys in your squad. At times, it seemed more crowded than Piccadilly Square on a cup final night.
The day in, day out discipline was very strict, while the punishment being dealt out was plentiful, that included extra kit inspection, extra parades, extra uniform inspection, extra drill, extra guard duties and extra fatigue work around the camp. Oh, and I nearly forgot about the constant running round the parade ground. With the constant threat of all that lot hanging over our heads, I always did my best to get things right the first time. I can proudly boast that during my entire time at Deal, I only ever received one extra guard duty, I am thinking that it must be some sort of record. Unfortunately, I did receive a few runs around the parade ground and a couple of runs around the battle courses that came later.
I like to think that I became smart and tried to beat them at their own game. On a regular basis we would have crash locker inspections, at all times your locker had to look perfect and laid out as they had instructed, even giving us photos to copy. Even your knives and forks had to be laid out in a special order. Clothes had to be neatly ironed and folded in a certain way. We had been issued four shirts, pants, vests etc. The theory being three pairs had to be in the locker at all time, while one pair was being worn. However, during the day and because of your constant sweating and becoming dirty we had to change. Therefore, it was impossible to have the right amount of clothes on display in the locker all the time. However, I bought myself a double kit from the quartermaster’s stores, which fooled the instructors for a time. They spent a lot of time trying to catch me out, but I can hold my head up high and say, I think I beat them. Just for the record, my dirty articles of clothing were all neatly tucked up inside the sleeves of my greatcoat. So, all of the time they were looking for them, they were right in front of them, but they never did find them. It was a terrible crime to have dirty clothes in your locker at any time but being practical you could not help it. They knew I had some somewhere, because they had made me change during the day. They even looked behind and on top of the locker, everywhere around the locker and even under my bed, but they never sussed me out. Which I find strange because at some time or other these instructors would have gone through the same training just like me. I often wondered how they managed to get through and where they managed to hide theirs. I did not tell any of my squad mates what I had done, just in case they tried it and were caught, then the game would have been over for me, and I would have paid a high price for that deception.
The floors in the dormitory block were made of wood and we were expected to polish them by hand every morning before the morning parade, using boot polish brushes. I found out later that it was all a test, to see what we would do and how we would react. If we still took orders, we were fine, but if we framed up and hit someone or verbalised them we were out. In a battle condition, if you are ordered to get down, you do not ask why, because that way you’re dead. You get down first and then ask why. I reckon I passed all these early tests with flying colours, because as far as I know they never caught me out.
After finishing at 4.30 pm in the afternoon, it would then take you until 10 pm and lights out, to wash, iron and metal polish your brass wear, as well as to spit and polish our boots, we usually took just a short break at 6.30 pm for supper. Upon arriving back in my room, I would get stuck in to the work hard once again, there would be no playing around with the lads. Even with my dedication, I would only just finish by the time lights out came around, which was ruthlessly enforced by the instructors. The guys who took it easy and horsed around were never finished on time. They would be under their blankets with torches trying to finish all their chores. Because boy if you did not look smart on the 8am parade next morning, you were for the high jump plus receiving all the penalties I’ve mentioned earlier. My motto was to always keep your nose and gear clean and at all times to stay out of trouble.
It was hard work cleaning your uniform every night especially the brass buckles and buttons etc. We had a special button stick that slid behind the button, so that we could apply some cleaning liquid to the brass. We would then scrub it off with a clean boot polish brush, hoping that the result would gleam like a piece of gold. The button stick was to prevent any of the liquid from getting onto your uniform. Then there was the white webbing belt and your peak cap both had to be blancoed. Blanco is a type of white polish that makes one hell of a mess if you accidentally got it on anything else. It’s the same lotion that was applied to white Tennis shoes in those days. Once it had been applied, the finished article would also show up dirty finger marks on its white surface very easy. The worst scenario with this stuff was being caught out in the rain and then you would end up looking like a white snowman, as it ran all down your dark blue uniform. Then you guessed it, it took hours to get all the blanco off your uniform ready for the following mornings inspection.
Marines are very lucky today because there is no brass used with the uniforms, it’s all Stay Bright plastic. I wonder how the new recruits of today would have coped years ago. I understand that ten years before I entered the service, it was even harder than I experienced.
On one occasion while on morning parade Corporal Peart informed our squad that there was a certain clause in our enlistment papers. This informed us that if we were not happy in the way in which we were being treated. As long as it was within the first six weeks of our nine years then we could leave the Marines with no questions asked. However, he went on to inform us that the six weeks had been up the day before. As of today, there was no way that we could leave, other than being thrown out. Not one of us in the squad had bothered to read the contract and so none of us knew of the clause he had mentioned. I guess I can only add that at least he told us, even if it was too a little too late to act on it.
Whenever there is a threat of war around the world, the training periods are always reduced, as there is always a shortage of service personnel. Just before I joined, the training lasted for fifty-two weeks. Then because the Borneo Campaign was looming it was cut back to forty weeks. I am told that since the Falklands War it is now something like, twenty-six weeks, but I'm not sure. The way it’s going it will be soon cut down to six weeks, just like the basic Army training period. However, upon reflection I can honestly say that this training was necessary and that it does what it was intended to do and that’s to turn you into an efficient fighting soldier, but mainly it’s to help keep you alive.
Of all the uniforms that I had to draw from the Quarter Master Stores, I hated the worsted shirts, the serge trousers and the old-style Battledress. My skin is very sensitive to rough material, as I have mentioned earlier. The roughness would just craze me, causing me to itch all the time, especially the shirts. I do not know how I tolerated it sometimes. Lucky for me after the first year, most of the uniforms were changed for a smoother material. The Battledress was changed for an olive green lightweight suit known as Lovat Greens. This change certainly went a long way to make every day living easier for me.
Before I had joined the Marines, I had always been given snippets of information about life in the services. Being told to never and I mean never, volunteer for anything. There was even the advice that whatever you volunteer for, you would probably get the exact opposite. This bit of advice went by the wayside for me and during my time in the service, I volunteered for several things. Everything I volunteered for I got and each one turned out to be a worthwhile experience.
Starting at Deal I volunteered for a canoe trip, upon being accepted it was then extremely hard to get the time off training. Being informed by the instructors that if I went on this crazy trip. Then upon my return, I would have to double my workload to catch up with the rest of the squad. The trip turned out to be four days canoeing around the waterways of Kent. Something I really did enjoy, only about six of us went on the trip with a Sergeant. Going on a weekend meant that I only missed two days training, which was easy to make up.
The next trip I volunteered for took me to Holland for ten days, we went over on the Submarine Depot ship, 'Rame Head'. The trip was an excuse for the Navy to get the ship painted on the cheap. While the end result for us was a valuable few days leave ashore upon our arrival in Den Heldar, the Portsmouth of Holland. Boy did we work hard scrubbing and chipping every single piece of paint that could be seen on the outward-bound trip. Then on the return trip, we had to paint everything, and I mean everything. The Navy has a motto, if it moves then throw it over the side and if it is bolted down you paint it. Anyway, it was worth all the hard work, just to see Holland. A group of about ten of us was about to be let loose on the country all under the wing of a protecting Sergeant.
Upon arrival, we all decided to thumb a lift around the country to have a good look at the sites. Unfortunately, we only got as far as the small cheese-producing town of Alkmaar. There we pitched our tents on the out skirts of the town and promptly got stuck into the local booze and girls. The whole trip was very hazy as we went from bar to bar drinking. Being in uniform and British we were easily identified by the locals, who I might add loved the English very much, or at least they did in 1962. I believed they were still trying to thank us for looking after their Royal family in England during the 2nd World War.
We settled on one particular bar that was by a canal where I became very friendly with the local barmaid, although she was a little older than me. Her name was Ria, I would drink in her bar all day, as they never seem to shut in Holland and go out with her during the evenings. I even went home and met her parents, that was a laugh as nobody could speak English and I could not speak Dutch. I think she had about four brothers, they were all Otter catchers, to stop them causing damaged to the Dikes, boy that means something totally different in today world. I forgot to say that Ria could only speak a few words of English, but it did not stop us having a good time and we got on well. I remember being in her kitchen and we were having a cuddle with the lights off, when in burst her brothers putting the light on. Opps sorry!!! They put the light off and beat a hastily retreat from the room. Ria was the youngest member of the family, but I also believe she was the boss over her brothers. We wrote to each other for several months but with my writing problems I struggled badly. At that time, I was scared to ask somebody to help me in case I was found out and then thrown out of the Marines. At one time she sent me an engraved cigarette case as a love present. I believe I still have it somewhere amongst my treasured possessions. I think it was the vast distance between us that ended the courtship about six months after I had returned to England. In those days people did not travel the world like they do today and I’m sure I could not see me every going back to Holland in the near future.
One day while drinking in her bar with the Sergeant, who was well on his way to being drunk. He was constantly putting a Petula Clarks record on the Jukebox and playing it repeatedly. I asked him why and he told me a very long story that at one time before she was a star he had courted her for some time. He was just drowning his sorrows in the booze and music, while reminiscing of what might have been.
Another day in the bar, all the Marines became drunk and started to pick on a drunken local guy who had been getting on their nerves. After an argument, they picked him up and carted him outside where they threw him in the canal.
On another occasion while I was drunk Ria took me, Bob Hotchkiss and another local girl shopping. We were in the lady's underwear department of a large department store. Under the influence we started trying on all the lady's bras, causing many laughs from the local women.
We were a big hit with the locals and every Marine managed to attract more than one girl friend during the trip. One day being too drunk to find our way back to the campsite, Bob hailed a police car and we were whisked to the local police station, unfortunately the police could not speak English, so it was hard to communicate. I thought we had gone too far this time, thinking that we were about to be locked up. As we entered the station, the local Sergeant sat at a desk with a loaded pistol lying on its top. Oh no, I thought, as he opened the desk, but instead of another gun, he produced a bottle of whisky, boy had we made a friend. When the bottle was finally finished, they drove us back to our campsite. All this time, hardly a word of English had been understood by them, I suppose gestures speak louder than words.
One day we did thumb down to Amsterdam to have a look around the red-light area. This was all new to us, but we were inquisitive especially when we saw the girls sitting in shop windows, very unladylike, wearing no under cloths. We also went to see a war film, more laughs there when Billy Wishart went into the lady's toilet by mistake, said he could not read Dutch. The film was, 'Merrill's Marauders' starring Jeff Chandler, but with Dutch sub tittles. A totally different war to the one I would find myself engaged in, the following year.
All in all, a great trip was had by all, sadly ending with us all having to thumb a lift back to Den Heldar. A truck picked us up on the understanding that we all rode in the back sitting on its cargo in complete darkness. Well as you might imagine it was a strange conversation as we all sat there in the dark. Upon our release when the door was opened we all suddenly realised that we had been sitting on top of cartons of booze. I dread to think what might have happened during the trip if only we had known.
This was followed by two days of hard painting, during the 'Rame Heads' return trip to Harwich in England. Then it was back to the hard work and discipline we had missed at Deal. We were hoping that we could catch up with our squad’s training and fitness. We also hoped that the instructors did not pick on us at every opportunity and in doing so parade us in front of the other guys to make fun of us. Unfortunately, the instructors delighted in ridiculing us, calling us fairies and farts, whatever that meant.
We were all given a rifle and had its number stamped on our brains. I still remember mine to this day, 72364. Like my Royal Marine number that I would always answer to, it being R.M. 21414. These are your identification numbers, something you are never allowed to forget, as they are drummed into our head like a rubber stamp.
One morning Colour Sergeant Dinger Bell took over the squad to assess the progress of our marching skills, it also being a test of our instructor Corporal Geordie Peart capability. In the service everybody is known by nicknames, Whites are Chalkies, Millers are Dustys, the Irish are Paddy’s or Micks, Welsh are Flappers and the Scots are Jocks or just plain tight. Hence, Sergeant 'Dinger' Bell, anyway during one of the drill routines, I must have missed a step or something, Dinger picked upon the mistake I had made. Then screaming at me at the top of his voice he declared, that he would break my bloody arm off and beat me to death with the Soggy End. This was a well-known terminology used by Marine drill instructors at that time.
Along the bottom of the parade ground was a ten-foot high brick wall. As a form of punishment for any small parade ground crime or infringement, the whole squad would be ordered to climb to the top of the wall the best way you could and then down again to re-form up once again on the parade ground. Unfortunately, after landing back on the ground, your uniform would usually be covered in red brick dust. Upon reforming up on the parade ground, the instructor would then accuse you all of having a dirty a uniform. He would then award you another uniform inspection later that day. Now came the twist, if you did not manage to climb to the top of the wall you would receive an extra uniform inspection because you failed. You would also receive an extra uniform inspection for having a dirty uniform. Therefore, it occurred to me that whatever I did I was going to get that extra uniform inspection. Then again, if I scaled the wall I would have to re-clean my uniform, which would possibly take me a couple of hours to complete. Fine, I thought I would just hang back and not even try to scale the wall. In the mad scramble of forty odd guys all trying to scale up and down, it was easy to blend in and not even participate in the climb. Fine, I got the extra inspection of my uniform, but at least I did not have to spend three hours cleaning it. The Drill Sergeant finally cottoned on to what I was up to and just grinned at me. I guess he thought I had found a way of beating the system, but he never said anything to me at first. However, on another occasion he did walk past me and said, "You think your bloody smart don’t you Aspinall". He just happened to be the same Sergeant who greeted me on Deal station a couple of month earlier.
It also became a bit of a problem when we found out that the Corporals taking the squads were also training to become Sergeants. So, a little bit of rivalry developed between them. Unfortunately, this did not help the recruit, because on many occasions what one squad was ordered to do. Another was ordered to follow only it had to be done quicker or slicker or whatever order was shouted at us, as these Corporals tried to outdo each other. So, as you can imagine sometimes there could be as many as three squads all climbing the wall at the same time. While the Corporals stood back laughing and joking with each other. Imagine the cleaning that would have resulted from each little escapade they challenged each other with. On one occasion we were just one of three squads all being drilled on the parade ground at the same time. Our respective instructors gave the necessary orders that culminated in all three squads walking into each other. We were then all chastised for looking like a rabble and made to attend an extra hour's practice.
If for some reason, you had to report to the sick bay in the morning. It meant that you would miss the forming up of the 8 am parade. Therefore, upon being released from the sick bay, you would have to ask the inspecting office of the day, for permission to join his parade. Now on this particular day, the inspecting officer just happened to be the Adjutant and he inspected while riding his horse. One Marine marched up to the adjutant as he was sitting on his horse having approached him from the front as we had all been instructed to do and stood to attention and saluted it being the custom. Unfortunately, the horse kept moving its head so that the recruit could not see the adjutant. As the recruit swayed his body from side to side, so he could see what was happening. The horse must have thought that he was playing a game with him. Because the more the recruit moved his head, the more the horse followed suit. By this time, the Adjutant knew what was going on and shouted at the Marine ordering him to stand still. He then told the recruit that he should have approached him from behind. He then pointed at the recruit shouting at him to get behind. With that, the recruit grabbed hold of his hand and tried to swing himself up behind the Adjutant and onto the back of the horse. The parade ground fell about laughing, but unfortunately the Adjutant who by this time was lying on the ground, ordered everybody an extra parade after work that day, for our crime. The recruit did not come out of his predicament quite so easy, within just a few minutes he was whisked off to the guardhouse. Where he was charged with striking an Officer and was sentenced to several months of hard labour punishment, before finally being released and thrown out of the Marines. Although there was a rumour going around that he had used this situation to get his ticket out.
When we first arrived at Deal, it took almost four weeks to form up the Squad. It was then a further six-week before we were allowed out of the camp for an afternoon on a weekend. I might add that you were only let through the gate, after a fair amount of blackmail threats and intimidation from our instructors. We still had to undergo an inspection of our appearance upon our presentation at the guardhouse, before finally being released through its gates. We were only allowed out in our uniforms, as our civilian clothes had been taken from us upon our arrival. Sometimes I wondered whether it was all worth the effort, because it was just a case of looking around Deal and having a drink. With our short haircuts, we never managed to pick up any of the local girls. The short haircuts told them that we were only passing through as recruits and that we would all be gone in just a few weeks. To my knowledge, there were no long-term relationships amongst my squad members at Deal. Who wants a boyfriend who is constantly leaving home and travelling around the world. By the way, we did not get our civilian clothes back, until we had finally finished our full training course at the end of January 1963. Yes, you guessed it, even in civilian clothes we had to be inspected by the guardhouse commander before we were allowed ashore as it was called.
The 770 squad, along with quite a few of the trained Marines that were based at Deal, all travelled to France where they took part in the filming of, 'D Day 6th June'. A very big and successful War film that came out around 1963, I cannot remember any of the stars, but the film was packed with them. By all accounts everybody had a great time, with some of them hanging on to the gear that had been issued them for the film, so that it looked 1940's authentic. One Marine was badly injured when he fell under a landing craft ramp as it disgorged its cargo onto the beach. He was a deep blue in colour and only just alive when they pulled him from the water, but at least he did survive. There were thousands of other troops from all the armed services, used as extras on this film.
A funny instance that makes me laugh whenever I think of it, happened one day when we were at the Old Marine Barracks across the road from our more modern block. It was during one of the 779 Squads hated monthly fatigue days, a day in which we had to undertake all the camps dirty chores. I was detailed to the coalbunker, a dirty job that entailed delivering coal on a trolley throughout the camp. After delivering a few bags of coal, we were returning with an empty trolley to the coal yard. Three were pulling the trolley while three of us were riding. I was sitting at the head of the trolley having taken charge and shouting mush, mush to the pullers. As we picked up speed, we became slightly out of control as we came flying around a corner onto the main parade ground area. Unfortunately for us, a very large parade was under way, so we had to do a rather quick 360 degree turn as fast as possible to get out of their way. Lucky for us the Adjutant who was taking the parade at the time had his back to us and never saw what was taking place. However, every one of the two hundred or so recruits on parade all saw us, and we became the highlight of conversation for a couple of days. We would have been charged if we had been caught. I’m sure the charge sheet would have read, acting in a manor unbecoming of a Royal Marine.
The three-level building that housed the recruits was divided in half on each level by what we called the sex door. While we were on one side, on the other were the junior recruits. These youngsters had mainly lost their Fathers who had been Marines in the past. They were trained just like us, only the instructors going a little easier on them. Unfortunately for them, their full-time service did not start until they reached the age of eighteen. Some of these youngsters had been at Deal for a few years and because of their age, you did not touch these guys, otherwise you might be accused of sexual misgivings. However, these guys were aware of this and used it to their full advantage on many occasions.
Like the time they were on the parade ground being instructed by a Sergeant that they all disliked. He was being a bit of a pain while constantly picking them up for the most minor of faults and issuing out a long string of punishments. He was trying to get them to present arms with their riffles. Every time he ordered them to go through the routine, it would end up being wrong. Therefore, in desperation he walked over to one of the juniors in the front row and snatched his riffle off him. He then proceeded to go through the routine himself, when he had finished he threw the riffle back at the junior with great gusto. The force of which pushed the guy backwards half a step. The instructor then screamed at them to do exactly what he had just done.
He called them to attention and ordered them to present arms. They obeyed his order and went through the complete routine that he had just demonstrated to them. Only as they completed the routine they all threw their riffles at him. Now part of the SLR riffle is made of wood and at times when it hits the ground hard it can break. Can you imagine a pile of riffles all lying on the ground in front of him, with a selection of broken pieces of timber flying everywhere?
Most of our battle craft was taught to us at a place near Dover overlooking Dover Castle and the White Cliffs. After which we would always have to double march back to Deal, I think it was about twelve miles. While making, my walks home from Ipswich in my Teddy Boy days look a little sick. Our rifle training and shooting all took place at Kingsdown riffle range under the White Cliffs of Dover on the beach. An area where one of the famous James Bond spy Books was based. If I remember correctly, it was Moonraker and a passage in the book goes on the say that he could hear the Marines shooting on the Kingsdown riffle range.
Our Squad membership had dropped from the original forty-three members down to around thirty-six, as we lost a few guys back into the clutches of civilian life. A few more were back squadded, while we had gained a further couple of back squaddies from the 778 Squad. One guy who had been in hospital with a broken leg for six weeks, was back squadded two months, it must have broken his heart to go through all that training again. One or two guys who could not take service life had tried different tricks in order that they might get out. This was always hard to accomplish, as we had all signed on for nine years, plus a further three years to be served in the reserve. Trying to work your ticket was not easy, because most of the instructors were up to all the tricks. They had been around for many years and it took a lot to pull the wool over their eyes.
One such guy caused a lot of trouble while trying to work his ticket, but he eventually did get his discharge. On pay days an officer would stand at a small table handing out our wages slipped inside of our pay books. On this particular day, the pay officer happened to be a Lt Gordon, who was later to become the heir to the Gordon Gin Empire. He had his leg in plaster the result of a parachute accident a few weeks earlier. Anyway, your name would be called out and you then march forward to the table, to confront the officer. Reaching the table, you came to a crisp halt clicking your heels and then saluted the officer with your right hand, bringing it up to the side of your right eye and then dropping your hand straight down to your side. You would then thrust out your left hand towards him palm up to receive your pay. One guy saluted Lt Gordon correctly and then thrust his right fist straight out, punching poor old Gordon right on the chin knocking him flat on his back. Before you could count to three, he was rushed off to the guardhouse and placed under arrest. I think he was finally thrown out of the Marines, but not before he was dealt, some server punishment while in the guardhouse.
Then all of a sudden, our time at Deal was drawing towards an end. As I look back, it seems incredible that I survived all the torture and hard work that was dished out on the squad. Especially as I had been the kind of guy who did not want to join up in the first place and certainly found it hard to take orders without making some kind of remark, especially during the first couple of weeks.
It was true, that by the end of this action packed four months I was fit. I amazed myself at just how fit I had become. I had hated running, now I found myself enjoying twelve-mile route marches. Good job for me that I did, because towards the end of our training we were completing two and sometimes three of these a week. Not to mention, that we would be carrying very heavy rucksacks on our backs. We only marched up hills, doubling on the flats and down hills at a rate of one mile every twelve minutes. No breaks or rest periods were taken, we had to just stick it out to the end. I even started entering cross-country races as a pass time, being a glutton for punishment, but I did enjoy it. I also picked up a couple of medals in the swimming pool, during an Inter Squad competition. For being first in the 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke and second in the 100m relay and 200m Medley relay. I even started playing water polo, yes, I enjoyed being fit, as it did make all that training a lot easier.
Towards the end of those first four months, we had to pass out in what is known as the Kings Squad. A type of drill demonstration and appearance test that all our parents were invited to come and view. It was too far for Mum and Dad to come for just a half an hour's display, but I did feel good to know that I had finally passed the first of the many tests that would be thrown at me.
All the time I had been at Deal I had never been allowed to go home. To add to that it was six weeks before anybody could leave the camp and to walk around Deal. Something I believe I only did on a couple of occasions. I did not want to be tempted just in case I tried to walk away from this very hostile heavily law enforced way of life I had chosen for myself. However, I believe we were allowed three train travel warrants a year. Later they were to become currency for some Marines to make a bit of spare cash, if you did not want to use them.
The end finally came on 11th August 1962 and what a hectic four months it had been. In all that time, I had never heard a radio, as they were not allowed on the camp, so I cannot tell you who was the top of the Pops during all that time. The only news we were allowed was via the local newspapers. Yes, I was happy to see the end of Deal and to move onto the next challenge, whatever that might be. Although the instructors had always tried to scare us with what laid a head we really did not have any idea.
We were all granted a long weekend pass home, something I had been looking forward to. It was nice to see Mum and Dad and to show them that I was well. I think they got a shock at how I had shaped up and was looking so fit and muscular. I also had a night out with Brenda and we went to the cinema and followed it up with a few drinks. She had many questions for me and of what I would be doing next. I had my suspicions that she was worried that I was going to be spending a lot of time travelling around the world and so we would not be seeing much of each other. Something I had realised was going to be the case. It must be hard for service personnel to cope with these long breaks apart. I guess that’s why most people go into the service as a single person. Because it does hurt when you can’t get to see somebody you love until the service says you can. Then all too quickly the weekend was over, and I had to return to Deal. The very next day we were all moved by truck to Portsmouth. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

1962. April. Lieutenant-Colonel John Glenn, Jnr, USMC, sent this photograph to Lieut.-Colonel P.G. Davis, DSC, RM, to be used on the cover of the April edition of the ‘Globe and Laurel’ Corps magazine. Photo from the author Terry Aspinall (779 Squad), there was also an article about his walk from Edinburgh to Marble Arch befor he joined the Corps.

 

1962. May. 40 Commando left Malta for Singapore.

1962. Saturday 5th May. 775 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. Tuesday 15th May. 764 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. A.I. Mendoza was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1962. Monday 21st May. 780 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1962. Monday 18th June. 781 Squad commenced training at the the Deal Depot.

1962. Friday 22nd June. Completed training a the Deal Depot.

1962. Thursday 20th July. 770 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1962. Saturday 11th August. 779 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. Saturday 11th August. 12Je completed training at the Deal Depot.

1962. Monday 13th August. 779 Squad continue Training at Portsmouth on board H.M.S. Sheffield. Taken from Chapter 4 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.

The Royal Marine’s Latin motto is 'Per Mare Per Terrum', 'By Sea By Land'. Therefore, after learning the riggers of marching around a parade ground, a skill that one day might take us into battle. It was only fitting that we also undertake some form of seamanship, just in case we went to war on a ship. What better place to be taught these skills than at Portsmouth, the home of the British Navy. We spent fourteen days on board of H.M.S. Sheffield, the second such ship to bear this famous name. During the Second World War, the RAF had bombed her by mistake believing her to be the German pocket Battleship 'Bismarck'. It having survived that attack along with several other very hostile encounters during the Second World War. Now she was only being used in the training of sea cadets and Royal Marines. By a cruel twist of fate, a few years later the third H.M.S. Sheffield became involved in the Falklands War and was sunk with heavy loss of life. My cousin Ivan Abbott, who was also in the Navy, had one of his sons Kevin on board. While my Auntie Betty and Uncle Bob also had their son Melvin on board, luckily both was saved uninjured. I guess tradition will one day demand that they build a fourth, H.M.S. Sheffield.
Anyway, I was on 'H.M.S. Sheffield' for fourteen days of learning, how to hang and sleep in a hammock, something that I consider is almost bloody impossible. We were taught how to splice and tie knots in ropes and wire. We were shown boat craft, how to row and handle a wooden whaler boat. The name whaler came about after its use years earlier to hunt and kill whales for their oil.
While rowing around Portsmouth Harbour we were allowed to board a couple of old war ships, both moth balled up and ready for the next war. One of these was a Cruiser that had been completed at the end of the Second World War. Upon testing its very large guns that were all fired broad side at the same time, the force of the explosions had twisted its keel, so that was the last time it had ever put to sea. Can’t see it being of any use when they eventually remove the moth balling material. Maybe it will end up like the 'Vanguard' the last of the British battleships. Being sold to Gillette and then cut up and made into razor blades.
Then there was the ships drill, eight bells here and four bells there syndrome. We were treated like full time sailors and had to undertake ships watches even though we were docked in port. The highlight for us was the daily issue of the tot, it being a spirit measure of rum that you had to drink in front of an officer at midday. To stop you placing it in a container, to either drink it latter or to sell it. A bit farfetched you might think, but many people did just that to make a few extra shillings. If you did not drink then it was entered in your pay book that you were tea total and instead of the daily ration of rum, you received the handsome sum of three pence a day added to your weekly pay packet that was around £5 at that time. It was one of the great traditions of the Navy to mix the rum at midday, it being so many parts water and so many parts rum.
Corporal Geordie Peart had taken us to Portsmouth and on the last night of our stay, we were finally allowed into Portsmouth town to sample the nightlife on a drinking spree. I hasten to add that before we were allowed out, we had to once again undergo a rigorous uniform inspection on board the ship.
While Syd Fulston, Johnny McGuirk and I were in one of the pubs, we met up with Geordie, who was already half drunk by that time. We were surprised when he allowed us to team up with him and to join in the party. However, Geordie laid the law down to us right from the start. It is out of working hours now so it’s Geordie, I will not answer to Corporal. This was hard to do, as we had just spent four months having it drummed into our heads to call him Corporal. He then went on and added that by 8 am the following morning, its back to working hours and once again he will be known Corporal. Fine by me I thought with that we all got blind drunk and ended up watching a couple of strip tease shows. As was usual for me I could not help throwing in my well tried and tested one liner jokes that seemed to fit in with the girl's routines. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

1962. Monday 27th August. 779 Squad continue training at the Amphibious Warfare Unit based at Poole Dorset. Taken from Chapter 4 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.
Next day along with a very bad hangover, we took a short three-ton truck drive to Poole in Dorset, for a one-week stay. Poole is the home of the Joint Services Amphibious Under Water Warfare Centre. It’s is also the home of the famous SBS, (Special Boat Service) the Cockleshell Heroes who carved out a very famous history for themselves during the Second World War. They were the guys who under took a famous canoe raid across the English Channel into France. The name Cockleshell refers to the type of canoe that was used in those days. One of the Heroes was a Marine named Sparks, but unfortunately no relation to Ricky, my Teddy Boyfriend from Stowmarket.
One of the best known of SBS Marines at that time was one Sergeant Gilly Howe. This guy had won the Westminster Devices canoe race several years on the trot, way back in the late fifties. Somehow my Aunt Queenie, Ivan’s Mother knew him, but I must admit I never ever met up with him.
Poole was where we learnt how to disembark safely from landing craft and to what was involved in underwater warfare that was carried out by the SBS. Who are also known in the Royal Marines as a Swimmer and Canoeist, it being a rating that they are rewarded with on successful completion of their course. This very small plain looking badge is worn on the top of their left arm to prove that they have been to hell and back, just to earn the right to wear it.
We were also shown how to fight fires of all description and even went inside of a spectacular stage-managed building fire wearing breathing apparatus. On another occasion we were shown how to use fire hoses and extinguishers in all sorts of different situations.
We spent the week in Nissan huts and bunk beds, a little more comfortable than the hammocks on board HMS Sheffield. I decided to grab the top bunk above Syd Foulston, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After a day’s fire-fighting practice Syd must have gone to bed dreaming about the day’s events. He later told me that he dreamt he was activating a fire extinguisher by placing his thump over the exit hole. He then picked up the extinguisher and shook it violently high above his head. Then once he’d lowered it down to an upside-down position he slowly removed his finger from the exit hole and aimed the nozzle at the base of a fire to extinguish it. When in fact all he did was to release his finger and pee the bed. As I said, lucky for me I was above him at the time.
The Marine camp was right next door to a holiday camp, so every night when possible we slipped out of our dormitory accommodation and climbed through the barbed wire fence surrounding the camp. So, we could mingle amongst the holidaymakers. The lure of course as always was the Wine, Women and Song. A highlight for one of the Marines was a few dates with Anne Sidderly who was working at the camp at the time. She later went on to become a Miss UK Beauty Queen.
With our short stay at Poole over it was time to say good-bye to Corporal Geordie Peart, for good. His arduous work with us was over and most of us felt sorry to see him go. After all we had just spent four months with him chasing us around. At times we had been fed up because no matter which way we looked he was there ordering us around. Although in one respect he had been our Father, a term he had frequently referred to during our training. During his final speech to us, he wished us well and went on to tell us that he hoped what he had taught us would one day save our lives. It was only now dawning on some of the recruits that they would more than likely go to war during their stay in the Marines. For the remainder of my time in the Royal Marines, I never met up with him again. Therefore, I guess you could say that it was the end of an era. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

1962. August. 771 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1962. Saturday 11th August. 12Je. completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. Monday 3rd September. The 779 Squad commence Commando training at the Infantry Training Centre at Lympstone in Devon. Taken from Chapter 4 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012

We under took a long drive by three-ton truck to the Infantry Training Centre at Lympstone near Exeter in Devon, where we were going to complete the final stage of our training. Lympstone is where the Battle Training takes place, it is the home of the dreaded Commando Course. A feature we would have to tame and pass, if we wanted to win the prized Green Beret, yes this is what it was all about. If we wanted to earn that treasured Green Beret and become a Commando, then we were going to have to succeed at every challenge that would be thrown at us during the next few months. At least it was going to be a little cooler, because by now it was September 1962. The day the 779 Squad entered the gates of Lympstone Camp we were greeted by a cold wind that we knew was going to sort the men from the boys. We also knew that most of the training would be under taken on Dartmoor, a notoriously cold bleak area of wilderness.
Lympstone Commando training centre was the toughest thing that I have ever participated in during my entire life. If I thought that Deal was tough, then I was in for one hell of a shock. It was like nothing else on earth, in this book I will not be able to put into words just how tough it really was. Believe me when I say it was very very tough. I can understand why a lot of guys call it a day and try to walk away from the Marines.
Lympstone was also the place where I started to excel and to stand out, while at the same time I started enjoying most of the tasks. Coming from the country and being able to live off the land as they say. This course was made especially for me. I loved every minute of it, I have always been the type of person who packs a lot into a lifetime and I have always considered myself as a hyper active person. I recon by today’s standards I would be best described as an ADHD type of person. Therefore, I did not have to worry about sitting around doing nothing. These four months of Battle Training were crammed packed with challenges and not a single minute was wasted. It was a great time and if I were to have my life over again I would have liked to be an instructor here at Lympstone, teaching the Commando Course to the young people of our country. Dartmoor to me was a dream place. Of all the times I went out on its rough terrain, I never once used a compass, I just had the knack of finding my way around.
The first couple of days were just for settling in. While the accommodation was made up of rows and rows of thin old army style Nissan Huts. Each hut contained a Squad of around forty recruits. The huts had only the bare essentials of life, two up bunk beds, two pot belly coke stoves. With two showers and two toilets in an outhouse wash room. A vast difference to what Lympstone had in the late sixties. I was told that they had high-rise tower blocks with all the creature comforts that you associate with modern day living.
We had to re-draw a complete new set of equipment, having left our original gear back at Deal. The only item we had brought with us was our Riffle and uniforms, with our white ceremonial webbing gear. A quick look around the camp showed that it only had the basic facilities, like a Canteen, NAAFI, Library, Drill Shed, Gym, Museum, Parade Ground and a Tarzan course. While around the edges of the camp were scattered the usual array of football fields and a twenty-five-yard Riffle Range.
As in Deal, life at Lympstone soon dropped into a routine, only this time it was even harder, the only thing in our favour this time was our fitness. Deal had certainly built me up and made me very fit, but this fitness would have to be improved drastically for all the tasks that now lay ahead of me. Just like Deal we started the day with an 8 am Parade, although square bashing was now down to a bare minimum, just enough to keep our hand in. The emphasis now was on weapon training. Being taught all the weapons of war that the Marines use in modern warfare. Like the SLR (self-loading rifle), sub machine gun, Bren Gun, 3.5 Rocket Launcher, Hand grenades, Wombats, Mobats. You name it we learnt all about it, taking it apart, putting it back together and sometime while blindfolded. We also had to keep learning about the Royal Marines History that included most of its old war battles. The victories and the defeats, although I must add that there have not been to many defeats. I did spend a little time in the small museum that was housed near our Nissan hut. I was fascinated by one of the exhibits of an old 303 rifle that had been used during the First World War. The barrel was slightly split open, and you could see two bullets together in the middle of the barrel. The chances of that happening more than once must be quite high, although the curator told us that there was several on show around the country in other museums. Not to mention those that were lost in the heat of battle. This particular riffle had exploded in the user's face killing him although nobody was certain who it was.
The fitness side of the training was a continuation of what we had become used to while at Deal. It usually included lots of physical jerks and runs, along with a continuation of the highly successful circuit training that had been perfected at Deal. Then there was the assault course that was positioned down in front of the gymnasium and the twenty-five-yard rifle range First you had run to the course and then around it starting with a six-foot wide tank trap hole. We would have to jump over it, not being allowed to fall in. It was six-foot-wide by six-foot-deep and constructed of brick and usually full of stinking water. Then we had to run over a plank of wood eight-foot-long and suspended on wires so that it swung backwards and forwards. This was also suspended over a large hole full of slimy mud. Then it was onto a long scaffold frame where you hung by your hands, no feet needed here, for once they could take a rest. Here your hands did all the walking as you swung from one bar to the next. If you were unlucky and fell, it was once again into a hole full of stinking water. Then it was onto a twelve-foot high brick wall where you needed each other’s help to scale the obstacle. To then be confronted by a four-foot high wooden fence, that had to be jumped. You then had to run to a selection of long tunnels. That were all about six meters long by about a meter in diameter and constructed of concrete, being buried about three feet underground. I always remember that as you entered any of these tunnels they were always very damp and smelly owing to the sweat that had been lost in them over the years.
At times, they used a different style of tunnel that was set-up nearby. It was just along trench that had been dug and then corrugated tin had been placed over the top. This had then been back filled with a couple of feet of soil. The worst thing about this tunnel set up was that the instructors persisted in throw thunder flashes right behind you, to hasten your progress. Trouble was after a couple of these things banged off in your ears, you could not hear a single word that the instructors shouted at you. There were no ear defenders in those days. I often wonder what the health and safety people would say to the Marines these days. I must add that in later life I ended up with tinnitus in my right ear and have often wondered if it was the thunder flashes that caused it.
I would describe the Thunder Flashes as being like a large firework about six inches long by about an inch and a half wide. Just like a conventional fire work they are made of rolled up cardboard, but carry’s a much larger amount of explosive than the fire work. I might also add that later the Special Air Service used similar devices to stun passengers while storming hijacked aircraft. In a confined space the explosion acts like a stun grenade and knocks you out for a split second allowing the attacker to gain the upper hand. Therefore, you can imagine what it felt like in confined space of our underground tunnels.
Anyway, which ever tunnel you choose to go through it was usually followed by a run back to the gymnasium. Where there were ten ropes hanging from a scaffold frame, about twelve feet from the ground. We would all have to pull ourselves up to the top and back down to the ground. If you thought that the climbing up was hard on your arms. Then you were in for one hell of a shock when you started to come down, it being even harder. Most people could not control their arm muscles and would slide all the way to the ground. Allowing the rope to slide uncontrollably through their hands, they would receive very bad rope burns to the palms of their hands and with these injuries the threat of back squadding became a possibility.
Then we would have to move onto a round brick tank full of water six-foot deep. Passing above the tank was a rope suspended about eight feet above the water. We had to lie on the rope on our stomach so that we could pull ourselves across the water. Once in the middle of the tank we would have to swing our legs off the rope and to hang only holding on by our hands. Then we somehow had to swing our legs back up onto the rope and to then place ourselves back in to a position where we were once again lying flat on our stomachs on the rope. Once in that position we would continue to pull ourselves across the top of the tank to safety. Failure to get back up onto the rope meant that you had to drop off into the icy cold water of the tank, that lay below, and I do mean icy cold. This was all followed by a run back to our Nissan hut shower block, where we had to shower, warm up and to then wash and dry out your wet clothing and gear. Can you imagine all our battle webbing gear having to be scrubbed in a shower, and then somehow trying to get it dry for the next morning’s 8 am parade? It might seem impossible, but somehow, we had to do it. There was also the threat that the hot water would run out which is why you always tried to be first in to the showers. Those who came later had to shower in cold water. Our webbing was very thick and olive green in colour. A few years earlier the squaddies had to boot polish their webbing black, after it had been dried and on top of that, it had to shine. Have you ever tried to polish and shine any article that is damp, almost impossible but somehow, they achieve it?
The camp also boasted what is known as a Tarzan course. The name Tarzan being used because it consisted of many ropes that were strung around the trees, within the camp. I would guess that you travel a few hundred yards without touching the ground, about ten feet below. All types of different obstacles were used, there being about ten different variations. Like laying on your tummy and pulling yourself along, or two ropes one on top of the other about four feet apart. On this one you placed your feet on the bottom one and hands on the top one. Or two side-by-side ropes about two feet apart. For this one you had to use your hands, knees and ankles to inch yourself along. Then you would have to swing on a single rope, letting go in mid-air as you aimed your body to land in a rope net suspended about ten feet up off the ground hanging from a couple of high trees. Finally, the high light was a scaffold tower built around a very large tree, about forty feet high. There a rope was strung from the top of the tree to the ground about one hundred feet away. We would have a loop of rope that was spliced together and called a strop or toggle, this was placed over the main rope to the ground. Then we placed our hands through the strop sides, one each side of the main rope and gripped it tight. We would then proceed to step off the tower and slide all the way down to the ground. Usually our legs would buckle as we reached the ground and crumpled into an untidy heap or at least that is until we got used to it. All Marines knew this set up as the 'Death Slide'. After only a couple of slides, it was loved by most of the squaddies, especially as they perfected their landings. Some nights after a few beers, squaddies would sneak up into the trees for a midnight slide. There had been a few accidents over the years, usually by people falling off the scaffold tower, a drop of about forty feet. The course was always out of bounds after working hours, but as with all rules they were made to be broken.
It was common folklore that one Marine who had climbed the tower one night after a heavy drinking session, failed to make sure his toggle was over the slide rope. When he stepped of the tower he plummeted straight down, ending up in a heap at the bottom. He was not found until day break next morning and I’m still not sure if he lived through the experience.
Just before my very first attempt on the death slide, I received a letter from Mother informing me that Granddad Palmer had died. This upset me very much and I felt very shaky climbing that scaffold for my very first slide down. Poor Granddad I had loved him very much and would certainly miss him from now on. I do know that he was very proud of me when I joined the Royal Marines, after all he had spent several years in the service himself. He used to tell people that it would be the making of me and I’m sure he was correct.
Lympstone was geared for sport, if you were good at any type of sport you could miss almost any part of your training, just to take part. In our squad, we had two very good football players. Ray Manson, who at one time had taken a trial with Glasgow Rangers Football Club, as a striker. He represented many Marine units during his stay in the Corps. Then there was Michael Hardy, who had been back squadded to the 779 just as we left Deal. He was also a very good goal scorer and represented anybody who would have him.
At Lympstone, a lot of boxing took place, something I also enjoyed. Although my first taste was a little more brutal, the 779 Squad was made to report to the gym where the squaddies were pitted against each other. The first time I found myself up against Angus McGregor and he just about plastered me all over the place. Sometimes a big guy was pitted against a smaller guy. On one such occasion I drew Robin Zaleswoski who was the smaller. As I got the upper hand the gym instructor jumped in the ring called me a big bully and proceeded to knock the stuffing out of me. Like I said, most of the training was designed to see how we would react in those types of situations. Later I also had a good slogging match with Jimmy Jewel and I might add he gave me a good flogging as well. After getting up from a knock down that I had not fully recovered from and not really knowing what time of day it was, he came in for the kill. I cannot really blame him, I would have done the same to him if I had been given the chance, because if you did not then the instructors would jump in the ring and they would have done it to you. There was also plenty of canoeing, archery and shooting.
We also took part in many different types of small exercises on Dartmoor. Which is a world of its own, there being no trees, just lush green rolling hills, with a few small mountains. The whole place is made up of grasses and hidden bogs that are very treacherous. I heard a story that just before the Second World War a field gun crew that included a team of six horses pulling a gun and carriage went into one of these bogs. Nothing has ever been found of them since, no horses, no carriage no nothing. On top of every hill is a cairn, a pillar of rocks and stones. A custom of the locals was that every time you passed by a cairn, you added another stone to the pillar. These pillars are great in assisting you in your map reading and direction finding. I loved Dartmoor it was one of the most picturesque areas I have ever seen. I excelled here and loved every minute of my stay. Even to this day, I still love Dartmoor, it’s beautiful in the summer but can be treacherous in the winter, with deep snow, fog, mists and heavy driving rain. I got to know the area so well that after only a couple of trips I did not need a map. I just got to know the hills by the stone pillars that could be seen several miles away.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I found peace and tranquillity in the place, with nothing to prove other than to beat the elements. I was suddenly discovering that I was in fact what’s known as a loner, which I am even more to this day. I’m sure at this very moment in time I can count on the fingers of one hand my true friends. Up until then I had always tried to be the centre of attraction, the trend setter, the unusual one, the comedian. Something that my wise cracking and joke telling usually brought me. However, on Dartmoor you were usual alone or in groups of three, so there’s nobody to impress, just a task to complete.
Some of our map reading route marches took us past the notorious Dartmoor Prison. It was built around the early 1700’s to house prisoners from the Napoleonic wars or something like that. While in the early sixty’s it was housing the worst of Britain's notorious prisoners. On the odd occasion, the Marines would be called out to help look for escaped prisoners and I pitied every one of them. The prison was almost in the middle of the moor and unless they had the assistance of a waiting car. There was just no way that they would ever make it off the moor. Funny thing is most escapes somehow always occurred during the winter months. I do not know why that is, because with all that snow around and in their very thin scant clothing that they wore, it was just suicidal. Most of the stories that we were told usually ended after only one or two nights on the loose. Then they were only too glad to give themselves up and to return to the comfort of their warm cell, hot drinks and all the other perks that went with their sentence. I sometimes thought they had it better than us recruits at Lympstone.
We used a rifle range at Oakhampton about two hour’s drive from our camp. Dartmoor is shaped like a diamond, with Oakhampton at the very top. Oakhampton Camp had only the basic of facilities and consisted of a couple of wooden huts with cold water washing only. It was also used for live firing, which means live bullets going over your heads as you scramble through obstacle courses and barbwire. We would also have to walk in a live shoot gallery. As you walked along with a Sergeant right behind you, targets of soldiers would pop up all around you, giving you two seconds to fire at the target and to take up a secure position. All the time you would be stumbling through rivers, bombed out buildings and thick vegetation. Not to mention the Sergeant screaming in your ear, telling you what you just did was wrong and how in real life you would now be dead. It was always wet at Oakhampton, somehow it always rained up there, but life never stopped, rain never stops a war, or so we were constantly being informed. The most uncomfortable time for us was when we were sitting around in the rain, while in wet clothes. Awaiting our turn to shoot and that could be eight hours a day in wet clothes and usually in a cold driving wind that went through every stitch hole in your clothing.
I remember on one occasion when we were on a route march following a river to our right and it started to rain, as you can well imagine there are those that try to dodge the rain drops. Well the Sergeant that day soon stopped anybody dodging the rain. As he called out to right turn and marched us right through a river and out the other side. He then let it be known that as we were all soaking wet it should not affect our marching. We also realised that even if it poured down we were not going to stop, as far as he was concerned the march would be finished as soon as possible.
Most of the times we exercised on Dartmoor, we were given tasks to see what our survival rate would be living out in the open countryside. This was something I excelled in, coming from a country way of living. Like the day I had just completed a twenty-mile walk across the moor and was told to bivouac down for the night with a partner. To keep the rain off us we all wore a cape style poncho that could be joined up with another one, by using the buttonholes. Then all you had to do was to throw it over a rope or a wooden pole and you had a lean too for the night. This would give you some protection from the weather while you slept inside, the Marines had named it a Bivouac.
It had been raining steadily for most of the day, so we were all feeling a little uncomfortable. The instructors directed us to the side of a hill and then ordered us to pitch our ponchos for the night. Unfortunately, the hill was at forty-five-degree angle. Most squaddies just pitched their bivouac on the side of the hill, being too tired to do anything else. Their one aim was to get out of the rain as quick as possible. I believe I was paired up with Michael Warren. With our shovels that we had carried on our backpacks, we set about digging into the side of the hill and scraped the dirt forward so that we made a firm flat base. We then pitched our Bivouac into the back of our little platform, in order that we would only have one opening at the front, to let the wind in. I then plugged this up with a few small bushes and some ferns that I wove into each other. Then another load of bracken for a mattress and we were as snug as a bug in a rug, as they say. The result being that we had a good night’s sleep to tackle the rigours of the following days challenge. Just as a footnote, many of the other recruits who had just laid out on the forty-five-degree slope had been rewarded with a terrible night’s sleep. During the night, the rain had turned to snow. Some of them had even slipped down the hill during the night. Upon the morning’s inspection of the Bivouac’s area, Michael and I were voted the best because of the trouble, we took with its construction. For our efforts Sergeant Nobby Clark rewarded us with a truck ride back to Lympstone, after ordering the other squaddies to march for four hours. This meant that we had used up most of the hot water by the time they arrived back.
Sergeant Nobby Clark must have taken a liking to me, in the knowledge that I could take care of myself in the open. On another occasion he singled me out whilst we were having a riffle inspection. While looking up the barrel of my riffle he shouted at me, 'Boy there is a spider in there, not only that it is staring at me'. He went on to tell me that when the other recruits left the camp for battle training. I was to stay behind and help him clean up the camp site. Now I hated this part of the training, I wanted to be out there with all the others running around on the moor. I hated washing pots and pans and generally tidying up the camp area. Not to mention getting the food prepared for their return later in the day. Anyway, after all the squaddies had left the camp site Nobby came over and in a normal voice informed me to hurry up and get the place cleaned up. He then informed me, that he lives just down the road and wanted me to help him move his beehives. I could hardly believe what he was saying. Anyway, it all worked out for the better and from then on, I got on well with Nobby. I even met up with him while I was serving in Borneo.
On another occasion while on Dartmoor we were running here, running there, over rivers through bogs and tunnels, you name it and we had to go through it. In one area there was a tunnel made up of concrete pipes. It was about two feet in diameter and about one hundred feet long. It had been instilled into our brains that at all times our rifle barrel had to be lifted off the ground to keep it clean. If a dirty rifle were to be fired, it could explode in your face. Now I can sometimes suffer claustrophobia at times, but I knew I had to go through these obstacles. Therefore, it was a matter of just gritting my teeth and getting on with the job.
On this occasion that I went into the pipe, I could see somebody was half way up a head of me. So, I thought he would be out by the time I got to where he was. Well he was not, he had started to panic and somehow, he had become wedged and stuck. With our constant sweating, the inside of the tunnel was becoming very foggy and steamed up. Then I noticed somebody else had entered the tunnel behind me. By this time, I was starting to feel a little anxious with my claustrophobia. However, I had to get out, so I just started jabbing the squaddie in front of me up the backside with my rifle barrel. Somehow, he managed to free himself and boy did he move fast, or as fast as he could. I mean wouldn’t you with a riffle barrel being constantly rammed up your backside. Anyway, I think he was the largest of my squaddies, Marine Warne the gravedigger from Plymouth. I was also aware that once you panic your body swells up. I do not know how he managed to shrink his body down, but somehow, he did. It would have been the fastest he had ever moved in his life. Mind you, I do not think there would be many people who could have tolerated my riffle constantly jabbing at them. I’m not sure what happened to Marine Warne, latter he was back squadded and I believe he was eventually put out of the Marines and ended up working for the Naval Dockyard maintenance crew in Plymouth.
To protect our riffles from getting what was commonly known as foreign objects in the barrel, we used to wedge a piece of oil soaked two by two material into the breach and then wrap another piece around the flash hider at the end of the barrel, that was held in position by an elastic band, or a condom. Two by two was the correct material that was issued to us to clean our weapon. This material was so valuable amongst the recruits that we washed it and dried it by our beds, so it was not stolen. If a Marine managed to steal a roll it was worth an absolute fortune on the black market. It was also wise to take these pre-cautions because if the rifle was fire with something in the barrel there was a good chance that it might explode in your face and anyway it was easier to clean. All we had to do was to pull a small section of oiled material through the barrel and it was clean.
One night a Marine from another squad was bragging that he was into meditation, so we challenged him to a test. Pointing to another Marine nearby who was ironing his shirts. He told us he would go into a trance and upon a signal from him, we could place the red-hot iron on his back. We were chuckling long before he even went into his so-called trance. Then upon his signal, somebody stuck the red-hot iron right into the middle of his back. What followed was an almighty scream that ended with the Marine leaping a couple of feet off the bed. If it had been the Olympics, he would have won the triple Gold that day. The whole event scarred his back for life and of his meditation that seemed to have gone wrong. His excuse was that our chuckling distracted his attention. I do not think that he ever tried that demonstration again.
During the latter part of our training an American Marine Officer, I think his name was Captain Hatch joined our squad for a couple of weeks. To learn our methods of training, so he could compare it with the American way. For a start, I could have told him that other than our training instructors we don’t under take a lot of shouting, especially while on patrol. In addition, we certainly do not take ghetto blasters in to the jungle with us.
We were divided into groups of three, after first being timed and then two fast guys were teamed up with a slower one. The ideas being that you always help each other to finish. No matter whatever task we under took, it always ended once we had run back to camp and passed through the gates. Your time was only taken once the last of the three in each group went through the gates of Lympstone. Captain Hatch joined me as the two fast ones in our section and I believe the slow squaddie was Michael Warren. Anyway, on this day Michael was having trouble keeping up on the run home. I ended up helping him most of the way. Because Captain Hatch wanted a fast time and did not like being held up by us. He just took off on his own and left us, to our own devices. Boy was he sick, when the officers under taking the timing at Lympstone Camp gates would not let him through. They made him wait until I arrived with poor old Mike hobbling along beside me. His time was taken from then and from that experience I guess has come my hesitation of trusting of soldiers from other units. I mean where was he when I needed help. Whereas I know that I can count on the help of a fellow Marine, just as Michael did from me.
Another instance that makes me laugh happened on a night exercise again with Captain Hatch. When you are out at night and a trip flare goes off you must freeze in whatever position you are in. There is a slight chance that if you do not move then you might not be noticed, you could resemble a tree. If you know what a trip flare sounds like after its ignition, you have time to drop to the ground before the flare lights up the area, usually about one second. Anyway, this night, we were stalking a target when a flare went off, most of us dropped to the ground but Hatch froze where he stood. Looking around at the Marines lying on the ground around him he asked, 'What the hell are you doing down their', 'A damn sight better than you up there' somebody replied.
Although he did give some well-deserved praise to a fellow recruit from another squad. Who was running with him on another occasion and was holding him up badly. Hatch was cursing and abusing him, anyway the squaddie ran twenty miles in this state. Upon their arrival at camp he was rushed to the sick bay, where it was found that he had a cracked femur leg bone and had run the penultimate challenge, it being the twenty miler in this condition. The feat that this squaddie endured earned him great respect from everybody including are officers and Captain Hatch who went to the sick bay to apologise for his earlier language and treatment of him. It was also decided to give the squaddie his Green Beret even though he had not completed the thirty-miler march. At that time, he was the only guy to get the highly prized and coveted Green Beret without actually finishing the full course.
The famous Green Beret that is awarded to the recruit, on the completion of this final five weeks of hell that was known as the Commando Course. It also identifies him throughout the world as Commando. Most countries have what is known as shock troops or Special Forces and use the same colour green to identify them as Commandos.
I'm not sure where we under took the throwing of hand grenades, but what I thought was a funny incident at the time could have turned into a disaster. Not sure who it was but could have been either Robin Zaleswoski or my pal Johnny McGurk.
Once thrown most new recruits would immediately drop down behind a barrier waiting for the explosion. Not knowing where the grenade had landed. In those days the grenades had a five second fuse, I'm told that the Americans had a seven second one but I'm not sure. We were told ours was a short fuse of five seconds so that they could not be thrown back at us. Any way once thrown like I said it was automatic that we would drop as quickly as possible down below the barrier. The instructor would then grab you by the arm and lift you up to see where it had landed and then push you down just as the grenade exploded. At one time a grenade did not go off and the thrower was then ordered to crawl out and retrieve it, crawling back to the barrier and the awaiting instructor. who then order the base plug to be unscrewed and the fuse removed. Funny but the crawl out was very slow while the return almost broke the hundred meters record. At one time one of the throwers must have been a little worried and his hands were sweating because as he threw the grenade over arm as ordered just like a cricketer the grenade stuck to his hand and it landed just the other side of the barrier right in front of him. Normally we would drop down behind. the barrier that had been designed like a zig zag for just such an incident. The instructor pushed the thrower backwards and in doing so he ended up around the corner from the explosion that followed. Nobody was hurt but a lot of official paper work had to be filled out about the accident.
Our physical training now doubled in intensity and included a four-mile route march in full kit, with fifty-six pounds on your back twice a week. This then changed to an eight miler after a couple of weeks. Doubling along in a group is very hard for me, as my legs are very long, and this means that I take longer strides than the average guy, so it’s hard work within this group. There are usually three columns of Marines about twelve guys long. In addition, the heat inside this group from sweaty bodies can get very hot, sticky and smelly. Therefore, I would always volunteer to become a traffic guide. You would have to run faster, but at least it was at my pace and I loved that, the whole test seemed so much easier.
Then it was stepped up to the sixteen miler, all these tests had to be completed within a time limit of about twelve minutes a mile. Or we had to do it all again the next day, but in the evening as an extra test, there was no way that it could interfere with the normal days routine. In addition, there was always the threat of being back squadded even at this late stage.
On the Wednesday of the final weeks training, the distance was increased to twenty miles, this being the last of the timed route marches on a road. This was the one that the squaddie cracked his femur on.
Finally, on the Friday the ultimate challenge the thirty miler, which consisted of ten miles across the moor, and the remaining twenty miles on the road. The dreaded thirty miler had to be completed in a given time that seems to have been decided by the instructors of the day, which for the 779 squad was under six hours. Failure to do so would certainly mean that we would have to do it all again the following day or the possibility of being back squadded.
Our squad had gone through some of the worst weather experienced at Lympstone for many years, which on its own had tested the squad to its limits. Somehow, most of us had made it, so here we were with this one final test and with heavy snow having been forecasted for the day. Unfortunately, that would not be enough to stop our training and so in true Marine spirit we set off. As a foot note it worth me saying that the winter of 1962/63 was one of the worse winters for many years.
The first section of the march is undertaken as a group walking in single file across the moor. To add to our woes, as we set off it started to snow. Luckily, we were still walking as a squad and being pushed ruthlessly by our instructors. They knew that the weather was closing in and would slow us down, so wanted us off the moor as quickly as possible. As the snow became deeper, our feet started to sink through the thin layer making it harder to walk. Although those at the back had it easier walking in the foot prints of those up ahead. There would be no stopping until we all got off the moor. The instructors feared that we might become trapped and we had no emergency rations or overnight protection with us.
Upon the completion of the first ten miles we hit the main road. Here we split up into our groups of three and got stuck into the last twenty miles. That included snowdrifts and slush, you name it and that day the weather threw it at us. We took very few rest breaks because we knew we were way behind our time schedule. Although it was very cold, if you march as quickly as we do, your inner chest seems to burn, and it is a temptation not to pick up a handful of snow to quench your thirst. The instructors ruthlessly policed this rule not to and if you were caught you would have been punished. I can remember one of them shouting at a lad who had picked some snow up, screaming at him to drop it. While just a few miles further on I saw this same instructor pick up a hand full of snow and stick it straight in his mouth. Within just a couple of minutes, he dropped to the ground rolling around with severe stomach pains. We all marched past him that day repeating his words, 'You’re not allowed to eat the bloody snow Corporal'.
I cannot remember whom I was with, but it could have been Michael Warren because you were kept in your same groups of three for the duration of the final five weeks course. Also, with Captain Hatch returning to his unit, I’m not sure who took his place with Michael and me. Anyway, we arrived at our destination, it being where the three-ton trucks were awaiting our arrival, to return us back to camp. To discover that we were amongst the first, although we had only just made it inside the allotted time frame of six hours. While many of the other sections arrived well outside the time. Therefore, as you can imagine the mood in the trucks going back to camp was very low. The rules were that if many failed, then the whole squad must do it all over again. I could not believe it, just the thought of doing it all again did not bear thinking about. The camp instructors spent all night debuting the day’s events and to our amazement and because of the atrocious weather conditions we had endured and beaten. The whole squad was awarded the treasured Green Beret. This was the first time in Limestone’s history that they had allowed this to happen and boy was I thankful, what a relief to know that it was all finally over. None of us relished the thought of having to go out the next day to repeat the same feat and to add to that it was still snowing. Our jubilation was further increased by the thought that it had taken us right up to the Christmas holiday break.
We were all granted two weeks leave back home for Christmas, something I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I used this time to go and see Brenda at E R Howard’s in my best new Blue uniform. As a recruit, I was only allowed out in uniform. The up side being that it was my Mother who did the final inspection of my uniform before I left the house. The management was sympathetic and allowed me to go around the factory and to see all my old friends. Walking around that factory in my best uniform made me feel quite proud of what I had just achieved, man that day I felt ten feet tall. Now was the time to see if the old saying of girls like guys in a uniform was correct.
During that time, I had a couple of nights out with Brenda and I tried not to talk about the service to much but found it hard as she was asking all the questions. However unbeknown by her, I had also arranged for a secret night out with another girl who I had also met at the factory, whilst I was walking around in my new uniform (yes it does work!). I cannot remember her name, but she had only just started working there. Unfortunately, it was to be my downfall with Brenda. Well you know how girls and women talk at work, it does not take long to spread around what went on. As footnote, this really hurt me, and I ended up with nothing. Because after Christmas when I had returned to Lympstone for the final two weeks training. I had decided to end the romance with the new girl, knowing that two girls at one workplace was a no-no and would never work out in my favour. Therefore, I wrote a Dear John letter to the new girl, explaining that I did not want to see her again. I dearly wanted to stay with Brenda and to this day I don’t know what ever came over me. It was crazy and to think that I had spent most of the past few months just dreaming of the day we could be together once again. Anyway, the very next day would you believe it I got a Dear John letter from Brenda. For those who do not know what a Dear John is, it’s a letter giving the brush off to a partner, in other words telling you that you are being dumped. It’s in a written form rather than a verbal full on frontal confrontation. Upon reflection you do not have to be a rocket scientist to know that I really deserved everything I got. I had treated Brenda badly for the past four years and now it was all coming back to haunt me. I had always believed that no matter what I got up to she would always be there for me. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing but now that I’m older and wiser it would have to rank as one of the worse decisions of my life. I guess I thought I was bullet proof and could treat all women the same. This was a lesson in learning for me and something that would affect me for the rest of my life. From that day on I never cheated on another girl or told lies. I might have been a little rough around the edges but at least I was honest, as I still am to this very day. Therefore, for this change of heart and life style I will always be indebted to dear sweet Brenda. I’ve often wondered where my life would have taken me if I’d chosen not to go into the Royal Marines and to have settled down with her.
The final two weeks at Lympstone were known as Kings Squad, it was just a case of brushing up on our marching drill and uniform inspections. It was also the time to volunteer as to where you would like to be stationed once we left Lympstone. Like I said before I was told you never got what you wanted. Therefore, I volunteered for Singapore and to my surprise got it, being informed that I would be stationed with 40 Commando in Malaya.
Because it snowed constantly, the passing out parade had to be held in the main drill shed, in front of invited guests and parents, who braved the conditions to attend. However, we failed the first rehearsal and got a right rollicking, with threats and promises of going over the last two weeks all over again. I believe it was because we lost our momentum with the two-week’s leave over the Christmas break. Anyway, we pulled out all the stops and were finally accepted at the next attempt.
On Friday 25th January 1963, our big day finally arrived, and we assembled up in the drill shed. Unfortunately, my parents never came to see me, it was even further than Deal. Not only was it too far to travel from one side of the country to the other. But the weather conditions were simply appalling to venture out in. It all turned out to be a great day, a day I have always been very proud of. I am still very proud of my Green Beret and even to this day, it still holds pride of place in my household, being worn on the odd occasion and yes it still fits but only just.
To prepare us for our travelling abroad we were given many inoculations, two in each arm at the same time. We were warned that we would feel ill for some time. During the day, guys were dropping like flies and returning to their beds. It seemed only three of us were not affected so we got dressed into our uniforms for a run ashore in Exeter. We could not help calling all the other guys in our room, a load of wimps. Then as we were about to leave, we also succumbed and ended up in bed along with all the others. In those days, you could not travel overseas without inoculation certificates. I think they were for Cholera, Yellow Fever, Smallpox and Tetanus and I think I still have the old certificates somewhere to prove it.
One thing I have not mentioned is that during the last few weekends, I did venture into Exeter for a few hours of looking around and to try the nightlife. At one time I remember seeing a poster advertising a pop show at the ABC Cinema Exeter that had Chris Montez on top of the bill. Who had a hit tune at the time called 'Let’s Dance'. While on the bottom of the poster was advertised a little-known band from Liverpool called the Beatles.
Another hit tune that always reminds me of my Exeter and recruit days is Little Eva singing, 'Locomotion'. While in one of the pubs I was drinking with some of the 779 Squad members and a trained Marine took some one's chair. Well that started one hell of a fight and unfortunately, I found myself involved. The result was I ended up with two black eyes and a broken nose, which I am still reminded of to this day whenever I look in a mirror. Johnny McGuirk got a black eye, I think it was the left one and Hardy got the right one blackened. During the next morning’s 8 am parade the inspecting officer came along the line checking us out. When he got up to McGuirk he asked what had happened to him. Johnny told him that he had slipped over on some ice on the hill outside the camp, the night before. The officer then moved along the line of recruits until he came to where Hardy was standing and asked him what happened to him. Hardy then told him that he had slipped over on some ice on the hill the night before. The officer said nothing but moved along the line and stopped right in front of me. Asking me if I had slipped over on some ice on the hill the night before. To which I answered Yes Sir, noticing a smile on his face as I did so. It’s an offence to be caught fighting in the Marines and usually carries a server punishment being handed out to those who are caught. That night the three of us were in the NAAFI sitting in a line at a table, when the trained Marines from the pub incident the night before came in. They took one look at us and said, See No Evil, Speak No Evil and Hear No Evil. We must have looked funny, Johnny and Hardy with their black eyes and me with a broken nose and two black eyes.
On another occasion while I was in the NAFFI, I was talking to a squaddie from the 778 squad, it came out during conversation that he lived in Bolton. I told him that years earlier I had met a girl from Bolton while I was at the Skegness Holiday Camp. I told him her name was Jeanne Hilton. In those days, I still had a coat hanger with her name signed on it. However, after this encounter I scrapped it as quick as I could. Anyway, this guy went on to tell me his best friend had married Jeanne, a few of years earlier and that they already had a large family. Boy it’s a small world, watch what you say to strangers, you just never know.
A lot of horseplay and skylarking took place with our high spirits, especially during the weekends out on the town in Exeter or Exmouth. Usually the beer was doing most of the talking. One of the earlier squads to us, all got drunk one Saturday night and the result was very tragic. One of the squaddies was riding on the top of a car hanging on to the roof rack, when the car that was going at high speed went around a corner, it threw the recruit off and into the path of an oncoming speeding car. Thus, bringing about his swift death, but the training for his squaddies went on uninterrupted.
During the Battle training, we had an instructor, who was a little guy with pure blond hair. Because of this, we had nick named him the Milky Bar Kid, after the chocolate bar TV Advert that was big in those days. Anyway, this guy was a real pain to us, he cursed and swore at us at every opportunity. He used to carry with him an old army issue enamel tin mug. During our training, we always had to wear steel helmets, which was just as well. Because this instructor, would insist on constantly banging us on top of the helmet with this mug. He became a very annoying pathetic hated little man. We had always planned to get him at some stage, but somehow it had not eventuated. Then one night while we were returning to camp by train from Exeter, by we, I mean Johnny McGuirk, Mick Hardy and Myself. Anyway, we saw the Milky Bar Kid kissing his girl goodbye on Exeter station and jumped in a carriage on his own. In those days, there were still carriages without corridors on some of the trains. Hardy jumped in with him and beat him up all the way back to camp, it being a twenty-minute ride. Hardy said he had done it for all of us, for all the suffering we had endured at his hands. Johnny and I had ridden in another carriage while Hardy made a mess of the Milky Bar Kid. After this incident, the Milky Bar Kid was whisked away to another camp and we never heard from or saw him again.
The high level of training that we had all just endured made us one of the toughest and fittest fighting units in the world. We now possessed skills to engage and defeat any hostile army that was thrown at us, or so they told us. Unarmed combat played a very small part of the training and I was told that because of this, our names had been placed into our local Police Stations back home. During the early sixties, a Marine had beaten a murder charge, because he pleaded he only protected himself in the way he had been trained. I understand that the loop hole in the law has long since been closed to stop this ever happening again.
Once we all knew where we were to be posted, we were allowed to go home for a three-week leave period. This was so we could take it easy and say good-bye to all our families and girlfriends, before we disappeared for up to eighteen months. Unfortunately, by this time I had no regular girlfriend. So, I spent my entire holiday just visiting old friend and relatives. I don’t believe I saw Brenda once even while I was in town on a Saturday night.
Then it was back to Portsmouth Naval Barracks to await a flight to join 40 Commando Royal Marine, stationed at Burma Camp in the Southern area of Malaya just over the causeway from Singapore.
I had to wait at Portsmouth for a couple of weeks and during that time, to keep a few of us occupied we all took part in an air disaster exercise. We all had to become the supposed victims, all being made up with real blood and torn clothes. A plane had been reported as having crashed onto the Royal Marines Records Building and we had to be found lying around everywhere. I was out the back of the building lying under some old corrugated iron sheets. Unfortunately, a group of us were never found. Therefore, a couple of us got up and walked over to the First Aid Station where we received the regulation cigarette and a cup of tea and a cream cake. Those who were supposed to be dead got no goodies, so we all said we were only wounded. Some of the Wrens (Woman sailors) were sick when they saw our so-called real-life injuries. Some of the guys were never found, as they just went off to the pub. Where they caused maximum havoc with the locals who thought that they had all been involved in a real accident.
There was always something funny happening daily at Portsmouth. Each morning we awoke to find that somebody had found his shoes, which were usually cleaned and neatly placed at the bottom of their bed, were in fact full of urine. It being a daily event to see somebody walking steadily with his shoes stuck out in front of him slowly down the stairs to the toilet block, to empty them. We named the culprit the phantom piddler, although we all tried to sleep with one eye open, he was never caught. It was either somebody having a big joke, or maybe the owner could not hold his beer from the night before.
Finally, I was taken to RAF Lynham in Wiltshire by a naval bus along with a few other Marines, including some of my old 779 Squad mates. Upon our arrival we all boarded a Comet 4 Jet Airliner which was to fly us all to Singapore. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

1962. September. 772 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1962. Friday 14th September. 780 Squad completed training at  the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. Tuesday 2nd October. 773 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1962. Saturday 13th October. 781 Squad completed training at  the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1962. Monday 1st October. 786 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1962. October. 775 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. T.J. Harrison was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1962. December. 12Je. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone.

1962. December. 13Je Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1962. Saturday 8th December. The Brunei Revolt broke out with very little warning to the security forces, being aided and abetted by Indonesia. Although its actual involvement probably did not go beyond the provision of training and materiel to the rebels. Nonetheless, it marked the beginning of a new policy toward the territories to the north of Kalimantan, the Indonesian section of Borneo. Even though the main part of the rebel force was defeated in a few weeks, remnants of the insurgency remained at large for several months before they were finally killed in the jungles around Brunei. During the manhunt which followed the revolt, Indonesia began to intensity its political and military attacks against Malaysian Borneo. The attacks were perpetrated by guerilla bands recruited from Borneo, Malaya and Singapore and leavened with leaders from the Indonesian Army (TNI) and Marine Corps (KKO). Major General Walter Walker, who was in command of the security forces tasked with the mopping-up of the rebels, believed that Indonesia was poised to play a much larger military role in Borneo. Indeed, even before Yassin Affendi, the military leader of the revolt was killed on Saturday 18th May 1963, Indonesia had already begun to step up its efforts to foment further uprisings in Borneo. On Friday 12th April 1963, a party of men attacked the police station near Tebedu in the first division of Sarawak. The security forces initially did not know who was responsible for the raid, although it was known that at least some of the raiders were members of the Qandestine Communist Organization (CCO), an arm of the predominantly Chinese Sarawak Communist Party. The specter of a repeat of the Malayan Emergency was likely in Walker's mind as he planned his response. As he had been a successful brigade commander in one of the Emergency ' s last and most effective operations, he was well suited to the task at hand. The pillars of his Borneo strategy, drawn from his earlier experience in Malaya, were to win the 'hearts and minds' of the natives, maintain close liaison with civil and police powers and emphasize intelligence gathering. Shortly after the raid on Tebedu, evidence came to light indicating that the operation had been conducted by Indonesian soldiers. This obviously changed the nature of the threat to Borneo considerably. Walker believed the Indonesians' strategy to be the active support of dissidents within Sarawak. A report by the recently augmented Special Branch showed the CCO to be bigger Conflict Quarterly and stronger than originally thought earlier in the year. The CCO insurgents, who were stationed in Kalimantan and called Indonesian Border Terrorists (IBTs) by the security forces, were believed to number about 1,500 at this time. They were supported by an unknown number of Indonesian regulars, mostly concentrated opposite the First and Second Divisions of Sarawak. They even feared at one point that the Sultan of Brunei's bodyguard, the Brunei Regiment, might itself become the vanguard of a new insurgency. Walker's warnings to General Headquarters, Far Eastern Land Forces (FARELF) were now given heed and a few reinforcements were deployed from Singapore and Hong Kong to Borneo. A crackdown on the CCO was undertaken, and a surprise operation mounted to confiscate all 8,500 licensed guns in Borneo retrieved a full 8,000. No doubt this helped to forestall any planned insurrection, but a significant internal threat remained along with a growing external threat in the form of deep incursions into Borneo from Kalimantan. The task of thwarting the incursions was enormous: there were only five battalions initially available to cover a frontier stretching for more than 1,000 miles, and a land mass as large as England and Scotland. Indonesian raids into Borneo continued to increase over the summer of 1963 while the Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdhul Rahman, attempted to reach apolitical agreement with Sukarno and the Philippines' President Macapagal in Manila. At the same time, in August 1963, a large, uniformed force raided deep into the Third Division of Sarawak, near Song, and over a period of days were defeated by ambushes of the 2/6 Gurkha Rifles. Prisoners taken by the Gurkhas revealed that Indonesian regular army officers and non-commissioned officers provided the leadership for the force of IBTs. IBTs stepped-up their activity as the date for Malaysia's federation in September approached. On 16th September, Sarawak and Sabah became independent prior to joining the federation but Brunei opted to remain a British protectorate. On 28th September, the Indonesian response to federation was felt in the Third Division of Sarawak at the longhouse in Long Jawi where six men of the 1/2 Gurkha Rifles, three policemen and 21 Border Scouts were stationed. The latter were part of a force of natives recruited, trained, armed and uniformed to act as the 'eyes and ears' of the security forces in the longhouses. This small party fell victim to a raiding party of approximately 200 Indonesians supported by 300 unarmed porters. The Indonesians had been in the longhouse for two days before attacking, a fact which later led to a restructuring of the Border Scouts. The Gurkhas held out by themselves, the rest were taken prisoner or killed. Five of the security forces' men were killed and seven of the Border Scouts, who had been taken prisoner by the Indonesians, were murdered. In a series of ambushes, the rest of 1/2 Gurkha Rifles were able to kill 33 of the raiders and scatter' many more in the jungle, where they presumably died of starvation. This raid had two important results, one of which was that the Indonesian murder of the Border Scouts alienated the natives in the border area and evaporated what little support the Indonesians had enjoyed up to that point. The result was that the Border Scouts were taken out of uniform and reorganised to stress an intelligence-gathering role. They carried on with their normal, peacetime occupations, which for many included cross-border barter trade. As such they became an extremely valuable intelligence source for 'Claret' and complemented well the reconnaissance tasks now being conducted by the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS) in the border areas.

1962.  768 and 769 kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1962. Wednesday 12th December. 40 and 42 Commando are deployed to Brunie. Lima Company of 42 Commando led an amphibious assault rescue mission lead and Commanded by Captain Jeremy Moore. The Marines approached Limbang by the river as dawn was breaking. However, their engines were quite noisy, and they lost the element of surprise. The deck of the boats offered little protection, and two Marines were killed before landing on the river bank.
The Commandos charged the police station, where they killed ten rebels and captured the Bren gun. Salleh Bin Sambas was injured but managed to escape. The hostages were discovered in the hospital, where the residents were singing loudly, to avoid being mistaken for a rebel.

The Marines then spent the rest of the day clearing Limbang house by house, during which three more Marines and two more rebels were killed. In total five Marines were killed and a further five were wounded.

The Limbang raid saw three of the 150 Marines decorated. For their role in the battle, Corporals Lester and Rawlinson were awarded Military Medals, while Captain Moore was awarded a bar for his Military Cross. After this action L Company 42 Commando are still referred to today as 'Limbang Company' in memory of this Commando raid.

There was a time when the Indonesian government were assisting the rebels and allowed them to use the border as a hiding place. Because of this there then followed a period of four years that saw 40 and 42 Commando's alternate tours in Sarawak and North Borneo, policing the countries. A time when both Commandos saw action, until it finally ended around August 1966.
40 Commando served in the following:
December 1962 in the 5th Division of Sarawak.
December 1962 - January 1963 in the 1st Division of Sarawak.
March - July 1963 in the 1st Division of Sarawak.
October 1963 - February 1964 in the 1st Division of Sarawak.
July - December 1964 in Sabah (North Borneo).
July - November 1965 in the 1st Division of Sarawak.
May - September 1966 in the 1st Division of Sarawak.
42 Commando served in the following:
December - April 1963 in the 5th Division of Sarawak.
July - October 1963 in the 1st Division of Sarawak.
February - June 1964 in the 1st Division of Sarawak.
December 1964 - May 1965 in Sabah (North Borneo).
December-1965 - May 1966 in the 1st Division of Sarawak.

1963. Friday 11th January. 778 and 12Je. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. J.A. Hartley was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1963. Monday 21st January. 791 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1963. Saturday 26th January. 786 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1963. Friday 25th January. 779 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1963. February. The Royal Marines Recruitment booklet/Leaflet was revised by the Central Office of Information, first published during the 1950's. Photo from Terry Aspinall.

1963. Friday 1st March. Band C-inC Home Fleet to be located at HMS Pembroke Chatham.

1963. Early. ‘The Pork Pie Incident’1 Troop A Company.
While still at Burma Camp (1963) Major (Pug) Davis DSC. SBS. A Companies C.O. walked into his office one morning to be confronted by a Pork pie that was sitting on his desk. Well as you can image the preverbal hit the fan, and within minutes he ordered the whole company to assemble outside. For those who are not aware Major Davis was at that time the only serving Jewish Officer in the corps.
Once the whole company was assembled Major Davis did not mince his words and demanded to know, what clown had place a PORK pie on his desk, no one said a word. Major Davis went on to add that if the culprit did not own up, then all shore leave including the outliers would be cancelled, until they did. To put it politely he went bloody mental.
Because of the threats made against all the company Rod Spinks finally raised his hand and admitted it was him.
Major Davis dealt with him in his way.
Quote Pug removed his Majors epilates and behind his wooden office we went, he hit me first then I got a few in and took a few back as Pug had been a boxer, then we shook hands and all was forgotten, that was Pug, a brilliant leader of men and as I have said before the best officer I ever served under. We had just returned back from Borneo when we were told to report back to Burma Camp as we were shipping out again, all the outliers and ranks who were ashore had to get back pronto, I said to Pug, Sir I only have 2 weeks left before my 3 years are up and knowing my luck I could have not made it home so he said Spinks you will be on guard duty until you fly home, I'll never forget this because I had a pussers new BRASS cap badge and I was sitting on the steps outside the guardroom filing and rubbing this badge when one of the lad's said keep still Terry (my nickname) and a ferkin huge snake slithered down the steps and over my legs, nearly shite myself ha ha.
The finest Officer the Corp's ever had may he now rest in peace. (a quote from Rod Spinks RM)

1963. Monday 18th March. Part of the 17Je. Squad formed up at the Deal Depot. While the second part of the squad formed up on Monday 29th April, to commence training.

1963. March to July. ‘Active Service’. Upon completion of the Commando course, and presentation of his Green Beret Terry Aspinall was posted to 40 Commando based in Singapore. Taken from Chapter 5 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.

I could not believe that I was boarding a Comet 4 Jet Airliner. Up until then I had only seen pictures of them in the newspapers and would never have imagined that one day I would be able walk in side one of these giants. Amazingly, here I was about to take a seat on a flight that would take me halfway round the world. To a destination that was steeped in mystery and hardly ever received a mention on the radio or in the daily newspapers. Until then I had only heard stories of the Far East from returning service personnel who were occasionally on home leave and needed somebody to talk too, so they could re-live their escapades over a pint of English beer.
If anybody had told me a couple of years earlier that I would one day visit the Orient, I would have laughed in their face. I felt good that I had changed my life around and had broken away from the small town of Stowmarket. Not bad for a young lad who just a few years earlier did not seem to have a future of any description, other than maybe prison.
I was lucky and found myself sitting by one of the windows on the left side of the aircraft, so at least I would be able to see where we were going. I could feel the excitement brewing inside of me as I anticipated what the experience was about to feel like. After about fifteen minutes, the plane started to move away from the Terminal building, to align its self-up on the runway. The excitement within started to increase, as I felt like a young kid who was about to take his first steps across the room. The aircraft suddenly lurched forward with a great thrust of speed, forcing me back into my seat. Then as I watched the tarmac drop away at great speed, I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. It was a great feeling, something that I had not experienced up until then.
I guess it was the unexpected, of what lay ahead that had me excited, because I had no idea of what I was about to become involved in. The only thing I did know was that the trip was not costing me a penny, in fact I was being paid to go. I was thankful that the government was financing this trip, because there was no way that I could have ever saved the money to purchase a ticket. In those days, the only people who travelled around the world were the Millionaires, Servicemen and the Merchant Seamen.
Then all too quickly we were engulfed in the clouds that blocked my view of the English countryside below, leaving me feeling a little disappointed. It was time to talk to the guy sitting beside of me, it being Jock Minnock who had been a member of the 779 squad and behind us sat his countryman Jock Stone and his wife who was accompanying him on the trip. Jock had also been a member of our squad.
My attention was suddenly grabbed by a view that lay far below us. We had finally found a hole in the clouds and below us lay the Alps completely covered in snow. I could not believe how beautiful it all looked. After all, I had only seen coloured pictures of the Alps in the National Geographic magazines that we usually found at school. However, the view that was laid out below looked even more stunning and spectacular. Jock and I spent some time discussing what lay below and wondering if some day we would ever set foot on to that type of terrain. The Alps must have covered a very large area, as it seemed to take an eternity to pass over them.
The next spectacular views that greeted us was the West Coast of Italy. It was about now that I realised how lucky I had been in obtaining a seat on the left-hand side of the aircraft. Somehow, it seemed that most of the spectacular views we were flying over just happened to be on my side of the aircraft. Some of the passengers were walking around the plane trying to peer through whatever window was available to them. While all I had to do was to sit back and watch it all unfold beside me. The excitement and talking amongst the passengers grew even louder as the city of Rome came into view. It was so picturesque and would have been well worth a photo, if I had a camera. Unfortunately, in those days, not many people owned one and if you did there was always the hassle of carrying it around everywhere with you.
Then all too quickly we had left the shores of Italy way behind us, as we headed out over the Mediterranean Sea. The view that greeted us gave all on board the impression that it was a deep rich blue in colour. Which caught me off guard, after all I had been reading in the National Geographic Magazine, stories that told of how the Mediterranean was becoming polluted, even way back in the early sixties. Even at the height we were flying, you could see the waves below, as occasionally the white heads became visible as they broke. Whereas Felixstowe my local seaside resort always looked a dirty brown with loads of white froth washing up the beach.
Very soon, it all changed once more, and you did not have to be a brain surgeon to work out why. With the colour changed from a blue to a very light tan colour it was clear that we were now over a desert. What I did fine strange was the vastness of what lay below us. Up until then, I had always believed that only the oceans of the world covered vast expanses of space. Now all of a sudden, the desert below seemed to be as vast as the Mediterranean Sea we had just flown over. As far as I could see it was sand, sand and even more sand. I could not see a single object, other than sand from my viewing platform.
Suddenly someone further along in the plane announced to everybody on board that there was something in the distance. We all eagerly scanned the horizon in an attempt to be first to recognise what it was. To me it looked like a small short black line stuck out in the desert miles away from anywhere.
Then slowly as it came into view you could see that it was in fact an Airfield, the black being the tarmac on the runway. Then a small camp alongside of the runway came into view and right in the middle of the camp was a beautiful light blue swimming pool. In its own way set in the middle of this vast desert it looked like a paradise, a very lonely paradise, it being all on its own with only sand for company. The thought passed through my mind that at least it would be hard to fall out with your neighbours. I’ve often wondered how they laid the runway believing that they must have transported all the materials and equipment for hundreds of miles.
As we landed, the Captain informed us that we had just arrived at The Royal Air Force station of El Adam, in the heart of Libya. He also added that we would be stopping over for two hours as the plane needed to be refuelled and cleaned up. We were further informed that we could walk around the camp but were not allowed out into the desert or to use the camp swimming pool. The camp was just a refuelling station for all the military aircraft flying to and from the Middle and Far East. While Tobruk was the closest large town to the camp, but I had no idea how far away it was. I would certainly not want to walk there.
Tobruk also brought back memories of my Father, who at one time or another had told me that he had been stationed there during the war. During the early part of the war Tobruk had been fortified, as the advancing German Armies surrounded it and trapped thousands of allied soldiers within its confines. Then after a few months, the Allies broke out of Tobruk, advanced on to the German lines and slowly pushed them back. Unfortunately, within just a few weeks, all the Allied gains had been turned into losses, as the Germans held their ground and even started to push the British back. It soon turned into a route as the Germans advanced at such a rate that the Allies were running in retreat. Again, they were pushed past Tobruk, where some of the Allies finally decided to take up a defensive position. The remainder kept running back towards Egypt, never once stopping to take up a defensive position. That is until they got to a place that became known as El Alamein, where they finally dug in. This is just as well because if they had not, then Field Marshal Erwin Rommel would have pushed them all into the Suez Canal. The strange thing is that once Rommel stopped and took stock of what he had, he was amazed to find that he only had four Tanks that were operational. He had advanced so fast that he almost out run his supply lines, leaving him short of fuel, water and ammunition. If only the Allies had known this, then history might have been changed for the better. However, for a second time the town of Tobruk, was by passed and came under siege by the Germans. The importance of Tubruk was its harbour, it being one of the few places in that area where the Allies could bring their equipment ashore.
Where the Allies had dug in at El Alamein, they fortified a complete line that ran from the Mediterranean Sea in the North to the Qattara Depression in the South of the country, almost 200-miles. It was around this time that Field Marshal Montgomery came out from the UK to take over what was left of the Allied Army. It was his job to knock them in to shape and to build up supplies for a major offensive against Rommel. In order that they might chase him, right out of North Africa for good.
Dad had told me that the night before they broke out from El Alamein, the guns had started to fire on to the German lines as it became dark about 7 pm in the evening and that it continued right through the night. He always remembered that it sounded like one continual roll of thunder that lasted right through the night.
Then at five am and while it was still dark, they were ordered to advance forward, with some of the soldiers having to advance through the un-cleared mine fields. Dad had always felt bitter about how the first to advance were treated in this way by the military. It became a well-known fact that the men were made to clear the mines to protect the precious tanks that followed up behind. I guess it was a case of the tanks being worth far more money than a human life. If the situation were to be repeated today, I doubt very much whether things would be any different, with the so called modern Army of today. Dad went on to advance all the way across North Africa, then across the Mediterranean Sea to land in Sicily. Where he had to repeat it, all again on the main land of Italy as they advance right up the middle of the country. I guess he was very lucky, as he was never injured, and came through the whole experience unscathed in body. However, I’ve often wondered if it affected him mentally.
To complete the next leg of our journey to Aden, we had to fly over countries that did not allow military aircraft to pass their air space. Therefore, in order that we could reach Aden, we had to divert around certain counties. Egypt was one of them who did not allow shock Troops, such as Commando’s and Parachute Regiments personnel into their country. An older Marine later told me that on one occasion while he was on board a ship and going through the Suez Canal. All Marines had to remove their Green Berets so that the local people had no way of knowing what type of Servicemen they were.
There was also a story doing the rounds that during the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 when the British and French governments invaded Egypt to protect the Canal. The British Parachute Regiments parachuted on the Airfields while the Royal Marines Commando’s were landed by sea, taking the beaches.
Where the Canal meets the Mediterranean Sea, there used to stand a thirty-foot high statue of the guy who built the canal. Anyway, during the Marines occupation, one of the Cliff Leaders scaled the statue and placed a Green Beret on its head. It was believed that the statue was so slippery that the Egyptian’s would not be able scale it to remove the Beret, so in desperation they blew it up. Maybe that is why they did not like Green Berets. While another story went on to explain why the Royal Marine losses were very low when they came ashore from their landing craft. The Egyptians, who had been given Bakelite land mines from the Russians, were so scared of them, that they laid them in the sand without arming them. Therefore, when the Marines came ashore they did not go off. Another point worth remembering is that being made of Bakelite and not metal meant that our mine detectors would not have picked them up.
Our trip took us due south for almost a thousand miles, at which point we turned east for about hour. We then turned and headed North East, a route that took us over the Horn of Africa and finally on to Aden. We landed at night, so not a lot could be seen from my ringside window seat.
Because of the training I had received while a member of the 779 Squad, my body shape had under taken a dramatic change. So just before I left England, I had purchased a complete new set of clothing. It was also because we had to travel in civilian clothes, just in case our aircraft had to divert to one of these countries that did not like military personnel travelling through their airspace. Unfortunately, I was wearing a new pair of shoes that had not been broken in. While on the plane they had begun hurting my feet so much, that I had taken them off for a little relief. Unaware that the cabin pressure would swell my feet once the shoes were removed. Therefore, as we came in to land I could not get them back on. Unfortunately, I had to make my way off the plane carrying them in my hands. This caused a big laugh amongst all of the other passengers.
Once the Plane had taxied to a halt and the doors were opened you could feel the heat circulate around the inside of the aircraft. Then as we walked of the plane, the gangway lead down in front of the Jet Engines and I could not help remarking to Jock Minnock how hot they were. Even when we were fifty meters away from the Aircraft it still felt hot. I suddenly realised that the heat was everywhere, it being unbelievably hot and stifling. I could not believe that it could be this hot at 2 am in the morning, what was it going to be like at noon midday. The next thing I noticed was that wherever I looked there were Arabs lying around or sitting propped up against walls. The whole airport just seemed to be bursting at the seams with them and it did not smell very nice either. The whole place looked like Liverpool Street station on a busy weekend, crowded with the usual wino’s and the down and outs of the area. I was told later that they were all airport workers, who did not have homes to go to. At least they would not be late for work each day. I wondered how they got on when they wanted to take somebody home for tea.
We spent most of our stay in Aden inside of the main terminal building, it being a little cooler than outside. In those days there was no such thing as air-conditioning, so I guess what we never had, we never missed. Although I was thankful that the building had several large circulating fans positioned high above our heads, they were not making us cooler, but at least they were moving the air around the waiting area. At least it was acceptable as we stretched our legs and had a chance to talk to the other passengers over a drink. I was still the topic of conversation having to carry my shoes off the plane, giving most of my fellow passengers a good laugh at my expense. I must have looked funny with a shoe sticking out each of my back pockets.
After the aircraft had been refuelled, we took to our seats for the next stage of the journey, which would take us to the island of Gan. Gan is located slap-bang in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We headed just east of due south, on what had become a customary four-hour hop. It was still dark as we left so I could not see anything from my window. However, within just a few minutes of passing over the coastline of Aden, the sun suddenly appeared above the horizon filling the cabin with a beautiful golden yellow light. Once again it was lucky for me as it was once again on my side of the aircraft and made a spectacular view.
The Indian Ocean was so vast and looked a very deep blue in colour. It did not matter in which direction you looked, the ocean was all that you could see. This vast blue expanse went on for almost the full four hours of the flight. Until we approached the Island of Gan, that was like a pin head in the middle of this great expanse of blue. As we approached the small spec looked pure white in colour and seemed to be surrounded by even smaller white specs. Then as we were only a few miles away, we could see that the main island had a runway running its full length and was almost as wide. While all around the larger island were several much smaller islands, all were of the same pure white colour.
By now, we were becoming seasoned travellers and we all knew the drill. It being a two-hour stopover and that we could look around but were not allowed to swim in the swimming pools. The two Jocks and I headed straight for the nearest beach, knowing that we were going to find something very spectacular. We were not disappointed because the scene that greeted us must have come straight from the cover of a National Geographic Magazine. The beach had the finest white sand I had ever seen in my entire life. It flashed through my mind of the days I had gone to Felixstowe for a holiday back in England, where the beach was covered in stones of all shapes and sizes. Compared to this very soft fine sand they had felt like large rocks under my feet. The experience was going to be remembered for a long time. For all we knew we might never get another chance, to enjoy one of nature’s wonders of the world.
Jock Minnock wasted no time in stripping down to his under pants and walking past a couple of small Arab Dhow boats that lay on the beach, into the small waves to sample the water. None of us had a swimming costume as they were all packed away in our suite cases that were stowed away in the cargo hold. Anyway, there was no need to worry about exposing ourselves to the female fraternity. As there was only one woman on the whole Island and she was sixty years old. She was a member of the Women’s Volunteer Service and was there just to add a woman’s touch to the place and to help the fifty of so service men if they needed any feminine help over family matters. The RAF service men had to serve a minimum six months tour in this Garden of Eden, before returning to their unit that was normally stationed in Singapore. It was their job to take care of the aircraft as they passed through, on their way to either Singapore or the UK. I would guess that Gan must have been the prime posting that was well sort after by all the RAF personnel.
Anyway, Jock Minnock was beckoning, to Jock Stone and me to join him in the sea. I must admit we did not need too much encouragement, as we slipped out of my clothes and joined him. Now I had been a swimmer during most of my school days and loved being in the water. However, this was different it did not even feel like water, it being luke warm. It even felt warmer than the bath water that I use to wash in back in the UK. It was certainly much warmer than the Ipswich Baths heated swimming pool that I had visited in the past. The first thing that went through my head was that this was not going to take a lot of getting used to. In fact, they were going to have to persuade me with something good to get me out and that is exactly what happened.
After Jock Stone had finished his swim he had gone for a wander around the island and had returned with a couple of bottles of beer for us. This was the correct enticement to get me out of the sea, where I’d been enjoying myself for the past forty-five minutes. I finally left the beautiful warm waters of the Indian Ocean to join him on the beach. Boy did the beer taste good, all I needed now was some female company and who could want for anything more.
We did not have to worry about drying ourselves, because the sun did that job for us in just a few minutes, so it was easy to slip our clothes back on. Upon reflection, I think we were the only passengers to take the plunge that day, but why I do not know. All I do know is that it was a great experience and what I hoped was going to be lying ahead of me for the next eighteen months. After all, this was what I had always imagined it would be like in this part of the world, just laying around on a beach of a desert island.
Finally, some good news as we were informed that the plane had an engine problem and that we were going to be delayed for a further couple of hours. What bad luck I thought, as I lay back on the beach and soaked up the sun. I even managed to grab a few minutes sleep, but it is hard with all the excitement going on around you. It had been hard to sleep on board of the Comet, as the seats were very uncomfortable and there was not a lot of leg room either. In addition, the engines were very noisy making a high pitched whistling noise, while all around it felt like a vibration was affecting the whole aircraft. Not like today when the passenger comfort comes first, to us it was all part of the job. Service men being uncomfortable on an aircraft did not seem to come into the equation of protecting British interests in the Far East.
As we walked around the island none of us had ever imagined a picturesque place like it, to us it seemed like heaven. However, the tranquillity of the moment was interrupted by an RAF guy riding around on a motor scooter trying to round us all up to re-board the aircraft. Because of the break down, most of us had wandered to almost every conceivable corner of the island in an effort to pass the time. Therefore, his task was not an easy one and was further complicated by their having to walk back to the aircraft.
The next part of the journey took us due east as we headed for the island of Singapore. This was also to be another four-hour flight and then on the captain’s instructions most people adjusted their watches forward onto Singapore time. After my first experience with a watch when I bought a lemon while working at E.R. Howards back in Stowmarket. I had never bothered to wear one, something I still do not bother with to this day.
We continued to fly into the darkness of the night, so my window view was not revealing too many sites along the way. Until that is, we flew over an Electrical storm. I then witnessed a spectacular lightning show that seemed even more spectacular because I was looking down into it, I had never seen anything quite like this. The lightning was also inside of the clouds and seemed to go on and on lighting up the cloud formations below. By now if you including time zones, flight times and stop over’s, we were almost 30 hours into the flight and already I had notched up many firsts. I was wondering what the remainder of my 18 months in this part of the world had in store for me.
I do not know what I had expected to find when I finally set foot on the Island of Singapore. After all, I had not read any books on the subject, I had not even seen any Television programs, mainly because they just did not exist at that time. Therefore, for me I was going to be walking into a complete unknown and that everything was going to be a completely new experience. The only picture I had in my head was of the coolies that I had seen in the old black and white war films of the day. With their little pointed hats, that was woven from some type of grass and with a wooden yoke across their shoulders carrying a basket either side of them, as they rebuilt the runways and roads during the war. Then according to the Tarzan films of the day, there would be snakes falling from every tree that you walked under. Somehow, I always imagined that the people would be uneducated and even backward and that we were so superior to them in every way. My Schooling had given me a little insight into European History and to how its people lived. However, there had been very little about the rest of the world, in fact, it was always hinted that they were all savages. The other thing about our history teachings is that it had always been mainly about wars and so anybody who was against the British was always thought of as barbaric people. So, with these ideas planted in my head, that was the sum total of what I expected to find in the Far East.
I did not manage to grab any sleep on this part of the journey, as I knew it was the last leg and so the excitement kept me awake. This four-hour stint seemed to pass a little quicker and so it was not long before we were landing in the middle of the night, at Changi Airport. The heat was unbearable because of the humidity. Lucky, I had not removed my shoes on the plane during this leg of the journey. Therefore, I was able to walk off the plane this time wearing my shoes, but they were hurting me terribly. Never travel in new shoes, run them in first I remember saying to myself. I had to hobble past the customs and officials that were everywhere in the terminal building. All the Marines on board were going to Burma Camp. We were all herded together outside of the airport terminal by a Sergeant and told to board a three-ton truck for the journey up into Malaya. I sat by the tailgate, so I had a nice view of my new home for the next eighteen months, but I was very tired having not slept for such a long period of time. The truck set off at a very fast pace, so my first impression was that there could not be any road rules. The heat and the humidity in the middle of the night was also something I found hard to accept. Then there was the terrible smell of decaying food and the dogs. Dogs were roaming everywhere, it did not matter where you looked it was dogs, dogs, dogs, and they all looked very mangy in appearance. We drove north through Singapore, then over the causeway and into Malaya. We then continued the journey north towards Kota-Tingi. My first impression of Malaya was the same as Singapore, in fact to me it did not seem like I was in a different country, just a continuation of Singapore. Singapore is really one large city while Malaya is made up of lots of small villages and towns. Again, as we drove through the village of Johore Barhu, there were many people lying around everywhere sleeping in the street and in front of shops. What I will always remember from my first night in this part of the world, is the stifling heat and smell.
Burma Camp was located about twenty miles north of the causeway in an area of cultivated Rubber Plantations. Arriving in the dark, I could not see much of the camp so after being shown a bed and handed some bedding I just crashed out for what remained of a good night’s sleep, which I had not experienced since leaving England. With all the travelling and time changes, I think it was the equivalent of about a thirty two-hour flight. While in real flying time and with the stopovers, it was probably only about twenty hours. Boy was I tired, and it was not long before I was blowing zzzs and counting rubber trees.
Next morning, I had a good look around what I believed was going to be my new home. Burma Camp is a very large hillside camp with all of the accommodation huts built into its side. These housed A, B and C Company’s. While on the top of the hill was located the canteen, the N.A.F.F.I. and parade ground. Just back from the top was the Headquarters Company and all of the administration buildings. At the base of the accommodation huts was a very large long sports area that included about four football fields, in fact light aircraft regularly land in this area. On the other side of the football field was a second smaller hill, which housed the Jungle Warfare School. The Gurkhas were usually based here in small-corrugated tin huts, well at least ours were made of wood. In a climate like you experience in Malaya, that tin must have become almost red hot at times and would have felt like an oven in side.
The two Jocks and I had all been placed in 2 Troop, of A Company, so it looked like we were to spend the next eighteen months together. We were even bunked up in the same hut, each hut at that time housed about a dozen Marines.
Each Commando unit consists of around seven hundred Marines, divided into three Companies and a HQ Company. Each Company was further divided into three Troops and a HQ Troop. While each Troop is divided into three sections. One section consisted of a two-man Bren gun team, plus a Bren gun commander, a three-man riffle team, a front scout, a rear end Charlie and a corporal in charge of the whole section. If you were lucky the Troop has a total membership of nine men. Unfortunately, a Commando unit was usually under strength, because of its manpower turn around program. The unit stays where it is stationed, with only the Marines coming and going. It being a regular occurrence that once a month personnel were either coming or going. This then was 40 Commando and to identify us from other Marine units we wore a light blue lanyard on our left shoulder.
Our Company Commander was a Major, 'Pug' Davis, the only Jewish officer in the Royal Marines at that time. Pug was a highly decorated officer having a military history going way back to the latter part of the Second World War. At that time, he had been parachuted behind enemy lines to work with the resistance in Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia.
During that first morning we all had to pay a visit the Quartermaster Stores to draw all of our jungle equipment, which we were going to need for the next eighteen months. We then found ourselves on our beds talking, laughing and trying on and altering all our new equipment, while stowing it in our bedside lockers. After dinner, which consisted of the usual food, that we had been used to or hated back in the UK. Then it was back to our hut to finish stowing our gear. Later we were were joined by the rest of our new Troop mates as they assisted us, having finished their training for the day. Because of the heat during the day, we start at 7 am, with a break for brunch at 10.30 am, finishing work at 12.30. Tea and cakes were laid on 4.30 pm, supper was at 6.30 pm and during supper, we all had to take one Paladrin anti Malaria tablet per day. Later it was increased to two a day, even then, I do not think that they worked, I often forgot to take mine and towards the end, I had completely stopped taking them. At one time one of the officers used to line us up with our mouths open. He would then walk down the line flicking one into our mouths as he walked past. We would then store them under our tongue and spit them out when we were dismissed. Lucky for us they did not break down in our mouths, the taste from them would hang around for at least half an hour.
Anyway, back to the guys who had just joined us, a couple of them I already knew. Don Hackett and Geordie Frith both had been in the 778 Squad ahead of us and had been in 40 Commando for a month. I had only known them briefly back at Lympstone. Anyway, all the old soldiers, as they are known were giving their own advice to us, really trying to mix us new boys up. I played it by ear, not wanting to be caught out by somebody pulling a prank on me. Several people were pulling the Jocks leg, not understanding their Scottish accents, while they were trying to adjust their new webbing equipment.
We were lucky in the fact that we had arrived at the camp on a Thursday night and this being a Friday, it was the last day of the working week. Therefore, we joined all of the other Marines climbing on board of the three ton trucks heading into Singapore for a run ashore as the Marines call it. I could not believe it, we had only been in the camp for a day and here we were getting a chance to see the sights of our new found home.
We all disembarked from the trucks near the Britannia Club, in the heart of the city of Singapore. This was where most of the service personnel spent their time drinking through the weekend. The two Jocks and I had different views on that one and headed straight for the beautiful beckoning waters of the club swimming pool. There we stayed in its luke warm waters for almost four hours while soaking up every minute of what I thought was heaven.
At which time I suddenly became aware that I was starting to burn quite badly. I found it hard to believe because I had been in the water for the whole four hours, with only my shoulder appearing above the water occasionally. Therefore, it gives you a little idea of just how powerful the sun can be in this part of the world. It was also about this time that Jock Stone and I realised that Jock Minnock, who had sat on the side of the pool for the whole time, was starting to look very red. Jock Minnock had light ginger hair, so his skin was very pale in complexion and was very susceptible to the sun. He started to complain of the burning pain that he was experiencing and as we watched we could see his back changing colours until it was almost a dark red. We managed to get him into the shower room and coached him to stand under a cold shower for almost fifteen minutes. It did not help him, so we took him across the square from the Britannia club to the Union Jack Club. There we booked a room and Jock Stone went looking for a chemist to get something, we could put on his back. By the time he returned the skin on Jock Minnocks back was one mass of fluid filled bubbles that were starting to burst. Whatever it was, that Jock Stone had bought it was very painful when we applied it to his back. We had to be careful as the skin came off as we touched it. He stayed in bed for the rest of that day and also the following day, with both Jock Stone and I taking turns to apply the bottled liquid to his back.
We were all worried about what might happen once we returned to the camp, because it was an offence to get sun burnt. It’s known as self-inflicted wounds and if you miss your work, you are usually charged. Poor old Jock Minnock he did not know what he was going to do. Sunday evening came, and we caught the truck back to the camp making a pact amongst ourselves that we would not tell anybody what had happened and that Jock Minnock would stick the pain as long as he could get away with it. It is to his credit, his guts, determination, and his pain threshold that he got away with it. At no time did anybody at the camp know what had happened to him. For my first run a shore, I did not get to see too much of the city, but I thought at least there will be other times.
After a couple of weeks in the camp, a few of us were in the hut one morning when the door suddenly flew open and in strutted the Company Sergeant Major, balling at the top of his voice. Telling us that we were his lovely lads and that we had to listen to what he had to say. He then told us to get our gear packed for a long journey and that everything we needed was on a piece of paper that he then threw on to one of the beds by the door. Finally, he urged us to get a move on, as we only had one hour, to fall in outside of A Company main office building. Where we were to load the company stores onto the trucks, this would also include our own kit bags. He then proceeded along to the next hut, where he repeated the very same message word for word. As soon as he had left the hut all pandemonium broke loose, everybody was trying to talk at the same time, trying to find out where we going, what was the trouble, was it for real etc etc. The general opinion was that maybe we were going to Borneo, there had been rumours going around for some time, as 42 Commando was already in that area. 42 Commando had lost a few Marines as it under took an amphibious landing in the town of Limbang, in Brunei. The rebels had been getting greedy wanting to take over the country by force, mainly for its rich oil deposits. Like I said earlier with hindsight, some people get very greedy. Only this time instead of it being the young students who were the culprits, this time it was all backed up by the Indonesian government, but from a distance. So far, they were only involved from behind the protection of their own borders, offering military aid and a safe haven for those that wanted to upset the Status Quo.
In this instance, the terrorists had taken several western hostages and had them imprisoned in the local police station at Limbang. The Marines had gone up the river by landing craft to storm the police station. The raid had been very successful, and all of the hostages had been released unhurt. Unfortunately, 42 Commando had paid a high price with the lives of several of its Marines.
I grabbed my kit bag and started replacing articles of kit, I had only just unpacked and placed in my locker, while checking the paper list as I went along. Several of the old boys were helping us new lads, by telling us what to pack and what to leave behind. I then dragged my kit bag down to the company office, where all hell had been let loose with Marines running everywhere. I then returned to get my tin trunk full of all my unwanted belongings, these were to be locked away in the Company stores over the back of the hill until our return. This took some time as it took two of you to carry the damn things, so we had to make at least four trips and at quarter of a mile one way, it was tiring in the tropical heat that surrounded Burma Camp.
Having completed our own personnel tasks, we all had to muck in and help to load up A Company’s stores onto three, three-ton trucks at the bottom of the hill. Most Marines by this time had settled on our destination as being Borneo, I did not even know where Borneo was, okay I had heard the name but never checked a map to find out where it was.
All the stores that would be making the trip with us had been loaded by 6 pm that night. After a final inspection by the Company Commanding Officer Major 'Pug' Davis, we were all loaded aboard a convoy of Royal Navy Buses. That left the camp and headed for the Singapore dockyard. It was pointless looking out of the windows, with the interior lights on, as we could not see anything. The buses made their way down through Malaya, through Johore Barhu and crossing the causeway into Singapore. We then turned left into the dockyard that was all lit up, so I could see out of the window. The buses wove their way around HMS Terror and finally we parked alongside a large ship. That's 'Old Rusty' one of the Marines yelled, continuing to tell us all that it had been an old aircraft carrier, but had been converted into a Commando Carrier, only now-a days it went by the name of H.M.S. Bulwark. The Sergeant ordered us all off the bus and up the gangway to board the ship. We all fell in on the flight deck in our respective Company's and Troops. Where we were issued our billets and lead by a seamen through the bowels of the ship, to show us our mess deck and finally our bunks. We did not have to unload the trucks as they were all brought on board fully loaded, so at least that was one chore we were spared.
I thought I would get a haircut before leaving the ship having heard that we could be away for anything up to six months. The hairdresser was in a very small room under a set of stairs, with about a dozen sailors and Marines all queuing up outside. I got talking to a Sailor with a Liverpool accent, it turned out that he lived in Ipswich. We got on well and would you believe that in the mid-seventies I would meet up with him once again, when he came to work for me. At a time when I was working for a construction company building the Ipswich to Stowmarket Bypass.
After stowing our backpack gear in the small lockers provided, everybody just sat around talking. Most of us were still wondering what was happening and where the hell were we going. However, I must say at this point I was never scared, more to the point I was very excited and wanted to get going. Shock Troops are not normal people, the only thing that’s different about us is that we have been trained to do a job and kill if required. The general public must not be surprised if occasionally a couple of us come off the rails and do something silly. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).1963. ‘With a Waterproof Cape’ 40 Commando RM.
Somewhere in Burma Camp in Southern Malaya during 1963. Thanks to Terry Aspinall for reminding me of the time I spent in 40 Commando and all the great lads of that special unit.
It was at a time when the cadres or candy cakes as we used to call them, were showing their potential. And how miserable that was we found out later, when one of them was placed in charge of a patrol. The point is someone decided we should let one of the lads take a drill parade for our section. This was a good idea as it led to a good laugh as good as any comedy show.
It was also the time of the monsoon when the rain came in torrents never-ending.
I was not looking forward to my turn as I have what was called a soft highland voice or southern Irish tone I was often accused off. The morning came with that inevitability bringing out the comics at their best. And I was the focus of all the jokes, just as others had been before me, although it did not seem the same, not quite as amusing to solitary me. I had been awake a part of the night trying to catch someone who was stealing out bed mats and flip-flops. Pretending to be asleep with my one eye open I lay ready for the thief. He came crawling in on all fours sometime after two. As he approached a bed near the door I leapt. Knox said later, that one second I was lying in bed and the next I was in the air. Unfortunately I was in my bare feet and the ground had grumbled concrete or stone paving and open grass. I lost him running into the night at full galloped. Any way he never came back.
It was now my turn and the theme of my drill parade was Saluting with a Waterproof Cape. I drew in my breath to bark as loud as I possibly could, ‘Saluting with a Waterproof Cape.’ Suddenly the sky turned from murky grey to a Gothic Black. The air stilled before a staccato lightening filled the heavens followed by a thunderous bang. Then to match the previous display of chaos rain fell with all the power gravity could countenance.
The parade was marching towards the huts not hearing a word of command. The next bolt of lightning and clap of thunder caused the parade to shout things like ‘Fuck it’ and they ran to their huts. I didn't hang around and ran after them.
If you ever get the chance in the middle of the storm shout out ‘Saluting with a Water Proof Cape’ and you will see how futile it can be.

1963. Easter week end. ‘One Gunung Too Far (Almost)’ David (Shiner) Wright 1 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
Burma Camp Malaya, Home of 40 Commando Royal Marines, “Flap Jack” Borneo was brewing up, by Sunday 90% of the unit were ready to go. B coy were already in the Kuching area, when a party of CCO crossed the border and attacked a police station in Tebedu in the Serian district of the first division. C coy flew to Kuching and A Coy, "The Saints” boarded HMS Albion.
A coy were a floating reserve, heading out into the Malacca Straits, we had our own wee flap jack, a report of rebels (communist sympathisers ) were grouping on the Malay west coast, “tool up lads there's a landing to night”.
Usual full kit, rations for two days, full mag's, plus a fifty round bandoleer a 36 and a white foss grenade, we sat around on our bunks on 2S mess deck, waiting, then the buzz came down, it's an opposed landing, never mind one bandoleer, some lads had three and nearly every one grabbed an extra grenade, if any one fell in the oggin they would surely sink.
Every one standing up now, checking and re checking kit and weapons, nervousness causing a few involuntary farts, which broke the tension, someone complained about someone else's foul arse, the lads started laughing, “Stand Down” came the shout landings off , thank fuck was the general comment.
That flap apart, life on board was fine, fatigues in the fore noon, physical jerks on the flight deck in the afternoon, best of all was “tot time” after three hundred years the rum ration was still the highlight of Jack and Royals day.
Our mess deck “Bubbly Bosun” was Cpl Roberts, Robbo was a good hand and he knew how to measure a tot, with his business finger in the beaker he ensured that there would be sufficient rum for “The Queens” God bless her.(doncha just love this)
“The Queens” was a ruse to provide a wee bit more rum for “the rum rats” who gathered around the rum fanny and retold tales of daring do, etc.
It came to pass that my 22nd birthday arrived whilst on board, birthday came, and was fated royally by my mess mates sippers, gulpers, and a few sandy bottom's I arrived at my appointed place alongside my compadres at the “round the rum fanny” gathering.
I was glowing to say the least, “The Queens” a full pint, was passed from hand to hand, and but sippers only were taken, the pewter pot was passed to me, “happy birthday Shiner it's all yours”.
2
Jesus! Thanks lads, my mate Ray (Ivy) Ives, said now you sit here quietly and sup your rum, I'll bring you back a chip and curry sauce buttie from the gally, aw, tha, tha, thanks Ray, me ole mucker , the rum was kicking in.
If anyone has experienced this situation then you'll know that to keep a grip on the situation you need someone to burble to, it helps concentration and prevents your head slapping down on the mess deck table, I managed that.
Ivy got back with my buttie, although I was not feeling hungry (what after a tot, a lot of tot actually) I discovered that I had erroneously been burbling to a bloke Ivy absolutely detested, and I was summarily rebuked for my lack of care and attention.
My response was to stand up, sway a little and apologise, “sorry mate, and now I need to piss” Ivy, observing my less than usual steadiness assisted me to the heads, the mess deck was air conditioned but the bogs were not.
As soon as the odours hit my snot box , I gagged, then called for “Hughie” in the nearest pistol, just as a naval young pig walked passed, “what's wrong with that man” I heard with my head in the pistol ,”flu sir, he's got the flu” well done Ivy, the officer swallowed that one, and I was hauled back onto the mess deck.
PT on the flight deck was definitely out of the question for me, my comrades in arms placed me in a bottom bunk away in the corner, face down, to prevent choking on possible regurgitated bubbly and placed a spit kid under my head, Jesus man, so good to have oppo's like that(how would know, I was totally blootered.
We eventually choppered in to Lundu and commenced a couple of weeks hard slog collecting weapons from the Chinese farmers who were possibly communist fifth column, Travelling by native long boats virtually a shaped plank of wood powered by an out board engine, relatively comfortable until the tide went out. Our places of investigation always seemed to be up a tributary of the main Batang Kayan river, when the tide went, so did our medium of travelling.
It was portage, dragging the long boat up the now empty, almost, streams apart from sink holes and pools, struggling over tree roots one minute, up to your oxters(arm pits) the next, mud, mud, bloody awful mud, Jesus! That was a knackering experience almost as bad as mangrove, yes we had some of that too.
3
At that time our section, 1 sec, 1 troop, consisted of Cpl Fagan (arse), Dave Mathews, Peter (Bodge) Humphries, Ron Twigg ,(all three 696 squad as was I) George McGarry, Denis Shambly( LMG) Titch Underwood, Jimmy (the Red Witch )Howitt, Ray(Ivy) Ives, not only but also, Sgt McCarthy, and accompanying, us the Lundu District Commissioner.
The DC had the list of suspect bodies and locations, also along for the ride a Dyak border guard come policeman. The Chinese, the inscrutable little sods knew we were coming and would hide their weapons up in the tree tops.
They were of a diminutive stature and therefore had a limited reach in terms of climbing any sparsely limbed trees, there was a lot of those, not many of the alternative, we found their shot guns, on one occasion they were actually in the concealment process, their up the tree and the family dog was howling his head off at the base of the tree, well done Spot.
We would spend the night kipping on the front deck of a long house or village basher, the DC did not like Ulu living, infrequently we based our-selves in Dyak Kampong's and trekked out to various places.
The Dyaks thought we were medicine men, one day a young mother brought her 2yr old daughter to visit us, the child's ear was a mass of festering puss, I cleaned it with warm salted water(that's all we had) dried off the ear and found the infection was in the fold of the ear.
Later in the campaign efforts were made to fly out local people with injuries or illness but this was early days, what to do? One of the lads had a tin of Germaline,I carefully troweled the Germaline into the fold of the ear and made a wee bandage of a piece of field dressing, then asked the border guard to advise the mother to keep it covered for a couple of days, and off we went rejoicing,(chasing down the chink's weapons stash)
When we came back to the Kampong there was mum and child waiting for us, not looking forward to this, thinks I, off with the bandage, gently clean off the Germaline and there was clean, pink shiny skin, no more infection, we gave the Germaline to the mother, just in case, we felt really chuffed about that, it was a hearts and minds moment, never to be forgotten.
There was a tale about a certain Dyak old gentleman who had seen Royal helping people with their ailments, as best we could, he hobbled in with a walking stick, almost bent double, so some wag put a codeine tablet in the small of his back with some sticking plaster and sent him on his way.
The next day the old fellah was walking up right, no stick, just walking around telling everybody we were magicians, which of course we were, everybody knows that.
4
The native people, Dyak and Iban were good to deal with, honest, trusting, and generous, always ready to share their machan(food ) with you.
Ate a few strange things whilst I was out there, my favourite was armadillo, the skin was tough but when prepared and cooked it tasted like boiled ham, (pass the mustard)
On our way back we came back down the Batang Kayan and stopped off at an Iban long house, a big one, Kampong Stungang(I think) Iban's love a piss up and knees up, deffo Royals kinda people.
They (the men) danced and the wemen played the drums to give the beat, not to be out done, Ivy, myself and Davy Mathews shook down with a conga(got fotos) Fagan did his best on the local drum kit.
They loved it, we were talking their language, the DC said they like you all very much, specially the one with the red hair, me. Well it just got better, out came the tuak, local vino, served in an aluminium kettle and poured straight down your gob, by a nubile female, kiss me, I'm in heaven.
Later in our campaign John Grubb went native and got the Iban tree tatoo'd on his throat by the locals, very painful, unless you had a gut full of tuak, cost him a rake of dough to get it removed when he got back to UK.
I digress, the lass that was tanking me with tuak, was a widow, and widows had first shot at any stray males that came within shagging distance(I make no apologies for that crudity but nor did they).
Mucho tuak fevers the loins, and boy did I want to spend the night there, and I was very welcome, but the frigging DC insisted on going home to mama(his mrs) and we could not stay there without him--- Bastard!
My amorata, kettle server, was distraught, as we pulled away in our long boat she dived in and hung onto my hand, Sgt McCarthy grabbed my ammo belt and hung onto me, or who knows what would have become of me, I still fantasise, they can't touch you for it.
So it was Lundu for some rest, one night Ivy suggested a chicken hunt, off we go me and him, night black as pitch, no moon, found our target coop, chickens all roosting asleep, ah , bless em, one, two, in the bag and off, so slick, as we thought.
Back to our billet, away from the coy lines(1 sec was special), we hear a commotion, Malay cackle, into sleeping bags pronto, Ivy with the chickens, supposedly dead.
In comes the orderly officer, “have any of you been stealing chickens” no sir not us sir, then a fucking chicken comes back to life and starts squawking, (Ivy was shite at wringing their necks).
5
He thumped them inside his sleeping bag and we all started clucking to cover it, “all right you smart arses, cut the cackle(what a cracker sir, young pigs, no sense of humour) if I find out you bastards have chickens that do not belong to you, you'll all be in the rattle).
We were very care full when plucking and cooking our ill-gotten gains but boy was it worth it, gently simmered in an onion and garlic enfused broth, egg fried rice and lots of chilli, oh mother, was that a risk worth taking, (hell of a job swallowing all the feathers).
Where to then, we were in so many places, barely had time to find out the names of the Kampongs but we got lots of guns 2836 out of a possible of 3227, we did get some help from other companies of course.
Pug gets punched.
We were Kampong sitting somewhere in the Bau area, usual stuff, laying ambush, patrolling etc, supplied by air drop. A volunteer was requested to butcher fresh meat, that would be me, it was still half frozen, rib of beef, as I boned it and cut it into friable portions, I ate it raw, it tasted fantastic, fresh blood, in 24 hrs it would taste like shit.
Amazing though it may seem, the drop consisted of fresh meat, offal(liver, kidneys) bacon and eggs, eggs! By parachute, yes and none were broken, The offal had to be eaten there and then, meat had to be water proof bagged and anchored in the river(that was not navigable), 24 hrs in the river the meat still came out with a greenish tinge, the reality was eat as much of the fresh as you can, then cook the rest to stop it going off.
We were in a troop position, 1sec up on a higher ground under a village basher, the remainder closer to the river in a smarter basher. Our revered, and much admired company commander Maj P J Davis came to check us out, Pug was a wee bit of a WW2 hero, fighting with the Yugoslavian Partisans(Tito) in the Adriatic.
Pug comes up to our position, he congratulated me on my percentage pass on my exams which would see me through to the rank of MGRM (nice to dream) I had been encouraged to "take up the tools” by our coy sergeant major after hearing me express my opinion of a certain officers lack of navigational prowess i.e. “ I could do better than that wanker with my eyes closed”
Pug then proceeded to bollock me for not writing to my mother, who, having not heard from me for some three months, had set the Royal British Legion, The Salvation Army and SSAFA, looking for me. I did explain that due to my being dumped in Mombasa after being blinded courtesy of B coy my mail was up crap creek.
6
(Patience, were getting to the Gunung bit). Suddenly there was a shot, I knocked down the tilley lantern, we closed up, weapons cocked, Pug had arrived unarmed and tried to grab our LMG, Denis Shambley had taken over as No 1 as I was now lead scout, thumped Pug and got the gun up on the sand bags, loaded and ready to fire, all was quiet, then a squeaky voice piped up from below, “oops sorry accidental discharge”, (how the fuck do you get an accidental discharge cleaning a weapon)
Pug gets up and said to our Denis, “that's a hell of a right hook Shambley”, well done lads, a brilliant stand to, I'm recommending your section for a ten day leave in Hong Kong at Christmas, aw shit hot sir (didn't happen, typhoid epidemic in Honkers).
Och, well life goes on. Don't know how this happened but me and Jimmy Howitt got volunteered to escort/body guard, two army bods who were mapping the area, they had a bit of kit to carry and wanted porters, five bucks a day, three bods required, one to carry the radio and act as guide and two for their kit, we said we'll do it for four, no not possible we need you as mobile as possible., job went to grinning locals.
Off we trot, me lead scout, Jimmy tail end charlie, Jimmy, an Aberdonian, red hair just like me, a couple of “gingers”, his claim to fame was that he could hear the fiz of escaping gas from someone opening a bottle of Tiger beer at 500 yrds, Jimmy could take his bucket in ale.
We thought this will be a pleasant change from laying in ambush all night, where you got bitten to bits by mosquito's, or got inside your poncho, which was like being in a sauna all night. The mozzie's would attack in squadron formation so it was the rubber sweat box for me every time, leeches were not fussy either they latched onto any think living.
Sneaky bastards leeches, didn't need to be near a river, these little sods were tree and ground dwelling, arm pits and groin were their favourite target areas, if you were fortunate to spot them on you by regular checks, you could salt them or get an oppo who smoked to light up and zap them with a fag, if you were unlucky, the chaffing of your clothing and equipment severed the body and left the head attached to you and it continued to bleed and in some caused infection, nasty little bastards .
Chance to do some sight-seeing we thought, persons not familiar with the rain forest will not appreciate that there's not much to see but tree's, tree's and more tree's. No wild life, they keep out of your way apart from ants, they are always about.
7
Fire ants there the worst, Jesus! They sting when they bite, I recall a lad called Taff Goss(Welsh he was, there's lovely) he was hacking a way through some secondary Ulu got snagged on a Wait- a- While palm it was swarming with the acid mouthed little bastards Gossy was going berserk, finally got free but he was bitten all over, light duties for a week, no sweaty jobs.
The only other beastie that could cause severe pain was a hornet, the sting is ten time worse than a wasp. When we were training in the Jungle Warfare School, issued with our jungle machete, we were told not to play at “Jungle Jim” and take random swipes at trees as we went along, you guessed it, some idiot did just that.
Down they came out of their midday slumber, you did not realize they were there until you got stung, Oh Fuck did that hurt, we scattered, some of us jumped into a stream, poor old Cpl Fagan got stung on the temple and he passed out, in a bad way for a few hours, rumour had it that some people actual died from hornet sting, went into shock, and I can well believe that.
Not for me and Jimmy, a casual stroll through Ulu land, wet nursing a couple of pongo's, sleeping in a kampong basher, no ambushes, no patrols and no guard duty, but this trip, god it was bloody boring.
Start stop, poles out and theodolite levelled, heights and distance check, twas monotonous to say the least, highlight of the day was to see what the next kampong was having for evening scran.
Got to one place where the head man and his oppo's had just returned from a wild pig hunt, it was a big bastard, huge head, lucky me I was kipping at the basher of the guy that killed it, with a bloody parang.
They flush it out with dogs and gradually surround it, when it makes a brake for it, the nearest hero takes a slash at it, trying for the base of the neck to sever the spine. This particular pig was over three feet at the should, that means it was almost up to the waist of the hero, and hero he was, he had to get close to about 200 lbs of charging pig who did not want to be dinner.
All night long the hero's family were chopping and cutting, scraping every morsel of meat from that head, then they were smoking it to preserve it, all the kids were helping all five of them, I was fascinated and knackered in the morning, off we went to our next trig point to be logged.
8
Gunung Rhia(at last)
Well I think that's how you spell it, we came out of a clearing, there in front us was girt great hill, looked like that mountain in Close Encounters, Percy said, “ I'm afraid we are going up there” Fucks me! Expressed our Jim, up there, it's almost a shear climb, don't worry said Percy the guide tells me there are steps cut into the side of the hill, just like climbing stairs.
He was bloody wrong, nothing like climbing stairs, stairs don't go up a thousand feet, we were really glad Percy did not accept our offer to carry their kit.
It was the most difficult accent I have ever made, yes there were steps cut into the hill, it was very steep, you had to grab on to grass and foliage to keep yourself balanced or it was over the edge and straight down, wallop!
We were fit, Percy was fucked, but those wee Dyaks, pocket dynamos, they could carry weight we would never dream of lifting even on level surface never mind up a bloody cliff, admittedly we did take a few breathers, it was a killer, the Dyaks kept all their loads on, nowhere to put it down, and your muscles ached until you got into your stride, so much so that we did not want to stop.
Cannot remember how long it took us to get up there but we were mighty glad when that was over, time for a brew, mess tin out, solid fuel burner going and a refreshing cup of black tea no sugar, a sit down, Jimmy had a fag, Percy said this is the highest Dyak village in Borneo(tell me about!) apparently they came up here to get away from Iban war parties who were continually taking slaves and a few heads to decorate their living room,(couldn't they afford some nice pictures, says Jim the wag).
Whilst were yarning and sipping our tea I noticed a bit of a commotion and caught the words Orang(man) and Snappang( gun).The Dyak guide came over and said there are men, soldiers coming up the other side “oh fuck” said Jim and I, as we went to take a shufti down the hill.
Sure enough, there was somebody coming up approx a couple of hundred feet below, we watched and waited, we had time, progress up the side was very slow, Jim and I had a wee opps meeting(you've got to laugh but this was serious).
Our plan was to lay in wait either side of the track and shoot down from both sides Jimmy taking out tail end charlie and then bring his shots up to the next in line and I would shoot the front man and do likewise down the hill.
Whilst we waited we sent Percy and the Dyaks to watch our route of accent so they could leg it if we did not finish the job, couldn't see why not, we were in a cracking position.
The assumed the enemy was now seen more clearly, they were in a karki coloured uniform with khaki floppy hats none of our forces wore that colouring and they were definitely brown skinned, hated just waiting, six men were now clearly visible, we
could pop them off no bother, Jim you fire first when they get to the next turn in the steps about 100 feet below us.
Watching them, I started to feel guilty and some sadness, they were sitting ducks, never shoot a slow flying bird or one that was flying low, that's what I was taught, give them a fighting chance.
Here we are, going to blow them away, just like that, they would not know what hit them. If the roles were reversed, they, whoever they were, would be jumping for joy at chance like this, to blast us into oblivion, big feather in their cap, big piss up, a celebration, fuck em! I got a grip of myself and became patiently angry.
We're sitting on ready, when I noticed the lead man had a black curved scabbard on his belt, and the next man, they all had kukris, Jim their Gurkas fucking Gurkas, what the fuck are they doing here.
Johnny Gurka! Hey Johnny Gurka, we called down to them. Boot necks beat you to it, they looked up and waved, great guys the Gurkas, probably the best soldier in the world, when given an order they carried it out no questions asked.
9
Heard a story about some Gurkas who were to be trained as parachutists and they were in a Dakota air craft on a familiarization flight, there senior nco went into the cockpit and said to the pilot, my men are prepared to jump but could you go a bit lower, bless em.
I was on a life-saving course at Sembawang at the army PT school, six Gurkas were on the course, they were told by their officer every Gurka will pass the course. The Gurkas are not renowned swimmers and these guys were no exception.
They were amongst the weak swimmers, when it came to rescuing a supposedly drowning man the rescuer dived in got the subject in the correct manner, then subject and rescuer sunk down into the water and were continuing to swim under water, the instructor told myself and Dickie McArdle to dive in and get them out before they drowned each other.
We helped them out with their swimming after work and they all passed and got their medallions, bloody brilliant little chaps.
I said to Jimmy, don't think we would have been mentioned in dispatches for knocking them off, we spent the night up there, dining on tins of processed cheese , strawberry jam and pussers hard biscuits, you can’t whack it.
10
The Pongo's had a radio to keep in touch with what was going on in our area, as far as we were aware there were no other patrols around. The Gurka corporal told us they were on a sort of day out, sight-seeing, day out! Day fucking out! It was nearly your last day out, poker faced they just shrugged their shoulders I don't think they got it.
The decent, you forget, it's always much harder going down that going uphill, your muscles are working in the least efficient manner, your balance is off, slipping and sliding on a damp surface, must have said “fuck this bastard” a thousand times.
It was much slower than going up and more pain full, legs like jelly skinned elbows, bruising from your rifle slamming into you side, finally we were down, the local Kampong had a wee shop, no we don't want any dried shrimp's.
The Pongo corporal said hey they've got Tiger, we aint got no dough, don't worry say's he, think you deserve a drink on us, it was warm and wonder full, in litre bottles Jimmy and I were grinning like we had lock jaw, cheers Percy, to all army map makers god bless em.
It was back to base, no more gunung's to climb for now, just patrolling, ambush in the evenings, guard duties, cleaning weapons, oh yeah, and writing home to my Mum
Happy snap of me and James Howitt Esq(he's got the fancy beer mug) catching up on our two cans a man daily beer ration, boy it was great to get your boots off, note the green feet, not enough sweet corn to finish the job, ho, ho, ho.
Note, the Gunung Rhia, famous highest Dyak village is no more, flattened to make way for a dual carriage way, I'm told Lundu is unrecognisable as we ( we happy few, we band of brothers, beg pardon Horatio) remember it, the only place that looks the same is Kuching, never got there, I was probably ambushing, patrolling, doing me dhoby, oh yeah and writing to my Mum

1963. March - July. ‘Active Service in Sarawak and Kampong Lundu’. Taken from Chapter 8 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.

Morning on board of H.M.S. Bulwark saw a tremendous amount of movement amongst the Marines Commandos and the ship’s crew. All the Marines had been formed up on the flight deck into their respective companies. While all around them was stacked large amount of ordinance. Each man was issued with his quota of 7.62mm ammunition, along with a couple of hang grenades. Once it had all been distributed amongst the Marines, we were allowed to sit on the deck loading up the SLR magazines. Then primed all of the hand grenades that had been issued. Which meant unscrewing and removing the base plate insert the detonator and to then replace the base plug. The deck of the HMS Bulwark was made of steel, as a favourite trick some of the older Marines would throw a grenade at one another, just as a sailor walked by. It would then be dropped on purpose so that it landed with a loud bang on the flight deck. The passing sailor would freeze to the spot, expecting the grenade to blow up right there and then. Most of the sailors did not share our sense of humour where explosives were concerned.
Once A Company was fully loaded up with ammunition we all had to report to the landing craft that were attached to the sides of the ship. These were the same type of craft that we had all training on, while we were at Poole in Dorset. We were all loaded on board, there being one Troop of Marines to each boat. In this way, the whole of A Company was distributed evenly amongst all four of the landing craft and ready to leave the ship. While B and C Companies were eventually to go to other districts of Sarawak by Chopper, yes Sarawak in Borneo was the destination.
When the landing craft were fully loaded with cargo, they were lowered into the water. Where upon, a given signal, they all pulled away from the side of the ship, taking up a circling pattern awaiting a signal so that they could all advance towards the objective together. When the signal eventually came, we all set off in a single file heading for the coast of Sarawak and in to my very first adventure. I was surprised to find that the atmosphere was very relaxed. Once we were away from the ship, most of the Marines had their shirts off and were playing Uckers on the side of the boat. This is just a naval version of Ludo, only each player has a double set of counters. Other Marines were just laughing and joking amongst themselves. Nobody seemed worried that in couple of hours’ time they might be shot at. Even the Sergeant was relaxed, which was unusual for them. After about two hours in the open sea, the landing craft that was still in single file, preceded up a river. The river was very wide at its mouth, it being more than a mile a cross. After a further hour, we reached the small village of Lundu, where we disembarked. This was to be A Companies home for the next three months.
The village was very small, but it was the main one in this particular district. Having a Police station made it a prime target for attack from Communist Insurgents, backed by President Sukarno of Indonesia. Their main aim was trying to steal weapons in order to help their cause. The cause being to take another country by force, but the main prize was the oil fields in the state of Brunei. A big prize that president Sukarno would have loved to get his hands on. I was once told that the Indonesian air force was so hard up that it could only afford to have one plane in the air at a time.
It was decided that 2 Troop would stay behind to guard the Police Station. This was one of my first big disappointments, as I watched the other Troops go out to other areas and on their own. While we were going to be stuck guarding A Companies H.Q and all the spit and polish that would go along with it, the 'Yes Sir’s, No Sir’s, Three bags full Sir'.
1 Troop would be flown by chopper to guard the Kampong of Bau, about fifty miles away. Kampong is the Malay word meaning village. The choppers were always based on board H.M.S. Bulwark sitting just off the coastline and out of sight of land, but only twenty minutes flying time from Lundu. Therefore, it was comforting to know that help was only twenty minutes away, mind you a lot can happen in twenty minute.
3 Troop would go by landing craft to guard Sematan, another Kampong on the coastline also located by a river mouth, but not our river, this one was about fifty miles to the west.
The first task for 2 Troop was to fortify the Police Station, this being just a wooden hut perched on four-foot high stilts and overlooking the river. Sandbags were place all around the base and on the balcony a Bren gun was positioned, to cover the full width of the river. A very high wire fences was then erected around the entire living quarters out the back, while a guard rosters was worked out to patrol the whole area 24 hours a day. Because the Company Head Quarters was being set up here, it meant that there would be several officers around at all times. This meant that we could expect a lot of discipline and there was.
Out the back of the station and away from our wired compound was a very large football field. This was to be used as a helicopter landing strip. At that time the Marines were mainly using Wessex Choppers for bringing in personnel and light gear, any heavy equipment always came by landing craft docking at the jetty just in front of the Police Station. At least the Bren gun on the balcony could give good cover, as the supplies were unloaded.
One of my pet hates and chores was to roll the forty-gallon drums of AV Gas for the choppers, from the jetty to the airstrip. I would judge the distance to be about seven to eight hundred meters. Boy a long way when you are rolling a full forty-gallon drum. Add to that about three dozen drums each time the landing craft arrived. That added up to a lot of exercise and cut hands, from the rough edges around the barrels, there being no leather gloves in those days. The choppers use a lot of fuel and one of their main tasks was to fly patrols from Lundu, to different locations around the area. Sometimes they flew into just holes in the trees down to the ground. At times the tree branches were only inches away from the rotor blades, relying on the theory that the draft from the blades would peel back the branches. Other time’s ropes would be dropped through the trees for us to abseil down to the ground. On the other hand, sometimes they would hover about two or three feet above flooded terrain. We would then have to jump into the water catching our gear that was kicked out behind us. Failure to do so meant that all your gear would get very wet. Talking of getting wet, during the monsoon we would be wet throughout the whole day. We would never be caught with our trousers and boots off, just in case we were attacked, so we wore both until they just about fell off us.
After a few days, everybody dropped into a boring routine. All of 2 Troop was involved in the guarding of the camp. Not so headquarters personnel, they were always very lucky and got out of the menial tasks. The guard consisted of two hours on and four hours off. This went on around the clock, day in and day out. At all times, one person was always manning the Bren gun on the Police Station balcony and three Marines were roving around the compound. At nights, the roving guards would stay put, in strategically placed slit trenches. It was felt that any shadow movement, might attract somebody with an itchy finger to shoot at their own men by mistake.
In addition, during the day there was always work to be done around the camp. On top of all this, almost every day a patrol was sent out to different areas. So that we became very familiar with the area and we got to know it like the backs of our hands. It was also to show a military presence amongst the local tribesmen. This was an exercise that became known as showing the flag.
There were no sealed roads in this division, unless you call dirt tracks roads. A division is much the same as a county in England. The whole area was littered with many rivers. Therefore, full advantage was taken, and they were used whenever possible, to get the Marines around.
For patrols that needed to go across country, they would have to either follow very narrow existing jungle tracks or to cut their own through the jungle. This was a hard hot work, but a much safer way of travelling, hoping to eliminate any chance of an ambush. It was not long before most of the Marines became tired and fed up with these dull dreary routines and complacency soon started to creep in.
One morning four of us along with a Corporal Bwana, unfortunately I cannot remember his real name, but we all called him Bwana, after a character in an old Bob Hope Film. Anyway, we were called in for a briefing and then set off up river in a long boat. This was a dugout canoe with a forty-horse power Mercury outboard motor fitted on its stern. We were too proceed up the Batang River on a routine patrol. After travelling for about two hours, the trees and the riverbanks started to creep in, until they were only a few yards apart. Half an hour later they were touching each other across the centre of the river, cutting out most of the sunlight. We travelled a further hour and by now it was late into the afternoon, so we pulled onto the bank, by a very small Kampong known as Salami.
We decided to stay the night, because this village had a small trading store. Corporal Bwana ordered everybody to search the area thoroughly. I decided to search a small building that looked like the local store but saw nothing much until I looked up and to the back of one of the shelves. There to my amazement stood two bottles of genuine Irish Guinness. I gave the storekeeper a Dayak tribesman two dollars (25 pence UK then). Back outside Bwana had found a heap of papers under an old abandoned hut. Going through them we found it contained a lot of pornography and leaflets containing servicemen’s names, along with names of their wives and men friends they were supposed to be sleeping with. Clearly, a propaganda war was about to break. There was nobody to arrest, so we just made camp for the night out in the jungle, but after this find, a watchful guard was set up. I suddenly produced the two bottles Guinness and told the boys they could have a swig. Jock Stone was rubbing his hands while telling everybody that he could not believe our luck. Here we were a thousand miles from nowhere, but at least we had a bottle of Guinness. While everybody was laughing I opened the first bottle and took a big swig, but I soon spat it out declaring that it was Vinegar. The second one was just the same, so nobody got to have a drink that night. Bwana told everybody that it had probably been hid on the shelf for nearly twenty years.
Realising that we were in an unfriendly area we all had a restless night. That was not helped by the presence of a plague of mosquitoes that had decided to feast on our bodies that night. Unfortunately, we had no mossy nets to protect us and nobody wanted to use the Mossy repellent liquid we had been issued with, because it had a horrible aroma about it and you couldn't wash it off. There was also the worry that being a strange smell the enemy might pick up on it. Mind you I used to tell people that if it didn’t keep the moosies away at least it might make the terrorists move off in a different direction.
The next morning, we headed back down the river calling in at another Kampong called Seband-Ulu. The idea was to show the flag and our military presence in the area, while hoping to make friends and allies. We also hoped that we might pick up some fresh meat for the lads back at Lundu. All the Kampong consisted of was one very large long hut, containing about forty families all living together under the one roof.
The hut was built up about six feet off the ground and was sitting on stilts alongside of the river bank. Getting out of the boat, Bwana strode up to the chap who he thought looked most like the headman and held out his hand. Telling the guy that he was pleased to meet him. The local man looked amazed and clearly did not understand a single word he had just said. I did not believe he was the head guy, to me he looked more like the local toilet cleaner. Jock laughed and so did I, while Bwana was clearly not amused. I walked up to another guy and in pidgin English tried to make conversation with him. Bwana left it to me and I succeeded in obtaining a very small pig and a local drink for the boys, it was called Toddy and was the sap from a tree. It was tapped from a tree trunk, in the same way that rubber is extracted from the rubber tree. Being quite potent we were soon very merry, but not the Corporal he would not drink the stuff. He soon ordered us back into the boat that was moored to a large floating log that stuck out into the river.
Bwana never spoke much to us on the return trip, I guess he was feeling a bit of a fool. About ten minutes away from Lundu, he turned to one of the Marines, a Scotsman we called Big Mac. Telling him that his gun barrel was red with rust, to which Big Mac told him that it was red partherising, although it really was rust and was a crime in the Marines. Bwana just muttered something under his breath and turned away to continue looking at the riverbank, while everybody else in the boat just grinned at each other. I might add that we called him Big Mc long before the American food giant arrived on the scene.
After reaching Lundu the Company Commander held a de-brief, at which all the leaflets were shown around. It had been learnt by Radio, that some of the other companies had experienced similar leaflet drops around their camps.
That night I had to go on guard with a policeman from the local Dayak tribe. Sitting under the Police Station behind a few sandbags, we began talking in a low voice, because whispers travel very easy through the night. All the time he kept holding on to a small little leather pouch around his neck. According to Mogumbo as I called him, it was full of bones, herbs and lucky charms. As long as he kept wearing it around his neck then nobody would be able to shoot him. What a load of rubbish I thought, I bet I could prove him wrong. Still I did make very good friends with Mogumbo, over the next couple of months as we went on many patrols together. He was one local guy I know I could have relied on in an emergency situation.
The days became more and more boring, knowing that some of the tasks we were given, like digging trenches, digging latrines (toilets) etc, was just to give us something to do. Most Marines started to moan that this was the only camp that had all the disciplines of a conventional military barracks back in the UK. Here we were in the jungle and somebody was picking us up for have dirty boots. Although I realised that it was mainly because Headquarters group was located with us. This was not what I had expected when I was back at Lympstone, dreaming of operating in the jungle.
I acquired a pet Monkey one-day from a local villager, for only five dollars just sixty-two pence in English money. According to the local villagers it was an albino. It being ginger in colour and only about four inches long, with a tail that measured a further six inches. It was clearly too young to have been removed from its mother. At nights I would lay on my camp bed with my hand in an old cardboard box with the monkey cuddled in my palm, for heat. Every time I moved the monkey would cry out and wake everybody in the tent, I was not a very popular guy. During the day I took it around with me, sitting in an empty magazine pouch hung by my side, with the top cover down, even the officers never knew I had it. However, it only lived a few weeks, upsetting me for a few days when it eventually died, one of the sick birth attendants told me that it had died of pneumonia.
Two Marines were charged for Accidental Discharges from their S.L.R. Rifles. In both cases civilians were nearly shot, one bullet had actually passed through the Police Station roof. After being charged, the Marines were very heavily fined and had extra work added to their already congested daily routine. Money meant absolutely nothing to us, as we could not spend it on anything. I smoked and bought tobacco to roll my own, that was flown in by choppers and that was about it. By the end of a tour in Sarawak, we went back to Singapore to a fair amount of back pay that had accumulated in our accounts.
Another incident that happened, was whilst I was on guard one night. I was walking along the back of the living quarters, when I stood on something and heard a crack. Looking down with my torch I saw I was standing on a Scorpion and its tail had come up and hit the heel of my leather boot. Lucky it had not gone through the leather, if I had I been wearing my canvas jungle boots I would have been stung. If you did take your boots off to sleep at night, you always had to knock and shake them in the morning. Before you put them on, because at least one very small scorpion would always fall out, but I do not know how they got in to the boots in the first place as these boots were about eighteen inches high.
At night, we all slept on camp beds in tents so when the guard came in to wake their replacement they usually awoke everybody else in the tent. One night after nearly a month of this dull routine, the whole tent got up around midnight to go on guard. Somehow nobody noticed what was happening and we all staggered out to change guard. The officer checking weapons noticed that there were too many people standing in front of him and asked who should be on guard. To which everybody replied 'Me', then as we all looked at each other along the line we suddenly woke up to the fact that some of us should still be in bed. We all burst into a low laugh and those that could, went back to bed. That is how tiredness can affect you sometime.
Ginger Walters a fresh Marine joined 2 Troop, Ginger had been a member of the 40 Commando HQ, in the intelligence section, but had asked for a transfer so he could get involved in a little of the action. I often wondered what he thought of digging trenches and twenty four-hour guards, something he never had to do before. I made very good friends with Ginger and over the next eighteen months, we got up to a lot of mischief and had some great times together.
One morning Ginger, Don (Hackett) and I went to the football field to await a chopper that was arriving with some stores for us and a patrol that had been stationed at a border fort, for about a month. When the chopper eventually arrived, it was a two bladed Belvedere flown by the RAF. I had never seen one of these before, it being a lot bigger and longer than the usual Wessex choppers that the Navy used. I spent a little time walking around it and having a good look, while the other Marines did all the unloading. It looked like it could carry about seventeen Marines, here in the hot climate of Sarawak, while the Wessex could only manage about eight. However, back in the UK where the air is much cooler and denser Wessex could probably carry about ten people.
A four-man section of Marines jumped out so, I signalled them over to where I was standing. Not wanting to try and talk under the still revolving blades above our heads. The first thing that struck me about these guys was how white they all looked. As I shook hands with the Corporal in charge I could not stop myself asking why they were so white, when everybody else in the camp sported a lovely dark tan. The Corporal told me that at Rassau, the fort they had been stationed at was amongst very dense jungle vegetation and that no sunlight ever penetrated down upon them. Having spent a month at Rassau they looked very anaemic, but they were hoping to get a good tan here at Lundu, where they were hoping to take it easy for a few days. I laughed at them telling them that around here nobody takes it easy. This place is known as 'Fort work your butt off'. Suddenly their expressions changed, and I left them looking a little dejected.
One morning a landing craft came up river and tied up at the jetty in front of the Police Station, being loaded with the usual minimum amount of supplies to support a fort. Most of the Marines that had nothing to do were suddenly press ganged in to reporting to the jetty to unload. A very long, hot job was in store for all who could not come up with a reasonable excuse. A human chain was made to pass the gear from the jetty to the make shift trolleys that a couple of Marines had earlier designed. This would then be pulled inside the camp by a team of four Marines acting the part of a Brewery Drey team of Shire horses. The stores consisted of the usual items required to supply a base for about a week, although it usually included several cartons of beer. As the equipment was slowly being unloaded two of the Marines began hatching a plot to relieve the Quartermaster of a carton of beer. As the officer who was supervising the unloading turned and looked away for a few seconds, one of the Marines lowered a carton of the beer into the water by the bank, while another Marine threw a large stone into the river further down to divert the officer attention. Anyway, the whole idea was to come back later to retrieve the carton.
Once the job was completed most of the Marines made their way up to the camp, leaving a couple of them and myself by the side of the water looking at the carton of beer. Looking is about as far as we got, as the carton was completely covered with bull leaches, a bull leach can suck up to a pint of blood at any one time. Eight of these things on you and your history, they would just about suck you dry. In the end I left the other Marines to figure it all out, I never did know what they came up with, but for days they would disappear into the jungle for ten minutes at a time and reappear smelling of grog, I guess some how they found a way. Although upon reflection all you had to do was to just put your hands into the water pull out the carton and to burn the leeches off your arms. Sooner said that done because at that time we were not experts at jungle warfare, however, later on when we understood the environment we were now living in, I’m sure that’s what we would have done.
Sarawak is a beautiful country, its birds, its animals, its people the rivers and the jungle, just the air around the place. I used to love the cool misty mornings, I even l enjoyed the rain and there was lots of it. I used to love to lie on my bed listening to the rain pounding on the roof. I guess it was the sense of security, of knowing that I was dry, while outside everything would be soaking wet. Even if you were caught in the rain, once the storm was over and the sun came out your cloths would dry on you in about an hour. Unfortunately, by then, your cloths would be ringing wet once again, only this time it was with sweat. So really, your cloths were always ringing wet. To prove a point the material soon became rotten and would tear quite easily.
The Lundu Division only had one decent road and that was just a dirt track which was about 17 kilometres long. Can you imagine your country only having one road? At least the road accident rate would be a little lower than today’s unrealistic figures.
I would love to visit Sarawak today, but I’m sure I would be in for a bit of a surprise. I believe it's called progress, but it is not always for the better. Western progress to me is sometimes a backward step, I would always like to remember the country as it was way back in 1963. Yes, Sarawak was a beautiful country and I will always carry its magnificent pictures around in my head for a long time to come.
‘Kampong Stung Gang’.
It was flag showing time again, so Bwana took Ginger, Don, Dal (Dalrimple) and I on an overnight patrol up river to visit Kampong Stung Gang. The kampong was only a couple of hours distance up river and in a so called friendly area. Once again, we set off in our dug out with the outboard motor. As it was only to be a one night stay Bwana ordered us to travel light. We had an uneventful trip up the river, just staring at jungle and talking quietly amongst ourselves.
Kampong Stung Gang consisted of just one long hut that had been constructed on eight foot high stilts and was positioned along the river bank. Several logs were fixed to the bank all sticking out into the river with dugout canoes tied to them. We manoeuvred our boat amongst them and tied up, we then disembarked and balanced our way towards the awaiting villages on the bank.
These people were known as Iban tribe’s the whole village lived together in a long bamboo constructed hut. We all shook hands with the headman who spoke very good English, however, this was usually a bad sign. If they spoke good English they were educated and education to me meant trouble, because too many ideas had been places into their heads while at a white schools, or at least that’s what I believed at that time.
At the time, Sarawak was being slowly taken over by young Communists upstarts. Who were usually plucked from obscurity and educated in a big Russian University. Once in power it was always hoped that these new leaders would look favourable upon Russia who wanted to station their troops in the country, which would then flood the country with Rubbles. Then if he was extra smart he could play the Russians against the Americans, but not the British because by this time they were running out of money. I believed that most third world country leaders used their education to take everything for themselves. Their ideas and views meant absolutely nothing, all they were after was the power and all that goes with it, money, money, money. The plain un-educated villagers were usually swept along with their big words and promises but ended up with absolutely nothing. Meanwhile the leaders ended up with all the riches of war. Believe me in wartime there is a lot of money being thrown around to buy favours. These poor villages were usually very expendable as well, they were always the real losers. Just take a look at some of the so called rebel leaders in Africa who became Presidents and how rich they became once they had wrestled power from whoever was running the country at the time. To me they were not rebel leaders they were just thieves and murderers. I’ve never seen a poor Africa leader, but I have seen very poor village people trying to survive under their regimes. It must also be remembered that while they were so called freedom fighters, all committed murder in one way or another and all later became Presidents one even had the cheek to accept Nobel prizes for his cowardly acts. I can still remember, how he ordered his men to place a bomb on a train. The only people he killed that day were very poor innocent villagers. If you want to blame a government for something, at least go after them or a military target.
Presidents Mugabe and Amin are two good examples of people who used the villagers of their respective country to get what they wanted. However, once they had control they had to exterminate their opposition, so they were never deposed. Both set about destroying complete races of people, while the west sat back and did nothing. To me the United Nations is a joke a complete waste of time and money. Once again, it’s come down to money. I hope this is not becoming a yard stick for the so called western world to follow. Sorry for this little outburst but that’s how I felt at the time and I’m trying to be honest in writing about what I did and what I believed at the time. I feel that as a fighting man I’m entitled to say what I think on this subject, as its always people like me who have to go into situation like that to help sort it out, I’m not just an arm chair critic like most people. It’s all very well talking about it but let’s see you sort it out.
The headman’s speaking of English was a little surprising and caught us all off guard, as they still displayed shrunken human heads around the outside of their huts. However, we were assured that these were mainly Japanese soldiers from the last war. During the Second World War most of the Ibans tribesmen were still practicing headhunting cannibals. In fact, there were still stories doing the rounds that it was still being practiced to this day by some of the tribes in our area. The young Ibans all carried long Parangs knives tucked in their belts around their waists and attached to the handles were usually tufts of human hair.
We spent a long time just looking around the area, being observant and getting used to the people. However, at all times we had our riffles cocked and ready for action, not knowing what to expect. In fact, we did everything with our riffles by our side and that even included while we slept and went to the toilet.
After spending a couple of hours checking out the area we made our way into the main long hut. As with most long huts, there was usually an open area right through the hut from one end to the other, along the front. While along the back were dozens of smaller rooms that housed the villagers. Once inside we all sat down in front of the headman’s section of the hut in a circle, he then placed his daughters amongst us. Then the headman’s wife brought out an old rusty kettle full of rice wine. By this time, we had already taken out our water bottle mugs in anticipation and we were all given a mug full of the rocket fuel. This was very strong, powerful stuff and most of us were completely unaware of its possible effects on us and started knocking it back as though it was going out of fashion. As soon as the old woman's kettle was empty, all the other women folk brought out their kettles. I winked at Ginger lip shaping the words that it was going to be a good night and there was going to be a few thick heads in the morning. Even Bwana was sipping his full mug, it being the first time that I had seen him take a drink, and I guess he did not want to offend the villages.
Most of us started making a pig of ourselves, knocking it right back as fast as they could fill our mugs. While I imagined that I was making head way with the headman’s eldest daughter, who was sitting beside me. After an hour the noise level started to get louder, with us singing and the locals chanting and dancing. I also noticed that Ginger was making out nicely with one of the other headman's daughters. Ginger was a lucky guy, as he had red hair and nobody in this part of the world had ever seen anything like it. The attraction always drew large crowds wherever he went, and he was always treated like a Royalty.
While we drank the rice wine, we were also expected to eat the rice sediments that earlier had been drained from the wine and lay on a large green leaf on the floor in front of us. If you thought the wine was powerful, it was nothing to the handful of sediments that you were expected to munch into after every sip from your mug.
Dal was the first to collapse right where he sat, just as I got up to go to the toilet. This was just a small hole in the floor over in one of the corners of the hut. Without warning I suddenly fell through the thin bamboo slotted floor matting. Almost falling into a load of pig dung that was heaped up under the hut. Whenever the locals needed a toilet they just did it through the hole in the floor onto the pigs below. How these people were disease free, I will never know. In fact, it’s a wonder that we did not end up in a hospital. Ginger helped me from my predicament and after much giggling we made our way back to re-join the party.
Bwana was next to keel over to a cheer from those of us who were still enjoying the festivities. Boy there was no way that we were going to let him forget this day. Ginger and I saw it as future blackmail material. Then slowly we all started to collapse one by one into very untidy heaps on the floor right where we sat.
As daylight started to shine through the holes in the side of the hut, I could not believe the sight that greeted me. It was not a pretty one as all of the Marines were out cold and looked a right mess. While sitting all around us were the local young men holding our riffle and sitting at the ready guarding us. They had spent the whole night watching over us, but I doubt they would have known how the riffles worked, or at least I would like to think they did not. If an officer had seen this sight, he would have gone bananas and threw the book at all of us. It was a good job that my earlier assessment of the headman had been wrong, otherwise we would have all been killed that night. The whole incident had turned into a big learning curve and I like to think that most of us learnt by the experience.
I staggered up to get some water and threw it over some of them to wake them up. No use having breakfast in this state, as I do not think anybody would have been able to stomach it anyway. Therefore, we grabbed our gear and tried to make our way back to the boat, thanking the headman and his daughters on the way. What followed was one of the most comical sights I had seen for quite some time. It was not only comical for me, even the villagers had also gathered to see the great British Servicemen make fools of themselves.
The Marines started to balance their way along the log towards the boat, but in their drunken state, they looked very clumsy with no sense of balance. One by one we all fell into the river. Ginger and Dal had to be rescued by the locals who by now were all rolling around laughing and pointing at the funny antics the Marines were displaying. It took almost half an hour to get us all into the boat safely and being a dug out it wobbled all over the place. Well that is my excuse and I am sticking to it even after all those years. Then with a final wave, we managed to shove off from the log and to head out into the main part of the river and head back towards Lundu.
Not wanting the officers back at Lundu to see the state we were in Bwana beached the boat a couple of miles before Lundu, so we could all clean ourselves up, Bwana being the worse for wear. During this time, we all had a swim and something to eat. If we had learnt anything from this whole trip it was to leave the local grog alone, or at least to only drink it in moderation. This jungle patrolling work was becoming a bit of an experience, not what I had imagined during my battle training. Maybe this was the type of experience we should have been pre-warned about and trained for.
Whilst we were back at the Headquarters, just sitting around in our tents after dark was a little boring. Luckily, we were allowed two cans of beer per day. Coupled with smoking, drinking, cracking jokes, and stories became the only pass time of the evening.
Like the one about Arthur who was attached to I think it was B Company. His section was patrolling along the border with Indonesia and based at a fort known as 'Fort Little Big Horn'. Unfortunately, they had an officer stationed with them and so they were a little regimented in their behaviour. On this particular occasion they had a dead terrorist to dispose of. Therefore, the officer ordered Arthur to bury him down near the river. Arthur placed the body in a hole he had just dug but owing to the rocky terrain unfortunately the hole was not quite big enough. So, Arthur chopped off the arms and legs and folded them, in such a way that the lot just about fitted into the hole. He then threw on some dirt and jumped on the heap a few times to flatten it all down. The officer watching just turned away and walked back up to the hut in disgust, where dinner was about to be served. Dinner usually consisted of hard tac biscuits. Anyway, Arthur just walked straight into the hut and without washing his hands, grabbed a hand full and tore into them. The officer had to go outside the hut, where he gagged a couple times. Most of us had come across Arthur at one time or other and knew that he was capable of such an act, to us it was just Arthur.
Another time was when an Iban tracker called Leo brought in a paper parcel and then laid it on the table amongst all the food right in front of his officer. "Did you get anybody" asked the officer, "Yes" said Leo. "And did you get any identification". "Yes" said Leo, adding, "It’s in the parcel sir". The officer opened the parcel expecting to find badges of rank or something like that. Instead, he found a bloodstained hand with rings on the fingers. The officer covered up the hand and went outside for some fresh air. "The body was too heavy to carry back" Leo called after him. Once again, the Marines just grinned and laughed at each other.
We also had Gurkhas stationed with us at different times and I made very good friends with some of them. They were all very young boys, some as young as sixteen. One night in my tent, one of them showed me some photos, explaining that they were of a ceremony for the Gurkhas taken back in Singapore. The Photos were quite gruesome, showing bullocks and goats tied to posts, with a Gurkha and his legendary Kukri sword chopping off their heads. Apparently, they have to cut the heads off with only one blow, if not they are disgraced. Then a big feast follows, after the cooking of the carcasses. Everybody in the camp wanted to see these photos. However, most Marines felt sorry for the poor old animals tied up like they were, they hadn't a chance in hell of survival.
‘Kampong Sematan’
After one of the longest most boring months of my life, we finally managed to get away from the over disciplined dreary Lundu Camp, I could hardly contain my relief. As 2 Troop headed down river on board one of the landing craft and once out to sea headed further along the coastline to the west. Where we relieve one of the other troops and took up a defensive position near the very small Kampong of Sematan, by the mouth of the Serayan River. The main purpose of the Kampong was as a supply village for the nearby Bauxite mine that was run by an American. The settling in period was made easy for us, by the fact that we had relieved another section that had previously set up the camp and fortified it.
We had taken with us a new infrared riffle night scope to be tested under battle conditions. Everybody stripped it down and had a good look at its inner workings. Then as soon as it was dark, we set it up outside the main bunker in the compound and took turns playing and fiddling in the darkness. It consisted of an infrared lamp that was on top of a small tripod, while a special scope was attached to a rifle. All very primitive by today standards but being the first of its type in the world, it was enthusiastically received by the Marines. The idea was that you sighted your rifle scope in a certain direction and then with your other hand you operated the lamp by slowly moving it to point in the same direction, as the gun was pointed. The best results were not too spectacular and I soon lost interest, however anything is a great help to us, especially at night. It used a red coloured beam of light unfortunately everything looked a pale shade of red through the scope. It was very hard to distinguish a man from a tree if he were stationary. However, the more we used it the more are eyes became accustomed to what we were watching and found it a little easier to use. At least if we were attacked it was in our favour and not the enemies. It was set up by the Bren gun emplacement so everybody on guard was able to try it out at some time or other. After a few days most of us agreed that it would be very useful for us even if we only used it to look around after dark. Trying to find what had made those annoying noises that are always heard during the night.
Once again, the fort had been built around the police station and there was the usual arrangement of barbed wire and booby traps around the perimeter of the camp. The compound was quite large with many wide-open spaces that I considered as being bad for our well-being. It housed four main buildings on five foot high stilts and all built soundly of timber. All around these huts were positioned a number of slit trenches and an underground bunker for the armoury. Unfortunately, it was only accessible across those wide open spaces. I guess it had been positioned this way just in case it took a direct hit. If it were to explode it would not take any of the buildings with it.
2 Troop comprised of four sections at that time and two of them were to stay and guard Sematan, whilst the other two sections would man smaller forts along the coast further to the west. From there we would patrol to the furthest point west of the Sarawak coastline. Kampong Serabang and Kampong Samunsam were both on the coast but the border was only about two miles in land. This was an area where Indonesia and Sarawak came together and stuck out into the sea as a peninsular. Both these forts were only accessible from the sea by boat and sections would change over at fortnightly intervals.
It was during one of the changeover times that a section set out in a double skinned aluminium assault boat with a forty-horse powered mercury engine out board. Unfortunately, they set out as the tide was almost in, along with seven men and all their gear, so the boat was well down in the water. As they tried to leave the estuary, the waves were very high and rough. A dozen times, they nearly went over as they were hit by wave after wave and then they started taking in water. Frantically they started bailing out and somehow, they survived and proceeded to make their way along the coastline. About two and a half-hours later as they were broadside onto the waves, they were hit by a big one. The wave half filling the boat with water, the Marines started to bale frantically, but then another big wave hit them filling them right up. One of the Marines stood up shouting don’t panic, but it was all too late, panic had set in and over the boat flipped. Suddenly they were all in the water thrashing around and trying to survive. Two of the Marines were not very good swimmers and were still wearing their very heavy clothes that were now even heavier in the water. Amazingly, all seven Marines survived and made it safely to the shore, but they had nothing with them and they were in hostile territory. Therefore, they made their way up to the back of the beach and hid in the bushes while they rested from their ordeal.
After about an hour the fittest of them decided to go for help, he made his way along the beach back to Samatan, taking nearly three hours. Where he blurted out his story to the remaining Marines.
Ginger, Don, Corporal Pearse and I set out to try and find them, leaving the survivor to rest up. We took an extra couple of rifles with us just in case we were attacked, knowing that the ship wrecked Marines would need some sort of fire power. Marching quite fast it only took us about two hours to find them, although we had been worried in case we were walking into ambush. The enemy might even be using the capsized boat as a lure for us to come along the beach. We found the Marines lying on the edge of the jungle just beyond the high water line and most had already recovered from the ordeal. We set up camp for the night and gave them all a good feed, we also watched the tide waiting for it to go out. By then the beach was very flat and about half a mile wide to the point where they had capsized. Somehow, we managed to recover everything, the boat, the outboard motor, guns, packs it was quite unbelievable, there was nothing missing it was just wet.
We then spent a very uncomfortable night amongst the ever-biting sand flies and swarms of mosquitoes that plagued us all night. Not much sleep was had by any of us, so we were all glad to see the warm morning sun when it finally poked its head up above the horizon. Wasting no time, we set off back to Samatan, leaving only the boat behind we would pick it up another time.
One day, an airdrop of mail and stores by parachute was found to contain a movie film, the Ten Commandments. It was arranged with the local Bauxite mine manager for the Marines to go to the mine and use his projector to view the film, allowing any locals who wished to watch it. We all looked forward to the viewing, instead of drinking our two cans of beer each night we saved about a week’s supply and we had one big binge the night of the film showing.
Came the big night and half the fort personnel were allowed to go to the mine for the showing, all were carrying their supply of cans and becoming well drunk, but they still had their weapons slung over their shoulders. By the time the film started, everybody was quite merry and started wise cracking and telling jokes during the film, which lucky for us was in English. Most of the locals could not understand a single word but they all watched in amazement, as none of them had seen moving pictures before. They laughed whenever the Marines laughed, not realising what we found funny. By the time the film reached the scene where Mosses is being chased across the Red Sea, Jock Stone was well and truly drunk. Mosses was about to be shot by a pursuing Egyptian with a bow and arrow, Jock picked up his S.L.R. rifle and fired it at the Egyptian. Most of the locals dived under the chairs while others ran off screaming in to the night. It was lucky that we were viewing this film outside and that the screen was just hung on the back of one of the out buildings. Jock just laughed and said that he could not see what all the fuss was about as he had just saved the day and Mosses from a fate worse than death. The bullet tore a hole through the screen and the hut behind it, lucky for us nobody was hurt. Otherwise all hell would have been let loose. It’s a good bet that Jock would have been jailed for his little escapade. It might sound incredible, but we still watched the end of the film. Funny but we were never invited back to the mine again, I often wonder why. Jock was also very relieved that no charges were laid against him. I guess it was put down to high spirits by our Corporal. It was even more surprising that we managed to keep it from Headquarters. If Pug Davis had found out Jocks feet would not have touched the ground, until he ended up behind bars.
One morning a group of us took an aluminium assault craft down to the river mouth and on to the far sand bank to have a go at water skiing. None of us had ever attempted it before, so we were all novices. We took with us a small plank of wood about six inches wide by about five foot long. Once we had arrived on the sand bar, using a machete we rounded a point on one end and nailed on an old sand shoe, (Plimsoll) onto the middle of the board. We then got one Marine to sit on the sand near the water’s edge, with one foot in the ski shoe. The rest of the Marines positioned themselves around him, with their hands under him to assist him in trying to stand up. In order to keep the weight down in the boat and the speed up, only the coxswain was allowed on board. Therefore, you can imagine the speed at which he accelerated forward. As the boat attempted to tear the Marines arms out of its sockets, on the command of "Go".
We had some great fun and most of us got at least fifty feet before falling off. Because there was about eight of us all waiting around to have a go, the time seemed to drag. Therefore, another Marine and I went for a swim across the river mouth. However, I now know that it was crazy to even attempt it. Then I was just young guy who did not have a care in the world. We reached the other bank and then swam back. It is a wonder we were not swept out to sea for a start, whilst someone later told us that they had seen sharks four miles upriver. The river mouth would have been at least half a mile wide at this point and at times had been quite treacherous. Try telling that to a young upstart from Suffolk who imagined he was bullet proof and thought he knew it all.
‘Kampong Serabang’.
Morning found 2 Troop, including myself boarding a Malaysian patrol boat from the Sematan jetty. I was feeling happy because I would be getting away from an office-controlled fort. We were to be split into sections and man very small out-post fort along the coast. We shoved off from the jetty and headed west along the coast of Sarawak towards the peninsular that juts out into the South China Sea. The journey would take us almost four hours, while on the way we dropped off another section at Samusan and took on board the section that was being relieved. They all looked quite pleased at are arrival and were looking forward to a break back at Sematan. We then continued our journey along the coast to Serabang and on to Kampong Milano it being the furthest fort that we had a presence. We were to be the first Marines to stay there, so we would have to build our own defences. The journey was very uneventful as the patrol boat hugged the coastline line. Then as we neared Serabang, the boat went in to the beach as near as possible, without it running aground. We had to jump over the side and into the sea where we waded ashore. So here we were, Don Hackett, Ginger Walters, Corporal Reg Pierce, Harry Dalrymple and me.
All we found was a small long hut that sat on the beach containing only four rooms, a barbwire entanglement was scattered around the area. The hut was so close to the sea that the barbed wire was actually under the water at high tide in some places. We had a quick look around, to secure the area and to see what we had to defend. We were on a small peninsular of land jutting out of the furthest point west. The Sarawak Indonesian border ran up the middle of this peninsular of land and was only about three-quarters of a mile back from our new home, the hut on the beach. There were other small Kampongs in this area and we were to show a presence around them all. It was once again a show the flag exercise although we also had to protect them and to assist the local police. The Reg the corporal grabbed one of the rooms, Don and Dal took one and Ginger and I took the other. The last room was for all the gear we had ferried ashore from the patrol boat.
Everywhere we looked around the camp area there were wild dogs roaming around. A long the front of the hut that faced the sea there was a veranda that ran the entire length of the building. On which lay a very old, but friendly three-legged mongrel dog soaking up the sun, he had probably been left behind or tamed by the last occupants of the hut. Being an animal lover, I soon took to making a fuss of him. I’ve often wondered how he came to lose his leg, because there did not seem to be any locals living around the area. I guess I could only assume that it might have been by a wild animal in the jungle.
There were a few old slit trenches and sandbag emplacements around our fortified new home. Most looked like they were in the correct position and did not need much work to bring them up to scratch. Therefore, after grabbing a place to sleep, we all set about making our enclosure safe for the night. By placing mines and booby traps around the perimeter of the barbwire fence, that was only about twenty yards from the hut. While making sure that, any roaming dogs did not set them off. We then arranged a guard roster, only one guard on at a time, as we were so few in number. We were not happy in the thought that the jungle was so close to where we were setting up camp, but there was not a lot we could do about it. Just the thought of removing a considerable amount of jungle put us off the idea.
By now it was starting to get dark, so it was a quick meal and those that were not on guard hit the sack, we were all dog-tired, as sleep was always hard to come by in this sort of environment.
Next morning the first task was for somebody to disarm all the booby traps. We had a motto, 'He who arms them, Disarms them'. Most of them were of our own design and flimsy, so it was only right that the inventor make them safe.
We were to keep up the one-man guard at all times, in addition three man teams were to patrol the area. This meant that our travel was to be lighter and faster, so we could cover a lot more ground while leaving two in the camp area at all time for back up.
The first patrol was to the Kampong of Serabang, from our fort we could see it right across the bay. We would have to walk around the bay to get to it. Corporal Pierce, Ginger and I set off at a brisk pace. We were travelling in single line with about a five yard gap between each other and I was leading. The jungle was thick, but we were following an old track, something I was not happy about. A well-used track is ideal for an ambush and everybody in the area would have seen us landing from the patrol boat the day before. They would also have seen us leave our new home and approach them up the track. Although the jungle is a noisy place with monkeys calling and insect’s clicking or screeching you can still hear unusual noises. It is that different and unusual sound that usually gives your position away.
The track hugged the coastline, so it was very easy to see where we were going. We did have maps, but they were very sketchy with not too much detail on them, in fact where it said Indonesia it was completely blank. After a long four-hour march, we finally entered the Kampong that consisted of a few small huts all scattered along the beach obviously belonged to the local fisherman. The rest of the Kampong was built into the side of a steep hill. To us it looked like the whole area seemed to depend completely on fishing and was inhabited by Sea Dayak people and a few Chinese.
We had a good look around the area, not really knowing what to expect. I guess we were just looking for that little something that looked out of place. Not finding anything, we headed halfway up the hill to what looked like the local store. Where we talked the store owner into giving us a bottle of what looked like coloured water, costing us one Malay dollar, about 1 shilling 2 pence in English money. At least it was not fizzy and tasted like lemonade. Not much English was spoken as by now a few of the locals had gathered in the store. They all seemed to be glaring at us and I guess wondering what three white guys were doing in their village. We talked amongst ourselves discussing the long march we had just under taken and how looking out across the bay we could see our fort. To us it seemed like it was only three-quarters of a mile away, across the bay.
Using pigeon and broken English Reg tried to explain to the guy running the place that we wanted a boat to paddle across the bay. However, he did not seem to be having any luck and Reg had already made up his mind that he was not going to walk back. Reg was a very forceful guy, so he ordered us out and together all three of us walked back down to the beach, followed by what seemed like half of the village. Upon reaching the beach, he was disappointed because there were no boats. You did not have to be a brain surgeon to realise that they were probably all out being used to do the fishing. Therefore, we had a good hunt along the beach until we found an old dugout canoe half full of water. We emptied the water and dragged it in to the sea. Because nobody tried to stop us, we climbed aboard and grabbed a paddle and off we went. The beach must have been sheltered from the sea as it looked like a millpond with not a wave in sight.
As we picked up a little speed, we heard a few cheers from the beach. Reg who was sitting in the rear just waved his paddle without looking back. Being his job to steer he had to keep an eye on where we were going. Ginger was in the front while I was in the middle. It was only now that Ginger mentioned to us that he was not a very good swimmer and I could see he was a little apprehensive of what lay ahead. Especially as the water level was only about six inches below the top of the canoe. We were soon out into the open water and a few small waves had appeared from around the headland and were becoming bigger and bigger as we progressed out into open water. We were trying to head across the bay, but the direction had us broadside onto the waves. By this time, the waves were starting to come over the side. To complicate matters worse, as it was a log dug out, we were starting to roll. Ginger was getting more and more worried and I was starting to think it was possible that we could roll over. Our paddle rate slowed so we could try to steady the canoe. Very slowly, we made our way across the bay.
Halfway across we came upon a large bamboo structure, sticking out of the water. It looked like some sort of fishing trap, although unknown to us, we were paddling across a shark breeding ground. I do not know how we made it across that bay, but somehow, we did. Upon reflection, it was a crazy stunt, more than once we all believed the canoe was going to turn over. Then as we hit the beach right in front of our hut, Ginger who by this time was as white as a ghost. Climbed out and dropped to his knees kissing the sand and making a sign of a cross on his chest. He suddenly bounce back laughing, while under his breath repeating the words "Thank you, Thank you". I think even Reg was relieved that we had finally made it, but he never showed it by his facial expressions.
Boy did I sleep that night especially after I completed the first guard watch for the night. A couple of the guys found it hard to sleep with all the jungle noises going on around them, but not me. That night I realised I could sleep anywhere. The jungle could be a very friendly place and its sounds tell you a lot, or should I say sometimes the lack of sounds, tell you that there are bodies moving around out there. If used correctly it can be of great help to you and not the scary place I had once believed when I was a young kid visiting the local cinema watching Tarzan films.
The following morning was treated as a lazy day, so we could wander around the camp and surrounding area. Getting to know the place and seeing what we could find. Just through the jungle we found an old store, with a glass display cabinet intact, plus a few items of stores.
It all seemed out of place because these people do not normally leave anything lying about, they usually recycle everything. After removing everything that was of use to us, Reg ordered us to smash all the glass cabinets, but I had to ask him why. After all, it was a good bet that some local might be coming back for it, it being his only worldly possessions. Reg was adamant that we must not leave anything that can be of advantage to the enemy. I must say that some of Reg’s decisions left a lot to be desired. I sometimes thought he had lost all his marbles. After all what good would a glass cabinet be to a terrorist, maybe he would want to place all of his weapons on display. Sometimes Reg’s decisions were just plain crazy. While I wouldn’t mind betting that the cabinet’s owner sat down and cried when he saw our handy work.
The next morning Reg said he would be staying in the camp, but a patrol could go up to Milano and meet up with the section that was staying there. Ginger, Don and I volunteered as we had friends in that section and anyway it was only about a six-hour march. Therefore, we radioed up ahead, so they knew that we were coming, no use walking into one another and blasting hell out of our comrades. Before we left we had a short briefing so that Reg knew our plans and what way we would be heading. It was decided that we would stay one night at Milano and because there would not be many left in the camp, they would be doubling the booby traps around them.
The trip to Milano was uneventful but hard work, not wanting to be ambushed we cut our own tracks most of the way. It was a gruelling six hours, but the end result would be worth it. A couple of places along the track that we had cut, we placed a cigarette lighter and further on a pen. So, on our return trip if we found no lighter or pen then we would know that somebody else had used our freshly cut track. We would then get off it and cut a fresh one, cutting down our odds of being ambushed. Although it was slow hot work it was still the safest way to travel.
At Milano we arrived by late afternoon, I met up with my old squaddies Jack Stone and Jock Minnock, we had a lot of talking to catch up on. While Don met up with Geordie Frith his old squaddie from the 778 squad. The section at Milano let us off guard duty that night knowing that we had a six-hour hike back to Serabang the following morning. Therefore, after we had all swapped stories we settled down to a good night’s sleep.
We set off early in the morning heading back to Serabang, hoping to use our old track if it had not been detected, that way we could complete the journey in about two thirds the time. The lighter and pen were still where I had left them undisturbed. Halfway back with Ginger up front he raised his hand, we never talk much on patrol, voices carry a long distance in the jungle, we usually use hand sign language. Anyway, Ginger raised his hand and beckoned us forward. He picked up a long stick and started poking something in the vegetation by the side of the track. When I got to where he was standing I saw he was poking at one of the biggest snakes I have ever seen. Ginger said it must be at least thirty feet long, at its middle was a very large bulge, it must have eaten a goat or an orang-utan and was sleeping it off for a month. Looking again at the size of the lump, Don mentioned that it could be a small man or child, while I added that he would not be alive now. Ginger was quick to tell us to let it sleep it off. I could not help asking if he meant the snake or the man. I then poked Ginger in the ribs telling him to get going before it wakes up for a nightcap.
We arrived back at Serabang by the early afternoon, swapping stories of our trip with Dal and Reg. Reg then radioed Milano to tell them that we had arrived back safely. He then called in for our daily chat with Sematan to tell them that all was quiet along the western front, just a joke among Marines.
In the morning Reg took a radio message from Lundu and we were very upset by what we were told. We had been ordered to shoot all of the wild dogs we could find in our area. Doctors in other camps had found that many of these dogs were carrying decease. A couple of Marines had picked up viruses thought to have come from handling these dogs. I love animals and I would never want to ill-treat any one of them. Humans I have no problems with, I have no feelings towards them. I would shoot a person long before I would shoot a dog, but an order is an order. The message read all dogs, no exceptions, Reg and Ginger said they would do it and I believe Don later shot a couple. We had to be a little careful, because a lot of shooting might draw attention and bring unwanted people to our area. With all the other forts having to carry out the same order on the same morning, it was going to be one hell of a battle area all along the coast.
Reg walked around with his sub machine gun slung over his shoulder looking like John Wayne and shooting from the hip at anything that moved. These guns use 9mm ammunition and were not as powerful as our rifles, while Ginger was using his SLR riffle. The dogs started running everywhere trying to avoid the hail of bullets heading their way. A couple of pups I had become attached to, one a four-month old black one copped it first from Reg. Although I was not shooting I followed Reg and Ginger around, but do not ask me why. This poor little puppy had about three shots in its back and it was still moving. I pleaded with Reg to finish it off, but he would not, "Cannot afford the ammo", he said, (the bastard). I watched that poor little thing laying in agony, later Ginger did finish it off for me.
Halfway through the day Reg and Ginger were getting bloodthirsty and even drew up a kill chart in the sand on the beach with a stick. Kills, maims, wounds and who got what. Sickening I thought, but still we will see what they are like when there are bullets being returned. Most of the killings went on all day, but by then many dogs had run off into the jungle to dodge the hail of bullets. However, the ever-faithful old three legged dog, that spent all day on our veranda. Somehow, he must have thought I am the pet around here, they will never shoot me they are my friends. He was never so wrong, that poor old dog had stayed on the veranda the whole day listening to the shooting. By mid-afternoon Reg was losing his temper because the easy shooting was over, now he had to stalk the older dogs that had run into the jungle. He just walked up onto the veranda for a cup of tea, took one look at the old three legged dog, then walked up to him and placed the barrel of his gun to his head, the dog looked up at Reg as if asking for a reprieve. Then Bang! Reg never gave it a second thought. I still believe that the old dog never thought that he was going to be shot. Like I said earlier, some of Reg’s decisions were questionable, he is not a man I would ever want to meet again. I was upset for hours over this entire incident.
That night shots were fired, we believe into the compound because a booby trap was also ignited, but nobody got hurt and I don't believe we shot anybody in return. We were not sure, but we believed that there was only one person shooting, but at whom we were not sure. We radioed Sematan in the morning and because of our low numbers on the ground, it was decided to pull us out. About 11 am, a small aluminium assault boat came as close to the beach as it could to pick us up. We had already disarmed all of the booby traps and mines and took on board everything that we had arrived with, we were closing down the fort for good and nobody would be replacing us.
What a waste, if only this order had come just twenty-four hours earlier all those poor old dogs would still be alive. Life is so cruel and hard to understand sometimes. I guess I will never get used to it no matter how hard I try.
The trip back should have been uneventful. However, Reg soon put paid to all that. I guess he was still experiencing the excitement of the previous days shooting round up. Anyway, Reg had seen a small shark playing around the back of our boat, I suppose it got on his nerves a little and pointed it out to Ginger. Why don’t you shoot it he told Ginger and Ginger never one to miss a chance just stood up and shot it. Now we had never seen any of the TV programs of today about sharks, it was all new to us and we thought it was a big joke. We just did not know what we were about to unleash, the blood from the wounded shark suddenly attracted more sharks and I might add much bigger one. It was still fun for Ginger, as he started shooting at more and more sharks. By this time the water was starting to turning into a red frothy broth, it was amazing. I have not seen a frenzy like it, Ginger must have shot about a dozen by now, sat down to replace his magazine. The sea was now alive with thrashing sharks and not just behind the boat. Now they were all around us even bumping the sides and bottom of the boat. We started to worry in case we were knocked into the sea, because we would not stand a chance amongst that lot. On reflection and with what I have since seen on TV, it was another one of the most stupid thing we did. Reg put the engine on full blast and we luckily got out of the area as quick as we could. It was something we never did again. Later we heard of another section that went out for target practice with sharks towing a dead dog on a rope as bait. They soon cut the rope and headed back to shore having learnt just like us, the hard way. Again, nobody was hurt, so the Marines were once again very lucky.
When we were younger, we did very silly things, not thinking about the consequences. I guess being young, we just have no fear, but put in the same situation and being that much older, we would make a very different decision. It always amazed me, that a lot more people were not hurt, doing these crazy things, maybe lady luck still helps us sometimes.
Even on guard duty’s we would fall asleep completely relying on, dogs, trip flares or booby traps to protect us. I do not think we even thought about it, we just did it. I must also add that it was always the single guys, who did most of the crazy stunts and always came out of it without a single scratch. However, most of the married guys were worried stiff about not making it home to their wives and children. Therefore, when they were on guard we all knew that we were being well guarded that night. It’s also worth adding that it was usually the married ones that attached the major injuries, it’s as though they were trying too hard to return safely to their loved ones and that every hurdle possible was being thrown their way.
‘Kampong Samunsam’.
After only a couple of days rest our section was ordered to relieve the Marines at Kampong Samunsam, this time the trip would be in a small double skinned aluminium assault craft. All our gear was stowed aboard, and Reg took the helm and with the forty horse power Mercury out board fixed to the transom away we went, heading west again, but not quite as far as Sarabang. The departure was timed to coincide with a high tide, so it would be easy to reach the open sea, with not too much trouble.
After half an hour, we had cleared the estuary, it being the most dangerous part and we settled down to an easy trip along the coast. We were all enjoying the scenery and chatting about things in general. About two hours out from Sematan and half way through our journey. We were suddenly surprised by a school of Dolphins that just appeared all around us. There seemed to be hundreds of them breaching the water, all were a darkish grey in colour. Some came out of the water and so close to the boat, that you could lean out and touch them. We were all shouting and pointing in great excitement it being a big joke. Until Don said what happens if one comes up under the boat, it would turn us over. The mood suddenly changed, as we all stopped shouting and started to hang on to the sides of the boat. Blood thirsty Reg even made a suggestion to shoot a couple of them, telling us that perhaps it will scare the others away. Thanks Reg for another brainwave of a suggestion. I dread to thing what this guy would have been capable of, if let loose within a children’s nursery.
Then just as suddenly as the dolphins had appeared they simply disappeared. Nobody said a word, but just in case we still kept hold of the side of the boat. I made the remark that they had probable heard what Reg had proposed and had fled in terror. Then after what seemed like hours but was in actual fact was only a couple of minutes, they suddenly broke the surface about half a mile ahead of us. Hundreds of them, what a beautiful sight something I will always remember. Once they were out of sight, we all settled back into the boat and started chatting once again, as we continued our journey.
As we reached Samunsam we beached the shallow draft boat and were greeted by the section we were to replace. We all unloaded our gear onto the beach and then re-loaded up the section that was making the return trip. The two Corporals walked around the camp showing each other different items of interest and what to watch out for. Then it was goodbyes all round, followed by and usual handshakes and we found ourselves alone in our new home. Our small band consisted of Corporal Reg, Dal, Don, Ginger and me.
Samunsam was almost like Serabang, it being positioned on the coast by the river Sungai Samunsam’s estuary which was about a mile wide at this particular point. At low tide you could wade across to the other side. Once again, our barbed wire perimeter fence got wet during high tides, as it became half submerged. This camp had a twin fort on the other side of the river estuary. At this camp the idea was to move about, to throw the enemy off our scent and not let him know too much where we were, or where we would be going. Therefore, a couple of nights would be spent in each fort, while occasionally a few were spent out in the jungle. This main fort had been named by earlier Marines as 'Fort Blood', having been attacked a few times, which had claimed a few victims. It was constructed of the usual corrugated tin and looked just like a rather large garden shed. Inside it was divided into four rooms, while around it was positioned a few underground bashers, all neatly sand bagged up. The tin on the roof was only to keep the rain out, not mortars and rocket shells. The main hut was also protected by sandbags that were neatly stacked around the outside the hut about waist high in some places. This gave those inside a little protection from the sides, but not from above. So, it was back to the old routines with guard rosters, booby traps, mines and of course, a good scout around to get to know the area.
One of my favourite booby traps was to nail an old bean tin through its base to a tree about two feet up from the ground, with the open end of the tin facing across a track. I would then attach a very thin piece wire to another tree pulling the wire across the track and attaching it to a hand grenade and then holding the clip I would remove the pin. Then gently slide the grenade into the tin, making sure that the clip slid inside as well. If anybody was to walk past and hit the wire, it would pull the grenade out of the tin and the clip would fly off exploding right beside of them. This was very plain but a simple idea that over the years had claimed many victims. Its only drawback being that anybody who under stood jungle warfare would feel the tight wire as it touch their legs, as it needed a little force to pull it out of the tin. Therefore, in a way it would only catch those who were walking at a considerable pace, so they hit the wire with a little force. If they were taking it slowly and watching where they walked, it was possible to feel the wire.
That night we were all awoken by shots out in the jungle, they sounded near but were not directly outside our wire perimeter fence. In order to play it safe we had to stand too all night just in case. That first night nobody got any sleep it being a new location and our surroundings being strange to us. The next day we all spent a considerable amount of time making our position more secure and easier to protect. It was hard work, but it had to be done, if we wanted to survive and sleep a little more easily. Then half way through the day Reg pointed across the river to the fort on the other side of the estuary. It being just visible on the edge of the jungle, smoke was rising from the main hut that should have been empty. We all decided that this must have been the enemy taking advantage of our situation, they must have known that we were thin on the ground and could not do much about it. Therefore, they had made it their headquarters using all the pots and pans that had been left by earlier Marine patrols. On the other hand, it could also have been a trap to try to lure us over the river and in to an ambush, or maybe to lure us into an ambush as we left the fort we were now settled in. Reg decided that we should stay where we were for a couple of days, because these guys were not that easy to catch out. One of Reg’s smarter decisions I thought. We also decided to double our nightly guard, two on at any one time in two different slit trenches either side of the fort. This was hard, as there were only five of us, but we managed, we had to if we wanted to survive. We also decided to change guard at twenty minutes past the hour. Every guard around the world changes on the hour or half-hour. It being a good time to catch guards out of their positions, I might add once again not a lot of sleep was had by all for a few nights. For once at least Reg’s brain seemed to be working to our advantage.
A seasoned jungle fighter usually tries to get your moral down by depriving you of sleep and that is easy, one man can fire a single shot into your camp once or twice a night. Net result, everybody inside the camp has to stand too to keep watch all night, one man can do this for a week and the end result is a very tired enemy camp, easy for the taking especially one hour before dawn when the light plays tricks on your eyes.
In the morning, Reg took Don and I up river to cross it well into the jungle, so we could try and sneak up on whoever was making the smoke in the other fort. We returned after only a couple of hours, having found a good river crossing and an old deserted Kampong. There were no locals anywhere, maybe the enemy had chased them off, but we also found what we thought was an old enemy camp. We had returned early because Reg wanted to change his plans, everybody got as much rest as we could and the next morning just before day break we all slipped quietly and unseen out of the fort carrying only what was necessary, everything else had been hid or buried.
We all proceeded along the route we had checked out the day before and cross the river. By now it was starting to get light which was just as well, because it turned out to be a little harder than the day before, as the tide was higher. Unfortunately, we all made it over quite easy except that is for Dal who got very wet. Dal was more worried about something he had seen at Lundu and that was a shark several miles upriver. No time to worry about that here I told Dal, because it was about one hundred-feet wide and at least four feet deep.
Silently we made our way to where we knew the fort was positioned, by about 8 am we were just outside the fort’s barbed wire entanglement. All was very quiet, there did not seem to be any life around. Reg ordered Ginger and Don to check it out, cautiously they made their way through an open entrance and went around the huts looking for people and booby traps. Suddenly Ginger appeared, claiming that there was nobody around. With this we all made our way into the camp having a further good look around, just in case Ginger had missed somebody. It took about an hour to completely secure the camp. Once Reg was happy that the place was okay, he told us to have break and make a cup of tea. For those of us who needed a drag of the additive weed, he told us to use the local tobacco. Therefore, the locals would not detect our presence. Their keen sense of smell is so good, that anything that smells unusual, or out of place to the normal jungle smells, would be picked up by them from a great distance. Therefore, we used their tobacco and tea, no toothpaste, soap or anything like that, because it would stand out like a nudist at a country wedding. However, we had all failed to realise that our body odours were quite different to the locals and stood out like a sore thumb.
After an hour, Dal called us all over to see something that he had just spotted. He then pointed over to the fort we had just left about four or five hours earlier and to the smoke that was rising from the main hut roof. I could not help ribbing Don that he had not put the fire out before we left. However, the situation was quite serious for us, we were beginning to believe that these guys knew what they were doing. Somehow, they had known that we were coming and had got out before we arrived. They would have most likely crossed the estuary, although it was at high tide, in an effort to avoid us. Still it proved that they were not prepared to confront us for a fire fight. Instead they were adopting the usual Guerrilla tactic of hit and run, which usually unsettles and frustrates their prey, who just want to shoot it out with them. If successfully enticed into a battle the Guerrilla usually loses against a well organised fighting outfit. Therefore, we did not have to worry too much about a confrontation later.
We decided to stay in a new fort that we named 'Fort Disappear' for a couple of days, so we could have a good look around. We decided to play them at their own game, at night we would fire a couple of riffle rounds into the other fort across the estuary, whenever we felt like it. As far as I can remember they never once fired back at us, maybe they did not like their own medicine. Maybe they did not have weapons, who knows. Although it could have been the locals, trying to get their hut back.
We were always in touch with Semantan by radio, if we did not radio in each morning by a certain time, then a search party would be sent out to find out where we were. It was one of these early morning radio messages that told us of an accident in another fort. A Marine going out early one morning to re arm his bean tin booby trap, had walked into his own trap wire. The grenade had popped out of the tin and exploded right beside of him. The explosion had torn a big hole in his side. Luckily, he had survived the explosion, being flown by helicopter to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak and from there to Singapore. He was then placed on a special care flight to England, the aircraft being allowed to fly at a very low altitude for the whole trip. A doctor was seated beside the Marine at all times, ready to inflate his lungs if they were to collapse, or to massage his heart at any time during the flight. Last we heard of the Marine was that he had made it home safely and was doing okay. Unfortunately, once he had made a full recovery it was a foregone conclusion that he would be invalided out of the service.
After an uneventful couple of days, early one morning while it was still dark, we crossed the river estuary back to 'Fort Blood' and as you might have guessed, nobody was there when we arrived. Mind you, all the pots and pans we had left behind were sitting around a smouldering fire, one even had warm water in it.
One night automatic rifle fire slammed into the sandbag walls of our enclosure. We could see the flashing from the gun, so we all trained our weapons into that area and just kept blasting away. After only a few minutes the firing stopped, but we were all kept on our guard for the remainder of the night. In the morning while making sure it was safe, we made our way to the spot we had all been shooting at the night before. There by the perimeter wire, but on our side was a heap of spent ammunition casings and a small trail of blood that lead back through the wire and into the jungle. We tried to follow it, but it just faded away into the jungle and we lost it. We were very lucky, this guy had got through all our booby traps and defences and so straight away, we set about improving them. Like I’ve mentioned earlier one of our big concerns was the short distance from our huts to the perimeter wire. It meant that when attacked we were so close to each other that it was very easy to lob a grenade at each other. Something I always expected the enemy to do, but lucky for us I never once heard of this happening. The clearing of tree’s in and around our fortified positions was not easy, remember there were no chain saws in those days. It all had to be undertaken with a very small hand held saw, or an axe which none of us carried. However, once cut down if you could not move the main trunk it became an even better place for guerrilla’s to take cover behind. Left standing at least only one person could hide behind it and he had to be standing.
After another uneventful week at 'Fort Blood', our replacement section of Marines arrived to relieve us, in the aluminium assault craft. Reg did the usual walk around of the camp with the incoming Corporal showing him the usual, traps, tracks and what else to watch out for. Then with all our gear neatly stowed on board, we were on the move once again, only this time back east to Sematan and maybe a little rest.
At Sematan, it was thought that we should indeed have a well-earned rest, however we still had to take part in the usual two hours on and four hours off guard roster. We had been at Lundu for just over a month, Sematan and Serabang each for two weeks, a week at Samunsam and now a final two weeks at Semantan a grand total so far of around three months. Suddenly it was all about to change. Only this time we were moving away from the coastal area and heading inland. 2 Troop was heading for a fort next to the Kampong of Kandai, about ten hours hard march in land south west of Lundu.
The Chopper flew us to Lundu, from there it was a full pack march over several hours’ one hell of a slog. Most of the area we passed through was known to be friendly, but it paid to keep alert and careful. It was a new area and unknown to us, so we treated it as a normal deep penetration patrol, but lucky for us it was uneventful.
‘Kampong Kandai’.
Kampong Kandai had a little bit of a history to the place. 42 Commando had been in this area before us and one of their sections had been pinned down in a tin hut that was perched on a cliff edge. Which I thought was positioned incorrectly, as there was no way of escaping if you were attacked from the front. Anyway, the five man section came under fire while they were all in the hut during the late afternoon. The attackers were reported to have numbered about forty, although it is always hard to put an accurate number on your enemy as the bullets are whistling past you. Most of the Marines were hit during the exchange, while the wireless operator was shot twice. However, he still managed to keep his radio open during the whole attack, for which he received a Bravery Award. Somehow, the whole section was rescued by another section of Marines the following day, but sadly, I believe one of the Marines died from his wounds.
This then was the reason that found Corporal Bwana, Ginger, Don, Dal, the two Jocks and I on our first patrol in to the Kandai area. The march to Kandai was very exhausting, it being over very rough terrain, rivers and thick dense jungle. While doing what we did not really like, that is following existing tracks through the jungle. However, it was wonderful countryside and I just loved the jungle. There must have been more shades of green than I had ever seen in my life. I loved lush green colours of the vegetation, the animals and even the smells especially after a rainstorm. The trip took us about ten hours, with me as the front scout, I just liked being up the front. It kept me alert and, on my toes, something you should always be in this type of environment. Walking in the pack behind, you tend to get a little complacent and let your guard down and if you are ambushed your brain just takes that little bit extra time to work out what’s happening and to how you are going to respond and react.
As we arrived at the Kampong we became extra alert, not knowing how we would be received by the locals. We carried on through the village of Kandai, acknowledging a few of the locals who had stopped to see what we were up to. By now we were steadily climbing until we came out the other side of the Kampong. Then just a couple of hundred yards further on and around to the right we came upon the hut where 42 Cdo had been trapped. All un-eventful as it turned out, but how were we to know that. This hind sight thing is a wonderful tool to have, especially if you could have it before the event.
The border with Indonesia was only a further fifteen-minute stroll away. With this in mind we had to stay alert at all times, here there would be no playing around the position we were in was serious. Sloping up and away from the front of the hut was the remains of a large old landslide. Upon are arrival at the hut, we all set about fortifying the hut to protect us for the first night. We used all of the usual trip flares and booby traps that we had perfected since are arrival in Sarawak. It was also decided to double up on the night guard roaster. Directly in front of the hut were many large boulders so at least we had good cover. The hut being made of tin was not going to be a place where anybody would want to stay if we were attacked.
The first night was uneventful, not many of us managed to get much sleep, as we all expected to be attacked at some stage. We all knew that the area had a bad history, so we were expecting the lightening to once again strike in the same place.
First thing in the morning Bwana lead Ginger and myself down into the village to meet the head man. It was his idea that we show the flag and our presence. Something that had been drummed in to our heads to undertake at every opportunity. It was felt by the big guns in the military that it was better to have tribesmen on our side if possible. The usual idea was to give first aid to any of the locals and maybe a present to the Headman. Usually a dead wild dog if possible, as they are a delicacy to these people. Bwana had shot one earlier in the morning, this he then presented to the Headman. Ginger had brought with him the Bren gun, he then stripped it down and showed the villagers the parts, he then re-assembled it showing the villagers where all the parts went. By now a large crowd of Dayak tribesmen had started to gather, all were displaying their Parang swords around their waist with human hair attached to the handles. Ginger who had been ordered by Bwana, pushed the crowd to one side and singled out a small tree with a trunk about fifteen inches thick, about twenty-five yards away. Then standing with the Bren at his waist, he intended to blast away at the tree, using up a complete magazine. Each magazine contains twenty-eight rounds of 7.62 mm, it should hold thirty, but we only placed twenty-eight rounds within, allowing protection of the spring. We would then tape two magazines together, with one of them upside down, for the ease of changing while in a battle situation. With the SLR riffle, it was much the same, but with only eighteen rounds of 7.62 mm for each magazine. The good thing about this is that the Bren and SLT magazines were both interchangeable and could be used on either weapon.
Anyway, Ginger blasted away at the tree, using only one magazine and chopped the tree right in half (about four to six inches thick). All the villages started shouting after the banging had finished scaring them. All were amazed at the firepower and at the tree toppling over. Ginger then reloaded the Bren and we gave it to the Headman to have a go. Bwana was a little worried, he could see the Headman swinging the Bren about and there were a lot of villagers trying to get closer to get a better view. Ginger stood behind the Headman and pointed him towards another tree, encouraging him to point the Bren a little lower down the trunk. As the Headman started to blast away, the force of the shots lifted the barrel of the Bren and forced him backwards. All the time Ginger was pushing the Headman's shoulders forward trying to hold his ground. The Headman soon let loose the complete magazine. All the Dayaks were continuing to shout and dance around, all very excited. Unfortunately, he did not chop the tree down, not only that most of his rounds missed the target as the barrel slowly raised skywards. As soon as things had quietened down Bwana, Ginger and I were invited into the Headman’s hut for the usual drinks. The hut was a very old and rickety, being made of bamboo and attap leaves to keep out the rain, being built on stilts that were ten feet high. While hanging around the roof on strings were about two dozen shrunken heads. The headman explained that they were Japanese soldiers from the last war. Where have I heard that one before. All though I thought these ones looked a little newer than the earlier ones I had seen. After sitting cross-legged on the bamboo slotted floor, we were all offered some rice wine, now we knew all about that stuff. After our earlier experience with the stuff, it had been well named as 'Rocket fuel'. We made sure that we only drank the cloudy liquid and did not indulge in the eating of the sediment. We could not afford to have a hangover in this place, the enemy would have taken full advantage of that situation. A large Union Jack flag hung on the wall above where the headman sat and beside it was a colour photo of Queen Elizabeth II in a nice wooden frame. There was also a black and white photo of Queen Victoria hung over the door. This all looked out of place in a grass hut stuck in the middle of the jungle. Up until then I had only seen these types of items above a fire place back in the stately home of the UK.
After thanking the headman for his hospitality, we decided to head back to our hut, as by now it was midday. We also decided that the headman had been won over and would be friendly towards us, wondering if he would be loyal was another question.
Bwana decided to lay an ambush that night on the border-crossing track, which just happened to be a log across a rather large ravine, the ravine marking the border with Indonesia. Bwana decided he would take an Iban tracker, Ginger, Jock Stone and me. This meant that Dal, Don and Jock Minnock were to be left behind to guard the hut.
We set out for the border leaving enough time to settle in to a position before it got dark. As I have said, the ravine marked the border and a log lay across it. I was to lie on the ground only twenty yards from the end of the log on our side of the border. With the Bren gun facing along the length of the log pointing in to Indonesia, with me was Jack Stone. The other Marines were up on the top of a very large boulder to our left and looking down on us and the log across the border. We had a vine for communication, strung between Bwana and Jock Stone. By now the whole area was bathed in bright moonlight, so we all settled down for a long night. I was lying on a poncho pointing the Bren at the log. If anybody was to cross here tonight, then there was no way that I was going to miss. If I did then it would be easier to spit on them.
We had all decided to stay awake just in case somebody appeared, unfortunately after only two hours it started to rain. Then what started as drizzle suddenly developed into down pour. Jock and I were wet through in a matter of minute, as the area around us started to flood. Within just a few minutes, the water level started to rise dramatically. Suddenly we heard some sort of roaring noise but had no idea what is was. It got louder and louder and we had to shout at each other just to discuss the situation. To me it sounded just like a landslide. Both Jock and I were starting to get worried as the floodwater steadily rose all around us.
Suddenly all hell was let loose as the trees seemed to lay over at about a forty-five degrees, as a deafening wind started blowing and to cap it all it rained even harder. It was now like a cloud burst and it just went on and on and on. It was raining so hard it was impossible to even talk to Jock, in fact I was getting worried that the torrent of water flowing past us would eventually wash us out in to the ravine. By now Jock was frantically pulling on the vine attached to Bwana’s wrist up on the rock, who I might add were not even wet, having covered themselves with their ponchos. Bwana had to climb down the rock to see the problems we were in, I tried shouting to him that we would drown if we kept lying where we were. Jock and I then pleaded with him to let us get up on the rock with him. Instead, Bwana decided that we would all go back to the hut together. I would rather drown here than be shot by my own men Jock told him. Bwana told us not to worry as he had a plan to let the guys back at the hut know we were returning. Therefore, they all got down off the rock and we got our gear together to return. It was still raining very hard and it would be difficult to find our way back in the darkness that was pitch black.
It was about a fifteen-minute walk in normal conditions, but the way we were going slipping and sliding on wet rocks, while feeling our way along the side of the mountain. It was going to take a lot longer than any of us thought. Slowly we made our way back and it took us nearly one and a half-hours to cover the normal fifteen-minute journey. We finally reached the area where the hut was perched on the cliff edge. The rain had eased up by then, I told Bwana to be careful, or he would be shot by mistake by our friend’s inside. Firstly, it was an unwritten rule of the jungle that you do not move at night amongst your own troops without giving them a prior warning. With the rain banging on the tin roof of the hut, nobody inside would hear us. It being a good bet that their guard would not be outside in the rain. Anyway, they would think that they were under attack and shoot anything that moved. As soon as we were within the area of the trip flares, Ginger, Jock and I got down behind some handy large rocks. Bwana started shouting at the top of his voice, but there was no chance those inside were going to hear him. In desperation and knowing where the trip flares were he threw a rock at one and ignited it, lighting up the whole area.
The Marines inside the hut, dived out of the door, cocking their weapons as they landed behind some rocks, two had already started shooting. Incredibly, someone recognised Bwana and they stopped firing. Not one round had hit him as he stood there in full view waving his arms and shouting, "It’s me Bwana". Yes, by now, he had accepted his nick name. Once the firing had ceased, slowly we all rose up to show our selves. After we realised that they had recognised us, we made our way into the hut. Everybody was soaking wet, cold and shivering. The only thing we had in the hut that was dry, were a few old parachutes, which had drop supplies on an earlier occasion. We all stripped off and rolled up together in the parachutes hoping to warm each other up. The last thing I remembered that night was Ginger telling me, that he thought Bwana was just plain bloody crazy. Adding that he wondered where the hell they were picking up this latest crop of Corporals, he even wondered if Bwana and Reg were related in some way.
During the next day, Ginger and I had a wander around the village to see if we could find some fresh fruit to supplement our bland service ration packs. While walking around our attention was attracted to a young Iban boy with a blow pipe. There had been a few stories circulating amongst the Marines, that Indonesia troops had been using blow pipes and had been moved up to the border area with Sarawak. It had also been said that, the Indonesians were also using women troops as well, unheard of in the sixties, but nobody had seen proof of this one either.
I walked over to the young man and asked him a few questions. The pipe was six feet long with a small hole burned right through the centre, but it was not straight, it had a slight bow in it. I asked if the young Iban would demonstrate how he used it, the man stood up and took a small sliver of bamboo from a pouch around his waist, then from another pouch he took out a small amount of clay. I noticed that the bamboo sliver had a dark substance on its tip, guessing that it was poison, but I really had no idea. The Iban then rolled up a small ball of clay attaching it to the other end of the bamboo sliver, he then place the sliver, point first into the pipe. He lifted up the pipe to his mouth and pointed the other end at a target. Instead of holding the pipe with both hands spread evenly along the pipe to balance it. He held both hands together right near his mouth. To counter the weight of the pipe his back was gently arched backwards, while slowly he took aim. Then suddenly he made a snorting noise and to our amazement, thirty feet away we watched a large butterfly in full flight, fall to the ground. "Some shot" Ginger said, "Yes and I would not want to be on the receiving end of that one", I replied. The young man seemed happy at the shot. Ginger gave the Iban a packet of cigarettes with only five left in it. The Ibans face lit up with a broad smile and he nodded a gesture of thanks to him. Ginger was breaking rule number one about smoking English cigarettes not being able to find any local tobacco, which usually consisted of old leaves.
One morning just as day was breaking, we were all awoken, as one of the trip flares was ignited and lit up the area around the track leading from the village past our hut. As we all piled out of the hut cocking our weapons and expecting incoming shots. To our amazement a young woman was hopping about on the track near where the flare had gone off, it must be to our credit that we never shot her. Meaning that we had been trained well and had good battle sense, to identify our target before shooting at it. What had happened was that the villagers loved eating frogs and the place where they were caught was near the border just past our hut. The best time to catch them was very early in the morning just as the sun was coming up. Without us knowing and while our guard had been left down, she had gone out without telling us. They even knew where the trip wires were and would jump over them, but this girl had hit the wire by accident setting off the flare. Anyway, nobody was hurt during the incident, but it made us more vigilant and we had a word with the Headman about future hunting trips. The frogs were massive things with legs on them like chickens, the meat was white as well and cooked correctly they even tasted like chicken. I also have to add that the woman had what I was later to learn was called Elephantiasis, one of her feet was at least three times larger than the other one. It amazed me how she still managed to walk let alone jump over our trip wire.
Walking over to a very large clearing that over looked the valley below, I saw a small group of boys flying what I thought was a kite. As I got nearer, I discovered that it was indeed a kite. So, I sat on a log and just watched them for about half an hour. As the kite landed in the clearing, I walked over to have a look at it. To my amazement, it was made of a very old newspaper. I started talking to the boy who was flying it, asking the usual questions about how he had made it. I then picked up the kite and started to glance at some of the articles, it was an old English newspaper, probably left behind by some of the earlier serviceman. There right in the middle was a picture of Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street a British TV soap queen. I asked the boy where he had found the newspaper, he told me his brother had received it from the Marines before us. I must admit that it made me think of home, it being the first reminder I’d had from England for a long time. Up until then, I had not received any letters from home. It would not do to think about home too much, in these conditions it could cost you dearly, you had to keep your mind on the job and your hands on your guns. You had to eat, sleep and live the jungle, if you wanted to survive.
A couple of weeks later while I was feeling lonely and bored, and with a little help from Ginger (assisting me with my use of the English language) I wrote to Elsie Tanner, whose real name was Pat Phoenix care of Coronation Street Manchester and told her what we had found. Several weeks later I received a great letter and signed photos from her, unfortunately I never did meet her. Sadly, Pat has since passed on to that great big soapy in the sky, but I still have the photos she sent me.
Kandai was a great place and of all the Kampongs that I have visited this was the place that I would have loved to have stayed at and to this day I would love to go back and visit it, but I think I would be very disappointed. Probably by now all the grass huts will have satellite dishes fixed to the roof and Japanese cars parked alongside the house.
After about ten days we had to return to Lundu, another section was coming up relieve us. Therefore, the friends we had made would now be lost and the new section would have to start up their own. The jungle is a constant learning exercise, the villages at Kandai had taught me to live off the jungle. The number one rule being you do not eat anything red, it’s probably poisonous and anyway doesn’t red stand for danger. Another thing I have neglected to say up to now is that many villagers did not wear clothes. In fact, I do not think that some of them had ever seen a white person, until just a few months earlier when the Marines first arrived. Some of the women wore a sarong around their waist, but nothing else. During a visit by a high-ranking officer several weeks later, he became very embarrassed and ordered a load of brassieres to be dropped by parachute and distributed amongst the village women to cover them up. I must say it was the most ridiculous sight I ever saw, nobody got a size that fitted them anyway. I think it was the start of us ruining the country, setting them up onto the road to western ruination. Unfortunately, I also contributed to this by getting a young girl to wash my clothes in the river, for which I would give her the handsome price of one cigarette. If another Marine became jealous over that same girl, he would give her two cigarettes and so it went on. When we left Sarawak, I think it was up to twenty cigarettes a shirt, such a pity it was a wonderful country before we arrived. Unfortunately, it is the price we pay to bring third world countries into our so called twentieth century as we call it. In addition, it is always our military presence that starts the inflation cycle off on its never ending spiral. I’ve often wonder if the powers that be, have thought that maybe these people did not want to be dragged kicking and screaming in to the twentieth century.
Although looking at it from another angle our military presence was to assist these people by giving them some form of protection. Like somebody once wrote before me, the only countries that are under a military threat of invasion are the weak ones, the ones that have no military defence. After all, you never hear of the UK being threatened with invasion.
‘Kampong Biawak’.
With the completion of a week's rest at Lundu my section was once again on the move, this time it was a full day’s march up to Kampong Biawak. Earlier Marines had named it 'Fort Laramie', again the name had been borrowed from an old American cowboy movie.
'Fort Laramie' was only reachable through some very thick jungle, so a track had been cut earlier. Therefore, it was now open to ambush and booby traps, so great caution was needed during the march. My section consisted of Corporal Reg Pearce, Ginger, Dal, Don, Big Mac, Geordie, two new Marines and myself. Unfortunately, it also included the Company Sergeant Major who would be staying with us for a couple of days. Wanting to see how we were coping with the loneliness of fort life. The section had also been given the use of one of the new war dogs and his handler Marine McGinty.
One of 40 Commando Royal Marine newly formed dog-handling team, Marine McGinty turned up at Pang Te Bang one morning with his new dog Sheba. Mac had been a regular member of A Company before volunteering months earlier for the vacant position of dog handler. Having been accepted he had been away for several weeks on a dog-handling course back at the dog school that adjoined Burma Camp in Malaya. There are three types of war dog, usually Alsatians (German Shepherds).
The Guard Dog, just simply that. There only function is to guard, with its handler or sometimes they are let loose in a secure compound.
The Ambush Dog, these dogs are trained to sniff out an ambush position. They would walk along a track and if a scent were picked up, they would just sit and point along the track in the direction that they believe an ambush was lying in wait.
The Mine Dog, these dogs could detect a mine or anything metallic buried underground and would just sit and point at the spot on the ground where it suspected the mine was buried.
Sheba had all three of these skills. She would also be very good at picking up the scent of any local inhabitants miles away. We were told stories of the dogs training and why they could do this. The dogs would apparently be on a chain approximately six feet long. Then a local with a bamboo pole would daily beat the dog. Result was that the dog would hate any brown fellow who carried that type of a scent and I must admit that it worked. These dogs would pick up a scent long before the local person came in view.
The march to Biawak was almost uneventful, it was just a long hard slog and we arrived at 'Fort Laramie' late in the afternoon around 6 pm, just before dark. To be greeted by the section we were relieving, with a large mug of tea, which was truly welcome. Not much time left to look around, so a good night’s sleep was had by all and luckily for us no guard duties.
In the morning as daylight was breaking the outgoing Corporal showed the incoming Corporal around the camp. The usual positions of the tracks and where they lead to, mines booby traps and the fortified positions. After breakfast, we said farewell to the outgoing Marines, as they left on their long march back to Lundu, and we settled into our usual routine around the camp. The Company Sergeant Major wanted us to strengthen up the fortifications, so a lot of hard work was going to be needed. I recon he was only trying to show us his authority. Digging a few more slit and trap trenches, plus a new much deeper toilet which was positioned further away from the main living quarters. By the end of the day most of the heavy work had been completed, but in doing so we were all shattered to exhaustion, especially after the long march of the day before. Guard rosters were worked out with only one guard on at any one time, in two hours stints, the Bren gun which was set up by the main gate being with whoever was on guard.
The next morning Corporal Pearce and the Sergeant Major took Ginger and me for a small look around patrol, just within the close vicinity of the fort. First place we visited was the Kampong, a flag showing exercise. As we walked into the village, we were greeted by the Headman who took us to his own hut. Where he offered us the usual drinks of Toddy and Rice Wine, but we knew by now just how much to drink and not to make a fool of ourselves. Somehow, Ginger can just pour the stuff down his throat without too much effect. After about an hour of broken English conversation and drinking, the Sergeant Major wanted to move us on.
Ginger and I could see that this guy was going to be a bit of a pain. As Ginger got up he started to stagger about on the bamboo-slatted floor. Standing on a weak area he went straight through the floor and fell about six feet onto the ground, landing amongst a heard of pigs sniffing about in a heap of dung underneath the hut.
I got down from the outside of the hut and went to help Ginger, but when I got to him, seeing he was all right, I took one sniff and backed away. He did not need too much encouragement or persuasion to return to the camp to take a wash. The fort was only about one thousand yards away, Ginger told us that he could have crawled back if need be.
When we got back to the fort the Marines were entertaining a few local girls, as they seemed to be choosing who was going to wash their gear. As Ginger stumbled in amongst them, all the girls rushed over to see him, that Ginger hair magic was working once again. These people had never seen Red Hair before and they looked on him as some kind of God. Everywhere we went he always had the pick of the girls.
Ginger made his way to a small stream just outside the wire compound with three bare breasted girls following him. In the river he stripped off and two of the girls then washed him down while the third washed his clothes. Believing that Gingers luck had once again struck, I thought it was time to see if any of it would rub off onto me. I joining him in the stream and striped off, plunging into the water. I have two eyes tattooed on the cheeks of my backside, something I had done as a joke one night while I was drunk in Singapore. When the girls saw the eye's, they ran off in the direction of the village, screaming and shouting. Ginger became upset that I had just driven the girls away. Five minutes later, the whole village came down to the stream for a look at my eyes. Suddenly in the villagers eyes I had also become a God alongside of Ginger, they had seen nothing like it before. Just like Ginger, I now had the pick of the girls. Although I have to admit that most of them were only around sixteen years of age but looked a lot younger. Two of the girls had no clothes, so we gave them some parachute silk from the hut, so they could make a Sarong to wear.
Once again, we had started the inflation spiral here at Biawak. Wherever we were in the camp these girls followed both Ginger and myself around. Even trying to carry our gear when we were to go on patrol, but the Sergeant Major was having none of that. However, they would always wash our clothes in the river, although we would put them straight back on again ringing wet. There was no way that you wanted to be caught off guard with your trousers off, by the enemy.
Just before dark all the locals would be turned out of the camp, so that all of the wire entrances could be sealed up for the night, we would also reset most of the booby traps and trip flares. The living quarters had been left open during the day allowing the locals to come in and have a look around. This was not really a good idea, because if any of the locals were friendly with the enemy, they could describe the lay out in fine detail, so camp beds were laid out behind sandbag barricades.
At one fort, the Marines left the camp beds on the floor, but would sleep in parachute hammocks strung in the high roof rafters. Every time they were shot at, all the rounds would be fired into the bottom section of the hut and nobody was ever injured. Most forts had a couple of single shots fired into their compounds at least once or twice a week. These were not really considered as an attack, more like a vandal type action of hit and run tactics, but it made us lose a lot of sleep.
That night we had a couple of shots fired at us, but in the morning, we found no evidence of the attack not even one spent empty ammunition casings. Later Big Mac, Don and I were asked to patrol up the track outside our fort, which led up to the border about half a mile away, just to have a look around. We travelled very light, just weapons, ammunition, and half a bottle of fresh water. This track was the only known border crossing for several miles, so it was constantly being used. Therefore, we had to take our time and be vigilant, although there was also the chance that unbeknown to us the enemy had cut a new track somewhere else. At that time, we did not have the luxury of daily chopper flights patrolling along the border, looking for things like that.
It took us about half an hour to reach the border where we found a crude wooden sign on a post telling us that we were now entering Indonesia, while on the reverse side it claimed that you were now entering Sarawak. Don took up a secure position behind a tree giving us some cover just in case. It did not pay to take too many chances, while we were so close to Indonesia. After about ten minutes we decided to head back to the fort. Suddenly we heard a light aircraft flying low overhead and riffle shots could be heard from the Indonesian side of the border. The plane kept flying around over our fort, so we knew something was wrong, immediately we started running back to the fort as fast as we could.
Back at the fort the Sergeant Major was on the radio talking to the aircraft pilot, on board was Major Pug Davis, who was having a look around the forts within the area he had been allocated to protect. The usual chit-chat took place, until we butted in and told the Sergeant Major to report that shots had been fired from the Indonesia side of the border. Apparently Pug Davis just laughed, until we added that they were firing at him. That plane disappeared in double quick time, it was luckily that nobody on board had been hit.
One of the other Troops actually found an American Armalite riffle, their dog had led him to it. At that time, it was the latest weapon to come out of the USA. It was wrapped in plastic and had been buried in the middle of a human dung heap, the dog handler’s arms had smelt very high on the nose, but it had been worth the effort. Whoever buried it must have believed that the prim and proper pommy would not put his hands in all that muck. Well they were in for a big surprise. This was the first time that we had been informed that this type of weapon was actually in Borneo. Anyway, the riffle was sent back to our Headquarters for testing.
We had heard stories of Armalite riffles being fired at people and the bullets killing its enemy without even hitting them. When the bullet leaves the barrel, as well as twisting it was also supposed to tumble creating a shock wave that damaged the brain. Our weapons experts said that one shot in a thousand would actually do just that. That was in 1963 can you imagine what riffles might be capable of today.
On their way back to the compound, Don, Dal and Geordie went up to the border and low and behold the border sign had already been moved. It was now in a position, fifty yards inside of Sarawak. Somebody was having a laugh, so the enemy is human after all. Before leaving, Don repositioned the sign a further fifty meters inside of Indonesia.
That day we also took a radio message of an arranged airdrop that would take place the following morning around 10 am. The drop would include tinned food for the dog. These dogs did not have a very long life in the jungle and it was even less if they lived on bush tucker. Therefore, a decision had been made to use tinned food with all its vitamins. We just took a chance of its smell, giving our position away to the enemy. We were also to get some cash, so we could barter with the locals for food supplement.
Early next morning we all got ready for the airdrop, then at 10 am bang on time, an RAF Argosy aircraft arrived overhead, with its back doors open for the drop. On his return low level run a single crate came out of the back, the chute opened okay and we watched it all the way down to the ground, as it landed in our compound clearing. The plane then did another run and this time out came a small bag with a large red ribbon attached to it that was flapping in the wind. It came down in the jungle somewhere, having missed the camp. Mac and Sheba went to try to find it, but after an hour they had not been successful, so the Corporal and Ginger joined them, unfortunately they all returned empty handed.
The search had been fruitless, so the Sergeant Major got on the radio, apparently the bag had contained our mail and $350 in cash. The cash was to be part of our wages, so none of us was very happy about the loss. I would have only earned about eight-pound per week and that is around $56.00 to $60.00 (Singapore) per week depending on the exchange rate. Anyway, over the radio it was decided to make a duplicate drop the next morning. We were all relieved when it was also decided that the lost money would not be deducted from our accumulating wage.
At 10 am right on cue the next morning the Argosy aircraft appeared and did one low level run and out came another bag, this time there was no mistake as it slammed into the side of our main hut. Also spinning down with it was another of Gingers National Geographic magazines, one of these days I thought he is going to lose one, but he never did. That magazine must have been one of the most read amongst Marines in those days.
A few rumours spread that the cash had been found and re-hidden, to be collected by a Marine on another occasion, but nothing was ever proven. In addition, it’s not right to point the finger, but there was only one of the searchers who was suspected dare I say who? but we’ll never know.
Amongst the crated supplies that came in by parachute on another occasion, was a new night sight to be assessed by us under battle conditions. What is tested in this war is in common use for the next war. The first one that we had tried out had not been very successful, it being too cumbersome, big and awkward. This new one was a very small compact unit with the infrared lamp and the sight all in one. This unit was fitted on the top of the riffle and was all lined up just like the normal sight, much the same as a telescopic sight. Once fitted to an SLR riffle, it would then be left out all night so that whoever was on guard could have a play with it.
As soon as it got dark there would be a couple of hours before we bedded down, during this time we played a lot of cards and read under a small paraffin lamp. Big Mac was always game for a laugh, just like me. As we were all in one big room there was no privacy and the Sergeant Major was becoming a bit of a pain. Therefore, we tried to drive him out, by playing very childish games. Just to give him something to think about and to maybe report to Headquarters with. We used to play, I spy with really stupid subjects, then we had a 'Yes no interlude', taken from an old English TV competition called 'Take Your Pick', using an aluminium mess can for a gong. I will swear that the Sergeant Major thought we had all flipped our lid a couple of times, God knows what his reports read like.
A village local arrived in our compound one morning with a bamboo pole, about two foot long and a large leaf tied over each end. The pole would have been four inches in diameter. He came into our hut and uncovered one end of the pole. He then tipped the contents on to our table and out tumbled a dozen witchery grubs. Well we all knew about witchery grubs, but up until now we had never seen any. The villager even showed us how to add them to our stew for the evening meal and I must admit that it tasted very good. The local guy also showed us how to cook snake in a type of batter, we fried it and found it tasted just like Rock Eel that you would purchase from any English fish and chip shop, its flesh being quite white.
That night while I was on guard, I spent most of the time playing around trying out the new night sight. It was much like the earlier one with everything looking red, although trees and people etc definitely looked a paler shade of pink compared to the surrounding area. At least there was a difference, so it would definitely help you watch out for the enemy. The more you used it, the easier it became to work out what you were looking at. During my guard duty, I had to go to the toilet. For this function, a large square biscuit tin had been placed away from the hut, but amongst a few trees. On my return, I picked up the gun and continued to scan the wire area, really enjoying what I could see. Yes, the more I used it the easier it did become. It was easier than the last one as you did not need to use your left hand to move the lamp. Suddenly the sight focused onto our urinal tin I had just visited and wrapped around it was a very large snake. I must admit I went cold for a few seconds thinking of what might have been. I decided to leave it alone, to kill it would make a lot of noise. I just warned the next guard and told him to pass the message on. Nobody else saw it and all laughed at me saying that I had fallen asleep and dreamt it. I must admit to this day I wonder if I really did see it. Mind you from then on, every time I went to the urinal in the dark I always used the night sight to check it out first.
In the morning, Corporal Pearce took Ginger, Geordie and I on a patrol. Now although it was not really allowed, Corporal Pearce crossed over the border and headed cautiously into Indonesia. Here we go again I thought, Corporal Calamity was up to his old tricks. The basic idea was just to go and have a look around, to check out the area, or at least that’s what he told us. After about three hours we came across a deserted village of about ten huts all built of attap leaves and branches. The Corporal had told us all to be careful and to watch out for booby traps. We were to have a good look around and report anything unusual. It was very evident that it had been used by military personnel and in the past couple of weeks, most likely twinned with another one maybe within say about ten mile radius.
Using the same sort of system as ourselves, by staying in one village for a week and to then move to another one for a week. The Corporal called us all together and to our surprise ordered us to burn it to the ground. Calamity gave the orders, we just carried them out, isn’t that what most military people say at their trials. Anyway, everything looked tinder dry, so we did what we had been commanded and lit it up. It only took a few seconds to turn into a burning inferno. We then high tailed it out of the area and back along the track that we had arrived on, before the flames and smoke brought unwelcome sightseers. Just before, we crossed back over the border into Sarawak, which was about one thousand feet above the village. We were able to look down at our handy work. It looked like half the jungle was a blaze, the Corporal’s only remarks to us was that we had better be on our toes, as they will probably retaliate after this.
When we arrived back at Biawak, another larger section had arrived, so the camp looked a little crowded with Marines. Immediately the Sergeant Major ran up to the Corporal and asked what had happened. "I have just burnt down an enemy fort sir", he replied. Reg was feeling quite proud of himself. The Sergeant Major went bananas and jumped on the radio back to Lundu Head Quarters. The end result was that our section including Reg was ordered back to Lundu. Somehow, I just knew that what we had done, under orders I might add, would lead to trouble. The incident almost coursed an international crises in England and Singapore, who at that time were about to announce the signing of a Federation agreement between Malay, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo. To be known as the Malayan Federation. The last thing they needed at this stage of the negotiations was an incident that might grow out of all proportion.
The new section that had arrived was made up largely by new recruits, so they were here to learn. That night we had to go out on an ambush, just to show them what it was all about. The Marines we had left in the camp had been shown around and how to defend the fort. So, an hour before dark off we set to find a sight to lay the ambush, our Corporal Calamity was confined to the hut with the Sergeant Major. Ginger, Don, the four new boys and I would be lying out for the night. We chose a pepper plantation that was elevated and ran alongside a track, laying amongst the pepper bushes for a little cover. Making it easy to see and cover the track, looking down is always a lot easy than lying at the same level, while at no time do you set one looking up. Anyway, after all the trouble we took to camouflage our position, nobody came so it was all a waste of time, for us anyway. However, I guess the new guys learnt from the exercise. I had brought with us the new night sight fixed to my SLR riffle. Therefore, I had a little fun playing with it, but I also had to stay awake all night, as I was the only person who would have been able to see any likely suspects who came along the track.
At daybreak, we disbanded our position and moved down the slippery muddy bank of the plantation. I had the riffle on my shoulder and took one step forward and down I went, as I hit the ground the riffle and especially the night sight smashed on a large rock. Tearing it right off my riffle, it was a total right off and had been smashed to pieces. I can remember saying that did not last long.
Back at Biawak I had to tell the Sergeant Major about the night sight, he then radioed Lundu, that guy never did make a decision of his own. We were then told the news that we had to march back to Lundu next day with all our gear including the broken night sight. Our Corporal Reg was the main reason we were returning, he was more or less under house arrest, for his burning escapade.
When I spoke to him, he could not understand what all the fuss was about. At one stage, he even thought he was going back to receive a medal. I really did not know where this guy was coming from.
The trek was to take all day, first we marched to Kampong Mengeris and there we boarded three aluminium assault crafts that had come to meet us from Lundu. That was the easy part of the trip, it being a time when we could sit back and enjoy the break, which is wrong because you should never drop your guard in situations like this. About halfway into the river trip we rounded a bend to hear what we thought were soldiers hacking their way through the jungle. We all grabbed our riffles and cocked them ready for action.
All three boats cut their engines and we just drifted with the current down the river. It would have been about two hundred yards wide at this point and the jungle was very thick and hanging over the riverbanks, there would be no place to beach. As we drifted further down river, the noise became louder and now sounded like somebody was tearing branches off the trees. Then as we rounded another bend we came across a beautiful sight of a large troop of Orang-utan’s, with the big domineering one at the top of a very large tree. Below him was his harem and below them the young juvenile delinquents. I guess there was about fifty in all and most of the younger ones were shaking the branches. Those with cameras spent a few moments taking photos and then we restarted the outboards and carried on down the river.
The Sergeant Major had been looking at Big Mac's red riffle barrel, for a few moments. He then made the point that he had rust on his riffle barrel, now where have I heard that before. Big Mac answered him by saying "No Sir its red partherisation". I could not believe it Mac got away with it for a second time, but this time he had even flannelled over the Sergeant Major. I do not know how he managed to get away with it a second time.
It was a hard job trying to keep our weapons rust free, because of the humid climate. Coupled to that, most of the time we were near water, or it was raining and very damp. The only way was to keep it coated in oil, unfortunately the oil gave off an unusually smell and that was the last thing we wanted. The rest of the trip was uneventful as we arrived at Lundu just before dark for a well-earned rest. However, the Corporal was whisked away, and we never saw or heard another word about him. While my report on the night sight to the powers that be, was well received. Everybody agreed that it had been a great success, only adding that maybe they should make it a little stronger in the future.
We had one lovely week off, and enjoyed ourselves every single minute, but we still had to be involved in the usual guard rosters. It was a good way to keep us match fit and on our toes. Ready for any future patrol, that could be ordered upon us at a minute’s notice, but for now we could relax during the daytime for this week.
At the end of our leisure week, we were called into the commanding officers office for a briefing. We were to relieve a section at Kampong Rassau. Our section was to leave the next day and we were to take two army officers along with us, who were to survey the area bring our maps up to date. These two guys were to give us many laughs, they spoke in very posh English and wore civilian clothes most of the time. They also carried three times as much gear as us and that was only clothes and belongings.
‘Kampong Rassau’.
The section set out at first light, as the trip was a two-day hike. The first part was to be by assault craft that would take us up the river. Taking all day to reach a point somewhere up river just passed Kampong Selampit. We beached the boat at the best spot we could find and then we posted a guard and stretched our legs. We then set up a camp for the night, before having a good feed and settling in for a bit of a sleep. Next day we carried on up the Batang Kayan River to a point where the Rassau River joined the Kayan. From there, we had to leg it to the Rasau fort. After leaving the boats and coxswains, to hang around until the outgoing section at Rassau was relieved and would meet up with them later. After two days, we finally reached Kampong Rasau, arriving in the middle of the afternoon. Most of us were in good condition, but I felt sorry for the two surveying officers, they looked absolutely worn out. I could see we would have to take it easy if ever we took them out mapping.
There was a good name for this fort, it was known as 'Fort Forgotten' and that's how the outgoing section felt, being so far away from any back up. Being so isolated, only a chopper would be able to get in here. Unfortunately, there was no landing strip, just a few trees chopped down making it a tight fit for one chopper to get in. The only other way to get into the camp would be to hover above the trees and abseil down ropes through the trees to the ground.
We lost no time in going round with the outgoing section, checking out living quarters, sand bag emplacements, booby traps, the perimeter wire, gates etc. It was arranged for the outgoing section to leave at first light the next morning, to walk to the boats. The Marine’s left to guard the boats had to hide up for two days, there being only three of them.
In the morning, we all said our goodbyes and watched them leave the compound that was to be our new home for the next couple of weeks. So here we were Big Mac, Dal, Don, Ginger, Geordie, a Sarawak Ranger Scout, Corporal Bwana, a Gurkha and myself, oh and the two Army Officers we were to escort. Twelve of us two days away from anywhere, so we set about the usual tasks making ourselves secure, a few extra sandbags here, or there. A few extra mines or booby traps dig another toilet and of course make up the usual guard roster.
The first few days were a little boring looking around and getting to know the area. Just outside of the fort was a small narrow stream, where we would all wash and shower ourselves. This stream must have washed threw an area of bauxite, because the water just looked like it had gold dust floating in it and we would emerge looking like we were covered in a light film of gold. Once dried, it could be dusted off us, so nobody worried about it. Life was becoming a little boring I could understand the fort name 'Forgotten' because that is just how we felt. No news filtered in, our only contact was by our daily morning and evening radio in, procedures. This was strictly a military routine, so no normal chatter was allowed, because we never knew who was listening in.
Taking the two surveying officers around eased some of the boredom. We would take them out daily to areas they requested. The patrol consisted of a three-man protection unit that had to accompanying them. As I wrote in earlier chapters, we would never be caught with our trousers down, so we slept in our full jungle green clothes, but these two Army Officers slept in silk pyjamas. I could not believe it and in addition, they never did take part in any of the guard rosters. Silk pyjamas, I ask you!!!
One Sunday morning we received a radio message that during the day 40 Commando unit’s Vicar would fly over most of the border forts including ours and would use a radio to deliver us all a Sunday message. However, he never reached our fort and we were told via radio and later by word of mouth about what had happened. Apparently, his Army Auster light aircraft had begun circling one of the forts when suddenly they heard automatic weapons fire, everybody had dived into their sandbag emplacements and slit trenches expecting the worse. The Corporal stayed with the radio to inform the pilot that he was possibly being shot at. The pilot then replied that the aircraft had been hit several times. The Vicar was in a bad way, having taken a couple of rounds in his back and that he had also been hit in the arms. He was trying to fly the aircraft with his knees. The Corporal informed the pilot that the nearest landing strip was back at Kuching airport, about eighty miles away. His reply was that he would not be able to make Kuching and that he would have to land immediately. He would have to crash land into the very small helicopter-landing pad, which was just a hole cut into the jungle, the smallest size possible to take one helicopter. In addition, it was full of tree stumps sticking up about two feet with just a very small flat area right in the middle. Everybody was of the opinion that normally the pilot wouldn't even consider the attempt, so he must have been in a very bad way. There was no time to talk him out of it, without any further warning he suddenly dived into the small clearing with the engine cut, gliding at about fifty miles per hour. He clipped the top of the trees, which slowed him down a little, then dived straight into the small clearing. He was flying so slowly that everybody was worried he would stall and crash in sideways. Mind you they also realised that whatever he did he was still going to crash. The pilot then tried to level out into what small area he had left in front of him. His under carriage caught the tree stumps and he then slammed into the trees on the other side of the clearing. The trees tore off the wings, in addition, the sound of a loud crunch could be heard as the whole plane just disintegrated in front of them, but luckily, there was no fire. Everybody ran over to the plane, while still clutching their weapons at the ready, not knowing where the shooting had come from.
They could not believe the mess that was scattered all around the landing pad. Some of the Marines started pulling at bits and pieces looking for survivors. The Gurkha found the pilot who was not too bad but had been shot in both arms. While the Vicar was still alive, but he was not so good, he had taken two bullets in his back that had come up through the back of his seat, so they had virtually gone up through his whole body. The Corporal on the radio was speaking to Lundu, ordering a chopper to air lift the pair to hospital in Kuching as fast as possible. There was blood everywhere, while the bucket seat that the Vicar had sat in had two bullet holes in its back. The Vicar by this time had been laid out on the grass, one Marine had spread his shirt over him and another one under his head for a pillow. He looked as white as a ghost, but I guess that was because he had only just arrived out from the UK and did not have a suntan yet, or maybe it was through the loss of blood.
The Vicar was mumbling about having had a good life and had enjoyed himself and was not worried that his time was over. Everything possible was done to make him comfortable. The pilot was quite jovial and seemed to accept the situation and somehow knew he would be okay.
The chopper arrived in forty minutes and came into the landing pad easing in gently to miss the wreckage strewn around the site. It took only a few moments to load both people onto the chopper and away it flew to Kuching. Everybody was told later that the Vicar had died during the trip back to Kuching. While the pilot survived and went on to make a full recovery and returned to operations after about four months. He was also mentioned in dispatches for his heroic landing.
Late one afternoon, we heard the sound of aircraft approaching so we were looking skywards to see what it was. By the sound of the engines, it was flying high. We all agreed that it was a Russian Bear Bomber. The Russians had always supplied the Indonesians with all their air cover, anyway we radioed Lundu to report it. They were probably having a look or photographing where the incident had taken place in the morning. We had all heard reports that the Indonesians air force was so short of money that President Sukarno had ordered that only one aircraft was allowed in the air at any one time. I guess we had just seen its one and only flying plane during that hour and it was a Bear. We worked out that it had flown right along the entire border passing over most of our forts, because everybody had radioed in with the same information.
Radio messages from Lundu ordered us to lay ambushes around the Rassau area. So, we split the section into two, one half would lay an ambush at night, while the other half would guard the camp, the sections would then be alternated on a daily basis.
I set out with my half section at midday, we cut our own track through the jungle parallel with the border. With the idea of looking for any new tracks that might have been opened up by the enemy as they crossed over the border. So that they could infiltrate their troops into Sarawak safely and then hit at local or military targets.
We were cutting our way through the jungle for about three and half-hours, when we finally found a new track crossing the border. So, without disturbing any foliage along the track we had found, we retreated back fifty meters and made our plans for that night’s ambush.
About one hour before dark, we moved back to where we had found the border crossing and took up our ambush position. By approaching the track from the side and settling down without leaving a trace of our presence on the enemy cut track, we had a better chance of not giving our own position away. We had estimated that we were possibly half a mile inside Sarawak. Once in position we all tied vines to some part of our bodies, wrist, legs anywhere, covered our heads with mossie nets or sweat rags and settled down for a long night. Although we heard constant noises all night and we were all kept on our guard nobody walked in front of us that night. In the morning, we made our way back to the fort to make a full report on the night’s activities.
Another night we went out to set an ambush, we headed up towards the border along the track that passed close by our fort. Not wanting a long walk, we decided on a small clearing just before the border, the track ran along by the jungle in which we would lay. The clearing being on the other side of the track, we placed trip flares in the short grass of the clearing, working on the idea that the enemy would run that way, we also set some hand operated flares and mines. We had taken our ponchos to lie on and were expecting rain, we had also brought some extra ones to cover us with. Just as we thought, a couple of hours into darkness it started to rain, not much but enough to get you wet, but luckily it only lasted an hour. There was still no sign of movement along the track, so no village people were breaking the curfew as we had suspected. About 2 am, I had lightly dozed off for a few moments, when somebody using a raised voice suddenly awakened me. He was cursing and hitting his poncho on the ground. It took me a few dazed moments to work out what was going on, somebody else was giggling and other Marines were muttering. Dal had laid his poncho on an ant’s nest and they had swarmed all over him almost eating him alive, or should I say stinging him, very badly. Although we do not usually move in situations like this, we had to let him move he was scratching himself crazy. We were lucky nobody was in the area that night, otherwise the noise would have given our position away and we could have been attacked. An hour after first light we packed up our flares etc and moved back to the fort, that night we were all very lucky. While the next night, which was our turn in the fort, a couple of shots were fired into the fort from outside the compound. Luckily nobody was injured, and we never hit anybody when we returned the fire into their direction. Things were starting to hot up, so we had to be very vigilant and not take anything for granted.
We also had another false alarm at night using the new and third trialled night scope, I cannot remember who it was on guard using the sight, but they thought they could see somebody crawling around out front of them and opened fire. In the morning we found a dead wild pig, so at least it was pork on the menu for the rest of the week. Another night we went without sleep. Have you ever seen a zombie, well neither have I, but I do know how they feel?
We learnt a lot from the jungle, it could be your friend rather than an enemy. Just the noise could be of help to you, especially while you were on patrols. Usually the jungle was a very noisy place, but upon the sounds of people moving around, the jungle would suddenly become very quiet. While at other times animals being surprised, would dash through the under growth screaming in animal language.
The climate was very damp and humid, so our weapons would become rusty very quickly if not cleaned and oiled. As big Mac had learnt from day one. We usually only stripped down one weapon at a time just in case you were attacked. Same as when you strip washed or went for a swim we always had one men fully armed at all times who would stand guard over you. I do not know how long we were at Rassau, but after what seemed like a couple of weeks we were given a well-earned rest. We were picked up by choppers and taken back to Lundu, but not before we had showed the new incoming section all the usual do's and don’ts of the place.
Back at Lundu, we had some reinforcements in the form of three new recruits who were here for experience. One of them was a young Scouse who was very easy for practical jokes, of which we took full advantage. The jokes got increasingly bigger and bigger and one morning as a chopper arrived with some stores that included another night sight, would you believe we had broken another one. Boy, they certainly were not built to last or take a few knocks. Anyway, Scouse was told to go and climb up the side of the chopper and ask the Pilot if he had brought the ice powder and did as we had asked. The pilot must have read the situation and told him that he would bring it on the next trip.
During further store trips by the chopper, Scouse was told to ask for Atomic Cigarette lighters, so we did not have to keep refuelling our old ones. On another trip, it was atomic fridges, so we could keep our milk cool. Funny thing was we never even had any milk. We also told him that at one of the Kampong there was a supermarket. However, he caught me out one day, when he overheard that I was going out on patrol and was going by this particular Kampong. Anyway, he asked if I would pop in and get him some fags. On my return I told him they were shut it being early closing that afternoon.
One night Big Mac was on guard with Scouse and after arranging with us first, he staged a mock attack just for Scouse’s benefit. After being on guard for a short time, Mac ignited one of the trip flares. He then pretended to be scared, as we all did having been made to stand to. I must admit fair dues to Scouse he handled the situation well. I would go as far as to say, he really did think we were all scared and that he was actually protecting us. I would say that if we had been under a real attack that night, Scouse would have won a medal for his heroics. At one time, he climbed up on the sandbags and opened fire with the Bren gun at the waist firing into the jungle. While Big Mac cowered in a corner pretending to cry and pleading with Scouse not to let the enemy get to him. Scouse was heard to have told Mac that he was safe with him and that he would look after him. It went so far, that we all told him that we would recommend him for a medal.
One night I was on guard with him looking at all the fire flies in the night, I convinced him that it was somebody with a cigarette running around. The guy was so gullible and easy to con, or maybe we were the ones being conned by his supposed stupidity, I really don’t know.
On another occasion whilst Scouse was on guard and thinking that we were about to be attacked, he crept around awaking everybody and telling them to stand to. After about two fruitless hours, Scouse crept round once again to tell everyone that they could stand down and go back to sleep. Upon reaching sadistic Big Mac’s sandbag emplacement he found him asleep, so Scouse woke him up just to tell him he could go back to sleep. On being woken up Big Mac went mad and jumped up, Scouse upped and ran off, no creeping around at this precise moment for him, to hell if anybody saw him better to be shot than caught by Big Mac. Leaving Mac screaming at him in the silence of the night, informing him that if he got his hands on him he would kill him.
Some of the joking got a little out of hand with Scouse, when we convinced him we were running a drug ring. Then using the malaria tablets that we all had to take. We would crush one and show him the dust in the palm of our hand, trying to convince him it was drugs. Big Mac would put on some sort of act that he was craving for a shot, by rolling around on the ground. Somebody would then give him the dust to swallow and slowly he would start to calm down.
In the end, it was decided to tell him the truth, but Scouse would not believe it. Big Mac finally ended up losing his temper and hitting him. Unfortunately, it was a sad ending to a good laugh, which we had all enjoyed over a few of weeks.
On some of the lonelier nights, I along with Gingers help started writing to hospitals and factories back in the UK, to their female staff. I was trying to get the girls to write to us lonely Royal Marines serving and fighting in the jungles of Borneo. On one of the mail drops, I received a very big surprise. To my amazement, three signed photos and letter arrived from Pat Phoenix, I still have these today. I also received three signed photos from Kim Novak, the American film star. I had written to her about six weeks before whilst I was at Lundu and I still have these three photos to this day.
‘Kampong Pasir Llir’.
We had only been back at Lundu a few days and already we were being ordered right back into the thick of it. We pushed off from Lundu jetty in our assault craft all loaded up for a few days patrol, it was to be just an observation trek. A recce trip, to report on what we found while trying not to get involved in any skirmish, to see and not be seen. The section was made up with the usual members they being Dal, Don, Geordie, Big Mac, Ginger, Corporal Bwana and myself, accompanied by the local policeman Mogumbo as our guide. We had chosen 8 am as our departing time, so we could take full advantage of the incoming tide, the effects of which could be felt up to ten miles up the river. After a few hours travelling, the riverbanks started to close in on us. Here the river had closed to about fifty meters across, the banks being covered with very thick jungle. Most of the trees were hanging over the river in this area. We were now passing small Kampongs spread along the riverbanks, consisting of long huts and a few out houses. With a dozen or so dugout canoes beached in front of the huts on the bank.
Soon the river was down to about ten feet in width with the trees hanging over from both banks now joined up over the river centre and blotted out the sun. Everywhere looked quite dark, as we rounded a bend in the river and came upon the Kampong we had come to investigate, it being Kampong Selampit.
We beached the boats about three hundred yards down river from the village, not knowing who would be living in the huts and if they were friendly. The noise of the outboards had more than likely announced our arrival. Therefore, we jumped out of the boats and took up defensive positions on the riverbank. Ginger helped pull the boats up the bank and secured them by ropes to overhanging trees. He was to be left to look after them, while the rest of us took up patrol positions and slowly made our way along the bank towards the Kampong. We were well spaced and keeping our eyes open for hostiles and booby traps. These guys do not use mines, they used the jungle and large animal traps made of bamboo that are spring loaded. The end result is not very pretty, usually ending up with somebody being speared through the stomach. As we started to enter the Kampong, we got Mogumbo to go in with the lead man, as he knew the language. There were plenty of women and children around but not too many young men. In addition, nobody had come to investigate noise of our boats. We all took up defensive positions leaving Bwana and Mogumbo to do all the talking. Then the kids started to gather around the Marines, shouting and touching, I do not think many of them had ever seen white people before. We were just looking around, just seeing if anything was wrong or out of the ordinary. Just like the lack of young men, maybe the enemy had recruited them. Bwana and Mogumbo made their way over to the headman’s hut from where he had just appeared. We were to show the villages that the local police forces were still in control of the area. In addition, Mogumbo was a very good interpreter, the Headman held out his hand and Bwana shook it firmly, as did Mogumbo. His name was Jia and he spoke very good English, then pointing up some steps into a hut, he invited them in.
The hut was on six-foot stilts and was made of bamboo and housed about forty families. It was about sixty-foot long and cubicled off. Inside Jia's room, the walls were decorated with pictures of the Queen and of the Royal family and a couple of long Parang Swords. From the roof over the door hung about a dozen shrunken heads, Japanese Jia told them, but you did not know whether to believe him or not, it being the usual story. They all ended up sitting on the floor and the usual toddy drink was brought out, the Headman’s daughters passing it around. Bwana did not want any, knowing just how powerful it could be and anyway he wanted to keep a clear head. Mogumbo drank his full mug right down in one gulp. These guys were used to it and could knock the stuff down all day and still walk a tight rope home.
They spent about twenty minutes asking questions and according to Jia there had been no strangers around the village and that his young men were off hunting. Whether you could believe him or not, nobody really knew. The picture of the Queen meant nothing. It could easily be changed to one of Sukarno if the enemy was to enter the village, but you could not blame these people really. They only wanted to be left alone, to just get on with their simple way of living.
Bwana strolled around the Kampong, giving us all orders. Nothing had been found, so it was decided to stay here the night in an old empty hut on the Kampong's outskirts just inside the jungle. Nevertheless, we would have to mount a guard all night to play safe. The night was uneventful and so we had no problems. We did not tell the Headman when or where we were going. We wanted to implant the idea that we would be coming and going at any time and they would have to get used to it.
As the night was very uneventful, we decided to just slip away in our boats at first light, which is what we did. Starting the engines as first light appeared over the trees, we all boarded and headed down river. Because the trees joined up over the river, it still seemed quite dark and with the early morning mists, it looked a little spooky. After about an hour and a half, the river widened, and the sunrays broke through the trees, lighting up the river, which was a muddy colour. We came to a fork in the river, here we doubled back up the other contributor to check out another Kampong. Now we were going up stream once again, so our progress slowed a little. After about another hour we calculated that around the next bend would be Kampong Pasir Llir, so we beached the boats and took up defensive positions while Ginger tied them up. We then took up a patrol formation and slowly worked our way through the jungle in the direction of the village, we soon found a track heading in our direction, so slowly we made our way along it.
We had to be very vigilant, just because the last village was friendly, it was not to say this one was. We stopped at the edge of the Kampong clearing to have a look around, before moving in. People were walking and running around, so we decided to rush in and take up positions throughout the village, so nobody had time to hide things or pass messages to a would be enemy. As we did, Mogumbo made a bee line for the steps of the Headman’s hut. Who did not even know we were in his village, he was a frail old man with very white hair and looked quite scared, furthermore he spoke no English. Therefore, Mogumbo did all the talking, we all noticed that once again the young men were missing from the village. Mogumbo got the usual answers from the headman, all out hunting so we were all very cautious while we looked around the village for any tell-tale signs. One of the Marines was out the back of the Kampong and found another clearing. He also found a tattered shirt with blood on it, plus a spent 303 cartridge case and some tailor made cigarette butts, which could have been Indonesian. We had a very funny feeling about this village, we just did not feel at ease, so at all times two of us kept up a guard. As we had slipped away early in the morning from the other village, we decided to have some food and take a couple of hours rest. We also decided to stay the night picking a hut in the middle of the village this time. There were other huts clustered around it, so if a fire fight was to break out they might think twice about shooting amongst their own people. We were thinking more about the young ones returning. That idea seems a little stupid now upon reflection all these years later. Things like that did not worry these people, they did not seem to worry who they killed even if it was their own families just as long as they got rid of the Dirty British as they called us.
In the morning we slowly took a look around, but there no sign of anybody, just the locals. The Headman knew nothing but still looked very scarred, that we had found a few empty ammunition shells and so once again with no food in our bellies we got back to our boats and then headed back to the relative safety of Lundu to report what had happened.
We arrived back at Lundu by late afternoon bubbling with excitement to tell of our suspected contact but were caught off guard by some even bigger news. Our term in Sarawak was over, we were to return to Burma Camp for some well-earned R & R. Hopefully we would be entitled to plenty of rest and recreation around the streets of Singapore. A time to talk over our failures and problems would hopefully come a little later. There would be plenty of time to rectify most of our mistakes.
Within the week 42 Commando would be replacing us. Therefore, everybody was very excited at the prospect, that in just a couple of days’ time we would be flying out, unfortunately nobody wanted to go on patrols at this late stage of our deployment. It would be so cruel to go through all this only to be killed in the last couple of days while on a patrol. We had been there an unbelievable six months. For me I had enjoyed most of it and the time had just flown by, but most Marines could not wait to get out. They hated it, for me well I had been trained for it, I volunteered for it, I got it and I was very happy to have come through my first active service tour totally unscathed.
We were flown out of Lundu by chopper to the ever waiting Commando Carrier sitting just off the coast and within two days we were back in Singapore. Then after just a short drive north and we once more in our old home of Burma Camp, the home of 40 Commando Royal Marine’s and to my amazement it was the middle of July 1963. (From Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

‘The Reason the Royal Marines were In Borneo’.
On the 8th December 1962 four thousand men belonging to the North Kalimantan National Army (TNKU) serving in Brunei rose in rebellion against the proposed inclusion of the small state into the British sponsored Federation of Malaysia. Many hostages were taken leaving the Sultan feeling threatened, but swift action by men of the first Battalion, Second Gurkhas dispatched from Singapore saved the day. Arriving in small parties by air, HQ Company and two platoons of D Company took the initiative immediately, shooting their way towards Seria through patches of dense jungle to relieve a number of embattled police posts. They then retired to secure Brunei Town and by the end of the month the revolt looked finished.
This proved to be just a beginning, however the idea of a federation comprising of Malaya, Singapore and three states under British protection in Borneo being, Sabah (British North Borneo), Sarawak and Brunei. Brunei’s inclusion was bitterly opposed by President Sukarno of Indonesia, who believed that all of Borneo should be under his rule. What he really wanted was the oil that Brunei had discovered and had become very rich from its revenue. Taking full advantage of local dissidents, he sent forces into Indonesian controlled Kalimantan. Intent on mounting guerrilla style raids all along the sixteen-kilometre border, which would wear down the British resolve and so prepare the way for an Indonesian take over. Setting up bases inside Kalimantan, often no more than a kilometre from the border. Sukarno’s soldiers were ideally placed to exert maximum pressure, through rugged and seemingly impassable terrain.
Within Sabah and Sarawak, the only means of travel was by jungle track and its rivers. While on the border itself the mountains rose rapidly to nine hundred metres culminating in peaks of about two thousand four hundred metres. It was tough, uncompromising country that would test the stamina of any soldier who was sent there. The crisis was to last four years, with Sukarno’s men continued to enjoy the initiatives, choosing the time and the place for their incursions. It was not until political clearance had been given in late 1963 that the British forces were allowed to make cross-border pre-emptive strikes. At first, these were restricted to penetrations of no more than two thousand seven hundred metres, but as Sukarno escalated the conflict, this was gradually extended.
H.M.S. Bulwark the Commando Carrier was steaming at full speed from Mombassa in Africa, towards the expected flare up in Borneo. It’s cargo of Helicopters and landing craft would be needed. While 42 Commando was flown to Brunei from Singapore.
Limbang was a village on a large river and within its police station three hundred and fifty rebels were holding some British hostages. On the 12 December 1962 L Company in landing craft boats sailed up to the river towards Limbang to rescue the hostages. As they stormed ashore against very heavy fire, things had not worked out for them, bad luck had also played a part. Five Marines were killed and six wounded including a Navel Petty Officer. However, he Royal Marines soon brought the situation under control and all the hostages were released unharmed, a successful operation.

40 Commando Royal Marines served,
December 1962 - 5th Division of Sarawak.
December 1962 - January 1963 - 1st Division Sarawak.
March 1963 to July 1963 - 1st Division Sarawak.
October 1963 to February 1964 - 1st Division Sarawak.
July 1964 to December 1964 - Sabah North Borneo.
July 1965 to November 1965 - 1st Division Sarawak.
May 1966 to September 1966 - 2nd Division Sarawak.

42 Commando Royal Marines served,
December 1962 – April 1963 - 5th Division of Sarawak.
July 1963 – Oct 1963 - 1st Division of Sarawak.
February 1964 – June 1964 - 1st Division of Sarawak.
December 1964 – May 1965 - Sabah North Borneo.
December 1965 – May 1966 - 1st Division of Sarawak. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

1963. Friday 12th April 1963. A party of Indonesia men attacked the police station near Tebedu in the first division of Sarawak.

1963. Tuesday 23rd April. Acting Lance Corporal Douglas John Radford RM 19037, while on active service with 40 Commando deployed in Sarawak was awarded the Military Medal.

1963. April. ‘Burma Camp’. ‘To Know The Road Ahead, Ask Those Coming Back’ by Edward ‘Andy’ Anderson 2 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
I arrived at the camp during the  very early hours of the morning while it was still dark. As the truck drove through villages and roadside wooden structures I could smell the rotten vegetable aroma of the Far East.
By the time we arrived in Burma Camp the sun had risen and began to produce a welcome heat. The plan had been to spend three weeks acclimatization which I was sure began by carrying bedding up those long steps to the huts that rimmed the camp. We all began to sweat as never before returning to the stores and trooping like ants to our given quarters. The huts and the camp were all but empty of souls; we were told the reason was they were, over the other side. Over the other side was a euphemism for Borneo where as in Aden we went upcountry, one of those strange traditions we accepted readily. Two PTIs took us for acclimatisation that had been dramatically reduced to two weeks within the hours since our arrived. There was six if us raring to go. We began with press-ups all of us dropping after a mid-thirty effort with the exception of a tall obviously fit marine. The PTIs pointed to him and said we should follow his example. We then did pull-ups on a bar grasping for breath after doing our utmost. The tall marine was still fresh and embarrassed us with another fifteen effortless pull-ups. We once again told to follow his example. Various exercises proceeded to make the tall guy fitter and the rest of us feel like we were melting in the heat and our bodies tiring. Thank fully it was lunch time and we welcomed the respite and cool drinks.

On return acclimatisation had been reduced to one week which we were glad to hear. We were lined up for a two mile run (I think) with the dust hot under our feet. The PTIs announced we had to keep up with super marine. The run began with the tall marine sprinting away out in front and the rest of us plodding along. Within one hundred yards I saw the tall superman sway and drop like a stone. As we rush by him we pointed and shouted, “Follow him.” Here was first and one of the most important lessons to conserve energy like the old soldier. On completion of the run the PTIs took pity on us and sent us to our hothouse huts with squeaky overhead fans.

One guy I took a liking to was from a farm where they grow apples in Gloucestershire, his name as far as I remember was Munroe. He was like western movie star with broad shoulders and swept back blond hair with a wicked sense of careless humour. “Do you have any money?” he asked. “Eighty bucks.” was my reply wondering what he had in mind. “Well, I can borrow another fifty and we can go ashore.” It seemed like a good sound idea. As luck would have it we were given lift in a Land Rover driven by an Elvis fan who thought he was Elvis’s double continually looking in the mirror as he combed his hair.
The flight over the Indian Ocean had been something of a nightmare. A storm had rocked the plane, in a silence that only the imminent thought of death can produce. The passengers looked straight ahead rocking like puppets with their strings attached to their hind end. One of the Air Hostesses began to cry bitterly as the plane dipped towards the white horses of the waves. It was pitch dark and only the lights of the plane illuminated the sea giving an indication of how near we were to the fishes. Now we had this idiot combining his hair at the Rovers highest speed leaving the steering wheel to its own direction. I was glad when we reached a destination and ready for a drink. I cannot unfortunately give the experts the name of the bars as they were much the same with dim lights and clouds of smoke. Amid clinks of glasses and a roar of voices competing with the music that had lost its way, while we sat watching the young matelots spend and spend. While they had money ladies attended them in all directions. Some of the girls whispered in his eager ears, others trying to drag them away and the remainder begging for drinks. When his pockets lightened the circle of girls thinned dramatically like insects that had just found a more attractive food supply.

The night was glorious in the sense of hilarity and tales that flowed from each orator. We smoked and drank as each story became more dramatic and funny till the noise began to dampen down. I looked around the bar and noticed it was nearly empty. I studied my watch in a blur. Midnight had long gone and we had to get back to camp for the morning exercises.” One more and we go Andy boy.” Munroe announced as he groped into his pockets. “Have you any money left.” He asked me as his head dipped towards the table top. “You were the one who was supposed to keep money for the taxi back to Burma Camp. Don’t tell me it’s all gone.” “All gone.” he repeated. I was no better as I search each pocket in the forlorn hope of finding just enough to get back to camp. “See that guy over there.” He pointed in the direction of a well pressed marine uniform. It could only be a clerk so tidily presented with creases set to perfection and a shirt and tie brand new. We made our way across to him and asked if he would take us with him in the taxi back to camp. He looked reluctant but gradually assented. “The only thing is I’m going to the brothel first.” We were in no position to argue. The taxi was a comfortable German make that had a speedometer with a laminated green linear indicator. In the pitch-dark it dove over bridges and spun around twisted roads till we saw a lamp brightly shining over a door way. We got out of the taxi and followed the clerk inside. Along the long corridor were lines of men from all the British forces sent to the Far East. Most of them had too much to drink but pinned themselves to a wall to stay upright. We were the last in the queue and it seemed we were in for a long night. I still hoped we would be back in time to get ready for the morning parade. As I listened to the voices from the soldiers of Britain echoing in the corridor a young short woman appeared from a side room. She walked down the line of prospective customers examining them with a keen eye. Much to my surprise she stopped at me and looked me up and down. I wondered what the attraction was as I’m far from good looking with a pale freckled face and plump body work. She took both of my wrists and pulled me to the room. On the way there the men seemed to come awake and began to grumble.

The room was comfortable with a large bed and lit by a blue bedside lamp. The lady smiled at me and unbuttoned the top of my shirt. I bent down and took my shoes off and flicked then on to a colourful carpet. My trousers were now at half-mast and I was preparing myself for some of the delights of fortification. “You have money, you have money?” She asked politely at first. I looked up at her and said patiently, “no one said anything about money.” I turned by palms upwards as a sign of innocence. “You got no money?” this time with a very angry voice. At this point I pulled my trousers up and held them with my left hand and picked up my shoes with my free hand. She was quick in pulling me out of the door. I stood there with my shoes in my hand holding on to my trousers looking at a baying mob. “You got money for him, you got money for him?” There are something’s that drunken soldiers cannot abide and this was one. They unstuck themselves from the wall and their faces like masks from hell. There was only one thing to do and it had to be done now. I ran like a scared rabbit down the corridor. I could see the clerk and Munroe taking in the view of Chinese men rushing out of an office some with bald heads. “Run.” I shouted at the top of my voice, while I spun passed them and plunged into the dark night. I could feel them clatter behind. The German car was still there and we jumped in like bank robbers. “Burma Camp and be quick about it.” The taxi driver seemed to be an expert at the quick escapes and we left the squabble behind. The clerk smiled at me and said politely and slowly. “A man’s foibles are what makes him loveable.” I took the advice in and replied. “I didn’t get a chance to use mine.”

The morning came and the acclimatisation was cancelled for the last time. I had to get my kit and be prepared to leave Burma Camp by mid-afternoon. Down by the docks was a tramp ship like the one in the story (The Twilight of the Gods). I was off to Sarawak across the South China Sea. As the sun went down a huge pale moon rose and the sea became dark green with luminous creatures in abundance. As I looked spellbound at the distant horizon I remembered some advice given by a kind uncle. And this was rule number two. ‘There are moments when everything goes well; don’t be frightened it won’t last.’

1963. Saturday 18th May. 791 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo

1963.
May. The last National Servicemen left the Armed Forces.

1963. May ‘The Grenade Attack at Biawak’ By Geoff (Tex) Webbon. Signals with A Coy 40 Commando RM.
When A company left the Albion in May 1963 after being the floating brigade reserve, company HQ was established at Lundu. 2 troop went ashore by LCVP into Sematan and established themselves around the telephone exchange on the padang. The troop commander Roger Linn decided that troop HQ would actually live in the exchange, and as the troop signaler I sorted out my operating place and rigged an antenna to be able to talk to Lundu.
After settling in and digging in around the exchange, patrolling was started both by boat and by foot. 2 aluminium assault boats provide the waterborne transportation and patrols went out upriver and along the coast to Tanjong Melano, which was an abandoned Chinese village towards the tip of Sarawak, a trip of about 3 hours by boat.
We were later tasked with providing a standing patrol of a section in Biawak , a kampong about 1 km from the border and with an Indonesian army position called Sedjingan approximately the same distance on their side. We rotated out and back to Sematan about every 10 days.
The section grot was a newish timber hut in the centre of the kampong with a long house 50 m from the hut to the NE and the village shop some 20 m to the south. The headman lived in a large house about 100 m from the grot closer to the border. The helicopter pad was about 150 m to the SE. We had 2 sentry positions, one facing the helo pad and one up the slope at the back of the building.
The grot was on two floors with a large area on the ground floor and up a flight of stairs were two rooms, one of which was locked and the key held by the headman. We all slept in this area upstairs on pussers camp beds with the green box mossie nets. The main problem with this arrangement was that the grot was plagued with rats, with the rats hopping from on net to the other during the night.
On arrival I had rigged an antenna and operated out of the upper section at a home-made desk. One day whilst trying to improve my antenna I had cut my big toe and had bandaged it to keep it clean. That night I awoke to find a rat had chewed through the mossie net and was having a go at my toe. At that point I decided that I did not like rats and that I was going to be revenged.
A41 radios had a fairly large battery with 4 voltage tapping points, the largest being 135v dc which was sufficient to give a belt if mis-handled, and dead batteries were never actually dead, there always being some residual voltage. My plan was to use some batteries to make an electric rat trap.
I took an empty compo tin and made a hole in each side towards the bottom of the tin and fed in a piece of electric cable. I put some nutty in the tin and then connected the cables to 3 A41 batteries in series, giving a voltage of 405 volts dc. I then placed this on a shelf above the operating table. I told Sam Shilitoe, the section commander, what I had done and he just grinned. Nothing happened for a couple of days and life went on pretty much as normal, with half section patrols going out and half a section doing fatigues.
At about 2am some days later there was a flash and a bang, followed by a scream. Some-one shouted “grenade” and in no time flat we were all outside in our defence positions. The sentry was shocked to see us as nothing was happening and after about half an hour we all turned in.
The following morning I called into Lundu as normal on the radio (we couldn’t get Sematan from there), and then noticed that the compo tin had moved. In fact it hadn’t just moved, it was burnt black and inside it was the calcified remains of a rat, and the cause of the turnout the previous night. I lost a few brownie points over that with the section!!! We later imported a snake to keep the rats down.

1963. May ‘Big Time In Bugie Stasse’ by David (shiner) Wright 1 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
Three young Boot-necks recently returned from a stint in Sarawak, decide to hit the big city of Singapore for an all night on the town.
My self, David (Shiner) Wright(from London) Michael (Mick) Mc Donaugh (Stoke on Trent) and John(Mac )Mc Kenna( Burnley Lancs) a very good UK ethnic mix of personalities, well, we all thought so.
“Runs a shore” in Singers were few and far between, mainly due to the cost and there was no point in going unless you were going for a budget busting blast and come back skint but happy.
Bugis street at this time was the same as it had always been, a sort of cross road to the world, everything could happen in Bugis Street, entertainment, you name it, it was probably there, real tasty scran (food) from many street side(in the street) stalls and can I say the eateries?
Backing up the food establishments were many bars and other dens of inequity where if one so desired, you could hook up/meet with females, males, males masquerading as female, performing performers, you name it, it was in and around Bugis Street.
To say the least it was an interesting place to spend an evening. Into the back of a three ton truck (the liberty vehicle) and off to Singers, first port of call, the Britannia Club, beer was cheaper and we could get a head of steam on(warming up the engine) before strolling down to BS.
To be kind, the aroma of Singapore was exotic to say the least, Bugis Street had its own special flavour, black bean, sweet and sour, hot chilli, garlic, barbecue, sauces and plenty more, beans sprouts stir frying in very hot woks, chicken ,pork, duck, squid, fish sauce, your mouth began to water as you approached.
Apart from salivating in anticipation of the culinary delights we would soon be enjoying, there was one aroma that didn't quite add to the gastronomic ambience, Rochor canal .
Boy did that “pen and ink” it ran from the north west to the south east, passing relatively close to the east side of BS, it was an open sewer, backing up when the tide was in, to minimise the effect on your evening spent in BS, check on the state of the tide, after heavy rain was also an advantage, flushing out all the dead stuff, you name it was in there.
2
Bugis Strasse(as we called it) had a reputation for being the centre of the gender bender brigade “lady boys” “kai tais” in female garb done up to the nines, many an inebriated service man had enjoyed an encounter with said “bender”, convinced it was his charm and personality that had one him a leg over, “nah it was a bloke you dip stick” kind words from seasoned comrades only too glad to put him wise after the event and take the piss.
Food lads, let’s get some scran, a favourite was a simple dish called mamee soup, a combination of sliced pork, duck, chicken, prawns(anything the chef could lay his hands on)vegetables , phat choy, spring onion, lots of garlic, all skilfully brought together in a hot wok with chicken stock, great stuff, then the chef dropped in a raw egg beat it until it became like noodles, you seasoned it to suit your self which was usually enough chilli sauce to turn it blood red.
Our first experience of this culinary master piece was in the Chinese saw mill canteen, situated across the main Koto Tingi road opposite Burma Camp, after a boozy session in the Naafi, we would stagger down to the canteen,  you wanna mamee soup bootneck's “ the chinese chef would call out, oh yes please chef.
Next day on parade, standing in the hot sun, you could feel the chilli coming out in your perspiration under your arms and stinging as it trickled down your sides. I remember the inspecting officer passing me and Ray Ives, giving us a wide birth as the stench of chilli and garlic was oozing through our pores and on our breath, and only 50 cents a bowl delicious and devious.
That's enough haute quisene Singapore style, whilst sedately quaffing Tiger beer in The Britannia Club, we decided upon the task for this evening, Bugis street the venue, objective, to drink all night until the sun came up over the Rochor canal, sunrise at that time was 5:45am.
Rules of engagement, no frigging engagement, we would desist from our usual Singapore week end, ie, getting pissed and bagging off( a few beers and enjoying the carnal delights on offer, no, none of the queer stuff, genuine Susie Wong look-a-like fanny a difficult choice but one we intended to keep.
Sitting at a table just off the south east corner off the cross roads approx 23:00hrs we settled in to our allotted task, whatever happened this night we would all meet up on Saturday at the Brit Club by 12:00hrs.
Across the street were two Kai tais, unusually dressed as bloke's but wearing makeup, one in a purple shirt and the other in serese(pink, we tought maybe there signal colours) well, we were getting a head of steam on.
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Sitting with the KT's was a real ugly looking woman, approx 6f tall, quite muscular(there's a clue) sallow, pock marked complexion, despite the the eye shadow, rouged cheeks and lipstick, she still looked like Johno the camp post corporal.
Was it corporal Johnston in drag? He was not the finest example of handsome, bulbous nose, sallow pock marked complexion, even slightly jaundiced in appearance if you ever read this Johno, nothing personal mate, could have been your sister/brother?
Mick was smitten, never could hold his drink, couple of sherbets and he was burbling like a bloody chipmunk, “She's essence, look at the body on that” oh for Christ Mick are you blind as well as pissed, it's a fucking bloke you dip stick.
Mr Mc Donagh was having none of this, he continued in giving the Johno look alike the glad eye, then the bender gender stood up straightened her tight fitting dress with sexy aplomb and sloped off down the street, with a casual glance over “it's” shoulder in Mick's direction.
That was it, Mick jumped up, knocking over his beer and chair, and steamed off after “it” waving a ten buck note,(expensive) gone into the night, me and Mac looked at each other and in unison said “crazy bastard”.
Now passed the bewitching hour, and some of the stalls were closing, we decide the best chance of achieving our objective was to move away from the cross roads and up the northern road where the bars got less share of the business, there for more likely to stay open.
We settled in for the long haul to sun rise, we'd drunk beyond the “burbling stage and were now into “lamp swinging” tales of daring do when along came some Norskies (Norwegian ) merchant seamen, spotting that this bar was still selling grog they came across and joined us.
They hailed from Narvik, the only ice free port in northern Norway and the scene of two battles against the Germans in WW2, they offered to buy us a drink, which we refused explaining that we were down here on a once a month run and short of mazuma and that we were Royal Marines, just back from Borneo but thanks all the same, Jackpot! The beer began to flow.
The subtle use of the “Strangling Cord “(Naval patwa for drink trapping from the gullible) and we were virtually swamped with ale, boy they could knock it back and insisted that it was an honour to be in the company of such an illustrious fighting force, almost felt guilty, not for long, cheers Olaf.
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They asked were with 41 commando, who were the first brigade strength unit to go winter war faring, no, but we know someone who was, Mc Donnagh. Mick told that that he became snow blind and went doollally, running out of the line of march and eating handfuls of snow cackling pieces of eight, we think he was trying to work his ticket, no joy.
Popular rumour has it ,that when 41 arrived at the location the mountain side was covered in little fir trees, when they left there wasn't a tree left standing. Olaf and his pals were pissing theselves laughing, the Tiger kept coming, there for we felt duty bound to continue with “tales from 41s Norse Sagas”.
Bearing in mind that these were mostly passed on by Mc Donnagh, there may be some slight interpretation irregularities, Mick told us that he wasn't that clever at skiing, on one occasion he was gingerly going down-hill when another pair of skis suddenly appeared between his and two arms gripped him firmly round the waist, a voice said” oop's sorry” as the pair rapidly gained momentum, totally out of control heading at a rate of knots for the trees , big ones.
They cannoned onto the forest ended up in a heap, but no broken bones, the uninvited skiing partner was an equally crap skier who had lost his poles The following evening they were told to wax up their skis as there was no likely hood of any overnight fresh snow, wrong! Skis were waxed, it was chaos, particularly if you were a mortar man with a base plate on a man pack, bodies O.O.C everywhere.
Those who thought they could ski went down into the local village, shushing down the piste, finding it difficult to stop with any style and coming a cropper and ending up in a heap, much to the amusement of the local crumpet who were observing “Royals” gallant efforts from the comfort of the local cafe; particularly when some actually hit the cafe.
Arthur(Wankie) Smith, nick name self-explanatory, was in a troop skiorging(being towed by a snow cat on a long rope all members on skis), Arthur, being tale end Charlie and crap at control(in more ways than one) could not handle the whip effect of the rope when going round bends, he ended up off road in snow drifts, head first, the nco ic would yell “ get a grip you wanker” which of course was very much to the point in Arthur case.
The piste de resistance for Arthur was the cross country ski, as usual Arthur was toiling well behind every one, the rest of the troop were having a fag break when they heard this scream and observed a body going over the trees. On investigation they found Arthur at the bottom of the ski jump, visible only by his skis sticking out of a snow mound.
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When Arthur was de snowed and suitably recovered, he was asked what he screaming whilst air borne, I didn't realize I had taken a wrong turn until I was hurtling down the ski jump at a rate knots, didn't even know what it was, I thought I was going over a cliff, almost shit myself with fright and yelled “Mother”.
Arthur was not alone in his lack of skill on the pointy planks of wood. Many an out of control Bootneck was heard to shout “ save me a late supper” to any one in ear shot as they sped past, trying to remember how to stop without breaking something.
Popular rumour had it that the C.O. Had not been observed skiing, until the last day of the exercise, when he suddenly appeared shushing down the piste like a pro, he unfortunately found a hole and broke his leg, they(the lads ) said it made their day.
I think our Viking friends were feeling home sick or they were running short of cash as they bade us good night and good luck, the good luck was on our side they must have bought four pints a piece, insisted they did, would not let us buy a round, that's what you get for being a Bugis Strasse Blagger.
Sun's coming up Mac, one more for the road, felt sorry for the Chinese guy who was serving us, he was kipping on a bench behind us waiting for us to go for a piss, then he would grab the table and chairs and close up. Nothing doing we took in turns to prevent mission drink till sun rise from being scuppered.
We arrived at the appointed rendezvous at 11:50 hrs and awaited the arrival of Mick, in he comes, all smiles Mac and I said in unison, “it was a bloke wasn't it?” he said well sort of, When we got back to her/his flat she/he said do you mind if I turn the light of to undress, I'm shy( oh yeah) Mick said I couldn't care-less, I was as hard as a chocolate frog and as horny as a boar in the sows pen.
We slipped into bed, I put my arms round her/him and discovered a very hairy back, it was then that she/he told me she/he was saving up to get the gender operation to make she/he female, and did I mind, by this time I was passed caring, and said “ whatever, it aint gonna save you” and bashed on regardless, and she/he cooked me a fry up this morning
Me and Mac, in unison again, “good was it?” oh yeah, cracking bit of bacon, and we promised not to tell anyone, well not until now'

1963. July ‘An intended Ambush’. Turn a dream to an adventure. By Edward ‘Andy’ Anderson 2 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
Being not too sure if I should write this story I let time fly by. My health spiralled but gave me time to reconsider as I lay studying a hospital ceiling. You see, it is a part of what happened and others might consider it unimportant. We will never again see our brother Marines as they were back then but Memories last longer than dreams. So all I have to do is close my eyes and sail to another morning.
I thought the places would be impossible to find again but as luck would have it I received information that helped in a telephone director.

‘The Old Gurkha Location
The sky was still light and the heavens had yet to call out the faint evening stars. But the mosquitoes ever alert as usual turn out in thousands and formed their squadrons to begin their annoying evening attacks. The Tilley lamp hissed apologetically at the end of the wooden hut that remains a sound I have never forgotten. The first night I spent here was lying next to the lamp, when a sergeant stood behind me and asked if I were a Scot. I said yes and he replied I, thought so, ‘you bastards sleep with one eye open.’ Coming from an Englishman I considered it a complement.
It was an old Gurkha location near a small village in Sarawak called Pang Te Bang. The location as we called it, stood near a river of variant width and depth that ran around the location forming a simple delta. It was considered an ideal defensive position as the river had its steep embankment adding to an open two hundred yards as an ideal killing ideal ground for a Light Machine Gun. The open area was a tangle of wild grass and roots were exposed clearly at night to a moon lamination brighter that the Tilley Lamp. The location was probably chosen as ideal for a patrol to the Kampong Gumbang situated near the Indonesian border. We often went there hopefully to find some indication of enemy movements and to administer first aid to the local children or whatever was of the latest intelligence.

In Pang Te Bang we were settling in for the night and slipped into our bashers which was a slit trench covered with battered attap leaf and burst sandbags.
We had a black communication wire tied to our wrist to alert each other in the night like of puppets in series. We hoped there would be no panic as lay as comfortable as possible with the company of large rats that were going to be active when we dozed off. The floor of the basher was emerged in water that had seeped from the river or old rain. We lay on a ledge several feet from the watered base and covered in a mosquito net or silky parachute that made you sweat a little.
The dark was so impressive in this eastern compass covering all in its perpetual path and blanketing the bashers in dank darkness. The night was full of noises, including continual screeching and howling of animals and insects, that were unseen under the coverage of the leafy bushes. There was a continuous racket that alerted the senses and sent a shiver down the neck. My SLR was close at hand.

The location had to be picketed by foot for security each night. Those on duty tended to do so in a sleepy pace. Walking a chosen route that passed the lonely hut and then to pick a way down towards the river hidden in its shadowy embankments. A static sentry stayed in the basher and similar to the roving picket had one up the spout in readiness. The rims of trees were like ink blotches on the horizon and contrasted with the skies pale light. A flock of fruit bats flew silently across the moon looking as if they had just left the gates of hell, their wings slowly flapping in a silent rhythm.

A picket watch at night seemed to last for an unnatural length of time as if the clockworks of time were deliberately slowed by fiendish play goblins. There were times when we would have given a million dollars to close our eyes for a minute or two and not regret the loss of money. The morning was eternally welcome lighting up the basher and relieving us from the uncertainness of the dark and brought its optimism of a new day. One morning I had a large rat sitting on the end of feet examining me like a chief calculating the number of meals I would make. It didn’t take me long to move my legs and had them carry me swiftly outside.
There was one second it had entered my mind to shoot it but common sense took over and I missed the opportunity to lose a toe. Dysentery visited most of us and one marine said he set the record of visiting the bogs fourteen times before breakfast.

The bogs were very elementary, we just a hung over a large tree branch to discharge our waste into the river. We were sure as gun going to return several minutes later. It was of course advisable to wash up stream where the water was a cool caramel colour. I remember seeing a large bull leach hanging from one of my friends chin as he swam by. I thought he was going to be sick when I told him of the leach. One thing I had learned was not to follow Hollywood movies and burn the leach with a cigarette, especially one as large as this. I took a bar of soap and rubbed his lower lip and the leach slid down into the water. This was a remedy we learned by accident but there were of course others. We were saved from our youthful amateurishness by the arrival of Sergeant McCarthy a man of experience. I knew him from the shooting team and had nothing but admiration for him. In the morning he examined the bashers and decided they were one step from useless and obviously rat infested. To prove this he fired rounds into the log walls and watched as they split apart. He moved our firing positions to a more friendly area with better drainage and far superior fireproofing. The first step was to fill in the basher trenches and clear a killer firing zone. We had to dress in shit rig which was anything we considered to be comfortable while we cutaway the long grass and very stubborn bushes.
My Machete companion was Juby (Cain), he had another name but that is another story. As we cut towards the river it became difficult when bush routes tangled with the grass. We knew there were snakes around but they didn’t seem interested in us. I hit a large branch and something dropped into my right unlaced baseball boot. I glanced down and was surprised to see two glowing eyes and a pointed nose looking at me. It began to squirm and slide within the boot, it felt slithery and damp. I called Juby over and asked him how you get a snake out of a boot. Juby carried on swing his machete and answered, ‘Take it out.’ Then he carried on his work. It was at least some advice. I did exactly what he said and out popped a little frog.
This event gave Juby a humorous story to tell over the next few days and who could blame him.

Early next morning just as the sun began to raise two Irishmen (one named Wilson) woke me from a very deep welcome sleep. ‘Would you like a good job?’ Before I had time to answer properly he said. ‘Were leaving the unit soon leaving for UK and there will be a vacancy for a lead scout for the company, are you interested?’ Still somewhat asleep I agreed because they promised they would show me the ropes. We left early that morning for a place we called Tringgus ria and then to Tringgus san. (We asked an expert if these were proper place names, but he couldn’t as the military often made them up. Now the trail is a tourist spot). The usual walk time they explained was about nine to eleven hours the journey would take one way. Distance was measured in the number of hours taken to your destination, in my staggeringly simple Malay I would ask’ Berapa jam kampong (wherever). This was where a good water proof watch was a bonus. I lost count of the number of times we crossed a river and the number of muddy hills we climbs. I was not jungle fit which was very different from a running track. Most will remember it fitness being that of strength, agility and endurance in one bundle. When we were near the first kampong the Irish lads left me struggling a bit and it was some time before I caught up. Wilson was cooking rice. ‘Do you know how to cook, we’ll teach you anyhow’. He said as I staggered past completely knackered.

After about six times making the same journey I came to enjoy the tracking and I was no longer a stranger to the Hutan or Ullu. I was told one evening I would be taking a larger patrol next day and this excited me somewhat. I was so excited I found it difficult to sleep. I remember we were told by our CO on arrival to Sarawak that some of us would be like Davy Crocket and we all laughed. Never for a second did I think we could learn such a skill so naturally.
I woke to the busy sounds of cooking and packing and checking weapons. I walked to the front to begin our patrol and was amazed to find a dark-haired scruffy Border Scout. There was an officer who called me aside and explained the border scout would be in charge. Miffed, would be the appropriate word but there but it was an order and that was that. I followed on faithfully looking back to see Sergeant McCarthy and some NCO.

All seemed well until we reached a delta in the river where the scout stopped and pointed to the right. This was where the land rose over ridge upon ridge. It was the way I usually came back as the slops lent themselves to downhill gravity assistance.
In other words this was the easiest way back but the opposite going uphill this way. I told him he was wrong and he was far from amused. He broke in to a furious dialogue of what appeared to be a bit crazy.
The officer appeared and talked for a time with the scout and then tried to impress on me I was wrong. The scout was from the area and was therefore would be right. Thankfully Sergeant McCarthy came strolling along and asked the officer what the difficulty was. He came over to me and we talked for a good ten minutes while I explained the problem. ‘Are you sure Andy?’ He asked. I nodded and gave an assertive yes. McCarthy spoke to the officer and seemed to come to an agreement. I was then placed in front and glad to be back on my job. The scout was in a dark joyless mood his eyes following every move I made. When we stopped for a rest two of the marines came to sit nearby. I’m sure they were Tam and Knoxy who told me. “You’d better watch out Andy he’s fidgeting with his rifle and machete when he looks at you’. I made it known I would shoot the bastard if he intended me harm.

The way was muddy and precarious but all seemed well as we arrived at the Kampong’s. I heard there had been a radio call but I was not privileged to any information. One thing was sure that night I had my beady eye on the scout who hovered around a lot. When it was time to return once again I stepped to the front ignoring the scouts evil glances. This time it seemed much longer to arrive back to our camp and the only incident I remember was one of the lads complaining he had been bitten by a butterfly.
As I neared the lonely hut Sergeant McCarthy touched my shoulder and told me the radio message informed them the border scout had tried to lead us in to an ambush on the way he chose. Two marines hearing this raced towards the border scout rifle ready to use their rifle butts. McCarthy called them back and pointed to a very large Chinese police officer. ‘He’ll get far worse from him’. We all agreed. And that was the end of it.
It seems the border scout who looked quite young was in his late thirties and was an Indonesian trained spy. Whatever the truth we were OK.

P.S. My water proof watch was a Rolex I had purchased from a Marine for £18.00 and included all the paperwork and sold in London three years ago for £600. It was severely damaged but still ticked away. On the Tringgus Trail there is a high remote Bidayah Village close to the Indonesian border, beyond Bua with Limestone hill tracks and ample rivers, where you can travel by Land rover. If I had known I would have taken my fishing rod.

1963. ‘With a Waterproof Cape’ by Edward ‘Andy’ Anderson 2 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
Somewhere in Burma Camp in Southern Malaya during 1963. Thanks to Terry Aspinall for reminding me of the time I spent in 40 Commando and all the great lads of that special unit.
It was at a time when the cadres or candy cakes as we used to call them, were showing their potential. And how miserable that was we found out later, when one of them was placed in charge of a patrol. The point is someone decided we should let one of the lads take a drill parade for our section. This was a good idea as it led to a good laugh as good as any comedy show.
It was also the time of the monsoon when the rain came in torrents never-ending.
I was not looking forward to my turn as I have what was called a soft highland voice or southern Irish tone I was often accused off. The morning came with that inevitability bringing out the comics at their best. And I was the focus of all the jokes, just as others had been before me, although it did not seem the same, not quite as amusing to solitary me. I had been awake a part of the night trying to catch someone who was stealing out bed mats and flip-flops. Pretending to be asleep with my one eye open I lay ready for the thief. He came crawling in on all fours sometime after two. As he approached a bed near the door I leapt. Knox said later, that one second I was lying in bed and the next I was in the air. Unfortunately I was in my bare feet and the ground had grumbled concrete or stone paving and open grass. I lost him running into the night at full galloped. Any way he never came back.
It was now my turn and the theme of my drill parade was Saluting with a Waterproof Cape. I drew in my breath to bark as loud as I possibly could, ‘Saluting with a Waterproof Cape.’ Suddenly the sky turned from murky grey to a Gothic Black. The air stilled before a staccato lightening filled the heavens followed by a thunderous bang. Then to match the previous display of chaos rain fell with all the power gravity could countenance.
The parade was marching towards the huts not hearing a word of command. The next bolt of lightning and clap of thunder caused the parade to shout things like ‘Fuck it’ and they ran to their huts. I didn't hang around and ran after them.
If you ever get the chance in the middle of the storm shout out ‘Saluting with a Water Proof Cape’ and you will see how futile it can be.

1963. ‘Lost! Who Me?’ by Edward ‘Andy’ Anderson 2 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
We were used to each other and relied on each of us doing our job. When there was a change in the resolved arrangements it was like a change in the heart beat.
A trainee (candy cake) candidate for promotion arrived one day. He had that unfortunate look on his face of sickening superiority. He was to take us out of our usual patrol route to look for a Chinese habitat. The usual scuffle of putting on packs, checking weapons and looking around to see you pals were with you was completed. When we were out of the way and on track when the candidate was asked to go to the rear and keep out of the way. I had nothing to do with this but was happy to comply.
It was near the end of a monsoon and the sun came out with a burning heat that we were not used to. We walked cautiously through a rough path of elephant grass and out into a bare field. The heat was now intensive. At the end of the field an elderly native woman was cutting up a large pineapple. With a sharp knife she cut it from the top to bottom while her daughter poured water over it. The work looked cool and delicious. She took pity on us and gave some of her cool pineapple. It was unbelievably enjoyable and made us feel human again. At the end of the longhouse we were given a mix of cool water, certain fruit, routes and long red objects placed in one of our mess tins. 
The candidate leaped forward and grabbed the mess tin and drank its contents down. His face in a trice changed to a reddish hue and began a coughing spree. The red long objects were peppers of a very hot kind apparently. By chance I looked around and saw three of the lads huddled tight, laughing. I had the feeling this incident had been engineered.
.On the track again and I called the Border Scout to have a look at what I found. We bent down to examine a foot mark. The mark made us almost certain we were on the right path. We found the Chinese residence neat and clean in comparison to the locals. The shoe mark indicated to us the Chinese were near as they were often seen wearing them. It was not rocket science and we could have been wrong in our estimation, but luck on this occasion was on our side.
We left the Chinese abode and walked the long way back. As we neared the river again I was approached by the candidate. He asked me to come with him to talk about something. “Admit it you are lost, admit it your lost?” I was very interested in how he had come to this conclusion. “I was watching you and you didn't’ know where you were going.” This and other things he raved at. I called Knox over and told him what had transpired.
.I lifted my right hand and pointed to the roofs that could be seen over the curve of the river. Knox knew as well as I did where we were. “That is the camp and we will be there soon.” We had only about a mile or two to go and I was glad. I never saw this guy again and never want to. To be fair-minded there is good and bad in any group of people. But my thoughts may have been biased as I was in every way one of the section. 

1963. August. 784 Kings squad passed for duty at Lympstone.

1963. September. 791 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1963. Sunday 15th September. Winston Churchill's son-in-law Mr Duncan Sandys, the Commonwealth Secretary arrived at Semengo Camp on 15th September 1963 and flew to a 42 Commando RM border location in Sarawak, this was during the Indonesian Confrontation. He was accompanied by Admiral Sir Varyl Cargill Begg KCB, DSO, DSC. Commander in Chief, Far East and Major General W.C. Walker CBE, DSO The Director of Operations Borneo, Major Peter Darling RM SOO (Staff Officer Operations) and Marine John Bailey from the units Intelligence Section. Mr Duncan Sandys was met by Lt Alan Hooper RM the Troop Commander. (from John Bailey Face Book  RMHistoricalSociety)

1963. September - October. ‘Burma Camp Revisited’. Taken from Chapter 7 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.

Back at Burma Camp life became a little boring compared with what we had been used to in Sarawak, where the military aspects of life had been quite laxed. We had also become used to the idea of whatever we wanted we took. All we needed to do was give the locals a note saying that Her Majesty’s Government promises to pay the bearer the sum of etc etc, mind you I do not know if they ever did.
At Burma Camp, a tough military regime was reinstated and was used in its entirety to pull us all back into line. As soon as we were settled in, the hard work began. At first it started with a fairly liberal dose of square bashing. Followed by a full inventory check of all our personal gear, because most of it had been lost or should I say mislaid during our deployment in Sarawak. Although a lot had been also altered to suit the situation we found ourselves in.
We also under took a lot of jungle training, especially on how to lay ambushes and how to react if you were unfortunate enough to walk into one. Hoping to learn from the wrongs we had all experienced while on active service. Then there was a full physical program organised to knock us back into shape, who were they kidding, out of shape my eye. I found this one had to understand, how could we be in a bad physical shape after all of the patrols we had been on during the past few months. What they really meant to say was that the HQ members need to be whipped into shape, because they had never been out on patrol. However, there was no gymnasium, so it was all achieved outdoors in the full glare of the sun on the football fields.

During 40 Commando’s first tour of duty they had suffered a number of casualties from medical and hygiene problems, a close study of the jungle drills was instituted, and related training courses have been retained in the Corp to the present day. Therefore, as you can imagine we spent a lot of time in the jungle honing our new found skills.
I remember one such day when B Company gave the whole unit an anti-truck ambush demonstration. For this they used two of their sections, who were positioned in the back of a three ton truck. The first demonstration was to show us how not to travel in the back of a truck.

As the truck sped towards us, all the Marines were acting drunk and dancing about. Once the truck was ambushed, bodies were seen falling about everywhere as the truck came to an emergency stop. It was utter chaos with one guy actually rolling over the front of the cab onto the road in front of the driver, while others spilled out of the open sides. It gave us all a good laugh, but in real life they would have all been killed. Once the watching Marines had gone through a debrief picking on all the relevant points. B Company then under took a re-run showing us the correct way to travel in a truck while in a hostile environment. The truck was going a lot slower this time, with everybody quiet and holding onto his rifle in a ready to fire position. At the ambush point, the truck pulled up with the Marines on the back returning fire. Some jumped off to take up better fire positions, while being covered by their comrades. Once in a good position they open fired, allowing the remainder of the Marines to get off the truck safely. It was a good demonstration with a great deal being learnt by all, and to prove a point none of the Marines were laughing during the second demonstration. Until that is one Marine just happened to draw attention to the fact that there were no roads in Sarawak. Adding that during our last deployment only very small two seater Citroen flat backs were used.
We also went into the Ulu, our name for the jungle, to a village that had been specially constructed on a small hill and fortified. It housed many underground tunnels and buckers beneath the village. It was very impressive and was of the same design that the Americans found in Vietnam. I went through some of these tunnels and I must say it was quite scary, just knowing that in real life the enemy would be down here somewhere waiting to kill you. Not to mention the bobby traps and snakes, all very frightening especially for the squeamish.

On one-excursion into the Ulu poor old Don Hackett had a flare gun cartridge hit him right on the bridge of his nose. Fired I believe by our officer Lieutenant Bar, it bounced off a tree and hit him, while the phosphorus was still burning. It split his nose open like a banana. After hospital treatment the scar always looked black, I guess it was from the burning. Don was very lucky not to have lost the sight in that eye, but I never heard him complain, he just accepted it as part of life. Of all the Marines I knew, Don was military through and through and you just knew he was in for the full duration, which at that time amounted to twenty two years. He was one of the few guys you knew you could rely on in any emergency situation. I always believed Don to be of Victoria Cross material.
This was also a time when I took up running once again and would spend hours running around the bottom football fields in my heavy leather boots. I found that it was a good way to train, because once I swapped them for my running shoes on race day, it felt like I was running on air.

One afternoon I was in our hut on the side of the hill overlooking the football fields and the Jungle Warfare School on the other side of the hill. The school consisted of several tin huts housing at that time a contingent of Gurkhas. A very bad thunderstorm was taking place and I do mean bad. Lightning strikes were happening all around us, one hit a power pole near our hut and we watched as a green glow ran along the wire to another pole and explode with a terrific bang. The bang was so loud that it is very hard to describe. As well as this explosion, the thunder was also very loud making us jump at times. Suddenly across the valley, we saw another lightning strike hit a transformer on a power pole. The same green glow shot along a wire fixed to one of the tin huts. As the glow hit the hut, there was a terrific bang. Suddenly Gurkhas soldiers were seen diving out of the windows and doors. There must have been about a dozen of them, we found out later that nobody was hurt, just very scared and slightly deaf.
For recreation most weekends we would board a three-ton truck on a Friday night and all head south into Singapore with sixty dollars in our pockets. It became a routine, drink until you passed out somewhere and slept where you fell. On Saturday mornings we would head for the Britannia club for a swim and to sober up, we travelled light with no gear. Then it was get drunk time again, ending up across the square in another club, known as the Union Jack Club. There it would be pretty much the same, drink, drink and more drink.

The Union Jack club always held a talent competition on a Saturday night and a local girl called Rita always sang. We would all cheer so loud she would always win, although she sounded terrible. Then one day a Marine from C Company sang the American folk song the 'Alamo'. From then on, we made sure he always won, even if it meant that we had to go round the tables and threaten violence, if the other patrons did not vote for him.
Once the clubs had shut we would all take a trip down to the infamous Boogis Street or somewhere else much the same, looking for female company. However, I was lucky and ended up with a regular girl, which is very unusual in this type of environment. She was a young student attending the Singapore University and her Mother was one of the teachers. I must have been one of the only guys who did not end up with a street worker. It still amazes me to this day that I held on to her for so long. Because I was never what you would call a well-dressed person. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, whatever clothing I left the camp wearing on the Friday night, I was in when I returned to camp on the Sunday night. Lu was half Chinese and both she and her Mother spoke a little broken English. There were times when I went home with Lu and she allowed me to clean myself up. Lu was always very kind to me knowing that I did not have much money, she paid on many occasions. Our little affair only lasted a few months. However, with me being on standby to return to Borneo at any time I guess our relationship was doomed to fail. I believe the end came one Sunday morning when I failed to meet up with her in a café located in the better end of town, by Collyer Quay near Clifford Pier. From that day I never looked back, anyway it was almost time for my units return to Borneo and there was no way that I would be able to keep in touch with her, my writing skills would have seen to that.

Boogis Street is well known throughout the world by the service men of that era. During the daytime, it was just the same as any other street that you could find throughout Singapore Island. While at nights most of the open fronted shops would bring out their tables and chairs and it would be turned into one very big road side bar cum café. It had a reputation amongst all service personnel that you could purchase anything down this street and I do mean anything. We also had a saying that the 8th wonders of the modern world, was to watch the sun rise over Boogis Street. Unfortunately, not many people ever achieved this feat, usually collapsing through alcohol and sheer exhaustion, long before the sun’s rays broke the skyline. Whatever you wanted to buy, it was always cheaper here than anywhere else. On top of that, you always had to bargain, or haggle as we called it. Many times, I woke up the following morning clutching something that I had bought the night before and not had a clue as to why I had bought it. I usually ended up giving it to somebody, not wanting to carry it around with me for the duration of the weekend.
On one particular occasion I woke up in the Union Jack Club lying on a bed covered with what I believed was a nice clean white sheet. Mind you there seemed to be a horrible smell coming in through the open windows. Upon closer inspection I found a six week old puppy snuggled up to me and the sheets covers in loose dog poo. Lucky for me there were no other people in the room, so I changed the sheets with another bed and gave the puppy to one of the club cleaners, who walked away with a broad smile on his face. Upon reflection I hope he didn’t take it home and eat it.

Sunday mornings we would sober up once again back at the Britannia Club while taking a swim. Not too much drink though, as most of us would be down to our last couple of dollars. We would have to stretch it out until we were picked up at 6 pm, from outside of the Britannia Club. The three-ton trucks would pick us up and return us to our Burma Camp home. In order that we might get back into all of our old routines, that included plenty of so called and spit and polish. Can you imagine what we must have smelt and looked like, still wearing the same old T-shirt and trousers we had left the camp in on Friday night. No change of clothes and no washing gear, how I ever found myself a girlfriend I will never know. Most of the guys just smelt of sick, stale beer and fags. As a footnote on many occasions some of us used to sleep rough in the Cathedral Churchyard each night. It being in the middle of the very large traffic island separating the Britannia and Union Jack clubs. It was a great way to let off steam and we did not harm anybody although we might have threatened a few locals. A lot of our behaviour was tolerated because of the Sarawak campaign and anyway we were guarding many of their interests.

Another way we let off steam was when a group of us would occasionally go up the road from Burma Camp to visit the Kota Tinga waterfalls. They were located near an old tin mine with a lush area of jungle around it. To get to the falls we had to go past an old Japanese prisoner of war camp, which was still intact but over grown. I hated that place, knowing that Uncle Eric had been captured around here somewhere during the Second World War, but it was a great place to swim in its very cool water.
I met up with a Marine from C Company, who had formed a band from members of his company. I used to go to the camp cinema and watch them practice. It was my first insight to the workings of a live band. I also noticed how the Bass guitar just dominated the whole sound. Unfortunately, I never saw them perform outside the camp on a gig. The only thing I learnt from the encounter was that one day I would like to try and learn how to play the Bass Guitar, although at that time I could never see it happening.
One day we were told that our hut was to be used for a girly film show and that we could all watch for free, however everybody else had to pay fifty cents. So, there was great excitement and expectations as the night drew near. Show night saw our hut bursting at the seams, you would have thought the whole Commando unit was packed inside, all seven hundred and sixty-six men. Once the film show got started, there were the usual cat calls and jokes, being thrown around. This is usually quite funny and makes for a good sound track. Everybody seemed to be enjoying what they had paid for. Once the show was over somebody asked the guy showing the film, where he had got it from and he replied he had taken it. Who is the bird someone shouted at him, my wife he replied? A deadly hush fell over the whole hut and you could cut the air with a knife. All of a sudden, two of Marines grabbed the projectionist and threw him out of the hut and beat him up and making a good job of it. When the story of the beating leaked out and an officers got to hear of it, the Marine was whisked away somewhere. We never saw him again, you just do not do that sort of thing with your own wife and then brag about it. Mind you I guess they must be somebody’s wives. Once again, we males are a very hypercritical race.

Another incident worth mentioning was when an Army guy who was out on the town and becoming quite drunk. Later he jumped into a taxi and asked the driver to take him to see a white woman for a night. You guessed it, the taxi driver took him to his own house. That night he smashed the place to pieces, so the military police became involved. They discovered a vice ring being run by some of the wives while their husbands were away in Sarawak. The end result was that about a dozen or so wives, including one Marines wife, all got sent home to England, to defuse the situation. Many Marines take their wives on tour with them, but I never thought it right, as they spent so much time on their own while living in a strange country. You imagine if I had taken a wife with me to Burma Camp and then within the first couple of weeks, I was rushed off to Sarawak. She would have been on her own in a strange country and surroundings, with no friends for almost six months. It always amazed me that the military allowed that to happen.

On occasions we would go to Nee Soon to buy our Rabbits, that’s Royal Naval slang for presents. Nee Soon is a small village on the main Singapore Island but out of the city and in the middle of the country. Here it was supposed to be the cheapest place to purchase these types of things. I think I sent Mum and Dad a couple of items while I was out there. One was a black musical box and when you opened the lid up popped a ballet dancer, who danced to the music. The other was a brandy barrel built like a donkey it being musical as well. It had four small whisky glasses placed around it on a little rack. Of all the Rabbits I sent home only one of the small whisky glasses got broken. I also sent a Chung Sam, that’s a split dress, to a girl pen friend I was trying to write to in America. Never did know what happened to her. I guess she might have got fed up with my dozen line letters, all three of them.

Sitting outside of our accommodation huts each day was an Indian guy who for fifty cents a week would make our beds, clean your shoes and iron our uniforms. He had a little paraffin stove and would cook us an Egg Banjo, which consisted of a fried egg between a bread roll and a cup of coffee for one dollar. There were about a dozen of these guys scattered throughout the camp. Punka Walla’s are what we called them. Somebody said that they had been left behind in Malaya after the Second World War and were trying to earn enough money to return home. At these prices I doubt they ever made it.
During one weekend, I had to go to HMS. Terror on Singapore Island for an aptitude test to see if I was good enough to go on a S.B.S. Swimmer and Canoeist course back at Poole in the UK. We arrived at HMS Terror late Friday afternoon and drew some gear, canoes, flippers etc. Then we were taken to the boat ramp where we set off down the Singapore Straights for a five mile canoe test. After dark, we landed on a very small island and tied up the canoes to the mangrove bushes. Then we donned flippers that were too small for us. These had been issued small on purpose so that they were of no use to us. Wearing our jungle green uniform, we had to swim about a mile to the main land, to RAF Selletar air field to undertake a Recce. The task was quite easy because the whole airfield was lit up like a football stadium by search lights. The flippers hurt me so much I had to take them off and tie them around my neck, but I had to keep my uniform on because there are sea snakes in the area. Mind you I can’t see how my jungle greens were going to protect me, were they trying to tell me that a snake cannot bite through material.
As there were eight of us, we swam in an arrowhead formation. After an unchallenged look around the airfield, we then had to swim back and to somehow find our Island in the dark. Which was quite an achievement, because by now the tide had come in and we could not use any lights. However, we never found it how we left it, because by now all the land was completely under water. All we found was our canoes tied to a few bush tops sticking out of the water. We were ordered to stay where we were not being able to head back home until daybreak. Therefore, we had to tread water for the rest of the night. Occasionally we splashed water onto our faces to scare the sand flies off as they were eating us alive. When the tide did start to turn and the sea level lowered, I kept my body submerged in the water all of the time, those sand flies just about ate every bit of flesh they could get their teeth into.

At daybreak we canoed the five-mile return trip back to HMS Terror. We were then run up and down the main camp road about one hundred times while in bare feet. Then we had to go into a tennis court arena, still in our bare feet and running around on the fine gravel that the courts were treated with in those days. After a time, a few fresh SBS guys came over and we had to play football with them. I might add that they were wearing heavy leather boots. Unfortunately for us every time we contacted them, somehow their boots always managed to end up on top of our bare feet. One other twist to this bizarre football game was the fact that if we kicked a ball over the small half a meter high wooden fence that surrounded the court. Then we were penalised with a ten press up punishment. I thought that once the game was over we would be able to take a rest. How wrong I was, we were taken right back to the road for some more running, by now my feet were bleeding badly from broken blisters.
At midday we had to pair up, each pair was given a live chicken and one hour to eat it. Now you know I do not like killing animals, so I told my partner to kill and pluck it and that I would start a fire. All the chickens were consumed within the hour, some only half cooked I might add. Since we arrived at 4.30 pm Friday night, the chicken was the first food we had received, and it was now late Saturday afternoon.

Then there was the swimming tests, many of them. That included distance swimming under water on one breath. Underwater duck diving to retrieve a dozen-dinner plate from the bottom of the pool on one breathe. Depending on your luck as the Sergeant threw the plates into the water, to how the plates end up on the bottom. It is almost impossible to get a plate off the bottom if it is face down. Then we had to try out different breathing apparatus that included the aqualung and the Co2 pack, similar to the type used by submariners to escape their sunken vessels. Finally, just as it was getting dark we were allowed to return to Burma Camp, for a good night’s sleep.

With my attempts at letter writing to Pat Phoenix, Kim Novak and a few others I cannot remember. I had also decided to write to the Windmill Theatre in good old London town. Telling them that on numerous occasions, I had spent my leave in London and during that time, I had visited their club many times. They promptly replied sending me a few of the photo's they usually displayed outside the theatre, all signed by the girls. I still have the photos to this day and one is signed by Denise Warren.
Another funny incident that happened at Burma Camp, involved Big Mac. Who had a bad habit of wetting the bed, I guess mainly because he drank so much and got too drunk to know what he was doing. Our bedding mattresses consisted of a large block of foam sewn inside of a thin cotton bag. Bed wetting in the service is a chargeable offence, so hearing that we were due for inspection. Mac had to somehow wash the stains out of his mattress. He cut the bag open and pulled the foam block out. He then filled up a bath full of water in the shower house and pushed the foam into the water, slurp, slurp, slurp, you could hear the foam sucking up the water. It was amazing, it sucked up every single drop of water. I’m not sure how many gallons of water a bath tub actually holds, but it took ten of us to try and get it out of the bath. Unfortunately, with all of us tugging at it and the weight of it, it soon became out of shape. After a long time of laughing and horse playing about, we somehow managed to drag it outside. However, when we put it over the linen line, the weight broke it. Even when it had dried out Mac's troubles were not over, it was so out of shape that he could not get it back into the cotton bag, coupled to this the bag had also shrunk after being washed. The finished object looked a terrible sight, but at least he got away with the inspection, but only because he had swapped it with one from a spare bed in another hut.

One day a couple of mad scientists turned up at Burma Camp from one of the large government research stations back in the UK. It fell upon C Company’s shoulders to supply them with a group of guinea pigs to undergo a few of their crazy tests. Three sections of Marines were taken to the cinema where they were given a long lecture about what they were trying to achieve. Apparently, they had come up with a special designed suit of clothing that could be worn during a nuclear attack. To the average on looker the best way to describe the suit is to say that it looked exactly like what an underwater diver might wear, only it did not have the big steel helmet. Instead the head covering looked like it was made from the same material as the suit. This can best be described as being made up of several thin layers of material that were stuck together with a tar like substance. Like the tar paper you sometimes find in wooden packing cases. The suit completely enclosed the wearer giving him only two eye glasses to peer out of, like a full facial gas mask. Once the Marines were all fitted in to their suits they were fell in on the road in three columns and double marched towards the direction of Singapore. As you can well imagine at the best of times it’s very hot in this part of the world. However, to be wearing a fully enclosed suit doesn’t bear thinking about. Being made to double march wearing a fully enclosed suit like this is another ball game all together. The heat inside would be absolutely unbearable. As the Marines were running down the road the scientist were also running alongside of them, keeping an eye on how they were going. While every now and then, if somebody looked like they were struggling the scientist would attach a thermometer they were carrying to a wire that hung on the Marines shoulder outside of the suit. That wire had earlier been inserted into their back side before they climbed in to the suite. Those guys marched and run down the road for nearly ten mile. Its full credit to their stamina and fitness that they made it, because I believe any normal service man would have collapsed just leaving the camp gates. It was later described to us that the principle of the suit was that it breathed. Allowing air to pass through the fibres of the material while the tar like substance filtered out the radioactive material. Most of the Marines I spoke to did not believe that it worked as far as they were concerned there was hardly any air in side of the suit. None of them wanted to repeat the test and lucky for us that was the last we saw of the mad scientist.

At one time I was placed on a charge of being drunken and disorderly. I was marched into the company commander’s office, where he described me as an animal and ordered me to clean out the officer’s mess after they had thrown a party the night before. The site that greeted me was unbelievable, there were heaps of old Camouflage nets lying around everywhere. Intermingle with ladies under wear and vomit. There was even urine in one of the corners. I’m sure that when I’ve told this story to people they have not believed a word I’ve said. Anyway, I and a couple of other Marines had to clean it all up. If you know my history, when I’m not happy about something I usually talk quite loudly so that people around me understand where I’m coming from. In the service you’re not allowed to make a complaint, but you can talk loud so that other people know exactly how you feel. Anyway, I let it be known that I was not happy in cleaning up the mess. I went on to say that the officers had probably acted like a pack of animals at the party. The officer that had sentenced me over heard this and came over to give me a telling off. "It's was just high spirits Aspinall, just high spirits". I made the situation worse by back answering him. "Oh, I was described as an animal for this sort of behaviour, but for you guys its high spirits". For my troubles I was award a further days cleaning up around the camp. This proves my point that there is a law for the rich and a law for the poor, and that in the service you will never win, so at all times keep your bloody mouth shut.

One night Ginger, McGinty and I went to Johore Barhu for a night out. Johore Barhu sits on the Malayan side of the causeway that leads to Singapore and has a rather large canal running right through the centre of the town. At all times this cannel looks and smells absolutely awful, as it is used by all wanting to discard their unwanted items. Once the tide goes out and exposes its muddy bottom the whole area resembles a rubbish dump that has been used for many years. You name it and I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. We nick named it the Sweet Water Canal although at times I thought it would be better known as the Sewerage Canal. I was once told that it had not been cleaned out since the Second World War, when the Japanese forced British prisoners of war to do the job. To prove a point just how bad the canal was. One night a Marine from B Company fell in and was whisked away to a hospital. Where he was administered 17 injections and kept under close observation for a week. Because of its risk it was an area you stayed away from, just in case.
Anyway, we sat in a bar having a nice quiet drink when in walked a large group of soldiers who we usually refer to as Percy Pongo. However, because they outnumbered us by several to one, we did not say anything. During the night as they became drunk it was inevitable that they would pick a fight with us, which is exactly what they did. For a few moments it was full on and during that time several tables and chairs were broken. It was also inevitable that we would be on the losing side. Anyway, lucky for us it came to a quick conclusion and Percy Pongo withdrew leaving us to lick our wounds over another drink. Unbeknown to us the owner of the bar seemed to think we had started the fight. I found it quite hard trying to explain that we had been the victims. Why would three guys take on half the British Army. This did not help, and he persisted in trying to make us pay. I guess he was just trying to get some compensation and as Percy Pongo had gone why not try and get it from us. It was all very stupid, although we were the mugs we should have left with Percy Pongo, and then we would not be in the mess we now found ourselves in. Suddenly McGinty lost his cool and smashed an empty beer bottle on the table we were sitting at. That was our signal to leave before it got out of hand. Once outside we hailed a taxi, but Mac was in an argumentive mood and would not pay the driver what he wanted to return us to Burma Camp. In those days you haggled the cost of the trip before you got in the taxi. Failure to do this meant that he could charge you whatever he wanted, and you were obliged to pay it.

Anyway, once again Mac lost his temper and slammed the taxi door shut with such force that it smashed the window. Well by now things were starting to heat up and I was wondering if we were going to get back to camp in one piece. I grabbed Ginger telling him to start walking because we had to get away from that area. Which is what we did, and Mac followed us. A couple of hundred meters further down the road when I thought we were safe, I turned round and saw a large group of locals heading are way. Some were carrying large pieces of wood and iron bars. We all acknowledged that we could be in trouble, so we quickened our pace hoping to lose them. All of a sudden, they started running towards us, it was time to make a quick exit. Lucky for us just then an open backed Police Land Rover suddenly appear around a corner. Therefore, we ran over to give ourselves up, hoping that the matter would be over. How wrong we were, because the three Police Officers took one look at the crowd rushing towards us and they ran off taking the keys. There was no way we were going to out run the crowd in our present condition, so we climbed on to the back of the Land Rover just as the crowd reached us. By this time, I had already made up my mind what I was going to do. Thinking along the lines that once a frenzied lynch mob has hung their prey, they usually just drift away there being nothing else to do. Therefore, as the first piece of timber rained down on us I fell to the floor pretending to be hit. Lucky for me Ginger had the very same idea and landed on top of me. Although Mac had come up with a different idea and that was to try and out fight them. I would estimate the crowd to number about fifty, so as you can imagine they were reining blows down on him from every conceivable angle. The beating seemed to go on for a long time before Mac finally succumbed and fell on top of Ginger. Just like I had imagined the crowd sensing that they had reaped their revenge and taken their pound of flesh they started to drift away. Where upon the Police Officers reappeared from nowhere and drove us around to the Police station. We were allowed to sit in a waiting room while we explained our version of events. However, Mac was in a bad way and had to be taken to a hospital. Ginger and I were quite lucky as we came out of the whole incident unscathed. We were even allowed to go back to Burma Camp and no charges were ever laid against us. Unfortunately, Mac ended up with permanent damage to one of his ears and a rather large bump on the back of his head. Later he was to lose the hearing in the ear and at times used to go a little crazy after a few beers, so we gave him a wide berth whenever he was on the town.

It was also at this time that I noticed my headaches were getting worse and more prolonged, but I still did not seek medical help. I just took a couple of tablets that I bought myself locally. On one exercise the whole company under took a route march to Singapore, to a destination I cannot remember. By the time we arrived I already had a throbbing headache, we then had to dig slit trenches to sleep in that night. After all that marching and then the bending over to dig, I ended up with a massive migraine, one of the worse attacks I’d ever experienced until then. I was with Ginger Walters and he could see I was in a bit of a mess and just about ready to pass out. He went to the medical tent while I lay in the slit trench. Upon his return he dropped six tablets into my hand, I do not have any idea what they were. All I do know is that once I had them I just grabbed my water bottle. I was in so much pain that I took all six tablets and it still took almost an hour to work, but at least they did.
While the trenches were being dug, a so-called enemy being some members of A Company had to do probing attacks against us. One of these was a friend of ours, a Marine Thompson. While we were digging, Thompson crept up close to us lying unseen in very long grass, calling for the dirty British to go home. A popular phrase used in those days by the locals, to get rid of the British. Anyway, on and on he went repeating that we the dirty British should all go home. Funny, but nobody took any notice of him, but it did get on our nerves. In the end, one of our Officers just shouted back at him, "Why don't you just piss off Thompson". We never heard any more from him during the remainder of the exercise. However, it was becoming harder and harder to hide my headaches from my mates, lucky for me nobody had reported my problem to one of the officers. My weekend drinking binges were also leaving me with weekly headaches from the hangovers.
Looking back at the hell fire way in which we spent those weekends, it is incredible that none of us ended up ill. Every weekend we would go to regular drinking houses, where we got to know all the girls very well. From there several of the Marines usually ended up in the brothels for the remainder of the night. There were not many girls around the area, who were not charging money, I guess it was the only way they could survive. However, I can honestly say that I have never paid any woman to sleep with them and am very proud of that record.

I guess I was always lucky because after I had finished going out with Lu. I found a regular girl who I would go home with to Nee Soon. I even had a key to her home and at times I had the run of the place. Her name is supposedly tattooed in Chinese on my leg, namely "Salome". One night I was in a bar in Nee Soon with Salome and a couple of her friends when a travelling tattooist came to are table. I asked Salome to write her name onto a piece of paper. I then gave it to the tattooist and told him to put it on my right leg. Suddenly the girls all started laughing, so I realised that it was not quite right. I then asked her to write it again on another piece of paper. Once again, the girls all laughed, so I screwed up the piece of paper and threw it away. For a third time I asked her to write Salome on to another piece of paper, then before I could change my mind I ordered the tattooist to start tattooing.
Unfortunately, she laughed when it was being tattooed on, so I doubt very much that it actually say "Salome". Knowing my luck, it probably says, "Go Home Dirty British" and not only that nobody has ever been able to tell me what it does says.
Several years later I approached an Asian looking person and asked if he could read it for me and he stormed away in a bad mood. I was then told that he was actually a Japanese person and that there are 57 different dialects of the Chinese language.
While on the subject of Tattoos, I’ve not mention why I had two eye’s inscribed on the cheeks of my backside. Several years earlier I had been reading letters on the old Codgers Page in the Daily Mirror. One had been from a nurse who went on to describe how she had been administering a bed bath to a very old Sea Dog of a sailor. Upon rolling him over she was surprised to discover two eyes staring at her from a most unusual position. That struck me as being very funny and so at the first opportunity I copied the idea. I remember leaning over the back of a chair as the tattooist attempted another of his master piece’s to suddenly being made aware of great pain. Which I could not believe. I had always thought that the only time it hurts is when they go over a bone, while the cheeks of your backside are all muscle and fat. Of all the tattoos I have, the eyes would have been the most painful to have put on. Over the years they have caused a lot of laughter mainly because I can’t see them, so I forget that I have them.

I guess by now most people reading this book probably think that we were all drinking alcohol from morning to night, which is not quite true. To quench our thirst after a hot days slog through the jungle, we would usually have several cold glasses of a Lemon drink that in the Royal Navy has become known as Limers. I’m not sure if that’s its correct name and I’m not sure if that’s the correct way to spell it. However, what I do know is that the basic ingredients usual came in a tin and it looked like a very course yellow looking powder. We usually placed a large tea spoon of the powder in our drinking mugs, topped it up with water, and stirred the contents together. At first it looked like a glass of yellow cloudy water, although within just a few minutes it would settle and end up looking quite clear with a faint yellow tint. When you are very hot, it is one of the best ways of refreshing yourself and it also helps to cool you down.

However, I do not believe that was its sole purpose in life, as an old Sailor once told me that it originated in the sailing ship days, as a means of warding off Scurvy amongst the crew members. Because of its constant use over the past 200 years, it is also believed to be the main reason why the Americans started calling us Limey.
I volunteered for a hiking come camping trip in the Cameron Highland up north of Malaya. I was rewarded with a very long train journey, sitting on hard wooden seats. With a filthy hole in the floor for a toilet and unbearable heat and smells. We boarded the train at Johore Barhu, early in the morning and spent a whole day on the stinking ride arriving at our camp destination by late afternoon, just as it was getting dark. To an awaiting message from Burma Camp that told us to please return immediately, we all guessed why. Borneo had more than likely flared up once again and so even before we had unpacked. We turned around and endured that same horrible train journey back to Burma Camp. To me it was a crazy way to spend two days, something I would not want to repeat on a regular basis. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).1963. September. ‘A Green Marine in Sarawak’ Pang Amo by Patrick Walker 8 Troop. C Company 40 Commando RM. & A.E.
We had left our commando carrier HMS Albion just 24 hrs. before, and now waited on the grass landing area at Serian to be flown to our first location of Pang Amo. This was my first operational Tour since completing training so it was all a bit nerve wracking.
Our section, with all our kit and equipment sat in the Wessex, and as the noise of the rotors increased, the helicopter lifted off. Through the open door we watched those below clasping their hats, and we saw the rotor wash make patterns in the grass. We skimmed the thirty miles or so across a solid green jungle canopy and some twenty minutes later came in to land in a clearing at Pang Amo.
Everything was grabbed and we jumped out and moved away, to kneel down in the long grass under the severe down draft from the blades. The 'chopper' departed and the silence was deafening, but not for long. as all the local children came running across with screams of delight. The noisy gathering throng immediately offered to carry our packs and stores. They were a dark brown-skinned people of whom some showed signs of malnourishment, but despite this they were extremely strong. They all knew the rewards for carrying out the duty of porters. The children would get boiled sweets or biscuits, and the men would get a couple of cigarette each.
We trotted along in single file behind them across the open area, through the village and crossed a rickety log bridge over the river. They mostly preferred to wade through the water with a ten-man ration pack balanced on their heads. This was a small troop location and at this time was on the far side of the river. The defences were dug in around a large wooded house vacated by a Chinese merchant, and sat on high ground just above the river. Guards were posted and then we were given a guided tour round the area. Part of one section set off immediately up the track towards another village called Kujang Tembawang which was some forty minutes away. This was an advanced position to give fore warning of any attempted approach by guerrillas.
Stores and rooms were allocated and then after a briefing we sat down to a meal. It was after this that we were sitting and talking in the downstairs room by the light of a hissing tilley lamp. The blackout was enforced and hessian draped over all doorways and openings. The coils of Dannert wire had been pulled across the access track and the trip flares had been armed.
'Jock' J. was on guard in a trench some twenty yards from the front door, and it was he who fired a burst from the Bren gun. It was so sudden and so loud that for a full second nobody moved , then there was a scramble to grab weapons and equipment that were hanging from nails on the wall. Nervous hands reached up and turned out the lamp and we were plunged into darkness. it took several minutes before we had gained anything like night vision, during which time we had sorted into three groups. We knew which trenches we were to go to and as soon as the door was opened, we scurried out like frightened rabbits.
There was much fumbling and tripping because some of the trenches were reached by steps, and in the dark more than one man ended up with muddy trousers and bruised shins. We squeezed into our trench and hardly daring to breathe carefully looked over the top of the sandbags. The sound of the shots was still ringing in my ears, but now all I could hear was the heavy breathing of three men, each one trying to catch the faintest sound. There followed the thump of the 2" mortar as the crew fired a parachute illuminating flare. There was a 'pop' as it burst into brilliant light, and then slowly fell to earth swinging gently on its parachute. We heard the crash as the empty container fell some distance away in the trees. But now as the flare drifted down, fast moving shadows were produced by every tree and fold in the ground. We nervously watched these but there was no answering fire from outside the perimeter.
A second and a third were fired and once more the Bren opened up with two short bursts. There followed an unearthly silence as the last of the flares burnt out and we were plunged into pitch black again. We stood there for half an hour and then quietly returned to the accommodation. The troop officer explained the sentry thought he had seen something crawling towards him near the wire. The result of all this was double-guards for the rest of the night.
Daylight revealed a small area of flattened grass probably the result of a wild pig. The wire obstacles across the track were removed and the trip flares disarmed and then the way was open for the locals to go about their business since the curfew was now lifted.
Pang Amo sat astride the main track between here and the forward location and had five defensive bunkers ringing the central area. There were layers of Dannert wire in different configurations and fields of 'panjis', ( sharpened bamboo stakes) pushed into the ground and all facing outwards. There was also wire on the far side of the river from us and flares to warn of approach from that side. The local school teacher (a Malay) came over from the village, and introduced himself in pretty good English. He enquired about the shooting and we had to rather sheepishly blame it on first night nerves.
We settled into a routine and the troop signaller, who had some basic first aid, started a morning clinic for the sick. Word soon got around and each morning he was greeted by a queue, though what you could do with codeine, sticking plaster, triangular bandages and the enormous white tablets (for stomach upset) was somewhat limited. Mother brought all her children, knowing that we would give them a sweet, grandma came with all her aches and pains, real and imaginary, and dad had to come so he was not left out.
There was one amusing case one morning when an old man came in complaining of a stomach ache. To the local psyche a pill would cure any ailment and in this instance he was given two codeine tablets, one to take then with water, and one for later. he promptly waved away the water and proceeded to chew the tablet. His next reaction was to spend several minutes spitting it out with various moans and groans, and from the horrified looks on the faces of the rest, they must have thought we had tried to poison him. We now offered him the other tablet but he assured us in no uncertain terms that the pain had gone. The result of this was that the sick parade was a quarter the size the next day - it seemed only the real cases were prepared to be poisoned!
Because we were well off the beaten track and miles from the nearest road all re-supply was by air, normally every three days. On the first one I was detailed off at 10.30 to go to the DZ and await an air drop. I collected my equipment and with my rifle made my way across the river and through the village, and past a shop that seemed to sell everything from dried fish to tin plates. At the edge of the open area used for the DZ there was a bamboo lean-to for shade and by the time I had reached this I was like the Pied Piper with a string of the local children following.
The grass was fairly long and on the far side of the DZ was a cultivated area for vegetables and a section laid out with black pepper growing up tall poles rather like hop plants. The drop time came and went and I was almost on the point of returning when at 13.15 I heard the distant sound of an aircraft. It eventually got louder and then flashed over the clearing at about 800ft.

I could clearly see the dispatcher on his safety line standing in the open doorway. He threw out a weighted streamer for the wind drift and the aircraft banked and started to turn. It was a Hastings, and with a turning circle of about 5 miles I think, he had to be careful not to cross the line of the border. It came back several minutes later and when it was overhead an object was pushed out of the door and after about 50ft. this jerked to a stop under a bright red parachute. While this slowly drifted down the aircraft went off on another circuit. The load landed well inside the area but I now had to try and stop the children running over to it before the next run in case we had any 'streamers'. On the next pass two loads come down one under a blue and the other under a brown parachute, and landed further away. The last pass produced two further chutes, and then with a wave from the dispatcher, the aircraft flew off.
Of the last two one drifted well up into the pepper plants and the chute snagged across some of the poles.
At the first sound of the aircraft the local men had appeared again and with their help the chute was retrieved. The children obviously knew the routine and were busy stuffing the nylon chutes back into their canvas bags, which would go back to base for re-packing Meanwhile the men brought the stores into a central pile. When everything was accounted for, everyone picked up a box and I followed the long file as they trotted back to base. There they got their reward of boiled sweets or biscuits. Occasionally if we did not have enough to go round we would give out tins of produce from the ration packs. Because they could not read the wording their trick was to shake the can and guess what it might be. Sugar and tea made a very distinctive rustling sound, but explaining what was in a can that made no sound was beyond me. It could have been mutton stew, rich fruit cake or even sausage and beans; they had to take potluck.
Whilst on patrol we sometimes nailed up foot-square yellow and black metal signs in Malay and Chinese to advise and warn the locals what to do should they come across any guerrillas.
On another day, as part of the hearts and minds, an Auster flew over several villages in this area and scattered showers of leaflets. These exhorted the locals to dig defences and man them in time of trouble, and if all the security forces and themselves joined together we could beat the common enemy, the Indonesian guerrillas. I managed to get one of these leaflets to keep as a souvenir.
Since most of the locals were illiterate we didn't know if the gist of the message was getting through !
Our other main contribution to the hearts and minds campaign was if we came across a medical problem beyond the locals ability and ours, we could then call up a Chopper' to take them to Kuching. Luckily these were not too frequent but one was a small boy with some sort of eczema on his scalp. His hair, or what was left of it, was full of large scabs.
A rather more serious one appeared early one morning. One of the locals came to us and tried to explain in Malay his problem, but none of us could understand what he wanted. While some one went for the school teacher to translate, he motioned us to follow, and standing very shyly round the corner with what we assumed was her mother, was a rather attractive girl. She was holding her left hand, which was wrapped in leaves. Our 'Doc' led her into his surgery and while I steadied her hand by holding her wrist he unravelled the leaves. Beneath was a congealed mass of blood and dirt. After cleaning this away we were confronted by the real wound. This girl had been cutting sugar cane and whilst slashing with her perang (knife) she had missed and buried it in the knuckle of her index finger almost severing it. The horrifying fact was that she had done it three days before and been too shy to come and see us. We called up for a helicopter immediately to take this case to Kuching, and they would have had their first mind-blowing trip flying like a bird in a helicopter!
We did see her some time later when she had recovered but she had severely restricted the movement of this finger. Our own most serious casualty during our first month was the Troop Officer, Lt. 'C'. Whilst returning from disarming the trip flares outside the wire he had slipped on the winding muddy track and put a 'panji' through his leg. As he fell he ripped a nasty hole in the calf muscle. He was carried in cursing himself for being such a damm fool, but from the look on his face he was obviously in great pain. A helicopter was called immediately.
He was wrapped in a blanket and put on a stretcher but the blood had drained from his face and he was starting to sweat heavily, a sure sign he was going into shock. In the end he was given a dose of morphine and seemed to settle better. As soon as the helicopter was heard we had to manhandle the stretcher down the steep muddy track to the river, wade across and up the far bank and get him to the DZ. (The log bridge was quite impossible to use since it was only a foot wide.) We never saw him again although he made a good recovery and eventually became a Wessex helicopter pilot.
Our total existence at Pang Amo comprised guard duties, strengthening the defences, patrolling rear areas and every other week to change over duties with the advance location and from there occasionally set night ambushes on the border tracks. It was hard work and not helped by the lack of sleep. The very high humidity and perrenial rain, making it an uncomfortable existence whilst under constant attack from mosquitoes and the all-pervading leeches. We did have a small volleyball pitch alongside the accommodation on which we took on some of the locals and even if they did not completely understand our rules it was a way to relax.
By the time we left some weeks later, after handing over to a troop of Malay soldiers, we had gained valuable experience of how to live and survive under these conditions and flew to Padawan ready for our next location further along the border.

1963. September. ‘A Green Marine in Sarawak’ Pang Amo by Patrick Walker 8 Troop. C Company 40 Commando RM. & A.E.
We had left our commando carrier HMS Albion just 24 hrs. before, and now waited on the grass landing area at Serian to be flown to our first location of Pang Amo. This was my first operational Tour since completing training so it was all a bit nerve wracking.
Our section, with all our kit and equipment sat in the Wessex, and as the noise of the rotors increased, the helicopter lifted off. Through the open door we watched those below clasping their hats, and we saw the rotor wash make patterns in the grass. We skimmed the thirty miles or so across a solid green jungle canopy and some twenty minutes later came in to land in a clearing at Pang Amo.
Everything was grabbed and we jumped out and moved away, to kneel down in the long grass under the severe down draft from the blades. The 'chopper' departed and the silence was deafening, but not for long. as all the local children came running across with screams of delight. The noisy gathering throng immediately offered to carry our packs and stores. They were a dark brown-skinned people of whom some showed signs of malnourishment, but despite this they were extremely strong. They all knew the rewards for carrying out the duty of porters. The children would get boiled sweets or biscuits, and the men would get a couple of cigarette each.
We trotted along in single file behind them across the open area, through the village and crossed a rickety log bridge over the river. They mostly preferred to wade through the water with a ten-man ration pack balanced on their heads. This was a small troop location and at this time was on the far side of the river. The defences were dug in around a large wooded house vacated by a Chinese merchant, and sat on high ground just above the river. Guards were posted and then we were given a guided tour round the area. Part of one section set off immediately up the track towards another village called Kujang Tembawang which was some forty minutes away. This was an advanced position to give fore warning of any attempted approach by guerrillas.
Stores and rooms were allocated and then after a briefing we sat down to a meal. It was after this that we were sitting and talking in the downstairs room by the light of a hissing tilley lamp. The blackout was enforced and hessian draped over all doorways and openings. The coils of Dannert wire had been pulled across the access track and the trip flares had been armed.
'Jock' J. was on guard in a trench some twenty yards from the front door, and it was he who fired a burst from the Bren gun. It was so sudden and so loud that for a full second nobody moved , then there was a scramble to grab weapons and equipment that were hanging from nails on the wall. Nervous hands reached up and turned out the lamp and we were plunged into darkness. it took several minutes before we had gained anything like night vision, during which time we had sorted into three groups. We knew which trenches we were to go to and as soon as the door was opened, we scurried out like frightened rabbits.
There was much fumbling and tripping because some of the trenches were reached by steps, and in the dark more than one man ended up with muddy trousers and bruised shins. We squeezed into our trench and hardly daring to breathe carefully looked over the top of the sandbags. The sound of the shots was still ringing in my ears, but now all I could hear was the heavy breathing of three men, each one trying to catch the faintest sound. There followed the thump of the 2" mortar as the crew fired a parachute illuminating flare. There was a 'pop' as it burst into brilliant light, and then slowly fell to earth swinging gently on its parachute. We heard the crash as the empty container fell some distance away in the trees. But now as the flare drifted down, fast moving shadows were produced by every tree and fold in the ground. We nervously watched these but there was no answering fire from outside the perimeter.
A second and a third were fired and once more the Bren opened up with two short bursts. There followed an unearthly silence as the last of the flares burnt out and we were plunged into pitch black again. We stood there for half an hour and then quietly returned to the accommodation. The troop officer explained the sentry thought he had seen something crawling towards him near the wire. The result of all this was double-guards for the rest of the night.
Daylight revealed a small area of flattened grass probably the result of a wild pig. The wire obstacles across the track were removed and the trip flares disarmed and then the way was open for the locals to go about their business since the curfew was now lifted.
Pang Amo sat astride the main track between here and the forward location and had five defensive bunkers ringing the central area. There were layers of Dannert wire in different configurations and fields of 'panjis', ( sharpened bamboo stakes) pushed into the ground and all facing outwards. There was also wire on the far side of the river from us and flares to warn of approach from that side. The local school teacher (a Malay) came over from the village, and introduced himself in pretty good English. He enquired about the shooting and we had to rather sheepishly blame it on first night nerves.
We settled into a routine and the troop signaller, who had some basic first aid, started a morning clinic for the sick. Word soon got around and each morning he was greeted by a queue, though what you could do with codeine, sticking plaster, triangular bandages and the enormous white tablets (for stomach upset) was somewhat limited. Mother brought all her children, knowing that we would give them a sweet, grandma came with all her aches and pains, real and imaginary, and dad had to come so he was not left out.
There was one amusing case one morning when an old man came in complaining of a stomach ache. To the local psyche a pill would cure any ailment and in this instance he was given two codeine tablets, one to take then with water, and one for later. he promptly waved away the water and proceeded to chew the tablet. His next reaction was to spend several minutes spitting it out with various moans and groans, and from the horrified looks on the faces of the rest, they must have thought we had tried to poison him. We now offered him the other tablet but he assured us in no uncertain terms that the pain had gone. The result of this was that the sick parade was a quarter the size the next day - it seemed only the real cases were prepared to be poisoned!
Because we were well off the beaten track and miles from the nearest road all re-supply was by air, normally every three days. On the first one I was detailed off at 10.30 to go to the DZ and await an air drop. I collected my equipment and with my rifle made my way across the river and through the village, and past a shop that seemed to sell everything from dried fish to tin plates. At the edge of the open area used for the DZ there was a bamboo lean-to for shade and by the time I had reached this I was like the Pied Piper with a string of the local children following.
The grass was fairly long and on the far side of the DZ was a cultivated area for vegetables and a section laid out with black pepper growing up tall poles rather like hop plants. The drop time came and went and I was almost on the point of returning when at 13.15 I heard the distant sound of an aircraft. It eventually got louder and then flashed over the clearing at about 800ft.

I could clearly see the dispatcher on his safety line standing in the open doorway. He threw out a weighted streamer for the wind drift and the aircraft banked and started to turn. It was a Hastings, and with a turning circle of about 5 miles I think, he had to be careful not to cross the line of the border. It came back several minutes later and when it was overhead an object was pushed out of the door and after about 50ft. this jerked to a stop under a bright red parachute. While this slowly drifted down the aircraft went off on another circuit. The load landed well inside the area but I now had to try and stop the children running over to it before the next run in case we had any 'streamers'. On the next pass two loads come down one under a blue and the other under a brown parachute, and landed further away. The last pass produced two further chutes, and then with a wave from the dispatcher, the aircraft flew off.
Of the last two one drifted well up into the pepper plants and the chute snagged across some of the poles.
At the first sound of the aircraft the local men had appeared again and with their help the chute was retrieved. The children obviously knew the routine and were busy stuffing the nylon chutes back into their canvas bags, which would go back to base for re-packing Meanwhile the men brought the stores into a central pile. When everything was accounted for, everyone picked up a box and I followed the long file as they trotted back to base. There they got their reward of boiled sweets or biscuits. Occasionally if we did not have enough to go round we would give out tins of produce from the ration packs. Because they could not read the wording their trick was to shake the can and guess what it might be. Sugar and tea made a very distinctive rustling sound, but explaining what was in a can that made no sound was beyond me. It could have been mutton stew, rich fruit cake or even sausage and beans; they had to take potluck.
Whilst on patrol we sometimes nailed up foot-square yellow and black metal signs in Malay and Chinese to advise and warn the locals what to do should they come across any guerrillas.
On another day, as part of the hearts and minds, an Auster flew over several villages in this area and scattered showers of leaflets. These exhorted the locals to dig defences and man them in time of trouble, and if all the security forces and themselves joined together we could beat the common enemy, the Indonesian guerrillas. I managed to get one of these leaflets to keep as a souvenir.
Since most of the locals were illiterate we didn't know if the gist of the message was getting through !
Our other main contribution to the hearts and minds campaign was if we came across a medical problem beyond the locals ability and ours, we could then call up a Chopper' to take them to Kuching. Luckily these were not too frequent but one was a small boy with some sort of eczema on his scalp. His hair, or what was left of it, was full of large scabs.
A rather more serious one appeared early one morning. One of the locals came to us and tried to explain in Malay his problem, but none of us could understand what he wanted. While some one went for the school teacher to translate, he motioned us to follow, and standing very shyly round the corner with what we assumed was her mother, was a rather attractive girl. She was holding her left hand, which was wrapped in leaves. Our 'Doc' led her into his surgery and while I steadied her hand by holding her wrist he unravelled the leaves. Beneath was a congealed mass of blood and dirt. After cleaning this away we were confronted by the real wound. This girl had been cutting sugar cane and whilst slashing with her perang (knife) she had missed and buried it in the knuckle of her index finger almost severing it. The horrifying fact was that she had done it three days before and been too shy to come and see us. We called up for a helicopter immediately to take this case to Kuching, and they would have had their first mind-blowing trip flying like a bird in a helicopter!
We did see her some time later when she had recovered but she had severely restricted the movement of this finger. Our own most serious casualty during our first month was the Troop Officer, Lt. 'C'. Whilst returning from disarming the trip flares outside the wire he had slipped on the winding muddy track and put a 'panji' through his leg. As he fell he ripped a nasty hole in the calf muscle. He was carried in cursing himself for being such a damm fool, but from the look on his face he was obviously in great pain. A helicopter was called immediately.
He was wrapped in a blanket and put on a stretcher but the blood had drained from his face and he was starting to sweat heavily, a sure sign he was going into shock. In the end he was given a dose of morphine and seemed to settle better. As soon as the helicopter was heard we had to manhandle the stretcher down the steep muddy track to the river, wade across and up the far bank and get him to the DZ. (The log bridge was quite impossible to use since it was only a foot wide.) We never saw him again although he made a good recovery and eventually became a Wessex helicopter pilot.
Our total existence at Pang Amo comprised guard duties, strengthening the defences, patrolling rear areas and every other week to change over duties with the advance location and from there occasionally set night ambushes on the border tracks. It was hard work and not helped by the lack of sleep. The very high humidity and perrenial rain, making it an uncomfortable existence whilst under constant attack from mosquitoes and the all-pervading leeches. We did have a small volleyball pitch alongside the accommodation on which we took on some of the locals and even if they did not completely understand our rules it was a way to relax.
By the time we left some weeks later, after handing over to a troop of Malay soldiers, we had gained valuable experience of how to live and survive under these conditions and flew to Padawan ready for our next location further along the border.

1963. October. ‘Night Frights In Sarawak’ by David (Shiner) Wright 1 Troop A Company A Coy 40 Commando R M.
1 section of 1 troop A coy 40 CDO Royal Marines we were located in a small Dyak kampong known as Rasau 2 an outpost from our company base at Lundu.
Our motley crew, two men under strength, consisted of two lads almost straight of the flight from UK, Jeff (tea boy) Urand, Derek(Sticks) Beer, not only but also, Alan(jungle boy) Olding, Stuart (yank )Randle, Taff(kid karate) Rhodes, Jock(tiger thigh) Phillips, Dick(sports fan)McCardle, Me and our recently promoted section Cpl Titch( hirohito)Underwood and Money our Dyak border scout policeman.
We were engaged in the usual duties patrols along the border, ambushes by request and guard duties every night, pitch black, almost no night vision, ear ache from straining to hear and comprehend every sound.
In addition to my role as lead scout (I was in the sea cubs in civvy street 1948) I was also chef, cook and bottle washer, I could open tins quicker than anyone else and prepare a meal without setting fire to our kitchen/dining area.
We had received reports from our Kampong that people had been seen near the border “ont tuther side” etc, etc, edgy times for us and the locals. Sleeping was difficult but now and again tiredness gets the better of you and you “go deep” this particular night I was deep asleep.
I was woken by the sound of heavy automatic gun fire, very close in. Our accommodation was the usual, hut on stilts, attap roof, split bamboo floor, the walls were made from tree bark.
I had been under fire before in Aden, rockets, mortars and the usual night time sniping, But that was two years previous and not as now, almost right outside the door.
We slept on camp beds, above me hanging on a peg was my rifle and ammunition, we all slept fully booted and spurred. In the Ulu (forest) everything echo’s and distorts sounds, I was convinced that shots were coming through the walls of the hut and that the insurgents were through the dannett wire defence cordon.
There was a break in the firing I reached up for my weapon, the firing began again, I flattened myself to my camp bed and gripped it that hard it sprung the legs, I was convinced I would be hit any minute.
The next break in the firing I got a grip and was up with rifle and ammo and diving out the door and hit the ground like a sack of spuds.
2
Diving head long into the guard slit trench, I found Taff screaming “stand to” in a state of total hysteria, I burnt my hand on the very hot barrel of the LMG it was Taff that had been doing all the shooting.
I calmed him down as best I could, a slap round the face stopped him gibbering like a lunatic; then he tells me.
I heard a noise on the track where we close the wire at night, so I shone my torch and there were two blokes kneeling trying to unhook the wire. I brought the LMG into my shoulder and knocked the torch into the trench and illuminated myself.
I cocked the gun whilst trying to kick the torch out, I opened fire, nothing, empty magazine on the gun, in my panic I knocked over the full magazines, managed to get one on the gun and just blazed away until you got here.
By this time the rest of the section were out and in their slit trenches or taking cover under the hut behind sand bags. All but one that is, Yank came “steaming” down the steps of the hut firing from the hip, behind us, fortunately “Jungle Boy” jumped on him, Yank was half American and spent his formative years in the USA he thought he was the reincarnation of Audy Murphy.
Yanks firing ,although behind us was parallel to our trenches and directed straight out of the door in the direction of our galley/dining basher, I remember thinking if that crazy bastard has holed my cooking pots I’ll shoot him in the morning.
I must add that one sections set of three Malay cast aluminium traditional pots were an integral part of the section, passed down from one talented cook to another and were almost our talisman. (boot necks are not superstitious)
Now all was quiet, apart from the pulse thumping in our ears, we stood to for two hours or more, then our section Corporal decide we should return to our guarding roster until day light, we all slept under the hut; strangely enough we did sleep until the guy on guard opens fire again. No hesitations this time.
I was first in the guard trench (self-preservation) and it was my fire trench mate Mac, (sports fan ) “what’s up Mac?” just beyond the wire he said; up the reverse slope some-body just lit a fag I could see it glowing, “arsehole that’s a bloody fire fly even the bloody Indonesians are not that stupid”.
3
Again we stand to, eyes like organ stops, as it gets lighter I notice what looked like a hand moving along a large felled tree trunk lying about 80metres to our front, we are all seeing things by now.
I called across to our NCO to request permission to open fire on what we thought,;Me Mac and Money, was a bandit trying to slip away.
Three rounds rapid fire, chunks of wood flying of the tree trunk and the hand was still moving, then it dawned on me; as it was getting lighter a fresh breeze was blowing directly towards us.
The hand was nothing more than a “wait a while” palm frond being blown forward over the log and the thorns on the palm stem were catching on the tree and holding it in place.
In the improving light we could see the casualties of Kid Karate’s excess with the LMG, about twenty rubbers trees were streaming latex where they should’nt ought to. The Headman was not too chuffed this was their only cash crop.
Royal Marines being innovators in difficult situations set about bandaging the wounds to the rubber trees and successfully stemmed the wayward flows of latex.
The headman and his oppos inspected the ground where Kid Karate had reported seeing the intruders and they confirmed knuckle marks in the soil, personally I could not make it out but at least Taff felt vindicated, well done son. (when in doubt open fire)
The villagers, bless em, had been standing buy with loaded shot guns that night and the following day they came to our basher with enamel plates full of maze corn custardy stuff and a nip or two of Tuak.
Our bold Corporal sent a radio message to HQ to report the firing and to let them know we were all ok with the cheeky post script “un flappable” yeah in yer dreams.
A fright is a great motivator, we set to with a will (even thought he had not joined us yet) with the locals help we felled trees built a double wall below and around our basher, in filled with compacted soil topped with sand bags to give a firm firing position.
Not to be out done I decided to lend a hand with the tree felling, trusty parang in hand I felled a tree approx. 200mm in diameter, trimmed it lopped of the top, noticing that the locals felled their trees much faster than me.
Ach well, thinks I, they are more experienced than me and began to heft the tree up onto my shoulder, “Jesus this is F**king heavy” then it dawned on me they were cutting bolsa type trees and I’d tackled a teak tree.
4
All Dyak eyes were upon me, I could see the little muscle bound bastards grinning from ear to ear. I though the pride of the Corp is at stake I’ve got to do this, and just like Popeye with his can of spinach, Singing Saray Marie (quick march of The Royal Marines thick-oh’s!) I hefted that tree and staggered man fully as best I could back to the hut with much back slapping from the locals. (I’ve still got a hernia)
Mac and I smashed at least another foot out of our fire trench(bed rock)Money offered technical advised like “is no possible Tuan that’s the top of a hill” Ah bollocks Money go and put the kettle on.
Apart from improving our defences, it was unanimously decided that no man would stand watch alone and to stagger the change-over so that there was always and acclimatised pair of ears on watch.
It may strike you gently reader that, I have a some-what light hearted attitude to what was potentially a dangerous situation, only when it’s over and you can look for the laughs.
Two things I have learned from my training and service in our illustrious Corps, try and keep a cool head and always look on the bright side and lest we forget, even the bad times are good.

1963. October to February 1964. ‘Active Service Back To Lundu’ Taken from Chapter 8 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.

40 Commando Royal Marines had been ordered back to Sarawak, to undertake a second Tour of Duty in the Lundu area. By now we all knew the routine having been through it several months earlier. Only this time we would be travelling in so called luxury on board HMS Albion a Commando Carrier. It having replaced "Old Rusty", HMS Bulwark a month earlier because it was returning to the UK for a major refit. This tour is going to be a little harder for me to recollect times, dates and places, but I will do my best. The reason I managed to get my first tour so accurate is that I kept a rough diary of events, but during this second tour, I became lazy or should I say could not be bothered. It is at times like this that I wished I had taken the time to record more accurate information. Because I know that I have left many incidents out of this book.
Kampong Lundu looked completely different this time around. 42 Commando who had replaced us had under taken a major building expansion around the police station area. Gone where all the tents and in their place was long wooden huts with separate cubicles so each Marine had a little privacy. A very large barbed wire compound surrounded the whole area including the football come make shift airfield.
However, all the routines were to become the same as before, even to the point that Two Troop were to spend the first month once again, guarding the police station along with A Company Head Quarters section.
Therefore, it was two hours on and four hours off guard duty, cleaning up this, sweeping up that, unloading boats and refuelling the choppers. The horrible routines that everybody hates doing, that are all part of going to war and anyway somebody has to do it, so it might as well be us.
Occasionally we did get a couple of trips up river to a Kampong, just to show the flag to the Iban tribesmen, while trying to keep them on our side. I must add that a vast majority believed in Queen Elizabeth when we arrived in their village, but who they believed in when we left I have no idea.
Life soon dropped back into the boring life style we had experienced way back in March, when we first arrived at Lundu with all our expectations of becoming jungle fighting heroes. Once again, we all wanted to be out in the jungle making our own rules and not being tied to the Headquarters group along with all its discipline. It upset us more as we were hearing stories of what B and C Companies were up to. Some of the Marines were making contacts with the enemy, but in that first month, lucky for us 40 Cdo received no fatalities. We had all learnt lessons during that first tour and many deaths had been unnecessary, all caused by not knowing about the jungle and are own hygiene. A connection to rats took a couple of lives, hopefully this time it would all be different. We all reunited our acquaintances with the locals, including the Police, Sarawak Rangers and the Iban Trackers. Mogumbo was still there, but Leo and the Gurkhas had long since gone. His unit having moved to the second division of Kuching.
The Helicopters that we usually refuelled would undertake many different rolls from moving men around to bringing in supplies. Sometimes while moving the men around, baskets would be fitted to the outside of the Chopper to carry their kit bags, allowing a little more room inside for the Marines. On one occasion while some of the Marines were being flown back to the Carrier, the Chopper under took a very steep banking manoeuvre and the kit bags rolled out and plunged many thousands of feet into the sea below. That day a few of the Marines came out on top having placed claims far in access to what was actually in the kit bags, because they were never found.
It always amazed me how they worked out the weight of the load they could safely carry in a Chopper. Most of us knew our body and kit bag weight, and at times we were asked before going on a long flight. But usually it was just a case of try it and see. On one occasion I was last in and ended up sitting in the door way. The Chopper took off trying to gain height, however after struggling to about five hundred feet it spun round and dived back into the landing zone coming down with a very loud bump. The Pilot then shouted back to us "One out", which meant me. I jumped out and the Chopper took off without me. Somebody shouted that they would come back for me. That day I felt quite lonely being left on my own in a hostile place just before dark. To add to my problems all my gear had stayed onboard the Chopper, so all I had with me was my rifle and a few rounds of ammunition. Anyway, it was a happy ending as they returned half an hour later.
One story that we did hear about concerned B Company, who was stationed at one of the forts in land. One of the sections was patrolling the border and walked onto the enemy while they were sitting around on the side of a track, it was assumed that they were having a break. A fire fight took place with three of the enemy being killed, while the Marines received no casualties, so it was described as a good contact. We also continued using what became known as MK’s, as Assault Boats. These were local dugout canoes called long boats fitted with outboard engines.
Anyway, our four weeks were soon up at Lundu and we were given a new assignment at Kampong Pang-Te-Bang. To reach our new home we had to undertake a boat ride and then a long march through the jungle which took us all day. Everybody was excited as we were returning to the jungle on our own, now we could shake off the shackles of Head Quarters which always seemed to dog us. I might add that there was a little rivalry amongst the Companies and we always thought that A came before B & C so in our eyes we were always the first choice for any assignment. Not only that, our Company Commander, Major Pug Davis was well known for his volunteering at every opportunity. A Company's nick name was the Saints.
‘Kampong Pang Te Bang’.
Pang-Te-Bang had been hard pressed in the last few weeks, having been attacked a couple of times. Fortunately, the Marines had been very lucky and so far, the Fort had received no casualties. The camp had been given the nick name of 'Fort Apache', another name taken from an old John Wayne movie of the same name. Up till now it had been living up to its name, with constant attacks being thrown against them, by the Indians as we sometimes referred to the enemy The fort did not have a landing strip, so it was supplied from the air, by parachute drops. While on other occasion supplies were brought in by changeover patrols.
'Fort Apache' was only a small fort, but it was well protected. Later a visiting General declared that it would take an army to overrun and storm the place. In its centre was a main hut, made up of Attap leaves, when built correctly attap is a very good waterproofing material. While spread evenly around the main hut was eight underground mortar proof Sanger’s or bashers as some people refer to them, each holding two men. These were just holes in the ground with cut down tree trunks laid across the top, with mud packed across the logs helping to make it water proof. The mortar proof roof was positioned about two feet above the surrounding ground level, giving the Marines a good all round low field of vision, while still being able to stand up in side. Inside was just enough room for two camp beds with mosquito nets, a few boxes of ammunition and battery operated detonator wires. These ran out to explosive devices hid out the front area of the basher, near the barbed wire perimeter fence about forty yards away. The barbed wire consisted of two rolls of dannet wire, one balanced on top of the other one. Between the bashers and the wire, there were hidden six foot deep pits that were filled with pangy spears. Pangy spears are made from bamboo poles, which are split into about four pieces, the ends are sharpened to a point. The points are then placed into the ashes of a fire, for a short time to harden the tips. Some of the tips are given coatings of poisonous substances that included human excrement. The other ends of the Pangy were then stuck into the earth at the bottom of the pit and covered over with vegetation, so that advancing rebels could not see them.
While outside of the wire were dozens of hidden booby traps, the favourite being cans of AV gas, chopper fuel, hanging from the trees. These could be detonated from the bashers by battery operated switches or by tracer bullets from our S.L.R. rifles. During the night, a rifle would be laid on the sandbags and lined up with the can of fuel that usually hung above a track. The riffle then had a couple of extra sand bags placed around it, so it did not move. Therefore, in the dark if you thought that the enemy was within the line of shot, all you had to do was just pull the trigger. Another favourite booby trap was the old tin of beans trick, like I used at Samunsam. The whole interior of the compound had been cleared of all trees and bushes to give us all a good field of vision.
After the long hard slog to Pang-Te-Bang, we arrived about an hour before dark. Giving us time to wash down, the usual method was to dive in the river with all our clothes on. As the river was just outside the camp wire perimeter. At all times somebody usually stood guard on the bank for us. After sweating buckets during our march through the jungle, it became one of life's little pleasures, just to lie in the cool water. As darkness started to fall, everybody would make their way back into the camp from different directions and the two gateways would be sealed up by barbed wire and booby traps. Usually being reopened the following morning around 8 am. Although we tried not to do things on a regular basis. If we were being watched it was not in our interest to give them an advantage to attack us while we were unprepared.
When the patrol returned from Lundu they brought with them a new replacement Sergeant. Would you believe my old friend Sergeant Nobby Clarke from my training days at Lympstone, on his very last overseas posting, as he was nearing the end of his full 22 year’s service in the Royal Marines?
The patrol also brought back a story of a Marine from C Company. Who had been out on a patrol and had camped in a rubber plantation. Next morning, he had taken a shave in the nearest stream and had cut his face. It was unknown by the Marines that the plantation had earlier been sprayed with arsenic to kill off the insects that attacked the trees. The arsenic in the air had got into his cut and he was dead within twenty four hours.
Another Marine from the same company had cleaned his teeth one morning in the local stream. Unbeknown to him the water contained rat’s urine, this had got into cuts in his gums and had killed him a couple of days later. The Marines had learnt the hard way. I’ve mentioned earlier that the jungle can be your friend, but it can also be a hostile place and can kill more people than the enemy if it’s not treated with respect. Because of these accidents it was essential that we learnt from others unfortunate mistakes. Let your guard down and the jungle just gobbles you up and spits you out.
Not sure if it was A or B Company who also lost another Marine whose name I cannot remember. It was discovered that he had anemic dysentery and a Sergeants delay in getting him back to headquarters and medical help, coursed his death. Even accusing the Marine at one time of being lazy and to faking all the symptoms he complained of. This affected many Marines in that company, so much so the Sergeant was moved to another Commando unit to take the heat off him. Months later I attended the Marines funeral back in Singapore which was a very solemn occasion. As his coffin was being lowered into the grave a local Malayan worker started shouting at us, the Commanding officer thinking he was making a mockery of the whole ceremony, sent two Marines over to shut him up. It turned out that he was one of the wardens of the cemetery and was trying to tell us that the coffin was being lowered into the ground facing the wrong way.
Another sad event was when a junior Marine died, even though he was by now a full Marine, we still referred to them as juniors. This guy had a body like Charles Atlas the famous American Body builder and was very proud of it. I think at the time he was a member of 42 Commando, anyway he dived into a muddy looking river, not knowing that the water was only about eighteen inches deep. He broke his neck and was paralysed from the neck down, he just lay in hospital with no will to live. His body physique had been his pride and joy, so we all surmised that not being able to show off all his muscles, he had nothing to live for. The poor chap died within a few months, what a tragedy he was only just nineteen years old.
One morning a few of us got permission from Nobby Clarke to go fishing in the river that ran by the camp, but we did not take any rods and worms, instead we took a few blocks of plastic explosive. We also took with us one of the Sarawak Rangers, who had no idea what we were about to do, but he came along out of interest. We walked along the bank until we found a shallow part of the river, here we left a couple of Marines with buckets. Don Hackett and I walked a little further up the river to a much deeper spot. Here we fixed a short length of fuse wire, about four inches long to a single block of plastic explosive. I showed it to the Sarawak Ranger and took out my lighter, telling him to watch this. I lit the fast burning fuse and waited until it was only about an inch from the plastic and then I threw it into the deepest part of the river. Thump, the Ranger jumped as a large column of water shot straight up into the air. Then as the water settled, we all saw many small fish floating up to the surface, the current carried them down stream to the waiting buckets. We then proceeded a little further upstream and did the same exercise once again. At the third attempt, we let the Ranger throw a stick in, but this time there was no explosion, the fuse had gone out. I believe he got scared and threw it in while the fuse was too long. The art was to try and time the explosion just as the plastic hit the water. Otherwise the water would put it out. I told the ranger that we could not leave it there and that we would have to get it out of the water. No way, the Ranger told me shaking his head. Knowing that it was safe I stripped off and dived in, trying to duck dive and find it on the bottom. Unfortunately, I was having no luck not being able to find my way around on the bottom of the river because the water was all churned up. I knew the Ranger was a good swimmer, so I tried to coach him into the river. He was very nervous knowing what it could do if it went off. After all, he had seen the large plume of water heading skywards when the earlier ones had exploded. I had to assure him that it was okay and to prove my point, I swam directly above the spot it had entered the water, to give him a little confidence. Slowly he swam out to where I was and then executed a duck dived beside me. He came up a few seconds later with the block in his hand and held it high out of the water. He then swam very fast with the other hand, breaking all known Olympic-swimming records for Sarawak, in his haste to reach the bank. He then threw it ashore and turned towards me laughing. Don picked up the plastic and pulled out the unburned part of the fuse. With that, we decided that we had fished enough for the day. We would call it a day, so we headed back down the river, collecting the Marines along the way with their buckets full of fish.
As we approached the camp from the other side of the river. We could see an area on the other bank that was used as our toilet. Unfortunately, in those days, nobody ever considered that other people were living further downstream. The locals usually placed a log across the river and would squat on it. Anyway, our toilet was on a platform built of bamboo and stuck out over the river, about six feet up off the water. I always thought that it had been constructed this way, so nobody had to dig a pit. Anyway, holes had been cut in the platform base and wooden boxes, with their own holes, had been placed over the platform holes. Four of these so-called thunder boxes were placed side by side. Marines used this setting to have a chat while they sat around answering natures call. The whole platform had sacking draped around it to give the user just a hint of privacy from the outside world. As we neared the toilet area, I could see Nobby Clarke and another Marine with their backs to us, doing the usual sitting, while having a chinwag. We were on the other bank, so we crept up until we were level with them, I stuck a fuse into the plastic explosive we had just retrieved from the river. I lit the fuse and tossed it in the water just below Nobby. Whoosh a spout of water shot up about ten feet high into the air, drowning the Sergeant and Marine, with more than just water. Nobby saw us on the other riverbank laughing and shook his fist at us, while hurling shouts of abuse like "I get you for this Aspinall". Soon the whole camp came down to the river and had a good laugh. I would have to be on my guard now. Nobby or Sergeant Rock (from an American war comic) as we had started to call him would be looking to get his own back on me.
Most of our supplies were dropped by parachute at least twice a week. During these drops we had to be vigilant, as the parachutes would land anywhere, and some Marines had been injured in the past. Sometimes the aircraft flew very low over the camp and just kicked out the load with no chutes, this practice was very dangerous. Anyway, after a time there were many parachutes lying around the fort. The material was a type of silk and nylon mix. Somebody hit on the idea of using it to barter with the locals. This material became worth a fortune to them. Both men and women wore very little clothing and some owned absolutely nothing. So, for them to own a few panels of silk material, made them feel very rich and flashy. Nowadays I like to call them the yuppies of Sarawak.
Later while back in Singapore I took some of the white parachute materiel to clothing shop and got them to make me a couple of shirts. However, the venture turned out to be a complete waste of time, because the material could not breathe. Once you started sweating the material just stuck to your skin and looked like the shirt was full of bubbles of water.
On one occasion a drop was planned, so the lads could have a birthday party drink for one of the Marines. One of the items to be dropped was twelve packs of tinned Tiger beer, (twenty-four cans to a pack) the plane usually completed a low level run first checking out the wind direction and would then do a second run to complete the drop. Unfortunately, on this occasion the parachutes never opened, and the crate went straight through the main hut roof and landed beside the dinner table embedding its self about two foot into the ground. Some of the beer cans burst open upon impact, so there was one hell of a mess as the beer flowed freely, especially down a few throats I might add. Luckily nearly everybody was outside to watch the drop, otherwise a few of the guys might have been seriously injured. I say nearly everybody, because the radio operator was still in the hut trying to keep in contact with the aircraft. Lucky for him he was away from where the beer actually landed but it did give him one hell of a shock. Although I might add that he was also the first to sample the contents of the so called damaged cans. Remember in those days cans never had rings on them, we had to use an opener to piece the top.
The plane then returned on another low run over us, this time out spun Ginger’s monthly National Geographic Magazine, spinning to the ground in its plain brown envelope. Followed by a bag of mail with a red ribbon flapping in the wind so we could find it. One day that magazine will land in the river I used to tell Ginger. It was also nice to read the magazine whenever Ginger had finished reading it.
A Marine Commando unit stays put in the area it is assigned to for several years. The men are usually changed around after serving eighteen months in the unit, being returned to the UK. However, Marines who bring their wives with them usually stay for about two and a half years, but no longer. The main reason being that the UK government did not like you being out of the country more than three years, because you would then be able to reclaim your past three years income tax back. Because of this system, a Commando unit could end up losing half a dozen of its most experienced Marines at any one time. Then overnight, have to replace them with half a dozen mere novices, not knowing one end of a rubber plant to another.
It was precisely this reason that Sergeant Rock decided to take out a patrol, firstly to aquatint himself with the area and secondly to sort out some of the new recruits, that had just arrived with him. While thirdly to find out just how good his so-called old soldiers were. So, one morning a large section of us set out on what would be a long drawn out patrol. I took point with the tracker, a position I loved to be in. We had just recently been issued with Remington repeater pump action shotguns. The Remington Company had sent technicians out to Sarawak to fit us up with them, in some cases they even sawed off the barrels to suit the person using them. The jungle foliage could hang very close to you as you walked along a track, if you swung around the hanging foliage would catch up on the barrel. So, it was decided to shorten the barrels to stop them getting caught up. If you were suddenly to turn a corner and walked onto the enemy, one shot with the short barrel would be all you would need, you could not miss especially with the spread of shot as it left the barrel. It would certainly stop the guy directly in front of you, giving you time to take cover.
Ginger took the rear end of the patrol, Don and Geordie Frith was with us, Sergeant Rock in the middle with six of the new lads plus a Gurkha. The idea was to cut our way up to the border and just patrol the area for a few days. As we left Pang-Te-Bang we formed a long line, because we were well spaced, an important teaching if you walked through an ambush position, a bunched up patrol could all be wiped out in one hit. We were all carrying backpacks loaded with about 56lb of gear, a lot for this type of climate. The webbing was very uncomfortable, I’d heard a story back at Deal that a woman had designed it many years earlier. It’s a pity she did not try walking through the jungle with it on her back. Most of us old soldiers had hacked the webbing about and added what we called a quick release buckle. Made up from parachute straps, in such a way as to ride more comfortable on our backs and I might add that it worked very satisfactory. I use the word quick release because it was designed so that if we needed to drop the heavy load, all we had to do was pull the belt end and it would drop around your ankles as we attempted to run away from the enemy in a record breaking time.
We twisted and turned our way through the jungle, walking purely on the compass, cutting a track as we went. We made the new boys take a turn up front with me, using their machete's to cut a path through, not a wide track just enough to squeeze through. This was where the shotguns were worth their weight in gold. We walked for about two hours and would then have fifteen minutes off for a rest and a smoke, but we would always get off the tracks when we rested.
When we arrived into the area we thought was the border, I say thought because the border position was always suspect, never having been mapped accurately. Here we turned west still cutting our own track parallel to what we thought was the border. The reasons we tried to keep off existing tracks, was so that we did not walk into an ambush or a lethal bamboo trap. These were usually made of bamboo spikes and were very effective in severely injuring people.
Cutting your way through the jungle is a very slow and very noisy, but it had to be done. On a good day, you could travel maybe up to four or five miles, a lot further and quicker than travelling through mangrove swamp. Sometimes in mangrove, you would be lucky if you could cover one mile a day.
Around 4 pm after covering about four miles, Sergeant Rock called a halt. Poor old Nobby he was just dripping with sweat and struggling with the heat and insects, he was in his middle forties and was carrying a little extra weight around his waist. He had done well to get this far, most of the new boys were struggling by this time as well, so it was decided to make a camp for the night. The sight chosen was a low area, but clear. Ginger and I paired up, Don with Geordie and together we moved a little way up a small hill. We then built a small platform of bamboo into the side of the hill, about six feet long and five feet wide, (remember training). We then covered it with ferns and leaves, as a mattress. We stretched a string line the length of the sleeping area about three feet above and draped our ponchos over the string to keep any rain of the mattress and us. We also hung mosquito nets under the ponchos. It took us about one hour to complete all of the work. We then walked down the hill to see what the others were up to, most of them had just laid down where they had collapsed and crashed into a heap. If only they knew I thought, they were novices and it showed. Don and Geordie had done the same as us and Nobby had teamed up with the Gurkha who built the same sort of structure as ours, but I must add it was better and Nobby had not lifted a finger in its construction, being absolutely exhausted.
I told them all that they were wrong in not trying to get themselves up off the ground. I was told to mind my own business and that it would not rain tonight. As we had cut our own track and that our camp area was off the beaten track, we did not bother with a guard, it being a waste of time. Ginger and I headed back up the hill, cutting some small branches as we went to lay them around our bashers as a little camouflage. We ate a quick meal from our ration packs then turned in for the night. It had been a hard day’s slog and tomorrow would be just as hard, so a good night’s rest was essential.
About three hours into darkness, I was awakened by a very heavy rainstorm, Ginger and I lay there and chuckled to each other. All the new comers were caught out, you would think that with all the training they had received back in the UK, they would have known better and learn their lesson. It rained on and off for most of the night. Then in the early hours of the morning, the shouting started from the new boys. Right where they had lain, it had suddenly turned into a small stream. Now they were struggling to save whatever they could by dragging it up the side of the hill, to find cover for the rest of night. Lying there dry and warm, I tapped Ginger lying beside me, we both agreed that in time they might learn, I then rolled over and went back to sleep and my dreams of Brenda and of what might have been.
I rose at 6 am and crawled out of my basher, as it had stopped raining. Looking around I could not help laughing to myself at the sorry sight that greeted my eyes. All the new comers were stripped off trying to dry out their clothes. I walked over to where Nobby was sitting amongst a group of the sad looking guys. "If you do not mind me saying", I was cut off in mid-sentence, "We do mind" one of the Marines butted in, "I did try and warn you all. I guess you have just learnt a valuable lesson”. I went on to tell them that we had never been through the jungle warfare school either.
After eating, washing and covering up the camp we set off for another day of following the border, Ginger, Don Geordie and I started out on our own. Leaving the others to tidy up and catch up later. If we were only three miles ahead and the track was cut, they could walk it in under an hour.
A few tricks we had to teach these new guys was, only cook food that the locals cook Only smoke their home made fags and no washing with soap, no tooth paste and certainly no after shave. These smells travel miles through the jungle. If you eat like a local, there is just a chance that the enemy would not investigate. It was also a good idea to eat one cooked meal per day if possible. One thing we could not change and that was our body odour which made us smell totally different to the local people. We could sit in a river and wash all of our daily sweat from our bodies and because of the humid conditions, within half an hour we would smell exactly the same.
That night we camped on a small hill by a stream, the new guys did not need telling how to build a basher. Therefore, we left them alone, the tracker had got some good tucker for us to eat during the days march. He picked up a few frogs, with legs on them like bantam chickens. It was decided to just cook it up and not tell the new guys what it was until it had all been eaten. Everybody commented on it being good and once told they did not even complain, these boys are learning fast I thought. That night everybody got, a goodnights sleep and it didn’t even rain.
In the morning while breaking camp, it was decided to give the new guys a chance to lead and do the chopping. It was fairly safe as we had not come across anything yet. Our hope in cutting a track parallel with the border was to maybe come across a new track that the enemy had perhaps cut through the border and into Sarawak. We let the new boys chop away to their hearts content. It would strengthen them up or wear them down, you can choose which one. Nobby was quite happy to just take our advice on the situation. At 4 pm we called a halt in a small clearing, this will do for the night, Don told Nobby, knowing exactly where he was. So, we started to set up for the night, Nobby asked Don why he had chosen this site and was told that he knew the area well, adding that the clearing was still hidden. He also knew of an existing track about a mile away, that he would show them tomorrow. It was suggested that we post a guard tonight and keep our talking down to a minimum.
Don Hackett was a very good soldier, early in his career, he had joined the Army, but later he volunteered successfully and completed a tour of duty with the Special Air Service. He then had to leave the service because of his Mother’s health. After her death, he had wanted to get back into the SAS. Which meant that he would have to first join the Army and to then re-apply to join the SAS. However, he worried that he might not be selected and that he would then be stuck in the Army as a Percy Pongo for whatever time he had signed up for. He did the second best thing, by joining the Royal Marines. He was a good military man and did his job well. I would guess that he would make Sergeant one day.
Don suggested one man on guard for two hours and cooking down to a minimum. One of the new guys wanted to know where the water was, there is no stream he said. Don took him over to a bamboo clump of canes, he counted up from the ground five notches and cut it off with his machete. The lads could see it was full of water and it was pure, remember five up but do not sleep near bamboo. It usually houses the bamboo snake and they are very poisonous. Don then took them over to some vines hanging from the trees. He grabbed hold of one and cut a three-foot section away, showing it to all the new guys that water was running out in a trickle. About half a litre enough to survive on, telling them not to let the vine touch their lips, because they would become covered in very nasty sores. He also told them that they could also crush up a banana trunk and strain it through your neckerchief. Training over we all set about building our bashers for the night. With each of us taking a short guard for the night, we got as much sleep as possible.
In the morning, we broke camp early and arranged to keep the noise down as low as possible, while slowly and carefully we made our way up towards the track that Don said was there. We gave Don the Remington and he took lead point with the Tracker clearing the way. This time we going slower as we were being more careful not wanting to walk onto the enemy unprepared.
We found the track about midday just where Don had predicted, Nobby mounted a guard just near the track and the rest of us withdrew to make a plan, about two hundred yards back into the jungle. Nobby had decided to lay an ambush on the track during the night, we had a short briefing in which he outlined that we would be laying in a patrol order. That is Scout (1) Bren Team (3) Riffle Team (3) and tail end Charlie (1). A trip flare would be laid across the track, furthest from the border, as we were only expecting the enemy to come down the track from the border side. We would also cut a way to our lying positions from behind and not enter it from the track. You do not enter from the track, as a good tracker would spot these marks, so you must always enter from the back. We will all have vines tied to our wrists as a communication link, one tug for somebody coming, constant tugging to withdraw. We would open fire when the trip flare goes off, also try and place large leaves in front of your eyes in the direction of the flare, so you’re not blinded when it goes off. No talking, no smoking we will get into position just before dark and we do not move out until my order comes, after daybreak. One of the new guys asked about sleep you just cat-nap, but do not all fall asleep some of you snore. We got into our positions at around 6 pm on the straightest part of the track, wanting to ambush as many of the enemy in one go as possible. However, we would only be covering about a twenty-yard area of the track. Everybody's firing area or ARC as we call it would overlap each other’s, an ambush should only last about two or three seconds by then it should be all over. With each Marine only having to shoot one of the enemy, or maybe two at the most who are in his ARC of fire.
About midnight the vines tugged on my wrist, I lay there waiting to see what came into my line of fire, which was on the left of the patrol furthest away from the border but near the trip flare. I heard noises of somebody moving down the track, but I could see nothing. Although I knew somebody was definitely moving down the track and towards us. You could hear small twigs snapping and brushing sounds of the boots in long grasses that sometimes grow alongside these tracks. Suddenly BANG, BANG, BANG, somebody started shooting, but at what I was not sure. I could see nobody in my ARC of fire because the flare had not gone off, what the hell had gone wrong. Being dark, nobody moved, and no signals came along the vine to give me an indication.
It was a long wait until morning in order to find out what had actually happened. At first light it was discovered that two wild pigs had been shot, both had died instantly. We withdrew into the jungle for a debrief. Nobby was very critical of the actions the night before, we had only shot two pigs and that was before they had even activated the trip flare. If they had been terrorist whoever had panicked and fired first would possibly have let about a dozen others escape. They should have let as many pass though the trap as possible. It’s quite scary letting the enemy walk past you into a trap because they are so close to you. Because of the thickness of the jungle you are laying very close to the track. It takes a little nerve knowing that if it was daylight they only had to look down and they would be looking straight into your eyes. Even the most hardened of Marines would be a little nervous at times although you do get used to it. However, getting used to it only comes when you are lying next to Marines you know well and can trust that they will not panic. Its times like this, that you must trust your opposite number and know that at all times he will protect your back. Because this ambush had been set off early there was a chance that it could have gone wrong and that some of our own could have been injured. It was not worth trying to find out who fired first, what was done was done, we could not alter it, but hopefully all the new Marines had learnt a valuable lesson. It would not be any good hanging around this track now, as our position had been compromised and it would be about two months before the terrorists would use that area again.
One of the other companies had a similar experience while laying on their night ambush. Hearing people approaching their position the officer had jumped out on to the track and challenged them with a, "Halt who goes there". The terrorists just turned around and fled, end result being, no kills and a total waste of an evening’s work. These two incidents changed all of our ambush tactics. General orders went out to all units, to kill as many as possible, after allowing the maximum number of terrorists to get in front of the ambush team, before the trap is sprung.
We only set night ambushes, the reason being a curfew was in force during the night and anybody found wandering around after dark was fair game. Nevertheless, I felt sorry for the non-English speaking villages they had not a clue what was going on around them, they just did not understand and still carried on in their old traditional ways.
We walked back into the jungle, back the same way we had come. Along the track we had cut the day before for about half a mile to the East and then turned ninety degrees and started cutting a new track north. The tracker very carefully covered up our exit point on the old track, not wanting to give our position away to anybody. We did not want unwanted guests to find our new track. We travelled for about two and a half miles and decided to camp by a swollen river for the night. Nobby advised everybody to boil their water as the river was a funny colour, but the old hands would look for vines or bamboo. We used to also carry a small green canvas bag that was used to strain and purify water. Once topped up we hung it in a bush so that the strained contents could dribble into our water bottles. Once full we added a water purifying tablet and then anther tablet to take remove the taste of the first tablet. Once that bottle had been shaken it was okay to drink. I once saw a demonstration in Burma Camp when an instructor topped up his green bag from a sewerage stream that ran past the camp. Once he’d added the tablets and shook the bottle he drank the water. I might add that there were not many people to take up his offer of a drink that day. However, it’s nice to know that an idea like that, will keep you alive if you can’t find any drinkable water.
That night we all got a fairly good night’s sleep, after being awake for most of the previous night and it was most welcome. As we needed to top up our batteries just a little.
In the morning after a good breakfast, Nobby was asking for ideas on how to cross the swollen river. Not everybody in the section were good swimmers, so we decided the best way was to attach a rope on the other bank and to used it as a hand rail, so it could be used to help you pull yourself over. We had tested the rivers depth and discovered it was about four feet six inches deep, not too bad. I was one of the best swimmers in the unit, therefore I volunteered to get the rope across to the other side. I tied one end of a rope to a tree in an area that we wanted to cross. I then walked up stream as far as I could, with the other end tied around my waist. I then slid into the water, not wanting to dive just in case I hit a submerged rock and swam for the other bank. The swift current carried me down river to the area we intended to cross and by this time, I was already over near the other bank. I climbed up and tied the other end of the rope to the nearest tree. Most of the Marines had taken off their backpacks and also some of their clothing. Then they wrapped all of their gear including their riffles inside of their ponchos, to try to make them floatable and waterproof. One by one they pulled themselves across the river on the rope with their poncho covered gear attached to them floating behind, at all times we had someone on guard on each bank just in case. Ginger brought my gear over when it was his turn, we only allowed one man on the rope at a time. Last man over untied the rope from the tree and just hung on to the end. As we pulled him over to our side of the river.
One of the Company's had lost a Marine at a river crossing much like I have just described, but unfortunately, he was washed away. He was very young and not a very good swimmer, he was not only washed away, he completely disappeared. Later a chopper pilot spotted his body a couple of days later on a sand bank near the estuary of the river. A patrol was dispatched to recover the body, but it was already in a bad state of decay when they found it. Two days in the sun had seen to that, along with the fish and animals.
We cut our track still heading north and made a camp at around 4 pm. While most were getting organised, the tracker took Ginger and me into the jungle. He was searching for and found an old and rotten tree. Slowly he peeled back the bark and exposed a very white soft inner core, full of large tunnelled holes. He then picked around until he found what he was looking for and then showed us what to me looks like a very fat long grub with a brownish head. I would say it was about three to four inches long and about as fat as my thumb. The tracker put it straight into his mouth but kept hold of its head, he then bit the head off and threw it away while the body was still wriggling on his tongue. Not for me I thought looking at Ginger wondering what was going through his head. The tracker smiled and swallowed it, apparently it is the top jungle food you can eat being full of protein. Ginger had a taste of one, wringing his face about a little, as he swallowed it. After seeing that, I declined, whilst feeling a little bit of a coward. Anyway, the tracker collected up a couple of dozen of these grub type things. Back at camp, somebody was cooking some sort of stew for us. Ginger leaned over and dropped the grubs straight into the pot, the end result was it tasted pretty good. There was not one complaint, as we all enjoyed them cooked. Mind you, I often wondered how many of the guys would have eaten them raw. I don’t believe I would have been alone that day.
Another thing I have not mentioned yet is Leeches. The strange thing about leeches is that you will never feel them on you, it’s as if they are invisible. Every day after a long march, you would usually be covered in them, mostly from the waist down. You must not pull them off as the heads stay attached to your skin and will turn septic. Some people sprinkle salt on them. I preferred to burn them off, by just holding the hot end of a cigarette up against them, they would just roll up and drop off. As a protection against them, some people would also place salt around the tops of their jungle boots, although this doesn’t usually work and can course further problems if salt gets into your boots and down to your feet. When they first latched themselves onto you, they would only be as thick as a pin, but when they are full of blood, they would become very fat. If you had them on your back, you would usually pair up with somebody and together you would get them off each other. If they were in an area of your body where the clothing chaffed, or was folded they sometimes burst open, letting all the blood seep through your clothing. Looking a little scary but a lot worse than it actually was.
On one patrol I went on, in to an area known to be bad for leeches, I counted thirty-two leeches on me. All in my under pants area, so my under pants were covered in blood. Where some had gorged themselves on me and my walking motion had burst them open. It was very frightening the first time I saw it, but like everything you get used to it.
I was later told a story of one of our lads getting some in his underpants and one had got inside the end of his private parts. It turned out to be quite a delicate operation in trying to remove it, so it did not leave its head stuck in his flesh. He had been lucky, when one of his friends used a cigarette to burn it off safely.
Next day we still headed north until we found another track, here we decided to lay another ambush, only difference this time we did not know anything about the track, where it came from or where it was going.
That night we decided to split up the new boys amongst the more experienced of us, which I think was a good idea. Most of us wore a sweat neckerchief which was made of a mesh material and camouflaged in colour. During the day, we wore it around our necks to soak up the sweat, but on an ambush, it was ideal to place over your head and face to keep the mossies and other insects off you. Trying to be quiet, you could not keep swatting your face. Anyway, the night was fruitless and at day break I noticed the guy beside me had not used his net over his head, in fact I do not think he even had a net. His face was completely distorted with lumps and bites. How he had tolerated this biting all night and had not made a sound, was beyond me, because he looked a mess. Funny thing was, I had lain right beside him and at times I had removed my net and I had not one single bite. Proof that mossies are a bit choosy of whom they bite. Full credit to the Marine for keeping silent right through the night. It is a well-known fact that insects are a little choosy and will home in on a certain people, whether it’s their blood or body odour I’m not sure.
After a feed, we set off on the track that we had just laid our ambush on. After a couple of hours Don started to realise where we were, taking us on to another known track which lead us back to Pang-Te-Bang and 'Fort Apache'. So, we could catch up with our mail and a few hours sleep. During some of my lonelier hours, I would try and talk somebody into writing to my American pen friend for me, after all she was taking the time to keep in touch with me. During the next few months I received quite a few letters from her. Funny but I can’t even remember her name, although I do have a couple of pictures of her family farm. At one time I believe I sent her a Chung Sam dress that I bought from Nee Soon on the island of Singapore. During that time, I did get some nice letters and information cuttings from her. She sent me a Dallas (Texas) newspaper with the headlines of Kennedy's Assassination. Would you believe news did not filter through to us very fast in those days? Kennedy had been dead for about a months before we even knew about it. In fact, we read it all in the paper I had been sent. Unfortunately, somebody stole it from me, which is a pity as it would be worth a fortune today.
I was suffering headaches once again, at times very bad ones. At times I was taking about four tablets of codeine every four hours, although now the headaches seemed to be a little more frequent. Some attacks would last two days, but I just lived with them. While not letting too many people around me know, especially the officers. I could have been a liability on guard, but I must own up until now I never had been.
We had a medical officer visit the camp because quite a few of the Marines were complaining of different ailments and problems. Therefore, he thought he had the answer, the first thing he made us do was to fill in the underground bashers and to build new ones above ground. Some Marines had been bitten in their sleep by large black rats that infested the camp. While living underground and laying on our five feet nine inches long camp bed and covered by a mosey net. We usually ended up with our feet hanging out of the bottom of the beds. This site must have looked a little tasty to the local rat population.
When we pulled these bashers down, we were all amazed at the size of these rats that appeared and ran off. The guard dog Bella got a couple and a couple were killed with spades. The holes were filled in and what timber could be salvaged was recycled. See we were even recycling in those days. The bashers that we built above ground were much the same, with double log sides full of earth, all about three foot thick and about three foot high. However, this time there was no roof protection from mortar attacks. Just a dark green tarpaulin cover, not very bullet proof but at least it kept the rain out. We had placed the bashers further away from the main hut, nearer to the wire fence. I used to tell everybody it was so the parachutes had a better chance of hitting us, when they dropped our supplies. We also paced duckboards as walk ways between the main hut and the bashers, so at least we had a dry and non-muddy path, because it rain almost every day. Otherwise the camp would have been turned into a quagmire of mud. Now at least we could keep our feet dry for a couple of hours a day and not take mud into our new homes.
‘Kampong Gumbang’.
Our arrival at Gumbang was very low key. The fort was positioned a kilometre from the Kampong, so it was possible to come and go without the locals knowing too much of our activities. It was also a very quiet fort and to date it had not seen any action. Therefore, I guess we all went there expecting a very quiet relaxed life style and we were not disappointed. I would also say that we were very lucky, because later when 42 Commando relieved us, Gumbang became the centre of a lot of action. On August 17th the 21st and 23st, one week after we had left for Singapore. Indonesian raiders led by regular troops, attacked the fort of Gumbang, which was only about two hundred yards inside the border. The fort was defended at that time by a riffle section from L Company 42 Commando and was under the control of Sergeant Alistair Mackie, along with a section of locally trained border scouts. They fought and beat off every attack that was thrown at them and with no casualties. On the 23rd, they set an ambush near the border and caught about sixty raiders on their way to the Kampong to attack it, killing many of them. L Company had a lot of kills to their name, including Limbang in Brunei and also later at Rassau, fortunately they lost very few of their own men.
We were also told of a patrol that had walked through an ambush, the point man and a local scout got through. Unfortunately Riffle and Bren parties were all shot, but the tail end Charley and a Gurkha survived. As the ambush was executed, everybody dived into the jungle, the opposite side to that of the gun sounds. The two at the front and the two at the back lay in the jungle all day not daring to move. They finally crept away in the fading light of the day, taking a complete day to cut their way through the jungle and back to a safe fort. All four got back but it took another full day to mount a search party. When the search party finely went out to locate the bodies of the dead, all had been booby-trapped. Hand grenades without their pins had been placed under each body. Fortunately, all were very damp and luckily none went off. After the first grenade had been discovered, ropes were then attached to the bodies to roll them over slowly. Luckily, as I said not one of the grenades went off.
The only bit of excitement we had was while on a patrol with McGinty and Sheba the war dog. Was when Sheba suddenly sat and pointed at an open area that we were about to walk across. Cautiously we fanned out to check out the whole area. We found a spot flattened by somebody who we supposed had been lying in wait for us. Lucky for us Sheba had alerted us, and I think scared whoever it was away. After two weeks, we were relieved and told to make our way to Kampong Bau a good days march away. However, in Sarawak every destination is always a good day’s march away.
‘Kampong Bau’.
Bau was B Company's strong hold in Division two and known as a safe area. Therefore, it was great to be able to just lie around and to be able to talk and take it easy. Not knowing what our next assignment would be. Yes, Bau was a holiday camp compared with what we had been used to.
We were all excused guard duties, so it really was a rest area, the camp was situated beside a very large lake. Pass times included canoeing, swimming, volley ball, football and of course sun bathing. In those days, it was the in thing to do, not like today with all the stories of holes in the ozone layer etc. During the first two days, most of the section just lazed around and caught up on some sleep. By about the third day we were starting to come alive. Ginger and I took a stroll down to the Kampong for a look around, mind you we still had to carry our weapons with us, just in case.
The Kampong was built into a square with the stores all being open fronted, we just casually strolled from store to store looking at this and that. Most sold a collection of local foods especially dried fish, which stank to high heaven. Soon we found one that sold bottled beer. Walking inside we found a few tables and chairs, so we took a seat and ordered two bottles of Anchor beer, costing about four Singapore Dollars. $1 is equal to two shillings and four pence at the 1962 exchange rate. Anchor was a lager style beer, which I enjoyed at that time. It was brewed in Singapore, the only other choice was Tiger, once again brewed in Singapore, but it was usually in draught form. Anyway, Ginger and I were sitting back enjoying a nice beer.
Sitting a couple of tables away were three men dressed like locals and speaking the local language, all had long hair and beards, but looked a little tall. Suddenly they started talking in English, Ginger leaned over to talk to them and after a few minutes he was very surprised to find out they were in fact British. It only took a few seconds to realise that they were members of the Special Air Service (SAS), after being invited we joined them at their table. We all ordered another round of beers and the general conversation was around jungle survival. Each giving his views, apparently these three had been in service in Norway and had been flown direct to Sarawak. Being briefed on the plane during the flight over and then dropped straight into the jungle. The speed and skill for them to adapt to the jungle conditions had to be very swift. Just so they could blend in and not be noticed is just incredible. After all, both Ginger and I had thought they were locals. Their main task was just to stay undetected in the jungle, for recognisance and surveillance work. Between the three of them, they had to know every subject under the sun and I do mean everything. They each spoke three different languages and had to have the ability to pick up other languages and subjects when required and on top of this, they also had to be very good jungle fighters.
After a time, a few stories started to emerge, one they told us was of a helicopter full of high-ranking officers flying around North Borneo, checking out the British Forts. It developed engine trouble and came down in the jungle crashing into a very thick area of trees, ending up badly smashed up. Most of the occupants survived and scrambled out, getting clear just in case of fire, but one man was trapped inside (E. D. Smith). A branch of a tree had broken through the side of the chopper and pinned the man’s arm. It was very badly crushed, and nobody could move him or the branch. One of the Officers was a surgeon but had no instruments with him. Thinking the chopper would catch fire at any moment he made a quick decision and amputated the man’s arm with a service issue jack knife, it being the only tool available. He must have done a good job as the man made a very good recovery. We had about three hours with these guys and enjoyed their company immensely, but soon we had to make tracks back to our campsite. E. D. Smith went on to write a book about the Borneo Campaign, called 'Malaya and Borneo' Counter insurgency Operations:1, of which I have a copy.
Later Bau was to become well known to all Marines when 3 photos were handed around and copied amongst 40 Commando. They were of a head of a terrorist that had been brought into the Bau fort by a local Dayak Tribesmen, claiming that he had kill the terrorist that had earlier shot down an Army light aircraft (believed to have been a Beaver) that was patrolling along the border. The local had brought the head back so that the military could identify the terrorist and wanted to claim some sort of reward. I do not think anybody argued with his claim, and as for the reward I'm not sure if he ever received one. The photos were of great interest as they also included a group of Marines from B Company taking turns in holding it up by its hair. It had been cut off at the neck and mud had been packed into the cut to keep the blood in and I suppose to stop it from going off quickly. I also have a copy and they are displayed in Chapter Eight photo gallery on my website. I never did find out if it was the vicar’s plane that they were talking about.
Next morning, I went down to the lake for a swim and found Ginger running around with a net, trying to catch butterflies. All around the banks of the lake, where the mud was very damp were thousands of butterflies of every shape, size and colour. When disturbed they made a terrific splash of colour as they flew away. Ginger had started a collection and had been pinning them to his hut wall. Unfortunately, the night before he had lost a large part of the collection by scavenging rats so here he was trying to replace a few of the species. Ginger stopped his collecting and joined me in the lake, as did, Dal, Don, Geordie and a few others, a great day’s horseplay followed. This was great way to let your hair down and to forget our trouble for a couple of hours.
During the evening while sitting around the hut drinking our couple of beers and swapping stories. One of the Gurkhas took out some photos and explained to us a ceremony that was celebrated back in Singapore. While I had heard it all before and seen the pictures, it was still fascinating, so I listened to what he had to say. He went on to tell us how they chopped off heads of lambs, goats and oxen. It was something to do with their religion, using their world famous knife the Kukri, the head had to be chopped off in one blow. Failing in this brought some sort of disgrace to them. I hated the fine detail, being an animal lover, although I had heard it all before at Lundu, but I did bring home some photos of the ceremony.
While at Bau many of the Marines acquired some sort of pet or section mascots and they ranged from snakes, Iguanas, to several varieties of monkeys and a civet cat. The civet cat even made it back to Singapore against all the rules. It was smuggled back but died at Burma Camp a few months later, having hung its self on its lead. I had a grey snake about three feet long, it made a great pet. Unfortunately, I was ordered to get rid of it in the end. One of officers was dreaming one night and dreamt I put it on him in his sleep, but I did not. Sometimes I wish I had, if I am going to be blamed for something, it's better that I did the deed in the first place. I do not mind the blame if I have enjoyed the prank that I was accused of.
One of the other sections had a rather large monkey called Rosie and everybody liked her. Unfortunately, when they knew we were going back to Singapore and that no pets were allowed. Somebody tied a large piece of rag on her like a parachute and dropped her out of a chopper as they were being flown to HMS Albion lying of the coast. Poor old Rosie she had been a faithful pet and most Marines had thought it a bad thing to do to her. It might have been better putting her out of her misery first.
All too quickly our short stay at Bau was over, and so it was back to the action station once again. From here we were to go to Kampong Stass.

Kampong Stass had a bad record, it had been attacked quite a few times in the past, not a place to drop your guard. We had to march there, and it took all day. We also had to radio on ahead to let them know we were coming, just in case they thought they were under attack once again. It had been decided that the outgoing section would stay a further two days, just in case we had been seen coming. It would only take a Monkey to work out that a changeover was taking place and that the relieving section usually came back the next day following along the same track. A good time to lay an ambush, in fact it always surprised me that it never happened more often.
Stass’s fortifications were about as good as those at Pang-Te-Bang. It would take an army to get through, but it paid to keep on your toes and to help we had McGinty and Sheba with us. Sheba would be on guard twenty-four hours a day, she was our ears and we also had two night sights that were also very welcome. Most Marines by now had a good idea how they worked and welcomed their assistance during the night time guards.
The villagers seemed quite friendly and I befriended a young girl who would do my washing for me. We never took off all our clothes, as I have said before we were not going to be caught without trousers down, our weapons were always ready for use and sometimes cocked, one in the breach or up the spout as some prefer to call it. Although I might add that it was not a normal practice to have one in the breach. I guess by today’s standards it would not be considered as a safe working practice.
We did lay a few ambushes at nights, but somehow nothing ever happened. I guess you could say we were lucky or unlucky whichever way you look at it. One night five of us were laying an ambush, we had a new Marine with us and because of the very wet ground we all lay on our ponchos. On this particular night we were late getting into position, it being almost dark, so nobody could see much, anyway this new guy heard a scratching noise all night from under his cape that he was laying on. Plus, it was moving, but lying on flat rocks, he just had to leave it. Nobody was to move until daylight, we found out later that he and his partner who had been lying beside him had been very worried through the entire night. In the morning and daylight, they jumped a mile when they moved the cape, he had been lying on a small snake and they never knew if it was poisonous or not. It was brown in colour and did not take many seconds to disappear off the rock and into the undergrowth once it saw daylight.
While on another patrol Sheba picked up a blood stained bit of rag, but it did not mean anything. It could have belonged a local who had just cut himself on some bamboo. It was not even worth following up, so it was just thrown away.
Stass would not always this quiet, about a year later it was attacked by about four hundred raiders, with several being killed on both sides. At about the same time Biawak was also hit by a large number of raiders. The Royal Marines and Gurkhas killed many of the enemy during both of those confrontations that was called operation Dragons Teeth.
February 1964 soon came around and we were back on board of HMS Albion, then within the week we were settled back into Burma Camp. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

1963. Friday 29th November. Issue of white drill leg aprons for RMBS Drummers and Buglers. The buff leg apron to be withdrawn.

1963. Wednesday 4th December. ‘The Border Post at Sapit’ Some memories of an A/E in Sabah with 40 Commando. RM. by Patrick Walker 8 Troop. C Company 40 Commando RM. & A.E.
On the 4th Dec 1963 we flew from the rear echelon base of Padawan by Whirlwind helicopter up to the forward location of Sapit. It was a short flight of about 15 minutes. The landing pad was situated well down the reverse slope outside the kampong for security reasons. As far as I am aware, Sapit is the closest location to the Indonesian border being only about 200yards away. The position sits in the saddle between two steep ridges and is slightly on the reverse slope behind the crest.
The track from the DZ led through the most horrendous thick, black stinking mud and wound its way through the edge of the kampong. It terminated on the far side of a sort of shallow re-entrant at two attap huts built in the traditional style on stilts. This shallow valley separated our area from the Ibans in their huts on the other side but they could be reached by crossing a long, low bridge made from bamboo.
As normal the defences were set out in roughly a circular shape and comprised six bunkers surrounded by the usual coiled dannert wire and sharpened bamboo stakes pushed into the ground at forty five degrees.
Because there was a section of local scouts under their Ghurkha corporal there were four other trenches that could be manned in an emergency by them on our right flank. They lived in their own hut much closer to the kampong proper and we later found out the corporal seemed to get lots of ‘favours’ with the local women. The priority task was to upgrade all the defences, which were not in a particularly good state, and send out patrols to get acquainted with the local terrain and try and gather any intelligence. We were only two sections strong, so with all this work and guard duties we were going to be pretty busy.
The trenches had only a waterproof cape over the top to try and keep out the weather, so the first thing was to go out and cut down timber to form a solid roof over them as protection against mortar fire. All this had to be done using machetes which caused no end of blisters at the start. One other defensive item that was on trial was an infra-red night sight. This cumbersome piece of equipment was mounted on a rifle and comprised a large light source with a black filter and operated from a power source akin to a car battery with crocodile clip leads. It was very unwieldy and certainly not easily manoeuvrable and spent much of its time back at base being repaired.
However, when it was working well you could see on the blackest of nights out to about seventy yards. Despite the Hollywood imagination, the picture you viewed was a foggy green not, in the least red. Things close to you appeared as bright, whereas those further away darker. Trees came out as greeny- white and a man standing in the open appeared as a film negative, with white body and black deep set eyes. The aiming sight was in fact a vertical white graticule, the intensity of which you could alter to suit your self.
Once daylight came and the usual stand-to had finished, the wire across the outgoing track was removed to allow the locals to get out and about to their forage areas. Trip flares had to be disarmed as well and then the daily routine started. We were lucky there was a stream coming out of the ground just outside the wire and where it dropped over a vertical wall of rock a small dam had built and two half bamboo troughs had been erected so that the limited flow of water could be used as a shower.
After breakfast from the ‘compo’ rations and a weapon inspection it was normal for a cutting party of three to go out and search for a suitable timber to cut and bring back for the defences. Four stout poles were dug outside the particular trench we were working on as the corner posts. Fixed to these were cross beams and a framework formed on which galvanized sheets were laid. Round the perimeter of this was placed a two-foot high wall of sand bags, and then the whole of the enclosed area was filled with soil. This would give reasonable protection against incoming mortar fire. Rain, which was an almost daily event, managed to penetrate even the most carefully designed system, so sumps were dug in one corner of the trench and then the floors were covered with bamboo mat to try and keep dry.
Because of the sites elevation it was decided to climb one side of the ridge to the east and find a spot where an observation position could be set up which looked down into Indonesia. A suitable point was found about half an hour away and the local vegetation cut back to give a clear view. This allowed a small ‘attap’ shelter to be erected for shade and from which we could use a large telescope to view a considerable tract of ‘enemy’ territory. There were several tracks visible running in the valleys along with some small patches of cultivation and it was just possible to see one small corner of a village called Goen. You could see the local people going about their daily business and on rare occasions men in green jungle fatigues. The biggest problem was the tendency for a thick mist to hang over the valleys and sometimes this would take several hours to lift before anything could be seen. This OP was connected back to base by telephone cable and one of the items that had to be taken each time was the hand held-cranked set.
Work progressed at a pace and then it was decided that the latrine facilities needed improving so digging stared on a trench that was to be eight feet deep, ten feet wide. Once the initial problem of tree roots had been overcome the work went well until about six feet down, where a hard band shale occurred. It was at this point that the Platoon weapons sergeant suggested he could get over the problem by blasting. Poor naïve things that we were, we agreed. Once he had positioned three charges of what must have been about one pound each of plastic explosive and tamped them down with sandbags, we all withdrew to a safe distance. There was the most almighty thump and the ground seemed to lift as one. Great clods of earth and roots rained down around us for what seemed several minutes. When we cautiously returned to the hole which continued to emit wisps of blue smoke we found it now six feet wide and only three feet deep! All the work had been wasted and we had to start again in another area. This new one was successfully completed and a splendid new four - seater ‘thunderbox’ was delivered by helicopter and manhandled from the DZ to be set up over the hole to carry out sterling service. The whole thing was sealed with sandbags and some hessian screens put up to afford some sort of privacy. But after the all the hard work and a short speech everyone was too ‘coy’ to want to be the first to use it.
After a while we got to know many of locals as they waited to get out through the wire first thing. It was noticeable that many of the women wore coiled brass rings round their legs about nine inches long and just below the knee. These they kept clean and shiny by rubbing them with handfuls of grass while they washed in the shower area. It appeared that the girls who were not married had to keep covered up, while those who were ‘attached’ just wore a sarong from the waist down. There was the universal habit of chewing betel nut, which stained their teeth and mouths bright red. There must have been some drug they extracted from this for they chewed on it constantly. It was the ‘norm’ to see these women coming back at the end of the day carrying a large, loaded basket on their backs supported by a strap that went round their foreheads. These baskets contained anything that had been cultivated or foraged and ranged from sugar cane, fruit and sweet corn to firewood. The men used to go out hunting with their blowpipes and poisoned arrows and occasionally returned with a monkey. The wild boar type pigs with black hair all seemed to belong to someone, even though they ran about wild. They were a nuisance at night because of their habit of tripping our flares.
It was a revelation when later we asked these men to rebuild one of the huts. The old one was reduced to its frame and then a steady supply of attap was brought in from the surrounding jungle in next to no time the task was complete. There was not a single nail or screw, just lashings and natural materials, and these things were totally waterproof. The floor was covered in split bamboo opened out in papyrus fashion and the access was via a sloping log with foot- holds cut into it.
Sapit was a kampong miles from civilization, unless you were prepared for a long laborious walk. But dispite their isolation and their undoubted primitive existence the locals were very adept at living and surviving in this harsh environment. They had to be totally self-sufficient, and therefore had various skilled tradesmen in their midst.
One who always drew admiration was the local blacksmith, who now that we were here found a welcome niche in his repertoire making traditional parangs (jungle knives). He had his shop set up not far from us in a hut with an open work area alongside, his assistant was a young lad, probably his son, and it was his job to work the bellows. The whole thing was very crude but also effective. There was a shallow dish of baked clay into which lighted charcoal was put. Feeding into the bottom was this were two pipes which led up to two further large diameter bamboo tubes above ground level. In each tube was a piston with a handle. The head of the piston were covered with skin and feathers and made a sort of air tight seal as they were forced up and down the bamboo tubes to supply the air needed to get the charcoal really hot. The poor lad had to work quite hard, but once the heat was there he eased back. The blacksmith, in turn, put the metal he was working on into the middle of the fire till it got white hot, then removed it to beat it till it cooled too much to be workable and then replace it in the fire. In this way he could be observed drawing out a chunk of iron into the beautiful long curved shape of the knife, in most cases about two feet. This took several days and when he was happy he would then start to make the wooden handle, which was cut from hardwood and a hole drilled up into it to accept the tapered end of the handle. The final job was to seal this in with some sort of home - made resin.
This scabbard was also a work of art and started out as a piece of wood split down the middle. This was then worked on till it had been hollowed out to accommodate the blade and thinned down to a reasonable thickness. Once the two halved were a good fit they were bound together with thin strips of bamboo lashing and the job was complete. Sharpening the blade was done with a sort of whetstone and they were exceptionally sharp. No self-respecting Iban male ever went out without his parang hanging from his waist.
The locals had their own medical man who seemed to dispense various potions but was not averse to coming over to us to collect a few pills for his repertoire. There was one sad occasion when one of the local children became very sick, probably with dysentery, and they tried to cure him themselves. The witch doctor put on all his finery and the drums started to beat for hours. Unfortunately the child died without us having a chance to help.
We had the chance to try out some of the exotic wild fruits that grew in the area. There were bananas which tended to be much smaller than normal ones, rambutan, a bright red fruit with a spikey husk inside which was a hard sweet white fruit round a stone. There was one tree that provided mangostin, a purple fruit about the size of a small apple, inside which were white segments arranged like an orange. Mangos were available but not always ripe and of course the local delicacy durian. There was one large durian tree with very few leaves which had a branch that over-hung our hut. Hanging very precariously from thin stalks from the underside of the branches were large fruits about the size of a big pineapple. These weighed anything up to ten pounds or more and had very hard spiny husks.
During the course of a windy night we heard several dull thumps in the night and then later on a crashing sound and we felt the hut shake. Examination in daylight revealed that one of these fruits had detached and fallen about forty feet and gone straight through the roof and also the floor and embedded itself in the ground under the hut. It had narrowly missed one of the sleeping Marines who could easily have been killed by such a freak accident.
The owner of the tree was summoned and told to either cut all the fruits at risk or do something about them. So valuable were these delicacies that he shinned up the tree and tied a length of raffia from the fruit to the branch so that if it fell it would be left suspended in full view. Of course everyone at some time or other tried this fruit because the locals always said how good they were. It was an experience not forgotten, since once the husk was removed the true smell came flooding out, and was something akin to a septic tank! The fruit, if you were brave enough to get that far was a series of soft pithy stones inside the main shell, a bit like the way conker’s sit inside their husks. There was nothing remarkable about the taste--only the smell.
Because the location was so close to the border, strict black out rules were enforced, and the inside of the huts were lit by Tilley lamps with hessian across the door openings. One evening we were plagued by a swarm of insects, large black flying ants, which had been attracted by a chink of light we had missed. They circled endlessly round and round the lamp until they dropped from sheer exhaustion or from being badly burned on the glass. I don’t think anyone was actually stung, but these visitors were nearly an inch long.
To help out the situation we gave them a good dose of aerosol spray. This thinned out their ranks dramatically, and as the evening wore on the pile of dead grew on the floor under the lamp. But not to be outdone they drew on hidden reserves and another wave appeared. Even so every army has its limits and finally the last one spiralled down in a crazy nose dive, out of which it never pulled up, to become just one more black dot on a large heap. We brushed up the mess and deposited it outside where in the morning we found a long line of marauding red ants scurrying away with the corpses, no doubt to administer the last rites.
While work progressed on the defences, including thickening up the panji stakes around the outside area, we carried out several patrols to areas to our rear and along the ridge to the west. One of these was to two villages called Cacas and Kidding. Once we had left our kampong behind it was a steady climb the whole way along a very winding track, sometimes passing through small, once cultivated patches, across streams and then back into dense jungle.
The day as usual was scorching hot and the mosquitoes were out in force. After passing through one kampong that was too small to be marked on our maps, we eventually reached Cacas, where we stopped to try and find anyone who might be able to give us some information. Unfortunately there was only one very ancient old man with blood shot eyes and filed teeth, resting in the shade of a hut. He of course spoke no English, and we little Malay, and he did not appear to go very much on our sign language so we hurriedly left.
The lack of locals did puzzle us since it was quite usual to see children peeping out from huts, and our arrival would normally bring out the adults to stare out of curiosity. Another long, arduous, muddy climb, brought us to yet another kampong, where we were fortunate to meet a section of Border Scouts who had come from the other direction, this being the limit of their patrol area. Since they had an English speaker we grabbed him as our interpreter, put out two sentries and then sat down to have some lunch.
Hardly had we sat down than one of these sentries came back with a very agitated local. We learnt through our interpreter that there was a local man in the village who was in need of a doctor. The corporal and two men left to look at the casualty but soon returned with grim faces. He was definitely a ‘casevac’ case for he had badly cut his leg with a parang. We had a radio with us so contacted base for a helicopter and tried to explain our location. After eating a snatched meal we left instructions with the Border Scouts to throw a coloured smoke grenade when the helicopter was nearby so it could spot them. Luckily there was an open area within the village that would just about take a helicopter.
We, in the mean-time, pushed ever onwards and upwards and finally arrived at Kidding. Half the patrol was left just beyond the village while the other half continued still further to an even tinier village. We found the head man almost at once, or rather he found us and we had the usual Dyak welcome to join him in his long-house for a drink of tuak (a very potent brew made from palm berries). After the introductions were over, we tried, by sign language and poor Malay, to ask if he had seen any guerrillas. He obviously got the gist of what we were saying and shook his head vigorously. Up to this time not all patrols carried a good Malay speaker which meant it was sometimes an exasperating job trying to get through to the locals, especially since they were somewhat suspicious of us anyway.
There followed a pause while he lit a cigarette, which we had given him a sign of good faith. Then suddenly he beamed all over his face showing bright, red, stained teeth. He shuffled over to the corner of the hut and we got our first surprise. In the semi darkness we had not noticed them before, but handing from a pole inside a rattan basket, were three skulls, very old and dirty. As far as we could make out they were Japanese heads he had personally taken during their occupation in the last war. There was no doubt as to their genuineness, and slightly taken aback we smiled and signaled that it was time for us to go.
We managed to get through on the radio to say we were starting back and took our leave of our host. The last we saw was a very dejected man leaning against the doorway, probably dying to tell us how he had come to take these trophies, while he finished off his cigarette. We had heard the ‘casevac’ helicopter while we were there and by the time we reached the village the casualty had gone to Kuching Hospital.
We collected the other half of the patrol on the way back and set off. Our route out had involved negotiating many fragile bamboo bridges, crossing guillies and streams, and the patrol signaler was not a small man. Combined with the weight of the A 41 set and a spare battery he proved too much for many of these flimsy structures and many was the time we heard the sound of splintering bamboo followed by cursing as he broke through and landed in the bottom. It was all right for those in front but being at the rear we had to help him out from many ravines and then had to negotiate the drop ourselves. We arrived back in late afternoon covered in mud and exhausted. Nothing can describe the sheer pleasure of removing tight jungle boots and putting on dry plimsoles. Your feet turn green and white. Green from the dye in the boots and white from being waterlogged and starved of air. There was then the ritual of trying to find any leeches that might have penetrated the tightly bound laces at the top of the boots and removing these.
Next day after night guard duties it was back to work on the defences or a patrol to the OP. such was the exhausting routine that we were glad towards the end of the month to return to Padawan for a break and be involved in cordon and searches. In fact when we did get their this led to us being used in the follow up searches after the Corporal Marriot patrol incident.

1963. Friday 6th December. ‘7 Troop C Coy 40 Commando RM.’ By Brian Bartlett 7 Troop C Coy 40 Commando RM. (later to become Chairman of 40 Commando Association)
At first this seemed like an easy task, however as time has gone by and you have reached the age of almost 62 my memories seem to have dimmed but here goes.
It was 6th December 1963 and RM 21860 Brian Bartlett found m-self at the airport for a flight to Singapore to join 40 Commando Royal Marines. The funny thing is I have no memory of the flight, what type of aircraft it was but the memory that is very firmly embedded in my memory is the arrival. When that aircraft door opened the hot and sticky air hit you like a brick wall. We were transported by truck with our luggage to 40 Commando’s camp in Malaya at Burma Camp. It all seemed very quiet; the thought that run through my head was it seems quiet for a Commando Unit. We were shown to a small hut and told to leave our entire luggage and to follow the Corporal.
We headed of and found ourselves at the stores; we were issued with jungle green clothing, jungle boots, underwear, in fact almost every piece of equipment that you would need and of course a rifle with live ammunition. On return to our hut we were instructed to prepare for early departure the following morning in our jungle green clothing with all our equipment packed and our suitcases with our UK luggage placed in a storeroom.
So it was the following morning we returned to the RAF air base that we had arrived at from the UK except this time we boarded an Argosy Freighter aircraft we sat in canvas seats and flew a lot lower that the jet that brought us to the far east. I had teamed up with my oppo Peter Scott RM 21741, eventually we landed at an airport it was Kuching in Borneo.
We were told to disembark some were instructed to get in trucks however peter and I were instructed to get on to a waiting helicopter which promptly took off. After flying for a short while we hovered in a clearing several feet above the ground, our equipment was un-ceremoniously ejected from the aircraft closely followed by us jumping to the ground.
All this time I was wondering just what the hell I had let myself into; we were shown our defensive positions and told to “stand to” this I later discovered was normal procedure when we had helicopter activity either bringing in supply’s or fresh replacements.
Fortunately we only stayed at this base for about a week and were moved to our Company base at Bau, I discovered later it was normal practice for this to happen. This move back to base camp gave me time to organise myself and to get the latest buzz about what was going on. I soon discovered from the old hands that the 38 pattern equipment was not very good for the long-range patrols but older 44-pattern was better. So I set about getting what I needed in readiness for our next move out of base camp. We only used the 44-pattern belt with pouches for magazines and a water bottle carrier and your machete. The small 44 packs were used for essential food, ammunition and a dry change of clothes for sleeping in and those little brown pumps that were issued.
Much later I was fortunate to get hold of some green parachute silk from which was made a jump suit which I used for night wear and of course was much easier to carry. Strapped to the underside of the 44 pack was our bedroll consisting of our “Poncho” (A big green oblong of waterproof material) used to make a “Basha” (Tent) to sleep under and our spare clothing and toilet roll (a green material with pockets in for soap, toothpaste, foo, (Pussers Talcum powder) and shaving kit and spare paper which would then be rolled up).
At Bau camp it was relatively comfortable, we had time to rest and recuperate, this was interspersed with guard duties. One of the main features at Bau was the lake, the RAF pilots of the Wessex Whirlwind helicopters used to use the edge of the lake to land this would save them the walk down from the heli pad up the hill to the back of the camp.
Our next visit to a forward position was to a curiously named place of Bukit Knuckle this was my first opportunity to get my self-sorted out in the ulu (jungle). Peter and I decided to buddy up again so when the instructions were given to pair up and make somewhere to sleep we set about the task. To give some idea of the type of place we had taken over, we were positioned on top of a hillock, around the whole site was a wall about 4 feet high and about 3 feet thick and we were positioned around this outer wall and given our arch’s of fire. For several days we collected timber and branches, in fact the first night we stood to at our position and then slept on the floor. During that first night there were a few cries of Ahhhhh !! as people’s hammocks fell apart and they landed with a thud on the deck, followed by a string of the normal expletives.
The next day when we had time from our normal duties we started to build, the four very thick corner posts were sunk into the ground. We then fixed in a floor level so that when we sat on the end we were in the correct place for stand to. We continued to lay the floor poles, constructed a roof and covered it with a few acquired ponchos. At the back was shelving so that we could actually un-pack or kit for a change. The building was nicknamed the Hilton hardly surprising as it took us 3 days to complete construction despite the many requests from the SM to get a move on.
Daytime duties included collecting water, repairing the perimeter wall, marshalling chopper re-supply and inspecting defences. The main duties were long range patrols some lasting as long as 14 days, which would take us out of camp up to the border, where we would lay ambushes or follow intelligence information regarding the movements of enemy patrols. Sometimes we were tasked to intercept Indonesian Guerrillas who had attacked a local village.
Somehow during this time I ended up as a lead scout, quite how this happened I do not know, one thing I am fairly sure of I did not volunteer. This meant that I found myself way out in front on patrols with a local tracker and a Ghurkha carrying for a weapon a 12 bore shotgun. I do not remember asking what happed to the previous lead scout; I think I hoped that he had just gone home on a posting rather than anything else.
The first tour in the jungle was very eventful and after what seemed like an age we were relieved by 42 Commando and returned to Burma Camp.
It was common for units to do a 6 months stint in the jungle and then return to camp for some well-earned leave, however once leave was over it was back to training again. I remember we did some training on river crossing and using assault boats “Exercise March Hare” at Kota Tingi. There is a story to this, when boating never ever let anyone know that you know anything about engines. Our metal assault boats were dropped into a big lake by a Wessex helicopter and blown into shore by the thrust of its rotor blades.
Once we had concluded our training the sergeant major looked for a likely candidate to take the boat back to the middle of the lake. Regrettably I was chosen not only because I knew about engines but was also a good swimmer.
The plan was to remove the outboard engine once in the middle of the lake, put it back into its box secure the lid of the box and await the chopper and then hook the lifting straps to the hook on the underside of the chopper and then jump in and swim back to the shore.
However all did not go to plan, I had completed my part without a hitch, and had jumped into the water to swim back.
However on my way another chopper decided to hover just above me and despite my gestures for it to push off it continued to hover just above me actually pushing me under water.
Eventually the pilot realised what he was doing and lowered a line to lift me up out of the water, I thought great at least I will not have to swim ashore as by this time I was pretty tired. The chopper lifted me clear of the water and flew towards the shore but kept going and going eventually landing me on top of a hill with no kit and hardly any clothes. An enquiring voice said “where are you from lad” once I had explained they said “ you will have to wait to the rest get up here with your clothes and equipment, so I waited for what seemed like a lifetime, the moral being keep your attributes to yourself.
After leave some fantastic runs ashore it was time for us to return to Borneo, everything was packed and of we set.
This time I had a lot more idea what to expect when we returned, I was probably an old hand with experience as we had replacement for those who had gone home the replacements were straight from training as I was when I first joined the Commando. This time my equipment was top notch; I had made improvements to my 44-pattern kit whilst back in Malaya.
We started the normal routine of 4-day patrols and as lead scout I felt more at ease than I had during the last tour. I now had a nice canvas bag full of cartridges for the Remington pump action shotgun and had got to know my local tracker very well.
He had gestured to me one day that my pusser’s parang was no good, so he set about making on for me. Over the next several days he worked on a piece of steel which I think was part of a car spring goodness knows where he got that. It was flattened and shaped and finally sharpened, to say that the blade was sharp would be an understatement it was like a razor. He crafted a handle in the shape of a snakes head and a wooden scabbard all were beautifully crafted and finally assembled with the handle being glued in place, to this day some 44 years later it is still in tack and still very sharp.
The patrols were always interesting as you never knew what you would find, I remember on one patrol we had been out for several days and all of a sudden we came across an old train, obviously a relic of mining. We spent a lot of time chasing guerrilla’s back across the border sometimes they did not make it back, on other occasions we just could not catch up to them, we would see the sign’s as they dropped equipment to lighten their loads. One of the bases we worked from was in a new area of Northern Borneo, Sabah at a place call Kalabakan this is where all that boat training came in very handy, as we would start our patrols by travelling up or down river. One of the worst things was the orang-utans who would go crashing through the trees sometimes bringing on a hale of gunfire, I don’t remember if we ever hit any.
On those long range patrols you had to put up with the heat, which made your clothing wet with the sweat, your feet would be permanently wet with walking through water and you would have to put up with the mosquitoes and the leeches. So after a long days march you would endeavour to find a good stream and after the removal of your equipment you would dive in and wash first with all your clothes on and then with them off. Get yourself checked over for leeches and then dry off. This would be followed by the use of pusser’s powder. For most of the time your feet would look like a white wrinkled mess and the only relief was when you changed into your dry kit for the night together with dry socks and those brown boots, and if you were lucky a parachute silk jump suit. The one big drawback to all this was that as you only had to enough space to carry on rig for daytime and a change for night time you had the unpleasant task of putting the daytime clothes back on the following morning usually still wet and progressively as time went on they would stink a bit. Only carrying a light load allowed us to move much faster if we had to undertake a pursuit, as progress through the Ulu (jungle) at the best of times was pretty slow.
One of the main tasks on these long-range patrols was to lay an ambush, this we did quite often. It was the custom to have good firepower at each ends of the ambush to prevent escape and good concentrated fire in the centre ground for maximum effect. I seem to remember that we had been very successful on a number of occasions, however on one we achieved a good kill it was a wild pig so that day we all ate very well. The quality of the food provided on active service was in the most part dependant on who you had for a cook. I remember at one position we had a 3 badge marine cook who was absolutely brilliant, it amazed me that not only was the food great but that he had also built an oven, from which came forth pie’s and home-made bread.
We would spend a lot of time at our main bases carrying out repairs to the perimeter walls and the huts. On one particular occasion I remember that the sergeant major had instructed us to move and rebuild a perimeter wall. When we dismantled the wall we found that it contained wooden boxes, at first we thought that they were boxes filled with soil but on closer inspection it was discovered that the boxes contained very big metal boxes somewhat like sardine tins only bigger, inside those were hundreds of 50 tins of cigarettes. Needless to say when it came time to return to camp in Malaya everyone who smoked had a spare kit bag full of tins of cigarettes, which by fair means of foul we manages to get through customs on our return.
There may be a few details which are not exactly correct in this effort to remember for which I apologies but the old grey matter is not quite as good as once it was, but one thing I hope is that one day when my grandson asks what did granddad do in the Royal Marines he will be able to read this and then parade my medals on a commemorative parade, as I have done with my fathers from WW1 and my brothers from WW2.
Somehow I was one of the many lucky ones who made it back home, some did not and my thoughts are always with them for the ultimate sacrifice made for their country. The government today don’t give a dam for those who fought for their country and are quite happy to insult us by their actions.
In the jungle you can never relax, never be sure that up on that ridge or around that corner in the track the world won’t suddenly split open with machine gun fire. When camp is made before dusk and your back is sore and your shoulders ache from the weight of your pack, you still cannot relax. While you silently cook and whisper to your oppo or crawl into your basha at night, all the time you half wait for the sound of a twig cracking or a man crawling up the back towards you. As the days pass the senses become blunted and it becomes easier to relax but to still stay alert.

1963. Tuesday 10th December. The Aden Emergency as it was known was an Insurgency against the British Crown forces in the British controlled territories of South Arabia, which now form part of the Yemen. Partly inspired by Egypt's President Nasser's pan Arab nationalism, it began with the throwing of a grenade at a gathering of British officials at Aden Airport on Tuesday 10th December 1963. A state of emergency was then declared in the British Crown colony of Aden and its hinterland, the Aden Protectorate. 45 Commando Royal Marines were based there. The emergency escalated in 1967 and hastened the end of British rule in the territory which had begun back in 1839. On Thursday 30th November 1967, British forces withdrew, and the independent People's Republic of South Yemen was proclaimed. 45 Commando returned to the UK, while 42 Commando covered the final withdrawal from the country.

1963. Friday 20th December The London Gazette Newspaper FROM THE ADMIRALTY
Whitehall, London S.W.I. 20th December 1963.
The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards for gallant and distinguished services in operations in the Borneo Territories during the period 24th December 1962 to 23rd June 1963:
The Military Medal to Marine (Acting Lance Corporal) Douglas John Radford, R.M. 19037, Royal Marines.
Marine (Acting Lance Corporal) Radford was on active service with 40 Commando Royal Marines in Sarawak from March to May 1963. On 23rd April he was in charge of a Surveillance Patrol of five men and a policeman in a school hut just outside Kampong Gumbang, close to the Indonesian border.
In the early hours of the morning, in particularly dark and misty conditions, his outpost was attacked by about eight men using grenades., shotguns and automatic weapons, backed up by a further thirty armed men.
Although surrounded and in a position difficult to defend, Marine Radford rallied his men, one of whom was wounded. By his coolness and determination, he drove the enemy back, inflicted several casualties and1 prevented his small force from being over-run by superior numbers. Subsequent intelligence revealed that the enemy suffered five casualties, two of whom died.
By his gallant and distinguished service in the face of an enemy attack in superior numbers Marine Radford set a fine example. It was largely due to the steadiness and confidence of this young non-commissioned officer that the people in the area hold the British soldier in such high regard as a fighting man.
Mention in Despatches
Second Lieutenant (Acting Lieutenant) James Nigel Best, Royal Marines.
Sergeant Dennis Smith, R.M. 7626, Royal Marines.
Colour Sergeant Reginald Charles Locke, R.M. 9137, Royal Marines.

   

1963. Monday 21st December. Borneo. An Indonesian incursion group crossed the border and raided a shop in Serudong. Among those capture was Indonesian Marines, who were disappointed that the locals did not help them. Having been miss-informed that they were discontent with Malaysia.

1963. December. ‘Padawan in Sarawak’ by Patrick Walker 8 Troop. C Company 40 Commando RM. & A.E.
The aftermath of the Cpl. Marriott patrol incident
We left Sapit, which was right on the border, on 27th December to fly back to Padawan for a few days’ rest. This location was about four and a half hours walking by a fit man to our rear. It was classed as a rear echelon area and connected to the outside world by a rare stretch of dirt track.
The location itself was roughly triangular with the bulk of it being grass and buildings down two sides.
It also has a small population of civilians because there was a schoolhouse and accommodation for students and a large house where the local European farm supervisor lived with his family. Down one corner was a compound in which lived a water buffalo with his own muddy wallowing pool. His main task was to plough the near-by pineapple fields and cultivated areas between crops.
Generally the buildings that we occupied were made of local materials and sat a metre off the ground. The river meandered round two sides of the site in a long lazy loop and the roadway to the outside world stopped just short of the other side of it. You couldn't get a vehicle onto the site and everything had to be manhandled across a bridge made of one enormous log with a very precarious handrail. There was also a wire rope and pulley apparatus for heavier stores.
The whole Border area had been put on alert in the run up to Christmas, since it was thought that the Guerrillas might try something.

On the 30th we were called on to carry out a search of some isolated huts near Koholm, which involved a rope-down from the helicopters while they hovered over the tall scrub, and then a trek back to the Tebekan Road, but in this case nothing was found.
It had rained heavily up river and the water levels rose by nearly eight feet, and complete trees came floating past, some with attached root bowl. Elsewhere there were no reports of trouble and on 1st January we were preparing to go out on another cut-off and search operation near-by.
It was a scorching hot day and we went to check the thermometer that hung on the school wall. It registered 117 degrees and it felt like it. Suddenly on the same day reports started to come in of a large incident involving the deaths of about eight Malay soldiers and the wounding of twice that number.
The location was given as Kalabakan, which we had never heard of, mainly because it was in North Borneo. Details kept coming in when they were known. Because of this, Intelligence now reported that there might well be a concerted effort by guerrillas to carry out further raids elsewhere.
We continued about our chores but with a little more apprehension, which was fully justified when the next day new reports started to come in of another incident in the next area to us here called Bau. Initially they claimed that patrols had gone out searching for signs of guerrillas who had been spotted in several areas, and that one of these had bumped a guerrilla patrol coming the other way. In the exchange of fire a border Scout and one of our Corporals had been killed before the rest of the patrol had had to withdraw, being considerably out numbered. (Enemy killed or wounded were at this point not known).
We went onto a one-hour stand-by and eagerly awaited every morsel of news. Apparently further patrols from 'B' Coy were saturating the area and trying to cut the guerrillas off from escape across the border. By this time the body of Cpl. Marriott had been recovered but several blood trails had been found leading away from the area. By 3rd. Jan there was a great need to get as many extra troops into cut-off positions behind likely escape routes and we were packed and ready and waiting on the grass for transport.
After an hour we heard the 'chopper' coming. It had a most distinctive rotor noise more of a drubbing sound. It came into view and made a circuit and then landed in the middle of the area. It was a Belvedere with twin rotors. Unlike the usual Whirlwind or Wessex these were not painted in camouflage colours and resembled a long thin aluminium cigar with wheels mounted on outriggers fore and aft. They had two doors in the fuselage, one at the front and one at the rear and the usual routine was to enter by one and exit by the other. Their great advantage was they could hold up to eighteen men, which was nearly twice the usual load.

We flew off and sometime later landed in a field in the Bau area, and then made our way along a dusty track through a rubber plantation. Eventually we reached a bungalow, which was to be our patrol base for the next few days. Reports were still coming in saying that there may have been up to two hundred guerrillas split up into several groups. Most were suspected of having crossed back over the border but an unknown number could still be on our side and working their way back.
Follow up operations had discovered shallow graves and captured a lot of equipment including the first Armalite rifle to be recovered. It was not long before rumours had this rifle with its super high velocity round able to kill with a near miss to the head.
Further rumours reported two bodies found on stretchers which had been left by them and a water bottle with a paratroops insignia. By this time most of the border crossing tracks were guarded and patrols were inside the cordon trying to flush out any one inside. We were towards the southern end of any possible route they might take to get away. It was a fair bet that anyone still in the trap would be aware of the likely sequence of events to cut them off and would therefore try and cut their way out avoiding our likely positions.
We were to start patrolling the next day with the intention of searching for any signs they may have already been in that area, such as trails, footprints or good intelligence from locals.
Sat 5th Jan '64
We went out on an all-day patrol along a track towards a place called Tegora. We were given wrong directions by a local and ended up lost when the track ran out. After much hunting around we resorted to a compass bearing and after wandering through a lot of rubber plantations eventually found the right one. What did not help was the route was not marked on any of the maps, but this was not unusual. We waded a river and tried several routes out from here, but they all petered out in further rubber plantations.
On the far bank of another river we came across a derelict little hut with whitewashed walls and decided to stop for a meal break. Inside the hut, half the floor had been gutted by a fire, and in large black letters on the wall was written "Kilroy was here!" followed by various obscenities that Kilroy could do. British servicemen are not noted for their subtlety. it seemed each successive visitor had added a highly imaginative remark, plus his unit and date. On completion we appended ours but with only the date. After being out all day we returned to base extremely damp and exhausted.

More information had come in. It seemed that one enemy group had managed to get out near Gumbang but amongst the items already found had been marked up maps with the intended routes on them for the targets to be attacked. What must have been somewhat alarming for the intelligence boys was the intended target for the raid was Kuching Airport, some considerable distance inside the border. It seemed they then intended to capture transport and drive to Bau and attack one or more locations before nipping smartly back across the border. There was analysis too of some of the equipment captured - a Czech rocket launcher and the Armalite rifle.
The other patrol had had more luck. They had come across a freshly cut track on the limit of their area and thought this was worth another visit. So the next day a large patrol left to go and check this out. We had been travelling for about two hours through flat terrain with the river well below us and on our left when we suddenly came across two large over grown metal pillars, one either side of the track. It was quite astounding, for there right in the middle of nowhere, was a suspension bridge. It spanned a two hundred-foot gap and was about eight feet wide. The decking was made up of rotten boards, many of which had long since fallen through leaving gaping holes through which you could see the river over a hundred-feet below roaring over narrows and rocks. The whole structure was so precarious that to move too quickly caused it to sway alarmingly. However, crossing one at a time, and with some very neat footwork, and a few more broken boards we all crossed safely. We supposed it was a relic from the Japanese occupation for there were several mines in the area.
After another hour we reached the site of the freshly cut track. Here we stretched out into extended line and proceeded at right angles to our own track to carry out a sweep. The area was mostly tall elephant grass and light vegetation. After advancing about four hundred-yards we discovered some freshly cut piles of firewood and the track petered out. This was obviously a dead end but when we tried to contact base with the news the radio reception was non-existent. This was a general problem in Borneo and many was the time that you could not contact base from the moment you left until you got back.
We continued on further down our original track but no sign of anything and it was decided to return. We negotiated the bridge again and whilst crossing an area of low scrub an aircraft came over several times broadcasting in Malay and Chinese, for any guerrillas to come in and give themselves up. After several more hours we reached the bungalow. It had been a long day and we estimated we had travelled about twelve miles, which was quite far enough when walking in jungle boots.
The other patrol had found sets of foot prints and investigated these, but it turned out later they were made by another patrol who had strayed into our area and probably missed each other by about an hour and thus avoided some anxious moments. It was decided that we were not going to find anything of interest so the next day we were flown back to Padawan to await a return to Sapit.

1963. Metal wrist badge for Drum and Bugle Majors being manufactured in Portsmouth.

1963.  First Drum Majors Course.

1963. New Rank Insignia for Staff Bandmast - a lyre surrounded by a laurel wreath. To be worn on blue uniform and khaki drill. On other orders of dress, the current (QMS) insignia to be worn.

1963. Day unknown. It’s with deep sadness and regret that we announce the passing of Archie McArthur. Po/x776. Born 4th June 1894. (from RMA Queensland).

1963. Khaki tie issued to Band ranks and Buglers in preparation for the introduction of Lovat uniform.

1963. Bogey Bogey Bogey By Geoff (Tex) Webbon Signals.
On one particular section deployment to Biawak I had just shut down comms to Coy HQ at Lundu when the sound of high performance aircraft engines approaching shattered the normal peace and quiet. Nipping outside I was in time to see three P51 Mustangs flash overhead, followed by what turned out to be a B25 Mitchell bomber converted with a side door for dropping. The Mustangs then returned overhead so low that we could quite easily see the pilots. The sentry had by this time mounted the section LMG on to a post from the nearest sanger. I heard him shout “shall I open fire?” to which I think we all shouted “No!!” in unison. I was thinking of the 18x 0.50 Browning’s carried by the aircraft as being at odds with 1x 7.62 LMG!
I leapt back on to the radio and called Coy HQ with the standard Bogey Bogey Bogey call, at which point Pug Davis asked what we had seen. He then came back with the order “Do not open fire unless you are fired upon”, which suited us down to the ground!
It transpired that the Indonesians were deliberately overflying many of the border posts trying to provoke an incident whilst resupplying their own positions on a 400 mile stretch on their side of the border. We at Biawak were the first position that they overflew.
Crab air scrambled a pair of Javelin aircraft but the Indonesians were long gone by the time they arrived.

1963 – 1964? The supposed toughest man in the American Fleet (Singapore)
During 1963 -1964 an American War Ship was anchored off Singapore and some of the crew were allowed shore leave. And as is usual they all made for the Britannia club for a spot of serious drinking, and as was usual for our Marines we also visited the club to try and score free booze from our American friends.
A few hours in, and as is usually many were reeling around quite drunk as well as our boys I might add.
Anyway One very big, and I do mean big US Marine at the bar suddenly turned around to face everybody in the club and proclaimed at the top of his voice that he was the toughest Marine in the United States fleet. To which a Royal walked up to him and punched him in the jaw, and dropped the American to the floor. The American then shocked most guys in the club by getting to his feet and once again proclaiming aloud that he was still the toughest guy in the United State fleet.
Once again a Royal stepped up and again punched him in the jaw, and just as before he ended up on the floor.
To our amazement the American grabbing hold of a bar stool leg pulled himself up and back onto he feet. Proclaiming to all once again with a loud voice that he was still the toughest guy in the United States Fleet.
Just then a quite small Royal, I believe from C Coy stepped forward with his right arm in a plaster cast hit the American on the jaw with the forearm part of the plaster covered arm. This time as the American went down there was an almighty cheer from most of the Royals in the club. Oh and the American stayed down.
However, it did trigger an all in fight that smashed the club up quite badly. (Terry Aspinall 2 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.)

1963 - 1966. 3 Commando Brigade (less 45 Commando) were involved in anti terrorist Confrontation operations in Borneo and Malaysia.

1963. During the period 1963 to 1966, Britain fought an undeclared war against Indonesia in the jungles of Borneo. The war was over Indonesia's political and military effort to destabilize the newly-formed Federation of Malaysia with the purpose of annexing Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei. As expressed by the Indonesian president, Achmed Sukarno, this policy was called Konfrontasi, or 'Confrontation.' British and Commonwealth forces fought a highly successful campaign against Indonesian incursions into Borneo (East Malaysia), Malaya (West Malaysia) and Singapore. Although unknown to the public at the time, the British and Commonwealth forces went onto the offensive in Borneo from August 1964 until three months before the formal cessation of hostilities on 11 August 1966.
The offensive took the form of top secret, cross-border operations and raids code-named CLARET, and proved to be an integral factor in the successful conclusion of the military campaign. It would be specious to credit Sukarno's fall from power in March 1966 solely to the military failure of Confrontation.
It is equally specious to ascribe this fall only to domestic reasons.1 Knowledge of CLARET helps to bridge the gap between these two schools of thought.
CLARET was a politico-military tool employed in response as much to political situations as it was to military ones. This article will examine in some detail the circumstances which made CLARET a necessity, the political nature and extent of the operations, and its sensitivity to political changes.
THE ROOTS OF CONFRONTATION:
Field Marshall The Lord Bramall, who commanded a British battalion during the campaign, calls Confrontation "the war that shouldn't have happened." 2 His rationale is that since Malays, Borneans and Indonesians have so much in common there was no need for any kind of conflict. Like many others,
Bramall places the blame for Confrontation squarely on the shoulders of President Sukarno of Indonesia.3 Sukarno carried out a policy of confrontation not only against the nascent Federation of Malaysia but with all of the polities he considered to be "Necolims."4The progression of his policy resulted in an eventual cessation of much-needed foreign aid from the United States, alignment with the People's Republic of China, withdrawal from the United Nations, runaway inflation, expansive political turmoil in Indonesia and, of course, Confrontation with Malaysia and its allies Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Sukarno's reasons for Confrontation were varied and complex and this article is not directly concerned with them. However, a little background is necessary to understand how and why CLARET came to be. British commitment to Malaysia during Confrontation had its roots in the Malayan Emergency of 1948-1960. In 1957, during the latter stages of the Emergency, the British signed treaties which committed them to the defense of their soon-to-beindependent colonies of Malaya and Singapore. In 1959, the same was done for the protectorate of Brunei. Wishing to assure a racial balance between predominantly Chinese Singapore and the Malays of the surrounding colonies, and to create a stable polity following independence, Britain initiated a drive to federate Singapore with the Malayan states, Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak. The British were further committed to the area through their participation in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which it joined in 1954. And in addition to these "compelling moral and political reasons for a British presence," there was also pressure from the United States to maintain deployments east of Suez.5 Thus, during Confrontation the British government's "strategic gaze was firmly fixed outside Europe and especially east of Suez."
Defense resources allocated east of Suez did not keep pace with the increasingly important commitments to the area. The Sandys Defence White Paper of 1957, which was to lead to Britain's increased reliance on a nuclear deterrent, resulted in the end of national service and the re-birth of a highly professional, but much smaller, regular army. Despite the increased quality of the all-volunteer force, it was stretched to its numerical limits during the mid-1960s, especially by commitments in South Arabia and Borneo. "Of the Army's 60 battalions, more than 24 were committed to overseas operations, and 20 to the Rhine Army."7 There is little wonder, men, that when the Director of Borneo Operations (DOBOPS) requested troops and helicopters during the first 24 months of the campaign, Whitehall found it difficult to comply. There is some reason to suspect, therefore, that Sukarno believed the British were unable or unwilling (or both) to provide security for the fledgling Federation of Malaysia.
Plans and announcements for the creation of a federation of Malay states with Borneo, Brunei, Singapore and Sabah were made well before Sukarno advanced any opposition to the plan. His interest in disrupting Malaysia only manifested itself after the Indonesian campaign to oust the Dutch from West Man came to a successful conclusion toward the end of 1962. There was little coincidence between the end of the one campaign and the beginning of the next, both of which were similar in the "Indonesian ambivalence between 'diplomacy and struggle' as the twin poles of policy."
Sukarno claimed that Malaysia was a neo-colonial dupe of Great Britain. Although he was very much an anti-imperialist, there were also elements of megalomania in Sukarno's pursuit of 'Maphilindo,' an acronym referring to a conglomeration of Malaya, the Philippines and Indonesia which would, of course, be ruled from Jakarta and its president for life, Achmed Sukarno. The British-sponsored Federation of Malaysia and a continued British presence because of SEATO and other commitments thus posed a threat to Indonesian hegemony of the area.
Besides his revolutionary tenets and his desire for control of the Malay and Philippine archipelagos, there was also an element of necessity in pursuing an adventurist and confrontational foreign policy which diverted attention from domestic problems within Indonesia. Ironically, it was Sukarno who created the economic muddle which Indonesia was to become over the next few years, as he associated more closely with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), cut off Indonesia from US aid and aligned the country on a 'Jakarta-Peking' axis.
Sukarno's power was predicated on the need for an external enemy. This eventually became his undoing as Confrontation with Malaysia proved a failure.
Unable to produce results abroad, having alienated his anti-communist generals, and with the economy a shambles, Sukarno eventually fell and Confrontation ended soon after.
THE INITIAL BRITISH RESPONSE TO CONFRONTATION:
The Brunei Revolt, which broke out on 8 December 1962 with very little warning to the security forces, was aided and abetted by Indonesia, though its actual involvement probably did not go beyond the provision of training and materiel to the rebels.9 Nonetheless, it marked the beginning of a new policy toward the territories to the north of Kalimantan, the Indonesian section of Borneo. Even though the main part of the rebel force was defeated in a few weeks, remnants of the insurgency remained at large for several months before they were finally killed in the jungles around Brunei. During the manhunt which followed the revolt, Indonesia began to intensity its political and military attacks against Malaysian Borneo. The attacks were perpetrated by guerilla bands recruited from Borneo, Malaya and Singapore and leavened with leaders from the Indonesian Army (TNI) and Marine Corps (KKO).
Major General Walter Walker, who was in command of the security forces tasked with the mopping-up of the rebels, believed that Indonesia was poised to play a much larger military role in Borneo. Indeed, even before Yassin Affendi, the military leader of the revolt was killed on 18 May 1963, Indonesia had already begun to step up its efforts to foment further uprisings in Borneo. On 12 April 1963, a party of men attacked the police station near Tebedu in the first division of Sarawak. The security forces initially did not know who was responsible for the raid, although it was known that at least some of the raiders were members of the Qandestine Communist Organization (CCO), an arm of the predominantly Chinese Sarawak Communist Party.
The specter of a repeat of the Malayan Emergency was likely in Walker's mind as he planned his response. As he had been a successful brigade commander in one of the Emergency ' s last and most effective operations, he was well suited to the task at hand. The pillars of his Borneo strategy, drawn from his earlier experience in Malaya, were to win the 'hearts and minds' of the natives, maintain close liaison with civil and police powers and emphasize intelligence gathering.
Shortly after the raid on Tebedu, evidence came to light indicating that the operation had been conducted by Indonesian soldiers. This obviously changed the nature of the threat to Borneo considerably. Walker believed the Indonesians' strategy to be the active support of dissidents within Sarawak. A report by the recently augmented Special Branch showed the CCO to be bigger and stronger than originally thought earlier in the year. The CCO insurgents, who were stationed in Kalimantan and called Indonesian Border Terrorists (IBTs) by the security forces, were believed to number about 1,500 at this time.
They were supported by an unknown number of Indonesian regulars, mostly concentrated opposite the First and Second Divisions of Sarawak. They even feared at one point that the Sultan of Brunei's bodyguard, the Brunei Regiment, might itself become the vanguard of a new insurgency. Walker's warnings to General Headquarters, Far Eastern Land Forces (FARELF) were now given heed and a few reinforcements were deployed from Singapore and Hong Kong to Borneo.
A crackdown on the CCO was undertaken, and a surprise operation mounted to confiscate all 8,500 licensed guns in Borneo retrieved a full 8,000.
No doubt this helped to forestall any planned insurrection, but a significant internal threat remained along with a growing external threat in the form of deep incursions into Borneo from Kalimantan. The task of thwarting the incursions was enormous: there were only five battalions initially available to cover a frontier stretching for more than 1,000 miles—a land mass as large as England and Scotland.
Indonesian raids into Borneo continued to increase over the summer of 1963 while the Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdhul Rahman, attempted to reach apolitical agreement with Sukarno and the Philippines'President Macapagal in Manila. At the same time, in August 1963, a large, uniformed force raided deep into the Third Division of Sarawak, near Song, and over a period of days were defeated by ambushes of the 2/6 Gurkha Rifles. Prisoners taken by the Gurkhas revealed that Indonesian regular army officers and non-commissioned
officers provided the leadership for the force of IBTs.
IBTs stepped-up their activity as the date for Malaysia's federation in September approached. On 16 September, Sarawak and Sabah became independent prior to joining the federation but Brunei opted to remain a British protectorate. On 28 September, the Indonesian response to federation was felt in the Third Division of Sarawak at the longhouse in Long Jawi where six men of the 1/2 Gurkha Rifles, three policemen and 21 Border Scouts were stationed.
The latter were part of a force of natives recruited, trained, armed and uniformed to act as the 'eyes and ears' of the security forces in the longhouses. This small party fell victim to a raiding party of approximately 200 Indonesians supported by 300 unarmed porters. The Indonesians had been in the longhouse for two days before attacking, a fact which later led to a restructuring of the Border Scouts. The Gurkhas held out by themselves, the rest were taken prisoner or killed. Five of the security forces' men were killed and seven of the Border Scouts, who had been taken prisoner by the Indonesians, were murdered. In a series of ambushes, the rest of 1/2 Gurkha Rifles were able to kill 33 of the raiders and scatter'many more in the jungle, where they presumably died of starvation.
This raid had two important results, one of which was that the Indonesian murder of the Border Scouts alienated the natives in the border area and evaporated what little support the Indonesians had enjoyed up to that point. The other result was that the Border Scouts were taken out of uniform and reorganized to stress an intelligence-gathering role. They carried on with their normal, peacetime occupations, which for many included cross-border barter trade. As such they became an extremely valuable intelligence source for CLARET and complemented well the reconnaissance tasks now being conducted by the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS) in the border areas.
(from 'CLARET Operations and Confrontation, 1964-1966 by Raffi Gregorian.)

1963. The Tanzanian army revolted. Within twenty four hours Royal Marines had left Bickleigh Camp, Plymouth, Devon, and were travelling by air to Nairobi, Kenya, continuing by road into Tanzania. At the same time, Commandos aboard HMS Bulwark sailed to East Africa and anchored off-shore Dar es Sallam, Tanzania. The revolt was put down and the next six months were spent touring Tanzanian military out-posts disarming military personel. The Royal Marines were relieved by Canadian armed forces.

1963. Prior to our Autumn (1963) Pescando y Poemas AKA FISHING AND POETRY. David (Shiner) Wright 1 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
A jaunt across the water to Sarawak (3rd time) we had a new troop sergeant for 1troop A coy, Sergeant McCarthy was going home, and he had been a top hand as far as we, the lads were concerned.
The “new broom” was a sergeant Withers, any-body know him? Yes I do, what's he like? .Prior to my draft to 40CDO I was a member of the august band of hero's at The Depot Deal, the pioneer section, broom wranglers, street embellisher’s, refuse management executives (aka the lads on the bin wagon)landscape artists (grass cutting)
We did every-thing and any-thing, even went down to Chatham Naval Barracks to carefully dismantle a pre-war, sectional timber building, bring it back and re build it for the padres cake and arse parties.
1960, there were just six bodies on the pioneer section by late 61 there were 60 bodies, there was a build-up of men to reform 43Commando in Plymouth.
60 bodies where could we hide, our base was by the east gate, in what was a war time hospital, so many rooms, we had a darts room, table tennis, five aside football in the opps room, The Marine café struggled to cook 120 oggies for tea brake and we brewed tea in two gallon buckets.
Sergeant Oliver was IC, a good hand well liked and a pleasure to work with, he got drafted to 45cdo, early in 62, in comes Withers, he slotted in nicely, very easy going, he didn't do much, we had things ship shape and Bristol fashion. We made sure no one could complain or pull us up. Brooms carried at the slope, fatigues clean and pressed, boots highly polished, wellies washed, all turned down at the same hight, boot neck bluff at its best.
My answer to the question was “he's a good hand” wrong! Well he turned out to be an absolute arse hole, he was always in a bad mood like he was on restricted privileges in the bed room department, treated trained sweats like recruits, guys were giving him the swerve and I was getting dirty looks and smart remarks.
Look lads, it’s not my fault he's turned into Edward Hyde, bide your time, we can get our own back when we get to Sarawak, no parade ground, no stick drill etc, we just blank him.
Fortunately 1section went back to Rasua 2, no Withers there, he was at Rasua 1, occasionally half our section went down to Rasua 1 for supplies that had been brought up by river, Rasua 1 was on a tributary of the Batang Kayan.
2
From the greeting we got from Withers it was clear that the cold shoulder was working, he was almost all over us like a rash, but our resolve held, no chat. We got our supplies loaded up on man packs and hoofed it back to R2.
We were within a week of pulling out, going back to Malaya and Singers for a well-earned rat arsed run ashore so it was leg it down to R1 and 2section and a new troop officer who’s name escapes me, so with a young sir around some acknowledgement of the Withers fish was necessary, but it appeared that the restriction of fraternisation was having an effect, he was very with-drawn, think young sir thought he was suffering from some form of Ulu depression.
PESCANDO (FISHING) the border scout/policeman was fishing with a nylon hand line of the landing stage and he hauled up a snapping turtle, it was the size of a pet tortoise, he was chuffed, I will make soup he said and off he went, came back about 45 mins later with a mess tin full of soup, it was really tasty.
I had seen the locals coming into Lundu with a full grown snapper in a bamboo cage, bit like a conical fish trap but much heavier gage bamboo with the turtles head well restrained. The neck comes out about 18 inches, is the size of your fist with a mouth full of reverse sloping teeth, when they get a grip they don't let go, that put me off swimming in the Batang Kayan.
We did swim in the R1 tributary, just for fun we'd dive in at the tributary mouth and swim up to the landing stage against and ebbing tide, I suppose it was a bit dangerous if you were not a strong swimmer, you had to keep swimming hard, no stopping for breath or you got swept out into the main stream, good fun, nothing else to do. Except go fishing(pescando).
We borrowed some nylon line and hooks from the border scout, asked permission to go from sir, a lad called Colin came with me, o.g. under pants(shorts) rifle and a borrowed canoe, we paddled up stream where the locals told us a good spot was on the first bend in the river, Blashford – Schnell and Tonto carry on.
Found the first bend, beached the canoe and started digging for worms, the fish we were after were the cat fish which is the emblem of Lundu, the fish first discovered in the Sungai Lundu.
Worms found, hooks baited with a bunch of worms that would sink and roll along the river bed, lines just looped around a sapling, got one! almost immediately, a nice fish about 2lbs.
3
We had been warned about handling the fish, they have a long sharp bones just below the base of the gill, which springs out with enough force to drive into your hand, which is likely to become infected, so we kept it on the hook before we delivered the coup de gras, with a bloody great stick. Got another one! I was three fish up, Colin hadn't had a touch, he was getting fed up, don't fret Colin your probably get the biggest, by now I was six fish up, Colin really pissed off and wants to go back when wallop! He's into a fish and by the turmoil in the water a good one.
I've been fishing all my life, since I was a nipper, a bite never fails to excite even if it's some else's, take your time Colin, keep the line tight but let it run a bit, Colin was in control and he worked that fish a treat, we beached it after ten minutes, seemed like an hour.
What a beauty, not a cat fish, it resembled an American big mouthed bass, it looked about 4lb, superb, Colin well done mate, the fish was a stunner skin pattern was like a Python, colours black and pink, a beautiful fish, right Colin give it the priest mate, Colin whacked it with the stick and it was still.
Of course Colin could not stop jabbering on about his fish, “I mean who wants a scabby cat fish when you can catch a beauty like this, etc, etc , etc, I just nodded my head in agreement, you've got to let the lad enjoy his moment of glory.
Right Colin, time to head back, I'm going to clean my fish you doing yours oh no don't fancy that, you do it( self-sufficiency takes a back seat) I gutted and cleaned my catfish, I picked up Colins beauty, as I went to push the knife into the anal gland it jerked into life and shot out of my hand into the river, gave me a two fingered look and disappeared .
What the fuck have you done, you bastard, that's my fish, you let it get away, you jealous, lousy bastard, don't hold back Colin tell me how you feel mate, let me remind you, you were supposed to kill it, I did I did, well you didn't did it enough, the bloody thing was just stunned,
Colin confessed that he thought a wee tap on the head was enough, and he'd never done it before, and I should have done it, fuck it!, was my first time fishing, did not know you were an angling virgin, says I trying to lighten the mood.
Well he wasn't having any, sulked all the way back, when we landed he told everybody I lost his monster fish, some mate he is, not going fishing with Shiner no more
(thank fuck for that you whinging git)
4
Got a fire going stuck a sharpened bamboo through and the mouth of the fish and out by the tail, when the fire had burned down to grey ash, we laid the fish directly onto the embers.
The cat fish being very oily, similar to Mackerel, as it cooked the oil came out and burned black on the fish, once it was charred we flipped it over and charred the other side, then it was ready to eat.
Peel back the charred skin and you've got pure white chunky fish, really tasty, Colin tucked in so I took it that I was forgiven, couldn't blame him, that was a stunning fish. He couldn't kill.
The sub lieutenant, who was a new boy, name escapes me, he had with him a book of Rudyard Kipling verse, there was nowt to do in the evening apart from going on watch and reading a book, our subbie suggested we all read a poem(poemas), most of the lads felt a wee bit goofy about reading poetry out load, in front of your mates.
The only poetry I could remember was William Wordsworth (what a name for a poet)
“I wandered lonely as a cloud” the daffodil poem, that was it.
We, six of us sat round the tilley lamp, our subbie kicked off with Gunga Din, we listened in silence, he put life into that verse, a tale of loyalty, above and beyond the call.
It wasn't a stunned silence, more a reflection of what team work means, how each one of us relied upon the next man to him,must admit that reading made the hair rise on my neck. The next orator chose “Tommy” blimey, that was a choker,and although written in another era the sentiments were true,the lad who read it struggled.
Next! Some-one shouted, trying to ease the mood, hairy arsed bootnecks some on a second commish, choking up on peotry (dont tell anyone), next it was “If”, well good as it is, it's not a tear jerker, then it was my turn.
Watching and listening to previous poems, noticing how the readers got choked up etc, I decided to play safe and read “The Power of the Dog” being a dog lover (that is not a reference to fornicating with females who are aesthetically challenged) but I was dog daft as a kid, I soon found out that that my choice, even after the first verse was going to have me shedding tears, phew, I could not finish it, had a lump in my throat like a goose egg, beaten by words, me, the mouth, beaten by words.

That was an experience I'll never forget and I still cannot read that poem, only five weeks to push and I would be going home, after a bloody good run ashore in Singers.

1963. 4-Man Patrol, By Pete Cairns A Coy 40 Commando.
Here is the story that lies behind the photograph of a 4-man patrol in Sarawak, Borneo, in 1963.
Whilst deployed at Sibu, Sarawak, No.1 section of 'A' Troop were allocated a task; we did not know what it entailed. Corpral Roberts was handed an envelope with the details inside, which was not to be opened until we were well outside the area of the eyes and ears of the villagers.
I led the patrol because I was the Lead Scout, followed by Leo the Iban interpreter/tracker, then corporal Roberts who was in command of the patrol, who was followed by Marine Tom Minnock and then there were the other seven members of our patrol.
At a position deemed free from local eyes and ears, as ordered I halted the patrol; who immediately all took up all-round defensive positions. I then went to corporal Roberts to see what our instructions were; he opened the letter and read it and then passed it to me. I read the details and passed the letter to Leo who had also joined us.
Corporal Roberts asked: "any suggestions," I looked at Leo and then decided I needed to say my piece, I said: "if we go as a patrol we will never succeed in doing what we are being asked to carry out."
'The objective was to go over the Indonesian border and bring back an Indonesian soldier who was home on leave in a kampong close to the border.' Corporal Roberts asked me: "why we would fail?"
I replied: "as lead scout I am always the first person to enter a kampong when we go out on patrols. So I am the first person to get an opinion of our reception, and in most cases I get the feeling that the locals knew we were coming to their village way before we arrived there."
Corporal Roberts turned to Leo and asked: "what would you say,"
Leo replied: "he is right."
Corporal Roberts then turned to me and asked: "have you any suggestions," I replied: "If we take a 4-man patrol and run all of the way to the border and the kampong we might stand a chance of catching our man; if not, I feel we have no chance."
Corporal Roberts looked across at Leo who nodded his approval of my idea, Roberts asked: "why 4-man?" I answered: "1-man for each side of the basher so that our target cannot escape." "Are you prepared to run all of the way," he asked, I nodded and when he looked at Leo he also nodded.
I took up my position while the corporal gave instructions to the rest of the patrol to make camp and to expect us back just before dark and he came back with Tom as our fourth-man; the photo was taken just before we set-off.
I led at a steady pace and we crossed the Indonesian border and reached the kampong just before mid-day. On arrival we surrounded the basher on the diagram in our letter and then Leo shouted out an order for the man to come out; if he did he what was asked of him he would not be harmed.
A lady came out and said: "he is not here,"
Leo looked at corporal Roberts for instructions who replied: "tell her if he doesn’t come out we will burn the basher down with a phosphorous grenade," which he held up for the lady to see.
Leo explained the situation to the lady who immediately turned her head and I believe she said to her man: "they are going to burn our basher down."
The man slowly stuck his head out from the doorway and peered at us to see what was happening; Leo explained to him what we wanted and the man agreed to come along with us.
We ran all the way back to our grid reference where the rest of the patrol we waiting for us; and reached it before darkness set.
We gave the prisoner some rice and water and handcuffed him to a tree.
Tom and I, did not have to do any sentry duty that night; we cooked our rations and turned in after stand-too.
The next morning we unhandcuffed our prisoner and the patrol walked into base camp having fully achieved the objective they were allocated.
After two-days the Indonesian soldier was allowed to walk back to his kampong.
But The Story Does Not End Here
About 18-months later I was lead scout for 42 Cdo Anti-Tank Troop, at Lundu. We had a very keen young officer Lieutenant Christie Miller, who volunteered us to go out on patrol on every occasion he could; our troop spent more time on patrol than any other troop or section in the unit.
We had just come in from one patrol and had washed all of our webbing and kit that we had taken with us; I was standing in the shower when the Troop were told we were going back out immediately.
We put our wet clothes and webbing back on (the heat in the jungle is very exhausting for newbies until they learn to adapt to that environment) which really didn't matter about our clobber being wet, and we made our way to the airfield.
We were airlifted out to a clearing in the Jungle and were getting organized to set off when another helicopter which came from a different direction landed and dropped off our Tracker.
When Leo stepped out of the chopper he recognized me and I him at the same time. We shook hands when he said: "Corporal Roberts patrol," "That's right," I replied. Christie Miller was annoyed he said: "Cairns, I want to get this patrol moving." I answered: "Sir, if you let me and my friend completed our introductions I can assure you we will lose no time."
The Lt. was amazed that I knew Leo. we went over to him to see what we had volunteered us for. 'Information had it that there was an armed group on the edge of our sector heading towards our base camp Lundu. We had to locate and deal with them them as seemed fit for the purpose.'
I could see instantly that the distance on the map was not reachable by our patrol by nightfall. I said to Leo: "you do understand where we have got to get to don't you?" he answered: "I know where it is." I asked: "how long will it take us to get there?" "Four hours," he replied, "is there another route we could take which would be quicker?"
He thought about it and said: "yes," How long will it take us?"
I asked: "two hours," he said. I was fully aware that an Iban's hour would be different to the hour we understand; but it was logical that the two hours should be the shortest distance.
"Can you show me on the map where we would go," he ran a finger across the map which did not make a lot of sense, "it is a main road," he replied. My experience told me there was no main road as we know it to be; which meant it had to be a special track.
I said to Leo: "if we go via your main road, will we reach our destination quicker than if we go by a compass bearing," "yes, the terrain is better," he replied.
I said to the Lt I have been discussing our route with the tracker and he says that if we follow him he can get us to our destination quicker." I didn't want to mention main road.
Christie Miller took my advice and we went via the main road through the jungle. I didn't take me long to realise that although I could not see a track or any damaged vegetation, that this was truly a very important track for those who know of it.
On the hour we stopped for five minutes; it was jungle routine, which allowed time to check bearings and map references.
Each time Leo showed me something that only Iban's know; how to read the track. The first stop he asked me: "can you see anything unusual," "no," I replied. he pointed to a sapling and said: "this is an old track," "how can you tell," I asked.
"When a native passes along this track they sometimes snap off a sapling about every twenty paces and leave it pointing in the direction they came from; then if they want to come back this way in the dark they feel for the saplings and carry on with their journey. When the sapling regrows it always grows on the side of the break. now you can see what I see."
I was amazed how something so simple could be so effective, as I passed along the track I noticed where the other saplings had regrown.
Further along the track Leo pointed to a sapling that had been sliced at an angle with a sharp jungle knife, he asked: "what does that mean?" I thought it might mean something different; so I just gave a blank look, he replied: "that is also the direction that another person was taking using a different method.
Even Further along the track he showed me a sapling that had again been sliced with a sharp jungle knife; but this time there were two slices; one angled and one straight across a fork of a sapling. "What does this tell you," asked Leo, again I was at a loss for an answer.
"The angled slice is the direction you need to take and the straight slice will lead you to water, but you need to come back here to complete your journey, the short stem to the straight slice means water is close by, if it were longer then the water would be further away," said Leo.
The next time we stopped Leo showed me another fork of a sapling which had two angled slices; this was self-explanatory after seeing the other forms of communication; obviously from here the track went in two directions.
When we arrived at our destination we found some caves but nobody had lived in them for years; the information Christie Miller had received had been a false alarm; but the knowledge I had learnt was very pleasing.

   

1964. All ranks were wearing bronzed cap badges on field service, officer's badges in two pieces, or piece.

1964. Early. .’War Dogs’ by Cpl Tom Blair 6 Troop B Coy 40 commando RM.
During the follow up after the contact on 31st December 1963 my patrol was reinforced, by helo, with a platoon from the Royal Artillery. They had come prepared for European warfare, let's be kind and say , fully booted and spurred. They also had a tracker dog and handler who told us the dog was old but keen. It had seen service in the Cyprus emergency and was a good tracker explaining that if it stopped and pointed it meant that there were Indons ahead, he added a little Vetenary Corps joke. If it lifts a paw it means there are more than you can shake a stick at. I said I was more interested in not running into an ambush at the speed the young RA Officer intended to go at. I suggested that my patrol took up the rear to save confusion. This was agreed, the dog was sent to just behind the lead scout a, Sarawak Ranger. I suggested that the lead scout should be someone with a SLR as having a single shot weapon had caused problems the day before by alerting the Indons to Cpl Marriotts patrol. The willing local had fired his single barrel shotgun and fled leaving the patrol unprepared. I was overruled. We set off. It soon became apparent that all was not well up front. Soon it became one long concertina. People were falling over, eyes became fixed on where their foot was being placed and not on the possibilities of being ambushed. Eventually the handler and dog joined us at the rear, he had been told he was stopping too often to wipe his specs. The dog was knackered and kept laying down, the handler had problems seeing ahead because his specs kept blurring due to sweat on his face (should have gone to spec savers). The handler put the dog on his shoulders but after a short time he wanted to stop and recuperate. I said no we had to keep going but we would spell him with the dog. We eventually arrived at the notional border and young Sir said that we could go no further. Taking the lead we all made our way to Bucket Knuckle the nearest location where Sammy Fink gave us tea and an oatmeal block. We were recovered by helo to Serabak, our location. At the debrief I asked my blokes about their thoughts about the last few days. Generally it was about working with ill-prepared troops and locals. On a final note "what about having to carry the dog around your neck"? I asked. One said, I wish it had been a bitch, did anyone else have its dick in their ear the whole time.
Three years later I was at Colchester nick, at it and not in it, a recently admitted soldier asked me if I remembered him. I look at his cap badge -- RA . He said "do you remember the time I slid down a river bank, my land rover shovel got caught in a creeper and swung me out over the river and the Platoon Cdr. said I was pissing about and to get down. It was you who jumped off the bank and pulled me down, nearly drowned me. "That was the most exciting time in the Army for me, helping you Marines"........ I Sighed.
I asked him what he was in nick for? He said he was just walking past the NAAFI late at night when the outside fag machine fell off the wall and burst open, " I was just collecting them for the Manager when I was arrested!" ........I Sighed again.

1964. January. Part of the Tanzanian Army mutinied. Within 24 hours. Royal Marines of 41 Commando had left Bickleigh Camp, Plymouth, Devon, and were travelling by air to Nairobi, Kenya, where they continued by road into Tanzania. At the same time, 45 Commando aboard HMS Bulwark had sailed to East Africa and anchored off shore from Dar es Salaam, the revolt was put down and the next six months were spent in touring Tanzanian military out posts disarming military personnel. The Royal Marines were eventually relieved by the Canadian forces.

1964. Friday 10th January. From this date the Regimental slow march of the Royal Marines will be The Preobrajensky March. Earl Mountbatten offered the march to the Royal Marines instead of the present Regimental Slow March the Globe & Laurel which is based upon the same air as the Regimental Quick March of the Womens Royal Army Corps. This march will be retained by the Royal Marines as an inspection piece. Also phased as: Prompted by Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten, the Royal Marines adopted the Preobrajensky March as their Regimental Slow March in place of the Globe and Laurel based on Early One Morning. The new march was the ceremonial slow march of the Preobrajensky Guards commanded by the Grand Duke Sergius of Russia, Mountbatten's uncle prince Philip's great uncle. The first public performance was on Horse Guards Parade on this day.

1964. Tuesday 21st January. 804 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1964. Monday 13th January. 19Je. Squad Commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1664. Monday 3rd February. 805 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1964. February. 16Je. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Cameron March was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1964. February - July. ‘Burma Camp the Third Time’. Taken from Chapter 9 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.

Once again Burma Camp became the home of 40 Commando Royal Marines, having returned from a second successful tour of duty in Sarawak. Most of us were expecting a little rest and relaxation during the next couple of months. While a privileged few were hoping that it would be their final resting place before being repatriated back to Britain. Having successfully completing the customary eighteen months service.
Unfortunately, most of us were in for a big shock, when on our very first day home, it was announced that we were about to embark on a training program of righting several wrongs that had left our lives exposed to danger while in Sarawak. Especially if we were to become a more efficient jungle fighting force. Therefore, it was going to be mainly jungle training from here on, which would concentrate on the laying of ambushes and patrols.
The life style soon became very tedious, going over and over the same old things day in and day out. However, I guess to be fair to the system it was all designed to keep us alive in the future. It was also evident that it was only those we call the old soldiers, who tired of the dreary routine first. Whereas, the other fresh newcomers, who had just arrived out from the UK, for their first tour of duty in the Far East, saw it completely different. Most of them were new recruits and had a lot to learn in order to be ready for their expected stint in Borneo, especially if they wanted to stay alive. When I and the other members of the 779 squad first arrived, we were thrown right in at the deep end with no training other than what we had learnt back at Lympstone. I must admit that it was hard finding yourself thrown in to a battle condition with no previous training. Although I must say that Marines do look after each other. It’s like being a member of a family and most will help you if you are in trouble. There are also those who take the new guys under their wing and keep an eye on them.
It did not take us long to drop back into our old routine of going ashore in Singapore, an old Navy term used when you leave the camp or ship. Ginger and I wasted no time in looking up our old haunts and girlfriends. Within just a couple of weeks, we were into our old drinking habits, of wine, women and song as they say. Although I might add that we deserved the break after being on constant alert for 24 hours a day, over a period of 6 months.
It was also around this time that Ginger and I befriended an Australian millionaire called Jim, who we met one night when we were very drunk in a bar called the 'Rosy Dor, We became very friendly with him, usually meeting up with him at clubs and going to his home to drinking his beer later in the night. In fact, we were even allowed to let ourselves into his flat and to get at the beer in the fridge, but for some unknown reason we were always told to keep the bottles. We used to think that one of his girlfriend’s worked at a bottle shop and that there was a fiddle going on between them.
In those days it was common knowledge that there were ten millionaires on the island of Singapore, nine of those were Chinese and Jim was supposed to be the tenth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say very much about the Malaysian people doesn't it. Not one of them were in the rankings, so I guess that’s why they did not like foreigners in their country. At one time Jim even told us that we were protecting his interests in Borneo, although he never explained what he was into. To this day, I do not think he would have had the time for us, if it were not for the Borneo emergency, because during that period we did not really look after ourselves. We certainly weren’t the type of people you would take home to meet your Mum. Anyway, the crunch came one night while we were all lying around drunk at his flat. Ginger was out of his mind with booze and he asked Jim if he was queer. The incident saw the end of that little friendship and we steadily drifted apart. Poor old Jim he had a lovely Malaysian girl friend and I do not believe he was queer anyway. Still we had two good months with him. Why the hell Ginger said that to him I will never know.
Ginger and I were becoming night animals with all our drinking and with not caring what people thought of us. At one time Jim had given us some tickets for the South East Asian premier of the film 'Lawrence of Arabia' starring Peter O'Toole. Now to get into many of these events you always had to wear a tie and look smart. Can you imagine Ginger and I in our dirty shorts, tee shirts a plastic tie done up in a rather large bow around our necks? You could usually purchase these for a dollar from the road side traders. Anyway, we were stopped going into the theatre by the doormen and as a result one of us hit the manager. Once they had us under control we were both thrown out into the street. Fortunately, not in front of the hundreds of fans all waiting outside the main front doors to see the main film stars as they arrived. No, we were thrown out of a side tradesmen’s entrance, away from the public and prying eyes of the press. It was almost twenty years before I finally viewed the film when it first appeared on commercial television back in the UK.
During the early 1960’s, Singapore was a bit of a rough place to be during the evenings, therefore you had to able to handle yourself if you wished to stray from the usual tourist circuit around the city centre. It was not only a case of being able to protect yourself from the locals, but from fellow Marines and also other service men that frequented the night life. On one occasion one of our Marines was visiting a night club with his wife. During the evening another serviceman was becoming louder as the alcohol and night wore on. Towards the end of the evening the serviceman ended up in a full scale brawl with other patrons, during which he grabbed a beer bottle and smashed it on the side of the bar, he then preceded to threaten a couple of people with its jagged edge, including the Marines wife. It just so happened that the Marine was a Karate expert and also one of our best unarmed combat instructors. Without hesitated he just waded in and disarmed the drunken maniac waving the broken battle. Unfortunately, it left the serviceman in a heap in the corner complaining about his back. Later in hospital it was discovered that the guy had a broken back and would be confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. However, the Marine had no qualms about what he had done, after all his wife might have ended up with a mutilated face, if the madman had carried out his threat. The Marine later visited the serviceman in hospital and was quite blunt when he told the guy straight to his face, that he would never again threaten a woman with a broken bottle. You might think that he was hard and callus, but at least he had protected his wife from a disfigured face.
Most military units will protect its personnel whenever possible, as long as they are honest with them and they believe they can get away with it. It’s a well-known fact that in those days if you reported to your Commanding Officer that you thought you had made a local girl pregnant, they would do their best to get you transferred to another unit and out of the area. However, if you were to play around and not tell the truth they would be on your back like a ton of bricks and run you into the ground. On one occasion one of the Marines reported that his girlfriend was pregnant and that it had happened just before he left the UK for a tour in the Far East. He requested permission to go home so he could marry his childhood sweet heart. After much debate on the subject, because of the cost involved with flying him both ways, it was finally decided that he could go, and they gave him one month in which to get it all settled and sorted out. Unfortunately, his plane stopped off in Gibraltar to refuel and he got himself drunk, ending up with one of the local women of disrepute. To further complicate matters he picked up a disease from her. Therefore, upon his arrival in England he could not go through with the marriage knowing full well that he would not be able to sleep with his future wife and keep his little secret from her. The marriage was called off immediately and both parties went their separate ways. However, there was also no way that the Marine could return to Singapore, because he had to wait for the flight he had been originally booked on. Anyway, to cut the story short, one month later he finally arrived back in Singapore where he was confronted by our Commanding Officer who threw the book at him and deducted every single penny of the trips expense from his wages and in those days, it was a lot of money. One rumour had it that it took him over a year to repay the debt.
In the evenings during the week, a few Marines would make their way to the nearby town of Johore Barhu, just down the road from our camp, which stood on the Malaysian side of the Causeway leading over to Singapore. It was about half the distance to Singapore City and cost half as much for a night out. We used to call it the poor man’s Singapore, but you could still have a good time if you knew where to go. Johore was a rough free for all type of place, but I still liked going there, you just had to know when to call it a day and move on. One night a group of us were sitting by a window in a night club about five or six floors up. By his time the table was full of empty bottles awaiting collection by the waiter. For some reason one of the Marines was in a bad temper and was banging on the table with his bottle of beer. I got up and moved away knowing full well that trouble was going to erupt sooner or later, and I did not want to be part of it. From my new position over by the bar I watched the crazy guy still banging the bottle on the table. Well finally it burst open and the glass flew everywhere. Then when a waiter arrived at the table to help clear up the mess. The drunken Marine picked up the corners of the tables cloth one at a time. Then once he had hold of all four corners he lifted the lot up into the air, swung his arm around until the cloth was hanging out side of the window, as the waiter pleaded with him not to drop it. The Marine took no notice and dropped the lot from about four or five floors up, without even looking at what it might hit. That incident cured me of going out with some of these guys again. It was just sheer luck that it never hit anybody but think of the carnage if it had. From that day I used to go out on my own whenever possible, or at least tag on with a couple of the quieter guys.
Back at Burma Camp we all received a lecture on the problems of sexual diseases, it being very prevalent in Singapore. At one time it was reported that 40 Commando had almost fifty cases. However, it was also very easy to cure, just three penicillin injections per day in your bum, over the period of a week. Then a blood test, plus another blood test in six months and usually you was given the all clear. On any Monday morning, you could usually see a small queue of Marines outside of the camp sick bay and then a fortnight later you would see the same old faces once again. Most of the girls of Singapore usually carried medical certificates with them, unfortunately that meant absolutely nothing as there was a thriving forgery industry as well. We were told that after a certain amount of time on penicillin, it got used to your system. You would then have to move on to another drug known as Streptomycin. There was only one final drug that they could use and then you were on your own. According to the experts there was nothing known to man that could help you. This lecture slowed up many Marines and made them thinks twice, I can honestly say that I looked after myself and that it never affected me, at no time have I ever parted with my money. While some Marines were so worried that they totally refused to go with any girls, the whole time they were in Singapore. I might add that just because I stayed with the girls, it did not necessary mean that I slept with them, usually I was to drunk and would just fall asleep.
In the evenings during the week, we would usually go for a beer in the camp NAAFI Club, but it would close at 10.30 pm. Most of us had Dhobi buckets with us, so at 10.30 pm we would fill these up with draught Tiger beer. Once this had all been drunk most of the Marines would make their way back to their huts for a sleep. Leaving a hard core of drunks behind all looking for something else to drink. When the bar was shut, a wrought iron grill would be lowered and locked in position to keep us out of the bar area. On the back shelves there were rows and rows of full bottles of beer. It took us a considerable amount of time, but we eventually came up with a way to get at the beer. We hollowed out a length of bamboo and then passed a string up through the centre. Leaving a loop out the other end and then brought the string back down the centre. So now, we had a loop of string at one end of the bamboo and two string tails hanging out the other end. We then passed the bamboo through the wrought iron and placed the string loop over the top of a beer bottle. We would then pull the other string ends tight, so that the loop held tight around the neck of the bottle. Then while still holding the string tight we would slowly walk backwards bringing the bamboo pole back through the wrought iron grill and getting a rush of adrenalin at the same time, as to what we had just achieved. Not only did we drink the contents of all those bottles of beer, but we also had the cheek to replace all the empties with their lids replaced back on the shelves. Well if we were going to be caught, we had to have something to laugh about later. Oh, and by the way, we were never caught and to this day, I do not think they knew exactly how we achieved our little feat. Only about six of us knew and we were keeping it as our little secret.
Towards the end of May, 40 Commando attended an exercise held by SEATO. (South East Asia Treaty Organisation), in the Philippines. We were all packed on aboard H.M.S. Albion and amongst a fleet of one hundred and twenty ships. From the air it was a spectacular sight, something that had not been seen for many years. The fleet consisted of American, Australian, New Zealand, Philippines, and British etc. For the exercise the Americans had placed frigates as an umbrella around the outer most edge of the Convoy, as an anti-submarine defence net. While a couple of British submarines were used as the enemy.
Not only did the British submarines get through the defences undetected, but they also surfaced beside HMS Albion on our Starboard side. The American flagship a very large vessel was positioned on our Portside. All our crew came up top to cheer the sub. The Americans did not even know she was there.
English Buccaneer aircraft were also used as the enemy and on one occasion, they attacked the fleet flying very low hugging the waves. As they flew past the HMS Albion we were all standing on the flight deck. I could not believe that we could all looked down at the pilots as they flashed past. This exercise also had a run of bad luck with several accidents that created many casualties. On one New Zealand ship a boiler exploded killing a couple of crew members. A couple of Aussies were lost, but I can't remember why, and a couple of American planes came down in the sea losing one pilot. At a later de-brief we were told that the Americans usually allowed for at least two percent casualties, that’s injury’s not deaths.
Halfway through the exercise 40 Commando joined in with the American troops for some very large beach landings, after which we headed inland to take some sort of objective, quite exciting at times. The exercise lasted one week and towards the end, a number of British Marines that included myself, ended up in a US Marine camp, as prisoners and starving for something to eat. An Officer directed us to a very large heap out the back. There we found an eight feet high heap of discarded and unwanted food from US Marines ration packs. I could not believe it, this was all unwanted food, tins of fruit, cans of bread, as you opened them the bread rose up from the tin. Tinned steak, apple tarts and so on and so on. Most of the tins also had a means of heating the product within, by just pulling a tag. Seconds later you had a hot meal. Now if you know anything about English ration packs, this stock pile was sheer luxury for us. All we ever got in our packs was a small tin of stew or some other type of meat. A few hard tac biscuits and a bar of chocolate and if you were really lucky a tin of cold treacle pudding.
The day the exercise was completed, we were all told at 6 am to return to our ships and to sail away. HMS Albion reloaded all our gear and we sailed at 11 am that morning. While the American troop carriers left two and a half days later. I have never seen so much gear in my entire life. You name it and they had it and if they didn’t at least they could get it. A few days later the whole fleet met up once again, in Subic Bay Naval Base, where we were all allowed a run ashore together.
Subic Bay had one of the largest NAAFI Clubs I had ever seen, it held thousands of service people and 99% of them were drunk. The Jukebox was continually playing Beatle songs. The Beatles were just starting to become very popular in this part of the world. So, for a stunt four fellow marines found the cleaner’s cupboard and grabbed four mop heads to be used as wigs, and four broom handles to be used as guitars. Then they jumped on the tables and mimed to almost every Beatle song that the juke box blared out. That night they went down a storm and it became one big drinking binge that we all thoroughly enjoyed.
Later a group of us went out of the base and into the local nearby village, just outside the main gate. Changing our American dollars into Philippine currency, we then went to a local strip club, come drinking houses. Jock Stone jumped onto the stage and joined in with the girls removing his cloths. He looked a sight once all his clothes had been removed. Because two weeks earlier, he’d had a circumcision operation and had a bandage around his private parts. The laughs continued the following day when Jock told everybody that he had lost his bandage. Anyway, when we tried to re-enter the American base they would not change our money back to American dollars. They reckoned they did not want our Mickey Mouse monopoly money as they called it, as it was not worth the paper it was printed on.
The green berets we wore were a sign of a Commando and were highly prized and sought after by American serviceman, who was paying big dollars for them. Most of the Marines on board HMS Albion ended up selling them. I think the price at that time was about $30.00 U.S.
Trying to get back on board our ship was a bit of a hazard, can you imagine one hundred and twenty ships in that Harbour and only one jetty, with dozens of boats trying to ferry us all to the correct ship. The Duty Officers were standing on the end of the jetty trying to keep some sought of order as the rabble approached them. When we arrived there seemed to be thousands and thousands of service personnel milling around ahead of us and I doubt one of them was sober. Anyway, a group of new arrivals just started pushing forward, soon more joined in and the end result was that hundreds got pushed off the other end of the jetty in to the sea including the duty Officers, what a mess and incredibly no one was hurt or drowned.
Back on board HMS Albion, it soon became evident that not many returning Marines had their Green Berets with them. It became so bad that our Commanding Officer got involved, apparently there were only a couple of spares on board in the ships stores. Reluctantly he did a deal with the military police of Subic Bay. They went around just taking back every Green Beret they could get their hands on. Bringing four sack loads back on board. Not only that, we all got our correct beret returned, because we had our names printed inside the head band. So many of us had lost them, that no charges were laid against us and to cap it off, we had also made thirty dollars out of the deal. Not bad!!!
A couple of Marines went AWOL while we were in Subic Bay. One I saw brought back on board had a few of us in stitches. He was a little guy and his escort was a six foot six inch coloured military policeman. After boarding the ship and arriving at the top of the gangway, he ended up standing in front of his Military Policeman escort, while confronting the ships Duty Officer. He could not resist making a remark to him, "Look what I found Sir, can I keep it", pointing to the military Policeman behind him.
Upon our return trip back to Singapore we had to sail through the tail end of a Cyclone. This was also a first for me not having experience one before. During are free time on board a carrier we would usually walk the deck as we called it. Most of us would meet up in groups and just walk from one end of the carrier to the other a couple of dozen times. This particular day most of us still took up the challenge. And challenge it was, as the Carrier was bobbing about in the sea like a matchbox. These ships are very big, and some have what look like wings attached to the sites under water line, that help to stabilise them in rough weather. However, as we walked forward at times we were looking up at the sky and next we were looking down at the water. At this time the sea look as if it was high above us. Something I will never forget.
My twenty-first birthday occurred just one day out of Singapore. Unbeknown to me all the guys in A Company had been saving their two beers a day. Along with some of their daily rum ration, although it was an offence. Somebody had also been down to the officer’s galley and had a cake made for me. It was a great surprise and I had a good time. Something I have always remembered even though I am not a birthday celebration guy, but I did not mind getting drunk on that particular day. Next morning, we docked in Singapore and we all had to line the deck, as is the custom of the Royal Navy for entering a harbour. I believe it goes back to the old fashion sailing ship days and is a display to the people of the port that you are not hostile and down below aiming your guns at them. It’s a drill that looks spectacular to the people waiting on the dock side. However, I was excused as I was still badly hung over, I even had to have some help getting off the ship. What is the old saying, 'Oh Never Again, Never Again'.
We were back at Burma Camp for only a couple of weeks. Then in July it was off to Borneo once again, but this time we were going to be deployed in a different area. Although, his time the transport was not going to be as pleasant, as we travelled on board the M.V. 'Auby' an old converted cattle boat and that's about how we were packed in, like cattle. At one stage a competition was run, to guess the mileage covered in a twenty-four hours period. I can remember going to the bridge and taking a look at a map and working out what distance we had covered the previous day. Where we were and where I thought we might be the next day. Somehow, I managed to win and received a large carton of Tiger beer. Mind you my friend made sure that I had a lot of help getting rid of it, as I was not allowed to store it up or take it a shore.
The Auby docked at 'Jessleton' to give us all a run ashore and stretch our legs, and the town never knew what hit it. Seven hundred Marines converged onto the local yacht club, situated on the shore of a very nice sandy bay. For a start no money was allowed to pass over the bar, we all had to buy books of tickets at the door and then so many tickets bought you one bottle of beer. It only took about three hours to drink the place dry, so with nothing else to do, the drunken Marines headed for the beach. Within the bay were many very small boats that were all anchored a few meters out. By the time we left, all had been sunk or were at least upturned, because of our horse play and search for a crazy laugh. It did not take long for questions to be asked and we were all rounded up by our military police and herded up just like cattle and made to re-board our cattle boat and to get us out of that place as fast as possible. I’m sure the local people were glad to see the back of us, as we sailed out of port. I wouldn’t mind betting that the whole town gave a big sigh of relief. I'm thinking that the local newspaper headlines read might have read, 'The animals have departed and with luck, they will all be sold at market'. They must have thought that a Cyclone had just hit them. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

1964. ‘Dal’ by Edward ‘Andy’ Anderson 2 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
When Dalrymple came into the room for the first time I saw him shorter and some ways thinner than I was, but not much. I noticed he was fond of continual gestures with his hands. He had bold ginger hair that made him almost Technicolor. My family had some red hair and my uncle how fought at Monti Casino was similar to Dalrymple, so I was far from a stranger to ginger locks. What surprised me much more than his stature was his consistent use of profanities or to speak plainly, swearing profusely. In fact, at least every second word seemed to be an effective cuss that came out of determined ginger Dalrymple . He was master at this linguistic art and did so naturally, he could have been born to it.
Someone remarked he was sure he dropped in a French profanity every so many words. This made me wonder if he was multi linguistic and liked to show off occasionally. But the best theory was his natural ability to swear without rhyming a word and minus any French. His likeliest words were in a stream of intermittent curses that came out if his mouth matching a Morse code message. He had this technique of emphasising the words to such a good effect they painted the picture perfectly.
What happened next was completely unexpected. Dalrymple arrived in the room and stood between the beds and began to speak and did not swear. It was so different we couldn’t understand a word he was saying. We waited for a profanity that was as sure as three comes after two. But this didn’t happen and we were forced to ask what the problem was. He told us solemnly and not without some sign of regret, he was finished with bad language for keeps. We did not swallow this easily and waited for an eventual slip up. It did not come and Dalrymple became normal and may I say a little boring.
One late afternoon Dalrymple came into the room more dynamic that he had recently been. He looked as if he was about to lecture us on the evils drinking. Instead he began a torrid of bad language our ears picked up as quite pleasant. He swore he would never stop fucking swearing again and to prove it he swore for a minute or two. I was sure I heard a French word or two. Dalrymple was back and sounded great.
A door opened in my life when I saw a picture of Dalrymple recently and memories flew in. I could hear his pleasantries resound down the paths of time, uncensored and humorous. Such things are priceless.

1964. Wednesday 1st April. Lovat dress was introduced.

1964. Monday 6th April. 808 Squad commenced training at the the Deal Depot.

1964. Monday 20th April. 20Je. Squad formed up and commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1964. Thursday 7th May. 848 reformed at RNAS Culdrose on 7th May 1964 with 18 Westland Wessexes. Between August 1967 and April 1973 these were joined by Westland Wasp HAS.1's.
During its 69-year history, 848 Squadron had been disbanded and reformed several times but had a more permanent standing, having been made the Commando Helicopter Training Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton.
Part of this Squadron was taken to form 847 NAS during Operation Corporate to retake the Falkland Islands 1982. The Squadron operated Westland Wessex HU.5 aircraft at this time.

1964. 848 Naval Air Commando Squadron, a letter from Nigel Osborne (RMAQ). As the name suggests, 848 Squadron has the role of transporting commandos; sometimes we even had to transport soldiers! Originally all the navy squadrons operated fixed wing fighters, piston engine & later jets. During the Korean War, helicopters started their military role with the Sikorsky 51, known as the Dragonfly, a small not too powerful helicopter used to pick up downed pilots. Also the Bell 47 was used for medivacs as in the ‘Mash’ TV series. After the Korean War all navy pilots were commissioned unlike the Army & RAF who were much slower to phase out NCO pilots. Our backseaters were ratings although each squadron had one commissioned observer who was more of a staff officer.
During the Malayan emergency the helicopters were bigger, up to 10 seats, namely the Sikorsky 55 which when built by Westlands became the Whirlwind which had a big radial piston engine pinched from a fixed wing aircraft. Later the radial was replaced by a turbine engine and the Whirlwind saw service for many years including being the first helicopter to get involved in the Borneo confrontation with 846 Squadron who did an excellent job.
By now the Wessex 1 was in production with one large turbine engine and was faster and carried a bigger load then the Whirlwind. 845 Squadron was the first squadron equipped with the Wessex 1 and served with distinction in Nanga Gaat and other locations. The Wessex 1 struggled in the local conditions of rain, cloud, mountain and high humidity which sadly led to a few accidents, the worst being when two collided on approach to Nanga Gaat with only one survivor out of 10.
In 1963/64, 848 Squadron was reformed at Culdrose and was equipped with 18 brand new state of the art Wessex 5, a twin turbine engine version of the Wessex 1 with incredible power, good autopilot, very robust and reliable. Even after not flying one since 1967, it is still one of my favourite helicopters and just didn't let me down. The radios were excellent, one day while flying around Brunei; a Buccaneer answered my radio call while flying over the North Sea out of Lossiemouth!
After our basic training at Culdrose we were split between commando pilots and anti-submarine pilots. Most wanted commando as we all thought it more fun! After getting your wings in 705 squadron, the commando training soon made you realise you had a lot to learn. Carrying troops may look easy but there are quite a few ways to get them in and out of the helicopter without damaging either the helicopter or marine. Strangely quite a few marines did not like jumping out from a 10 ft hover or climb down a 25 ft rope. I've no doubt they've Jumped out of higher towers at Lympstone without batting an eye lid, but the roaring engines and flashing blades was a new experience for them. After leaving Culdrose we flew onto HMS Albion and started deck-landing practice by day and night. One night while cruising through the Bay of Biscay I was on number 9 spot, the last one, my altimeter was altering up to 80 ft while on the deck and 10 degrees or more of roll. Just a bit much for a new pilot, even the crewman in the back wasn't too happy! The Flyco asked if we thought it was a bit much and the 3 of us new pilots quickly said yes & then off to the bar for a brandy!
The marines also went through carrier drills including sling work & we did a short exercise in Gibraltar and then off to the Suez area. (From Nigel Osborne RMAQ.)

1964. Saturday 16th May. 804 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot.

1964. Tuesday 26th May. Marine David Wilson, 45 Commando RM, KIA while serving in Aden.

1964. Friday 29th May. 805 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1964.  Friday 29th June. 17Je Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone, Cameron March was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1964. Thursday 23rd July. As part of the Corps Tercentenary Celebrations a Royal Review was held in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Musical support was provided by the Band of Portsmouth Group augmented with Buglers and Musicians from the Bands of C-in-C Portsmouth and HMS St. Vincent under the direction of Captain P. J. Neville.

1964. Monday 27th July. 808 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo

1964. Monday 27th July. 813 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1964. July - September. ‘Sabah North Borneo’. Taken from Chapter 10 of ‘Almost Total Recall’ Terry Aspinall’s Autobiography published by Smashwords (free) 2012.
We sailed right around to the most eastern side of Sabah and then headed South to a small coastal town of Tawau, which had a population of around four thousand five hundred people. Tawau was where the Eastern Brigade Headquarters was located and from here the whole of North Borneo was controlled during its state of Emergency. Its Commanding Officers was a Malaysian Officer while the Brigade Major was a British Officer.
We spent five very uncomfortable days on board the M.V. Auby. Therefore, it was a great relief when we finally disembarked at the port of Tawau. After each company was allocated a different area in the country to secure and Patrol, we were immediately transferred to three smaller craft.
A Company headed across the bay and up a very large river heading towards the small timber town of Kalabakan. The river in this area twisted and snaked sometimes almost re-joining itself. In some places, just to travel ten miles by land you would sometimes travel almost double or treble that distance on the water.
During the entire trip all the Marines were vigilant and in action station positions, just in case. It was a well-known fact that many cross border raids had taken place in this area. In fact, that was the reason we had been sent to the area, so we could cut down on the insurgents. However, our long trip was all very uneventful, except for the wonderful scenery.
Kalabakan was a timber village and housed a very large saw mill that was managed by an Englishman and was to be our base for the next few weeks. Just like Lundu in Sarawak, our first order of the day was to set about fortifying the mill and building some sort of camp to house us. Although this time everything was on a much larger scale, as the whole of A Company was to stay together. Once we had settled in, things really started to hot up in this area, with all three of our Companies reporting action, but with no losses so far on our side.
Tawau was also used as a base for the Royal Marine's Special Boat Service raiding teams. It was all unofficial, but these teams would follow the coastline on the Indonesian side of the border. They would swim ashore and complete a Recce to get the lie of the land. Latter a raiding party would go in using the same sort of tactics. These teams had a lot of success and killed many of the enemy, while our own boys only sustained the lightest of casualties. These actions also made the enemy feel insecure and uncomfortable in his own country, something they had always tried to do to us. Now they were finally receiving some of their own medicine and they did not like it. The end result was that they moved deeper into their own country, further away from the border. This area was just a maze of waterways, and so the Royal Navy tried out their new Hovercraft SRN-5, with great success. Any helicopter work was hard, as there were not many jungle clearings. Most times, we had to rope down from the choppers through the dense jungle, an operation we had perfected when we first arrived in Sarawak and is still used to this day.
One of the raiding party’s attacked the Island of Selbatik, that over looked the island of Nanukan, a known base for Indonesian Marines. This attack was by Gemini inflatable’s launched from a small motor cruiser 'The Bob Sawyer'. Lt Seeger led the attack and later received the Military Cross for the way he conducted the assault. Ram as he was better known was the only Marine hit, taking a bullet right through his elbow at the very beginning of the attack. Sergeant Costley and Corporal Tomlin were both mentioned in despatches for their part in the attack. There was never time for a head count of the dead at the OP Station, but several bodies had been seen. At one time the fighting became so viscous that it ended up in hand to hand combat.
At Kalabakan, with our camp fortified, we began the usual routines of patrols and ambushes. Because all of A Company was housed in the camp, the patrols were much larger, consisting of at least two sections. We set one ambush on a smaller river that had a very steep hill on one side overlooking the water. The Marines dug in at different heights up the hill. There were so many of us scattered up the hill that at one time it looked like an auditorium in a theatre looking down at a stage. We had picked up information that a large party of Indonesians were moving up the river. They never arrived, which left us feeling very frustrated, having put in so much work in to our effort and not to get a result. Mind you if they had come, I’m sure we would have blown them out of the water as we were all spoiling for a fight.
After a couple of weeks 2 Troop were sent to a hut on the Seradong River. The hut was positioned very close to the river and was to become the centre of our camp. So, the usual fortification was under taken. The river marked the border which meant that the far bank was Indonesian territory, so we had to expect an attack from that direction. We trained all our weapons which included a new two inch mortar we had brought with us, on the far bank. To achieve this, we had to have a couple of practice shots that went almost straight up. I do not mind admitting that first shot I thought was going to come right down on top of us. The river would have been only about fifty feet wide, but it worked, so the mortar was left set up and sand bagged in to position so it was always at the ready.
I started to get a little worried now, I was within a couple of weeks of returning to the UK, I had almost completed my eighteen months service and I thought it would be just my bad luck to get shot on during my last few week. After going through all of what I have just described, it would not have been fair.
We had a couple of shots fired at us, but no damage, so it turned out to be a little uneventful. Don and Geordie had already left for the UK, soon my day came around and I was taken back to Tawau were I met up with Jock Stone, Jock, Minnock, we were to have a couple of days leave while arrangements were made to get us out and back to Singapore.
By now, we were into September 1964 and because a few of us were going home, we had been moved into the Tawau camp. We were all allocated a small hut together and left alone, no guard duties, no chores, it was just like heaven. We had two drunken days in the village of Tawau with Lieutenant Bar, who I had befriended earlier. Because we were so drunk and had done our bit, he let us get away with murder. Jock Stone and I bought a case of spirits from a local bar and were stopped at the main gate while returning to camp, by the Military Police. One bottle was accidentally smashed on to policeman’s shiny toecaps. He went mad and confiscated all the booze. The next day Lieutenant Bar got us off all the charges and also managed to retrieve our booze from the guard house. I might add he was with us in town when we got the stuff in the first place. Anyway, a group of us just disappeared into the jungle with the booze and we were lost for a couple of leisurely days and what a couple of days we had.
Towards the end I started feeling ill and this time it was not the booze, I just knew I had picked up something. Unfortunately, a few of the Marines had started to become ill while being near the Seradong River, so the illness attracted the name of the 'Seradong Fever' and I knew it was bad and would knock me about for a couple of weeks. I did not want to miss my flight out, so I tried to look okay and not to report it to anybody. Most of my friends said I looked like death warmed up and I must admit I felt like it.
I finally managed to get a flight out of Tawau with the two Jocks. First it was a short hop in an Argosy to the RAF station on the Island of Labuan. By the time I got off the aircraft, I was feeling like death itself. The sight of food made me feel even worse, after what we had been living on for the past few months. I could not believe what these guys were served up daily with chicken and steak. I had forgotten how to spell it, let alone eat it. Somehow, I tried to keep myself walking around, no way was I going to miss my connection and I knew if I told somebody I would end up in hospital here on Labuan.
Well I made it on board my connection, which was a Blackburn Beverly aircraft, normally used to transport the Para troops. The large part of the body would normally carry tanks etc. While we were all seated in the very high tail section. I can still remember the excitement as we took off, but that is about all I can remember. It was very hot, so the aircrew opened up the doors that were used by the Para troops. These two large doors were in the middle of the isle, with seats on both sides. I was told later that I got up to go and finally report my condition to the Sergeant seated at the back of the aircraft. Not knowing what I was doing I almost fell through the very large hole in the isle. Lucky for me I was grabbed by a couple of Marines who were sitting either side of the hole. I dread to think what might have happened without their quick thinking.
I was laid out on a stretcher at Singapore airport, although I do not know which one. I was carried through the customs and asked if I had anything to declare, I can't remember saying no, but I am told that I did. While outside of the terminal, many of my Marine friends came over to retrieve their smuggled contraband, which had been hid under my blanket. All their stuff came through duty free, while mine that was following the next day attracted a small duty. Anyway, I was taken to a military hospital where I stayed for a couple of weeks. Which meant I missed my connecting flight to England.
At the hospital, I underwent test after test. However, I was never told by anybody what was wrong with me, and to this day I still don't know. What I do know is that I had one hell of a headache that seemed to last forever, and I was being pumped up by many many injections. Plus, the glands in my neck and groin stood right out like tennis balls and were also very painful. To this day, they still stand out in my neck whenever I get a cold or flu.
I was eventually discharged from hospital and just left to make my own way back to Burma Camp about thirty kilometers away. Somehow, I did not understand why there were not many people about. While thumbing, I managed to get a lift with the wife of a Chopper Pilot who was in Borneo. Mainly because she noticed my Green Beret and her husband had told her he was working with the Marines. So, we had a lot to talk about, she told me that there was a curfew on in Singapore. Somebody had bombed a hotel a couple of days earlier. She took me all the way to Burma Camp, which was a blessing, as I was still feeling quite weak.
All my friends had already returned to England, so it was a lonely couple of days while I waited for a flight to be arranged for me. I spent most of the time just walking around the deserted Burma Camp. At that time, they didn’t even have a television and there were no newspapers. I would make a guess that there were only about a dozen personnel on the camp at that time.
Having said all that, it was a very exciting time for me, having waited eighteen months for it to come around. Right now, all I wanted to do was to get home, just to see what I had been missing out on. Well the day finally arrived, I was given a flight and wasted no time in getting to the airport. Sergeant McCaffery from A Company was also on the same flight, so I teamed up with him. This time it was not a military flight it was a civilian one, a Bristol Britannia aircraft that was operated by Eagle Air. The Sergeant and I teamed up with two other Marines and spent most of the flight drinking. First stop over was at Bombay, where on the side of the runway was a crashed airline, its wing had hit a truck when it came into land a couple of days ahead of us. I hated Bombay, it just stunk terribly and was very hot and humid. I was glad when we flew on to Turkey. Remembering that I only earn eight pound a week, there I bought two cups of tea and a glass of orange juice, it cost me twelve shillings and six pence, let’s get home I thought. (from Terry Aspinall RMAQ).

1964. August. Royal Marines landed from Westland Wessex helicopters during an operation in Borneo.
The Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation had begun in early 1963, following Indonesia's opposition to the creation of Malaysia. Initial Indonesian attacks into East Malaysia relied heavily on local volunteers trained by the Indonesian Army. With the passage of time infiltration forces became more organised with the inclusion of a larger component of Indonesian forces. To deter and disrupt Indonesia's growing campaign of infiltrations, the British responded in 1964 by launching their own covert operations into Indonesian Kalimantan under the code name Operation Claret. Coinciding with Sukarno announcing a 'year of dangerous living' and the 1964 race riots in Singapore, Indonesia launched an expanded campaign of operations into West Malaysia on 17 August 1964, albeit without military success. A build-up of Indonesian forces on the Kalimantan border in December 1964 then saw the UK commit significant forces from the UK-based Army Strategic Command.

During the 1964, British Commonwealth command arrangements changed. 99 Gurkha Infantry Brigade HQ returned from Singapore and replaced 3 Commando Brigade HQ in Kuching. 3rd Malaysian Infantry Brigade HQ arrived to take over East Brigade in Tawau, and 51 Gurkha Infantry Brigade HQ arrived from UK to command the Central Brigade area with the 4th Division of Sarawak added to it. Its headquarters was in Brunei, and there were no roads to any of its battalions. In DOBOPS, all HQ elements were concentrated in one HQ complex on Labuan. At least one of the British batteries stationed in Malaysia was always deployed in Borneo with its 105 mm guns.
In summary, in about the middle of the year the situation was:
West Brigade (HQ 99 Gurkha Infantry Brigade), frontage 623 miles (1,003 km), 5 battalions.
Central Brigade (HQ 51 Gurkha Infantry Brigade), frontage 267 miles (430 km), 2 battalions.
East Brigade (HQ 3 Malaysian Brigade), frontage 81 miles (130 km), 3 battalions.

Another Malaysian battalion joined East Brigade mid-year, and was later followed by a third Malaysian battalion, a battery and an armoured reconnaissance squadron. This brought the total force to 12 infantry battalions, two 105 mm batteries and two armoured reconnaissance squadrons. The UK component of 8 battalions in Borneo was being sustained by rotating 8 Gurkha and about 7 UK battalions stationed in the Far East. In addition, there were the equivalent of two Police Field Force battalions and some 1500 Border Scouts.

In 1964, UK tactics changed. What had been a platoon commanders' war became a company commanders' one. Most of the dispersed platoon bases were replaced by heavily protected permanent company bases, mostly a short distance from a village, ideally with an airstrip. Each base normally had a section of two 3-inch mortars and a few had a 105 mm gun, although guns had to be moved to deal with incursions. However, they continued to dominate their areas with active patrolling, sometimes deploying by helicopter and roping down if there was no landing site. When an incursion was detected, troops, sometimes relying on the Border Scouts' local knowledge of tracks and terrain, were deployed by helicopter to track, block and ambush it. The Border Scouts tracking skills were highly valued when pursuing the enemy.

Support helicopters, RAF Belvedere and Whirlwind, and RN Wessex and Whirlwind, had increased to 40, but it was not enough. Late in the year, another 12 Whirlwinds arrived. The RN had adopted forward basing, notably at Nanga Gat in the 2nd Division on the Rajang River, which the RAF had previously declared unsafe for helicopters but subsequently used as a forward base for Whirlwinds. At Bario in the 5th Division, RN helicopters received their fuel in air-dropped 44 gallon drums from RAF Beverley's. The expansion of the Army Air Corps (AAC) was creating air platoons or troops of 2 or 3 Sioux in many units, including some infantry battalions, which proved very useful. In addition, the AAC was operating Auster and Beaver fixed wing aircraft and some of the new Scouts, which could carry a similar number of troops as a Whirlwind. However, in the remoter areas of Sarawak, the Twin Pioneers of the RAF and RMAF were vital, and the RAF's Single Pioneers were also useful. East Brigade had the benefit of RMAF Alouette 3s, and RNZAF Bristol Freighters were also used between major airfields.

The Indonesian Air Force also operated air transport, particularly into the more mountainous areas of the border that were beyond rivers navigable by larger boats and landing craft. Although they had far fewer aircraft than the Commonwealth forces, those they had were far more capable. They included the workhorse helicopter Mil Mi-4 NATO reporting name HOUND, the largest helicopter in the world, Mil Mi-6 NATO reporting name HOOK, C-130 Hercules and Antonov An-12 NATO reporting name CUB.

The naval presence was composed of minesweepers and other light craft patrolling coastal waters and some large inland waterways, and a "guardship" (frigate or destroyer) at Tawau. Army vessels, typically "ramp powered lighters", supported bases on navigable waterways. Hovercraft were also used.

RPKAD Battalion 2 was withdrawn in February 1964 and deactivated. During the year, the Indonesian army extended its operation into East Kalimantan, and three companies from RPKAD Battalion 1, commanded by Major Benny Moerdani, were sent there. Company A dropped into Lumbis opposite the Interior Residency of Sabah, while B and C were supposed to go into Long Bawan further West opposite the 5th Division of Sarawak. B's C-130 aircraft was unable to identify the Drop Zone, and they never deployed. Both companies were tasked with training locals from Sabah, mainly as porters, and cross-border operations disguised as TNKU with uniforms, badges and fake ID cards. Company A launched the first raid in June 1964 against a post near the village of Kabu; however, they were stopped by a swollen river and withdrew to the border. Along the way, they stopped at an unoccupied longhouse, where they bumped into Gurkhas and fled to the border. This company was withdrawn in early 1965.

Within a week or so of landing, a 15-man element of Company C, including its commander, went northeast roughly midway to Lumbis, then crossed into Sabah with orders to establish a permanent base. However, their supplies were inadequate, and, after a week, they headed back to Kalimantan in two groups. Along the way in what they thought was Indonesia, the first group of 10 under Corporal Ismael heard chopping, and, assuming it to be TNKU, went towards it hoping for food. Instead around last light in heavy rain they bumped a shirtless Caucasian, who was thought to be an SAS operative. After a fire fight they remained in position all night and in the morning found the body of Tpr Condon, whom they buried, taking his pack and radio. For the rest of their tour until February 1965, they trained TNKU and undertook very shallow cross-border raids with mixed teams, losing 4 RPKAD and 10 TNKU.

During the year, Indonesian forces increased in strength, and incursions were increasingly by regular troops, sometimes led by officers trained by the UK. A United States (US) Army training team remained in Indonesia throughout the period but does not seem to have had any tactical impact in Kalimantan, although US-equipped Indonesian units appeared there. Troops facing Kuching were reinforced, and, in the east, amphibious activities increased, and TAG's communications jammed. Moreover, within Sarawak, the CCO was expanding and the Borneo Communist Party started producing grenades and shotguns. Total Indonesian forces were:

Facing West Brigade - 8 regular and 11 volunteer guerrilla companies (companies were up to 200 strong)

Facing Central Brigade - 6 regular and 3 volunteer companies.

Facing East Brigade - 4 or 5 KKO and 3 volunteer companies.

The initiative remained with Indonesian forces as to where and when they attacked. DOPOPS had repeatedly sought authority for hot pursuit and pre-emptive action across the border. This was denied, and some parts of the armed forces considered that a major overt attack on Indonesia would bring the war to a close. However, in July the new Labour government approved offensive action across the border, under constraints, conditions of strict secrecy and the codename Claret. However, there was no intention of launching a general offensive or attacks intended to inflict significant Indonesian casualties. The aim was to keep the Indonesians under pressure and off-balance rather than attempt to pre-empt specific Indonesian attacks, and to this end, operations were conducted along the entire length of the border, not just the "hot spot" close to Kuching.

In January, reports indicated a large Indonesian force in the 5th Division. A camp of some 60 men was found. Attacked by 11 men of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment, they fled, leaving 7 dead and half a ton of supplies. In the 1st Division, a force of about 100 crossed the border, apparently heading for Kuching airfield, but they were put to flight by a small force of marines and police. They were well equipped and had East European-made rocket launchers.

In March, in the 2nd Division, 1/10 Gurkhas discovered a force from the 328 Raider Battalion, which was made up of regular Indonesian troops. After being ejected, they returned a few weeks later and established a position in caves in a cliff face. This led to the only use of offensive airpower in the campaign, albeit with approval from London. Wessex helicopters of 845 Naval Air Commando Squadron fired SS.11 anti-tank missiles into the caves.

Between March and June, a new pattern emerged in the 2nd Division during a series of actions between Gurkhas and professional soldiers from the Indonesian Black Cobra Battalion. The latter's losses were several times the Gurkhas', and, in one incident, 4 Black Cobras clashed with 2 Gurkhas. The Cobras were killed, and the Gurkhas remained unscathed. In another incident, 6 Black Cobras were captured by Ibans and beheaded.

In July, there were 34 Indonesian acts of aggression, including 13 border incursions in Borneo. There were indicators that Indonesian forces were re-organising. However, in the last three months of the year, the number of cross border incursions in Borneo dropped significantly.

In 1964, Indonesian operations, mostly based in Sumatra, were launched against West Malaysia (the Malayan peninsula). Most did not involve the Indonesian army. There were six successful infiltrations by the Indonesian Police's Ranger Regiment, although 33 were killed and 76 captured.

Coordinated to coincide with Sukarno announcing a 'Year of Dangerous Living' during Indonesian Independence Day celebrations, Indonesian forces began a campaign of airborne and seaborne infiltrations of the Malaysian Peninsula on Monday 17th August 1964. A seaborne force of about 100, composed of air force Pasukan Gerat Tjepat (PGT - Quick Reaction Force) paratroopers, KKO and about a dozen Malaysian communists, crossed the Malacca Straits by boat. They landed southwest of Johore. Instead of being greeted as liberators, they were contained by various Commonwealth forces and most of the infiltrators were killed or captured within a few days.

On Wednesday 2nd September 1964, three C-130 set off from Jakarta for Peninsula Malaysia, flying low to avoid detection by radar. The following night, two of the C-130 managed to reach their objective with their onboard PGT paratroopers, who jumped off and landed around Labis in Johore (about 100 miles (160 km) north of Singapore). The remaining C-130 crashed into the Malacca Straits while trying to evade interception by an RAF Javelin FAW 9 launched from RAF Tengah. Due to a lightning storm, the drop of 96 paratroopers was widely dispersed. This resulted in them landing close to 1/10 Gurkhas, who were joined by 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR) stationed near Malacca with 28 (Commonwealth) Brigade. Operations were commanded by 4 Malaysian Brigade, but it took a month to round up or kill the 96 invaders and a New Zealand officer was killed during the action.

Indonesia's expansion of the conflict to the Malaysian Peninsula sparked the Sunda Straits Crisis, involving the anticipated transit of the Sunda Strait by the British aircraft carrier Victorious and two destroyer escorts. Commonwealth forces were readied for airstrikes against Indonesian infiltration staging areas in Sumatra if further Indonesian infiltrations of the Malaysian Peninsula were attempted. A tense three week standoff occurred before the crisis was peacefully resolved.

On Thursday 29th October, 52 soldiers landed near the mouth of the Kesang River on the Johore-Malacca border and not far from 28 (Commonwealth) Brigade base at Camp Terendak, Malacca. The Commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) was given the task of dealing with the invaders with his D Company, B Company 1 RNZIR and C Squadron 4th Royal Tank Regiment with fire support from 102 Battery Royal Australian Artillery. 20 surrendered, while some others were killed or captured by the Royal Malay Regiment.

In the same period, about 30 landed near Pontian and were hunted down by 1 RNZIR, the Malaysian Army and Royal Federated Malay States Police Field Force personnel in Batu 20 Muar, Johore. There were also terrorist attacks in Singapore.

These attacks on West Malaysia led the UK to plan offensive air and sea operations against Indonesia. It appears that Far East HQ produced a tentative list of seven potential targets for retaliation based on four criteria. The criteria were that: the target must be related to the Indonesian attack; must be militarily useful; would produce minimum casualties; and, be least likely to produce escalation.

In late 1963 and into 1964, the Indonesian Air Force took to "buzzing" towns in Sarawak. This led to Malaysia declaring an Air Defence Identification Zone on 24 February. The RAF started periodic fighter patrols along the border using aircraft such as Javelin and RN Sea Vixens from the fleet carrier in theatre The UK already had 12 Light Air Defence Regiment Royal Artillery (12 Lt AD Regt) stationed in West Malaysia.

In June, 111 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery Royal Australian Artillery with Bofors 40/60 guns deployed from Australia to RAAF Butterworth near Penang, close to the Thai border. In September, 22 Lt AD Regt with two batteries arrived from the UK to defend RAF Changi and Seletar in Singapore, and 11 Lt AD Battery of 34 Lt AD Regt arrived to defend Kuching airfield with batteries rotated through Kuching for the next two years. All the UK batteries were equipped with Bofors 40/70 guns and FCE 7 Yellow Fever.

The year ended with the UK Government approving deployment of UK-based units from Army Strategic Command and a major reorganisation of Indonesian forces in Kalimantan. However, Sukarno was coming under increasing influence of the Indonesian Communist party (PKI), causing unhappiness in the Indonesian Armed Forces.

By the concluding months of 1964 the conflict once again appeared to have reached stalemate, with Commonwealth forces having placed in check for the moment Indonesia's campaign of infiltrations into Borneo, and more recently, the Malaysian Peninsula.

1964. August. Most published sources that mention operation 'Claret' are ambiguous about when cross-border operations were first authorised. This is understandable since the most explicit sources are regimental histories which deal almost exclusively with die activity of a particular battalion's tour in Borneo. In Fighting General, Tom Pocock indicates that 'Claret' was not authorised until August 1964, after the first Indonesian incursion into West Malaysia. Pocock tied authorisation for 'Claret' to a visit to Borneo by Fred Mulley, the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence and Army Minister in the summer of 1964. Walker supposedly convinced Mulley of the need for cross-border raids to keep the Indonesians off-balance. Mulley reportedly agreed with Walker, promising to pass on this information to Denis Healey, who had recently become Secretary of State for Defence. Presumably, Healey then raised the matter before the full Cabinet, which gave its assent based on the growing threat indicated by the seaborne landing and the Indonesian build up opposite the First Division.

Rules were drew up in order to ensure secrecy and effectiveness. Known as the 'Golden Rules,' they were:
Every operation will be authorised by DOBOPS.
Only trained and tested troops will be used.
Depth of penetration must be limited, and the attacks must only be made to thwart offensive action by the enemy.
No air support will be given to any operation across the border, except in the most extreme of emergencies.
Every operation must be planned with the aid of a sand table and thoroughly rehearsed for at least two weeks.
Each operation will be planned and executed with maximum security.
Every man taking part must be sworn to secrecy, full cover plans must be made and the operations to be given code-names and never discussed in detail on telephone or radio.
Identity discs must be left behind before departure and no no traces such as cartridge cases, paper, ration packs, etc, must be left in Kalimantan.
On no account must any soldier taking part be captured by the enemy, alive or dead.
The Golden Rules were faithfully followed. Available sources indicate that operations followed months of reconnoitering, planning and rehearsing every possible detail, including fields of fire for machine-guns, silent plotting for artillery and mortar fire, approach routes, etc. The degree to which all crossborder operations were subject to high-level review and approval was remarkable.

"Reconnaissance patrols were to be decided by the Brigade Commander, who would notify (the division Commander), but other cross-border operations were to be determined by the Director of Borneo Operations based on recommendations from (the division commander) and his brigade commanders, on SAS advice, and on intelligence available."

Since no soldiers, alive or dead, were to be left behind, casualties during 'Claret' operations could pose a real problem. Fortunately for the security forces there were very few. Bodies of any dead or wounded had to be carried back to the border before being evacuated by helicopter. Only one instance of a helicopter 'casevac' (casualty evacuation) from Kalimantan is recorded.

There are at least two cases of soldiers being lost across the border, but in neither case is there any indication that the Indonesians ever found the bodies. Walker attributes the success of operations and the minimal number of casualties to his insistance on training.

1964. Monday 14th September. 815 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1964. Friday 23rd October. 19Je. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1964. October. 805 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Paul Demery was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1964. October. 'Stass' and the Head by Cpl Tom Blair 6 Troop B Coy 40 Commando RM.
I had just finished a slog on the hearts and minds campaign arriving back to our base at Stass (Bau) in the evening. Before I could give my report to Lt. Gregson, another Cpl asked me if I would like a beer.
This person had never before bought me drink, he was from Kilmarnock after all. I opened the fridge door and there on one of the few plates we had was a human head wearing sun glasses and had a fag in its mouth.
All went quiet as my reaction was awaited, I said the first thing that came into my head." MacMillin this beer is warm and has a bloody head on it all ready."
The head man as he was now called had been killed because he was a Indon soldier by locals in return for money and ammunition. They were firmly told that the complete corpse and uniform was required in future. The head was transported up the chain of command the next day.
It has always surprised me how detached we all were about the incident and able to make it into a source of amusement to hide our real feelings.

1964. Wednesday 28th October. The 300th anniversary of the birth of the Royal Marine Corps.

1964. Tuesday 8th December. The Military Cross awarded to Lieutenant Robert Alan Mountcastle Seeger, Royal Marines. Lieutenant Seeger was leading a patrol in Sabah North Borneo, in the Border on the West Coast of Sebatic Island, Tawau, Sabah. The patrol was operating from rubber boats, and shortly after landing on a beach near the Border Lieutenant Seeger and the leading men of the patrol came under heavy fire, at close range, from an enemy automatic weapon.
Lieutenant Seeger was wounded in the right arm and knocked to the ground. Instantly he regained his feet and rushed the enemy position firing his sub-machine gun and shouting orders to his patrol.

The automatic fire ceased, and Lieutenant Seeger cleared the immediate area with grenades. He then led the assault group of his patrol through the enemy position under covering fire from the support group. This manoeuvre accounted for three enemy killed and these were later identified as Indonesian Marines. Having cleared the area, he withdrew his patrol to the boats, re-embarked and moved out of the area.

Throughout the action Lieutenant Seeger demonstrated leadership of the highest quality, and his presence of mind, calmness, decision and inspiration whilst under fire resulted in a very competent tactical action. The ability of the patrol to react quickly when surprised reflected the thorough preparation and training which he had carried out with his men beforehand.
During October, Lieutenant Seeger led a long reconnaissance patrol through extremely difficult country. This resulted in very valuable information and was the result of leadership and skill of a very high order.

1964. Wednesday 16th December. 808 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Rod 'Pedlar' Palmer was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1964. 41 & 45 Commandos in East Africa.

1964. Late in the year. River Patrols by Cpl Tom Blair 6 Troop B Coy 40 Commando RM.
As boats Cpl it was my job to run, maintain, and keep the two assault craft ready at all times. I was given Pansy Potter as the other cox`n. Seradong Laut was the most active time ferrying troops up and down the river to troop locations, patrols and the like. Despite being well upstream the river was tidal and would rise above the riverbank. On one occasion I was sent down stream to find a person, let’s call him the AE Sunray , who was in difficulties on the river on his own. Somehow he had rigged up two 40 hp outboards on the one boat . The tide was high, the bend was tight, the speed was too great and it all went horribly wrong and he ended up in the ulu. I recovered him and his kit leaving the boat to others to sort out.
Nosh Parker( Cpl Sigs) was acting as my escort on a run up river to collect a patrol that had been out for a few days. I was proceeding gently along when Nosh stood up and aimed his rifle into the riverside ulu. He said go round again. It was then I saw what had drawn his attention. It was a large crocodilian of the genus crocodylus. It was sunning its self over a tree that was semi-submerged. I asked him did it have a long narrow snout? Were the fourth teeth either side visible when its jaw was closed? He said he was not interested in its zoological status and he was going to put a round down its gob the next time it opened it. I said you can`t - think of the noise, he replied, think of the handbags! As it turned out it had gone when I returned to the spot later with the section having told them of our derring do with the croc. Yorky Light the Sec Cdr said what croc? We walked through the elephants shit yard, some turds were still steaming. 
Boat work at Kalabakan was less active mainly ferrying blokes to a position called the `Neck`. This position, on a raised bend on the river, gave a commanding view of the boat landing area and most of Kalabakan. Long before we arrived a Indon raiding party had killed about fourteen Malay soldiers. Gurkhas had been sent in to pursue the Indons and eliminate them. This they did. As a consequence of this we were told that a very high member of the Malaysian Government was to plant coconut palms in remembrance of their soldiers. We were told to keep out of the way until it was all over. I was called to the Coy Office and told to take a Mne and relieve the sentry at the Neck. I of course complied and did the changeover. On the way back I asked what had happened ? The sentry who had been relieved said " I dont know maybe something I`ve said over the radio". I took him to the Sgt Maj who just shook his head. I listened to events from the Coy Store next door. They went something like this. March him in Sgt Maj.....What is the charge......Conduct prejudice......( Good old Sect 69. I thought. The catch all Sect of the Army Act, the NDA is also Sect 69 for conduct....prej.) In that he called a party of government officials a bunch of nignogs when reporting activities at the landing jetty. It went on for a few minutes and it transpires the party had included Tunku Abdul Rahman the Prime minister of Malaysia. He was told quite firmly that he was not to call that person that name again . I took him back to the Neck after he had been found guilty and fined. About an hour later I was in the Coy office when I heard to my horror over the Coy net," Tunku Abdul Rahman the Prime Minister of Malaysia and sixteen other nignogs have just left the landing jetty ". The outcome was that he visited the Coy Office a second time that day and gave more cash back to the MOD.

1964. The Civet Cat By Geoff (Tex) Webbon Signals. 40 Commando RM.
In his book “Where Soldiers Fear To Tread” Ranulf Fiennes mentions a man referred to only as “The Unfortunate Marine”. In later versions he identifies him as Hugh Affleck – Graves, in 1963/643 troop commander. This story shows that the trait of being “unfortunate” started earlier than 1967 when Fiennes was writing of his experiences in Oman during his time in the Dhofar.
The troop was in a kampong at a place I can no longer remember the name of, but the locals were extremely friendly, particularly the headman. Whenever there was an event in the kampong we were invited and tuac was passed around in large doses. The troop commander was not too happy about us fraternizing too much, particularly as he was straight out of the box and feeling his way.
However as Christmas was approaching and the headman had invited the troop to a do, the troop commander gave permission for one of the non-patrolling sections to attend, and he attended himself.
At the end of the do, the troop commander made his way back to the grot and decided to get his head down in his pit. Not a problem you may think. Unfortunately one of the guys had a pet civet cat which had snaffled a chicken from the kampong, and after devouring the said chicken looked for somewhere to have a kip. The animal decided that the troop commanders mossie net looked a likely place, notwithstanding that the troop commander was crashed underneath and snoring lightly.
However the chicken did not agree with the civet and went straight through it, thus depositing a wet smelly pile on the net. This duly dripped through the mesh and covered “Gravesend” as he became known. Nobody felt like waking him up and so he slept in this state for a further hour or so, and then he took off like a rocket for the dhobi area. The civet cat had in the meantime found somewhere else to hide.
As a foot note. After the completion of an earlier tour a Cevet cat was smuggled back to Burma Camp by members of A Company. Terry Aspinall.

1964. Lovat Dress introduced.

1964. ‘Action Mortars DF SOS’ by Cpl Tom Blair 6 Troop B Coy 40 Commando RM.
During their stay at the Laut the ITV crew who were filming a jungle story noted that they did not have any action footage, Boom, bang, zipp of tracer and all that. The Paras gave us a show in Aden last year the producer said in a stage whisper.
On hearing this Jasper Bacon shouted "Stand to Action Mortars DF SOS....... Fire. .......Get ready with your camera there is going to be all the bangs you wanted and plenty of action, watch the far bank of the river "Although we were meant to be `Stood to` all eyes were on the mortar pits ,hands placed over ears ready for the noise and action. Utter silence then " Jesus Christ , I wish people would stop pissing about, who shouted that cried Mick the mortars Sgt". " I did bawled.... Jasper now get a move on MFC I said DF SOS now". The crews sprang into action, check range and elevation , remove barrel from baseplate, empty oil that had been put in almost to the top to stop the tube rusting , give it a boogie out, barrels replaced , muzzle covers on recheck range and elevation and the less than enthusiastic "ready "called out . The MFC shouted out` Number one mortar.....5 rounds HE DFSOS...Fire.` The first round went down the barrel , there was a muffled bang, the bomb came out followed by a tail of blue and grey smoke, had a look around , wobbled for a bit then fell into the river about twenty yards from our bank The Sgt Maj had the wit to shout` take cover` it went off in a great plume of water. The Chinese trading post was peppered with shrapnel even as each bomb got further away from us. The fifth round hit its intended target , the far bank, to a loud cheer from the spectators . By this time Number Two mortar had been made ready in a fit state to join in giving the area a going over. The film crew thought they had enough footage and left on a kumpit later that afternoon.
There was an air of expectation the next day. The Sgt Maj was heard typing away ( Good old Sect 69 was used again.... Conduct prej) and the Coy Cdr was in deep contact with Cdo HQ. Despite our best efforts none of the HQ blokes were talking so we had to wait and see what was going to happen to the Mortar Detachment. In the end none of them gave much away but the MOD got lots of dosh back that day.

1964 ‘Memories of Serudong Laut’ by Patrick Walker 8 Troop. C Company 40 Commando RM & A.E.
I can remember a time at Serudong Laut while working with the A/E`s we needed hardcore and sand to `batch-up` some concrete to make the floor for the galley a hard standing so the mud was not carried everywhere.
The temporary A/E `sunray` at the time was QMS Mic Oliver and we set off up-stream in an alloy assault boat. The river was tidal well above the site and great care had to be taken avoiding submerged tree trunks and large boulders, which at one phase of the tide were well hidden but at others just below the surface.
After half an hour or so we landed on a bend and started to load up sandbags with gravel. We then moved further up-stream to look for suitable sandy material and on one bend came across several very large lizards sunbathing on a sandbank. I don’t think they were crocs just large lizards about four feet long. They were not sure whether we posed a threat and you could see them thinking hard before slowly slithering off into the water.
Once we had found a source of sand below a small water fall we loaded up and set off for home. In the mean-time the tide had dropped somewhat and with our extra load we sat deeper in the water. We had many horrendous scraping sounds as our keel caught the top of some hidden obstruction but we got safely back Serudong Laut.

1964. War Dogs 2 by Patrick Walker C Coy & A.E.
This is a true story as best I can remember and about the War-dogs held in the training camp behind Burma camp near Kota Tinggi.
There were quite a large number of Alsatians kept there under training.
One day a member of the press went there to do a story about them. He got one of the handlers to bring his dog out and tied it up to something nearby. He then talked about it and their training and the dog sat quietly and obediently on the ground.
The press man then wanted to take a photo of the dog in a fierce pose so he asked the handler to do this.
However the dog had other ideas and just sat patiently. Eventually it decided to growl and bark but still not enough for the photographer.
He then picked up a stick and started to thrash the ground in front of the dog shouting at it to get it angry. This did the trick and the dog became totally ferocious and straining while standing on its hind legs. It was at this point that the dogs lead broke. The photographer got a good savaging before the handler could control his dog.

1964. The mythical Britannia club swimming pool dive (Singapore). By Terry Aspinall 2 Troop A Coy 40 Commando RM.
Many time I have heard of the Britannia drive as it became known. It's been claimed by many that they know of, or were told of, and even witnessed that Marines were diving into the Britannia Club swimming pool from the upstairs dance floor. Having visited the club on many many  occasions, I often heard people planning to do it, but did not witness it ever being attempted. I have to admit that I also thought very hard many times of attempting it myself. I classed myself as a good swimmer and dare devil, and I did try it at a couple at other venues around the city. But this one No, and I personally don't think it was ever achieved at least successfully. In fact I don't think it could be achieved unaided.
You only have to look at the photos included to see what I mean, it's one hell of a stretch of land to cover before you reach the water. Added to that there was also a hand rail to get over. I was once told that an attempt was going to be made by running across the dance floor and flinging himself onto a table that was going to be raised at one end on the hand rail, it would have been like a rocket being fired with no fuel in it. And I think he would have just flopped over the hand rail, missing the water by couple of feet.
Being older and I hope wiser and I like to think honest, I was talking with fellow RMAQ Marine Alan 'Buster' Brown about this subject. Buster had sever in Singapore and like all Marines frequented the Brit Club and he agrees that it could not be achieved successfully.
After doing a little research I have come across three known attempts, and all were from the British Army, but sadly all three were unsuccessful, leaving the participants severely injured.

1964 - 1967. 45 Commando was on operations in the Radfan in Aden.

1964. ‘Serudong Memories’ Some memories of an A/E in Sabah North Borneo with 40 Commando. RM by Patrick Walker
Now back again in Malaya, preparations were put in hand to return to Borneo. But before this I was sent on two courses, one on regimental hygiene and the other on water supply and purification. Because of these courses I would miss the Unit's sailing departure and had to join them on completion.
The new operational area this time was Sabah, (formerly North Borneo) and was a maze of mangrove swamps and tidal estuaries, a totally different type of operation to our previous tour in Sarawak.
Having successfully passed the two courses I flew to Labuan and spent some days under canvas waiting for a flight to Tawau, which eventually came. On being offloaded there I was collected with two others by an Alouette helicopter and taken to the new headquarters camp at a place called Bombali. Because I drew the short straw I was the one who had to sit in the seat which faced backwards, so did I not have much of a view through the perspex front.
I probably would not have been so calm had I known that one of the other passengers was Sgt 'Crash' Evans, so called because he was a survivor from a civilian aircraft crash on Malta and had walked away from two helicopter crashes in various locations! He was my new AE Troop Sergeant.
Some time was spent working on improvements to this camp and also clearing a large area down the road to make a new campsite, but there is one memory that sticks in my mind. There was a limited supply of cereal for breakfast and invariably what was left was Shredded Wheat.

You soon found out why it was always this that was available, because it usually had a good dose of weevils hiding inside. As you poured on the milk and broke open the husk they floated to the surface with all legs going. You could use the spoon to carefully ladle then out but it took so long That in the end it was far easier to crunch them down with the food: they had a slightly bitter taste but I don't think they caused any harm! Shortly after this I was shipped out to the A.E. detachment at a place way up the mangrove swamps called Serudong Laut. This location was reached by shallow draught patrol boat. After several hours negotiating mangrove waterways you arrived at two jetties, one at high level and the other much lower. The reason for this was there was quite a rise and fall of the tide, the lower jetty being under water at high tide. The main task was to rebuild all the defensive bunkers, repair dannert wire, and a lot of electrically operated explosive devices. These wires invariably got cut during frequent practice shoots.
It was here that we first came across the American Claymore mines. They came in beautifully made wooden boxes with the stencil Vietnam on the outside. The bodies of the mines were packed carefully in tiers, the detonators were in a separate compartment and the generators for the electrical current by which you set the mines off were coiled elsewhere in the box.
They had green coloured, curved plastic bodies somewhat like a small transistor radio in size with fold out legs on the bottom so they could be pushed into the top of the ground and then aimed in the desired direction. There was a legend 'front towards the enemy" on one face to help make sure that it was not set up in the wrong direction. They were quite heavy for their size, do doubt due to the 800 steel ball bearings backed by a pound or so of plastic explosive. The idea was to site them facing down tracks or likely approach routes used by guerrillas and have the control wire led back to a command position from where the device could be set off. They made a fearful bang when detonated and the 800 ball bearings sprayed out to the front like a giant shot gun blast. The thing you had to watch out for when setting them up was that there was a pretty substantial back blast as well.
As a location, Serudong Laut had the usual almost circular defensive perimeter, with many sand bagged bunkers and two mortar pits all interlinked with a defensive wall about four feet high between the positions. We faced across the tidal river all along our front and within the perimeter were a couple of the original Dyak timber and attap-roofed two storey buildings which had been a store for local passing trade. One big drawback was that on quite a regular basis when it had rained up river, and combined with a high tide, the whole area was under 4" of water and when this went down it left a film of scum behind.

The rifle troops changed over on a regular basis, as did the A.E.s but I soon became the longest serving inhabitant. Something, which was never satisfactorily explained, was causing a fever, that attacked many of the men stationed there. It was so serious that some had to be casevaced out, while others lay under their mosquito nets delirious with very high temperatures.
Although nearly everyone caught it to a degree, for some reason I never did. Whether water borne or transmitted by mosquitoes it was never really resolved. The medical world called it Laut Fever because they could not decide exactly what it was.
We were visited by a BBC film crew for a couple of days who were making a documentary to be called "Jungle Green". They took general scenes, some of us cutting down trees to make defences, went across the river with a patrol and then left. The only problem was it was to be shown only on BBC 2 and at that time parts of England still could not receive it, so no one in our family ever saw it.

Because one of our main tasks involved a lot of concreting floors for the galley and ancillary stores, we spent quite a few days going up river to collect sand and gravel. These trips up the river to collect timber and ballast were very welcome to get away from Serudong. The river was still tidal for quite some distance up stream and navigating was quite hazardous since there were numerous hidden and half-hidden tree trunks and obstructions and large boulders.
One man had the job of crouching in the bow and with hand signals tried to direct the coxswain around the worst of the timber dangers. Even then we had some hair-raising scrapes and judders across some unseen items. Fouling the prop or breaking a shear pin was dreaded.
We used to see beautifully coloured jungle birds fly gracefully across the water to the nearby trees, in most places the jungle came right down to the water's edge. Occasionally you would startle a large lizard several feet long basking on a sand bank and you could see it trying to decide whether we posed a threat before gently slithering into the water and disappearing.
During periods of heavy rain, and in Sabah that had to be seen to be believed, the rivers rose many feet in as many hours, and the gradual scouring of the banks left many trees perilously close to the edge. Those that could hang on no longer crashed over and ended up floating down stream complete with gigantic root ball attached, it was these that invariably snagged on some previous victim and ended up causing a log jam, with the result that when the water level went down the channel became impassable. Occasionally we had to resort to blasting to shift the more tangled of the jams.
In October there was a tragic incident some way up the river from us when Marine Deering got into difficulties whilst crossing the river and was drowned. The supply helicopters were told to keep an eye out for his body that after a few days had still not been recovered. Then late one afternoon, about five days later, it was spotted drifting down stream in the current. Three men went up river in an alloy assault boat to recover it and put it in a bag and brought it down to out location. Volunteers were asked for to help with getting it up onto the jetty and then when the emergency helicopter came, to carry it outside the defensive perimeter to the heli-pad and load it on for transportation to Tawau Hospital.
I was one of four volunteers and it was a very sad day. After loading the stretcher with his body late in the afternoon onto a Wessex that had come to pick it up, we all ducked down under the rotor wash while it took off and mentally said our goodbyes to a comrade who none of had ever known.
As a result of this accident we were detailed to go up stream some days later in order to construct a suspension bridge of some 130ft wide so that patrols could cross the river in more safety. We started by making two "A" frames that were cut from local timber and then anchored these to the bank on each side of the river to convenient trees. Then using our assault boat we transferred three long lengths of rope from one side to the other and secured these under tension from a winch. We now needed two volunteers to work their way from one side to the other, tying and securing the 'V' shaped in-fill lashing which would provide the rigidity, and also link the two top handrail ropes to the one on the bottom on which you had to place your feet.
Thus it was that I found myself swinging crazily some thirty feet above a fast flowing river, one minute almost horizontal and facing down, and the next almost horizontal and facing up from the crazy oscillations. Your weight on the bottom rope of course tended to cause it to sag considerably more than the handrail ropes, which made it very difficult to reach and secure the linking ropes using a prussic knot.
However once we had secured a percentage of the binder ropes the whole structure became considerably more stable, and then the rest of the section could finish off the work.

After two days we were complete and from then on the rifle company could get across with dry feet. How long it lasted before the climate and the ants got to it I don't know, but it should have been named Deering's Bridge as a fitting memorial to a brave man.
Our work continued on the rebuild of all the defensive positions back at Serudong until everyone had been replaced and there was suitable accommodation for each section to have somewhere dry to live.
There was one amusing incident when for an early Christmas dinner, amongst the rations delivered, were several frozen chickens. When the chef came to the point of preparing them as they thawed out, he noticed one of them had moved. Sometime later when it had completely thawed out, the unfortunate bird, which had had its neck partially wrung, managed to walk about.
Thus it was that we acquired 'Henrietta' as out mascot. She hadn't a single feather left because she had been well and truly plucked, but at least she had all her internal organs. Over the next few weeks her feathers grew back and she used to strut about the location and it was then that we could see that she was actually a cockerel!
Of Course we realised our mistake so she was renamed "Henry" His party piece was just before dawn to stand on a crate and try and crow but because of the effect of having had his neck wrung what came out was "Cockadoodal aaaaaaaaaachk"
After what he had been through no one had the heart to dispatch him. There were no guerrilla contacts from this location while I was there, though some of the rifle companies on other areas quite close were luckier.
Eventually we left at the end of the two and a half months, being relieved by 42 Commando RM. and returned to further training in Malaya.

1964. Lieutenant Norman Finch V.C. was made Divisonal Sergeant-Major of H.M. Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard.

1965. Friday 29th January. 815 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1965. Saturday 30th January. The Royal Marines played a Major role during the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, as his Guard of Honour. (From 41 Commando) While other Royal Marines help line the streets of London from St Paul's Cathedral to the Tower of London.

1965. Thursday 4th February. 20Je Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1965. Monday 1st March. 824 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1965. Monday 22nd March. 825 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1965. Thursday 29th March. 826 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1965. Captain T.J.P. Murphy was selected as the first Royal Marines officer to train as a Qualified Helicopter Instructor.

1965. Thursday 1st – Thursday 15th April. 718 Kings Badge man Douglas John Brand who was later commissioned was awarded the Military Cross. Which stemmed from an action whilst OIC 7 Troop Z Company 45 Commando in the Radfan area of Aden between 1st and 15th April 1965.

HONOURS AND AWARDS CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD St. James's Palace, London S.W.I. 27th August 1965.THE MILITARY CROSS Lieutenant Douglas John BRAND, Royal Marines. Lieutenant Brand was Officer Commanding 7 Troop, ' Z ' Company, during Operation CUT. Despite very heavy and accurate fire from a party of dissidents this officer, with complete disregard for his own safety and in full view of the enemy, coolly and calmly moved up and down the firing line encouraging his men, checking their positions and controlling their fire. He was an inspiration to the whole of his Troop and it was entirely due to his good tactical foresight, determined control and personal example, that the casualties were kept down to one man. His conduct and bravery in the face of a very determined enemy were in the highest traditions of the service and ^the resulting excellent morale and determination of his Troop to close with the enemy was entirely due to' his personal example.

Additional Members of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order, for Gallantry. Quartermaster Sergeant (acting Regimental Sergeant Major) Robert William SMITH. Royal Marines PO/X 6620. Q.M.S. Smith was the Company Sergeant Major of ' Z' Company Group during Operation CUT. When the dissident firing started, he was moving with Company Headquarters. He quickly moved forward across an exposed slope and joined the R Group. He then, with great determination and total disregard for his own safety, arranged the move forward and sighting of the M.M.G. Section. Having completed 'this task, in full view of the enemy, and under heavy fire, he moved around .the two forward Troops, redistributing ammunition, encouraging the men and assisting the Troop Commanders and Troop Sergeants in the control of their Troops. His conduct was an inspiration Do all ranks and proved of immense ^ value to his Company Commander. His bravery, inspiring personality and complete disregard for his own safety, were in the highest traditions of the service

Major Michael John BAIZLEY, Royal Marines. The officer was in command of ' Z' Company throughout Operation CUT. His careful and methodical planning for the first part of the various ambush positions. During the second phase, his sound .tactics and leadership ensured that the Company group was always on balance. When the Company came under fire his 'leadership and personal example was an inspiration to all. Without regard for his personal safety lie deployed his Company into a position from which it could contain the dissident tribesmen until the arrival of the Hunter airstrikes. He then skilfully withdrew his Company in accordance with orders received. It was due to his coolness and tactical skill that casualties in the Company remained so' low and that the operation was concluded so successfully.

Lieutenant Andrew Campbell LETCHFORD, Royal Marines. This officer was the Forward Air 'Control Officer for ' Z' Company Group during Operation CUT. When he was warned to expect Hunter support he quickly reconnoitered a position for his air panels, and found that the only place they could be put and seen dearly by the aircraft was on the flat roof of the house. This house was completely dominated by the enemy and was swept by dissident LMG and rifle fire. Despite this, and with complete disregard for his own safety, he moved out onto the roof and carefully placed out his panels. It was a miracle that he was hot hit. He then found that the only position from which he could direct the aircraft was behind the roof of a small out building. This building was also in full view of the enemy and swept by fire. Nevertheless, again with complete disregard for his own despite this, and the fact that his radio aerial, which was only two feet from his head, was shot away twice, he remained in this position and directed, coolly and calmly, the aircraft strike. It is entirely due to his bravery and skill that the strikes were successful and the enemy fire reduced by two thirds. safety he took position behind the roof, to find that the difficulty in seeing the enemy position necessitated his head and shoulders being above cover Despite this, and the fact that his radio aerial, which was only two feet from his head, was shot away twice, he remained in this position and directed, coolly and calmly, the aircraft strike. It is entirely due to his bravery and skill that the strikes were successful and the enemy fire reduced by two-thirds.

1965. Monday 3rd May. 25Je. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1965. May. 814 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Allan Jones was awarded the Kings Badge.

1965. June. 815 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. D (J?) Sayers was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1965. Friday 18th June 1965. Lieutenant Charles Peter Cameron RM was the first Royal Marine to qualify as a Unit Light Aircraft Pilot.

1965. Wednesday 14th to Saturday 31st July.The Royal Tournament was help at the Earls Court Exhibition Building. 41 Commando Royal Marines demonstrated a 'Blockade and Raid' that included a cliff assault. The following photo is from Terry Aspinall.

1965. Friday 9th July. 824 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1965. Friday 23rd July. 825 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1965. July – November. 40 Commando RM. S Coy RM. Plamu Mapu by Olly Scarrott (Mortars)
Another Marine who came straight out of training and joined us in Borneo was Pat (Buck) Taylor and he was in Mortars like me. He arrived when we had moved from the old Plamu Mapu camp into the new one. Equipment we used was the old pattern OG shirts, floppy hat and trousers with Dunlop jungle boots. Within 5-10 minutes of starting a patrol patches of sweat used to start around the arms and middle of your back on the shirt, like a huge stain. It was very hot and humid. After maybe half an hour your shirt was soaked with sweat and went a darker shade of green. Blended well into the jungle back ground. We never used cam cream much unless on operations as for normal patrols you sweated so much it wouldn't stay on for long. We only had brown cam cream at that time.
The British Dunlop jungle boots had a rubber sole and canvas uppers with lace ups fronts. They only lasted a few patrols before falling to bits and we had plenty supplies of them. We preferred the US jungle boot with leather uppers with side canvas but had to obtain them ourselves. Trouble with leather in the jungle is goes slimy and white when repeatedly soaked. We were issued with a military machete - alternate names were 'gollak' or 'purang' but these tended to be short and heavy.
So we bargained with the local Dyaks or Ebans for theirs which were more effective. Patrols were constant and lasted between two to 10 days - depending on mission. All patrols were 'silent', everything being signalled by hand.
No smoking, no washing, no shaving etc. so you didn't give away your position by smells. Anyone who was there should always remember the 'wait a bit' bushes. They were like a natural form of barbed wire and caught on your clothing, hands and neck. Also you had to watch out for the red ants as they really bite you.
I'll always remember the smell of those patrols, mixtures of rotting wood, stale sweat, and insect repellent. We always took one paladrine tablet per day for malaria. All food was backpacked on patrol which meant binning all the extras and carrying one main meal per day supplemented with boiled sweets, tins of cheese, the inevitable 'pusser's' biscuits.
In 1965 the ration packs were of the European war theatre kind and most food was tinned, which made carrying it a pain.
Later in the trip (1965) we got the new style rat packs which had vacuum packed dehydrated meat, noodles etc. and required mixing with water to eat. I preferred the old style rat packs as the food was better.
Ammo was minimum of 5 mags x 20 round (7.62 for SLR) and at least one bandolier of 50 rounds plus the odd grenade or smoke grenade. Most grenades used were the old Mill 36 grenade but we all preferred the white phosphorus hand grenade (designated white smoke) as that really hurt. Signallers and officers tended to carry the Sterling 9mm sub-machine gun. All right for up-close and in my opinion underestimated for jungle work. With the M15 (AR -15) we would carry the same mags but extra ammo due to the lighter weight.
The AR15 was much easier to carry being lighter and shorter than the SLR but you carry a weapon for a reason. When you really need it, it had better drop the target with one or two shots and a lot of us were not convinced it would at the time.
Looking back, over time, if I had the choice I would have preferred the AK47 for jungle work as the bullet (7.62 short round) punched better than the 5.56 M15/16. People who really have not been in combat get too carried away about the choice of weapon as generally it's not the weapon but the individual using it that counts.
As long as the weapon is effective, reliable and accurate then it's okay. Much like choosing a tool for a particular job from you kit box General Purpose machine gun team used to carry extra ammo and sometimes we each used to carry a 50 Rd ammo belt for them.
I was in Support Company and my main weapon, whilst in the camp was the 81mm Mortar. The ammo used, during my first trip was mainly all old 3 inch ammo which rattled a bit when going down the barrel. The good thing about using 3 inch bombs in a 81mm mortar is you could get some twenty mortar rounds in the air before the first one landed, depends on range.
We liked to use 2 HE rounds followed by one white phosphorus.
The camps we stayed in like Plamu mapu looked similar to hilltop forts.
A minefield (claymores, flares), separated by barbed wire and dug in living quarters, and connecting slit trenches. We used lots of panji sticks around the perimeters of the camp. These were sharpened bamboo stacks about 2- 3 foot long.
When we first got to Plamu Mapu we relieved the Gurkhas, who had taken over from 2 Para. The place had lots of bullet holes everywhere from the battle between the Paras and the Indos who had attacked the camp. The Gurkhas used to cook loads of boiled rice in their trenches and consequently the place was overrun by large rats.
Sleeping quarters for me was next to the mortar pit so I could go straight into action. The camp was badly designed as our mortar pit was next to the main camp entrance and the first barbed wire fence ran alongside the pit.
I remember I lined the inside ledge of the mortar pit with mills grenades for quick use.
At night the entrance to the individual or group sleeping area was covered by canvas sheeting, same material as the sandbags and we used candles for illumination inside. I can still remember waking in the night when a large rat run over my chest - the candle had gone out.
Strange but the sandbags we used were desert colour and some of the guys who had been in Aden said the ones they used over there were green.
The locals were really pro-British and every Kampong we visited was friendly. They really trusted us and inside some huts were pictures of the Queen’s coronation etc. In some kampongs were heads cut off victims from past tribal wars. The locals all had relatives over the border and the impression I got was the ones over the other side were treated brutally or that may be too strong a word but they weren't treated good. The drank 'arak' a strong local rice type wine that tasted awful but would down an elephant.
We really worked on the 'hearts and minds' approach to them. When we passed through the villages most of the young girls (17-30) when doing the washing were bare breasted. All were friendly but off limits for anything more.
The unit I joined (40 CDO RM) had, at that time, a lot of ex-conscription marines who had stayed on. To join the Royal Marines you had to volunteer but as they were being called-up anyway some thought it better to go in the Marines. They did three years’ service not two as the army did.
So we had guys who had fought in Korea, (Sgt Haywood) others who had been in Cyprus (Nick?) and Suez and some small wars I had never heard of. A real tough bunch - brought up in the forties and fifties but who all helped each other.
A lot of small soldiering techniques used disappeared when these men left the RM. Such as how to really build sandbag fortifications and using the mortar tube caps as markers for the legs of the mortar, in the dark.
They also taught me how to uses the mortar without a bipod for when your being overrun.
For the rest of my time in the marines I never saw that taught to anyone else after that.
Every day in Borneo started just before first light when we had 'stand-to.'
If in a camp you would take your weapon and sit in your allotted slit trench until after it was light. If in the 'Ulu' (jungle) you would take defensive positions until it was light. So you were up around 4 to 4.30 in the morning every day. We also did stand-to a last light until it was dark.
These periods of time were when we expected any surprise attacks.
The personal water bottles we had when I first went to Borneo were made of metal alloy with a metal cup.
We used to put black masking tape on the lip to stop you burning your lip when drinking tea.
During my 'tour' the water bottles were changed to green plastic ones with a black plastic cup.
The cup being plastic wasn't much good as you couldn't brew up in it or make 'scran' (food).
So you then had to carry a mess tin which was one more item to carry.
Water was purified by letting it seep through a millbank bag (light green colour bag used as a strainer) and then you put one white purifying tablet into your water bottle and half an hour later one blue one to neutralize the chlorine.
The water was always safe to drink after that but tasted funny, sort of metallic. Some of the smaller rivers were crystal clear and very cold - which made great drinking water.
Lots of guys got jungle sores on their legs that never went away until they returned to Singapore.
Leeches were also a problem sometimes, depends on the type of jungle you were traversing, usually swamp areas but I have had them on me in wet tall grass.
You also had to be aware of Leptospirosis in stagnate pools or slow rivers. Its disease spread through rat’s urine which penetrates skin and attacks the liver - can be fatal if not treated.
We lost a helicopter on my first tour. It had a prisoner on board and I think it was a Sioux type chopper, you know with a Plexiglas bubble front. I heard from someone who had worked out there, for one of the oil company’s years later, that the joystick was found in a river bed and identified. No bodies or anything else found.
I personally never saw the chopper take off as it left from the next camp along but everyone heard about it at the time.
Sorry not much good in the remembering the name of the chopper types.
We also had a large artillery piece (5.5inch -if I can remember right) in our first camp that used to make a large bang when fired.
One day the artillery support teams were shelling our wire for ranging in case we were attacked and possible overrun, in Plamu Mapu new camp. When by accident a shell landed right next to one of the mortar pits. Luckily we were all undercover.
In the new camp we also had a group of dancers and singers come out on tour who visited us, it should have been Frankie Howard but the weather stopped him visiting.
Unfortunately they had to make a run for the chopper, you should have seen the panic on their faces, when the alarm went off and artillery support was called for by some of our patrols on the border. The chopper, a Wessex, actually flew into the path of the firing but the shells went over the chopper. If I remember right, the border was less than one click (one thousand yards) from our camp position by map.
Oh by the way the equivalent of Top of the Pops when I was in Borneo (1965) was Nancy Sinatra -Those boots were made for Walking. My mum had given me a transistor radio and I still remember listing to that while sitting in the mortar pit
I got four days off during my first tour and went to Kuching for R & R.
Can't remember much about it except I was very drunk.
We also cut a lot of chopper pads out of the Ulu on that tour, close to the border for future operations.
Used plastic explosives sometimes - and the stuff we used was old WW2 plastic explosives nitro-glycerine based.
Sometimes we used C4 or PE 4 - I think we called it PE4 and the yanks c4.
White colour plastic explosives.
One patrol I went on had to re-cut an old chopper position on the border, in fact it was just over the border by about 500 yards and when we got there we found the Indo army had set up an ambush previously around the old chopper pad.
No one was there when we got there and it was obvious that the ambush had been set months before.
The trees had some Indo names carved on them and there were well sited slit trenches they had dug.
Patrolling was a mixture of boredom with exhaustion but you couldn't relax and had to be alert all the time.
Incidentally they (Indos) were using the AR15 before us and we found some of their used cartridge cases on the border.
You could always identify their footprints because they wore small size US jungle boots which leaves different sole print that our Dunlop ones.
One thing most people don't really understand about that part of the world, unless they have been there, is how humid and hot it is.
Not the dry heat of the desert but this heat drains you, as you’re just dripping sweat all the time.
One raid in 1965 was done from our camp using a mixture of Alpha and Bravo rifle companies (40 Commando RM) that were based at Plamu Mapu. They had apparently caught the Indos bathing in a river at first light, early morning. They had actually got close to the Indo camp the night before and moved in before dawn.
Our lads shot about thirty five of them in the river. They had sighted a 50 caliber machine gun on the hill overlooking the river in a basha but couldn't depress the machine gun, which was on a tripod, enough to hit our lads.
Anyhow one guy fired an antitank grenade from his SLR, (and for the love of me I can't remember the grenades name but I trained on it). The grenade hit the basher and knocked out the gun.
One of our lads, I can still remember his face but not his name, was hit in the back by a bullet which landed on the GPM ammo belt he was carrying.
One round in the belt exploded and took of a small part of his ear and also left a nasty carved scar on his back.
I picked all these details up from the lads after they had returned to our camp, so this bit is not first hand.
I also nearly shot a 'green Howard'.
Our mortar pit was close to the wire, in Plamu Mapu and the 'heads' (toilets for a dump) was in a hut outside the first gate and in between the wire.
Stupid camp planning I know.
After about a month a bunch (4) of 'Green Howard's' walk into our camp.
They had been doing recce work over the border and we all knew they were SAS.
That night one of them decides to go to the 'heads' for a dump.
When he got to the first gate the sentry was just changing out with me. So I didn't see him go outside but I certainly heard him when he came back.
Though he wasn't making much noise he got quite a surprise when I shoved a SLR into his head.
Luckily I had been trained to be sure of my target before firing and when my rifle barrel poked him he made a noise which was distinctly British. At the time I was sweating badly as I couldn't work out where he had come from. So all ended well but when I reported what had happened the next day the routine for going to the heads was changed.
My second and last trip top Borneo was in 1966.
At one stage a big raid was planned but called off as Sukarno went after the CCO and the Indo offensive collapsed.
It called for a planned attack on an Indo camp at least eight clicks over the border using a lot of troops.
It was planned we would take the mortars to within 3-4 klicks of the enemy camp and uses para flares to illuminate the target during the night attack.
If I remember rightly the assault, by the rifle companies would be over rice paddies which meant us also giving smoke and He support. There quite a few body bags brought up when we were preparing as we expected to take casualties.
Anyhow it was all cancelled.
This would be around - maybe beginning of Sept. 1966 - I haven't thought about this for a long time so I apologies for my memory.

1965. Monday 2nd August. 831 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1965. Sunday 12th September. The Military Cross awarded to Major John Culpeper Weston, Royal Marines. A reconnaissance patrol from C Company of 40 Commando discovered a latoon of Indonesians in position on the Sarawak Border.

Operation ‘Stonehouse’ was mounted on the Tuesday 14th September with the aim of destroying this force. After a long and very difficult approach through dense forest and severe hills, Captain (now Major) Weston who had planned the operation in detail successfully positioned his Company near the enemy.

He then led a small patrol to ascertain the enemy's exact dispositions. He placed his subunits for a fire assault. This was less than 70 yards from the enemy.

At this moment two civilians spotted one of our fire groups and gave the alarm.
A very fierce fire fight developed immediately, during which a number of the enemy were hit. The enemy maintained heavy small arms and mortar fire for some time but were then forced to retreat by C Company's accurate fire. Throughout this action Captain Weston who was close to his most forward troops, controlled the fire and the movements of his sub-units with great coolness and disregard for his own safety.

Over a period of four months he also led his Company on a number of operations both on the border and in the rear areas. All these have been well planned and led.

On three occasions they have disrupted Communist elements and the third resulted in the capture of a group of Communists one of whom had been badly wanted by the special Branch for several months.

The efficiency and determination displayed by C Company on all its operations has very largely resulted from the training and leadership of Captain Weston who although still severely handicapped by an arm badly wounded at Suez has never spared himself and has set a magnificent example to his men.

1965. Monday 13th September. 826 and 827 Squads completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1965. October. 21Je and 22Je. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1965. Monday 1st November. 837 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1965. Friday 26th November. 839 squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1965. November. A Recommendation for an Honour or Award (OBE) was made on behalf of Lieutenant Colonel John Aubrey Taplin. Then Commanding Officer 40 Commando Royal Marines during the unit's deployment in the Serian district of Sarawak.

1965. Friday 3rd December. 831 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1965. December. 23Je. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1965. December. 824 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1965. Sergeant Peter Lawrence became the first Non Commissioned Royal Marine to qualify as a Unit Light Aircraft Pilot.

1965. Earl Mountbatten of Burma was appointed a Colonel Commandant RM.

1965. Commando Brigade Air Squadron. A light aircraft unit was formed by 42 Commando  RM in 1965; this flight and others formed to support Commandos, were brought together to form the Commando Brigade Air Squadron on 12th August 1968. In the early 1970s these flights were each equipped with three Sioux AH1 helicopters for which there were four pilots
an RM OC, an RA second in command, an RM sergeant and an RA sergeant. Each flight had two observer/gunners, a signaller and three drivers for its vehicles drawn from RM or RA personnel, and an REME team of six airframe fitters and other mechanics. The flights served with their respective Commandos in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, proving Nitesun illumination, forward air command and air OPs. They landed on darkened LPHs at night, and in October 1978, one flight relieved an Army Air Corps’ flight in Belize (formerly British Honduras). Three flights served in Norway in 1979 with six Gazelles and six Scout helicopters.
Deployments and changes in organisation 1981 - 1997:
The Squadron provided flights in Northern Ireland from time to time in the 1980s and 1990s in support of army units on some occasions. They deployed with 3 Cdo bde to Norway. In 1982 they were deployed in operation
They also provided flights for operations in Belize from time to time, as in 1992 a typical year of their 1990s deployments: the A Flight, issued with new tropical flying suits, and served five months in Belize as the roulement for 25 Flight of the Army Air Corps; their Gazelles were fitted with emergency flotation equipment, but weight restrictions meant that ‘the optical aid was not fitted’. Much of the flying required extra concentration to identify landing sites in jungle clearings, when the duties were mainly involved with liaison work.
1993 Pilots had additional training at Middle Wallop on part of a new syllabus for the Army Pilots, so that they could work in pairs as Aircraft Captains commanding a section of aircraft. In November Sgt Jack Frost won the Hughes Master Pilot’s Trophy awarded annually to the pilot who obtained the best results in the Army Master Pilots’ Exam. In 1994 the deployment in Norway only required part of the Squadron but  a team also deployed to Kenya to support 3 Para in exercises. On 1st September 1995 the Squadron became a part of 847 Squadron in the Naval Air Command.
Miscellaneous. Memorable date: 14th June recapture of Falkland Islands (in 1982)

1966. Friday 11th February. 25Je. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1966. Tuesday 1st March. 29Je. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1966. Thursday 10th March. 837 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1966. Sunday 15th March. Lieutenant Norman Finch V.C. passed away while living in Portsmouth Hampshire and was cremated at Porchester. His ashes were transferred to Southampton. His only known memorial is at the Eastney Barracks, Royal Marines Museum, Southsea.

1966. March. Borneo. Two Company’s of Royal Marines attacked an Indonesian stronghold near Biawak. The Commandos had made a long approach march lasting several days, avoiding jungle trails that were liable to be mined. Upon reaching the enemy camp, Claymore mines on long bamboo poles were quietly hoisted on to the roofs of the enemy bashas (huts) and triggered by remote control. When these exploded each claymore releases 700 steel balls, which tore through the palm roofs and created havoc among the occupants below. The survivors dived out of the buildings and returned the fire of the waiting commandos. Captain Ian Clarke RM was morally wounded during this exchange and another Marine was injured.

1966. Wednesday 30 March. 839 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1966. Friday 22nd April. 831 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1966. April. Royal Marine Graham Price RM 22359, while on active service with 42 Commando and serving in Borneo was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ during operation Claret. His ‘Mention in Dispatches’ was later published on Tuesday 13th December 1966 in the London Gazette. Graham received the award during the summer of 1966 while on the parade ground of Stonehouse barracks Plymouth in front of the Company. It was presented to him by Major R.E. Simmons U.S.M.C. (on secondment).

Lt Ian Clark with Graham as tracker, along with a Malay linguist and 2 Ibans tribesmen were sent on recce patrols over the Indonesian border to locate Indonesian fire bases. After a large enemy base was located a plan was hatched to attack it. Graham led L Company and Lt Clark led M Company on an overnight march to lay up in the jungle for a dawn attack. The attack was a success but sadly Lt Clark was killed along with one other Marine. However, there were 22 Indonesian soldiers killed during the attack, and it stopped the Indonesians from mounting further raids over the border. Believing that they were safe upon there retreat back onto Indonesian territory. At the time it was a secret operation. The British government did not admit what Operation Claret involved until 1974. While most of the information was not available for thirty years.

1966. Monday 16th May. 847 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1966. June. 836 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1966. June. Martin ‘Scouse’ Dowling (PO24167V) Recalls his first day in C Coy 40 Commando RM, straight from training (837 Squad.
My arrival at C Coys location was a bit of a traumatic start for me, I had just drawn my weapon from the armoury when I was accosted by a Lt. Todd who wanted to inspect the said weapon. After proving my SLR and handing it to him he proceeded to rip into me for having a dirty weapon and magazines. I attempted to protest my innocence, explaining that I had just been issued with it and that I was still stood within 6 feet of the armoury entrance and not yet had the chance to clean it. But all to no avail, to my first 20 minutes in camp and I had been given an extra duty in the galley. I will never forget Mr Todd who in my mind’s eye seemed to have a greater girth than height.
Finally being allowed to carry on I was told that my grot was to be 10 Downing St, what a revelation…a hole in the ground reinforced with 50 gallon oil drums and sandbags, I was to share this 4* residence with (I think) Sgt Jan Exelby, Cpl (Torchy) Downs and another Marine I can only remember as Mac. Oh yeh, 2 dozen rats also shared the grot with us.
The memories are many but can anyone confirm that our Sgt Major was Tiny Whitehead who's office was at the top of the hill and was it a house????
Mine was a very short tour, only managing to get in two patrols but it really did set me up for what turned out to be the start of a 10 year career as a Bootneck.

1966. The RMFVR retitled Royal Marines Reserve.

1966. July. 837 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1966. Thursday 18th August. The end of Indonesian Confrontation in Borneo after a truce was finally agreed.
The total casualties of the Commonwealth Military Forces in this undeclared war, which lasted over four years, were 114 killed and 181 injured. A fifth of the Indonesian losses, half of who were prisoners. The British forces also had to contend with virulent diseases such as scrub-typhus with its weakening fevers, kidney failure and possible death of the victim in a coma.

1966. Friday 23rd September. 847 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1966. Monday 31st October. 857 Squad Squad commensed training at the Deal Depot.

1966. Saturday 21st November. 831 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1966. Monday 12th December. 860 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1966. Saturday 17th December. 31Je Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1966. Monday 28th November. 859 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1966. December. 844 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1967. Tuesday 10th January. 32Je Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1967. January. 846 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1967. 26th February. 29Je. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1967. Sunday 10th March. 857 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1967. Thursday 23rd March. Marine David Esseen died while serving in 45 Commando, Aden and the Radfan.

1967. Monday 15th May. 870 Squad Squad commensed training at the Deal Depot.

1967. Monday 29th May. 871 Squad commensed training at the Deal Depot.

1967. Monday 1st May. 869 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1967. Thursday 4th May. 860 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1967. Friday 5th May. 860 Squad commenced Commando training at Lympstone.

1967. Monday 29th May. 871 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1967. May. 29Je. Kings Squad passed for duty from Lympstone, M.D. (Mick) Page was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1967. May. 852 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. John Bryant was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1967. May - June. The 75th Anniversary Edition of the 'Globe & Laurel', Editor Captain D.A.G. Collin RM. The magazine was now published bi-monthly and cost half a crown. The content was more structured, reporting on Unit and training activities in a similar layout to that of today's publication growing to some seventy two pages. Pay and Records Office articles were frequent, coming at the time from Melville camp, Eastney, behind the main Eastney Barracks.

1967. Friday 30th June. 856 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Colin Griffiths was awarded the Kings Badge. Squad Photo.

1967. Monday 24th July. The 874 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1967. Monday 7th August. 875 Squad commensed training at the Deal Depot.

1967. August. The introduction of CG's Certificate of Merit for Buglers.

1967. Tuesday 5th September. 35Je. Squad commensed training at the Deal Depot.

1967. Friday 8th September. 869 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1967. Friday 8th September. 860 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1967. Tuesday 12th September. Royal Marines, 2nd Lt Danny Moir age 22 was killed in action in Aden whilst serving with 45 Commando. Because the British withdrawal from Aden was less than 3 months away the decision was taken to bury Danny at sea rather than on land where his grave may well have been desecrated after the withdrawal.

1967. Friday 22nd September. 870 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1967. Thursday 5th October. 871 Squad completed training at  the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1976. Thursday 11th November. It’s with deep sadness and regret that we announce the passing of Harry Slater Po/x772. Born 10th December 1907. (from RMA Queensland).

1967. Thursday 19th October. 32Je Squad completed training at the Deal Depot.

1967. Thursday 2nd November. It’s with deep sadness and regret that we announce the passing of Jack Major Ply/x101253. Born 20th January 1921. (from RMA Queensland).

1967. Monday 13th November. 881 Squad commensed training at the Deal Depot.

1967. November. 42 Commando covered the final withdrawal from Aden.

1967.  Wednesday 29th November. 45 and 42 Royal Marine Commandos fare well to Aden.
The overall plan, for the withdrawal of the British Forces, was to move the majority of troops, out through Khormaksar Airfield, whilst the equipment, went by sea. The privilege of being the last to leave, was accorded to the Royal Marines. Fittingly, Four-Five, was the last major unit, of the permanent garrison, to be withdrawn. 42 R.M. Commando, would hold the airfield, then they would withdraw, to the naval task force, and their Commando Carrier, HMS Albion.
By the September of 1967, all service families, had been evacuated, and 45 Cdo R.M., moved into their flats, after leaving Little Aden, the home of the unit for the best part of seven years. 42 Commando, Royal Marines, arrived aboard HMS Albion on Wednesday11th October. In their distinctive, olive green, jungle dress, they took up positions, North of the airport. This was the line, that had been held by British troops, since September. Roadblocks, and OP'S, (observation posts), sealed off the peninsula, from the North, and kept the airfield, out of mortar range.

The NFL, was busy defeating FLOSY; the Southern Arabian Army, had left the Federation, and joined the NFL, and in one last fling, decided to mortar, 42 Commando's positions at Tawahi, on Saturday11th November 1967. Marine Blackman, had the unfortunate distinction, of being the last, British serviceman, to be wounded, in Aden, during this action.

At one-thirty. on Wednesday 29th November 1967, the last aircraft left Aden. The last to board, were the Commanding Officer, 45 RM. Commando, Commanding Officer, Royal Air Force, Khormakser, Commander, Aden Brigade, Brigadier, General Staff, and Senior Air Staff Officer, Middle East Air Force. The perimeter, was still being guarded, by 42 Cdo, C company, of the King's Own Border Regiment, and 8, (Alma), Light Commando Battery, R.A. 42 Commando, was the last to leave, in their helicopters, on the 29th. The last defiant act, of the 45 Commando, was the appearance, of the Union Flag, and White Ensign, as if by magic, Recce Troop, Royal Marines, magic-, on one of the peaks, of Jabal Shamsan, overlooking Ma'alla, placed there, during the last day, before departure.
Its believed that the last man to leave the shores of Aden, was a Royal Marine landing craft crewman, slipping the bow line, from the bollard on the quay, and stepping onto the craft, as it got under way, wondering if it was worth it?
The epitaph, to all servicemen, of all the British Forces in Aden, who were killed, in this seven year war, was written, by a Fleet Street journalist, who described the troops in Aden, as, ‘men, whose steadfast patience, had been tested, and found to hold firm, on thousands, of unrewarded, forgotten, occasions.
Dedicated to the memory of those who remain behind.
Sgt D.J. Arnold RM Friday 7th August 1964.
Sgt D.J. Arnold RM Friday 7th August 1964.
Bugler P.A.T. Baker RM Monday 20th November 1961.
Marine D.G. Calway RM Wednesday 17th May 1967.
Marine A.J. Dunn RM Friday 5th May 1967.
Marine D. Esseen RM Thursday 23rd March 1967.
Marine R. Hydes RM Monday 18th May 1964.
L/Cpl R. Jeffery RM Sunday 23rd June /6/63
Cpl E. McGrath RM Tuesday 12th September 1967.
S/Lt D.A.. Moir RM. Tuesday 12th September 1967.
Marine D.A. Muir RM Thursday 10th June 1965.
Marine J. Pettigrew RM Friday 27th January 1961.
Marine G.A. Poyzer RM Wednesday 30th May 1962.
Marine R.C. Swindell RM Saturday 27th July 1963.
Marine K. Tuck RM Wednesday 31st January 1962.
Marine K.N. Whitaker RM Wednesday 20th January 1965.
Marine D.M. Wilson RM Tuesday 26th May 1964.

1967. 'All Hands To Assault Stations Off Aden' (HMS Bulwark & 45 Cdo RM)
How many of you can recall that pipe booming from the many metal tannoys aboard our commando carrier? The embarked marines would curse the inconsiderate navy for pulling them out of their warm pits and mess decks, but did they really know what was happening.
During 1967 - 69,1 was an aircraft handler with 845 Naval Air Squadron Commando, on board HMS Bulwark. Contrary to belief, we did not spend all our time sunbathing on the flight deck. We had a very important and on occasion, dangerous job to do, which I am of the opinion, we did well.
Now cast your minds back as I take you through the process of moving a complete Royal Marine Commando unit, ready to fight, onto enemy territory in the shortest possible time. This was achieved by a Royal Navy developed technique known as a 'Roulement'. This procedure consisted of precision and teamwork to enable us to complete the task quickly and safely.
0300 hrs - Preparation. We removed guard rails and took down chains, while the Assault Supply teams (AST) comprising of seamen and marines, also removed tie-down chains from vehicles and stores down aft.
0330 his - "All hands to assault stations!" was piped. The whole ship now became alive and began to do the job it was created for.
0340 his - The first Wessex Mk V chopper came up from the hangar and was put on its spot by the flight deck party. The spots were gradually filled from I to 9. At this time the deck was a hive of frenetic but controlled activity. Once the spots were all occupied, even more helicopters came up from the hangar. No more spots remaining. Where to put them?
This problem was solved by placing the extra aircraft inboard and between each of the filled spots, while the Sioux spotter helicopter was pushed into what was known as `The Green' area near the carrier's island.
After each chopper had been placed on its spot, the aircraft engineers pulled out and fitted the large and heavy rotors and made sure that once operational, they would cut through the air no closer than 18 inches to the next!
Once all engines were running, it created an actual `mesh' of blades rotating above our heads
0500 hrs - Start aircraft engines. Rotors turning and forming the deadly umbrella of turning blades with men working underneath.
0505 hrs - Royal Marines formed into `sticks' take up their places on the lifts, where after, they are directed to their embarkation spots by a marshal. At this stage, the Mobile Air Operations Team (MAOT), comprising of an officer plus 3, had already been ashore for 16 hours to radio back landing zone information. I am proud to say that I was a member of this team.
0530 hrs - The first `cab' lifts off with 15 aircraft still on deck and about to follow. The directors knew that underneath this `ceiling' of spinning and lethal rotors, one mistake could cause a catastrophe and ' would make us look very `ordinary' and not the cream of combined operations, which we were. Together with the choking burnt aviation fuel fumes, the flight deck had now become the most dangerous piece of real estate in the Royal Navy.
060 0 hrs - Troops are being regularly airlifted ashore. As each cab came back after delivery, they would either load up with more marines or hook up to the prepared underslung loads of water, stores, transport, vehicles or 105 mm artillery pieces.
The first aircraft in the landing zone would have picked up the MAOT team and brought them back on board.
After they were all ashore, we could relax slightly and enjoy the knowledge that we had successfully carried out our task without any death, injury or loss of stores.
At this time, HMS Bulwark held the record for flying in a complete commando unit plus their supplies, transport and artillery in 4 hours. The USN could never understand how it was done. Why did this happen?
Easy. Professionalism by the best navy in the world! (Tom Chalis RMAQ)

1967. Friday 1st December. The 874 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1967. Thursday 14th December. 875 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1967. December. 29Je. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1967. Band Ranks to be eligible for selection as Drum Majors.

1967. Move of Plymouth Group Band to Infantry Training Centre RM.

1967. Band of C - in - C Mediterranean Fleet was disestablished.

1976. Day Unknown. It’s with deep sadness and regret that we announce the passing of Ray Clements Po/x4124. Date of birth unknown. (from RMA Queensland).

1967. 45 Commando returned to UK.

1967. 40 Commando on IS duties in Hong Kong.

1968. Febuary. 871. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo. Squad Photo.

1968. Saturday 21st March. 881 Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1968. Tuesday 26th March. The 887 Squad formed up at the Deal Depot.

1968. March. 848 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1968. Monday 29th April. 889Troop Commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1968. April. The 874 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1968. Friday 3rd May. 875 Kings squad passed for duty at Lympstone. Squad Photo.

1968. Monday 6th May. 39Je. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1968. May. Exmouth The Corps was adopted by Exmouth Urban District Council in this and has since been reaffirmed by the new Borough.

1968. Tuesday 6th June. 35Je. Squad completed group 'A' training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1968. Friday 19th July. The 887 Squad Completed training at the Deal Depot.

1968. Friday 26th July. 889 Troop completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1968. Monday 12th August. The 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron Royal Marines (3 BAS) was formed on 12th August 1968, at Sembawang Air Base, Singapore. At the time, it was equipped with 14 Westland (Agusta-Bell) Sioux AH.1 helicopters with six Westland Scouts envisaged. It was the amalgamation of the Brigade Flight and the Air Troops of 40 Commando, 42 Commando and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery (29 Cdo RA). Prior to its formation, it was understood that all non-RM support, such as REME personnel, would be Commandotrained.

1968. Monday 2nd September. 892 and 893 Squads commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1968. The Flying Royal Marines today consist of 847 Naval Air Squadron formerly 3 CBAS (Commando Brigade Air Squadron). Motto: Alto Ex Concutimus "We Strike Them From On High". Commando Brigade Air Squadron: A light aircraft unit formed by various commandoes used to support the Commandoes in the field were amalgamated on 12th August 1968.
The Royal Marine flights have served with their respective commandoes in Northern Ireland and other locations, operating helicopters such as the Aerospatiale Gazelle and Westland Scout. Royal Marine Commando Rotary wing force using Army standard helicopters under Navy control. Main Headquarters: Bickleigh. Their Aircraft inventory current service types include Westland Lynx AH.7, and Westland Gazelle AH.1

   

847 Squadron is unique in the Royal Navy in that the 45 pilots are from the Royal Marines. They are selected from trained Commandos of the Royal Marines who, because their primary concern is with amphibious operations and support of the land battle, complete their flying training with the Army Air Corps. All have completed several infantry tours in a Commando unit and wider expertise is added with pilots attached from the US Marine Corps and the Army Air Corps.
847 Naval Air Squadron provides support to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, one of Britain's rapid response shock formations, with reconnaissance and anti-armour support. It is the Brigade's primary anti-tank strike resource, capable of engaging armour with TOW missiles at very short notice. The Squadron is based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset but spends most of the year on deployment around the world.
The maintenance of the 847 squadron aircraft is carried out by engineers from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, most of whom are Commando trained. Additional Royal Marine Commandos act as ground-handlers, protection of forward bases and as door-gunners The Squadron operates Army aircraft which are maintained by army engineers of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, most of whom attend the Commando Course where they can earn the coveted Green Beret. Ground Handlers are also selected from junior ranks of the Royal Marines and are additionally trained as door-gunners on the 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun.

1968. As a result of conditions and age, the memorial Silver Bugles will no longer be sounded.

1968. New NCO structure in Band Service - Introduction of Band Colour Sergeant rank.

1968.  The Commandant Generals Piper. 1 During his recent visit to 42 Commando RM the Commandant General approved that the title of the Commandant Generals Piper was to be held by the leading piper in 42 Commando's Pipe Band. 2 This appointment confers on the holder the entitlement, when in Pipe Band uniform, to wear a Skian Dhu presented by General Sir Norman Tailyour KCB DSO. 3 The first person selected to hold this appointment is RM 21534 Lance Corporal I Anderson.

1968. 43 Commando was disbanded.

1968 - 1998. The conflict in Northern Ireland is known as the Troubles. Over 3,600 people were killed and thousands more injured. During a period of 30 years, many acts of violence were carried out by paramilitaries and the security forces.
The first barriers were built in 1969 and were meant to last only six months, but they multiplied over the years. Belfast endured 40 years of virtual war. The IRA and other Catholic paramilitary groups used bombings, kidnappings and murder to further their cause.
The Troubles (Irish: Na Trioblóidí) as they were known was an ethno-nationalist conflict, that began during a campaign that was supposed to end discrimination against the Catholic/Nationalist minority by the Protestant/Unionist government and Police Force.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA), also called Provisional Irish Republican Army, republican paramilitary organization seeking the establishment of a republic, the end of British rule in Northern Ireland, and the reunification of Ireland.
The Provisional IRA was chiefly active in Northern Ireland, but from the early 1970s, it also took its bombing campaign to England. They believed that such bombing would help create a demand among the British public for their government to withdraw from Northern Ireland.
On Thursday 28th July 2005, the IRA Army Council announced an end to its armed campaign, stating that it would work to achieve its aims using "purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means", and shortly afterwards completed decommissioning.
The Royal Marines units served in Northern Ireland and sadly lost:
Marine L Allen, Marine Anthony David, Marine John Shaw, Marine Andrew Gibbons, Marine Graham Cox, Marine John Macklin, Cpl Robert Miller, Marine Gary Wheddon, Marine Adam Gilbert, Cpl Dennis Leach, Marine Michael Southern, Marine Neil Bewley, Sgt William Corbett.
Along with Royal Marines School of Music members:
Cpl Dean Pavey, Band Cpl Trevor Davis, Band Cpl Dave Mcmillan, Musician Richard Fice, Musician Bob Simmonds, Musician Mick Ball, Musician Richard Jones, Musician Tim Reeves, Musician Mark Petch, Musician Andy Cleatheroe, Musician Christopher Nolan.

1968 - 1998. Northern Ireland. The low intensity conflict in Northern Ireland was an ideal arena for the SBS to operate in. The main role was covert surveillance and apart from its own operations, many SBS operators joined 14th Intelligence Company, or 'the Det' - a branch of Military Intelligence specially created for surveillance ops 'over the water'.
The SBS was also used to monitor and interdict gun running along the coastline and on inland waterways and lakes.

1969. Wednesday 1st January. Band of HM RM C-in-C Western Fleet formed. With a strength of forty three this was one of the two largest bands and was regarded as the Staff Band of the Royal Navy.

1969. Tuesday 21st January. Malcolm Sargent Cancer Fund for children. First concert in aid of this charity held in Portsmouth Guildhall, preceding the Royal Albert Hall concert.

1969. Friday 7th February. 39Je. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot.

1969. Sunday 23rd February. The Silver Memorial Bugles withdrawn from service and issued, as Corps Silver, to the Officers Mess's at Plymouth and CTC as well as the RMBS and the RMM.

1969. February. Captain Michael John Reece was appointed Commanding Officer of 848 Naval Air Squadron. The first Royal Marine officer to command a Naval Helicopter Squadron.

1969. Monday 15th September. 48Je. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1969. September. 41Je. and 42Je. Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. The Kings Badge was awarded to P.J. O'Leary

Squad Photo.

1669. Wednesday 22nd October. 928 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1969. Friday 31st October. HQ Commando Forces RM
After world War II the Major General RM Plymouth commanded all Commandos in the UK when these units were not detached to army or navy commands. On Friday 31st October 1969 Plymouth Group was redesignated Commando Forces; and when 3 Commando Bde returned to the UK, it came into this command. In 1980 the Bde HQ and all operational Commando Units formed part of Commando Forces. The HQ provided personnel for the HQ of the reinforced 3 Cdo Bde and for  General Moore’s Division in the Falklands operation ‘Corporate’. It remained based in Plymouth during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In April/June 1991 deployed to Iraq for operation ‘Haven’.
In March 1993 this Headquarters was closed and its functions taken over by personnel of HQRM as from 1 April 1993.
Miscellaneous
Memorable date for HQ Cdo Forces was 14th June and the recapture of the Falkland Islands (in 1982).(RMHS)

1969. 1st November. 49Je. commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1969. Monday 10th November. 909 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1969. Friday 5th December. 48Je. Squad completed training at the Deal Depot. Squad Photo.

1969. Friday 5th December. 911 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1969. Friday 19th December. 909 Kings Squad passed for duty at Lympstone. The Kings Badge was awarded to A.J.R.Ebsworth . Squad Photo.

1969. 'Operation Banner' as the troubles in Northern Ireland escalated. 41 Commando were the first RM unit to operate in Northern Ireland. The Royal Marines went on to complete over 69 tours of duty.

1969? This story was recounted by a Lieutenant RM who knew the participants well. In the early 70's, an undercover Military Intelligence squad was patrolling a notorious Belfast area in plainclothes. After the perilous evening, they emerged onto a York street and stopped for petrol and a few smokes. One of the soldiers asked the attendant if there was a pay phone, and the attendant pointed to the rear of the store. As the soldier turned towards the phone, the attendant caught the flash of a concealed weapon. Alarmed and fearing a terrorist hold-up, he vanished into the back room, where he phoned the local police station 100 yards up the street. But instead of phoning the front desk, which would have known of a military patrol in the area, he phoned a pal in the CID.
The CID was excited by the thought of a good action going down, and they also failed to consult with the local police. They drove out, mob handed, to rescue their friend from terrorists. The soldiers were just preparing to leave the petrol station when a car screamed to a halt across the street and disgorged six plainclothes policemen brandishing an assortment of weapons. Believing they were under attacked by terrorists, the soldiers drew their own weapons, dove behind their vehicle, and opened fire. The police returned fire in earnest. For good measure, an off-duty officer around the corner drew his weapon and fired four shots in the air. The exchange lasted many minutes before a lone voice sounded, "Stop! Police." Another voice shouted back, "Cease Fire! Army." Over 100 rounds were fired across the busy intersection during the exchange. Not a single person was hurt, and the story was kept from the media to protect the identities of the "intelligence" officers involved. (Author unknown)

1969. The Deal Barracks. The Adult and junior recruits destined for commando training were grouped together in the Commando Wing at Deal; all recruits training to be Musicians and Buglers formed Music Wing. (RMHS)

1970. Monday 12th January. 915 Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1970. Monday 19th January. 50Je. Squad commenced training at the Deal Depot.

1970. Wednesday 28th January. The so call Tot or Rum ration had been a long tradition in the Navy and also enjoyed by the Royal Marines. The following is how a motion was passed by the Government of the day to Stop it.
Vol 794 cc1660-861660.
A motion was made, and questions proposed, in Parliament by Mr. James Well-beloved (Erith and Crayford)
The threat to abolish the rum issue in the Royal Navy is a matter of considerable gravity, and I make no apology for raising it in the House today.
As a wartime sailor in the Royal Navy who remembers with pride and affection the comradeship of the lower deck, I am glad to have this opportunity, as a Member of Parliament, to bring before the House the views which have been expressed to me in the many letters on the subject which I have received from serving sailors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to see some of my hon. Friends here to support me in this debate. I shall be more than delighted to offer them sippers or gulpers at a more appropriate moment than the present.
It is clear from the volume of correspondence which I have received and from recent reports in the Press that the decision of the Admiralty Board to abolish the rum issue has aroused deep anger and resentment in the Royal Navy. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will, I know, carefully consider the case put to him tonight. I hope that, as a result of the argument deployed, he will feel able to review the Admiralty Board's decision and reprieve the Navy's rum ration.
I shall not deal with the long and distinguished part which the daily tot of rum has played in the history of the Royal Navy. The history of our Navy is the history of our nation. Our freedom and our system of democracy have evolved and developed over the centuries behind the shield of the Royal Navy, a navy manned by men of courage, skill and endurance.
All are aware of the enormous changes which have taken place not only in the technology of the Navy, but in the standards and conditions of life aboard ship. But not only the ships and the weapons have changed. The men of the Navy have changed, too. Education and the need for technical skills have contributed to a dramatic rise in the standard and the expectations of those who serve on the lower deck.
The case against the abolition of the rum issue is not based upon a desire to defend or to hang on to tradition. To be fair to the Admiralty Board, it does not say that because the press gang, hard tack and the rope's end went out long ago, so ought the rum ration. To be fair to the Under-Secretary of State, it was made abundantly clear to the House on Wednesday 17th December that the abolition of the rum issue is not an economy measure. If were an economy measure, it would be absolutely intolerable, and the Navy would be right to make its voice heard with great vigour.
For the basis of the decision, I turn to the official announcement on 17th December last year in a Written Answer to a Question put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew): The Admiralty Board concludes that the rum issue is no longer compatible with the high standards of efficiency required now that the individual's tasks in ships are concerned with complex, and often delicate, machinery and systems on the correct functioning of which people's lives may depend."—[OFFCIAL REPORT), Wednesday 17th December, 1969; Vol. 793, c. 341.] If that were true, if it could clearly be shown that alcoholic drink in the small and controlled quantities that are available to the lower deck was a danger to operational efficiency of the Navy and to the lives of those who served in the Navy, there would be a clear case for following the practice of other navies and banning all alcoholic drink from ships of the Royal Navy at sea. If the Admiralty's case is right, the Navy should be dry of all spirits, but I do not believe that the Admiralty's case is right.
What is the truth of the Admiralty Board's claim? What evidence is there to support their contention?
Mr. Roy Roebuck(Harrow, East)
They were drunk at the time.
Mr. Wellbeloved
I may well be able during the course of my remarks to demonstrate that there is more probability of an officer being drunk on duty than of a member of the lower deck being drunk on duty.
Has it been established by medical evidence that rum is detrimental to health? I must tell by hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State that there is some evidence to the contrary.
Mr. Roebuck
Hear, hear.
Mr. Wellbeloved
There is some evidence from people who serve at sea in Her Majesty's ships and in the Merchant Navy that a tot of rum can have a stabilising effect upon the stomach, and this is indeed a matter of considerable importance.
Imagine, Mr. Speaker, the Fleet about to engage the enemy in a tempestuous sea. [Laughter.]
Mr. Speaker
This is a serious debate. If there is too much interruption, I may have to hang an hon. Member from the yardarm.
Mr. Wellbeloved
We were about to engage the enemy, Mr. Speaker; let us proceed upon that course.
A tempestuous sea is raging. Men are piped to a meal before action. If they can take their tot, they can consume their food; if they consume their food, they are able to face the coming action with greater strength and greater determination. If the medical evidence is not there, will my hon. Friend explain why the Admiralty Board took this decision?
What research has been carried out into the operational efficiency of those who take rum compared with temperance ratings who take the 3d.-a-day grog money in lieu? Is there any evidence of a careful scientific evaluation to show that temperance ratings are more efficient in the discharge of their duties than those who take the rum issue? Let my hon. Friend tell the House the facts. What evidence can the Admiralty Board offer to justify a dry lower deck stripped of its rum issue with a wet wardroom with spirits still available?
Is there any evidence available to show that the rum tot affects the operational efficiency of the Royal Navy? Certainly, there is no evidence readily available. My hon. Friend's Department had the greatest difficulty searching out the details to reply to Questions which I tabled this week asking for figures of men charged with and found guilty of being under the influence of alcohol while 1663 on duty in the Royal Navy. It is clear from the letter my hon. Friend sent to me and which I received today—and I am grateful for the promptness with which he arranged that reply—that no statistics spread over a reasonable period exist which could substantiate the Admiralty Board's decision. Indeed, it would be difficult, under Section 28 of the Naval Discipline Act, 1957, to produce meaningful statistics.
Under that Section, a seaman in the Royal Navy could be drunk at home on leave and be charged. The Section says: A person is drunk within the meaning of this section if owing to the influence of alcohol or any drug, whether alone or in combination with any other circumstances, he is unfit to be entrusted with his duty or with any duty which he might be called upon to perform or behaves in a disorderly manner or in a manner likely to bring discredit on Her Majesty's service. That is a very wide Section. No wonder no meaningful statistics are available.
The statistics available really do not mean anything. We have statistics for officers charged between 1960 and 1969 with being under the influence of drink while on duty. Only 18 cases are reported, a small and insignificant number when we consider that 10,000 officers are engaged in the Royal Navy. We would need to examine with considerable care the records of the courts-martial of these officers to see whether the offences were committed on duty or whether some were committed while the officers were on shore leave. I doubt whether any concern drunkenness while the officers were on leave. The important thing is the cases which were brought to trial, and I hope my hon. Friend will make available the records for study.
In any group of men who live closely together an esprit de corps springs up, and it is not beyond our comprehension and understanding to realise that, if an officer became intoxicated while on duty, he would be in a much better position for his colleagues to protect him, to put him in his cabin and tuck him up in his bunk, unnoticed, uncharged and unconvicted.
Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
This has happened on the lower deck as well, because I have helped to put a colleague to bed there.
1664
Mr. Wellbeloved
I know that esprit de corps exists on the lower deck. I have put to bed and been put to bed myself. But the risks are greater on the lower deck, because officers and petty officers are on duty. The risks of exposure, of being caught, charged and convicted are immensely greater for the lower deck than for the officers. No wonder there is a wide difference between the statistics for the seamen on the lower deck who have been charged and the officers of the ward room who apparently and fortunately have escaped that fate.
I also draw the attention of the House to the fact that, as far as one can ascertain, very few of the ratings involved committed the offence during the course of duty. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has acknowledged this in his letter. I believe that I have given a fair summary of it, but I can quote it if necessary.
Mr. Roebuck
Let us have it.
Mr. Wellbeloved
My hon. Friend writes: I am afraid that Punishment Returns do not enable us to say the extent to which these offences"— the offence of being under the influence of drink while on duty— were committed on or off duty, but there is, I think, little doubt that relatively few of them took place on duty. It is clear that, among the very large number of seamen charged, very few cases involved the offence being committed while on duty.
Can my hon. Friend tell us how many of those who were charged on duty were habitual drunkards? The Royal Navy is no different from any other section of the community. There are alcoholics in every walk of life. One could get 20 or 30 or 40 alcoholics in the Royal Navy who would distort completely the statistical returns on drunkenness. How many within the total have been convicted time and again for the same offence? The statistics available are meaningless and I am sure my hon. Friend acknowledges this. Perhaps he can tell us what is the basis of the decision. It is obviously not health or drunkenness. What is it? What is the evidence?
In view of the lack of positive evidence for the Admiralty Board's decision, it is 1665 obvious that the matter cannot be left as it is, with this threat of the abolition of the rum ration. The Admiralty Board and my hon. Friend have a responsibility to publish the facts, if facts indeed exist, upon which the decision has been based. Parliament and the Royal Navy are entitled to know the reasons for the decision.
On Monday 19th January, my hon. Friend was asked what consultations were undertaken before it was decided to abolish the rum issue. He replied that opinions had been sought from a cross-section of officers and men in commands at home and abroad. I challenge him and the Admiralty Board to publish the details of the method and the scope of these so-called consultations, and, above all, to publish uncensored the views expressed among the men.
Is it true that suggestions were made that rum should be issued to men as they came off duty rather than when they were going on duty? Provision is made for such a course in Queen's Regulations. Queen's Regulation 4923, paragraph 4, says: The time at which the spirit ration is to be issued daily is to be decided by the Captain, having regard to the nature of the ship's service, the employment of the ship's company, the climate, and any other relevant circumstances. Thus, there exists within the existing Queen's Regulations power to put in operation the very sound and sensible suggestions which, I am informed, were made during these so-called consultations. What a pity that those suggestions were not adopted.
This is a serious matter, because my hon. Friends will have seen the recent headlines of the newspapers. The headline of the Sun, a few days ago, was—Yo-ho-ho! Rebel Jacks threaten mutiny"— expressing not my views but those of serving seamen in the Royal Navy.
Then that very widely circulated and well-read paper the Daily Mirror, on Monday of this week, with the headline: Rum plea by sailors in black armbands. There was a quotation from a serving seaman, who said: A lot of men are saying they will get out or not sign on for another term when the tot goes. 1666 Then the Evening News of today: 'Our tot won't be sunk without trace' warns crew Rum do' battle in the Royal Navy. These are all indications of the anger and resentment which is building up.
As a sop, my hon. Friend is offering to ease this anger of the lower decks by a minute increase in the volume of beer that might be purchased by a rating. The strict limit of one pint or two 12 oz. cans as laid down in regulations is to be increased. To what? The magnificent sum of three cans—one and a half pints. Even this sop to the anger of the men is limited by Queen's Regulations, because beer can be carried in ships only if stowage space will allow it. The bigger the ship, the more beer. Men doing arduous duty on detached service in small ships may not have any beer at all.
As for the suggestion, put in the delicate words of the official announcement, that as a concession for the loss of the rum seamen C.P.O., P.O. and R.M.N.C.O. will now be allowed to buy small quantities of commercial spirits", I can only say that this will be a constant reminder to the majority of the lower deck of the unfairness and the unscientific foundation upon which the decision to abolish rum has been based.
I now turn to my main point. It may be that the Admiralty Board has all the facts and has carried out a most careful survey based upon scientific evaluation. It may be that one-eighth of a pint of rum mixed with two parts of water, consumed regularly once a day by seamen over the last two or three centuries, can now be shown by their Lordships of the Admiralty Board, beyond any reasonable doubt, to be detrimental to a man's ability to do his duty and to impair his judgment. If this is so for the lower deck, what has my hon. Friend to say about the other side of the coin, the wardroom?
In the officers' wardroom, wine, whisky, brandy, pink gin—spirits in all their varieties and all their alcoholic strengths, will still be available. What a picture this presents of the Navy of the 'seventies: the keen eyed, clear-headed sober, rum-less, seaman, manning the complex machinery and advanced systems in Her Majesty's ships, ready for instant action, capable of clear judgment.
1667 What of the command structure—the ships' officers, the officers on the bridge, the officers in the other nerve centres of command, the officers who will have to take almost instant action on the information supplied by the rumless seamen manning the machinery and the systems? What of their operational efficiency? What of the lives that depend upon their judgment?
If one-eighth of a pint of rum mixed with two parts of water is, in the words of the Admiralty Board, …no longer compatible with the high standard of efficiency required", what does the board have to say about the almost unrestricted availability of strong spirits in the officers' wardroom? Queen's Regulations dealing with the availability of spirits for officers are very short. There is just one paragraph. For lower-deck ratings it extends, of course, into many paragraphs.