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40 Royal Marine Commando

Based at Burma Camp Malaya

1962 to 1966


Pescando  y   Poemas


Prior to our our Autumn (1963) 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, its 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.


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.


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 and 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 every body I lost his monster fish, some mate he is, not going fishing with Shiner no more
(thank fuck for that you whinging git)


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 of 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 any one), 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.

© Copyright David A. Wright 2012 ....All Rights Reserved