By Cpl Tom Blair 6 Troop B Coy
During the follow up after the contact on 31st December 1963 my patrol was reinforced, by helo, with a platoon from the Royal Artillary. 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 specsavers). 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 landrover 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.