Videos

On the Border

This film gives some insight into the type of terrain and jungle through which Australians patrolled in Borneo. The value of helicopters in lifting men to and from operations is also evident as is the role played by Iban people in guiding the Australians through this unfamiliar country. [AWM F04666]

[In black and white footage a soldier holding a gun and carrying radio gear on his back moves through a sea of dense, head-high vegetation. Another soldier follows, holding his rifle across his chest. Soldiers move warily from the jungle into a clearing.

Soldiers crouch in a circle. One points to a diagram on the ground. Soldiers talk and smile. One soldier is a local.

The soldiers move through different areas of jungle, at times struggling against the thick vegetation. Holding their rifles ready, they constantly scan the area.

A helicopter descends into a clearing near jungle-clad mountains, landing by piled equipment. An empty helicopter lands. Holding their packs in one hand, soldiers run across and quickly clamber inside. The commander ushers his men into the helicopter before joining them. "Royal Air Force" is painted above the door. Rotors spinning, the helicopter takes off. It lands. A number of insignia, featuring crowns, are painted on the side of a helicopter.

Soldiers patrol through the jungle. Soldiers crouch in discussion. One draws on his hand with his finger. Soldiers wade through waist-high vegetation. They crouch together in a clearing. The leader points at a diagram on the ground. The leader stands talking to his men. Wearing headphones over his hat, a soldier speaks.]

Malaya Patrol – The Story of Australian Troops in Malaya

This lengthy piece of film was produced by Defence Public Relations and shows the work of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in Malaya. [AWM F11436]

[In faded colour footage, soldiers in WWII tropical uniforms, including cloth hats, wade waist-deep in a river, then stride up the bank and disappear into thick jungle. They hold their rifles ready and wear packs and rolls on their backs. A yellow title reads, 'Malaya Patrol: The Story of Australian Troops in Malaya’. Yellow credits: Produced by The Directorate of Public Relations.]

VOICEOVER: Toward the end of 1955, the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, together with supporting arms, arrived in Malaya as Australia's contribution to the anti-terrorist campaign. Australian troops are now operating in Perak state, in North Malaya.

[By a broad river, a stately building featuring towers and domes stands in a jungle clearing. Soldiers in slouch hats, their sleeves rolled up, peer at an elegant building. A huge blueish dome tops one section of the building. The arched entryway is topped with a smaller dome and flanked with two black-and-white striped towers and several smaller spires. Keyhole archways line a porch. In the forecourt, Australian soldiers sit by a railing.]

VOICEOVER: Here in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar is the palace of His Highness the Sultan of Perak. Surrounded by fine lawns and spacious gardens, the istana and mosque dominate the town.

[Aerial footage shows a compound of low buildings surrounded by scrubby trees. By a road, a sign reads "3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment". On a red and white sign, the words "Halt! All enquiries" appear above an arrow. A two-storey building is lined with archways and columns. A palm tree towers behind it]

VOICEOVER: Outside the town, in the old palace, is the headquarters of the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment.

[On a strip of land between two waterways, low buildings line dirt roads. A hand points at a wall map. More low buildings sit around a lake. On a red and white sign "CP 57" is painted beside an arrow. On a white building, a sign reads "Police Station." Near a corrugated iron building, soldiers peer at a document, then point.]

VOICEOVER: A Company is located 40 miles away, at Lasah, B Company, 20 miles away, at Sungai Siput. Also in Sungai Siput is the battalion command post.

[A man rides a bicycle down a wide street past tropical two-storey buildings. A mountain topped with a rocky peak looms behind the town. Nestled among palm trees, a stately white building has a tall pointed spire and arched entrances. In a market place, sellers display their wares under marquees and in stalls. In a store, meat hangs from hooks. Dishes are displayed on a bench. Bullocks pull a two-wheeled cart through town.]

VOICEOVER: In 1948, when the Malayan Emergency began, at Ayer Hitam, in Johor, the communist terrorists struck simultaneously in the Sungai Siput area. The government of the United Kingdom stepped in with troops to suppress the communists. The 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, was relieved by the 3rd Battalion in November 1957.

[A hand points a pencil at a wall map.]

VOICEOVER: The 3rd Battalion area covers some 370 square miles. This area is deep jungle. This area is fairly clear of jungle and comprises in the main rubber estates and other cultivations.

[In aerial footage, mountains carpeted with thick jungle rolls to the horizon. A valley is dotted with blue lakes, plantations of thick trees planted in neat rows and patches of stripped, barren dirt. A river winds through the valley. In a rubber plantation a local man strips bark from a rubber tree by running a blade around the trunk. A spout is stuck into the trunk. The rubber sap runs down the spout into a small cup.]

VOICEOVER: In the battalion area are mountains rising several thousand feet, often jungle-clad to the summit. Also in their area is the Kinta Valley – richest tin field in the world. The mighty Perak River forms one boundary of the battalion area. Swamps abound in the forest reserves. Rubber is to be seen flanking almost every road, and the native population go about their tasks.

[In a field, a farmer wearing a wide straw hat gathers a crop. On a road, an overloaded van passes bullocks pulling a cart. The bullock driver has a white beard and a large red turban. Officers stand on a road. A black car pulls up between them. The driver gets out and opens the boot. An officer peers inside. Cyclists ride past. The officer gestures. The driver shuts the boot and drives off. A truck's trailers are piled high with wooden crates. Officers peer through gaps under the crates. A soldier searches a car trunk.]

VOICEOVER: On the roads, the Civil Police maintain checkpoints to stop the transfer of food from inside the towns to hungry communist terrorists outside. The present phase of operations is basically one of food denial, and all civilians and civil vehicles passing the checkpoints are searched for concealed food. The regulations even forbid rubber tappers to carry their lunch outside the towns. A strict curfew is imposed in rubber estates after 4pm.

[In a rubber plantation a man wearing loose trousers carries a bucket from one slender tree to another. Holding their rifles ready, Australian soldiers move warily through the plantation. Soldiers follow a German shepherd-like dog.]

VOICEOVER: As apparently unconcerned tappers work among the trees, Australian troops leave their transport at the roadside and commence a patrol through the rubber. This is clean rubber, free of undergrowth, and can be moved through with ease. Dirty rubber occasionally has undergrowth shoulder-high or higher. The undergrowth is usually alive with mosquitoes, and progress is slow and painful. Patrol dogs are used extensively.

[12 soldiers in dark green uniforms sit on a grassy bank facing an officer. As he speaks, he checks a document. Some soldiers smoke. The officer shows the soldiers the document. The soldiers climb into an armoured vehicles and sit on benches running down both sides. The thick back doors are closed. The huge, black armoured vehicle trundles past a row of large square tents. Inside, the soldiers smile.]

VOICEOVER: These soldiers are being briefed by their platoon commander to carry out an ambush in daylight on a suspected area where communist terrorists are thought to have food concealed. The briefing completed, they board an armoured personnel carrier, commonly known by the troops as a 'Coffin', to be transported some miles from their camp to a point near the ambush position. To those who knew jungle warfare in the South West Pacific Area during World War Two, this specialised type of warfare will appear unusual. The techniques seen in this film have been developed to deal with the peculiar requirements of the anti-terrorist campaign. On reaching the suspected area, the vehicle slows down and the ambush party bails out as quickly as possible. The vehicle then drives on.

[The soldiers leap from the vehicle and run into the jungle, disappearing into the vegetation. Holding their weapons ready, they move through undergrowth, past slender rubber trees. Crouching and lying in the undergrowth, the soldiers keep their weapons ready as they scan the area. Their uniforms blend with their surroundings.]

VOICEOVER: Having rapidly got clear of the road, the ambush party moves slowly and cautiously toward their objective and take up their concealed positions. The target is covered from all possible angles. Quietly, they wait, suppressing the urge to sneeze or cough. Ants crawl over their hands and faces and arms. Mosquitoes and leeches add to the discomfort.

[The sun shines on the leafy branches of a tall tree. In the undergrowth, the soldiers maintain their positions.]

VOICEOVER: Intelligence reports indicate that the communist terrorists use this unusual tree amongst the rubber as a meeting place. Still they wait, perspiring from every pore. Minutes become hours and the day wears on. Often, these ambushes go on for days.

[In a clearing, smoke billows from a huge gun as it shoots toward jungle-clad mountains. Bare-chested soldiers reload and fire the gun. The barrel sticks through a square of armour plating. A soldier wearing shorts, boots and a hat throws the long metal shell casings away from the gun. They are placed in a pile on the pale sandy ground.]

VOICEOVER: Meanwhile, the 25-pounder guns of 100-A Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, fire round after round into the jungle-covered slopes south of Sungai Siput. The aim is to use gunfire and bombing to dislodge the communist terrorists from the ridges and drive them out to the jungle ridge, where a quorum of British, Australian, New Zealand and Gurkha troops is waiting, constantly patrolling, alert for any appearance of the communist terrorists. Empty cartridge cases are thrown aside and dumped out of the way.

[Long, pointed shells are neatly stacked on a rack. Four soldiers work on the gun. A gunner is handed shells, two men load it into the gun. After it's fired, a gunner ejects the spent shell casing. In a tent, shells sit in long stacks. A shirtless soldier rests against ammunition crates. Soldiers rapidly fire the huge gun toward a mountain.]

VOICEOVER: More shells come up, and there are more where these came from. Here in this abandoned tin mine, less than 200 yards in off the main north-south road, Australian gunners are working in sweltering heat, made worse by the glare from the white sands of old tin tailings. The temperature on the sand was 117 degrees Fahrenheit at 11:30am. In the course of the morning, so many rounds were fired that the guns dug themselves in into the soft ground. When the guns stop firing, aircraft commence bombing, rocketing and strafing runs on the same target area.

[Two soldiers standing either side of the gun pull a cord back and forth though the barrel. They stop and watch three fighter planes zoom past. The sleek streamlined planes taper smoothly from their low cockpits to their tails. The gunners light cigarettes. They clean gun components. A mountain topped with a rocky peak looms beyond the clearing.]

VOICEOVER: After a morning's steady shooting, the guns are cleaned and the site reorganised for the next target later in the day. Royal New Zealand Air Force Venoms fly low overhead on their way home after completing their strafing. A welcome breather and then the work goes on.

[A helicopter lands near a tangle of thick trees. A large group of soldiers stand waiting. Soldiers climb in and the camouflage-painted helicopter takes off and flies away into the blue sky. Soldiers pass equipment up into a helicopter, then climb in. It flies away, a soldier sits by the open door. From the helicopter, soldiers are visible standing on a paved road running through the verdant landscape. The helicopter flies over mountains covered with dense jungle. The ground isn't visible through the jungle canopy. The helicopter's shadow moves across trees far below. ]

VOICEOVER: In extremely difficult country where a day's march of 1,000 to 1,500 yards can be considered good going, the helicopter has proved invaluable. The Sycamore, carrying up to three men per lift, can transport troops in six minutes by air over country which could take up to six days to cover on foot. The troops are transported by truck to a point known as the Jalong road-head, where the bitumen road ends on the jungle fringe. From here, men, equipment and supplies are lifted in some 6,000 to 8,000 yards over dense jungle. On this lift, two 'copters speed up the process of lifting a whole platoon, its equipment and 500 pounds weight of rations into a remote jungle landing zone, or LZ.

[At the edge of a jungle clearing, three soldiers wait in the flattened vegetation. The helicopter lands, dwarfed by the surrounding trees. Holding rifles, soldiers jump from the helicopter, pick up bulky packs and head into the jungle. The helicopter takes off.]

VOICEOVER: Deep in the jungle is a small clearing about 100 yards square. Towering all round this clearing are tall trees, some of them over 150 feet high. When all the troops have arrived, the platoon will move away from the clearing into the jungle to make a base camp. From this camp, small patrols will fan out in all directions, searching for the communist terrorists, their camps, resting places, food dumps and tracks. The platoon will remain in the jungle for 11 days, at the end of which, they will be lifted out back to the road-head.

[In the clearing, a bare-chested soldier wears a hat and neck cloth. As a helicopter slowly descends, he waves both arms. A soldier loaded down with equipment walks from a helicopter into the jungle. Soldiers take gear from the helicopter.]

VOICEOVER: A helicopter pilot is guided into the LZ by a marshaller, who indicates required aircraft manoeuvres by hand signals. Thousands of man-hours are spent in this campaign without even sighting a CT. Still more men and equipment arrive. The Bren guns and Owens, which proved themselves in New Guinea, are supplemented by shotguns carried by the forward scouts and the new FN-30 rifles, which are ideal for use in the jungle.

[Through gaps in the airborne helicopter's cockpit, jungle is visible far below. It passes over neat rows of trees. As it lands on the road, a soldier signals. Soldiers unload rectangular fuel cans from a jeep. A soldier pierces the can with a machete. Fuel is poured into a container. The soldiers watch the helicopter take off, its spinning rotors dark in the blue sky.]

VOICEOVER: On completion of the last trip into the jungle, the helicopter returns to the road-head. Here, transport from the battalion is waiting with aviation spirit and oil for refuelling. Having refuelled and completed the mission, the helicopter returns to base at Ipoh some 40 miles south.

[Holding his rifle ready, a soldier moves through head-high grass. He stops and signals. The commander emerges from the grass and surveys the area. More soldiers emerge from the grass. Two soldiers move through the jungle. They crouch. Moving his arm in an arc, one points to a large swathe of jungle. His colleague nods. The first soldier moves away. The second scans the the area his colleague pointed to.]

VOICEOVER: Meanwhile, the platoon has moved from the LZ clearing and is searching for a suitable base camp area. Later in the day, the forward scout calls up the platoon commander. After inspection, the platoon commander decides that this site is suitable and gives the sign, arms outstretched, to the remainder of his platoon to move forward and make camp. In complete silence, except for normal jungle sounds, sentries are posted so that camp preparation can get underway. The sentry carries an Owen gun, the other soldier, an FN-30 rifle.

[In another section of jungle, soldiers tie the corners of a ground sheet to tree trunks. One end is tied lower down, creating an angled shelter. Another ground sheet is placed underneath. Soldiers lather their faces and shave. A soldier places a mess tin of water in on a small stove. A soldier buries rubbish, kicking soil into a hole and stomping it down, then scattering dry leaves over the top.]

VOICEOVER: One party gets busy erecting a hutchie, or shelter made from groundsheets. Others attend to the whiskers. Soon, tea is being brewed. Rubbish is carefully disposed of. The portable transmitter receiver carried on patrol is set up to operate, and the native tracker, a Sarawak Ranger, climbs the nearest tree with the aerial wire. Soon, communications are established and information on progress and position are signalled back to company headquarters.

[A soldier wearing headphones talks with the platoon commander. Near a building, a squat structure has a tall aerial. Near thick bush, a soldier wearing headphones talks into the mouthpiece of a large flat radio. Two soldiers carrying a big spool run yellow cable through the jungle. A third soldier follows, holding his gun ready and scanning the area. The cable is cut and connected to a field phone. A soldier holds the receiver to his ear, then replaces it. He removes the cable and connects it to larger piece of equipment that has many cables running from it. A soldier carries documents from the jungle, puts them in a motorbike saddlebag and rides away. Aerials stand tall in the sky. In a hut, a soldier wearing headphones taps a receiver. Another soldier wearing headphones checks a notepad.]

VOICEOVER: In addition to the regimental signallers with the battalion, there are many members of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals who form the Australian component of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade Signal Squadron at Taiping. This is an integrated unit with both British and Australian personnel. Their tasks are to provide the signals communications within the brigade and forward to the battalions. This involves use of wireless, telephone and dispatch riders, necessitating the setting up in the field of command vehicles from which operations are controlled, the laying of miles of telephone cable and the operation of signals equipment under all types of conditions. Many battles have been lost due to lack of or poor communications. The Royal Australian Corps of Signals plays its part in ensuring that the brigade communications really work.

[Jungle trees and patrolling soldiers are silhouetted against the evening sky. As they move though the trees, rifles ready, the soldiers scan the area. In the pitch darkness, light and smoke fountains from a flare, illuminating the jungle around it.]

VOICEOVER: Day and night, the task of hunting down the communist terrorist goes on. As some patrols return at last light, others will go out, perhaps on patrol, perhaps to set an ambush. This party is setting an ambush for the 53rd successive night. Ambushes are a regular and important part of the anti-terrorist campaign. Automatic weapons – Brens, Owens and FN-30s – are carried on ambushes. Should the communist terrorists walk into their ambush, tripflares will bathe the rubber estate in brilliant light should they blunder in.

[Soldiers move warily through the jungle and splash through water. Gunners fire artillery. Soldiers patrol a rubber plantation and move through chest-high water in a murky river.]

VOICEOVER: Today, with only 30 or 40 communist terrorists in their 370-square-mile area, the battalion's task is not an easy one. Heat and humidity make life far from pleasant. Thousands of man-hours are spent in patrolling rubber and jungle in order that Malaya might be freed from communist terrorism. With true Australian determination, the patrols go on relentlessly.

[From the jungle, a soldier scans the wide river. Credits: An Australian Army Public Relations Film. The End.]

Interview with war correspondent Neil Davis

This excerpt of an interview with cameraman Neil Davis, features the legendary war correspondent speaking about his first experience of armed conflict; the Confrontation with Indonesia in Borneo. Here he speaks about the Ghurkhas and the high regard in which he holds them. [AWM F10571]

[Neil Davis sits facing the camera in relaxed pose with hand on knee in front of a the wall of a building inscribed with the names 'Malaysia 1964-65' and 'Vietnam 1965-72'. Davis is informally dressed in an open neck light shirt with brown pants. His head is turned toward the interviewer whose arm can just be seen on the right. Another incribed title on the wall is shown 'Borneo 1963 65' and semi abstract relief sculptures line the wall, while to the left of Davis a sculpture of an advancing Australian soldier in floppy hat holding a machine gun appears to come out of the wall, his front leg partially submerged in a shallow pond.]

Interviewer: So you left the ABC in Hobart, went to work for Visnews the international film organisation in Singapore.

Neil Davis: Yes, well even though I was based in Singapore I spent very little time there. In fact the first story I covered was in Borneo – Malaysian Borneo – where the newly formed state of Malaysia was being confronted by Indonesia under President Sukarno. It was called Confrontation but of course it was a war, a mini war and I went with British and Malaysian troops – there were a few Australians there too and Gurkha troops who were attached to the British of course.

Interviewer: The Gurkhas had a rather good reputation didn't they?

Neil Davis: A very good reputation, well deserved reputation. Maybe they are the best in retrospect. I think they are probably the best soldiers I was ever with, with some reservations that is they were very very efficient, very very professional, [and] carried out orders. They were the complete hundred percent professionals. The only reservations I had was that they were rather inflexible and that I saw happen once where they went into action and carried out the orders of their commander but the commander was killed. And before his successor in the battlefield could countermand his order to carry out the attack in different way, several of the Gurkhas had been killed. So there is that inflexibility but they were very fine soldiers.

Interviewer:There was an incident where they, Indonesian soldiers had a machine gun post.

Neil Davis: Well, right they a machine gun post rocky hilly country, very well protected. The only way was to climb around. They had to be somewhat rock climbers. Some were quite good rock climbers and the Gurkhas can do just about anything that's called on them to do and they did this and that was an occasion where I think they lost five dead simply because the Indonesians were picking them off the rock face.

Interviewer: When they actually stormed the [rockface]?

Neil Davis: Well eventually they actually stormed the place and killed them without firing a shot if I remember rightly. They killed them with their Kukri. That's this wide bladed knife about that long which is an inverted sort of knife, its concave and they can do a lot of damage with it. [Davis uses his hand to describe the curved shape and large size of a kukri]. It's razor sharp and they can hook a man's head off or his arm.

Interviewer: I believe that they can't, there is something attached to them too.

Neil Davis: Well there is the tradition you don't draw the Kukri unless you draw blood. So that is if you ask a Gurkha to show you his Kukri, he will do it willingly and pull it straight out but then it startles you a little because before he will put it back he will nick his thumb or nick his arm somewhere and draw blood.

2SAS Borneo patrol

This piece of film shows members of an SAS patrol making their way through jungle and across streams – the soldiers look wary and are clearly concentrating on their surroundings. The presence of a camera, however, suggests that this was not a patrol in which the troops were in great danger. Among the most interesting scenes are those in which the troops meet local villagers with whom they share food and cigarettes. [AWM F03767]

[In black and white footage, soldiers in light tropical uniforms and small cloth hats move down a jungle slope and across a shallow stream. They hold their rifles ready. As he heads up a slope a soldier stops and looks around.

Local villagers - men, women and children - sit outside a palm-leaf hut with Australian soldiers. The soldiers are served cups of tea. A soldier hands a woman a cigarette packet. Puffing the cigarette, she examines the packet. A soldier shakes hands with a local man who stares at the camera. The villagers stand waving. A woman with dark curly hair holds a baby.

In thick jungle, soldiers file across a bridge made of three logs. More logs form a rough path past low huts. Holding their rifles ready, the soldiers wade along a stream. The legs of their uniforms are soaked. They scan the jungle warily. Soldiers file along a path through thick jungle. They hold their automatic weapons across their bodies. Sunlight shines through leaves onto a soldier. He wears a cloth around his neck. The soldiers pick their way through thick undergrowth. As one moves carefully across a log, he reaches down toward his knee. They move down a slope toward a stream, then wade across, through the clear knee-high water. In jungle, a soldier ducks under a log. Through long grass, the camera films palm-leaf huts in a clearing. One huts stands on stilts. An Australian soldier stands talking.]

Army Minister visits Borneo troops

This film shows Dr A. J. Forbes, Minister for the Army, on a visit to troops in Borneo. A Duntroon graduate, Forbes had been a soldier himself and is seen in this film as being at ease with soldiers with whom he shares a joke. (3:28 min - BW - Silent) [AWM F03686]

[A sign reads "3 Battalion. The Royal Australian Regt." Above the writing is the unit badge – a wreath of wattle branches is topped with a crown. The base is a boomerang inscribed with "Royal Australian Regiment". Inside the wreathe a kangaroo stands in front of crossed rifles. At its feet a banner reads "Duty first".

Near jungle, a soldier stands with his arms spread - signalling as a helicopter lands. Civilians in hats and business shirts step from a plane. A burly dark-haired man wears his sleeves rolled up. A soldier standing near a pile of sandbags salutes. The soldier walks the minister past palm-leaf buildings and down a road. He points at jungle-clad mountains. They walk past a tractor and a shed with sandbag walls. Soldiers follow them to a large office building that has low stilts, a verandah and neat palm-leaf walls. A soldier in a cloth hat salutes. A rifle is slung over his shoulder.

A tank has "Discoverer" painted under its turret. The tank backs away. The driver's face is visible through a rectangular window. Another soldier stands in the turret. The tank is on four large wheels. The turret spins. Painted beside the cannon is a badge featuring a wreath, a tank and a crown. The cannon is titled upwards at a sharp angle. Its barrel casing is air-cooled - covered in holes. As the cannon tilts upwards, a rectangular sight in the turret tilts backwards.

Three local men stand in near thick vegetation. One points. They all smile. A helicopter lands. A soldier follows the minister from the helicopter. An officer walks up and shakes the minister's hand. The officer wears a rifle slung over his shoulder. The minister listens as the officer speaks. A second soldier wears a beret. As the minister speaks with a small group of soldiers, he smokes a cigarette. A couple of solders are shirtless. The soldiers and minister laugh. A local man watches the minister and soldiers. An officer leads the minister past tangled vegetation. The helicopter takes off. Soldiers watch it fly away.

A broad dirt road leads into scrubby jungle. A huge bulldozer reverses onto the road, a soldier at the wheel. A bulldozer drives down the road on its large wheels. Flattened trees lie beside the road.]

Brigadier Hassett 28 Brigade Malaysia

Brigadier Frank Hassett was one of Australia’s most well-known soldiers at the time of this interview, in which he discusses aspects of Australian’s involvement in the Malayan Emergency [AWM F03648]

[An interviewer in army uniform addresses the camera with a section of strategic map positioned behind him].

Interviewer: I would like to introduce Brigadier F G Hassett who is commander of the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade Group at Taiping in Malaya. Brigadier Hassett is visiting the jungle training centre at Canungra and I wonder sir could you tell us the purpose of your visit here before returning to Malaya?

[Brigadier F G Hassett also in uniform sits facing the camera to the interviewer's left].

Brigadier Hassett: Well I want to see the training facilities and curriculum here at JTC to see how it ties in with the brigade requirements in Malaya.

Interviewer: Now sir could you tell us something about this brigade, exactly what it is?

Brigadier Hassett: Well it's the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade Group of some four and half thousand troops and it has basically three infantry battalions and supporting elements. The battalions coming one from the UK, one from New Zealand and one from Australia. The Australian battalion is of course the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

Interviewer: Are you the first Australian brigadier whose has had this particular appointment, as I understand you command troops additional to the 28th Brigade.

Brigadier Hassett: Yes, as my command takes in the North Malaya military district as well, a total of some nine thousand Commonwealth troops. The 28th Brigade itself had commanders, Australian commanders, during the Korean War and basically none of the personel have changed. It is still the same formation that fought in the Korean War.

Interviewer: What is it in fact doing in this stage sir?

Brigadier Hassett: Well it has two main tasks. The first one in conjunction with the Federation Army of Malaya is to eliminate the remaining communist terrorists in Malaya and its second task and main task is to train and prepare for its role as the Strategic Reserve in the Far East.

Interviewer: How many CTs [communist terrorists] remain in your area now?

Brigadier Hassett: This is difficult to assess. There are very few and these are near the Thai border in some of the most difficult jungle country in Malaya. I would say there are some 15 to 30 with larger numbers across the Thai border.

Interviewer: I say well now what area is the brigade operating in at this stage?

Brigadier Hassett: Well approximately half the brigade group is in northern Malaya on this communist terrorist chasing role. The remainder are down in the south in a large military cantonment - the Malacca cantonment. The Australian battalion is in Northern Malaya on this operational role. The operational area is very large, and is wild undeveloped jungle area in Northern Perak. This makes it a very fine training area and the soldiers learn to live and fight in this difficult terrain and the emphasis is very much on junior leadership. There is also the element of danger from communist terrorists, which keeps everyone on his toes.

Interviewer: You have mentioned Malacca sir. What are the plans for this area?

Brigadier Hassett: Well, Malacca is of course a famous historical town in southern Malaya. The camp which is called Camp Terendak is some fifteen miles from Malacca town on the Malacca Straits. It's a well-planned modern military camp designed to accommodate the brigade group and its dependents, say some ten thousand people. Facilities at the camp are very good and made for pleasant living.

Interviewer: Speaking of living conditions, how have the Australian troops and their families taken to life in Malaya?

Brigadier Hassett: Well generally speaking and particularly from the family point of view it's regarded as a good station. The cost of living is high but the allowances are properly balanced to offset this. I know that some parents are concerned about their children's education prior to going to Malacca. I think the army's schools there are good and I am glad that I took my children, one of whom is of secondary school age and the other of primary school age. I am glad I took them with me to Malaya because I don't think their formal education has suffered in anyway and I am sure they have benefited from the experience.

Interviewer: So what the duration of a normal tour of duty in Malaya?

Brigadier Hassett: Well it's two years and this seems to be just about right. It's good training and experience for the soldiers and an interesting tour for their families. But the climate is enervating and after about two years most people are looking forward to their return to Australia after a very satisfactory tour.

Interviewer: Thank you very much indeed Brigadier Hassett.

Gunners in Borneo

A brief piece of footage showing an Australian artillery piece in action during confrontation. (1:54 min - BW - Silent) [AWM F03688]

[Soldiers hurry into a large gun placement near the jungle. Most of the soldiers are shirtless. A soldier peers into a sight and adjusts it by turning a lever. In a dark cramped room, a soldier passes a large shell up through a ceiling hatch. Soldiers pass the shell down a line. It is loaded into an 105mm gun. A soldier yanks a control. As the gun fires, the barrel slams backwards. Soldiers quickly reload it. A soldier grabs pointed shells from a rack and passes them along. On the gun, a soldier flicks up a lever, then moves away. Billowing smoke, the gun fires. A soldier quickly lowers the lever and the gun is reloaded.

Soldiers carry shells from the gun and return them to the rack. A soldier winds a lever. The gun barrel is raised. Water is poured on the muzzle. It flows through the holes curving around the muzzle's sides. Soldiers slide a long staff in and out of the barrel. Water dribbles out. A man removes a section of the barrel. A soldier continues cleaning the barrel.

As a helicopter takes off, a soldier loops a cable around the large gun and its trailer. The helicopter lifts the gun into the air. It dangles from a cable. A soldier bends both arms back and forth toward his head. The helicopter lowers the gun to the ground, releases the cable, then flies higher. The helicopter lands. A soldier passes rifles from the helicopter. Crates and bundles are passed down to soldiers and quickly carried away. Soldiers wheel a large gun up a ramp and onto the back of a truck. Soldiers chain it securely to the truck's tray.]

Troops by chopper-Borneo

This brief piece of footage shows Australian infantry boarding the helicopter that flies them to the point at which they must begin their patrol. The troops are then seen patrolling through thick jungle. Locals watch as the helicopter lands and collects its human cargo. (2:02 min - BW - Silent) [AWM F03665]

[In black and white footage a helicopter flies through a cloudy sky. A farmer works in a clearing as the helicopter descends over thick trees. A soldier signals to the landing helicopter, holding his arms high and waving them inwards, then holding them out and low. Soldiers standing and sitting among equipment watch the helicopter land. Lugging gear, men run to the helicopter. They load equipment onboard, then climb in. A shirtless man standing by the door helps. Buffeted by the downdraft locals smile. The helicopter takes off and flies over the group of locals.

Soldiers unload equipment from a helicopter and carry it away. Wearing gear on their backs, soldiers file along a wooden walkway. Holding guns, soldiers push through thick jungle and wade through waist-high plants.

The footage repeats from the start.]

Fighting Patrol

This film shows Australian soldiers training for the type of jungle warfare they expected to encounter in the jungles of Borneo during Confrontation. These men are being trained in counter-attacking after an ambush. In the event such incidents were comparatively rare, the Australians, however, were able to demonstrate their own proficiency in laying ambushes on several occasions. (2:14 min - BW - Sound) [AWM F03173]

[Soldiers moving through thick, head-high vegetation wear helmets camouflaged with leaves. They hold their rifles ready, diagonally across their bodies.]

NARRATOR: In hostile country where visibility is limited and movement restricted by jungle growth patrolling requires special skills for the infantry soldier.

[The six soldiers file through a field of head-high grass. The first soldier struggles through the long grass, flattening it for those behind him.]

NARRATOR: Practicing patrol techniques is an essential part of a soldier’’s training. He must have complete confidence in his own ability and be able to take his place as an efficient member of a fighting team.

[A soldier pushes through leaves and fern fronds, looks around warily, then continues. The soldiers wear packs on their backs. Looking around constantly, the soldiers move through shorter grass.]

NARRATOR: He must be alert for the slightest sound that could indicate the presence of the enemy. He must move silently, and at all times be prepared for immediate reaction to possible ambush.

[Long, thick grass is pushed aside, revealing a soldier lying on his stomach. He wears a different uniform. Soldiers in camouflaged uniforms edge across a rope bridge that runs over a murky river. Gripping the rope above their heads with both arms, they slide their boots across a second rope. An enemy soldier lying in the grass fires a machine gun.]

NARRATOR: Enemy barbed wire defences cause only a slight delay in the advance.

[Near the camouflaged soldiers, water explodes into the air. Two soldiers fall from the rope. One makes it to shore. More camouflaged soldiers wade across the river. Smoke billowing around them, camouflaged soldiers run from the jungle to the river. Near a dugout hidden in thick vegetation, their enemy keep shooting. Thick smoke drifts across a field. Camouflaged soldiers run through it and leap down a slope. Smoke explodes around rolls of barbed wire. Soldiers fall on the wire, flattening it. Their comrades run over it and splash through water.]

NARRATOR: Close enough now for grenades.

[Under fire, the camouflaged soldiers charge across a field. One dives into long grass. Crouching, a camouflaged soldier take a grenade from a pouch, pulls the pin and throws it. He and his comrades dive face down. In thick grass and vegetation, a huge cloud of smoke and dirt explodes into the air. Smoke drifts around a dugout. Holding a gun, an enemy soldier clambers out. A gun is aimed steadily. Another enemy soldier climbs out. Holding their guns high over their heads, the enemy soldiers walk from their dugout.]

NARRATOR: The mock enemy is beaten and members of the patrol are a step closer to mastery of the techniques of jungle warfare.

[The enemy soldiers are disarmed. Hands on their heads, they walk through the long grass at gunpoint.]

Operation Termite

This film is a fascinating look at July 1954’s Operation Termite in which the RAAF targeted two communist camps east of Ipoh in the state of Perak. [AWM F02784]

[In black and white footage the image of a leaping tiger appears against a mottled background. Credits read, “Malayan Film Unit presents.” On a black screen the title ‘Operation Termite’ appears in bold white letters. On an airfield, the propellers of fighter planes spin. A huge plane with two propellers on each wing soars into the air. Aerial footage shows cloud covering the jungle below. Five bombers fly over jungle. A river winds through the landscape far below. Through a bomber window, another bomber is visible.]

NARRATOR: At dawn one morning recently Lincoln bombers of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force took off from Singapore to launch one of the biggest combined air ground attacks on communist terrorists hiding in the northern jungles of Malaya. The operation was code named ‘Operation Termite’. Loaded with 75 tons of 1,000-pound bombs which were to open the attack, the Lincolns set course for their targets. These were located in 250 square miles of the roughest and toughest jungle country in the Federation lying to the east of Ipoh.

[A long row of military planes wait on an airfield. Soldiers with backpacks, guns and parachutes clamber into a plane. A soldier at the door helps them onboard. The plane’s two propellers spin. It speeds down the runway and takes off. Mountains surround the airfield. The plane flies over a rolling jungle landscape. The men sit inside the dark plane.]

NARRATOR: While the Lincolns were on their way, paratroops of the Special Air Service Regiment were clambering into Vallettas at Kuala Lumpur airfield preparing to launch the second phase of the attack by following the bombs onto the targets. Loaded with their heavy equipment, some of it such as the new gear for descending trees being used in action for the first time. These men at first chatted and joked against the roaring engines. But soon gave up and just waited. Some fell asleep.

[The sleek Lincolns fly in formation across the mountainous jungle. Wearing a helmet and mask, the pilot peers from the windows. Each wing bears two stripes and an airforce roundel. An airman surrounded by windows checks a chart. As bomb doors slide open, the heavy round bombs are silhouetted against the sunny landscape below. The oblong bombs rain from the Lincolns. Explosions flare in the dense jungle far below.]

NARRATOR: By now the Lincolns had reached their targets. According to information this patch of jungle hides many communist camps. Bomb doors open. Bombs away! The two main targets showed utter devastation. Tops of trees were still falling hours later.

[On a base, officers in tropical uniforms walk past vehicles and stand outside a tent full of communication equipment. One officer is missing an arm - his empty sleeve swings in the breeze.]

NARRATOR: At advanced headquarters in Ipoh, the Director of Operations General Bourne, the commander in chief Far East Air Force Marshal Sanderson, and other senior officers were kept in touch with progress of the complex operation by air controllers over the targets.

[The Vallettas fly over jungle slopes. Inside, paratroopers prepare equipment. The pilot peers out the window at the dense jungle below. Holding equipment, paratroopers wait at the door. Above their heads one of two lights glows. It goes off and the other light comes on. The paratroopers jump rapidly one by one, a man ushers them out. A group of mushroom-shaped parachutes drop together through the sky. From the plane, the parachute are pale dots against the dark trees.]

NARRATOR: Vallettas now on target. SAS paratroops put on their helmets and make final checks on shoot straps. A doctor was one of the first men out, identified by a white bandage. sound of aircraft in flight First a dummy run to asses the wind drift. And then action station! The first stick of five men stand alert at the door. Red, green and away, as the dispatcher urges them out. And then the next stick goes. Dropping from 700 feet the men took just over a minute to reach the ground. There was not more than a 120 yards between the first and last man of each stick and there were only six minor injuries among the 200 paratroops who dropped.

[Soldiers climb into a helicopter. The cockpit protrudes above the body of the helicopter. It takes off. Its windows and doors open, the helicopter flies away, rotors spinning. From the helicopter, the dense jungle canopy provides no glimpses of the ground below. A rugged peak looms.]

NARRATOR: Meanwhile from Ipoh airfield, naval helicopters took off to carry Iban trackers Aborigine field teams and heavy radio equipment into the area. They later lifted out the injured paratroopers.

[Below, tiny helicopters hover over clearings in the jungle. A helicopter follows a path of fallen trees. Dwarfed by the jungle trees, a helicopter descends into a clearing, then hovers.]

NARRATOR: Landing sites were cut from the jungle for the helicopters by some of the SAS men while others closed in on the terrorist camps. Down they came on the scrap of clearing and went back for another load.

[Holding their guns ready, soldiers move through the thick shadowy jungle. Wading across a rocky stream, they feel carefully for a steady footing. They move from the stream into the dark jungle. Illuminated by light filtering through leaves, a local soldier scans the area.]

NARRATOR: Ground troops, some lead by the Iban trackers, set off on their arduous patrols. Patrols that may lead to nothing in this difficult country where a man can hide two feet away and not be seen.

[A helicopter hovers in the cloudy sky. It lands in a jungle clearing. A shrouded body strapped to a long pole is carried to the helicopter. Rotors spinning, the helicopter takes off. Below, buffeted by the downdraft, soldiers shield their faces.]

NARRATOR: In the first days of the operation three communist terrorists were killed camps were discovered and destroyed, valuable information was obtained and quantities of food clothing, equipment and ammunition were captured. The dead terrorists were lifted out to Ipoh for identification. From the latest reports the first phase of 'Operation Termite' was well on the way to achieving its object to disrupt the communist terrorist hideouts in the jungle east of Ipoh.

[On a black screen, credits read, “The End. Made at Malayan Film Unit Studios. Kuala Lumpur, Malaya.”]

Maxwell Veale served in HMAS Murchison during the Han River operation.

“We used to bombard all night and sleep all day, just to keep them awake and upset them. And we done this for weeks and we had two JMLs there with us, they were Japanese motor launches, they were gunboats. With a 40mm gun and a couple of Oerlikons sitting each side. And they were [manned by South] Koreans. And they used to go in along the shore and they’d machine gun and all that, and then come back out. And they made it where we could [find] a passageway around the basin of the river. We were in the basin of the river and there was a passageway, like a gully right round where you could go right round but you had to drop your anchor, wait for the tide to turn so you could turn around, because you never had enough room to turn around with engines, and then come back out again.

And we had done this three or four times and that was good, but this day we went in and they were waiting for us. And we hadn’t turned, we were going up towards the turn, and the lookout looked over, we were at action stations, and the lookout looked over and he said to the captain, ‘Sir those haystacks are moving.’ And the skipper, looking at them with binoculars, [saw that] they were moving, they had anti-tank guns behind them, they were tanks, moving. And they waited until we stopped, and that’s when we had to turn and that’s when they hit us. And they threw all this at us and of course we threw a lot back too. And that’s when they put all the holes in her [HMAS Murchison], as we turned, because we could only train one turret on them.”

Find out more about the role of the HMAS Murchison in the Han River operation.

Bill Simmond, a fighter pilot, describes shooting down an enemy aircraft.

“On the day in question I was flying one of 16 aircraft from 77 Squadron and we were operating in the general area of Pyongyang which is the North Korean capital. At the time there were probably 30 or 40 US airforce Sabres engaging probably an equal number of MiG-15s.

Our formation was flying probably several thousand feet below the Americans and the first indication I had of any real danger was when I observed three distinct lines of tracer ammunition going over my left wing. Instinctively I pulled away from these bullets by simply going into a hard right turn. I’d hardly begun the turn when I observed a MiG-15 fly straight underneath me. My immediate impression was that this was too good an opportunity to miss so I reversed and started to follow him and I accelerated at the same time. When he was probably a couple of hundred yards in front I started firing and although I was still accelerating he was moving away from me. Finally some of the bullets obviously hit his aircraft because there was a large plume of smoke was emitted from around the fuselage area. And the next thing I saw was his aircraft pitch up, obviously out of control, and as I was aware that there were other MiGs in the area I rolled to the left, into a hard turn just to ensure that there was nobody behind me. And as I went into the turn the flight leader observed the pilot of the MiG to bail out. He ejected, the parachute deployed and presumably he landed safely. Meanwhile we, our section of four aircraft, regrouped and we continued flying there for another 10 or 15 minutes before we redeployed, flew back to base.

The whole thing took maybe 30 seconds but that’s the nature of air combat these days. Long, sort of drawn out dogfighting, that was relegated to World War Two really. With jet aircraft using so much fuel you’ve got to get into it and out of it in a hurry otherwise you won’t have enough fuel to get home.”

Find out more about 77 Squadron and MiGs v Meteors.

Pages