Brigadier Hassett 28 Brigade Malaysia
Australian War Memorial
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 personnel 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.