I was 18 when I was called up to do my national service on the 1st September 1955. I was to report to the 67 Training Regiment Royal Armoured Corps, Hadrians Camp, Carlisle, Cumberland. After intensive training for six weeks, I was given a short leave before being posted to Malaya with the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own) Regiment, leaving Southampton on board the SS Asturias troop ship, stopping off at Port Said down the Suez Canal, Sri Lanka and on to Singapore, a journey of just over 3 weeks. I was to travel by train across the causeway to Johor Bahru, Malaya, with folks I had met on the ship. After being told of the dangers of terrorist attack, we were issued with Bren Guns. It was then that I realised I was in a War Zone. We were then transported to armoured vehicles to Seremban, this was to be our base camp. From here we would carry out bank searches, road patrols, jungle ambushes and escort food convoys to various villages. It was at these jungle detachment camps that we served alongside the Gurkhas - the 17th Gurkha Division. These trackers were brilliant and would pinpoint the ambush points where the C.Ts would lie (Chinese Terrorists). At these various sites we would lay in ambush, with Gurkhas sometimes two or three days (and nights) at a time. This was where the 3 weeks Jungle Training that we did on arrival to Malaya would come in handy! Most days we would meet up with the Gurkhas in camp or during road patrols or rough treks through the jungle. Part of my service in Malaya was driving a Saracen Armoured personal carrier, escorting food convoys to the various villages. The war, which lasted some 7 years, was coming to an end but there was still fear of being shot at or ambushed by the few remaining 'communists'. The Gurkhas had been involved since day one and became very popular with us British 'Tommies' during this time. They would, at times, relieve us of Guard duties, that made them really good friends and comrades and were the Bravest of the Brave and in my mind, I will never forget them, or my time in Malaya. I was due back with the regiment after nine months in Malaya and left on board the Empire Fowey from Singapore stopping off at Colombo and Zanzibar, from Colombo right in to another War Zone where President Nasser was sinking all ships passing through the canal and completely blocking the canal. Our ship with 3 regiments on board pulled into the Bitter lake off the Suez for 3 days ready to go to war. Fortunately, we sailed before fighting broke out, but it was very worrying at the time. However, as the canal was blocked we had a detour of 8 thousand miles, taking us from Zanzibar to Cape Town, South Africa, where we were held a 'Heroes Welcome' as we were the first troop ship to dock there since the Second World War, and were treated like kings by a South African family who picked us up from the docks and treated us to a journey to the top of Table Mountain and other sites around the city. Then on to Dakar, French West Africa, before arriving back in to the UK. I was then transferred into The Royal Dragoons Regiment and stationed at Bovington Camp, Dorset, and had tank driving lessons on Salisbury Plain. The colonel granted me compassionate leave to get married. After one weeks leave (honeymoon) I returned to barracks, only to find I had been posted to Germany, Celle, near Hanover, where I passed my driving test with a civilian instructor on a Saracen Armoured car and went on to drive many miles during 'SCEMES' in the German Forrests. After what seemed an eternity, I was posted back to the UK and finished my time back in Cumberland after taking a Nuclear Invasion course (what to do in the event of a nuclear attack). I was beginning to think I had gone off the radar. I don't think I could have packed any more into the two years that I served in the army (then 5 years in the reserve). I am still married to the same girl I married in 1957, Betty, my wife, who is 84 this year and I was 83 this March. I have good memories of the army, especially my time in the jungles of Malaya with the Gurkhas.
My father, Sgt George Brown (1552009), kept diaries of his war years and wrote a book called "The Moulton Image". A lot of things were as he remembered them, especially his time in the desert, where he said there were no dates, just day and night and he had a desert rat friend called Monty. Dad had a gun team and they were doing a 'Strategic Withdrawal' to El-Adem near Tobruk and there were some heavy Ack Ack guns already there and fifteen bofors. Dad's was a bofors, he took position, their gun was to fire warning shots, for the rest of the guns to go in to action. There was a half moon shining and he doubled the guard. All was well until 01.00 when the guard reported vehicles coming up to them. Gun teams were in position and he heard number 4 pull the hand operating lever to the rear catch and a round pressed on the loading tray. The hand operating lever was replaced and reposted 'HELD'. He waited until the vehicles were 100 yards away, all infantry trucks, then they stopped. His gun team were swearing at him for the delay. They had a little terrier dog called spot, who knew the sounds of aircraft, and when German, he would bark like mad and run to the gun pit. But if it was ours he would just wag his tail furiously and that was what he was doing. My father said "hold your fire and I will crawl out to hear them talking. I will give my gun if they aren't English". He heard an order given in English and challenged him to come to him and be recognised. He said "who are you?" to which the answer was "what the bloody hell has it got to do with you". Then he said "we have come through the desert from Benghazi, all our officers have been killed and it has left me as sergeant with two hundred Gurkhas". When my father told him about all the guns that were trained on him, he said you have saved us all from being killed and the lads will be in your debt forever". They then stayed with them and the sergeant explained it to my father's officer who said to him "Sergeant Brown you put the whole exercise last night in jeopardy, it was fool hardy what you did". But he had the satisfaction of two hundred brave lads being saved to fight another day, thanks to a little dog's intuition. Dad wrote his book in long hand, recorded it on a tape and then my daughter printed it out for him on her computer and got it made in to a book. He then died in 2010 at the age of 95.
Whilst serving at RAF Kuching in 1964 - one of my duties was to receive, store and distribute parachutes to No 3AASO RCT detachment based adjacent to me. Their direct advice on the handling of these items was necessary to ensure their correct function in use. As a result of this I was invited to take part in an operation to deliver food and supplies to Gurkha patrols operating in the interior of Sarawak. My introduction to this trip was to observe a number of live chickens awaiting airlift - attached to the makeshift air terminal by parachute cord and painted different colours by unit for which they were destined. When the departure time came, they were put in crates for loading. On arrival at the dz, the Hastings aircraft had to fly at low level to avoid ground fire, help the accuracy of the drop and avoid the supplies being lost or delivered to the other side!. The parachutes used were water soluble if dropped into a river. Both myself and the young army men taking part - were secured in the aircraft by a single waist strap each. It is at this point that I must express my admiration for the flying skills of the RAF crew, sometimes flying so close to the ground almost on a wing tip - to allow the army dispatcher to launch himself (cool as you like and with the help of his oppos holding his ankles) halfway out of the aircraft to talk down the drop to the pilot with the rest of us holding on for life. At the same time the Ghurkas on the ground had to recover their supplies and vacate the area quickly. I was very pleased to have met some of the air despatch men very briefly on Swindon station a year. I hope that this gives some idea of the shared experience that binds us together.
In 1964 I was on a brief detachment to the resident Gurkha battalion in Simmangang, Borneo. The alert was sounded whilst I was trying to have a shower. I did not have time to lace up my jungle green boots and as a result took a very spectacular double "prat fall" running for cover. I hereby lay claim to reducing Gurkha soldiers to almost helpless laughter during an alert. Very Embarrassing?. But a good memory for me to share.
My Father was in the Kings Royal Rifles during the second world war. His Father was in the same Regiment in the Great war. My Father crewed a 25 pounder and went through north Africa, Sicily and Italy with the Eighth Army finishing in Austria at the end of the War. He served with and always Praised the Ghurkas for their fighting skills and integrity as soldiers. I have worked in construction for over fifty years and teaching in the past ten. I never served in the Services although as a teenager was in the Army cadets. Five years ago I was lucky enough to secure a post through a college teaching Royal Engineers in RSME Brompton. Among the Sappers I taught were a number of Ghurkas. These Soldiers excel at everything they tackle. They study hard and hone practical skills to an exceptional Standard. It was a pleasure teaching the Sappers but more so the Ghurkas. They are a proud friendly people. I am now semi retired and enjoy going back every year for armed forces day at Chatham to see them
My father served in the British Army from 1938 - 1960, Me, my Mother and my 3 siblings travelled twice to Malaya with him, 1950-53 and 1958-1960. We always had Ghurkas around us and protecting us. We once went to the Sembawang Royal Navy base in Singapore in 1959 to watch a boxing match, Ghurkas versus the combined British forces. the Ghurkas won every bout, even knocking an RAF man completely out of the ring. they may be small but they do pack a powerful punch. As an ex RAF man myself 1963 -1968, I cannot understand why the Ghurkas are underpaid. If you are in the British Army, you should get paid the same as other British troops. The old joke saying ' Britain will always fight to the last Ghurka could never be more true. They will always fight for the UK and its interests around the world. They should be offered British Citizenship after their military service, instead of those who live here and whose loyalty is questionable.