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Jungle patrol by SAS squadron, 1956

Video file

This segment of Pictorial Parade no. 54 from 1956 shows an SAS squadron patrolling the Malayan jungle. They search for ‘terrorists’ and receive an airdrop of food, mail and ammunition.


Narrator: At Kuala Lumpur, the officer commanding the Special Air Service, New Zealand Squadron, Major Frank Rennie, briefs Corporal Huia Woods for a forthcoming jungle patrol.

The briefing is passed on to the men of the patrol, including Trooper Clive Ngatai of Rotorua, one South Island representative in the person of Bill Grey of Christchurch, and Desmond Brady of Lower Hutt. Corporal Woods, by the way, is from Whakatāne.

Only bare essentials are packed on patrol: sleeping bag, change of clothing, toilet gear, food for seven days, and in the hand, equipment to speak the only kind of language that can answer terrorism.

As Malaya progresses towards self-government the flags of Britain, the Federation of Malaya, and the state of Selangor fly in the federal capital. Past Kuala Lumpur railway station goes the New Zealand patrol, on their way to a spot of jungle bashing. They’re going in to search for terrorist hideouts.

Point-man on patrol is not a New Zealander, but an Iban tracker from Borneo, on the lookout for signs saying ‘Chin Peng’s was here.’ They move silently, with no badges of rank or insignia, days on end – ever on guard, trying to be as invisible as possible. To see before they’re seen, and shoot before they’re shot at.

After seven days a halt is made at a suitable clearing, and the patrol’s distinctive marker put out for sighting by supply aircraft. When Corporal Woods hears the plane, he puts up some publicity for his chosen dropping zone. Satisfied the markers are genuine, the plane comes in.

The corporal distributes mail, while Trooper Battleton of Otorohanga sees what’s in the food packs. While Trooper Dan Wallis of Auckland scans the home paper for a subject to write home about, Palmerston north man Trooper Slade opens something to swear about. Apart from little items like this, regular mail and supplies of prepared food do a lot to keep jungle-bashers happy. These men protecting the orderly development of Malaya are learning to be as wary in the jungle as their highly-skilled point man, the Iban tracker from Borneo.

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Jungle patrol by SAS squadron, 1956, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated