Jungle patrol by SAS squadron, 1956

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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Patrick Chapman

Posted: 24 Nov 2019

I was part of a 4 man team from Recce Troop,40 Commando RM
who helped train American Troops in 1967.We also had
4 x Gurkhas and 4 x NZ SAS. Lt Kiwi was the Officer in charge
It was a rewarding time with basic lessons learned about Visual Tracking


Posted: 16 Jun 2019

In 1967 my U.S Army tracker team number five was trained at BJWS under Major Woods and 1st Lt. Kiwi.Major woods was a Captain at that time.After completion of our training, my team returned to Vietnam and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division.I understand that Maj. Woods and Lt.Kiwi are no longer with us.Very sad indeed.They were fine soldiers and I consider it a great honor to have served with them..Capt. Ron Reed U.S. Army.

Stephen Kelly

Posted: 06 Feb 2014

Regular Soldier

In late 1955 the Squadron deployed to Malaya and served successfully for two years, 18 months of which were spent operating in the jungle. Rennie often participated directly in operations, and for his actions during this time he was awarded the Military Cross and was Mentioned in Despatches. Upon returning to New Zealand the NZSAS Squadron was disbanded

Major F. Huia Woods of the SAS. Huia Woods had come up the ranks from a NZ Ranger to an officer in the 22 Regiment of the SAS due to his incredible tracking skills. He competed throughout the Far East Asian countries against the best of the native headhunters and other trackers to become the best of all. He came to the idea that having a tracker Lab along with the SAS squad on a fast pursuit mission would increase the speed and stealth of the team. He tried this technique in the 1950s successfully - and it was this concept that General Westmoreland wanted for the US Army to counter the "vanishing enemy" in the jungles of VN. The first classes through the courses given at Jungle Warfare School in Malaysia were taught by one of Major Wood's own teams - headed by Lt. Albie Kiwi. My Better Half was one of the fortunate ones who had the benefit of the "tender mercies" of being "married up" with the Kiwi trained Visual Trackers. He was a Handler who had been "astutely trained" by the original British Royal Army Veterinary Corps' #2 War Dog Training Unit. The #2WDTU had all been Combat Tracker Teams in their own right - hunter/killer teams that always had used a Lab. These were also highly trained specialty teams who would be in the field for however long it took to "finish the track". They could and did live off the land and were as comfortable in the desert as they were in the jungle. These were the K9 instructors for the American handler trainees and the course length for this was from 4 to 6 months depending on whether the Lab was "green" or a veteran warrior.