Sergeant Bob Hatcher, 1st Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, recalls the particular challenge of patrolling the Malayan jungle, 1954-1957.
Bob Hatcher
Sergeant Bob Hatcher

Some of the patrols lasted up to about 10, 20 days. Some went up to 21 days, depending on whether you were following up a contact. It was quite, like the weather being quite humid and hot, you could go into the jungle with a new set of clothing, after 20 days you’d come out and it’s rotting off your body. So it was quite an environment that’s vulnerable to be in. And the jungle itself, when you first go in, the noise is what you first notice, with all the insects and the noise that’s going on, its quite a noisy environment to be in. And also it takes a lot of getting used to, as a new person going into the jungle. When you’ve been in there for a while, 2 or 3 months or so, you get used to it. It goes into the background and you don’t start worrying about the creepy crawlies and the different things that are in the jungle. You also found there was a lot of comradeship. When you were actually on active service in the jungle, you found that your mates and your colleagues were all pulling their weight, playing ball and we all looked after each other.
I did have [contact] on 2 occasions, where we’d found some food and tins and cans in the jungle and we were following it up and we did actually make contact. When you actually opened fire, and normally there’s not a return of fire, the terrorists disperse in all directions. And sometimes you were able that you did catch a couple, other times, that the majority, say that there was 6 or 7, you might get 2 but the rest had gone. Another time, I remember getting caught in an ambush, which the actual terrorists were ambushing us and it was rather a nasty time. But over my whole tour, I would have said that about on 3, maybe 4 occasions did I get actual contact. And at that time, yes it’s a hairy situation but your training takes over straight away. And you sort of get control of it. You might try to bury yourself in the ground for the first few seconds, but then your training takes over and you handle it quite well.