A local veteran says he went to war in Malaya because he was "young, silly and absolutely bullet-proof".

Dick Frew volunteered with the New Zealand Army in the Malayan emergency from 1959 to 1961.

"[I had] a sense of adventure, was young, silly and absolutely bullet-proof."

Mr Frew said he realised soon after arriving in Malaysia that he was not immune to harm.


More than 1300 New Zealanders served in Malaya between 1948 and 1964, and 15 were killed.

British, Australian, Fijian and Rhodesian armed forces also served in the conflict.

The war was fought between Commonwealth forces and the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party both before and after the country's independence from the UK.

The British and Commonwealth forces won the conflict after 12 years of fighting when most of the Communist guerrilla fighters withdrew into southern Thailand.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force and the SAS (Special Air Service) were deployed first, and a regular New Zealand Army battalion only in 1958.

The emergency was declared over in 1960, but troops remained for the next four years as part of counter-insurgency operations.

Mr Frew describes his role as "hunting communist terrorists in the jungle".

"Not only were there terrorists in the jungle, there were tigers and snakes."


He had one close encounter with a tiger, which fortunately ran away.

Mr Frew joined up at the age of 24 and served three years with the army, two of those years in Malaya, before returning to civilian life and began driving bulldozers.

"I only did three years. A lot did stay on but I didn't."

There were 600 soldiers in his battalion, Mr Frew said, but 400 of those soldiers have now died.

"The youngest would be in their late seventies," he said.

He is still in contact with other soldiers he worked with in Malaya, and remained an active member of the RSA.

Dick Frew. Photo/John Borren
Dick Frew. Photo/John Borren

"You become very close to those you serve with."

Mr Frew was president of the Tauranga RSA from 2014-2015, and on the RSA executive for 10 years prior to that.

He has had a number of family members serving in the armed forces - four uncles in WWI, another two uncles in WWII, a cousin in Korea and a younger brother in Vietnam.

This year marks the 95th annual Poppy Appeal, and donations can be made through ANZ, New Zealand Post, Bunnings Warehouse and Z stations, as well as to street collectors.

Money raised will go to support local veterans and their families.

Anzac Day services will be held throughout the Bay of Plenty, including at the Tauranga RSA Cenotaph at 6am. The dawn parade will be at 5:45am.