Aussie veteran Sam McDonald says his old Kiwi mate Rod Berge joined the Australian Army because he was "too ugly" to be accepted by the New Zealand armed forces.

"The Australian Army must have been bloody desperate when they accepted him," said Mr McDonald, over from the other side of the Tasman to spend Anzac Day with his Whanganui pal.

Despite the ribbing, the two have been firm friends for 50 years and Mr McDonald, who lives in Mandurah, Perth, and Mr Berge call each other to chat two or three times each month.

They also visit each other regularly, and this year it is Mr McDonald's turn to visit Mr Berge and his wife Pat to celebrate Anzac Day. They completed Special Air Service training together and served in Borneo during the 1960s in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation (Konfrontasi).


"The SAS training is very tough and when you go through something like that together, you do form very strong bonds," said Mr McDonald.

Although there was no loss of life from enemy attacks while they were in Borneo, the friends say it was very tough patrolling the jungle and they lost two friends who drowned while crossing a river; and their friend Paul Denehey, who was attacked by a rogue elephant and died from his wounds as the troops were far from medical help.

"I remember the sound of the elephant screaming after it had so many bullets fired in to it and it took a long time to die," said Mr McDonald.

Mr Berge said he crossed the ditch as a young man after working with two Australians on a shearing gang in Hunterville.

"They told me there were good jobs there and I found work on a farm in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia but I was only getting bed and board so I joined the army."

Mr Berge left the army after serving in Borneo while Mr McDonald went on to serve in the Vietnam war.

Returning to Whanganui Mr Berge met his future wife Pat from Maxwell at the Wanganui RSA and settled in Aramoho.

"In all the years I have known Rodney, I've never heard him raise his voice," said Mr McDonald of his old friend.

Mr Burge said he lets off steam with a bit of hunting and fishing and likes to get out on his own sometimes.

"When I'm out in the bush, I give myself a bit of a tune-up," he said.

Back in Mandurah Mr McDonald is a Justice of the Peace and mentors troubled teenagers.

The friends will attend the Anzac dawn service in Whanganui on Monday before attending the later service at Maxwell.