On 22 April, the SA/NT Branch of the National Malaya-Borneo Veterans Association held a plaque unveiling ceremony in the West Torrens War Memorial Gardens in Adelaide. The purpose was to dedicate a new and unique memorial to pay tribute to all who served during the wars and campaigns between 1948 and 1966 we know as the ‘Malayan Emergency’ and ‘Confrontation’.
CAPTION: Air Force Cadets from No 604 Squadron provided an Honour Guard for the Malaya-Borneo Veterans Association plaque unveiling ceremony on 22 April (left to right): CSGT Britney Shorter (Guard Commander), LCDT Zain Carse, CSGT Blake Lawrence and LCDT Byron Barnes-Williams. CSGT Shorter and LCDT Barnes-Williams were members of the Association’s 2016 Pilgrimage to Kuching. Photo by Pilot Officer (AAFC) Paul Rosenzweig.
The memorial was specifically dedicated to the Australian armed forces members who died on operational service between June 1962 and August 1966 during one of those undeclared wars – the Indonesian Confrontation with Malaysia.
Air Force Cadets from No 604 Squadron from Hampstead Barracks provided an Honour Guard for the ceremony.
The guest speaker was Major Paul Rosenzweig (retired), a 32-year Army Reserve and Regular Army veteran who currently volunteers as an officer with the Australian Air Force Cadets.
He began by honouring the veterans of the campaigns in Malaya and Borneo – “Their service is an example to us all of the strength of bonds formed in adversity, and the successes that can be achieved through solid alliances and shared common values”.
He also said he was proud to attend in recognition of the strong relationship the Association has established over the several years that No 604 Squadron has supported their annual Malaya-Borneo Veterans Day service.
In fact, 604 Squadron has provided a Catafalque Party since the very first commemoration service in 2011. Most notably, last year Air Force Cadets under the command of Cadet Under Officer Aaron Musk mounted a catafalque party for the Ceasefire 50th Anniversary ceremony in Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia. Major Rosenzweig acknowledged the presence of several of those cadets and staff who joined the pilgrimage to Kuching last year.
He said that typically in ceremonies of this nature we honour and pay tribute to the fallen, and sometimes relate the exploits of the veterans who served: “So why then have I just made such specific mention of the young people in front of us, they are just cadets after all. Well, they are much more than that”.
“Consider this: earlier I mentioned solid alliances and shared common values. This is what we have here before us. In five years’ time, several of these impressive young adults could well be serving in one of our armed services, quite likely already on their second operational deployment or humanitarian mission overseas.
“In the late 1950s or early 1960s, how many of you served in the school cadets, naval cadets or Air Training Corps before joining up for military service, not thinking that within a few years you’d be deployed in an action that has never been acknowledged as a war. And now today you gather with your mates to honour those who lost their lives overseas.”
Significantly, one of those veterans approached the speaker after the service and said, “Mate, it was like you were describing my life”.
Sadly, in a few more years’ time many of these veterans won’t be around to attend or even organise these commemorative events. The SA-NT Branch of the NMBVAA has very wisely offered the opportunity for younger veterans of modern conflicts to join, where there is no other relevant ESO to support them.
Major Rosenzweig said: “I’d like to think that through the bonds we are establishing now with our Cadets, in years to come when they return as the new generation of veterans they will return to this organisation to continue the work you do in perpetuating the memory of these almost-forgotten campaigns”.
“This ceremony today provides an opportunity to reaffirm the common values and deep friendship that we Australians share with our Malaysian counterparts and the other allied countries we served beside, not just in Malaysia but during all other wars and peacekeeping operations.
“Let us never forget these strong bonds. But let us also recognise the potential before us.”
This theme holds in common with the multitude of commemorative ceremonies conducted around Australia for Anzac Day in which ADF Cadets participated.
Notable among them was the overnight Vigil, such as the one conducted by 6 Wing Air Force Cadets at the Gawler War Memorial – which was recorded by the Gawler Community Broadcasting Association: “Youth Stand Tall at Anzac Eve Vigil”.
Major Rosenzweig concluded: “Let us lay a wreath and recall the sacrifices our colleagues and forebears made during war. Maybe some will lay a poppy and recall a specific mate. We are all active in remembering the fallen, and supporting our mates. But let’s also look to the future”.