On a freezing, windy, raining Wellington day over 60 years ago the TSS Captain Cook departed with the last batch of troops to fight in the Malayan Emergency. My family was on that ship.
We departed Wellington Harbour on Guy Fawkes Day, 5th November 1959 amidst a backdrop of fireworks displays and streamers. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was to be the final voyage of TSS Captain Cook. The troopship TSS Captain Cook started as the RMS Letitia, then renamed the Empire Brent by the Australian Ministry of Transport and finally became the TSS Captain Cook when it was bought by the NZ government.
“On the 2nd August 1957, official authority was granted to raise and train the first “Regular” Infantry Battalion in New Zealand history. Under the command of Lt-Col W. R. K. Morrison DSO, the 1st New Zealand Regiment would be New Zealand’s land force commitment to the British Commonwealth Far East Reserve, The 1st Battalion, The New Zealand Regiment was deployed to Malaya from October 1957 as part the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group. Between 1958 and 1964 the NZ Regiment would rotate 3 Battalions through Malaya. “
This deployment was unique in New Zealand military history, as it would be the first time that families would accompany a New Zealand overseas military deployment to an overseas location.
Fortunately I didn’t know too much about jungle warfare or political wrangling so I just had an amazing experience living in a different culture, surrounded by the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Burmese populations. There were also Australian and British families who became my school friends at the British Commonweatlth school I attended for that first year.
Travelling has opened my eyes to an appreciation of the many and varied cultures that make up this world. Although the travel bug may have bitten me at that tender age, it would be many more years before I travelled overseas again – and that was to be a much different experience.