Jungle warfare tough going
WHEN Rockhampton’s Lawrie Percy talks about life at war he recounts spending days on end without seeing the sun as he scrambled through thick jungle hunting the enemy.
At night he would battle the insects, plucking off the leeches and ticks which had attached to his sodden feet.
The 76-year-old proud veteran served about five years in the army.
In 1953 and at the age of 18, Lawrie left his home town of Gunnedah in NSW, spending the next 15 months on duty in Korea.
Not long after returning to Australia he undertook jungle training and quickly found himself back in the war zone, this time in the midst of the Malayan Emergency where he spent two active years.
“When we got to Malaya, the British had done all the hard yakka. At the start of the war there were about 10,000 terrorists, when I got there, there were about 2000 and a lot of them were in Thailand, which we couldn’t go to for political reasons. But they would be able to supply small groups of terrorists in northern Malaya with food and our job was to prevent them from getting the supplies and go through in swamp patrols and try to hunt them down,” Lawrie said.
The sites and conditions of the humid Malayan jungles were tough, and unlike anything he had previously experienced.
“We had to cross this bamboo forest, which when we were flying overheard in the helicopter looked beautiful, but when you got onto the ground was really thick and you had to literally crawl through most of it,” Lawrie said.
“When you are in deep jungle you won’t see the sky for days, it’s just this semi-darkness, a real gloom.
“When you peel off your uniform after three weeks you would find all sorts of things had settled in your boots, like leeches and ticks which had made themselves at home on your skin.”
Serving time with the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment, Laurie describes his time in the army as a “hard slog”.
He is proud of the experience.
“When I was in Korea, we were led by some men who had stayed on from World War II who were just great men, really great people to learn from,” Lawrie said.
It is clear he holds the soldiers who fought in the first and second world wars in high regard, and despite pride in his military achievement, believes Anzac Day is their day.
“I always thought Anzac Day was for the older blokes (WWI and WWII soldiers) who had done their bit to actually save Australia and preserve our freedom,” Laurie said.
“I used to go to the Anzac services, but I’d never march because it was their day to be recognised ... but now, as the years have gone by I sort of feel it’s up to the younger generations to preserve the Anzac spirit.”