A close encounter while serving in Borneo

Living Choice Broadwater Court has a group of men who all served in the armed forces. They meet up to share stories and enjoy a common bond with each other.  With ANZAC Day approaching, we will be shining the light on some of their experiences. This is Dave McCarthy’s story.

“One brief story that comes to mind happened while serving in Borneo in 1963/64:

“I have always been a communicator and have the ability to communicate even if I only know a dozen or so words in the required language. Hence one of my jobs was to liaise with native trackers that we used to guide our patrols to suspected rebel enclaves.

“After I had been briefed by the local police commander on where to patrol for the next few days I explained to the tracker where we had to patrol and between his few words of English and my few words of Eban, he told me that where we were going was a good place with plenty of water, plenty of pigs and NO rebels.

“Naturally, I repeated this conversation to the Intelligence Officer and enquired whether there was any point in continuing with the patrol because I trusted our tracker more than I trusted the local police.  An hour later the order came down to continue the patrol and not to mention anything of what the tracker disclosed to anybody.

“Unbeknown to me, Army Intelligence already had doubts about information being passed by the local police and this incident led to an upsurge in intelligence focus on the local police force. About two months after this incident mass arrests of local police personnel took place with well over 100 police officers interned for the duration. After this event rebel activity in Borneo was greatly reduced and soon petered out altogether.

“I know my role was very minor and hardly worthy of mention, but it was the only action of my Army career where I truly thought I had a role in ending a conflict.”

Note: Dave McCarthy served six years in the British Army between the years 1960 and 1966, with a further two years in the reserves. Over the years he has travelled to 113 countries and worked in 31 of them. Some of Dave’s non-military experience has been:

Ship’s engineer (Merchant Navy):
Chief Engineer on drill rigs (both onshore and offshore);
Operations Manager and General Manager with an international oilfield services company;
Director of a public company in Australia:
Dave’s highest rank achieved was Sergeant and he served in Southern Command UK, Aden, Bahrain, Singapore, Malaysia and Borneo (Brunei), where he served alongside the Australian Army, Hong Kong, Cyrenaica (Libya), Cyprus, Eastern Command UK (as a reservist).

Dave, we thank you for your service.