Honouring Diggers who ‘did their bit’

Published 6:36am 22 April 2024

Honouring Diggers who ‘did their bit’
Words by Kylie Knight

Former SAS soldier Nev Farley remembers always wanting to join the Army as a child and says ANZAC Day is a chance to honour those who ‘lined up and did their bit’.

Nev says this year’s commemorations, which will focus on conflicts in Malaya and Borneo, will have special significance for him.

He served in Borneo in the mid-1960s, after joining the Army straight after school as a 17-year-old.

Nev was in the infantry in 1960 for two years before successfully applying to move into the SAS.

“In ’63 we went to New Guinea, in ’64 we went to the Philippines and in ’65 we went to Borneo. That’s when the confrontation in Borneo was on. We got involved. We were the first SAS to go there,” he recalls.

Their role was to work with local people in a ‘hearts and minds’ mission but to also gather vital intelligence and carry out reconnaissance work which would inform bigger operations.

They typically worked in teams of four, on alert 24-hours-a-day, for six months at a time.

The Borneo conflict (1963-66) was sparked over Indonesia’s objection to the creation of the Federation of Malaysia.

Australian units involved in the confrontation served as part of a larger British and Commonwealth force under British command.

Cross-border operations were kept secret at the time and the conflict received very little coverage by the Australian media.

Nev says it was a chance for the Australian SAS, only formed in 1957, to learn from their British counterparts.

“They would be sending people over the border just to stir things up. The British used Australian, New Zealand and British SAS to inform their patrols, go over into their territory and just see what was going on … if there were any more troops moving in, what was happening on the rivers,” Nev explains.

“They didn’t want to get into a full-scale war. That was the last thing they wanted. They just wanted to niggle the Indonesians to make them understand they weren’t going to get their own way.

“We would go over in four-man patrols, come back and be able to tell the hierarchy what was going on and they could react accordingly.”

This information often resulted in Indonesian camps being destroyed, and there were occasions when SAS soldiers had to engage with the enemy.

“We were told, ‘don’t get sprung because we’ll have to deny you’re there and say you can’t read maps or make up some lies’. We weren’t supposed to be there,” Nev says.

“It was interesting work.”

It was work he says provided vital training he would need when he served a 12-month stint in Vietnam from 1967-68.

“I reckon that six months in Borneo probably saved a lot of our lives because we were so switched on to patrolling in the jungle in small teams,” he says.

“We did the same thing in Vietnam – reconnaissance – we were the eyes and ears of the big organisation. We could find out what was going on.”

Honouring Diggers who ‘did their bit’

He is grateful to a Sergeant who told him about snares, which locals used to catch small animals to eat.

“My patrol went in (one day), just on last light. There were five of us and the guy in front of me who was the scout stops and he says, ‘what’s that?’. I said, ‘that’s a snare’,” he recalls.

He realised there was a Viet Cong camp nearby and that they needed to get out of there.

“We turn around to get out and next minute, three of four guys come down and we have a fire fight. There’s green tracer going everywhere,” he recalls.

The group was able to extract themselves from that situation but quickly realised they were walking further into the camp when they came across clothes lines.

“So, we sat there all night and thought tomorrow this is going to be a showdown. We sat up all night around this tree and the next morning we could hear them having breakfast. We crawled out and got away, rang up a chopper and they took us home,” Nev says.

“I tell everybody, I slept with the enemy. That was lucky.”

Nev served nine years with SAS, 20 years with the Army and eight with the Army Reserve after he left the Army.

His service included time in commandos, an infantry battalion at Enoggera, officer training unit in New South Wales, Army Reserve units and parachute training schools as a jump instructor.

The Woody Point resident, now 81, says he always wanted to serve his country. He will remember those he served with and what they did together on ANZAC Day.

His message to the broader community is simple: “Feel grateful that people have served in the Army, Navy and Airforce to defend this country. They all lined up and did their bit”.

Redcliffe RSL ANZAC Day commemorations

Dawn service

March assembly: 5am at Baker St

March starts: 5.15am

Service: 5.30am at Anzac Place

Woody Point service

(Woody Point Memorial Hall)

Morning tea: 8am

Service: 8.30am

Mid-morning service

March assembly: 9.15am at Redcliffe Pde and Anzac Ave roundabout

March starts: 9.40am

Service: 10.30am at Anzac Place

Parking

Car parking will be available at Pearson Park, beside Redcliffe TAFE college at Klingner Rd.

Road closures

From 12:01am to 2pm

Marine, Redcliffe and Prince Edward parades (from Dix St to Klingner Rd)

Baker St (from Sutton St to Redcliffe Pde)

Car park opposite Redcliffe RSL, on the corner of Humpybong Esp, Sutton Street and Redcliffe Pde

Full list of services across the City of Moreton Bay, head here

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