The Story Of A Soldier’s Wife -My First Lesson In History

My first lesson in history began when I was just three years old. I was in Baling, Kedah, when the Baling Peace Talks was held at the Tunku Putra English School. I started my primary education at the same school a few years later. My father was a government officer at the Baling District Office for almost seven years before he was transfered to The Treasury in Kuala Lumpur. We were staying in the government quarters about 300 metres from the school. I don’t rememember anything from the incident but I think I learned several new words from the crowd that gathered around my house that day. They were “Tunku Abdul Rahman, Chin Peng and communist”. That would be my first informal introduction to the subject of history. Unfortunately, I fared badly in the subject despite the early exposure, much to the chagrin of my late father who seemed to enjoy it as much as I loathed it.

Like all the other Malaysians in the 70’s, I was aware of the fighting that was going on between the armed forces and the communists but it did not deter me from tying the knot with a military man. My mother, too, would not have consented giving away her only child in marriage had she been scared to death turning her daughter into a widow. So would my grandmother before her. Two of my aunties were married to Army officers. The truth was never really revealed, not even AFTER marriage! It only surfaced after my husband published his book three years ago!!!

It would be a lie to say that he did not breath a word to me about what was going on in the jungle. I knew that the Nuri was shot at many times. I knew that they fired at his aircraft twice. I knew that he had to ferry many soldiers, some dead, some seriously wounded out of the jungle. I knew that there was a raging war deep within the jungles. But they were told in such a casual manner that left me completely unsuspecting of the actual scenario. He immediately dispelled whatever fears that I had by convincing me that it would take hundreds of shots to bring down a big bird like the Nuri. Besides, they always flew so high it would be impossible for the bullets to reach them, conveniently omitting the part when they had to land and take off. I was young and naive and sufficiently SATISFIED with the explanation.I would be in for the biggest shock of my life soon after this.

Even at the Wives Club, there was no talk about whose husband was being shot at. They talked about everything else under the sun EXCEPT that. I would know who would be promoted, who would go for overseas courses, who would be appointed Flight Commnders or Squadron Commanders, who would be posted out, who would be coming in, etc, etc, etc, way ahead of my husband. BUT, there would be ZERO discussion on what went on inside the jungle. I used to wonder whether they knew what I knew. It only became apparent years later that they knew much, much more than me. Yes, the wives were a desciplined lot and I was slowly imitating them, both the good AND the bad.

To be continued………


8 responses to “The Story Of A Soldier’s Wife -My First Lesson In History

  1. “disciplined lot” not to tell the secret…I learnt that too from my man…while I was eager to show off who he is to the public out of admiration, he always ask me to keep low and sometimes out of radar…I love your story on this Aunty…I can imagine how you felt at that time. Can’t wait for the next story from you.

  2. So much for the story about a flyers wife. Let me tell you a story about an infantry soldiers wife serving in Ipoh, Perak in the seventies……Nuri heli are usually seen by soldiers wife during ‘resup’ (sending of rations to soldiers deployed in the jungle) when they fly out of the playing of the Ranger Battalion or the Royal Malay Battalion in Tambun. Family of soldiers usually know that every about 10 to 14 days there will be a ‘resup’. However when nuris were seen to fly into the field other than these regular timings soldiers wife at the camp would normally feel uneasy because they knew that nuri flying at these odd days are either carrying dead bodies of soldiers or terrorists or our own casualties.
    The situation among the family become very tense when the families at the quarters spotted the Commanding Officer’s wife accompanied by the unit adjutant and Guru Agama and Ustazah of the Battalion getting out of the car in the vicinity of the quarters. The soldiers wives knew by then that the “rombongan” was there to inform the wife of a dead soldier about the demise of her husband. Usually as soon as the CO’s wife gave salam to the deceased wife, the deceased wife would already broke down and cry and some even collapse. I just cannot forget this scenario until today. When I “bought” myself out of the army in 1992, my wife asked me a question, ” during those agonizing days of worrying about you when you were out doing jungle operations and living those tense moment especially when the helicopters were flying in and out of the camp, you never wanted to leave the army but now in peaceful days you paid money to be able to leave the army!!!! why??” My answer was very simple, “my dear wife, during those years of doing jungle operations, I had peace of mind but during these peaceful days I didn’t have a peaceful mind”

    • Col Zainal Yan,

      Thank you for sharing a glimpse of what it was like when viewed from a different angle.
      I hate to imagine how the wives must have felt each time the Nuri made an unscheduled visit. I guess all Armed Forces wives during that period had a fair share of sleepless nights.

      My husband also chose to leave the Air Force during peaceful times. But, he didn’t have to buy himself out. I guess once you reached the expiry date, it’s FOC ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. As the battle field in the seventies shifted deeper and deeper into the jungle and with it came the extensive role of the Nuri, the work horse of the RMAF. In such a scenario the ground troops almost every need was dependent on the Nuri. I still remember the shrill hollow sound of the twin turbine engines breaking momentarily the stillness of the deep jungle as it came in to land, on one of its many missions. This was followed by a sudden furry of activity of unloading/loading (equipment,rations,and troops) and as quickly as it came it would takeoff and and the jungle would return to its erie silent once again.There was always the real danger of a the enemy taking pot shots as the chopper when it came to land and take off but to minimize this the SOP for ground troops was to send out small patrols a few hundred meters around the LP to ensure that there was no enemy activity around. But in-spite of this there had been occasions when the Nuri was shot at as it lifted off and skirted away. ย 

    The grapevine of the Wives Clubs in most military establishments has always been a source of confidential information leaked out. It always starts with ” I will tell you this secret but make sure you don’t tell any one that I told you this”. What followed was soon every one knew the ‘secret’. ย However they correctly restrained themselves from discussing what happens in forward areas as it would cause unnecessary fear, worry and apprehension among them. During the conflict, military families often bore the heavy burden of repeatedly watching their loved ones go off for jungle operations on long durations. It was this aspect of their life’s and the uncertainties that went with it that made strong and resolute in facing any eventualities.
    Yes the Military wife’s (both of the Flyers and the Infantry are a tough lot and they too in a way contributed in helping us win this war. For this I salute them (tabek spring)

    • Col Arunzab,

      Yes, I do agree with you. The wives rightfully deserve the tabik spring. It was not easy having to cope with everything single-handedly. They were exceptionally strong both mentally and physically. Indulging in the occasional gossip was a way of keeping the sanity intact. They were a tough lot, living by the motto
      ” when the going gets tough, the tough gets going”. Indeed proud to be one of them.

  4. Salam Pn Siti Roffini,

    I had always been to Tn Mejar Nor’s blog. Nevertheless, i had also been a silent-reader of his soul partner too ;-D

    Pn Siti Roffini, frankly, i can’t resist myself with this entry. Best-read entry! In fact, love reading all of them. Look forward for the updates.

    p/s…wish upon a star…military soul-mate ๐Ÿ˜‰

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