84 in Kuala Lumpur 1960

Tim Walker has produced the plans shown below of his recollection of the unit as it was in 1960

The Office Block in more detail.

The following photographs and comments are from Tim.

Batu 84 Office view is a photo taken within Batu Cantonment with the Drawing Office behind my left shoulder. Circa 1960.

The following  black and white photos were taken by me with a Brownie Box camera I brought out with me from the UK. The
prints in my album measure three by two inches. The camera did sterling work but unfortunately didn't survive a dunking it got when I was perched on a rock on a river bank, slipped, and took an undignified  header into the water.

Batu Offices, photograph taken about 1959.


Another view of Batu Offices c.1959.


Interior photo of the Drawing Office at Batu in 1959.


Anyone stationed in K.L. will know this building- the Post Office. Revisited in 2004 it is a Post Office no more and in rather a sorry state, the inside being used for some sort of general storage.


Naka, near Alor Star, was the first detachment I went on. The camp was established well before my arrival and I went from KL by train to Alor Star and was picked up and driven to the camp about an hour away.  Alor Star  and Naka were  not in  'White Area's'  and I thus qualified for an Active Service  pipe tobacco allowance from Lord Nuffield- patron of the splendid idea.

 Time was 1958

The actual location at Naka was Pokok Sena, Kampong Naka was just down the road a tad. Naka was a base camp. I travelled up from Kuala Lumpur in a "QL" none of your fancy "RLs" for me. The day I went up to the Naka the detachments post-run vehicle to Alor Setar was ambushed, fortunately nobody was hurt and no vehicular damage. The CTs must have heard Tim the Pipe would soon be on detachment because they left us alone after that. One thing I remembered about Naka was the shortage of water. Had to shower in "Anchor or Tiger". Really hard done to!
Alan Holden.

Grik Camp, further East,  was set up following 84's work which was completed in the Alor Star region establishing primary Triangulation across the border area. Its big bonus was the airstrip from which we flew to landing zones in valleys in the mountainous areas of north Malaya.. Helicopters in those days could not operate at hover and  height with men and equipment so we had to be dropped in valleys and walk to the mountain tops for the  survey observations. It was arduous. Theodolites and tripods are heavy items.  Most trips lasted two or three weeks at a minimum, food resupply was from the Royal New Zealand  Air Force by Beverly aircraft . Because the area was  not designated a 'White Area' a contingent of Malay Guards always accompanied us. Communication with Grik HQ  was by radio using Morse code.  Grik camp itself was dominated by two large wooden structures. The left hand structure at the road end was where the surveyors had an office and recreation room, the other one (lower middle of photo) was an accommodation room .One or other of the two tile roofed buildings was a Government Guest House.
This photo was taken circa 1960.


I have no idea what the occasion was or where it was taken, and  I cannot name anyone except 
Mick Jones front centre next to Alan Holden to his right wearing hat and Graham Taylor back row left.

Alby, additional PIR on the group piccie.

Front Row, first left, Pete Riley - Trig surveyor, National serviceman, with ARIBA qualification. If I remember correctly his hometown was Crewe, Cheshire. 
Back Row, first right, Don Dunne, MT Corporal, regular. A Midlander of some description, Wolverhampton.

In the mountains of north Malaya we used RAF helicopters to ferry men and equipment  in and out using a flat area suitable for landing. They never did hovers. It wasn't easy to find these locations and they had to be in valleys, but when we did we usually had to clear small trees to ensure the rear rotor (its most vulnerable point) didn't touch anything. This meant guiding the pilot in very precisely. To pinpoint our location and give the pilot a wind direction we  used smoke bombs, having carried them up the mountain and down again of course.  In this photo the remains of smoke can be seen on the left hand side.

This helicopter looks very much like the Westland Whirlwind. In 1966 1 Topo Troop were using a later variant the HAR10 flown by 110 Sqn RAF in Sarawak, this could hover and deliver small parties a 5000ft to mountain tops.

This proves that my helicopter recognition is not very good! Brian Houldershaw informed me that the chopper was a Bristol Sycamore.
Googling sycamore + helicopter + Malaya came up with lots of interesting facts.

They included that the aircraft were flown by 194 Squadron RAF until June 1959 when it became 110 Squadron equipped with Whirlwind HAR4. 110 Squadron also provided helicopter support for 1 Topo Troop at Nanga Gaat in 1966.

I confirm we used Sycamores at Grik and Hercules at Naka. (That's Hercules pushbikes! Tricky balancing topo boards and stereo Mark D on the bikes.)
Alan Holden 

The river named the Sungei Perak was an excellent feature for navigation - from the air that is. Walking fully laden up or down it was a different story as the photo shows. It did provide helicopter landing zones though, there were none on the thick jungle mountain sides. Taken about 1958.


Crossing Sungei Perak yet again.  Whichever side we were on for some reason we always wanted to be on the other side. Taken about 1958.


Pilot :  Excuse me, do you know the way to Grik ?
Reply : Sorry pal, no idea. Suggest you get hold of a decent map.


Very occasionally when the landing zone was big enough we used a fixed wing plane like this. They could land and take off  on very short stretch of grass.

hey were very slow and the pilots favourite joke was to say " if we get a headwind you will have the unique experience of progressing backwards." - or words to that effect. Taken about 1960.

The pic of a fixed wing, A Single Pioneer. We used these to access the jungle forts, which had airstrips, Fort Chabai and Fort Kemar. We used these as sub-base camps. They were mainly built for the protection of the Orang Asli (Sakai, Senoi etc). They were staffed mainly by Police Field Force units and were stopover stations for the SAS, infantry patrols and us. Alan Holden

n detachment we had three dogs. One of them was Ned, who had a wonderful nature which can be seen in his face. He had about a dozen masters and took military life in his stride

Comment received from Alf Isherwood

Reference the pictures of the two dogs. Neddy was mine originally, I got him as a pup but I cant remember where from. When I left in 1958 the Malay Pioneer Officer took him over.

Taff caused a bit of a problem once when he killed a goat belonging to one of the Malays.

My last patrol from Naka was to initiate Don Kirk who had just taken over as troop Sgt from Tommy Thompson.

I never knew that Ned the dog was Alf's, but he really was a great character, and would balance on the manhole in the roof of an RL with ease, regardless of speed or terrain. We took Ned all over the place and even in the Ulu. Whilst at Mentakab, after the Malay troops returned from UN duty in the Congo, they poisoned him, because they hated dogs. Bit sad really, and it was immediately following that incident that we moved out of Mentakab barracks, and camped in some basha's on the airfield at Temerloh.

Regards Dick Elliott.




Another dog was Taff. He, I seem to remember came to the detachment via the SAS when they moved out. He was held in great affection by us as like Ned he had a super nature


We did have some Recreation time and I think we usually headed for Port Dickson when at HQ Batu.  Unfortunately I do not remember any of the names here except mine (!)

I am on the far left facing holding a trusty briar in which I smoked foul smelling cheapo tobacco sometimes.

Talk about skeletons from the past, I have to own up to being one of the oiks in the photo at Port Dickson in '59. I'm the other one with the briar. I think between Tim and me is a guy called Paddy Byrne, can't remember t'other one


Dick Elliott


An article was printed in the Free Press, a subsidiary of the Straits Times on Thursday 21 January 1960.  The original has come to light and is in damned good nick considering its been hidden for 46 years. 

The text is reproduced below for clarity


 Survey Squadron

helps troops to

hunt for bandits


TO the layman most of the rugged tree covered hills in North Malaya look very much alike. In the jungle at the foot of the hills he would probably become lost very quickly.

Soldiers in the area cannot afford to lose their way, yet without the all important maps to provide them with the knowledge of the areas in which they are relentlessly hunting the remaining terrorists their task would be almost impossible.

In recent years it has been the task of 84 Field Survey Squadron, Royal Engineers, to make sure the troops; have had the best possible information at their disposal. In doing so they have compiled maps of areas which were previously comparatively uncharted.

Surveyors of the Squadron are accustomed to going into areas where terrorists are known to be operating and have had the tactical support of men of 1221 Company, Royal Pioneer Corps, and the Singapore Signals Regiment


In jungle

On one occasion, a detachment of 84 Field Survey Squadron spent 84 days in the jungle. An officer. two surveyors and two signalers were taken into deep jungle by helicopters.

Compilation of the map sheets is carried out in the Squadron's headquarters In Batu Cantonment. Kuala Lumpur.

One of the biggest aids to the Squadron's work is a Multiplex machine which is in operation day and night on a shift system. This machine projects on to an astrafoil sheet a "3D" picture of the ground over which an air craft flew adjusting this image to control points established and identified by field parties, it is possible to arrange for all the topographical details to appear at the correct scale and height


Once this is established the Multiplex operator is able to trace in all contours and detail onto. the compilation plot. This provides a document from  which the final map is prepared by 570 Map reproduction Troop.


Formed in 1956, 84 Field Survey Squadron has always worked closely with the Survey Department of Malaya, and has covered many thousands or miles.

"We are rather a nomadic unit," said Major T. R. Burrows, Officer Commanding, pointing out that detachments of the Squadron were working in North Borneo and Hong Kong, as well as Malaya'

Only a small percentage of present personnel are National Servicemen. A good number of the surveyors are products of the Army Apprentices Schools and the School of Military Survey.

"From starting the field work to publishing the map usually takes 14 weeks, Our record so far stands at 11 weeks” said Major Burrows.



The men love the work, possibly because they have much  more responsibility than the sappers and junior NCOs. of other units," pointed out Squadron Sergeant Major Leslie Cookson.

Working with the Squadron •is 30 year old Troop Officer Keith Todd, Royal Australian Survey Corps, of Brisbane  The beauty of being with this Squadron is that the work is so rewarding," says Lt Todd. You know the work will be used and have the satisfaction of seeing the finished map instead of knowing it is tucked away in a drawer

Sgt Donald Kirk, a topographic surveyor finds the work Interesting and absorbing

The various detachments of the Squadron are able to keep in touch with each other's activities in the unit's new magazine. Written and produced by Squadron personnel, it is appropriately named Beacon.


SURVEYORS at work in the field......Sapper W.F. Walker (left) takes notes
as Corporal G.M. Taylor makes observations with the aid of a theodolite.

This is the newspaper photo which I have cleaned up in PhotoPlus Editing and send to you as a JPEG.


The story behind this is :  one day two journalists arrived at 84 Fld Svy Sqdn. to do an article on what the unit did. To improve their article they wanted some photos and I guess Graham Taylor and myself just happened to be on hand.  We went just outside the compound gates to a bit of scrubland to simulate the deepest jungle but they  also wanted a photo with us supposedly on a mountain top.  So we mounted the Theo. on a lorry load of tipped rubble with the photographer lying on his back to create a height effect.  They were deadly serious. We had trouble keeping straight faces. Then, they didn't use that one  after all but published the photo as seen.



With thanks to Tim Walker for this contribution.
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