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8 March 2002

Malaya naval veterans qualify for medal

Hon Mark Burton

Defence Minister and Minister of Veteran's Affairs Mark Burton today announced that approximately 800 additional New Zealand navy veterans now qualify for a medal recognising their service during the 1960s confrontation with Indonesia.

"This will rectify another long-standing grievance of New Zealand veterans," Mark Burton said.

The General Service Medal with the clasp “Malay Peninsula” was awarded for service off the coast of Malaya in patrols against infiltrators between 1964 and 1966.

"Service on HMNZ Ships Royalist and Otago in 1965 and 1966 respectively which was not previously recognised, will now qualify for the medal," Mark Burton said.

“In the past there was a restrictive and inconsistent approach taken to the interpretation of qualifying criteria for this medal. This has created situations where two ships could be in the same area, with one able to count qualifying service and the other not able to.

“For example, one of the most dangerous incidents involving a New Zealand naval vessel during this period was not considered to qualifying for medallic recognition. In 1966, HMNZS Hickleton engaged a sampan containing armed uniformed Indonesians. Two Indonesians were killed and two seriously wounded. Two New Zealanders received gallantry decorations for the incident. Yet this service was not counted towards the GSM “Malay Peninsula”. (HMNZS Hickleton subsequently qualified for the medal through other service.)

"The government has made significant progress on veterans’ medallic grievances over the last two years," Mark Burton said. "This is the fourth major grievance of naval veterans that the government had redressed. Others included service on Achilles and Gambia in 1945, at Suez in 1956, and service off Malaya in the 1950s. As a result, an additional 3000 naval veterans are now eligible for medals.

"I hope to make further announcements shortly, as we continue to resolve long-standing grievances by providing veterans with tangible recognition of their service to New Zealand," Mark Burton said.

Background Notes

RNZN ships based in South-East Asia in the 1960s helped to defend the Malay Peninsula against Indonesian infiltration.

During 1965 and 1966 the qualifying criteria for the medal stipulated that only service ‘on sea patrol duties’ could be counted towards the 30 days required. Naval qualifying service for the later period was understood at the time as official patrols. RNZN personnel on two deployments spent 30 days or more on official patrols and thus qualified for the medal.

Contemporary orders were vague and did not define ‘sea patrol duties’ for the purposes of the medal, nor did they specify an operational area. The RNZN accepted British advice at the time as to which ships qualified for the award of the medal. The regulations were interpreted too restrictively, with some confusion over what was a sea patrol. Two ships could be in the same area with one ship being able to count this service as qualifying time and the other unable to. There were thus anomalies in the way the medal was administered.

The New Zealand Government has made its own interpretation of whether its ships qualified for the medal. Any New Zealand ship in the operational area around the Malay Peninsula risked being involved in hostilities regardless whether they were officially on sea patrol or transiting the area. Each ship had the same rules of engagement and faced the same risks, as the Hickleton incident demonstrates. The Minister of Defence has approved the award of the medal for all sea service within a defined area around the Malay Peninsula.

The effect of this revised interpretation is that an additional 790 veterans of the deployments of HMNZS Royalist in 1965 and HMNZS Otago in 1966 will qualify for the GSM “Malay Peninsula”.

Veterans or next of kin may apply for the medal by completing New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives and Medals Form No. 1 and sending it to:

New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives and Medals
Headquarters New Zealand Defence Force
Private Bag 905

As many as possible of the following details should be provided:

Service Number
Full forename(s) and surname
Details of RNZN service that is thought to qualify for the medal

 This page was last reviewed 19 September, 2016 and is current.