Jim Staats served in the Malayan Emergency from 1955 to 1958.
Jim Staats served in the Malayan Emergency from 1955 to 1958. Brenda Strong

Reflection on years of service

JIM STAATS’ service in the RAAF took him to Australia’s longest conflict – and one of its least-talked-about.

Australia was involved in the Malayan Emergency from 1950 to 1960 and, while many Australians know little of the conflict, Anzac Day will be a time to remember.

Mr Staats joined the RAAF as a 15-year-old in 1950 when he became an apprentice aircraft engine fitter.

JIM STAATS’ service in the RAAF took him to Australia’s longest conflict – and one of its least-talked-about.

Australia was involved in the Malayan Emergency from 1950 to 1960 and, while many Australians know little of the conflict, Anzac Day will be a time to remember.

Mr Staats joined the RAAF as a 15-year-old in 1950 when he became an apprentice aircraft engine fitter. He said he loved job, which was a huge change for the boy who grew up on a banana farm.

He was a squadron leader when he retired in 1979.

“One of the things I liked about the air force is that I liked the air force and the air force liked me,” he said of the opportunities.

During those 39 years, Mr Staats saw incredible changes in the machinery he worked on.

The first plane he tinkered with in 1950 was an old Tiger Moth but, by the time he finished, the FA18s were beginning to appear.

“The aircrafts were getting too technical for my old mind,” he said.

In 1955 Mr Staats was sent to the Malayan Emergency, a conflict between Commonwealth forces and communist groups on the Malayan Peninsula.

Throughout his three years in the conflict, he was stationed in Singapore and has colourful memories of life on the island. He remembers long drives up the Malayan Peninsula and observing the lives of the population.

Singapore has become an economic success story over the decades but it was undeveloped in the 1950s.

Mr Staats recalled the population was divided into two classes: poor and rich.

He said he found the island nation’s subsequent development amazing.

His wife, Pat, was able to join him in Singapore where they met some great friends.

“Some of them I haven’t seen for years but, if they walked in the door today, we’d be friends again,” he said.

Mr Staats, who is president of Boyne Tannum RSL Branch, is looking forward to Anzac Day, which he will spend with his family. He said the day was all about remembrance.

“It’s becoming, in part, our national day, (because) it’s one of our major heritage items,” he said.



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