Wriggly Tin.
 
 

During the Indonesian Confrontation (1962 - 1966) I was, for a time, stationed in the port town of Tawau in what was then Sabah, British North Borneo.

It was a cushy billet, not what I was normally used to. I was part of a four man radio team operating an Admin net back to Labuan. The accommodation consisted of an eight man marquee with camp beds and a C11 radio set in one corner. We had our own bar, that is if two Hayboxes and a can opener on a piece of string constitutes such. (Webmasters note: Works for me mate.) We even had a "Tent Wallah", a young local lad. He looked after the tent, served Chi (morning tea) and kept the Hayboxes stocked with ice for one dollar a week each and all the empty Tiger beer cans he could collect.

After a time we noticed that Abu, our name for him as his given one was unpronounceable, was also collecting empty beer cans from wherever he could find them. One day my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to find out what he wanted the cans for. I signed out a GS Land Rover grabbed my Stirling SMG and two full mags, just in case, and then offered to take Abu, his bike and his cargo of empty beer cans home that day.

Abu's family lived right on the Indonesian border in a small kampong (village) so small it did not have a name, so as it was 13 miles from Tawau, it was referred to as Kampong 13.

As I came to the crest of a rise overlooking the kampong I was dazzled by the sun shining off the roofs of the houses. The air around them seemed to be infused with a wonderful golden glow.

When we arrived at his house I discovered what Abu was doing with the empty Tiger beer cans. His brothers and sister were flattening the cans, his mother and the grandmother were crimping them into sheets and father and grandfather were operating a big fluted nip roller (not unlike an old fashioned mangle) making "Wriggly Tin". They were then selling it on for use as roofing and cladding.

Over the months we formed a friendship with the family and the people of the kampong. They became very helpful in reporting border incursions by the Indonesian Armed Forces. I sometimes wonder how the family fared over the years. Became millionaires no doubt? (With thanks to John Shepherd)