Army veteran receives jungle battle accolade

Brian Wood, of Bawtry, with the Pingat Jasa Malaysia'medal with which he was presented.
Brian Wood, of Bawtry, with the Pingat Jasa Malaysia'medal with which he was presented.
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HALF a century after Doncaster man Brian Wood was directing gunfire onto Communist guerrilla forces, he has been awarded a medal to prove he fought in the jungle war.

The retired shop manager, who spent most of his two years in the Army serving in The Malayan Emergency, is somewhat bemused that he has had to wait so long for recognition - but delighted to receive the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal.

Mr Wood, now aged 73 and living in Bawtry, travelled to Eden Camp in North Yorkshire to receive the medal from a senior general with the Malaysian High Commission.

The presentation brought back memories of his two years with the 48th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, most of his time spent providing artillery support for the Gurkha Brigade between 1957 and 1959.

Lance Bombardier Wood spent most of that time in an observation post directing heavy mortar and artillery fire on the Communist forces led by Chin Peng, who was trying to seize control of Malaya from the British before independence was granted.

Mr Wood recalled: “During the Second World War Chin Peng had fought with the British against the Japanese, so had been supplied by us and was still well armed when he went into the jungle to take up the fight.

“I was only 20 then and at that age you know no fear. I suppose looking back it was a good period of my life, although I was hospitalised with malaria for a while.”

Mr Wood’s regiment fired the millionth shell of the campaign. The gunners painted on it from ‘One Comrade to Another’, and a senior officer from Singapore came to their unit to fire it.

The Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal has been awarded to former British servicemen as a gesture of gratitude from the Malaysian Government because Britain did not abandon them to the Communist insurgents.

“Why it has taken more than 50 years to award them is a mystery,” said Mr Wood. “All those who served in that transitional period are entitled to them.

“My brother-in-law read about the medal in a magazine and told me, so I had to apply for it through the Malaya and Borneo Veterans’ Association.

“The verification process has taken about two-and-a-half years, but I am very proud to possess it.

“I am pleased the Malaysian Government has recognised what we did for their people - all we got at the time was a General Service Medal with a Malaya clasp.”

Mr Wood, whose wife Frances previously owned Waddington’s shop in Bawtry, has been told he is not allowed to wear the medal on official parades because it has not been awarded by the Queen, but is still glad to have been presented with it.