Veteran’s pride at belated medal

It was a campaign fought in sweltering heat amid the unforgiving terrain of Borneo's rainforests.

But this hostile environment is what Derek Allinson once called home – spending months in the jungle doing his duty for his country in the conflict in Indonesia and Malaysia in the early 1960s.

Now, nearly half a century on, his memories of his days spent with the Royal Navy in the jungle of south-east Asia have come flooding back after he received a medal for his efforts.

He has received the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal from the Malaysian government for his chivalry, gallantry and loyalty while working as a Naval air mechanic during the campaign.

Mr Allinson, of Reydon, spent five months at a base with a band of Gurkhas, carrying out vital maintenance work on helicopter weapons.


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But it is only recently that the Malaysian government was allowed to acknowledge his work, after the Queen's decision last year to allow British veterans to wear the Malaysia medal on Remembrance Day.

'I saw the medal in the Navy News and applied, but never heard anything,' said Mr Allinson, who wore his medal for the first time at Southwold's Remembrance Day service last Sunday.

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'Then I got a phone call to say someone had it and they would like to send it to me. I was pleased as punch to receive it – and very proud.'

Mr Allinson, 68, who worked as an assistant station warden at Sizewell before he retired, joined the Royal Navy on March 17, 1959 when he was just 15 years old. After stints on HMS Ganges and the HMS Ark Royal, he was sent to the jungle in the north east of Borneo from June until November 1965.

His main task was to look after the weapons on three helicopters, which were used to carry Gurkhas on missions.

He said the basic conditions in the jungle were part of the reason he decided to grow a beard.

'We were working in the most basic conditions,' Mr Allison recalled. 'The reason I grew a beard for the first time was because I used my water ration for shaving as hot water for my coffee!'

He added: 'It really was an eye-opening experience. The local people were brilliant. They were friendly towards us and that showed by the fact that when we left they gave us presents of Parang knives and blow-pipes.'

The Indonesia and Malaysian confrontation was fought between British Commonwealth forces and Indonesian troops from 1962 to 1966, with the conflict taking place in the border area between Indonesia and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.

The conflict claimed the lives of 114 Commonwealth personnel, with 180 wounded.

As well as his Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal, Mr Allinson was also awarded the General Service Medal for his part in the Borneo campaign in 1965, having received a good conduct medal in June 1977.

ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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