War veterans recount their great battles

KUCHING Sunday 6 Nov 2011: As they watched the wreaths being placed on the memorial statue, two war veterans, Awang Raweng and Ubang Kendawang, tried to control their emotions. Clad in black suits, they stood pensively during the wreath-laying and flag-raising ceremonies at the Sarawak War Memorial Day celebrations yesterday.

War veterans at the wreath-laying ceremony at
the Sarawak war memorial yesterday
Awang Raweng receiving PJM from Sarawak
Dep Chief Minister, Tan Sri Alfred Jabu

Awang, 82, who served the British army as a tracker, recalled a fateful incident in Kluang. He was then a sergeant with the British 10th Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion Worcestershire and Sherwood Forester Regiment. "It happened on May 27,1951 when 25 of us were patrolling a forest area. We were ambushed by about 50 communists," Awang said.

"The lead scout was killed and the section commander seriously injured. Others ran for help." Awang, who remained with the injured, including a Private Griff Hughe, was shot.

Awang was awarded the George Cross, equivalent to the Victoria Cross for civilians, when he fought off the communists while defending the injured British soldier.

He received the award from the then Sarawak governor, Sir Anthony Abell, on Jan 22, 1952 in Kuching. A native from Nanga Skrang in the upper Batang Lupar region, Awang is one of 20 surviving George Cross recipients in the Commonwealth.

Now a farmer, Awang has been invited by the British government to attend the reunion of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment held in June every year and he is looking forward to the day when he will get to meet old friends. Ubang, 77, who was with the Royal Ranger Regiment from 1960 to 1983, stood quietly next to the memorial statue for a few minutes before he was approached by the media.

The former warrant officer from Lubok Antu could not hold back his tears when he spoke about the Confrontation in the 1960s.

"We were frontliners during the Indonesian Confrontation in Brunei back in 1962. Many of my friends lost their lives. In my platoon, 26 died," Ubang said.

In 1968, he was posted to Lundu and he vividly remembered apprehending eight communist soldiers.

"Those who had not lived or fought during the communist insurgency would never understand the hardship faced during that era."

Ubang urged the government to launch a campaign to explain the negative impact of communist ideology to thwart any attempt to rekindle it.

The War Memorial Day event yesterday also saw the presentation of medals by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang to all the 11 war veterans.

Major (Ret'd) Victor Greenwood from Britain headed the list of the award recipients. He received the Pingat Jasa Malaysia award. Sergeant (Ret'd) Rahmah Omar was the only woman to receive the award.

Other recipients were Awang, Ubang, Captain (Ret'd) Kong Tong Gnoh, Captain (Ret'd) George Kurka Maja, Warrant Officer I (Ret'd) Gunasagran Marimuthiah, Warrant Officer I (Ret'd) Bingkok Mambang, Warrant Officer I (Ret'd) Nawdin @ Narudin Bujang, Able Rate (Ret'd) Abdul Rahman Sapawi and Warrant Officer I (Ret'd) Nordin Amat.

Courtesy New Sunday Times
6 Nov 2011