Newbury Park soldier of ‘forgotten war’ finally honoured
A MAN who braved a war in the Malaysian jungle 52 years ago is to receive a medal honouring his loyalty.
John Sheen was just 18 when he was the only boy chosen from his conscription class to be sent to Singapore as part of the Royal Air Force, where he spent six months, before travelling to Malaysia.
There, he played his part in the “Forgotten War”, which broke out in 1948, fighting native communist rebels who wanted independence from British colonisation.
During his time in the Far East, Mr Sheen was responsible for signals, taking directions from commanders and guiding the group he was working with through the jungle.
As well as this, he attended British planes that had been shot down over the jungle, rescuing what, and who, he could from the wreckage.
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“I took a special training course for this, and learned how to make stretchers,” he said. “But no one tells you how hard it is to carry a stretcher through the uneven floor in the jungle.”
He spent six months in Fraser’s Hill, a dense jungle in the lower part of Malaysia - prior to independence known as Malaya.
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His most vivid memory is lying in the jungle at night, clutching a gun to his chest.
“I was terrified, all the noises seemed so much louder in the night. The monkeys made very strange noises.”
Mr Sheen said he was shocked but delighted when he got a phone call from a representative of the Malaysian High Commission, saying he was in line to receive the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal, recognising those who fought for the independence of Malaysia.
“The reason they were so delayed, I think, is because Malaysia did not have enough money after the war.
“Maybe it was alphabetical and so I am last, who knows, but the phone call certainly came out of the blue.”
Mr Sheen said he is excited about the prospect of meeting fellow comrades when he goes to Colchester to pick up the medal at the end of the month.