SOLDIERS, sailors and airmen who fought for the independence of Malaysia have been awarded medals at a special ceremony in Swindon.
More than 200 forces veterans collected medals from Colonel Rajti at Swindon Royal Air Force Association club in Old Town yesterday. Col Rajti made the presentations on behalf of the King and Queen of the Asian country, in recognition of the men's service in the 1950s and 1960s.
Mike Brokenshire was one of the recipients of the Pingat Jasa Malaysia, or Malaysian Service Medal. The 69-year-old from Upper Stratton served in both peninsular Malaysia and the island of Borneo.
He said: "I have an MBE for my service with the air force in Germany, which I am very proud of. But this medal has made many of us extremely happy, because our efforts in Malaysia weren't particularly recognised.
"I was speaking with people from the army and navy, as well as one guy from the Special Boat Service. This medal has a special significance."
The Malaysian government decided in 2005 that Commonwealth servicemen who fought there after the war deserved recognition. Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957, and a communist force that wanted to take power immediately threatened the fledgling government.
In the early 1960s General Sukarno, the leader of neighbouring Indonesia, decided to attack Malaysian territories on the island of Borneo.
Jerry Binstead, a 66-year-old former commando with the Royal Marines, went out to fight in 1965.
He said: "There were thousands of troops in Malaysia at that time to face down the first threat from the communists and then from Indonesia.
"Sukarno didn't like the Malaysian provinces on Borneo. He wanted it to be a united part of Indonesia, so he launched attacks on the borders.
"The fighting was extensive but it remains one of the only campaigns in the post-colonial era that was a success."
Michael Kissane, a 65-year-old retired air force paramedic, gave the colonel a traditional welcome on his bagpipes.
The Liden resident said: "We are very proud of what was achieved in Malaysia because it is a rare example of a stable post-colonial democracy.
"We lost 500 British troops in Malaysia and there were dozens of other nationalities who fought there, so it's great to have our effort recognised."
Hugh Thompson was only 19 when he was sent to Malaysia with the Air Force.
The 60-year-old Branch standard bearer for Swindon RAFA was based in beautiful jungle near the South China Sea.
He said: "It was a lovely part of the world but the scene of some vicious fighting. I was lucky to avoid frontline hostilities but many men died there, so I wear the medal for them."