Junglies back to their roots with heritage trip to Borneo
20 members of 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) are heading to Borneo in March to retrace the footsteps of their former comrades who cut their teeth in the jungles of Borneo during the incursion of Communist forces from Indonesia.
The history of this conflict has many connections to the Commando Helicopter Force and its Squadrons. The newly independent Commonwealth country of Malaysia had annoyed President Sukarno of neighbouring Indonesia, especially on the large island of Borneo, which the Communist leader regarded as Indonesian territory. It was in Dec 1962, during a rebellion in Brunei that Sukarno decided to ‘confront’ Malaysia and the British Commonwealth.
Fortunately HMS BULWARK was at hand, with twelve of the new Wessex helicopters of 845 NAS, and other Junglie Squadrons which were soon in action transporting troops from Singapore to Borneo to help quell the rebellion in Brunei and the subsequent Indonesian-inspired insurrection.
It was the vital and unswerving support and can-do attitude that naval personnel provided during this campaign that endeared them to the troops on the ground. The helicopters helped to maintain frontier strong points and inserted troops at locations where they could ambush Indonesian Forces. They were also used in highly secretive operations across the border to attack Indonesian bases, sometimes with wire guided anti-armour missiles. It was the troops from this campaign that coined the moniker “Junglies” which is still coveted by serving and retired personnel.
Lt Charlie Peschardt who is co-ordinating the visit explained, “The group will be taking part in a battlefield tour of Borneo as part of the squadron’s commitment to honouring their heritage and as the finale to the 845 NAS 50th Anniversary celebrations of becoming a Commando helicopter squadron. 16 Junglies were killed during the action, and a memorial at Nanga Gaat was erected to honour these heroes of the Jungle. This memorial will be the focus for today’s members of 845 NAS who will refurbish it and pay their respects. The visit is also an opportunity to help ‘Rebalance Lives’ as life on the frontline is extremely busy - with operations in Afghanistan, maintaining readiness for UK contingency operations and transferring to the Merlin helicopter, the visit to Borneo will no doubt help maintain morale at its current peak.”
The 12 day trip will be a busy affair commencing with acclimatisation and an introduction to Jungle Survival in Brunei, in order to prepare them for a river expedition inland to Kapit District where the Nanga Gaat memorial is sited. The group will also be meeting the local population to re-establish the links that 845 Squadron had all those years ago. This will be underpinned by providing support to a community project, before holding a memorial ceremony at Nanga Gaat. Before heading back home to RNAS Yeovilton, the team will just have time to visit a number of tourist sites, including climbing Mt Kinabalu and some scuba diving.
The trip is part sponsored by the Fly Navy Heritage Trust which works in partnership with the Royal Navy to keep the nation’s Naval aviation Heritage alive.