845 NAS trip to Borneo
Members of 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) met Roger Bigden, a veteran of the 1960s Borneo campaign, ahead of their heritage exploration to Malaysia.
The group of 15 Naval personnel will depart the UK for 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.
Roger Bigden read about the trip to Borneo and made contact with the Squadron through the ‘Junglie Association’ on their website www.junglies.org.uk. He came to visit 845 NAS at RNAS Yeovilton to share his experiences of the 1960s Borneo campaign, and to present the Squadron with a map and photographs from his time there.
Roger said: ”The map was a replacement for one lost at Nanga Gaat, when I was the Crewman in a Wessex helicopter that crashed into the river near the current memorial Site on 9 May 1965. I was passed ‘fit to fly’ again on 28 May and used the map until we were relieved by 848 NAS on 22 June 1965”.
A montage of images was put together by Roger in 2006 on the 40th Anniversary of the end of the confrontation as a pictorial tribute to the fallen troops, and members of 845 NAS, during his 1964-65 deployment. His visit was the perfect way to put the heritage trip in an historical context for today’s personnel serving on the Frontline.
845 NAS Commanding Officer Commander James Newton DFC Royal Navy said: “I am thrilled that we are getting back to the roots of our heritage in Borneo. Our predecessors, such as Roger, earned the ‘Junglies’ reputation for their amazing aviation skills, and it is an ethos we maintain proudly to this day”.
From 1962-66, 845 NAS and other Commando helicopter squadrons, were sent to Borneo as part of a Royal Navy taskforce to support the Malaysian government during their confrontation with Indonesian communists. The daring flying in support of the soldiers fighting in the jungle earned the commando squadron pilots and support personnel the nickname “Junglies”.
Sadly, a number of Junglies and other members of the Security Force died during operations around Nanga Gaat, where a memorial was later erected. Today’s members of 845 NAS are currently in Borneo to visit and refurbish the memorial as well as meeting the local population to re-establish the links 845 had all those years ago. This will be underpinned by providing support to a local community project, before holding a memorial ceremony at Nanga Gaat.
This trip is extremely important to the heritage of 845 NAS, enabling today’s members of 845 to re-trace the steps of their predecessors who cut their teeth in the jungles of Borneo and earned the still-coveted nickname of the ‘Junglies’. The trip has been sponsored by the Fly Navy Heritage Trust which works in partnership with the Royal Navy to keep the nation’s Naval Aviation Heritage alive.
Reproduced from a facebook blog
The day began early with a 05:45 embarkation of the express boat from Sibu to Kapit, no one was complaining as excitement was really starting to build as we progressed towards our goal of Nanga Gaat. The journey fulfilled many of the groups Jungle fantasies and soon most of us were sitting on the boat roof watching the sun rise over the Jungle canopy.
The standard of hospitality had been set high by the Brigade Commander last night, but none of us were prepared for what greeted us at Kapit river port. The port was filled with town folk and their cameras, the gangway lined Malayan veterans and we were treated to two displays of traditional dancing by the local children and dragon dancing. Suffice to say we were all speechless by the effort and welcome the people of Kapit extended to us.
Breakfast was at Fort Sylvia the original hub of district affairs in 1880 and we got a chance to talk with the veterans and tour some of the local history. We were intrigued to meet WO1 Jimba ak Layang who, amongst his many Malayan medals was proudly displaying his Borneo/Malaysia British Medal and his MID. He spoke enthusiastically about his trip to England to be awarded the medals. It was the first of many reminders of how much the British involvement in this campaign meant to these people and their pride in serving alongside.
From there a police escorted cavalcade took us to the extremely modern 9 story current governmental building where we enjoyed a brief and Q&A session with the District resident, District Officer, Kapit MP and members of local government and community groups. 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia and they explained how happy they were 845 NAS had chosen this year to visit Kapit.
All of us felt overawed and humbled by so much attention and it has brought the true gravity of this trip into sharp focus. Our afternoon was spent at SK Sungai Amang school where we were welcomed by Headmaster Mr John Lang. We were delighted to join the PTA and teachers in repainting an old classroom block – very sweaty work in this environment 30 Degrees and 90% humidity. A lunch of traditional Malayan fruits and snack was enthusiastically devoured by the group and was a great ”pick me up “ ahead of the evenings traditional entertainment in an IBAN long house