Veterans defy ban to wear medals

PROUD veterans defied a Foreign Office ban yesterday when they wore medals presented for service in Asia.Former servicemen attended a ceremony in the Bell Garden of Colchester's Castle Park to honour those who fought and died in Malaya and Borneo.

PROUD veterans defied a Foreign Office ban yesterday when they wore medals presented for service in Asia.

Former servicemen attended a ceremony in the Bell Garden of Colchester's Castle Park to honour those who fought and died in Malaya and Borneo.

They unveiled a memorial to colleagues who lost their lives in what is often described as the “forgotten war” between 1948 and 1966.

About 40 veterans were also presented with the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) medal - which is offered to Commonwealth forces who served in Malaya during its fight to preserve its newly-won independence between 1957 and 1966.


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The awards marked the end of many years campaigning from veterans of the war for an official medal in recognition of their efforts.

The PJM medals have been the source of much controversy because under archaic British laws dating back more than 100 years.

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And although the Queen eventually approved the giving out of the medals, the veterans still do not have Her Majesty's permission to wear them.

Despite that, the veterans, including John Cooper, from Kesgrave, proudly displayed their medals at the service.

Mr Cooper, 67, an RAF veteran, collected his medal and a posthumous one for his father, Joseph, who served at the same time in Singapore and Malaya.

Speaking afterwards, he said the campaign to officially wear the PJM would continue.

“We are not allowed to wear these medals at all as the Queen has not given permission. We presented a petition to her back in June but are still awaiting confirmation from the Commonwealth Office,” he said.

“I think it is a dishonour to the 519 colleagues that never made it back.”

More than 10 different regiments were represented as veterans received their medals from the Malayan representative Colonel Razef Idris.

Major John Lilley, the Colchester president of the Malaya and Borneo Veterans Association, told the hundreds gathered it was a “quite historic day”.

Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, who unveiled the memorial, said successful operations like the one in between 1957 and 1966 had been one of the only outright victories for conventional forces against guerrilla tactics.

Afterwards Colonel Idris said the servicemen and women were seen as “heroes” in his home country.

Colchester branch project manager Russell Dick successfully secured £5,000 funding for the project thanks to a host of donations including money from serving soldiers and veterans.

The memorial stone was donated by Christopher Lilley, son of Major Lilley, and local stonemason Aaron Clark undertook the engraving and installation.

A Foreign Office spokesman said changes had been made to long-standing rules to allow the medals to be presented.

But he added: “Permission to wear the PJM will not, however, formally be given.

“It is long-standing Government policy that non-British medals will not be approved for events or service that took place more than five years before initial consideration, or in connection with events that took place in the distant past, if the recipient has received a British award for the same service.”

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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