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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Malaya veterans in fresh campaign
By Cameron Buttle
BBC Scotland

Veterans who fought in Malaya in the 1950s are fighting for the right to wear a medal for their service.

Fifty years on, the Malaysian Government wants to honour the British servicemen with the medal but military regulations state that the soldiers cannot wear it.

Viv Sharp

It was a war in everything but name. The Malayan Emergency, as it became known, was a bitter conflict fought against hardened ethnic Chinese communists.

Eventually the British, Malayan and Commonwealth forces pushed the communists back far into the jungle, finally ending the conflict in 1960.

But 2,500 soldiers had died and for many young national servicemen from Scotland, their lives would never be the same again.

BBC Scotland met three veterans in Melrose. It was obvious that Ogilvie Dickson, Donald Fairgrieve and Viv Sharp shared a bond few others would ever experience.

Their conversation was easy, the memories clear, the laughter frequent.

But as they flicked through old photographs of the happier times 50 years and thousands of miles away, the significance of the medal became clear.

"A medal means an awful lot to a serviceman," said Ogilvie.

We are determined to get this medal unfortunately we are having to fight another campaign to get it
Ogilvie Dickson
Veteran

"He's been involved in a campaign and just to wear the results of that campaign in the form of a medal, it makes him a proud man."

It was the time of Korea and Vietnam, Malaya became known as the forgotten war. But it was vicious fighting in harsh and deadly conditions.

Viv Sharp is typical of his generation in playing down the tough times.

He said: "Coming from Scotland, to go way over to those really bad conditions was so unusual for us then. When you got into those swamps, it really wasn't very nice. But you just had to get on with it."

Sitting next to Viv, Donald nodded in agreement. "It was miserable work out there in the jungle. It was very real and we saw people die."

But he added with a smile: "We usually made up for it in Singapore though."

As they continued to recall names of friends and strange places, it was clear the bond forged in the jungle went much further than the three of them.

The Malayan Emergency
British servicemen fought against ethnic Chinese communists

Hundreds have signed up for the fight for the medal. It was also clear their lives were forever changed by the jungle.

"I think about Malaya every day of my life. We all do. I think I always will," said Donald.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the British servicemen were unable to wear the medal being offered because it breached current rules. Those rules are now under review and a decision is expected in a few weeks time.

Ogilvie added: "Being an ex-soldier, we never say no. We are determined to get this medal.

"Unfortunately we are having to fight another campaign to get it but I am confident we are going to win."

The attention turned to Viv, the only man who could remember a poem written deep in the jungle in a war fought thousands of miles away by a Scottish soldier, still proud of the part he played.

With some promoting and cajoling, Viv eventually agreed to recite 'Base Camp'.


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