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John is honoured for bravery

DAMHA resident John Sands has finally been honoured for his bravery – 50 years after putting his life on the line in the name of Queen and Country.

John, 68, was among a group of 40 North East veterans who recently received the Pingat Jasa Malaysia – Malaysian Service Medal – which was handed to former servicemen in recognition of their bravery defending the country’s independence from terrorists.

He received his medal from Brigadier General Othman Bin Jamal, of the Malaysian High Commission, at a special ceremony at Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club.

The Brigadier General said: “It is our gesture to honour the sacrifice and contribution made by all the veterans to the Government and people of Malaysia to ensure we now live in peace and harmony.”

After becoming independent in 1957, Malaysia still faced a serious threat from guerrilla soldiers working on behalf of the Malayan Communist Party and asked for help from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

John, who lives in Coronation Homes, Esh Winning, was one of the British soldiers sent to defend the country. He served in the Royal Green Jackets, now known as the Rifles.

He said: “We saw plenty of action out there but we didn’t think about, we were just doing our bit for our country.

“It was very generous of the Malaysian government to recognise the efforts and sacrifice some of the soldiers made.”

Awarded in 2006, British veterans were permitted to accept the medal but initially forbidden to wear it. Campaigners fought to have that decision overturned in 2007 and volunteers have since organised ceremonies throughout the country to hand out the honours.