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This is why we need to address an injustice
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Post This is why we need to address an injustice 
I received this very moving entry on my RAF Forum today, I have permission from Hilary to repost it here

I am the daughter of Flt Lt Michael Morling who served in Singapore during the early 1960s. Sadly, he lost his life in a Twin Pioneer Crash in Feb 1963 in the jungle in Sarawak. To cut a very long story shore, four years ago, we found the crash site and I attach below an account. Sorry if it is a bit long but I think it is worth 'wading' through! I would love to hear from anyone who knew my father, or who has any recollection of what happened. Here is my email address: With very best wishes. Hilary

In 1963 I was a 9 year old girl living with my parents, younger brother and sister in Singapore. My 31 year old father, Flt Lt Michael Morling, was a navigator with the Royal Air Force which, at that time, was involved in the conflict which was to become known as the Confrontation.

Early in the morning of February 14th, his Twin Pioneer aircraft left the RAF airfield on the small island of Labuan to search over the jungle in the state of Sarawak for missing servicemen. He never returned and my mother was informed that his aircraft had crashed the cause unknown. The crash site was in dense jungle area, approx 5 miles north of the small village of Long Semado, north Sarawak. The day after the crash, an SAS patrol reached the site but reported no survivors. No further efforts were made to recover the bodies presumably because of the density of the jungle and the turbulence of war.

Throughout my life since that time, I have always felt a sense of unfinished business. It felt too easy not to investigate further not to at least try to say goodbye to my father properly. As I have got older, this feeling has not diminished but rather grown. Perhaps, as a 50 year old, one becomes more aware of the passing of time; ones own mortality and the importance of acting now, rather than later.

Over the last four years, this personal journey has moved forward and much has been achieved. As you will see, the element of fate and coincidence has played a large part in my quest.

One such coincidence involved a chance meeting in our local pub four years ago with a fellow tennis club player Mike Nolan. This was the first time my husband and I had spoken in depth with Mike (a retired army Colonel) and we discovered that he had served in Singapore during the early sixties. A further coincidence was that Mikes wife Poh Tee comes from a small town in Sarawak (Lawas) not far from the area of the crash site. Mike kindly undertook to investigate further the events surrounding the crash, and subsequently presented me with extracts from the logbook at RAF Labuan, amongst other items. Mike was in contact with his relatives in Lawas and also corresponded with the local headman of the district who remembered the crash and had visited the site. As a result of Mikes work, we were able to pin point the general area of the crash.

In February of 2004, after some serious planning, my husband, two daughters and I finally arrived in Lawas. Much had happened in the four weeks leading up to our visit. The Assistant District Commissioner had asked a local man, Jamieson Taie, to search the general area. Jamieson had found substantial parts of the aircraft in a tributary of the River Lupong. It confirmed our thoughts that the aircraft had crashed into a hillside and then fallen into the river below. Over the years, various aircraft parts had travelled downstream, which is where Jamieson had found them. Mike had been in Sarawak for 3 weeks and, at this point, had actually visited the crash site.

After spending a night in Lawas and meeting up with Mike and Poh Tees relatives, we drove for 4 hours in a 4 x 4 from Lawas through the jungle to meet up with Jamieson Taie. A further journey of an hour with Jamieson took us to the nearest place the vehicle could get to. We then climbed down, through the jungle growth, to the spot where Jamieson had pulled part of the aircraft out of the river. It was the undercarriage Jamieson had cleared an area next to the river and erected a stand upon which the undercarriage lay. A very sad moment for us all to actually see this mangled piece of my fathers aircraft.

We decided to travel upriver to see if there was anything further to find. It was quite dangerous at times - climbing over large slippery boulders and then wading through waist high water. We reached the base of a cliff side which rose out the river and above the trees. It was against this cliff that my fathers aircraft had crashed, before falling into the river below. Nothing further was found and we eventually climbed out up through the undergrowth, back to the road.

We drove onto the village of Long Semado and met up with Mike. We all stayed with the head teacher of the school there; met the children and enjoyed the warmth and friendliness of the people of this village.

The next day, we met with the headman of the village of Long Semadoh Rayeh Mr Padam Ating. Mr Ating had been part of the search party who first reached the site of the crash. He showed us round the village we were made very welcome in this small hamlet in the middle of the jungle and the villagers were fascinated with our blond twin daughters! We met other villagers who had also been part of the search party. One of the gentlemen was quite elderly and when he realised who were, he became quite upset. It was very moving to meet him. Over the years, the villagers have salvaged parts of the aircraft. A gas cylinder retrieved from the site has hung for over 40 years from the balcony of the headmans house and he uses it as a bell to call the people from this small village to church. . Two substantial wing parts are now loo doors I think that would have appealed to my fathers sense of humour!

Back in the UK, further coincidences were to follow. On the RAF website, one can visit and leave a message it is a sort of Friends Reunited for the RAF. Before leaving for Sarawak, I had left a message explaining what I was planning to do and invited anyone who was involved with this event, or who knew my father, to contact me. Fourteen months later, I received an email from Alan Johnson Air Vice Marshal RAF Rtd. Alan was at that time the senior doctor with the SAS in Borneo - he had been on the helicopter flying behind my fathers aircraft and had watched it go down. He returned to base and then, together with other members of an SAS team, made a long and dangerous, journey to return through the jungle to the crash site to see if there were any survivors. There were none and, to Alans tremendous sadness, it was not possible to bring back the remains for burial. He had seen my message on the RAF website and made contact as he is planning to return to the site. Four months ago, we finally met and Alan explained in detail what had happened that day back in 1963. It was an emotional meeting for us both as we spoke of our experiences.

Two days after hearing from Alan, a further email arrived from a teacher in Long Semado. She wrote to tell me that three representatives from the British High Commission in KL had visited the area, looking for the crash site. She gave me the email details and I then contacted Lieutenant Commander Martin Davis upon his return to KL. He was amazed when he heard about our adventure. He plans to investigate further, hopefully to arrange for a memorial site for the crash victims.

Whilst this is, in the main, a personal quest, there are many aspects which would be of interest to a wider audience. The element of coincidence is fascinating the link between a chance meeting in a pub in Woolton Hill in 2001 and the jungle of Borneo in 1963. The use of the internet to bring together people who played a part in this story over 40 years ago.

Of course, there is an ecological interest too. This whole area of the jungle has been opened up with the logging activities. From the locals perspective, the new roads represent an easier life a journey which used to take them days can be achieved in a few hours. To be fair, the loggers helped us too with our quest, as we were able to travel relatively easily along these massive dusty roads from Lawas to the crash site and onto Long Semado. Along the way, we were overtaken many times by huge noisy lorries carrying enormous loads and we saw vast areas of jungle decimated by the tree felling with no sign of re-planting and re-generation. The locals seem unaware of the worldwide interest in the ecological damage but even they speak of changes to their climate over the last 10 years due to the destruction of great swathes of jungle vegetation.

Finally, there is a topical element to this story a war fought by our soldiers in a far away country. Perhaps the wider audience might be interested in more information concerning the Confrontation, which must be a war unknown to most people in the UK. I believe that it is the policy of the UK to bury their war dead where they fall and consequently the War Graves Commission and the relevant British High Commissions play a very important role in situations like this. The potential now, with the help of the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, is to bring this story to its proper end at the very least, a memorial site to the crash victims.


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