LANGHOLM ex-soldier Colin Turnbull has made a round trip of 25,000 miles to meet colleagues from more than 50 years ago.
The sprightly 75-year-old travelled with his wife Louvain from their home in West Australia to Peebles for the reunion dinner of Malayan veterans who served with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
Colin was a teenager in his home town of Langholm when he was called up and sent east to tackle Communist insurgents.
Afterwards he went to Australia where he was a policeman until he retired 15 years ago.
The former National Serviceman commented: “It is a long way to come but there’s a camaraderie with the chaps which is quite unique and it’s just fantastic to catch up with them. It’s as if you’d never been away.”
He previously rekindled friendships when he joined his former mates when they travelled to Malaysia to visit their old camps and recall the days spent together in the steamy jungles. Their efforts helped win the battle to form the independent country of Malaysia.When he heard of plans for the reunion dinner at Peebles, he couldn’t resist making the trip.
He said: “It’s hard to explain, but you are getting together with mates you knew all those years ago in circumstances in which you experienced many hardships together and in which our lives depended on each other.”
So will there be another reunion dinner for him? “The older you get, the trip seems to get longer,” he said. “Let’s say we’ll just play it by ear, but never say never again.”
This, the sixth dinner, was attended by almost 250 people. They began following the publication of a chronicle, The Malayan Emergency between 1955 and 1958, by the late Josh White of Annan.
He had summed up the posting: “On some nights, when the air became foul and there was an unspoken contagion of spiritual dread, we were all little boys again, alone and lost in the dark.”
The man behind the dinners is Ogilvie Dickson, from Melrose, who acknowledges the old saying that old soldiers never die but simply fade away.
But he stresses that in this case, they are going from strength to strength with the numbers this year greater than before.
He commented: “It’s a great reflection on the enthusiasm that exists – the bond is tremendous. You’ve got to remember that 50 or 60 years ago, there wasn’t the extensive worldwide travel there is today and many of us had never been out of the country. So serving in Malaya as young soldiers left an enormous impact and a loyalty with each other. It’s great to retell the stories of the past.
“It’s amazing just how many and how far some have come for the dinner and as for the future, well, as long as we are privileged to have good health, I see no end to it because the enthusiasm is there.”