SIMANGGANG: The demise of ‘Bujang Berani’ Datuk (Sergeant) Awang Raweng is a great loss for the country.
Awang was the only Malaysian to be awarded the George Cross medal by the British government for his bravery against communists insurgents in 1951.
While the aura of the 57th Malaysia Day celebration is still in the air, the country is shocked by the loss of the hero. He was pronounced dead around 2pm yesterday at his residence in Taman Padri here.
The body is expected to be brought to Kuching today for burial at the Heroes Memorial in Taman Budaya.
On Friday evening (Sept 18), a team of soldiers from the 13th Royal Malay Regiment (RMR) Pakit Camp helped with the necessary arrangements at the late Awang’s residence.
Last July 22 in connection with Sarawak Day, Awang’s story entitled ‘Diserang hendap 50 komunis’ (Ambushed by 50 communists) was published by Suara Sarawak.
After that, for Malaysia Day, the New Sarawak Tribune shared the same story entitled ‘Remembering George Cross recipient’s sacrifices’.
President of the Rangers Corps Veterans Association (PVTKR) Sri Aman, Sergeant (B) Empati Untol, said Awang wanted everything he uttered to be recorded for posterity.
“I was told to record all the stories that came out of his mouth before he died,” recalled Empati.
“He said after his death, nothing can be used as reference. We would only hear stories told by others, but no longer from the mouth of the hero himself.”
When this writer met him, Awang’s condition was already bad due to his age and illness. He was weak and he could not communicate well as he was in bed and only ate soft-textured food such as porridge.
In the last four years of his life, his health deteriorated due to pneumonia.
Still, it was amazing to see him when he was requested dress up for a photo opportunity wearing all his medals. It made him excited and in high spirit.
Although he could no longer handle a weapon, but his prowess as a soldier was quite obvious.
For the record, Awang was 104 years old (some say he was 91) and had been married three times.
From his first marriage, he was blessed with a son named Maling, who is now 72 years old. After that, he had two children – Doris and Punai – from his second marriage.
The last marriage with a woman named Sima, he had six children – Menaul, Kenyalang (died two years ago), Douglas, Panggau, Giok (died at the age of three) and Lily.
As an Iban tracker, he first went to Malaya in December 1950 and was absorbed into the Worcestershire Regiment based in Kluang, Johor.
His service as a scout began on Jan 1, 1951 for a period of six months.
Shot for violating taboo
Awang believed that his accidental contact with blood while rescuing Private G. Hughes in a battle on May 27, 1951 caused him to be shot by an enemy.
This happened when 10th Platoon, Company D, First Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment was ambushed by about 50 communist terrorists in a Kluang forest. Several British soldiers were killed and some were seriously injured while the rest retreated to their camp for help leaving Awang alone with his injured friend.
As Hughes was moaning down in an exposed position after being injured in the knee, Awang rushed straight out of hiding and pulled him to safety.
In doing so, Awang was covered in Hughes’ blood. After that, he was hit by two shots each in the groin and arm. During the fight, Awang shot five terrorists to death.
For his bravery he was awarded the George Cross medal on Nov 20, 1951. After that, he was invited once every two years to London to attend the birthday celebration of Queen Elizabeth II as a guest of honour, thus attending the reunion programme of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.
Apart from the George Cross medal, Awang was also awarded the Panglima Setia Bintang Sarawak by the Sarawak government in 2018, Pingat Jasa Malaysia in 2011, General Service Medal in 1918, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal in 1953.
He has also been conferred an honorary master’s degree in education strategy by Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia in 2015.