Airman laid to rest - 60 years after jungle death

Corporal Philip Bryant
Corporal Philip Bryant
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FOR 60 years Corporal Philip Bryant’s family never knew his final resting place.

But now the air dispatcher, who fought for the SAS in the Second World War, can finally have a proper burial.

Cpl Bryant, 25, from Lee-on-the-Solent, was killed when his Dakota aircraft plunged into a jungle ravine during the Malaya emergency.

The thick jungle surrounding the crash site meant the bodies of the 13 people on board could not be recovered, with a rescue party having to bury the men at the scene.

The plane wreckage laid untouched for almost 60 years in the jungle of Gua Musang before a joint Malaysian and British military task force went in search of the remains in 2008.

It took them a year to find the crashed plane and the makeshift graves of its crew before tracking down any surviving relatives.

Cpl Bryant’s sister Sheila Tebbett, 73, told The News: ‘I find it very emotional. I don’t want him to have died in vain. I’m happy he and his colleagues can finally be laid to rest. It has been a long time. It has given me a bit more faith in everything after all these years.

‘It would have been a shame to have just let it all fade away.’

Sheila was born in Lee-on-the-Solent with her brother after their family moved to escape the London bombings.

She added: ‘I was about 13 when he died. It was tragic.

‘He had come home from the war and we were all absolutely delighted. He was a lovely man. He was tall, dark and handsome. But there was no work so he joined the Royal Army Service Corps.

‘We got a telegram to say he was missing and believed killed. Then we got another one to say he was killed.

‘My dad gave up and he died; the news killed him.’

Cpl Bryant’s aircraft was on a mission dropping smoke markers to act as targets for Lincoln bombers at the height of the communist insurgency in the then Malaya.

The Dakota KN630 aircraft left RAF Changi, in Singapore, on the morning of August 25, 1950. It made a successful first run, dropping two markers in a clearing in the jungle.

But on a second attempt, the plane failed to clear the ground and crashed into a ravine.

Days later a search party found the wreck site and the remains of those on board.

Under threat of attack, the men decided to bury the bodies at the crash site.

Cpl Bryant and the other crewmen are now to be given a full military burial at the Commonwealth military burial ground in Kuala Lumpur.

The MoD has paid for Mrs Tebbett to attend the service.

Corporal’s sister tracked down after appeal

IT WAS a coincidence that led to Corporal Bryant’s family finally hearing of his discovery.

His sister, Sheila Tebbett, was tracked down by an old school friend while on a rare visit to see family in Gosport.

A television report had aired an appeal for Cpl Bryant’s relatives to come forward for DNA testing to help identify his remains.

The appeal was spotted by a friend who had not spoken to Mrs Tebbett in 50 years but still recognised Cpl Bryant after all that time.

Mrs Tebbett, who now lives in Spain, said: ‘It was such a coincidence.

‘She heard them asking on the TV for anyone who knew my brother.

‘She remembered what happened to my brother very well and the day my mother got the telegram to say he had been killed.

‘They sent me information and it all went from there.’