WWII veteran in Remembrance Day Malaysia service

7 November 2012 Last updated at 16:14

The former RAF corporal and radar mechanic served in Burma and was part of the liberation of Penang

A World War II veteran is to travel to Malaysia to take part in a Remembrance Day ceremony.

Bob Simmons, 86, will lay a wreath at the state cenotaph alongside the British High Commissioner and the Chief Minister of Penang on Sunday.

The former RAF corporal and radar mechanic served in Burma and was part of the liberation of Penang.

The ceremony on 11 November will mark the sacrifice of soldiers in liberating the region from the Japanese.

Mr Simmons was born in Belgium but his family fled to England in 1940, just before the Dunkirk rescue, and lived in Selsey Bill on the West Sussex coast during the Battle of Britain.

'Haunting sight'

He volunteered for the RAF at the age of 17 and was sent to Burma in 1945.

In Penang, he set up a radar beacon at the airport, helping the planes which were evacuating PoWs back to the UK.

He said one of the lasting memories from his service was the haunting sight of freed Allied PoWs.

"We were evacuating those who were fit enough to travel," he said.

Mr Simmons said it would be a tremendous experience returning to the region "They had washed and been given clean uniforms but they were very emaciated and stooped. Many looked broken mentally. And these PoWs were the fitter ones."

He said: "I think the Remembrance Service in Penang will be particularly moving.

"As I get older I seem to become more emotional about the war than I used to be.

"It will be a tremendous experience returning to the region - to where I played a small part in the liberation of a country."

'Huge debt'

Mr Simmons will be making the 8,000-mile trip as part of the Big Lottery Fund's Heroes Return 2 Programme.

Big Lottery Fund chief executive Peter Wanless said today's society owed a huge debt of gratitude to the men and women who served across the world during World War II. He said: "They built the peace and protected the freedoms we enjoy today."

Mr Simmons lived in Camberley, Surrey, and Teddington, south west London, before his recent move to France.

He now divides his time between living in Toulouse and staying with his family in Tonbridge, Kent.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20241483

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