Leeds man’s Malayan war memories in print

Denis Mattinson.
Denis Mattinson.
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Oold soldier Denis Mattinson has never forgotten his experiences during the Malayan Emergency.

It was an event much closer to home, however, that inspired him to write a novel set against the backdrop of the conflict in south-east Asia.

Retired gamekeeper Denis, 73, from Methley, was among dozens of veterans who received medals from the Malaysian government in a ceremony at the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds in 2008.

And, after the ceremony, he decided to put pen to paper as a way of reminding people about a conflict that some feel has been airbrushed from history.

The completed book is called The War That Never Was and weaves a comic tale of fictional characters and events around real-life military camps and other locations.

Grandfather-of-four Denis, who was in Malaya with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers from 1957 to 1960, said: “When I received my medal, I thought it would be a good idea to put down my recollections of Malaya.

“With it being called an emergency, rather than a war, I don’t think the people who served in it – and particularly those who lost their lives – have got the recognition they deserve.

“I also forged a lot of good friendships and had plenty of happy experiences while I was out there, so that’s why I decided to go down the comic fiction route.”

Nearly 2,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers died during the Malayan Emergency of 1948 to 1960.

Around 100,000 men were involved in the effort to counter a communist insurgency in Malaya, at the time part of the British Empire.

The conflict was classed as an ‘emergency’ because British owners of the country’s rubber plantations and tin mines were not insured for losses in wartime.

Malaya eventually gained independence from Britain and later joined with other colonies to form what is today known as Malaysia.

Denis’s book costs £7.95, with £1 from each copy bought going to the Royal British Legion.

It can be ordered by calling 01977 515518. Purchases can also be made from Russell News on Carlton Street in Castleford or the Rivers Meet cafe and Bits and Pieces store, both in Methley.

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