Jungle war veteran celebrates 95th birthday at Holbeach

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Alan Barkes is one of the last surviving paratroopers of 2810 (Parachute) Regiment.

The Holbeach man was one of a select few trained to parachute into the Malayan jungle and told to expect “bitter fighting” against the Japanese.

Alan and Lynne Barkes. Photo: SG200116-204TW

Alan and Lynne Barkes. Photo: SG200116-204TW

In the event the mission was called off when the Americans dropped the atomic bomb.

Instead, Alan, of High Street, found himself releasing Allied prisoners from the notorious Changi Jail as well as guarding Lord Louis Mountbatten’s house in Singapore.

He says now: “I had never seen anything like it in my life and never want to again. It was terrible.”

Of his own survival from jungle warfare, Alan says: “I don’t bother about it.”

What he does care about far more is that his time in 2810 (Parachute) Regiment has earned him some good friends.

One of these is Warrant Officer S Rowlands, from RAF Regiment’s official home at Honington, and he was one of 80 guests at Alan’s 95th birthday party earlier this month.

Alan’s World War 2 exploits feature in the book Never Not Ready, by Graeme Deeley. Graeme too became a friend during the eight years he spent researching the history of the RAF Regiment Parachute Units.

When Alan joined the RAF Regiment Association he was reunited with an old friend – Sgt Norman Hunt, who has since died. Norman and Alan served together for two-and-a-half years in the Far East. When Alan made first contact with a telephone call the pair hadn’t spoken for 63 years.

Both had simply left the RAF in 1946 and returned to their former lives. In Alan’s case, he couldn’t face returning to the life of a baker’s roundsman and instead took a freelance role as boxing correspondent with these newspapers.

Boxing was an interest from before the war – and during the war Alan was the 1945 Middleweight Champion for Southeast Asia.

He gave up boxing when he returned home, but while covering a fight met famous BBC boxing commentator Harry Carpenter, a meeting that grew into a friendship that lasted until Harry’s death around five years ago.

Alan also took on a job as a drinks salesman at Long Sutton with wine merchant Peetling & Cawdron, and eventually he and his first wife Mabel became manager and manageress at Long Sutton and Holbeach branches.

He and Mabel had a son, Desmond, who was four when Alan returned home from war. Desmond sadly died last year.

Alan, who eventually retired from the wine merchant business, has been married to Lynne for the past 21 years.