55 Coy RASC (AD). 10 December 1956

On 10 December 1956, Bristol Freighter NZ5901 of 41 Sqn RNZAF was tasked for a supply drop in the Cameron Highlands area. As well as the Aircrew and 55 Coy Despatchers, there was a film crew of two from the Malayan Film Unit on board. In poor visibility, the aircraft accidentally entered the Sekam River Valley where it crashed near the top of a steep ridge.

The wreckage was found some four hours later, but the the weather prevented a rescue party being landed. An SAS patrol was eventually inserted in to the jungle some 2000 yards from the crash site. Patrols of 4 Royal Malay Regiment also set off to the crash site. The rescue parties found the wreckage spread over a wide area and the evidence of a fierce fire. It was thought that there could be no survivors. The SAS patrol left the scene, but the Malay regiment and their trackers remained in the area.

Someone noticed what could possibly be a shelter near the wreckage, and a search ensued. A few days later a track was discovered down the slope and another shelter found some 1000 yards from the crash site. The search continued and two more shelters were found. Four more shelters were found and it was apparent the the track was following a stream. Twelve days after the crash a ragged person was spotted by the stream. This turned out to be Dvr Tommy Lee, one of the Despatchers He had burned hands and a broken ankle. A helicopter was summoned to lift him out of the jungle and to hospital at BMH Kinrara.

Tommy Lee
Tommy Lee after
leaving Hospital

Tommy related that he had been sitting in his seat, and suddenly found himself under a tree in the jungle. He salvaged some Gurkha ration packs from the wreckage and stayed near the wreckage for two days before setting off to try to find his way out. By the time he was found he had managed to travel seven miles through difficult terrain. Dvr Lee was awarded a ‘Mentioned in Despatches’, and given his death certificate.

The men who died were:-

When 41 Sqn was disbanded in 1977, a formation of Freighters was flown over the crash site, and a wreath was dropped.

Cpl Malcolm Waters’ son Peter, who was two years old at the time of the crash, received an Elizabeth Cross for his father at a ceremony in Peterborough in 2010.

British Pathé newsreel of Tommy Lee arriving at Lyneham, 1957.