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Director Joint Warfare visit strengthens UK-Malaysia partnership

Strategic Command’s Director Joint Warfare, Rear Admiral Andrew Betton, has visited the Malaysian Joint Headquarters with the British Defence Attaché Captain Tony Stockbridge to help maintain and develop the bilateral relationship with Malaysia and our key partners in the Five Powers Defence Arrangements (FPDA). This important defence partnership has sustained close military ties for over 50 years between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

With a Headquarters in Butterworth in north-western Malaysia, the FDPA’s Integrated Area Defence System permanent staff is formed by personnel from all five nations, including six UK officers. Admiral Betton visited the HQ, meeting with UK staff and the current Commander, Air Vice Marshal Geoffrey Harland Royal Australian Air Force alongside his successor, Air Vice Marshal Nathan Christie. AVM Harland reflected on the vital contribution of the UK permanent staff, as well as those augmentees and force elements deployed to support FPDA activities, especially during the annual Exercise BERSAMA LIMA.

Joint activity including combat air simulations, jungle warfare training, beach landings and coordinated naval gunfire support.

While in Malaysia, Admiral Betton also attended the opening of a new memorial to mark the momentous sinking of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales off the coast of Malaya on 10 Dec 1941 alongside the Agong (King) of Malaysia.

Unveiling of new memorial for HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, sunk in December 1941.

The striking monument, which incorporates the kedge anchor from one of the ships, looks out over the South China Sea from Kuantan on the east coast, commemorating the 840 souls who went down with their ships following a devastating air attack.

In the presence of the Agong, Admiral Betton led the commemoration, supporting the British High Commissioner Ailsa Terry and an honour guard from HMS Spey. The ceremony was also attended by the Malaysian Chief of Defence Staff, General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Hj Affendi bin Buang, accompanied by all of the Service Chiefs. The star of the show, however, was undoubtedly Mrs Henrietta Wood, the granddaughter of Captain John Leach (Prince of Wales) who was lost in the action but survived by his son, Henrietta’s father, Midshipman Henry Leach, who remained in Singapore as the ships put to sea. The loss of his father spurred Henry towards an extraordinary career marked by unwavering self-sacrifice and sense of duty, culminating in his appointment as First Sea Lord during the Falklands War, as Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Leach. Sir Henry died in 2011, but would have celebrated his 100th birthday last month.

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