KUCHING: The Iban war hero Sjn Datuk Awang Raweng was laid to rest with military honours at the Heroes Grave here on Monday (Sept 21).
Awang, who was the nation's sole recipient of the George Cross gallantry award from the British government, passed away at the age of 91 in Sri Aman on Friday (Sept 18).
His remains were brought to the Civic Centre here on Sunday (Sept 20) for a state funeral before the burial.
Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, who gave the eulogy, said Awang was a hero in every sense who lived up to the Iban war cry "Agi idup agi ngelaban" (As long as I live, I shall fight).
He said Awang belonged to a group of elite Iban trackers who served during the Malayan Emergency.
"He served in Malaya before being posted to the Worcestershire Regiment in December 1950. It was during his stint with this regiment that he was involved in firefights that led to him being awarded the George Cross for gallantry.
"He had shown immense courage and bravery during a firefight with communists on May 27,1951, in Johor," Uggah said.
He added that Awang was a family man and visionary who believed in the importance of education.
After retiring from the military, he returned to his longhouse in Nanga Skrang where he remained the headman until 2018.
"He saw the need for the younger generation to have a good education and donated part of his land for the expansion of a nearby school, SK Nanga Skrang.
"His demise is a tremendous loss to our nation. We have lost an illustrious hero who sacrificed selflessly for his country and a family man who gave back to his community, without expecting anything in return," Uggah said.
Awang received the George Cross, Britain's highest civilian award, on Nov 20,1951, for saving the life of an injured British soldier despite being shot himself during an ambush by about 50 communists.
According to the citation, he disregarded his own wound to defend the injured soldier and drove off several attacks from the communists, even defying them with a live grenade in his hand.
Also present at the funeral was British High Commission defence adviser Group Captain Simon Hindmarsh, who conveyed condolences and respects on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II and the British government.
He described Awang as a "tremendously courageous soldier" who displayed incredible bravery in 1951.
"Once we heard of the passing of Sjn Awang yesterday (Sept 20), this became the absolute top priority for me to come over to Sarawak to pay my respects and condolences, not just personally but on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, who has met Awang on several occasions," he said.
Meanwhile, the army's Eastern Field commander Lt-Jen Datuk Mohd Zakaria Yadi said Awang was buried with full military honours.
"On behalf of the Armed Forces, I would like to convey my condolences to the family as well as appreciation for his service to the country," he said.
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