Book Review Borneo Boys
‘Borneo Boys – RAF Helicopter Pilots in Action – Indonesian Confrontation 1962-66’ written by Roger Annett was published in January 2013 and launched at the RAF Museum, and is available on www.amazon.co.uk and www.pen-and-sword.co.uk.
The author, Roger Annett, experienced first-hand the events detailed here. Flying with 215 Sqn, and co-piloting Argosy transport aircraft deep over Malayan jungle terrain from 1963 to 65, he is well placed to provide a colourful account of this dramatic period. Following a reunion of RAF Whirlwind veterans of Borneo, Annett began work on this record of their collective experience, attempting to stir the memories of both war veterans and civilians alike, riveted by the drama as it played out by opposing forces attempting to control the island of Borneo. The book describes the oppositions, antagonisms, victories, and defeats experienced on the island. Borneo itself, with its difficult terrain, jungles, and lack of adequate road networks, proved to be one of the biggest challenges from a military perspective, and it is brought to life here. The story of the ‘Borneo Boys’ of the title traces a journey from new recruits at boot camp to flying training, and on to Borneo itself. It was here where a fraternal bond was to be forged to last a lifetime and provide an impetus for this book. The process of Theatre familiarization – jungle training, nursing Whirlwind 10s over and around the mountainous Malayan jungle – is recorded here with first-hand authenticity. Setting this journey in context, Annett fills out the history of the wider conflict in which the boys were embroiled. The Far East colonial tensions which bred antagonism and ultimately led to the conflict are detailed, as are the cross-border raids and riots which bred a fever of revolt. Much is written already on the Borneo conflict, a lot of it dealing with the politics of the situation. This book swoops its focus on the young men who were called upon to fly over such confusion, far away from home. It is their daily adventures, camaraderie, and learning trajectory which we are faced with. All the excitement of the Aviator’s adrenalin ride is translated into eloquent prose, strengthened by the kind of confident delivery that only a man involved in such proceedings could achieve.