Military funeral held for extraordinary Northampton veteran who survived Burmese jungle
A Northampton Burma Star veteran who survived by trekking through hundreds of miles of jungle with nothing but a compass was given a military send off in the town yesterday.
Great-grandfather of six, Ronald Faulkner, died peacefully last week at Turn Furlong Care Centre in Kingsthorpe, aged 95.
Yesterday representatives from the Royal British Legion were among those attending his funeral at Holy Sepulchre Church in Sheep Street, to honour a former military man who devoted his later life to helping other veterans as local chairman of the Burma Star Association.
The eldest of his three children, Carol Jones, paid tribute to her father who lived to a grand old age against the odds, having battled with malaria and two types of plague during his service in Burma.
He later survived the war by trekking hundreds of miles through dense jungle with limited supplies.
Mrs Jones said: “A light has gone out in our lives, the glue that held us all together, but he will always be the biggest part of all of our lives.”
Mr Faulkner enlisted in the army aged 19, joining the Royal Engineers, 70th Division, attached to the Black Watch.
Shortly after basic training the young man, who went on to work as a builder for most of his life, was posted in India to help the siege of Rangoon against the Japanese.
It was here he became one of General Orde Wingate’s so-called “forgotten army,” the Chindits - a specialised force that took part in some of the most difficult actions of the war during the Burma campaign.
On his second Chindit mission the young Mr Faulkner was dropped into the Burmese jungle, where he operated deep behind enemy lines fighting the Japanese, contending with starvation, heat, mud, insects and leeches.
He suffered with malaria five times, caught two types of plague and dysentery.
He was one of around 3,000 men dropped into Burma who eventually split into groups of 200.
At one point his group were being shown how to use a compass by an officer, while most of the others were asleep.
Mrs Jones said: “For some reason he (dad) was paying attention. They were attacked and the officer was shot, many others killed or taken prisoner. He grabbed the compass and escaped with a few men that followed him as they knew that he was the only one who knew how to use it.”
Mr Faulkner had to trek hundreds of miles through hostile jungle unsupported, before eventually being returned to England. He weighed just 7 stones when he came back. Of the 200 in his group, he was one of only five who returned.
After the war Mr Faulkner, who lived in Northampton all his life, went on to wed his sweetheart Eunice, and the two spent more than 50 years together before she passed away at the turn of the 2000s.