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Auction: 24001 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
Lot: 296

'He was one of the most outstanding soldiers I have had the privilege to serve with.'

General Sir Peter Edgar de la Cour de la Billière, K.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O., M.C. & Bar, upon the death of Mundell

The remarkable 1963 Sarawak SAS operations B.E.M. group of ten awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel W. 'Bill' Mundell, Special Air Service, late King's Own Scottish Borderers

A veteran of the Korean War, Mundell joined the newly re-formed SAS in 1952 and served the unit with distinction for some 36 years; his carved his name into the modern history of the unit as a true jungle warfare specialist, leading a deep-penetrating four-month patrol into the heart of Sarawak which earned his decoration, having already earned a 'mention' for his part in the Malaya campaign

Mundell further gilded his laurels with active service in South Arabia, Dhofar and Northern Ireland, gaining the title of the 'Granddad of the Regiment', as long after retiring he was often called upon to deliver lectures and historical advice to the unit despite being well into his eighties

British Empire Medal, E.II.R., Military Division (22412520 Sgt. William Mundell, 3 Green Jackets), officially impressed naming on a pre-prepared ground, with Royal Mint case of issue; Korea 1950-53 (22412520 Pte. W. Mundell. K.O.S.B.); U.N. Korea 1950-54; General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Malaya, with M.I.D. oak leaf (22412520 Tpr. W. Mundell. S.A.S.); General Service 1962-2007, 4 clasps, Borneo, South Arabia, Dhofar, Northern Ireland (22412520 Sgt. W. Mundell. B.E.M. SAS.); Jubilee 1977; Army L.S. & G.C., E.II.R., Regular Army (22412520 W.O.Cl.2. W. Mundell. BEM. SAS.); Oman, Sultanate, Campaign Service Medal, 1 clasp, Dhofar (494881 Capt W. Mundell. BEM SAS); Oman, Sultanate, As Samood Medal (494881 Capt W. Mundell. BEM SAS); Malaysia, Pingat Jasa Medal (22412520 Sgt W. Mundell. BEM SAS) these last three with privately engraved naming, mounted court-style as worn, good very fine

B.E.M. London Gazette 21 August 1964. The original recommendation - from Lieutenant-Colonel Woodhouse, CO 22 SAS - states:

'Place - Sarawak 8 April-21 August 1963.

Patrol Commander - Sergeant Mundell commanded an SAS patrol in Sarawak close to the Kalimantan border, for a period of over four months. His outstanding personality, diplomacy, and flair for intelligence work enables him to organise a number of agents recruited from the local people and by so doing he was able to gather detailed information regarding the activities of an Indonesian Army detachment across the border in Kalimantan.

He was also able to report on the movements of a party of 26 ex-Brunei rebels at that time still in Kalimantan so that when they eventually re-crossed back into Sarawak it was mainly due to Mundell's timely warnings that nine of them were captured and a large quantity of arms and ammunition recovered.'

M.I.D. London Gazette 25 October 1955 (Malaya).

Perhaps the best introduction is offered by his Daily Telegraph obituary, published on 10 August 2020:

'Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Mundell, who has died aged 88, was awarded a British Empire Medal for his service with 22 Special Air Service Regiment in Borneo.

In 1963, during the Confrontation with Indonesia, Mundell, then a sergeant, commanded an SAS fighting patrol in Sarawak on the long, porous border with Kalimantan. He took part in a number of clandestine cross-border operations and, having a flair for intelligence work, recruited agents from the local people and gathered information about the activities of Indonesian Army detachments.

Patrols could last a fortnight. The terrain was among the most inhospitable in the world and rations, arms and equipment had to be man-packed.

William Lawrie Mundell was born at Maybole, Ayrshire, on July 1 1931. His father had been badly wounded in the First World War and young Bill was one of three brothers who all served in the Army.

While on active service in the Korean War as a National Serviceman, he was in a slit trench when a Chinese mortar round landed. It failed to explode but killed his comrade standing beside him.

In 1952 he was demobilised, but he re-enlisted and volunteered for service in Malaya with the SAS. A first-rate jungle fighter and instructor, cool under fire and fluent in the language, he was at home in the wet, disease-ridden rainforests infested with mosquitoes and leeches. He was also an expert tracker, his skills learned from jungle trackers recruited from among the Iban and Dayak peoples. “Make the jungle your friend,” was his advice to recruits.

He was one of the first to volunteer for the hazardous practice of parachuting into the jungle canopy and abseiling, often from considerable heights, to the ground. On many occasions men were killed or badly injured when they hit the trees or crashed down to the jungle floor.

For much of the 1960s the SAS was badly under strength and its workload so heavy that men frequently found themselves on multiple back-to-back tours in operational areas thousands of miles apart. Many servicemen were deployed on four-month tours in Borneo followed by two weeks’ home leave, four months in Aden and then back to Borneo.

Between 1970 and 1973, Mundell served as regimental sergeant-major of 23 SAS Regiment (TA) and saw action in Oman against Communist-backed insurgents infiltrating from nearby Yemen and attempting to overthrow the Sultanate. He also served in Northern Ireland.

He subsequently held a number of appointments in charge of training or as a senior quartermaster. In 1987, he retired in the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

He was admired and respected by all who served with him. One colleague described him as “meek and mild and made of steel”, another as “the consummate professional – everyone wanted to be in his patrol”.

A proud Scot, he was a proficient performer on the bagpipes and in retirement was a keen golfer and an active Freemason.

Bill Mundell’s wife Monica, to whom he was devoted, predeceased him, and he is survived by their son.'

It goes without saying that 'Bill' Mundell's service to the Special Air Service is nothing short of exceptional. According to the Regimental Association he was officially the longest-served soldier, having been active from 1952-88, a span of some 36 years. Such was the knowledge that he held, that in an unofficial capacity, he was often recalled to provide lectures on jungle warfare tactics and the history of the unit. Given that he was well into his eighth decade, the nickname 'granddad of the Regiment' was coined.

During his career there are far too many stories to relate in print, but the tribute by Major-General Arthur Denaro at his funeral gives a taste of the man:

'It was that steady look, and the quiet steel in his voice that made people sit up and take note, no expletives, always softly spoken, but when Bill spoke people listened, for it counted. It was not that people were frightened of him, more they were frightened of letting him down. His expertise, his quiet confidence and his hugely inspiring example, were what people responded to.

His patrol when he was Troop Sergeant, was ambushed one day, and ambushes in the jungle were always close, vicious, frantic affairs. Bill just stood his ground, calm as you like, returning fire, directing things precisely as needed, and surviving...Truly a legend, he is the Grandfather of today's SAS.'

Mundell had taken part in the Devizes-Westminster Canoe race in 1961 with the Boat Troop. He eventually took 2nd place, after choosing to stop in Reading to save the life of a person who had got into trouble and was at risk of drowning, having been in the lead at that point. As a result of this he went into training and was on course to make the next Olympic Games. Having been called into action in Aden, that was not meant to be. Mundell died on 22 February 2020 and his funeral was held at Hereford Cathedral, with over 300 former comrades and friends attending.

Sold together with the following archive comprising:

Qualification & Record Card, including his full Record of Service.

Forwarding letter for the B.E.M.

Mention in Despatches Certificate.

Jubilee 1977 Medal Certificate.

A selection of letters and documents confirming service details and Medal entitlement.

An impressive archive of photographs, understood to be widely unpublished and the good number annotated, a important source for Special Forces researchers and historians.

See The Jungle Frontier : 22 Special Air Service Regiment in the Borneo Campaign, 1963-1966 by Peter Dickens for further details.

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£40,000 to £60,000

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