Tales of SAS and bear are sure bet for Jerry

Middleton Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - NEAL KEEL­ING

HE was trained to kill with the most fa­mous reg­i­ment in the world.

But Mid­dle­ton’s Jerry Mulc­ahy’s softer side played a part in the le­gend of the SAS B Squadron’s bear.

The se­cret of the bear paw on the elite unit’s in­signia dates back 60 years af­ter he parachuted into the Malayan jun­gle, broke his back... and ended up be­ing fos­ter dad to a honey bear cub.

The 1958 hush-hush mis­sion to quell an upris­ing went painfully wrong for Jerry, but he was still to play a part in a reg­i­ment folk­lore.

The 82-year-old wid­ower, who has six grand­chil­dren and eight great grand­chil­dren, said: “I was in the Paras at 17 and then trans­ferred to SAS af­ter pass­ing se­lec­tion which as every­one knows is tough.

“I did six and a half years with the SAS be­fore be­ing med­i­cally dis­charged thanks to hit­ting a tree 200ft up and this rot­ten branch snap­ping.

“When I was even­tu­ally res­cued I was taken to base camp on a home­made stretcher aboard a he­li­copter. It was found my back was bro­ken.

“To cheer me up a bloke called Tommo (Trooper Peter Thomp­son) handed me the bear cub which was not much more than six inches long that he’d found aban­doned for safe keep­ing.”

Trooper Thomp­son had found the bear hid­ing in a hole while on pa­trol and adopted it as na­tives warned its mother would kill it af­ter hav­ing con­tact with hu­mans. He and Jerry then looked af­ter Chief­tan, with him even ac­com­pa­ny­ing them to drink­ing dens in Kuala Lumpur.

Jerry added: “I was in a lot of pain in a corset. The bear, which we called Chief­tan af­ter the jun­gle op­er­a­tion, cheered me up no end as I tried to get bet­ter. He raised our spir­its at a dan­ger­ous time.

“There is no way he could re­turn to the wild be­cause he’d have been re­jected as he had been touched by hu­mans. He’d sleep with me like a real life-teddy bear, eat por- ridge or what­ever we were hav­ing, be­lieve it or not shower with the lads – and go for lit­tle walks around the camp like a pet dog.

“Once we were out on pa­trol and there was a big fuss be­cause some­one had bro­ken ra­dio si­lence to re­port that Chief­tan must be pin­ning for Jerry be­cause we had been away from base camp for so long. I can’t imag­ine what the en­emy thought of that mes­sage, prob­a­bly only con­fused them!

“Chief­tan did start get­ting out of con­trol as he got big­ger be­cause it wasn’t of course nat­u­ral for a bear to live in a camp with sol­diers. He was get­ting the best med­i­cal care and be­cause he was so pop­u­lar there were at­tempts to have him made into the of­fi­cial SAS mascot.

“But sadly he died of pneu­mo­nia. But he’s not been for­got­ten at our head­quar­ters in Here­ford where pho­to­graphs of Chief­tan en­joy pride of place in the bar and SAS me­tal lapel badges were made fea­tur­ing a bear paw. That very spe­cial bear is part of the reg­i­ment’s his­tory. “

The story has made Jerry some­thing of a le­gend in his own right at his lo­cal book­ies at Kirk­way, Mid­dle­ton.

His ad­ven­tures with the Spe­cial Air Ser­vice – motto Who Dares Wins - were taken with a pinch of salt amongst his punter pals.

But then he brought in a cher­ished pho­to­graph of him and Chief­tan and was nom­i­nated by Bet­fred staff as the cus­tomer of the month as part of the bookie’s 50 an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions.

“There was only go­ing to be one win­ner and who is go­ing to ar­gue with the SAS?”, said Bet­fred boss Fred Done, who en­sured Jerry was handed £100 in free bets as well as free brews for life at the shop where he was suc­cess­fully nom­i­nated for the award by deputy man­ager Claire Haynes.

Fred added: “You hear all kinds of fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries from our pun­ters but Jerry’s der­ring-do is part of SAS folk­lore. I doff my hat to him. ”

Af­ter leav­ing the SAS, Jerry’s hero­ics con­tin­ued when he saved the life of a seven-year-old boy from drown­ing while serv­ing in the Rhode­sian fire ser­vice. Non-smoker Jerry, who went on to run a fish and chip shop at Mos­ton Lane, Mid­dle­ton near his home keeps him­self in trim af­ter a triple by-pass op­er­a­tion by cut­ting out red meat and al­co­hol.

Bet­fred’s Claire said: “He told us and every­one else who would lis­ten about this real-life bear in the jun­gle that had been adopted by his reg­i­ment. He must have sensed he needed proof that this was no tall tale so brought in the amaz­ing pho­to­graphs.”

Jerry’s daugh­ter Mandy added: “He’s had a very in­ter­est­ing and ex­cit­ing life and he’s still busy read­ily vol­un­teer­ing to run all his grand­chil­dren and great grand­chil­dren around.”

Chief­tan’s role in the unit was chron­i­cled and found by two B Squadron vet­er­ans go­ing through the ar­chives.

In his hon­our, they de­cided to use a bear mo­tif on mem­o­ra­bilia for the squadron, whose vet­er­ans in­clude Andy McNab and Chris Ryan, two of the eight-man team who took part in the failed Iraq mis­sion, Bravo Two Zero - which later be­came a book and film.

The bear paw ap­pears on ties and cuff links pre­sented to for­mer mem­bers and other items.

Jerry Mulc­ahy, with Claire Haynes, deputy man­ager at Bet­fred book­ies in Mid­dle­ton

Chief­tan the honey bear cub with Trooper Jerry Mulc­ahy

Chief­tan the honey bear cub adopted by SAS B squadron

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