Tales of SAS and bear are sure bet for Jerry
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