Brave airman from Denny hailed a hero

Corporal Gordon Wilkie, RAF airman from Denny who was cited for his bravery in attempting to save a drowing woman
Corporal Gordon Wilkie, RAF airman from Denny who was cited for his bravery in attempting to save a drowing woman

An heroic airman from Denny risked his life to save a drowning woman while serving in the RAF in south-east Asia.

Corporal Gordon Wilkie, known as Gordie, was travelling in a passenger ferry across the Penang Straights in north-west Malaysia on October 6, en-route from a local airfield to George Town.

Drama ensued when a woman using the busy boat service, which links two of the most-populous areas of Penang, was seen falling overboard.

Cpl Wilkie (36), a former pupil of Denny High School, said: “It was clear she was having trouble swimming and looked like she was going under.”

Fearing the woman would not be able to keep her head above water, he calmly gathered a rope, secured himself to the ferry then followed her into water and made his way out to save her.

After reaching the extent of the rope tethering him to the ferry, Cpl Wilkie was still not able to reach the woman so bravely released himself from the security of the rope and continued to swim after her into the middle of the two-mile wide straight.

As Gordon closed the distance between the woman and himself, the ferry crew was able to raise a passing small boat over the ship’s radio which diverted off-course and pulled the woman out of the water.

The boat was then able to pick up Cpl Wilkie before returning them both to shore.

He described the woman as “clearly in shock”. She was collected by ambulance at the port for immediate further treatment.

Cpl Wilkie, a communications engineer in 3 (Fighter) Typhoon Squadron, was in Penang as part of a UK fighter-jet deployment participating in a multi-national air defence exercise, aimed at strengthening ties between the so-called ‘Five Powers’ defence pact of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.

When not overseas, he is stationed at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire.

Wing Commander Chris Moon, officer commanding 3 (Fighter) Squadron, said: “Corporal Wilkie’s actions were extraordinarily brave and I am proud to have him on my team.

“His presence of mind, quickness of action and selflessness are exactly the qualities we value in the Royal Air Force and he is an excellent ambassador for the service.”