Colonel John Moss
Colonel John Moss, who has died aged 78, was awarded an MC in 1950 for his skill and courage in tracking and ambushing Communist terrorists in Malaya during an 18-month period of the Emergency; subsequently, he became a founder member of the Army Air Corps.
As a captain in 1948, Moss was posted to Malaya with 26 Field Regiment RA and, within 24 hours of landing, found himself in the jungle on operations against the Communist terrorists. He led a large number of patrols with great dash and determination and many of these were conspicuously successful.
In June 1949 he commanded a small party of 17 (Corunna) Field Battery RA supported by police and surprised a camp containing five bandits. His party killed three, wounded one and recovered the major portion of the gang's arms.
Three months afterwards, Moss led a similar patrol which, after a most difficult march, captured a bandit cook in a small camp near the crest of a 3,000 ft ridge and then ambushed the tracks leading into it. Two out of the gang of five bandits approached the camp 50 yards apart and were killed; half of their weapons were recovered.
Many meticulously planned operations, however, proved abortive, and Moss's drive and enthusiasm in maintaining morale under the most difficult conditions were crucial. Deadly accurate with a bow and arrow, he always maintained that, contrary to legend, he had not disposed of enemy sentries in this manner. He was awarded an MC and was also mentioned in dispatches in recognition of his services over an 18-month period.
John Neale Webster Moss was born on September 26 1924 at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and educated at Rossall School. As a small boy, inspired by his father, who had won the MC as an observer with the Royal Flying Corps, he had scraped together 10 shillings for an aerobatic flight with Alan Cobham's Flying Circus and, after being commissioned into the Royal Artillery, he applied for training as an Air Observation Post pilot.
Moss was posted to 657 Air OP Squadron at Andover. On one occasion, he was flying an Auster for a demonstration in East Anglia in which he was required to fire a Very pistol from the aircraft. He loaded the pistol in its fixed mounting on the floor and pulled the trigger.
Unknown to him, the aircraft had not been modified to allow him to fire through the floor from its stowage position; to his horror, the cockpit was engulfed in coloured smoke. It was only with the greatest courage and skill that he managed to land safely, to the applause of the spectators.
After a posting to 652 Squadron in BAOR, Moss served with 26 Field Regiment in Malaya during the Emergency and, in the latter part of 1948, commanded a semi-independent troop which formed the sole military force in the north-east of Negeri Sembilan.
During this period he was largely responsible for re-establishing confidence amongst the European population, and for pacifying an area containing a number of the most important rubber estates and squatter areas.
In 1959 Moss transferred to the newly-formed Army Air Corps, of which he became a founder member. He commanded Aviation 3 Division and was Commandant of the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop.
After retiring from the Army in 1974, he helped to set up the Military Advice and Liaison Team at Westland that did so much to persuade the military hierarchy of the potential of helicopters - particularly the Attack helicopter - and the team's legacy can be seen in the order of battle today.
After finally retiring, Moss remained an active aviator for many years. He owned a vintage Aeronca light aircraft and a Microlight Thruster - described by a friend as a yellow flying bathtub and a flying mowing machine. His log books confirmed that he had flown more than 4,000 hours in 23 different types of fixed wing and rotary aircraft.
Greatly respected by both the Gunners and the Army Air Corps, Moss contributed articles to both regimental journals. He had a passion for the Museum of Army Flying and was chairman of the Society of Friends for many years. He took a keen interest in the fortunes of the Army's Historic Aircraft Flight and still found time for writing and sketching, fly fishing, game shooting and archery.
John Moss's funeral was followed by a fly past of the AAC Historical Flight. He married, in 1956, Janet Loveday, who survives him with two sons and a daughter.