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The Malayan Emergency (1947-1960)

The Malayan Emergency (1947-1960)


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The Malayan Emergency (1947-1960)

Malaya in 1947 was made up of various ethnic groups; to understand many aspects of the emergency it is helpful to understand the background of these groups.

The first group was the indigenous Muslim Malays. The made up a large proportion of the population and generally accepted British rule but their loyalty was first and foremost to their Sultans. The Malay Federation was made up of 9 states each ruled by a Sultan, Johore, Pahang, Negri, Sembilan, Selangor, Perak, Kedah, Perlis, Trengganu and Kelantan. The Sultans had limited powers but retained the trappings of power and the wealthy lifestyle.

The second ethnic group was the Aborigines. This group refused to recognise the power of the sultans and lived an isolated existence following a traditional way of life deep within the Malayan jungles. Their population was estimated to between 50 and 100,000 in 1948.

The Chinese population was also strong with around two million Chinese living in Malaya in 1948. Many were second generation that is born in Malaya but their loyalty was generally to China with whom they identified culturally. Their population had increased drastically with the Japanese occupation of China during World War Two and although many generated income for Malaya there was also over half a million Chinese squatters by 1948. The Chinese ethnic group represented about 10% of the Malayan population.

The Indian ethnic group were also well represented in Malaya with about half a million in 1948. They were predominantly mobile labour for the rubber plantations as the wages were much higher than in India. They were mainly Tamil speaking from the Madras area of India.

The British were also a large ethnic group in Malaya and certainly the most powerful with political power far beyond the size of their population numbering only 12,000 being mostly Civil Service, Police, rubber planters, Doctors and businessmen. Malaya had been effectively under British control since 1874.

The biggest problem facing the Malaysian government following the end of World War 2 was the restoration of civil government. Because the Japanese had been removed with violence Malaya had suffered little loss of life or damage to its towns and cities but many of its tin mines and plantations had been destroyed to prevent the Japanese using them, so the Malayan economy was slow to recover after the war. The Japanese occupation had also sown the seeds of future unrest. They had pursued a policy of divide and conquer by favouring the Malays while persecuting the Chinese who were already anti Japanese due to the Japanese actions in China. This resulted in some violence in the period between the Japanese leaving and the British returning.

Another potential cause for unrest was the British plan for a new constitution for Malaya, know as the Malayan Union. This had been devised in Britain with little thought to the feelings of the local population and no consultation. The plan would wipe out the power of the Sultans effectively take Malaya from a protectorate to a Colony it would also grant citizenship to anyone who had been born in Malaya in the last ten years regardless of race or ethnicity. This raised concerns among the Malay population that they would be swamped by the millions of ethnic Chinese and Indians living in Malaya.

A huge outcry resulted and the British government relented and eventually after consultation a new constitution was developed which formed the basis of the Federation of Malaya Agreement in 1948 and is the basis of the modern Malayan constitution today. These post war events sowed the seeds of rebellion in other ways; they showed that the British could be made to back down if pushed and that the British promises of protection weren’t always fulfilled. For many it was clear that a post War Britain had other priorities, domestically and internationally and Malaya was low on the list. Nationalism was stirring within Malaya for the first time and the Malayan communist party thought the time was right to push and they saw the real chance of winning for the first time.

The Insurgents

Some have argued that the Malayan Emergency was part of a wider communist plan to gain power in South East Asia. Certainly the Malayan communist party leaders attended various international conferences in Europe and India during 1947/48. Apart from this there is little evidence to support the theory it was part of a co-ordinated plan. More likely is the fact that the Malayan communist party was actually on the verge of collapse having failed in any legal attempts or to gain widespread popular support, insurrection may have been their last hope and it was a case of now or never. A former very popular leader of the party Loi Tek had disappeared and his successor Chen Peng was trying to make a name for himself (in fact Loi Tek had fled taking much of the parties funds with him not only this he was in fact working as a British agent).

By 1948 they were ready to go to war. Chin Peng had in fact learnt his jungle warfare skills from the British. After Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942 several British officers harassed the Japanese from the jungle including the famous Colonel Spencer Chapman and his ‘Force 136’. Eventually supported by the Chinese the force swelled to over 5,000 and was known as ‘The Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army’. The British trained them in jungle warfare and modern weapons, knowing they were mainly communist but figuring the enemy of my enemy is my friend at least in the short term. This gave the rebels a handy striking force that easily just changed the name to the ‘Malayan peoples Anti –British Army’. The fighters were paid out of money extorted from the local population following the Leninist principle that a small force by the infliction of terror can conquer a nation. They were split into 8 regiments spread across the country. Each would then split down further into small groups who would carry out traditional Maoist style guerrilla warfare in the rural areas to keep the element of surprise.

The Rebels also had another organisation, the Masses Movement (Min Yuen) These had no uniform, no wages but were the support network spread across all levels of Malayan society. The Communist party linked the two parts with a highly organised chain of command.

The plan

The communists planned for 3 distinct phases;

Phase 1;

The guerrilla fighters already being battle hardened in combat against the Japanese would raid isolated estates, tin mines and police and government buildings in rural areas to drive the British into the cities

Phase 2;

The areas abandoned by the British would be renamed ‘Liberated areas’ and guerrilla bases would be established to train new recruits drawn from the Min Yuen as the Army expands

Phase 3;

The new expanded army would move from the ‘Liberated areas’ to attacking towns, villages and railways with the Min Yuen acting as saboteurs to cripple the economy. Once the country was on its knees the Army would face the British on the open battlefield.

The attacks started at 8.30am on 16th June 1948 in the northern state of Perak, with the shooting of Arthur Walker on his estate followed by other attacks on the same day on other estates sometimes involving the shooting of unarmed people taken prisoner, who they referred to as ‘Running dogs’ meaning British supporters. Murders became more frequent and the plantation owners became alarmed especially when their calls for armed protection fell on deaf ears. Eventually protests forced the High Commissioner Sir Edward Gent to declare a state of emergency, police were granted greater powers and quickly armed. The rebels continued to target mines and plantations as if the Malaya economy collapsed then the country would soon fall. At first the government was defensive with small groups protecting mines etc but police recruitment was soon stepped up with new ‘special constables’ , by September 1948 there were 24,000.

The Empire Strikes back, the ‘Briggs Plan’

In 1949 there was a sudden change in the political climate in Malaya mainly due to the appointment of Lt General Sir Harold Briggs as director of operations. Briggs realised that one of the major sources of recruitment for the communists were the large numbers of vagrant Chinese mentioned earlier so he decided to do something about it, The Briggs plan was to resettle these squatters into new villages surrounded by fences and police posts cutting the communists off from their source of food, supplies and manpower. It also gave the settlers more faith in the Malayan government and made them less prone to support the communists. 500 new villages were created forcing the communists out of the jungles where the British forces could defeat them more easily.

Secondly Briggs introduced War Executive Committees at federal, state and district level, this improved planning and cooperation drastically especially between civil, police and military. The focus was always on defeating the insurgents and not going to a war footing. The communists still remained on the offensive well into 1951 and in that year assassinated Sir Henry Gurney the high commissioner at the time. This backfired as his replacement was General Sir Gerald Templer who was able to co-ordinate both military and civil authority easily. Templer restored morale by ensuring some military successes and was ruthless towards anyone who didn’t cooperate gaining him the nickname the ‘Tiger of Malaya’. A new military push aided by the arrival of new troops from commonwealth countries like Fiji, East Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The communists started to realise that their policy of terrorizing supplies from the local population was just breeding hostility, facing renewed military opposition they pulled back into the deep jungles and stopped the random attacks. By 1953 the communists had lost the initiative and were never to regain it.

British military tactics also advanced using close air support and helicopters to force the guerrillas deeper and deeper into the jungles including constructing jungle forts and deep patrols some by Special Forces like the SBS and 22 SAS Regiment. It is worth remembering that deep jungle is a hostile environment to live and operate in regardless of the skill and training of the troops involved, this meant the guerrillas were also operating in a very difficult environment. Templer introduced ‘white areas’ which were free of terrorist activity and had relaxed restrictions on food and travel.

In 1955 negotiations with the communists were tried but broke down, but by this point they had ceased to be a real threat. The emergency had been costly, costing the Malayan Government around $200 million a year between 1948 and 1955 and the British government about $500 million a year. By 1957 the Emergency was still ongoing despite the fact Malaya became independent that year, by 1960 most of the country was free of terrorist activity with the few remaining lurking near the Thailand border.

The Malayan Emergency offers many interesting lessons most of which were then ignored by the US in the conflict in Vietnam shortly afterwards. Malaya managed to repel an organised communist insurrection mainly due to the authorities getting organised, the influence of people like Briggs and Templer and the communists thinking they could win by military means.


Malayan Emergency

The Malayan Emergency began in June 1948 after three British plantation managers near Sungei Siput in Perak were killed by insurgents of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). 1 The CPM had aimed to overthrow the colonial government and establish a Communist People&rsquos Democratic Republic of Malaya. 2 The killings marked the rise of a communist insurrection in Malaya which prompted the British to declare a state of emergency in Perak and Johor on 16 June 1948. 3 The emergency was subsequently extended to the whole federation on 18 June 1948 and Singapore on 24 June 1948. 4

The emergency lasted from 1948 to 1960, resulting in clashes between the armed forces of the Commonwealth and the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), the military arm of the CPM. 5 While the CPM&rsquos insurgency was mainly targeted at the peninsula, they utilised a united-front strategy to seize control of organisations such as trade unions, student and cultural bodies as well as political parties in Singapore. 6

Formation of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM)
Founded in 1930, the CPM was a political party active in Singapore, the Federation of Malaya and, later, Malaysia. They were also recognised as the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). The CPM evolved from the Nanyang Communist Party (NCP) that was established by a group of communists from the Communist Party of China (CCP) sometime between late 1927 and early 1928 in Singapore. After the Far East Bureau of the Communist International (Comintern) called for a reorganisation of the party in 1929, the NCP was dissolved, resulting in the formation of the CPM in April 1930. The main objective of the CPM was to create a communist Malayan People&rsquos Republic in Singapore and Malaya, while spreading the ideology to the Dutch East Indies and Thailand. 7 Throughout the 1930s, the CPM carried out numerous strikes and infiltrated trade unions, and spread anti-Japanese sentiments in attempts to establish itself. 8

CPM during and after the Japanese Occupation
Upon the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the CPM began their opposition against the British authorities in Singapore in line with the international communist stance of opposing Western democracy. They launched propaganda against the Malayan government and continued to trigger strikes in Singapore. However, in July 1940, the CPM received instructions from the CCP to shift their focus to anti-Japanese agitation instead. 9 Hence, upon Japan&rsquos invasion of Malaya in 1941, the CPM offered the British their full cooperation against the Japanese, and thereafter received military aid and training from British authorities to prepare themselves for resistance against the Japanese. 10 The CPM formed a group of resistance fighters who became known as the Malayan People&rsquos Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), which conducted guerilla activities against the Japanese after Singapore fell in 1942. 11 The MPAJA guerillas also cooperated and received training from Force 136, a special unit formed by the British in 1943 to prepare for a British liberation of Malaya. 12 While the British were aware of the communist influence in the MPAJA, the former armed them on the condition that the MPAJA&rsquos objectives were purely based on military concerns. 13

With Japan&rsquos surrender in 1945, the British Military Administration (BMA) took control of Malaya and the CPM was persuaded to disband the MPAJA. In return, the British formally recognised the CPM as a legitimate political organisation and rewarded the MPAJA guerillas with a sum of M$350 and a bag of rice in recognition of their service and sacrifice during the Japanese Occupation. 14 However, the CPM subsequently embarked on an open political struggle to amass political power through the control of trade union activism and provoked labour unrest and strikes. 15 Their key aim was to seek independence from British rule and establish a &ldquoMalayan people&rsquos government.&rdquo 16

Although the CPM set up a Town Office on Queen Street, it mainly operated through the discreet and underground Singapore Town Committee, the highest directing organ of the party. The Singapore Town Committee was led by Lai Teck who was also the secretary-general of CPM. He was later replaced by Chin Peng in 1947. In the immediate post-war period, the Singapore Town Committee utilised a united front strategy to rally support against the British by directing its branch organisations to penetrate various youth, women, peasant and industrial associations and unions, and formed an anti-British united front with ethnic political parties such as the Malay Nationalist Party (MNP), Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) and the Malayan Democratic Union (MDU). The Singapore Town Committee also employed propaganda by setting up the Freedom Press to spread information about communism and gain support from the masses. In May 1948, the majority of leading communists left Singapore for the Federation of Malaya, where the former MPAJA was remobilised as the Malayan People&rsquos Anti-British Army (MPABA) and subsequently as the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA). Acts of violence in May and June 1948 led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the Federation and thereafter in Singapore. 17

Declaration of emergency
On 16 June 1948, three British planters were murdered in the Sungei Siput district of Perak by three heavily armed Chinese members of a communist gang. This prompted the High Commissioner of the Federation, Sir Edward Gent, to declare a state of emergency in several areas in Perak and Johor on the same day. The emergency power regulations mainly called for the imposition of the death penalty upon those found in unauthorised possession of arms, ammunition or explosives. Additionally, it gave the police special powers in matters such as arrest detention exclusion from certain areas assembly of persons imposition of curfews search of persons and premises closure of roads, paths and waterways requisition of buildings, vehicles and boats as well as seizure of seditious documents and articles that could be used as offensive weapons. The emergency was extended to the whole of Perak and Johor on 17 June 1948 and was proclaimed throughout the entire Federation of Malaya on 18 June 1948. On 24 June 1948, a state of emergency was enforced in the Colony of Singapore as well. 18

Impact of the emergency in Singapore
When the emergency was declared on 24 June 1948, the colonial government implemented tough measures in the form of regulations allowing for arrest and detention without trial, the precursor to the Internal Security Act. 19 The various front organisations established by the Singapore Town Committee, such as the MDU, Singapore Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU) and New Democratic Youth League (NDYL) were also banned under the newly enacted Societies Ordinance and Trade Union Ordinance. 20

However, the Singapore Town Committee reestablished itself and continued to infiltrate trade unions, student bodies as well as cultural and rural organisations by forming District Committees and Branches such as the Trades Committee, Rural Committee and Students&rsquo Committee to supervise Communist operations within the factories, rural factories and villages, and Chinese middle schools respectively. The CPM then intensified its campaign of violence and intimidation by infiltrating and subverting open and legal organisations. 21 It also committed several acts of violence and sabotage, extortion, shootings, murders and arson attacks in the 1950s, including an attempt to assassinate former Governor of Singapore Franklin Gimson at the Happy World Park in April 1950. 22

The brutal attacks of the communists during the 1950s drew responses from government forces. Under the leadership of British High Commissioner and Director of Operations Gerald Temper from 1952 to 1954, the identity card system was introduced and Chinese squatters were relocated, depriving the communists of their food and logistical supplies. Temper also garnered public support by portraying the government as the provider for people who sought to improve and normalise living conditions during the emergency. 23

The insurgency was also subjugated with an integrated strategy that involved the police, military, civil operations and intelligence. A Special Branch (SB) of the police force was developed as the key intelligence agency that provided the government with political and security intelligence. With effective police and military action, the CPM&rsquos Singapore Town Committee was dissolved and a majority of its members arrested by the 1950s. 24 This forced the communists to retreat deeper into the jungle and border region by 1954. Chin Peng had also shifted his base from Pahang to southern Thailand. 25

In December 1955, Chin Peng attempted to negotiate with Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and Singapore Chief Minister David Marshall during talks held in Baling, Kedah. However, the negotiation failed with both ministers rejecting his requests which were: the recognition of the CPM, freedom for communists upon surrender and the right to form a political party and contest the elections. 26 By the end of 1958, the CPM had completely withdrawn its armed units to southern Thailand. After a 12-year battle, the Malayan Emergency formally ended on 31 July 1960. 27 By then, the conflict had destroyed and wounded the lives of 8,000 civilians and security personnel. 28

Persistence of the communist threat
Despite the end of the emergency in 1960, the threat of the CPM continued to persist. Inspired by the Soviet Union and China, the CPM declared its return to armed revolt in 1968. It re-established assault units in the Malaysian jungles, while underground groups emerged in Singapore and Malaysia to direct acts of violence and subversion. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed acts of arson, bombings, attacks and assassinations in Singapore and Malaysia. 29 The CPM threat only officially ceased to exist with the signing of the Hat Yai Peace Agreement on 2 December 1989. 30

1989 Hat Yai Peace Agreement
The 1989 Hat Yai Peace Agreement saw the signing of a peace accord by the CPM, formally bringing the 41-year communist insurgency to an end. The ceremony took place on 2 December 1989 at the Lee Gardens Hotel in the southern Thai town of Haadyai. The peace accord signed between the CPM&rsquos secretary-general Chin Peng, chairman Abdullah C.D. and central committee member Rashid Maideen, and the governments of Malaysia and Thailand called for the CPM&rsquos remaining guerilla forces to lay down their arms. The peace accord contained seven points, stating that (1) all three parties would cooperate in ensuring permanent peace along the Thai-Malaysian border (2) all three parties were responsible in facilitating negotiations to end the communist insurgency (3) the CPM would withdraw its struggle against the Malaysian forces (4) the CPM would destroy all its arms and ammunition depots (5) former CPM members would abide by the laws of Malaysia and Thailand (6) Malaysian CPM members could return to their homeland and participate in political activities and (7) Malaysia would recognise CPM members as fellow Malaysians. 31

Author
Liviniyah P.


References
1. The Malayan Emergency: Of plot, plotters and protagonists. (2008, June 21). The Straits Times, p. 80. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. CPM is like a plant which can grow again. (1988, May 4). The Straits Times, p. 20 The state of emergency. (1996, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Quietest month of 11-year war. (1959, June 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. S&rsquopore now in state of emergency. (1948, June 24). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1 Quietest month of 11-year war. (1959, June 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Village boy tells all. (2012, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. The Malayan Emergency: Of plot, plotters and protagonists. (2008, June 21). The Straits Times, p. 80. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Ramakrishna, Kumar. (2016). Emergency. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 KUM- [HIS]) Brimmell, J. H. (1956). A short history of the Malayan Communist Party. Singapore: D. Moore, pp. 10&ndash11. (Call no.: RCLOS 329.9595 BRI-[RFL]) Chin, A. (1994). The Communist Party of Malaya: The inside story. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Vinpress, pp. 18&ndash23. (Call no.: RSING 959.51 CHI) O&rsquoBallance, E. (1966). Malaya: The communist insurgent war, 1948&ndash1960. London: Faber, pp. 20&ndash23. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 OBA) The rise and fall of the Malayan communists. (1989, December 2). The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Brimmell, J. H. (1956). A short history of the Malayan Communist Party. Singapore: D. Moore, pp. 12&ndash13. (Call no.: RCLOS 329.9595 BRI-[RFL]) Chin, A. (1994). The Communist Party of Malaya: The inside story. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Vinpress, pp. 23&ndash25. (Call no.: RSING 959.51 CHI) O&rsquoBallance, E. (1966). Malaya: The communist insurgen t war, 1948&ndash1960. London: Faber, p. 25. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 OBA)
9. Brimmell, J. H. (1956). A short history of the Malayan Communist Party. Singapore: D. Moore, pp. 13&ndash14. (Call no.: RCLOS 329.9595 BRI-[RFL]) Cheah, B. K. (2003). Red star over Malaya: Resistance and social conflict during and after the Japanese occupation of Malaya, 1941&ndash1946. Singapore: Singapore University Press, pp. 58&ndash61. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 CHE)7. O&rsquoBallance, E. (1966). Malaya: The communist insurgent war, 1948&ndash1960. London: Faber, pp. 40&ndash43. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 OBA)
10. The rise and fall of the Malayan communists. (1989, December 2). The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG Mohd Azzam Mohd Hanif Ghows & Barber, C. (2006). The Malayan emergency revisited 1948&ndash1960: A pictorial history. Kuala Lumpur: AMR Holding Sdn Bhd & Yayasan Pelajaran Islam, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 324.2595075 MOH)
11. The rise and fall of the Malayan communists. (1989, December 2). The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Mohd Azzam Mohd Hanif Ghows & Barber, C. (2006). The Malayan emergency revisited 1948&ndash1960: A pictorial history. Kuala Lumpur: AMR Holding Sdn Bhd & Yayasan Pelajaran Islam, pp. 9&ndash13. (Call no.: RSING 324.2595075 MOH)
13. Tan, B. L., & Quah, I. (1996). The Japanese Occupation 1942&ndash1945: A pictorial record of Singapore during the war. Singapore: Times Edition, p. 167. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 TAN)
14. Mohd Azzam Mohd Hanif Ghows & Barber, C. (2006). The Malayan emergency revisited 1948&ndash1960: A pictorial history. Kuala Lumpur: AMR Holding Sdn Bhd & Yayasan Pelajaran Islam, pp. 18&ndash21. (Call no.: RSING 324.2595075 MOH)
15. The rise and fall of the Malayan communists. (1989, December 2). The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG Cheah, B. K. (2003). Red star over Malaya: Resistance and social conflict during and after the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1941&ndash1946. Singapore: Singapore University Press, pp. 241&ndash243. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 CHE)
16. Tan, C. T. (1995). Force 136: Story of a WWII resistance fighter. Singapore: Asiapac Books, p. 313. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN)
17. Ramakrishna, K. (2016). Emergency. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, pp. 13&ndash19. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 KUM- [HIS])
18. Emergency powers in four areas. (1948, June 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5 Perak seeks state-wide special powers. (1948, June 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Emergency powers extended. (1948, June 19). Malaya Tribune, p. 2. S&rsquopore now in a state of emergency. (1948, June 24). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Nothing less than outright war. (2008, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Singapore communist sent to jail. (1950, October 12). Singapore Standard, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG Singh, B. (2015). Quest for political power: Communist subversion and militancy in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 57&ndash140. (Call no.: RSING 335.4095957 SIN)
21. Singh, B. (2015). Quest for political power: Communist subversion and militancy in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 34&ndash56. (Call no.: RSING 335.4095957 SIN) Ramakrishna, K. (2016). Emergency. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, p. 23-31. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 KUM- [HIS])
22. Midnight bomb attack on Gimson. (1950, April 29). The Straits Times, p. 1 Red murder & arson plot bared. (1950, May 2). The Straits Times, p. 1 Extortion cases on the increase. (1950, May 28). The Straits Times, p. 9 Abisheganaden, F. (1956, January 27). Colony is prize red target. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. The rise and fall of the Malayan communists. (1989, December 2). The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG Ramakrishna, K. (2001, February). &lsquoTransmogrifying&rsquo Malaya: The impact of Sir Gerald Templer (1952&ndash54). Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 32(1), pp. 79&ndash92. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB&rsquos eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg O&rsquoBallance, E. (1966). Malaya: The communist insurgent war, 1948&ndash1960. London: Faber, pp. 166&ndash170. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 OBA) Chin, A. (1994). The Communist Party of Malaya: The inside story. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Vinpress, pp. 45&ndash48. (Call no.: RSING 959.51 CHI)
24. Nothing less than outright war. (2008, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. CPM is like a plant which can grow again. (1988, May 4). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. The talks start today. (1955, December 28). The Straits Times, p. 1 Miller, H. (1955, December 29). Chin Peng gets his answer. The Straits Times, p. 1 Malaya&rsquos firm dealing with the communist bosses. (1955, December 31). The Straits Times, p. 2 CPM is like a plant which can grow again. (1988, May 4). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. History of emergency. (1960, April 24). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG Chin, A. (1994). The Communist Party of Malaya: The inside story. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Vinpress, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 959.51 CHI) The end of the war. (1960, April 20). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Comber, L. (2008). Malaya&rsquos Secret Police, 1945&ndash60: The role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency. Singapore, ISEAS Publishing, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 363.283095951 COM)
29. Singh, B. (2015). Quest for political power: Communist subversion and militancy in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 163&ndash168. (Call no.: RSING 335.4095957 SIN) Nair, C. V. D. (Ed.). (1976). Socialism that works&hellip The Singapore way. Singapore: Federal Publications, pp. 12&ndash25. (Call no.: RSING 335.0095957 SOC)
30. Chin, A. (1994). The Communist Party of Malaya: The inside story. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Vinpress, pp. 239&ndash248. (Call no.: RSING 959.51 CHI)
31. Chin Peng signs peace pacts with KL and Bangkok. (1989, December 3). The Straits Times, p. 1 T.F. Hwang takes you down Memory Lane. (1989, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 32 CPM to destroy all arms and ammunition depots in 7-point pact. (1989, December 1). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The information in this article is valid as at May 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


The Malayan Emergency (1948-1960)

Reading normally is a private activity. However, reading leftist books will turn private activity into public. In order to keep left books from inciting young people to engage themselves in revolutionary work, publication censorship was tightened up. British authority kept a close watch on the leftists as they were prime mover in the revolt against the government, especially during the Malayan Emergency. Leading figure of Chinese leftist writers always become the top list of the selective examination. The selected research period, the Malayan Emergency and its subsequent effects, are the perfect background for the study. Malayan Emergency will be the main focus of this paper as it provides the most complicated and richest information in this case study. Discrimination against leftist books were common in that time. This paper hopes to unfold on the one hand the British Malayan and Malaysian publication censorship, with special examination of its policy to the communist printing. On the other hand, it analyses the ways intellectuals convey their "revolt" to the rigid policy.

Keywords: Malayan Emergency;Cold War;Chinese Communist Party;Leftist;History of Banned Books

#左翼 #馬共 #魯迅 #Darurat Tanah Melayu

关键词:马来亚共产党(马共)、马共研究、史料、解密档案
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Abstract
Study on the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) should be an important part in the Malaysian Studies. However, due to difficulties in accessing the related documents or target group, certain restrictions in the study and so on, lead to the slow development of CPM Studies, either in numbers of researcher or its research outcomes. As an ideological enemy, British colonial government in Malaya not only obtained large amounts of data and intelligence information of CPM, but also conducted lots of in-depth analysis and researched on CPM. It’s believed that is the beginning of the CPM Studies. Since then, the CPM Studies were gradually expanded to the academia and civil sector. The CPM Studies mainly focused on CPM history, military strategy, organization structure, characteristic and so on. However, most of the early CPM Studies were relied to the declassified documents which
possess the official perspective, make the CPM research results a bit biased or unable to conduct in-depth discussion and analysis on certain issues related to CPM. After the historical Hadyai Peace Accord signed on the 1989, many former CPM members started to publish their memoirs, released some important documents or even attending public events, etc., try to explore their past gradually to the public. Their efforts have provided more favorable conditions for the coming researchers. This paper attempts to give a brief reviews on CPM studies since 1930’s and its research development and significance to Malaysian history, in order to raise more interest and attention among our community.

Key Words: Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), CPM Studies, historical materials, declassified documents


Rebirth of the SAS: The Malayan “Emergency”

From 1948 to 1960, the British government was involved in a counter-insurgency campaign in Malaya. In 1950, the SAS, known initially as the Malayan Scouts, became involved in the campaign and remained there until 1958. This was the rebirth of the SAS from its post-war demise and it was also the catalyst that enabled the SAS to gain itself a permanent position in the UK forces order of battle. It was a very difficult birth due to the various personalities involved and post-war resentment against special forces by ‘proper soldiers’, and because of the limited effectiveness of this newly formed unit against an elusive jungle enemy.

This time was one of the most complex in the post-war period for the SAS. Not only was the SAS reformed but it was the longest time that it had been involved in a conflict, as well as involving the largest number of SAS troops deployed in one campaign since 1945. At one stage between 1950 and 1958 the SAS had five squadrons deployed, A, B, D, the Independent Parachute Regiment Squadron (1955–57), and the New Zealand SAS Squadron (1955–57). C (Rhodesia) Squadron had operated with the SAS from 1951 to 1953. Britain’s other Special Force unit in existence at the time, the SBS, did not carry out any independent operations in Malaya during the Emergency.

Malaya is a peninsula about the size of the United Kingdom. The land mass divides the South China Sea from the Bay of Bengal and it occupies a strategic position in South East Asia. The city-state of Singapore is at the southern most tip of the peninsula, is about 220 square miles in area and is joined to the mainland by a causeway three-quarters of a mile long, which at the beginning of the Emergency in the mid-1940s, carried both a road and railway line. Communications in the peninsula consisted of one main road and railway running north to south, with poor lateral communications.

On both sides of most roads, rubber and oil palm estates extended outwards for up to three miles before reaching dense jungle.

The indigenous Malay is easy-going, and lacks any great interest in commerce they contrast strongly with the extremely industrious Chinese and the imported Indian labour.

On 8 December 1941 Japanese troops landed at Kota Bahru, in NE Malaya and began to advance down the peninsula. In Singapore, a special jungle and sabotage training centre, which had existed in a dormant embryonic form for some time, known as the 101st Special Training School (101st STS), was quickly made ready to train volunteers from the Malay Communist Party (MCP) to fight the Japanese. 101 STS was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel FSC. (Footnote #146: FSC remained in the Malayan jungle for over three years being withdrawn by submarine from Pankor Island in 1945. After the war, in which he received a DSO for his service, he became a warden at Reading University. He committed suicide, shooting himself in the summer of 1971. The Malays have established a permanent memorial to him at Emerald Bay on Pankor Laut, Pankor from where the British submarine extracted him and took him to Force 136 HQ in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The author visited FSC’s Emerald Bay in 1971 and 2004.)

It was agreed that the MCP would provide as many young Chinese as we could accept at 101 Special Training School (STS) and that after the training they could be used against the Japanese in any way we thought fit. (Footnote #147: FSC, F. The Jungle is Neutral. Times Books International, Singapore, 1997, p. 13.)

Before Malaya was overrun by the Japanese, the STS was able to train some 200 Chinese Communists in sabotage and guerrilla training. (Footnote #148: Short, Anthony. In Pursuit of Mountain Rats. The Communist Insurrection in Malaya. Cultured Lotus, Singapore, 2000, p. 21.) These students would form the basis of organised resistance, the Malay People’s Anti Japanese Army (MPAJA), during the Japanese occupation. Some British officers stayed with the MPAJA and others, part of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Force 136, were parachuted into Malaya and Thailand.

In early 1944 the Allies SEAC (South-East Asia Command), agreed to provide supplies, money and training facilities to the MPAJA on condition that they would cooperate with the Allies against the Japanese. The allied invasion of Malaya, which was scheduled for September 1945, never occurred as the Japanese surrendered on 16 August, and a ceasefire came into effect the following day. Although working with the MPAJA, the Force 136 officers very seldom became involved in any operational activities and so had little opportunity to observe MPAJA attacks or tactics. Nor were they informed of the locations of camps and weapons caches.

The Japanese surrender left a largely communist force in Malaya, armed, equipped and organised, as the British returned. Led by Lai Tek, (Footnote #149: Sometimes referred to as Lai Te.) the MCP and the MPAJA believed they could follow the success of other communist-led insurgencies that were being waged against colonial governments, as well as the success of the Chinese Communist Party. In the meantime, the British hurriedly landed more Allied troops and formally took control of Malaya. A British Military Administration was quickly established to govern the country until a civilian one could be restored.

In January 1946 the British government published a White Paper proposing the establishment of a Malayan Union of 11 states, and a colony of Singapore to which the ruling Sultans agreed, although with some reluctance due to the loss of their traditional feudal powers. Militant Communism seemed to be on the rise, and the MCP saw no reason why it should not be successful in opposing the British-backed regime in Malaya and Singapore.

In 1947, Lai Tek failed to appear for a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the MCP. His successor was Chin Peng, (Footnote #150: See Peng, Chin. My Side of History. Media Masters Pte Ltd, Singapore, 2003.) the second-in-command, in effect, until Lai Teck’s disappearance. (Footnote #151: In his autobiography, Chin Peng states that he unmasked Lai Tek as a longterm British agent in March 1947, and later that year Lai Tek was murdered in Bangkok by members of the Thai Communist Party. See Peng: My Side of History, pp. 179 and 190.) He was elected Secretary-General of the MCP. Born in Malaya, he had fought against the Japanese during their occupation of Malaya, had been in frequent contact with British officers(Footnote #152: FSC refers to him as ‘Chen Ping’. See FSC: The Jungle is Neutral, passim.) and Allied personnel, and was a confirmed communist. He was 27 years old in 1948 and had been awarded the OBE for his services during the occupation (the award was later revoked). He spoke English, Malay and several Chinese dialects.

The ‘Emergency’

It was a war, but there was a curious reason why it was never called one. It was a war – though out of regard for the London insurance market, on which the Malayan economy relied for cover, no one ever used the word. This misnomer continued for twelve years, for the simple reason that insurance rates covered losses of stock and equipment through riot and civil commotion in an emergency, but not in a civil war. (Footnote #153: Barber, N. The War of the Running Dogs. Williams Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London, 1971. As explained in Barber’s preface notes.)

Malaya possessed valuable minerals such as coal, bauxite, tungsten, gold, iron ore, manganese and china clay, but its main riches were rubber and tin. Apart from rubber, in 1950, the tin mining industry of Malaya was the biggest dollar earner in the British Commonwealth. The chief problem with the insurgency was it threatened British control and disrupted the dollar earning exports of the rubber and tin industries. In 1948 Malaya was the most important source of dollars in the colonial empire and it would gravely worsen the whole dollar balance of the Sterling area if there was serious interference with the Malayan exports. Even if the insurgents did not score any military or political successes they could easily wreck the economy of Malaya. Existing deposits of tin were being quickly used up and, owing to communist activities in the jungle and on the jungle fringe, no new areas were being prospected for future working. If no new prospecting were to be resumed over a large area, tin mining could cease in about 10 to 12 years. The situation regarding rubber was no less difficult, with the fall in output largely due to the direct and indirect effects of communist sabotage.

The threat of communism represented by the Malayan insurgents was perceived by British planners as real. Britain’s primary interest in Malaya was economic, and it wished to continue to use the resources of that country for the benefit of British business interests. Communism in Malaya simply posed a threat that Britain would lose control over these economic resources. There was never any question of the military intervention in Malaya by either the USSR or China. Nor, indeed, was any material support ever proffered by either the USSR or China to the insurgents in Malaya the problem was a purely internal affair.

The murder of three European planters on 16 June 1948 near the small town of Sungei Spur, in Perak, brought matters to a head and resulted in the High Commissioner, Sir Edward Gent, declaring an emergency in parts of Perak and Johore, which was extended to the whole of the country the following day. This was the beginning of the period known as the Malayan Emergency.

In Malaya on the declaration of the Emergency the British and Malay armed force amounted to five British, two Malay and six Gurkha battalions. The RAF had 100 aircraft in the country, and in mid-1948 started to strafe guerrillas’ locations and bomb suspected guerrilla camps and locations. The Federation Police numbered 10,223, nearly all Malays.

The Military was commanded by the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major General Charles Boucher, GOC Malayan District. Boucher, and the Commander-in-Chief (CinC), Far East Land Forces (FARELF), General Sir Neil Ritchie (Footnote #154: This is the same officer who was involved with David Stirling in 1941.), were both familiar with recent counter-insurgency operations in Greece, Boucher having been there himself, and Ritchie’s chief of staff having also served there immediately prior to his posting to the Far East. Two British battalions, also recently in Greece, were transferred to Malaya in mid-1948.

In 1948, the Malay Races Liberation Army (MRLA), as the MPAJA was now known, was insufficiently organised and incapable of directly engaging British armed forces. It continued to attack small village police stations, which usually had fewer than a dozen Malay policemen to defend them. Also, they continued terrorist activities against civilians and sabotage attacks on machinery, plantations and communications.

Early Special Operations

Former British officers of Force 136, many of them now planters, and a number of serving and former servicemen, established a small organisation which was designed to seek out the guerrillas so they could be attacked by the main security forces.

In late July, in order to relieve some of the pressure on infantry battalions, a temporary unit was formed for country-wide operations. Known as Ferret Force, it was made up of a Force Headquarters and four Groups. A Group consisted of four infantry sections, each commanded by an ex-member of either Force 136 or Wingate’s Chindits. (Footnote #155: James, Harold and Sheil-Small, Denis. A Pride of Gurkhas. Leo Cooper Ltd, London, 1975, p. 8.)

This unique organisation, which demonstrated the flair and imagination that had been missing from operations so far in Malaya, had a brief, but effective, life. Regular units resented losing trained men to this new force—a frequent criticism of special forces ever since Churchill’s ‘commandos’ were formed in 1940.

The secondment of men to Ferret Force, however, left the rifle companies less than fifty strong. (Footnote #156: James, Harold and Sheil-Small, Denis. A Pride of Gurkhas. Leo Cooper Ltd, London, 1975, p. 9.)

The Ferret Force teams travelled as light as they could and only essential rations were parachuted to them as they tried, as much as possible, to live off the land, minimising the possibility of their presence being detected by the CTs (Communist Terrorists). (Footnote #157: In 1952 a memorandum from the Secretary of Defence stipulated that the insurgents/bandits would be officially known as ‘communist terrorists’ or ‘CTs’. – undated (1952) ‘Official Designation of the Communist Forces’ PRO, CO 1022/48SEA 10/172/01.)

The purpose of this long-range jungle group was to go and live in the jungle, to establish good relations with the aborigines and locate and destroy the guerrillas either by themselves or in conjunction with regular forces. (Footnote #158: Short: In Pursuit of Mountain Rats, p. 132.)

Lieutenant Colonel Walter Walker, (Footnote #159: Lieutenant Colonel Walker was an important operational innovator during the whole of the Emergency and during the later Borneo campaign, where he was appointed the Commander of British Forces.) a highly decorated Burma veteran, was chosen to command Ferret Force. Walker’s own study of communist terrorist strategy and tactics convinced him that he would be dealing with an increasingly powerful and cunning enemy. Walker had been training the Ferret Force teams for only about a month when he was told that he was going to take over as Commandant of the new jungle-warfare training school (JWS). This new school was to prepare British soldiers to fight the terrorists on their own ground. During his time at the JWS, Walker wrote the definitive Anti-Terrorist Operational Manual. (Footnote #160: See PRO WO279/241 The Conduct of Anti-terrorist Operations in Malaya.) Without military sponsorship or Walker’s drive and enthusiasm Ferret Force survived only a matter of weeks after his departure.

Even in its short life, there were disagreements between Army and Police officers over Ferret Force methods and its use.

For various reasons which included administrative problems the dislike of the services for ‘private armies’ and the change in composition from that originally envisaged, the four Ferret groups were ending their operations by November. (Footnote #161: Short: In Pursuit of Mountain Rats, p. 133.)

The brief life of Ferret Force was not wasted. It not only helped inspire the future deep-penetration operations of the SAS at a later stage of the campaign, but also enhanced the routine jungle patrolling techniques used by infantry platoons, which would otherwise have seemed hopelessly beyond the capabilities of European soldiers. Other initiatives included Chinese jungle squads.

If it had been possible, John Davis’s (Footnote #162: A former Force 136 officer who had remained in the jungle during the Japanese occupation of Malaya.) proposal of the experiment of a Chinese jungle squad might have paid the greatest dividends. Their role was part intelligence gathering, part agent provocateur. (Footnote #163: Short: In Pursuit of Mountain Rats, p. 133.)

Later, in mid-1953, the Special Operations Volunteer Force (SOVF) was created. This force was composed of surrendered enemy personnel (SEP) and other volunteers. It had 180 ex-communists grouped into 12 platoons of 15 men each. These men volunteered for 18 months’ service, lived in police compounds, received similar salaries to the lowest-ranking policemen and went back into the jungle to persuade their erstwhile colleagues to surrender, or to kill them.

After the declaration of the Emergency in 1948, there were a number of important developments. The High Commissioner of Malaya, Sir Edward Gent, was killed in an air crash in the UK and in September Whitehall appointed a successor, Sir Henry Gurney. Gurney had been Chief Secretary to the Administration in Palestine during the last two years of the British mandate.

It was Gurney who quietly devised a classical strategy for eventual victory. (Footnote #164: Barber: The War of the Running Dogs, p. 62.)

Gurney was a man who, even if he did not have the power to win the war, had the foresight to know how it should be won. His tenure of office lasted two years to the day before ending in tragedy.

Gurney’s first historic decision was, briefly, that on no account, must the armed forces have control over the conduct of the war. This, he argued, was a war of political ideologies. (Footnote #165: Barber: The War of the Running Dogs, p. 62.)

The British authorities had already indicated that they would give Malaya its independence and this took away the mainstay of the MCP’s role—that of removing the colonial power. Gurney was very conscious that he needed a director of operations, and finally, in April 1950, Whitehall appointed Lieutenant General Sir Harold Briggs as:

Director of Operations ‘to plan, to co-ordinate, and direct the operations of the police and fighting forces’. (Footnote #166: Barber: The War of the Running Dogs, p. 95.)

Briggs was to act as the executive to the High Commissioner, Gurney. Briggs had retired to Cyprus in 1948 after a distinguished military career which included commanding the 5th Indian Division in Burma from 1942 to 1945, and he had much experience in jungle warfare.

As well as undermining the political direction of the MCP, Gurney realised that the key to destroying the CTs was removing them from their source of food, information and recruits. These were mainly being provided by the squatters, of Chinese origin, who lived on the outskirts of all the villages and towns in Malaya. The CTs’ support group, or Min Yuen, provided assistants either willingly or under threat. If the CTs and the Min Yuen could be separated, this would make the military task of destroying the terrorists easier. The only way to do this would be to move the squatters into controlled villages from which movements of both food and personnel could be monitored by the police and the army.

On 6 October 1951, a terrorist platoon of 38 CTs carried out a successful ambush of Sir Henry Gurney as he was travelling to the Fraser’s Hill ‘change of air station’. This was a major coup by the CTs, even though the ambush had not been directly targeted against Gurney.

Suddenly a door of the Rolls opened and out stepped Gurney. Almost leisurely he banged the door shut, and started to walk towards the high bank – and the shooting. (Footnote #167: Barber: The War of the Running Dogs, p. 131.)

Gurney’s death caused a severe drop in morale (Footnote #168: Thompson, Robert. Make for the Hills. Leo Cooper Ltd., London, 1989, p. 97.) within the political, civilian and commercial communities and was a major blow to the campaign.

On 21 October 1951 Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and he was immediately concerned about the situation in Malaya. By 1951–52 British troops in Malaya numbered about 25,000 with a further 10,000 Gurkhas. Total security forces equalled about 300,000 in 1953. Even so, progress against guerrillas, who never numbered more than 8,000, was painfully slow. It was much more than just a military operation. Briggs had been in communication with Churchill and he had recommended there should be one man in control of both military and civil affairs. Churchill gave the appointment to General Sir Gerald Templer.

54 year-old General Sir Gerald Templer was every inch a soldier–and looked it . . . (Footnote #169: Barber: The War of the Running Dogs, p. 148)

General Templer, departing from Britain in earlier 1952 to become High Commissioner in Malaya, declared that the political, economic and social policies would be decisive. Briggs completed his tour and returned to UK in that same year.

It should be remembered that the situation in Malaya was bad and getting worse in 1950. (Footnote #170: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

The involvement of the Special Air Service (SAS) in the Emergency was at a time when, immediately prior to the establishment of the unit, there was a complicated and convoluted military and political situation. The complex picture at the time is exacerbated by the fact that the SAS in Malaya was, literally, being started from scratch.

The success of Ferret Force, albeit brief, demonstrated that the most effective military operations were by small units of platoons, sections and even sub-sections undertaking deep-penetration patrols into the jungle.

General Sir John Harding, Commander-in-Chief Far East, decided he needed independent advice from an expert in jungle warfare to combat the communist insurgents. He called in Major ‘Mad’ Mike Calvert, (Footnote #171: See Calvert: Fighting Mad.) who had considerable experience of jungle warfare in Burma during the Second World War and, by the end of the war, was commanding the SAS brigade. Calvert had also been one of the prime movers in ensuring the SAS ethic had not died out at the end of the war. Calvert, having been demoted to the rank of major, as had most wartime officers of brigadier rank, had a staff appointment in Hong Kong as G1 Air, training troops bound for Korea in the use of air support.

Once given this task, Calvert tackled it with his normal aggression and drive and he travelled throughout Malaya (Footnote #172: During one of his reconnaissance trips Calvert was ambushed: ‘my driver and I were moving at a fair pace along a jungle road when a burst of machine-gun fire came from the thick bush, slightly ahead of us. We jerked to a halt and flung ourselves into a ditch by the side of the road. For the first time in more than five years I was under enemy fire and when a grenade landed neatly beside me in the ditch I thought it was for the last time. I snatched up the grenade, hoping to be able to throw it out before it went off, and then I noticed that the pin was still in position. A piece of paper was attached to it and a scrawled message said ‘How do you do, Mr Calvert?’ It could mean only one thing. Somebody I had known, and probably trained, in the old days in Hong Kong or in Burma, was now on the other side, fighting for the Communists’. Calvert: Fighting Mad, p. 202.) with an open brief to assess the current situation. His fact-finding trips, working with both police patrols and military patrols, covered over 1,500 miles of enemy-occupied territory.

For the next six months I travelled extensively all over Malaya. I visited ornate palaces and asked the views of wealthy sultans. I went to brothels and picked up the gossip of the gutter. I had myself put in jail in disguise and rubbed shoulders with captured Communists. I went on tours of the jungle on my own and I joined anti-rebel patrols of British troops in the jungle. (Footnote #173: Ibid., p. 202.)

Not all Calvert’s advice was received with good grace and this was made particularly clear when he was visiting an infantry unit in the field.

I suggested that they go out on patrols, not in a section or platoon, but just a few men at a time. The battalion commander listened to this and suddenly he blew up and said, ‘My Regiment was raised and trained to fight in Europe and I am not going to change my organisation and training just to chase a few bare-arsed niggers around South East Asia’. (Footnote #174: Ibid., pp. 202–4.)

Calvert made a number of significant observations about the quality of the troops involved in the campaign at the time and their methods of operations.

Most of the troops were national servicemen with little or no jungle experience. Many of the officers had no experience of jungle fighting they had been taken prisoner of war at places like Dunkirk and Singapore and were released at the end of the war. (Footnote #175: Ibid., pp. 202–3.)

Calvert delivered the results of his survey direct to Briggs.

When the six months were up I made my official report, which comprised ten or twelve points. A number of these were included in what became known as the Briggs Plan, put forward by General Briggs, the Director of Operations at that time. (Footnote #176: Ibid., pp. 202–4.)

Calvert recommended separating the terrorists from their support element training a deep-penetration patrol unit to locate CT encampments and either destroy them or to lead conventional forces to the area and to separate the CTs from the jungle aborigines, who, it was believed, were assisting the CTs. The task was to interdict the CTs’ food and intelligence supply by denying them support and freedom of movement.

Calvert recommended that the Police should stop sending patrols into the jungle and concentrate on the protection of civilians and the expansion of Special Branch. In connection with this it was essential to move scattered settlements of Chinese, known as squatters, into new villages where they could be concentrated and protected. Calvert firmly believed that only once these proposals were adopted should a Special Force be formed to operate in the deep jungle.

Calvert’s recommendations struck a chord and he was provided with the opportunity to re-establish the SAS.

This suggestion was approved and I was told to form a force. The name I chose for the new unit was the Malayan Scouts (Special Air Service Regiment) and its role was to operate in deep jungle areas not already covered by other security forces, with the object of destroying guerrilla forces, their camps and sources of supply. (Footnote #177: Ibid., p. 205.)

This was the area, key to the future of the SAS, where Calvert had identified a niche for a new force. However, it was stressed by General Ritchie that it would be only for the duration of the emergency, under Far East Command, and with nothing to do with the SAS Territorial Army set-up in Britain.

Calvert worked to establish the unit that he had recommended but, to a certain degree, he had been handed a poisoned chalice. He was only able to recruit personnel from the Far East land forces and his choice of officers was limited. Frequently commanding officers would send him their worst men. Moreover, he was not provided with a suitable administrative infrastructure.

Another cause of the bad start in Malaya was the woeful inadequacy of the administrative and field staff. Malaya Command should have known that a strong staff of A [Administration] and Q [Quartermastering] was essential but they had failed to appoint one and Mike Calvert did not insist on replacements. (Footnote #178: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

He was tasked with setting up the unit as quickly as possible and as a result he received a certain amount of criticism about his command and discipline.

Perhaps the strongest and most justified criticism of the Malayan Scouts was poor discipline in and out of the jungle. (Footnote #179: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

The absolutely critical role that Calvert played in the formulation of the Briggs Plan is often given only passing acknowledgement, and often ignored. Without Calvert’s recommendation, it is unlikely that the SAS would have been resurrected.

At this point, it is useful to identify key ‘personalities’ in the fledgling SAS. An assessment of British Special Forces (BSF) during and since the Second World War shows that elite forces have a number of identifiable individuals who, through extreme bravery, original thought, vision, administrative tenacity, or opportunism feature throughout the years. These individuals may be liked or disliked by the organisation they belong to, or they may be liked or disliked by the military fraternity as a whole, but they cannot be ignored. The early days of the SAS in Malaya have several key personalities . . . Individuals identified at this stage are Calvert himself, JW, Newell, Sloane, Deane-Drummond and DLB. This is not meant to mean that others were not important or critical but these particular individuals are very relevant at this stage.

The development of the Briggs Plan (Footnote #180: It should be noted that the involvement in, and contribution to, the Briggs Plan by Briggs’s senior administrator, Robert Thompson, is at variance with the version of events provided by Calvert. Thompson worked in Calvert’s headquarters in 77th Chindit Brigade during the second Chindit campaign and they knew each other well. However, Thompson makes no reference whatsoever to Calvert’s involvement in Malaya and, more importantly, Calvert’s contribution to the key components of the Briggs Plan. More surprisingly, Thompson’s autobiography makes no reference to Calvert’s, nor the SAS’s, involvement in the Malaya campaign. This is odd because Thompson was at the heart of the Malayan administration and would be aware of all the various military operations and forces being employed, particularly those operations of a special force nature. After all, Thompson had been in the Chindits and was also a founder member of Ferret Force. Support from Thompson, who was in such a key position in the civilian administration, as well as being close to Briggs, might have made Calvert’s life a little easier in the early days of the SAS formation. But, for whatever reason, Thompson chose to ignore the role of Calvert and the SAS throughout the Malayan Emergency.) was critical for the future of the SAS. Without Calvert’s initial input, the Briggs Plan might not have been produced. Moreover, without Calvert’s insistence to Briggs that there was a need for a force to be specifically tasked with deep-penetration patrolling, the SAS would not have been regenerated.

Calvert’s initial step was to search for volunteers but, under the pressures to start operations as soon as possible, he could not be as particular as he would have liked over the standard of recruits. Moreover, he was only permitted to recruit in the Far East. This first recruiting search produced 100 men. Gaining approval for the new unit was a far easier task than raising the new organisation. This was in many ways due to the very big anti-Chindit element among the former Indian Army officers, dating back to the Burma campaign days.

The new formation was called the Malayan Scouts (SAS) (Footnote #181: The Malayan Scouts wore shoulder titles on their olive-green jungle uniforms, and under the titles were the green patch and yellow kris (S-bladed Malay dagger) of the Malaya military command.) and the first recruits to the new unit were formed into A Squadron, The Malayan Scouts.

These first recruits included volunteers (Footnote #182: At one point, Roy Farran, former wartime SAS, was offered command of a squadron in the newly formed unit, but the War Office blocked the appointment in October 1950. This block was because Farran, when he was working in covert operations in Palestine, had been court-martialled and found not guilty of murdering Alexander Rubovitz, a member of a Jewish terrorist organisation, LEHI (more commonly known as the Stern Gang after its leader Avraham Stern, who had disappeared in May 1947). Some years later Farran’s brother was murdered in England by a parcel bomb meant for Farran himself. Farran, who lived in Canada, used to receive a Christmas card each year from the terrorists in the Stern Gang. He died in June 2006.) who – like Major CE (‘Dare’) Newell – had served with SOE in Malaya in 1945. Newell, as well as some other recruits, had also been in Ferret Force. Importantly, Calvert also brought together in Johore an intelligence section of men experienced in jungle operations from the time seven years earlier when they had worked with him in Burma, including Hong Kong Chinese to act as interpreters. The head of this ‘int’ Section was JW, Dorset Regiment. JW had joined the army as a private in 1941. A linguist, he had served for two years as an interpreter with the Russians. Calvert was impressed with JW.

One of my better acquisitions was Captain JW who was serving as G3 Intelligence to 40th Infantry Division in Hong Kong. (Footnote #183: Calvert: Fighting Mad, p. 206.)

Calvert was under pressure to get results quickly and in his inimitable fashion drove things on with determination.

There are far too many officers afraid to make a decision, looking for the bloody rules before they do anything. An officer who never makes a mistake is not doing anything, he’s useless – but don’t make the same mistakes twice. We’ve got to get a move on with our training, people want to see results from us, and they put a lot of faith in us. There isn’t time to ‘do a Monty’. We can’t afford to wait until everything is ready before we begin operations. (Footnote #184: Mars and Minerva. December 2002, p. 19.)

The second source of recruits was the group of wartime SAS, now reservists, known as M Squadron of 21 SAS and commanded by Major Anthony Greville-Bell, who had been formed to fight in Korea. Re-designated B Squadron of the Malayan Scouts, they were under the command of, and trained by, JW.

The new arrivals from Britain, now B Squadron, were not impressed with what they saw and sent back reports to 21 SAS in UK of indiscipline and heavy drinking, which obviously marred the reputation of A Squadron, and its founder, Calvert. Calvert based some of his operational procedures on his wartime experiences but this was now a different army and these were different times. (Footnote #185: ‘Men were allowed to grow beards in the jungle, which was a sensible idea in that they hid their white faces, but when the men came out they were allowed to keep them on, contrary to all the traditions of the Army. The sight of smelly, scruffy, bearded soldiers was one which caused almost apoplexy in the Staff and derision among all the other units in the Army. It was a very bad mistake.’ Interview AAA 25 August 2004. Calvert’s own views on beards were based upon his experiences in the jungles of Burma, but the attitude of other units in Malaya towards the wearing of beards out of the jungle was quite different to those days of the Second World War. ‘Opinions differ on beards. Some people would not be without one while others can’t stand them at any price. I can take them or leave them. I grew a big, black bushy one on the first Chindit campaign this time I stayed clean-shaven. But in wartime beards definitely have their uses. If a man thinks he looks tough he will often be tough and, more important, act tough.’ Calvert: Fighting Mad, p. 166.)

Calvert made time to widen his search for suitable men, visiting Rhodesia where his staff was able to select some 120, most of whom had wartime experience, to form C Squadron. As there was this opportunity to be selective, ‘C’ would prove one of the most professional of the SAS Squadrons, serving in Malaya from 1951 to 1953.

They were, many of them, very big, strong and physically robust men and indeed, of course later on, they or their successors in the Rhodesian SAS had put up a terrific show in the fight against independence for Rhodesia. (Footnote #186: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

Two of the squadron were killed in action before it returned to Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe). There it was later to become the nucleus of the Rhodesian SAS Regiment, although it continued to be known as C Squadron for many years.

The Rhodesian squadron in 1951 had a three weeks training exercise before operations advised only by me and one NCO, with perhaps nine months jungle experience between us – it was a case of the blind leading the blind. This squadron with a high percentage of potentially outstanding SAS soldiers never realised its full potential in Malaya. Through no fault of its own, but because it was never properly trained, the same mistake was not made with the New Zealand SAS squadron, when it joined in 1955. (Footnote #187: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

Meanwhile, A Squadron, a hundred strong, was completing its training course. This included throwing grenades and diving for cover in the deep monsoon drains running through their camp area, one of several lessons with live ammunition that disregarded the normal safety rules for field firing ranges. Since there was neither the time nor facilities for such routines, all training–much in the way Calvert had known it in 1940 (Footnote #188: Calvert: Fighting Mad, p. 205.)–had to take place on football pitches and other clear spaces around the camp. This and A Squadron’s hard drinking were criticised at the time by the more prosaic officers of B and C Squadrons, and would be a lingering criticism of SAS standards for the next ten years. In 1981, JW felt compelled to write a letter (Footnote# 189: Letter written to the SAS Regimental Association on 9 December 1981.) as a result of lingering criticisms of the Malayan Scouts.

Calvert was under pressure to get results and get them quickly. Calvert’s comparison was that a building site can be a rough and mucky place until construction is finished. (Footnote #190: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

However, not all the observations of A Squadron were critical and the newly arrived Rhodesians were somewhat overawed and impressed by the ‘hard men’ of the original A Squadron.

Despite their shortcomings, they did have some very good jungle soldiers and fine officers, and the Rhodesians would be impressed with the way some men could use themselves around the jungle. (Footnote #191: Cole, Barbara. The Elite – The Story of the Rhodesian Special Air Service. Three Knights Publishing, Transkei, 1984, p. 10.)

What was not realised by the more critical officers were Ritchie’s directions to Calvert about the Malayan Scouts being a ‘one-off’ unit, as well as Calvert’s quite different concept of the Scouts as an ad hoc unit. Such units – Calvert argued – could be formed and disbanded more readily than squadrons drawn entirely from a British regiment.

While conflicts with the enemy were few, the Malayan Scouts learned vital lessons about jungle warfare. JW, however, has some withering comments to make about A Squadron’s operations:

The lack of success of these first big operations was certainly not due to any ‘lack of determination or will’. It was also a fact that ‘A’ Squadron was not up to scratch … prolonged failure to make contact with the enemy led to ‘a slackening of battle procedures’, the troopers becoming ‘extremely careless, very noisy and rather bored, going round the jungle in a slaphappy way with big fires at night, dropping sweet papers or ration tins around the place and not hiding them.’(Footnote #192: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

Calvert had driven his troops hard, and himself even harder. Even a man with his iron constitution could not keep going forever and, not surprisingly, ill and exhausted he had to withdraw from operations. He was hospitalised in Malaya and then Singapore before being medically evacuated back to Britain. He describes the situation himself:

In June 1951, I found myself in the British Military Hospital in Kinrara for 12 days, suffering from ‘Hepatomegaly’ [sic] of unknown origin. On 22nd June I was flown to the British Military Hospital in Singapore and thence to the UK as a Class ‘A’ invalid to the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital in London. (Footnote #193: Calvert: Fighting Mad, p. 208.)

A little under six months after Calvert’s medical evacuation, on 22 December 1951, his success was articulated by General Headquarters, Far East Land Forces (GHQ, FARELF), which wrote a comprehensive report to the Under Secretary of State at the War office about the employment of the Malayan Scouts. In this report, the role of the Malayan Scouts was defined as to operate in the deep jungle areas not already covered by other Security Forces with the object of destroying ‘bandit’ forces, their camps and their sources of supply. The report stated that no other units in Malaya were sufficiently organised or equipped for this task, which was vital for bringing the bandits to battle. The result, the report stated, was that the unit was becoming a ‘Corps d’Elite’ in deep jungle operations and a most valuable component of the armed forces in Malaya. This report, prepared only some 18 months after Calvert had been given the task to establish a Special Force but with virtually no assets, was
a comprehensive vindication of his vision and commitment against the odds. Moreover, the report recommended that the Malayan Scouts title be amended to 22 Special Air Service Regiment and added to the Army’s permanent order of battle. (Footnote #194: PRO – WO216/494 – Report on the Malayan Scouts – Special Air Service Regiment. See Appendix 6.)

Calvert remained a key supporter of the SAS but his departure from Malaya marked the high point of his military career. He had, personally, re-established the SAS, but like a catalyst in any chemical action, he was ‘destroyed’ in the process and played little further part in any future SAS decision-making process. Sadly, his efforts have been less than appreciated by the majority of the newer generations of SAS who, through ignorance, are not aware of his importance to the sophisticated organisation that the SAS has now become.

I am sorry to say that I think people’s views of Mike Calvert had been affected by his heavy drinking initially, and I am afraid also that the fact that he was convicted on a homosexuality charge in 1953 or 1954 in Germany, after he had left the SAS. I think that tends to influence people’s view of him. (Footnote #195: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

On 27 July, Lieutenant Colonel John Sloane, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, fresh from Korea and an infantry officer, with neither special forces experience nor jungle experience, took over from Calvert.

He took but a short time to assess the situation he found himself in and made a number of far-reaching decisions. His feelings and tentative ideas are shown in a letter (Footnote #196: See Appendix 4 – The letter was written on 20 August 1951.) he wrote soon after assuming command. (Footnote #197: Hoe, A. and Morris, E. Re-enter the SAS, Leo Cooper, London, 1994, p. 100.)

He brought in more conventional measures of discipline and ‘normal military order’. Sloane pulled the squadrons out of the jungle and instituted a period of solid retraining for all personnel in late 1951 and early 1952. Newell and several other officers, who were considering returning to conventional soldiering, were persuaded to stay with the unit.

It is a pity that so little recognition has been made to [sic] Lt. Colonel Sloane, who started the administrative and disciplinary improvements continued by Colonel Oliver Brooke in the early 50s. (Footnote #198: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

In 1952 the designation ‘Malayan Scouts’ was dropped and 22 SAS Regiment came into being, albeit at this time wearing the red beret of the Parachute Regiment – adopted with the SAS cap badge.

JW went back to England to start a selection process for new aspirants to the SAS. (Footnote #199: ‘The first selection course was for 7 days, I took it to Snowdon by train and then walking with the intention of sorting them out with map reading and endurance test – it was chiefly notable that I contracted Malaria in the middle of this, and my endurance was far more severely tested than the recruits.’ Interview AAA 25 August 2004.) JW had a unique manner of teaching his soldiers the sort of skills necessary to successfully defeat a wily jungle enemy – some of his methods are legendary.

There is a rather silly story that I gave a man a grenade without the pin in for a week whereas the true facts of that is that a man was put out on sentry just out of sight from the camp with a grenade only and it obviously had the pin in – but it was ready to throw. I once discharged a rifle negligently too and had to fine myself double. On a training exercise, when I came back to patrol base on an exercise, the sentry there who should not have had live ammunition, fired a shot which missed me narrowly and I did charge him for missing – that was just a stunt to amuse the troops.(Footnote #200: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

When JW returned to Malaya to command D Squadron after a short tour at Regimental Headquarters in England he left behind a properly established selection set up at Dering Lines in Brecon. JC, one of the original members of the wartime SAS, took over B Squadron. A young lieutenant who was to feature regularly in the regiment’s activity over the forthcoming years, DLB, also joined the regiment at that time.

DLB (Footnote #201: Major Harry Thompson was DLB’s first squadron commander and was unimpressed with DLB and had every intention of having him returned to his unit. However, this was countermanded by the commanding officer at the time, Deane-Drummond, and DLB was moved to a job in the headquarters. Thompson, it has been stated, was destined to become the commanding officer of the regiment, but he died in a helicopter crash early in the Borneo campaign. It is worth considering whether DLB’s career fortunes would have been the same if Thompson had not died. DLB: Looking For Trouble, p.126) had some reservations about his first acquaintances with the SAS, and some particularly harsh comments about Mike Calvert’s methods:

… to join such a shoddy organisation would finish my career prospects in one quick move – a kind of sudden death. (Footnote #202: DLB: Looking For Trouble, p. 89.)

It is worth examining some of the observations that DLB makes during his work with the SAS in Malaya because they can be linked with activities with which he is involved later during his lengthy and varied career in the SAS. (Footnote #203: The author was advised by an impeccable source that DLB was described by an SAS officer, who served with him for many years in the SAS and became his commanding officer, as a ‘serial opportunist’. It is not apparent whether this description was meant to be pejorative or a compliment.)

DLB also describes the difficulties he had as troop commander with his new troop in B Squadron – the same squadron he had difficulties with in another war on the other side of the world in 1980.

Yet physical difficulties were small in comparison with the problems I had in controlling my troop. Not for nothing was B Squadron known as ‘Big-Time B’. (Footnote #204: DLB: Looking For Trouble, p. 116.)

As previously mentioned, DLB’s initial introduction to the SAS was not particularly impressive and he was removed from the operational area and deployed in the base area. The reason for his removal from operations seems to have been somewhat of a mystery to him however, his new position in the Operations Room actually placed him in an excellent position to be firmly involved in the next campaign the regiment was to become involved in.

One of the main problems with the SAS’s adopted role of deep penetration patrolling of the jungle hinterland was the time and energy spent actually walking into the main operational area. This was before the regular availability of troop-carrying helicopters. A new tactic of parachuting into the high trees which covered the landscape was instituted, and although there were frequent casualties, it continued until the end of the war. DLB describes the process as an ‘exceedingly hazardous procedure’. (Footnote #205: Ibid., p. 124.)

Lieutenant Colonel Sloane handed over command of 22 SAS in 1953 to Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Brooke (Footnote #206: Oliver Brooke, George Lea’s predecessor as commanding officer, broke his back in a tree-jumping operation and was crippled for life.) and, towards the end of that year, the Rhodesian C Squadron departed for Rhodesia.

The Rhodesians’ commitment lasted almost two years. Malaya had been a valuable experience and they had learned the elementary principles of counter-insurgency warfare. (Footnote #207: Cole: The Elite, p. 12.)

Always ready to make an observation, Dare Newell commented on the Rhodesian’s contribution to the Emergency.

Of course we owe them a debt of gratitude. Their numbers swelled our ranks at a time when we desperately needed them and they had some very fine soldiers. There are criticisms, of course, I don’t think they were as at ease with the aborigines as the Brits but that is understandable given the background and they had a lot of trouble with jungle diseases. (Footnote #208: Hoe and Morris: Re-enter, p. 187.)

Newell’s comments, which are often repeated in books and journals about the early days of the SAS in Malaya, are certainly at odds with the view the Rhodesians had, particularly regarding their ability to relate to the aboriginals. Cole’s comprehensive book about the Rhodesian SAS offers a quite different view.

Off-duty, the Rhodesians became the best of friends with the black Fijians, making nonsense of some claims that the Rhodesians in Malaya were a shade too colour conscious. The truth was the Rhodesians with their background were better orientated towards mixing with blacks and coloureds than the average British troopie [sic] who seldom associated with them. (Footnote #209: Cole: The Elite, p. 11.)

The Rhodesian’s Malaya experience would prove invaluable when they fought encroaching terrorist threats in their own homeland. One young trooper in C Squadron was Ron Reid Daly, who would raise and command Rhodesia’s Selous Scouts.

The former Rhodesians still maintain their connection to the British SAS and C Squadron still remains vacant in the 22 SAS order of battle today, and this strong affiliation between 22 SAS and its Rhodesian colleagues remains. Interestingly, when the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) was declared by Ian Smith’s government in Rhodesia on 11 November 1965, it is alleged that the Wilson government considered using the British SAS in Rhodesia but primary sources to this effect have not been located. If this is true, Wilson, who also deployed the SAS to Northern Ireland in 1976, is one of the very few post-war prime ministers who could understand the strategic and public relations value of correctly utilising the SAS. According to Connor, the possible use of troops from 22 SAS against Rhodesia caused a great deal of disquiet. Again according to Connor, there was a strong possibility of dissent if 22 SAS had been directed to carry out offensive operations in Rhodesia against former colleagues. Connor alleges a secret poll was conducted among SAS troopers.

If the order to go to Rhodesia is given, would you be willing to fight? A substantial majority said ‘No!’ (Footnote #210: Connor: Ghost Force, p. 116.)

The requirement for the services of the SAS was increasing substantially and in October 1953, following the departure of the Rhodesians, D Squadron was formed.

They (The Rhodesians) were quickly followed by what became ‘D’ Squadron, made up of volunteers who ‘had spent a few weeks at the Airborne Forces Depot in Aldershot (Footnote #211: Kemp states that D Squadron was raised locally. See Kemp: The SAS, p. 27.) where they were not parachute-trained but simply used as heavers of coal and hewers of wood – not the best preparation for joining the Malayan Scouts.’ JW became ‘D’ Squadron’s first commander (Footnote #212: Kemp believes that D Squadron was first commanded by JC, one of the wartime SAS ‘Originals’. See Kemp: The SAS, p. 27.) leading them for six months before his first tour in Malaya ended. (Footnote #213: Allen, Charles.Savage Wars of Peace, Soldiers’ Voices. 1945–1989. Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1990, p. 55.)

The Director of Operations in Malaya, General Sir Geoffrey Bourne, suggested that a replacement squadron should be formed from volunteers from The Parachute Regiment. Bourne’s suggestion was not received with the greatest of enthusiasm by the SAS, but

… at the time the SAS was desperately short of recruits, officers particularly: the Regiment’s reputation stood so low that the commanding officers of other units were making it difficult for their people to go on the selection course. (Footnote #214: DLB: Looking For Trouble, p. 102.)

The Parachute Regiment and the SAS are different creatures and quite a few of the members of the SAS had less than favourable memories of their treatment at the Airborne Forces Depot in Aldershot before travelling to Malaya.

There was much hostility for the SAS from Airborne Forces, bitterly resented by us at the time, but in most respects it was deserved. Parachute training was not undertaken by our recruits until they were in the Regiment and this lack of that special virility symbol of ‘parachute wings’ was one reason for the scorn and derision. The other reasons were that the World War II record of the SAS was little known even in the Army and the post-war record non-existent. The standard of recruit was not high and used as fatigue men, discipline and morale soon worsened at the Airborne Depot. In later years up to 1962 or so, attempts were made to absorb the SAS into Airborne Forces. Fortunately, I think for both sides these were not successful. The presence of the SAS in Airborne Forces would have been disruptive. I was a Company Commander in 3 Para for a year in 1959, and the qualities of the Para were best maintained, then and as now, by dominant commanders, not at that time by the SAS methods of discussion and self-criticism. (Footnote #215: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

However, primarily influenced by the need for additional manpower, the Independent Parachute Regiment Squadron was formed and added to the SAS strength at the end of 1955. Commanded by Major Dudley Coventry, it comprised men from all three Parachute battalions. (Footnote #216: The Parachute Regiment squadron did not have any CT kills during its tour in Malaya from 1955 to 1957. There are some contradictory comments about the ability of the Parachute Regiment soldiers in 22 SAS operations in Malaya. During the Borneo campaign Parachute Regiment soldiers, particularly from Patrol Companies, were also deployed with 22 SAS on operations.)

The Parachute Regiment squadron was quite well trained – it was not up to the standard reached by the SAS squadrons at the time in Malaya but only because it was trained, I think, by the jungle warfare school, which trained the infantry whose operations in Malaya were very different to the SAS operations. However, they did do a good job and, one of the reasons that Dare Newell and I and others in the SAS was so pleased to see them there, was because it completely changed the attitude of the Parachute Regiment towards the SAS. (Footnote #217: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

In 1955, a squadron of SAS was raised in New Zealand and after rigorous selection and basic training arrived in Malaya towards the end of the year, where they carried out their parachute course. The total strength of the squadron was 140, a third of whom were Maoris who found it particularly easy to work with the aborigine tribesmen. Major Frank Rennie commanded the squadron. After a brief preparation period they went on to make a valuable contribution to the campaign.

The New Zealand squadron trained in the jungle areas of New Zealand before it came out and when it came, the Commander was attached to my squadron and we got on very well on a personal level, and they were an outstandingly good squadron – they were at least as good as any of the British squadrons – one might perhaps say better. They were really high-class troops. (Footnote #218: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

JW, in an interview in later years, commented on the contribution of the Parachute Regiment, and the New Zealanders. His observations on the non-‘organic’ SAS units are of particular interest:

… there is no doubt that the healthy competition provided by Frank Rennie’s Kiwis and Dudley Coventry’s chaps from the Parachute Regiment did the 22nd far more good than many of the old hands were prepared to admit at the time. (Footnote #219: Strawson, J. A History of the SAS Regiment. Guild Publishing, London, 1985, p. 165.)

A normal pattern for a squadron was two months in the jungle, two weeks of leave, two weeks retraining and then back to the jungle. As an example, on Operation SWORD, the SAS suffered three dead as a result of a parachute drop into the jungle in Kedah in January 1954. But in July all three operational squadrons dropped into Perak with only negligible injuries. These encouraging results led to a series of major offensives. The most important of these was Operation TERMITE in July 1954, the largest combined operation to that point in the Emergency. The target was two CT camps in the Kinta and Raia valleys east of Ipoh in the state of Perak, which had long been one of the ‘blackest’ areas in Malaya. More than 50 aircraft (Lincolns, Hornets and Valettas) and helicopters, 200 SAS paratroopers, and ground forces from the 2nd Company, West Yorkshire Regiment, the 1/6th Gurkhas, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Singapore Royal Artillery and the Police Field Force were deployed in a coordinated attack on the CT hide-outs. Five RAAF Lincolns and six RAF Lincolns were briefed to make two separate but virtually simultaneous attacks (30 seconds apart) on the camps. As soon as the bombing had ceased (each Lincoln carried 14 1,000-pound bombs), Valettas were to drop two squadrons of the 22nd SAS Regiment as close as possible to the main target, with helicopters following with the ‘tail’ of each SAS headquarters. The SAS had many casualties from injuries received during the parachuting decent into trees. (Footnote #220: In July 1954, Captain P. Head of the Royal Artillery was observing the SAS deployment into Op TERMITE in central Malaya, and stated: ‘It should be borne in mind that the SAS at that time was far from the elite body of today, and it was the dumping ground for every battalion CO’s misfits.’ This was obviously still the general view of the rest of the Army over three years after the SAS had been reformed! Head, P. ‘“O” Field Troop – 1st Singapore Regiment Royal Artillery Malaya 1953–1955. Part 2’.Journal of the Royal Artillery. Spring 2002, p. 62.) At the beginning of 1955 Oliver Brooke, who had replaced Sloane, was injured and replaced by Lieutenant Colonel George Lea. Lea, some years later, took over operational command in Borneo from the legendary General Walter Walker.

Throughout the Emergency, there was no serious attempt by the SAS or other organisations to develop ‘pseudo-gangs’ as used with significant success by the British in Kenya against the Mau Mau (Footnote #221: See FK. Gangs and Counter Gangs. Barrie and Rockcliff, London, 1960.) and by the Rhodesian Selous Scouts in the 1970s. (Footnote #222: See Reid-Daly, R.F. and Stiff, Peter. Selous Scouts – Top Secret War. Galago Publishing (Pty), Alberton, 1982 and Reid-Daly, R.F. Pamwe Chete. Kovos Day Books, Johannesburg, 1999.) In 1952 a Hong Kong Chinese man called Ip Kwang Lau, who had escaped from Hong Kong to join the Chindits, joined SAS. JW used him in CT uniform to link up with the aborigines with a cover story. (Footnote #223: Interview AAA 22 October 2004.) There were no major results (Footnote #224: ‘I remember Ip [Ip Kwang Lau], he was the first SAS guy I saw in Bradbury Lines [SAS camp in Hereford] when I came for Selection in 1964. I staggered through the gates and there was this Chinaman doing one-handed press-ups in front of the Guard-room. I recall a story that ‘Mush’ Morrison [SAS soldier in Malaya] shot a CT in the head while Ip was shaking hands and talking with him on a jungle track’. Interview DDD 22 December 2004.) but a lot of useful information was gained about how the aborigines dealt with the CTs. Lau also did similar work for police special branch (SB) in Sarawak during the Borneo campaign. (Footnote #225: He was based with the SAS in Hereford and retired there. He died on 19 February 1996.)

The MCP failed because it overestimated the backing it would get from the people and by neglecting to organise an adequate open wing to supply and support its operations. The dispersion of its effort geographically and racially throughout the Federation of Malaya undoubtedly contributed to this failure. Having failed to gain a quick victory in any part of the country, it reorganised for a war of attrition. Its high-handed methods in the early stages, the attitude of the Malays and the progress of the Briggs Plan defeated its efforts to gain any widespread measure of support from the people and it fell back on the hope of intervention from outside the country. This hope faded as the situation in Indo-China and Korea became stabilised. (Footnote #226: PRO – WO216/494 – Report No: 1/57.)

Despite popular history developed in such books as Re-enter the SAS, (Footnote #227: See Hoe and Morris:Re-enter the SAS.) the SAS had a very ineffectual role in the early days of the Malay Emergency and, in fact, only became of importance in about 1954 when it had become competent in deep-penetration patrolling. Also, the introduction of the helicopter made the insertion of patrols more tactical.

The success of cutting off the CTs from food and intelligence by the removal of the squatter-based Min Yuen meant that the CTs were virtually defeated as a fighting force and had withdrawn deep into the jungles. The SAS had become efficient at carrying out long patrols and, in association with the police forts, were probably the most capable of the units in-country to do this type of work. The SAS had greater flexibility than the regular infantry units and their soldiers, very few of whom were conscripts, and who were generally older than their army counterparts, gave fewer administrative problems, to FARELF headquarters, on long patrols.

I would think that we had about 6 or 7 National Servicemen in my squadron of about 70 men, and they of course didn’t serve for two years of the tour, so whatever was left of their tour probably about one year, and they were, in general, very good. They had been on a selection course from 1952 onwards – everyone went on a selection course, including the National Servicemen – so they probably didn’t have much more than a year in the Regiment. (Footnote #228: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

In retrospect, 1951–52 could be seen as the turning point in the campaign. Victory had been denied the terrorists demoralisation had been averted, and the ‘white’ areas had inched forward, so the reforms began to make an impact. An independent Western-orientated Malaya became possible. As the security patrols probed deeper into the jungle, the isolation of the guerrillas increased. The first truce overtures were made by the communists in 1955 and 1957 and by then their numbers had fallen to around 2,000. Nevertheless, the magnitude of the security forces’ task is well illustrated when it was reported that an average of 1,000 patrol hours were needed to capture a terrorist and no fewer than 1,600 to achieve the kill. Ambushes, dependent upon a good intelligence, were rather more rewarding, with a success for every 350 hours spent in wait. Air support included helicopters, first introduced in 1950, and regularly used from 1953. These proved valuable – increasing troop mobility, making deeper penetration into jungle possible, and improving the soldiers’ morale, particularly since they could speedily remove the wounded to medical care. A naval squadron alone carried 10,000 troops and 300 casualties in 1953 and the first months of 1954. The Navy also operated along the coast, further restricting guerrilla mobility and supplies. Finally the army moved into central Malaya and the northern border state of Kedah to try and deny the guerrillas a last refuge. Medical and technical aid helped to win over the local primitive tribesman, and throughout Malaya soldiers did much to win the confidence of the population.

By the end of 1955, the back of the Malayan terrorist campaign had been broken and murder of civilians was down to five or six a month. The CT leadership had fled to Thailand and the policy of rewarding defections had paid off. Low-flying aircraft equipped with loudspeakers made tempting offers of money and food. The SAS campaign wound down during 1956 and 1957. At the end of 1956 the regiment’s official ‘score’ was 89 terrorists killed and nine captured and by the end of 1959 it was a total of 108.

In 1957 deep cuts in the military were made, and the SAS squadrons, depleted already, were made smaller and consolidated – B Squadron was disbanded and its men absorbed by the understrength A and D Squadrons.

By the end of 1958 and under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Tony Deane-Drummond, DSO, MC, the writing was on the wall for the SAS’s future in Malaya. The figures stated at the time were that 6,400 terrorists had been killed with a further 3,000 captured or surrendered. The total number of terrorists killed by the SAS was small when compared to some of the outstanding British infantry battalions, composed mainly of National Servicemen, who rotated through the theatre. In his memoirs, Chin Peng does not mention the SAS at all during the main years of the Emergency and only makes reference to them possibly trying to assassinate him on the Thai border in 1960. (Footnote #229: Peng: My Side of History, pp. 406 and 410.) This apparent contradiction is explained by JW in a conversation with the author in August 2004.

As far as I know, he never himself went very deep into the jungle, most of his autobiography is concerned with when he was in Perak, I think, and North Malaya, where he was in fairly close contact with the larger force of terrorists who were based naturally enough near their potential targets – the roads and the railway.

Judged purely in terms of ‘kills’ the success rate of the SAS Regiment in Malaya was unimpressive. In eight years it was in Malaya the SAS killed 108 terrorists, significantly fewer than outstanding units such as The Suffolks and the Royal Hampshires and some of the Gurkha battalions achieved in two or three years.

They only killed a 100 plus terrorists but they did a job which would not have been effectively done by infantry battalions. (Footnote #230: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

However, 22 SAS had gained a wealth of experience in long-term, deep-penetration, jungle patrolling.

Compounding this was the effective British, and later, Australian (Footnote #231: The Australians did not have special forces operating during the Emergency but they did have infantry units deployed. Chin Peng may have been confusing the Australians with the NZ SAS patrols.) patrolling of deep jungle areas. (Footnote #232: Peng: My Side of History, p. 395.)

The SAS did play an effective role in the collection of intelligence, harassment of the CT lines of communications, and by the investment of their ‘safe’ areas.

Chin Peng mentions the disruption of courier which was the method of passing orders and instructions and policy matters throughout the whole of the Chinese terrorist organisation, and the disruption of these routes would occur in the deep jungle, largely through the presence of the SAS.(Footnote #233: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

The unit had also gained a certain reputation for dealing effectively and empathetically with the indigenous population such as the Orang Asli. These tribes lived in the vast depths of the jungle and CTs blistered onto them for secure bases providing food and early warning of attack. The SAS task was to disrupt this arrangement. There was the danger of natives betraying or killing SAS, who would always be at a disadvantage however clever they might be in the jungle. In 1951, Sakai aborigines murdered Trooper J.A. O’Leary, who became detached from his patrol and lost in the jungle.(Footnote #234: O’Leary’s remains were located by an SAS patrol behind an ambush position they were about to use and recovered by Allan Glass, an officer of the Malayan Police who had been attached to the SAS. O’Leary was identified by a gold earring he wore.) The majority of publications about the conflict and the part played by the SAS refer to the critical importance of these Orang Asli/aborigines to the CTs. Chin Peng makes one small reference to them in his entire biography.

In Kelantan, we had a few small groups in very remote camps working among the Orang Asli.(Footnote #235: Peng: My Side of History, p. 403.)

Either he wishes to play down the part they played in assisting his forces, or the aborigines did not play as an important part in the conflict as we are led to believe.

The SAS played a very small part in the very large campaign in Malaya they had struggled to survive throughout the conflict and, even by the end, most people had not heard of them.

In these early years a number of key personnel firmly established their relationship with the future of BSF and they continue to appear as the permanency of the SAS becomes firmly established. Calvert has nothing further to do with the SAS in an official capacity but remains a firm supporter of the organisation until his death. JW, Lea, Newell, DLB and JS feature in later campaigns. An element of cult-following is evident, particularly where personal lobbying is required to ensure SAS participation in future conflicts.

The future of the SAS was certainly not guaranteed by its contribution to the Malayan Campaign. Other issues including major forces withdrawals and military downsizing were being debated in Whitehall, and the SAS was not necessarily high on the strategic agenda. Moreover, some of the staff officers involved in the discussions were not necessarily benevolent to the SAS, particularly if the future of their own regiments was at risk.

On 31 July 1960, the ‘Emergency’ finally ended – with a victory parade in Kuala Lumpur. Britain had achieved all of its aims in Malaya: the insurgents were defeated, and, with independence in 1957, the country was set upon a course of political and economic development in which Britain’s substantial economic interests were essentially preserved.

Now, all restrictions were lifted except in the Thai border area, where a Border Security Council was formed to control the remnants of the MRLA in remote regions in Perlis, Kedah, Perak and Kelantan – all that was left of the estimated 12,000 men and women who had passed through its ranks. Of these, 6,698 had been killed, 2,696 surrendered and 2,819 wounded. About a thousand more had died, deserted, or had been liquidated by their commanders.

The cost in lives to Malaya, and those who fought for it, had been heavy. The Security Forces had lost 1,865 killed, 2,560 wounded 2,473 civilians had been murdered, 1,385 wounded and 810 were missing. It was also a war in which the Police suffered 70 per cent of the total casualties and in which Malays in the special police squads killed more of the enemy than did the entire British army.

The impact of the SAS was valuable but certainly not critical and their absence would not have affected the timing or the outcome of the campaign. Success in jungle operations is about good training, not about having elite troops.

If jungle operations are to achieve success, special training is, indeed, necessary but not special men.(Footnote #236: Thompson, Robert. Defeating Communist Insurgency. Experiences from Malaya and Borneo. Chatto and Windus Ltd, London, 1966, p. 155.)

The main input the SAS made to the campaign was the contribution by Mike Calvert to the content of the Briggs Plan and the implementation of deep-penetration, long-range patrolling.

Calvert was the originator of all the basic SAS tactics in Malaya. (Footnote #237: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

Chin Peng is quite clear about what defeated his forces. In December 1955 his view of the situation was:

The battlefield outlook for our forces by this time was indeed gloomy. The Briggs Plan with its objective of starving us out of the jungle had been the foundation of a devastatingly effective programme. It had increasingly denied us access to our Min Yuen supporters and lines of supply. (Footnote #238: Peng: My Side of History, p. 395.)

If Calvert made mistakes, JW never had any doubts as to his value as the ‘originator of the post-war SAS’, whose ideas on the employment of special forces in counter-insurgency were to have a major impact on SAS thinking.

The continuing survival of the SAS was a close-run thing and was, primarily, as a result of a committee of enquiry into the role of special forces, not, the unit’s operations in Malaya

That the SAS did survive to fight another day during that critical decade before 1957 was the result of a committee of inquiry into the role of Special Forces, headed by a Lieutenant-General. This group soberly evaluated the impact of all the private armies of the Second World War, including the Long Range Desert Group, Lovat Scouts, Popski’s Private Army, SAS, PARAs, Commandos … even, it is jokingly suggested, the Royal Corps of Tree Climbers. (Footnote #239: Geraghty: Who Dares Wins, pp. 39–40.)

Calvert, the man of unrecognised vision, knew quite clearly that the SAS had a unique role to play in Malaya.

Be under no illusions about this business. We in this unit are not going to win the war. All that we can do is to play a particular part in it for which other Army units are neither trained nor suited.(Footnote #240: Hoe and Morris: Re-enter, p. 205.)

A blunt analysis of the effectiveness of the SAS in the Malayan Campaign has to be: would their absence have affected the outcome of the conflict at all – and, if so, how? The answer must be that the contribution of the SAS to the Malayan Emergency did not affect the outcome at all. An SAS troop officer of the time defines his view of the results of SAS activities – with a certain amount of defensiveness:

I can’t say that the British would never have won in Malaya if there had been no SAS, but it would have been a slower and more difficult process, and the finishing off of it. (Footnote #241: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

A continuing theme is the key part that SAS personalities played in the usage of the SAS in the Malayan campaign and the minimal input received from the Ministry of Defence or the government to direct their utilisation.

But, ironically, the Malayan campaign contributed to the development of the SAS, providing it with a harsh classroom in which it was able to develop a number of skills and tactical procedures which were utilised soon after and which continue to be used today. The experience in Malaya gave a background to developing counter-guerrilla tactics which, as it turned out, was extremely fortunate because, only five years after the end of the operation in Malaya, a much bigger operation took place in Borneo for which the SAS was very well trained and Malay happened to be the language again that was required. (Footnote #242: Interview AAA 25 August 2004.)

However, it was events in Oman, in the Middle East, which provided the unit with a unique, and timely, opportunity to demonstrate its usefulness.


Contents

Economic and social issues Edit

Economic tension intensified during the Second World War. The Japanese occupation of Malaya began in 1941 and from that point onwards the "export of primary products was limited to the relatively small amounts required for the Japanese economy." [17] This led to large areas of rubber plantations being abandoned and many mines closing. Mining was also affected by a shortage of spare parts for machines. [17] Imports of rice, which made up a large portion of the Malayan diet, fell rapidly due to limited trade and thus the population was forced to focus their efforts on subsistence. [18]

At the end of World War II, the withdrawal of Japan left the British Malayan economy disrupted. Problems included unemployment, low wages, and high levels of food inflation. The British struggled to address the underlying economic problems. [17] The weak economy was a factor in the growth of trade union movements led by the communists. There was considerable labour unrest and a large number of strikes occurred between 1946 and 1948. One example was a 24-hour general strike organised by the MCP on 29 January 1946. [19] During this time, the British administration was attempting to organise Malaya's economy, as revenue from Malaya's tin and rubber industries was important to Britain's own post-war recovery. Protesters were dealt with harshly – measures included arrests and deportations. In turn, protesters became increasingly militant. In 1947 alone, the communists in Malaya organised 300 strikes. [19]

Immediately after the war, the British authorities had set up the Malayan Union which brought together the protectorate of the Federated Malay States, five protected Unfederated Malay States and the crown colony of the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca. Following opposition by the ethnic Malays opposed to the removal of the sultans powers, the union was reorganized as the Federation of Malaya in 1948. [20]

First incidents Edit

The first shots of the Malayan Emergency were fired at 8:30 am on 16 June 1948, in the office of the Elphil Estate twenty miles east of the Sungai Siput town, Perak. Three British plantation managers, Arthur Walker (aged 50), John Allison (aged 55) and his young assistant, Ian Christian, were killed by three young Chinese men. These planned attacks were to include a fourth British on an estate near Sungai Siput. This attack failed as the target's jeep broke down making him late for work. More gunmen were sent to kill him but left after failing to find him. [21]

Two days later (June 18), the British enacted emergency measures into law, first in Perak in response to the Sungai Siput incident. These emergency measures then became country-wide in July. Under these measures many trade unions, the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) and other leftist parties were outlawed. The police were given the power to detain communists and those suspected of assisting them.

Formation of the MNLA Edit

Led by Chin Peng the remaining Malayan communists retreated to rural areas and formed the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), although their name has commonly been mistranslated as the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA) or the Malayan People's Liberation Army (MPLA). Peng was a veteran anti-fascist and trade unionist who had played an integral role in the MPAJA communist resistance against the Japanese occupation of Malaya during WWII. The MNLA began their war for Malayan independence by targeting the colonial resource extraction industries, namely the tin mines and rubber plantations which were the main sources of income for the British occupation of Malaya. The MNLA attacked these industries in the hopes of bankrupting the British and winning independence by making the colonial administration too expensive to maintain. The MNLA launched their first guerrilla attacks in the Gua Musang district. [ citation needed ]

The MNLA was partly a re-formation of the Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), the MCP-led guerrilla force which had been the principal resistance in Malaya against the Japanese occupation. The British had secretly helped form the MPAJA in 1942 and trained them in the use of explosives, firearms and radios. Disbanded in December 1945, the MPAJA officially turned in its weapons to the British Military Administration, although many MPAJA soldiers secretly hid stockpiles of weapons in jungle hideouts. Members who agreed to disband were offered economic incentives. Around 4,000 members rejected these incentives and went underground. [22]

The MNLA commonly employed guerrilla tactics, sabotaging installations, attacking rubber plantations and destroying transportation and infrastructure. [23] Support for the MNLA mainly came from around 500,000 of the 3.12 million ethnic Chinese then living in Malaya. There was a particular component of the Chinese community referred to as 'squatters', farmers living on the edge of the jungles where the MNLA were based. This allowed the MNLA to supply themselves with food, in particular, as well as providing a source of new recruits. [24] The ethnic Malay population supported them in smaller numbers. The MNLA gained the support of the Chinese because the Chinese were denied the equal right to vote in elections, had no land rights to speak of, and were usually very poor. [25] The MNLA's supply organisation was called the Min Yuen (Mass Organisation). It had a network of contacts within the general population. Besides supplying material, especially food, it was also important to the MNLA as a source of intelligence. [26]

The MNLA's camps and hideouts were in the inaccessible tropical jungle and had limited infrastructure. Most MNLA guerrillas were ethnic Chinese, though there were some Malays, Indonesians and Indians among its members. The MNLA was organised into regiments, although these had no fixed establishments and each included all communist forces operating in a particular region. The regiments had political sections, commissars, instructors and secret service. In the camps, the soldiers attended lectures on Marxism–Leninism, and produced political newsletters to be distributed to civilians. [27] The MNLA also stipulated that their soldiers needed official permission for any romantic involvement with civilian women. [28]

In the early stages of the conflict, the guerrillas envisaged establishing control in "liberated areas" from which the government forces had been driven, but did not succeed in this. [29]

British response Edit

In the early months, chaos and lack of direction immobilized the government. On the military front, the security forces did not know how to fight an enemy moving freely in the jungle and enjoying support from the Chinese rural population. British planters and miners, who bore the brunt of the communist attacks, began to talk about government incompetence and being betrayed by Whitehall. [30] The initial government strategy was primarily to guard important economic targets, such as mines and plantation estates. Later, in April 1950, General Sir Harold Briggs, the British Army's Director of Operations was appointed to Malaya. The central tenet of the Briggs Plan was that the best way to defeat an insurgency, such as the government was facing, was to cut the insurgents off from their supporters amongst the population. The Briggs plan also recognised the inhospitable nature of the Malayan jungle. A major part of the strategy involved targeting the MNLA food supply, which Briggs recognised came from three main sources: camps within the Malayan jungle where land was cleared to provide food, aboriginal jungle dwellers who could supply the MNLA with food gathered within the jungle, and the MNLA supporters within the 'squatter' communities on the edge of the jungle. [24]

The Briggs Plan was multifaceted but one aspect has become particularly well known: the forced relocation of some 500,000 rural Malayans, including 400,000 Chinese, from squatter communities on the fringes of the forests into guarded camps called "new villages". These villages were newly constructed in most cases, and were surrounded by barbed wire, police posts, and floodlit areas, designed to keep the inhabitants in and the guerrillas out.

At the start of the Emergency, the British had 13 infantry battalions in Malaya, including seven partly formed Gurkha battalions, three British battalions, two battalions of the Royal Malay Regiment and a British Royal Artillery Regiment being used as infantry. [31] This force was too small to fight the insurgents effectively, and more infantry battalions were needed in Malaya. The British brought in soldiers from units such as the Royal Marines and King's African Rifles. Another element in the strategy was the re-formation of the Special Air Service in 1950 as a specialised reconnaissance, raiding, and counter-insurgency unit.

The Permanent Secretary of Defence for Malaya, Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson, had served in the Chindits in Burma during World War II. Thompson's in-depth experience of jungle warfare proved invaluable during this period as he was able to build effective civil-military relations and was one of the chief architects of the counter-insurgency plan in Malaya. [32] [33]

On 6 October 1951, the British High Commissioner in Malaya, Sir Henry Gurney, was assassinated (see below). Later the same month, Winston Churchill's Conservative Party was returned to power in a British general election. Churchill took some time considering a replacement for Gurney, eventually appointing General Gerald Templer as the new British High Commissioner in January 1952. It was Templer who is widely credited with turning the situation in favour of the British forces. Among many new policies, Templer encouraged a "hearts and minds campaign" to win over the insurgents by giving medical and food aid to Malays and indigenous tribes. At the same time, British forces kept up the pressure on the MNLA by patrolling the jungle. The MNLA guerrillas were driven deeper into the jungle and denied resources. The MNLA extorted food from the Sakai [ disambiguation needed ] and thereby earned their enmity. Many of the captured guerrillas changed sides. In comparison, the MNLA never released any Britons alive.

During Templer's two-year command, "two-thirds of the guerrillas were wiped out and lost over half their strength, the incident rate fell from 500 to less than 100 per month and the civilian and security force casualties from 200 to less than 40." [34] Orthodox historiography suggests that Templer changed the situation in the Emergency and his actions and policies were a major part of British success during his period in command. Revisionist historians have challenged this view and frequently support the ideas of Victor Purcell, a Sinologist who as early as 1954 claimed that Templer merely continued policies begun by his predecessors. [35]

The MNLA was vastly outnumbered by the British forces and their Commonwealth and colonial allies in terms of regular full-time soldiers. Siding with the British occupation were a maximum of 40,000 British and other Commonwealth troops, 250,000 Home Guard members, and 66,000 police agents. Supporting the communists were 7,000+ communist guerrillas (1951 peak), an estimated 1,000,000 million sympathisers, and an unknown number of civilian Min Yuen supporters and Orang Asli sympathisers. [36]

Control of anti-guerrilla operations Edit

At all levels of the Malayan government (national, state, and district levels), the military and civil authority was assumed by a committee of military, police and civilian administration officials. This allowed intelligence from all sources to be rapidly evaluated and disseminated and also allowed all anti-guerrilla measures to be co-ordinated. Each of the Malay states had a State War Executive Committee which included the State Chief Minister as chairman, the Chief Police Officer, the senior military commander, state home guard officer, state financial officer, state information officer, executive secretary, and up to six selected community leaders. The Police, Military, and Home Guard representatives and the Secretary formed the operations sub-committee responsible for the day-to-day direction of emergency operations. The operations subcommittees as a whole made joint decisions. [37]

Nature of warfare Edit

The British Army soon realised that clumsy sweeps by large formations were unproductive. [38] Instead, platoons or sections carried out patrols and laid ambushes, based on intelligence from various sources, including informers, surrendered MNLA personnel, aerial reconnaissance and so on. A typical operation was "Nassau", carried out in the Kuala Langat swamp (excerpt from the Marine Corps School's The Guerrilla – and how to Fight Him):

After several assassinations, a British battalion was assigned to the area. Food control was achieved through a system of rationing, convoys, gate checks, and searches. One company began operations in the swamp, about 21 December 1954. On 9 January 1955, full-scale tactical operations began artillery, mortars, and aircraft began harassing fires in the South Swamp. Originally, the plan was to bomb and shell the swamp day and night so that the terrorists would be driven out into ambushes but the terrorists were well prepared to stay indefinitely. Food parties came out occasionally, but the civil population was too afraid to report them.

Plans were modified harassing fires were reduced to night-time only. Ambushes continued and patrolling inside the swamp was intensified. Operations of this nature continued for three months without results. Finally on 21 March, an ambush party, after forty-five hours of waiting, succeeded in killing two of eight terrorists. The first two red pins, signifying kills, appeared on the operations map, and local morale rose a little.

Another month passed before it was learned that the terrorists were making a contact inside the swamp. One platoon established an ambush one terrorist appeared and was killed. May passed without contact. In June, a chance meeting by a patrol accounted for one killed and one captured. A few days later, after four fruitless days of patrolling, one platoon en route to camp accounted for two more terrorists. The No. 3 terrorist in the area surrendered and stated that food control was so effective that one terrorist had been murdered in a quarrel over food.

On 7 July, two additional companies were assigned to the area patrolling and harassing fires were intensified. Three terrorists surrendered and one of them led a platoon patrol to the terrorist leader's camp. The patrol attacked the camp, killing four, including the leader. Other patrols accounted for four more by the end of July, twenty-three terrorists remained in the swamp with no food or communications with the outside world.

This was the nature of operations: 60,000 artillery shells, 30,000 rounds of mortar ammunition, and 2,000 aircraft bombs for 35 terrorists killed or captured. Each one represented 1,500 man-days of patrolling or waiting in ambushes. "Nassau" was considered a success for the end of the emergency was one step nearer. [39]

In addition to British and Malayan units and personnel, a range of Commonwealth forces were also involved, including troops from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Kenya, Nyasaland, and Northern and Southern Rhodesia. [40]

Australia Edit

The first Australian ground forces, the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR), arrived in 1955. [17] The battalion was later replaced by 3 RAR, which in turn was replaced by 1 RAR. The Royal Australian Air Force contributed No. 1 Squadron (Avro Lincoln bombers) and No. 38 Squadron (C-47 transports), operating out of Singapore, early in the conflict. In 1955, the RAAF extended Butterworth air base, from which Canberra bombers of No. 2 Squadron (replacing No. 1 Squadron) and CAC Sabres of No. 78 Wing carried out ground attack missions against the guerillas. The Royal Australian Navy destroyers Warramunga and Arunta joined the force in June 1955. Between 1956 and 1960, the aircraft carriers Melbourne and Sydney and destroyers Anzac, Quadrant, Queenborough, Quiberon, Quickmatch, Tobruk, Vampire, Vendetta and Voyager were attached to the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve forces for three to nine months at a time. Several of the destroyers fired on communist positions in Johor State.

New Zealand Edit

A total of 1,300 New Zealanders served in the Malayan Emergency between 1948 and 1964, and fifteen lost their lives.

New Zealand's first contribution came in 1949, when C-47 Dakotas of RNZAF No. 41 Squadron were attached to the Royal Air Force's Far East Air Force. New Zealand became more directly involved in the conflict in 1955 from May, RNZAF de Havilland Vampires and Venoms began to fly strike missions. In November 1955 133 soldiers of what was to become the Special Air Service of New Zealand arrived from Singapore, for training in-country with the British SAS, beginning operations by April 1956. The Royal New Zealand Air Force continued to carry out strike missions with Venoms of No. 14 Squadron [41] and later No. 75 Squadron English Electric Canberras, as well as supply-dropping operations in support of anti-guerrilla forces, using the Bristol Freighter.

Rhodesia Edit

Southern Rhodesia and its successor, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, contributed two units to Malaya. Between 1951 and 1953, white Southern Rhodesian volunteers formed "C" Squadron of the Special Air Service. [42] The Rhodesian African Rifles, comprising black soldiers and warrant officers but led by white officers, served in Johore state for two years from 1956. [43]

Fiji Edit

During the four years of Fijian involvement, from 1952 to 1956, some 1,600 Fijian troops served. The first to arrive were the 1st Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment. Twenty-five Fijian troops died in combat in Malaya. [44] Friendships on and off the battlefield developed between the two nations the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, became a friend and mentor to Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau, who was a commander of the Fijian Battalion, and who later went on to become the Deputy PM of Fiji and whose son Brigadier General Ratu Epeli was the former President of Fiji. [45] The experience was captured in the documentary, Back to Batu Pahat. [46]

Kenya, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland Edit

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions of the King's African Rifles from Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Kenya respectively also served there suffering 23 losses.

On 6 October 1951, the MNLA ambushed and killed the British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney. The killing has been described as a major factor in causing the Malayan population to roundly reject the MNLA campaign, and also as leading to widespread fear due to the perception that "if even the High Commissioner was no longer safe, there was little hope of protection and safety for the man-in-the-street in Malaya." [47] Later, MNLA leader Chin Peng stated that the killing had little effect and that the communists were already altering their strategy, according to new guidelines enshrined in the so-called "October Resolutions". [48] The October Resolutions, a response to the Briggs Plan, involved a change of tactics by the MPLA by reducing attacks on economic targets and civilians, increasing efforts to go into political organisation and subversion, and bolstering the supply network from the Min Yuen as well as jungle farming.

Gurney's successor, Lieutenant General Gerald Templer, was instructed by the British government to push for immediate measures to give Chinese ethnic residents the right to vote.

Government's declaration of amnesty Edit

On 8 September 1955, the Government of the Federation of Malaya issued a declaration of amnesty to the communists. [49] The Government of Singapore issued an identical offer at the same time. Tunku Abdul Rahman, as Chief Minister, made good the offer of an amnesty but promised there would be no negotiations with the MNLA. The terms of the amnesty were:

  • Those of you who come in and surrender will not be prosecuted for any offence connected with the Emergency, which you have committed under Communist direction, either before this date or in ignorance of this declaration.
  • You may surrender now and to whom you like including to members of the public.
  • There will be no general "ceasefire" but the security forces will be on alert to help those who wish to accept this offer and for this purpose local "ceasefire" will be arranged.
  • The Government will conduct investigations on those who surrender. Those who show that they are genuinely intent to be loyal to the Government of Malaya and to give up their Communist activities will be helped to regain their normal position in society and be reunited with their families. As regards the remainder, restrictions will have to be placed on their liberty but if any of them wish to go to China, their request will be given due consideration. [50]

Following the declaration, an intensive publicity campaign on an unprecedented scale was launched by the government. Alliance Ministers in the Federal Government travelled extensively up and down the country exhorting the people to call upon the communists to lay down their arms and take advantage of the amnesty. Despite the campaign, few Communists surrendered to the authorities. Some critics in the political circles commented that the amnesty was too restrictive and little more than a restatement of the surrender terms which had been in force for a long period. The critics advocated a more realistic and liberal approach of direct negotiations with the MCP to work out a settlement of the issue. Leading officials of the Labour Party had, as part of the settlement, not excluded the possibility of recognition of the MCP as a political organisation. Within the Alliance itself, influential elements in both the MCA and UMNO were endeavouring to persuade the Chief Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to hold negotiations with the MCP. [50]

Baling talks and their consequences Edit

Realising that the tide of the war was turning against him, Chin Peng indicated that he would be ready to meet with British officials alongside senior Malayan politicians in 1955. The talks took place in the Government English School at Baling on 28 December. Chin Ping walked out from the jungle and tried to negotiate with the leader of the Federation, Tunku Abdul Rahman, but the British Intelligence Service worried that the MCP would regain influence in society. The MCP was represented by Chin Peng, the Secretary-General, Rashid Maidin and Chen Tien, head of the MCP's Central Propaganda Department. On the other side were three elected national representatives, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Dato' Tan Cheng-Lock and David Saul Marshall, the Chief Minister of Singapore. The meeting was intended to design an end to the conflict but the Malayan government representatives, led by Tunku Abdul Rahman, dismissed all of Chin Peng's demands. As a result, the conflict heightened, and, in response, New Zealand sent NZSAS soldiers, No. 14 Squadron RNZAF, No. 41 (Bristol Freighter) Squadron RNZAF and, later, No. 75 Squadron RNZAF other Commonwealth members also sent troops to aid the British.

Following the failure of the talks, Tunku decided to withdraw the amnesty on 8 February 1956, five months after it had been offered, stating that he would not be willing to meet the Communists again unless they indicated beforehand their desire to see him with a view to making "a complete surrender". [51] Despite the failure of the talks, the MCP made every effort to resume peace talks with the Malayan government, without success. Meanwhile, discussions began in the new Emergency Operations Council to intensify the "People's War" against the guerillas. In July 1957, a few weeks before independence, the MCP made another attempt at peace talks, suggesting the following conditions for a negotiated peace:

  • its members should be given privileges enjoyed by citizens
  • a guarantee that political as well as armed members of the MCP would not be punished

The failure of the talks affected MCP policy. At the same time, the strength of the MNLA and 'Min Yuen' declined to only 1830 members in August 1957. Those who remained faced going into exile, or death in the jungle. Tunku Abdul Rahman, however, did not respond to the MCP's proposals. With the independence of Malaya under Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman on 31 August 1957, the insurrection lost its rationale as a war of colonial liberation. The last serious resistance from MRLA guerrillas ended with a surrender in the Telok Anson marsh area in 1958. The remaining MRLA forces fled to the Thai border and further east. On 31 July 1960 the Malayan government declared the state of emergency was over, and Chin Peng left south Thailand for Beijing where he was accommodated by the Chinese authorities in the International Liaison Bureau, where many other Southeast Asian Communist Party leaders were housed.

During the conflict, security forces killed 6,710 MRLA guerrillas and captured 1,287, while 2,702 guerrillas surrendered during the conflict, and approximately 500 more did so at its conclusion. 1,345 Malayan troops and police were killed during the fighting, [52] as well as 519 Commonwealth personnel. [53] 2,478 civilians were killed, with another 810 recorded as missing. [53]

Commonwealth Edit

War crimes have been broadly defined by the Nuremberg Principles as "violations of the laws or customs of war," which includes massacres, bombings of civilian targets, terrorism, mutilation, torture, and the murder of detainees and prisoners of war. Additional common crimes include theft, arson, and the destruction of property not warranted by military necessity. [54]

Torture Edit

During the Malayan conflict, there were instances during operations to find insurgents where British troops detained and tortured villagers who were suspected of aiding the insurgents. Brian Lapping said that there was "some vicious conduct by the British forces, who routinely beat up Chinese squatters when they refused, or possibly were unable, to give information" about the insurgents. The Scotsman newspaper lauded these tactics as a good practice since "simple-minded peasants are told and come to believe that the communist leaders are invulnerable". Some civilians and detainees were also shot, either because they attempted to flee from and potentially aid insurgents or simply because they refused to give intelligence to British forces. These tactics strained relations between civilians and British forces in Malaya and were therefore counterproductive in generating the one resource critical in a counterinsurgency, good intelligence. [55] British troops were often unable to tell the difference between enemy combatants and non-combatant civilians while conducting military operations through the jungles, due to the fact the guerrillas wore civilian clothing and had support from sympathetic civilian populations.

Batang Kali Massacre Edit

During the Batang Kali massacre, 24 unarmed civilians were executed by the Scots Guards near a rubber plantation at Sungai Rimoh near Batang Kali in Selangor in December 1948. All the victims were male, ranging in age from young teenage boys to elderly men. [56] Many of the victims' bodies were found to have been mutilated and their village of Batang Kali was burned to the ground. No weapons were found when the village was searched. The only survivor of the killings was a man named Chong Hong who was in his 20s at the time. He fainted and was presumed dead. [57] [58] [59] [60] Soon afterwards the British colonial occupation staged a coverup of British military abuses which served to obfuscate the exact details of the massacre. [61]

The massacre later became the focus of decades of legal battles between the UK government and the families of the civilians executed by British troops.

Decapitations and mutilation Edit

Decapitation of suspected insurgents by British forces was also common practice as a way to identify dead guerrillas when it was not possible to bring their corpses in from the jungle. A photograph of a Royal Marine commando holding two insurgents' heads caused a public outcry in April 1952. Initially an Admiralty spokesman claimed that the decapitation photos were fake. However, Colonial Secretary Oliver Lyttelton (after confirmation from Gerald Templer) confirmed to parliament that the photos were indeed genuine. [62] The Colonial Office privately noted that "there is no doubt that under international law a similar case in wartime would be a war crime". [55] [63] [64] There were also cases of dead guerrillas being exhibited in public for identification, and to potentially entrap grieving associates.

Use of internment camps/"New Villages" Edit

As part of Briggs' Plan devised by British General Sir Harold Briggs, 500,000 people (roughly ten percent of Malaya's population) were eventually removed from the land. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, and many people were interned in guarded camps called "new villages". The policy aimed a) to inflict collective punishment on villages where people were thought to be aiding the insurgents and b) to isolate civilians from guerrilla activity. While considered necessary, some of the removals involved the destruction of existing settlements which went beyond the justification of military necessity. This practice was prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and customary international law, which stated that the destruction of property must not happen unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. [55] [63] [65]

Deportations Edit

Over the course of the war some 30,000 mostly ethnic Chinese were deported by the British authorities to mainland China. [66]

Communist Edit

Differences Edit

The conflicts in Malaya and Vietnam have often been compared, with historians asking how a British force of 35,000 succeeded to quell a communist insurgency in Malaya, while over half a million U.S. and allied soldiers failed in the comparably sized Vietnam. The two conflicts differ in the following ways:

  • Whereas the MNLA never numbered more than about 8,000 insurgents, the People's Army of (North) Vietnam fielded over a quarter-million soldiers, in addition to roughly 100,000 National Liberation Front (or Vietcong) guerillas.
  • The Soviet Union, North Korea, [67] Cuba [68] and the People's Republic of China (PRC) provided large amounts of the latest military hardware, logistical support, personnel and training to North Vietnam, whereas the MNLA received no material support, weapons or training from any foreign government or party.
  • North Vietnam's shared border with its ally China (PRC) allowed for continuous assistance and resupply, whereas Malaya's only land border is with non-communist Thailand.
  • Britain didn't approach the Emergency as a conventional conflict and quickly implemented an effective intelligence strategy, led by the Malayan Police Special Branch, and a systematic hearts and minds operation, both of which proved effective against the largely political aims of the guerrilla movement. [69][70]
  • Vietnam was less ethnically fragmentated than Malaya. During the Emergency, most of MNLA members ethnically Chinese and drew support from sections of the Chinese community. [71] However, the more numerous indigenous Malays, many of whom were animated by anti-Chinese sentiments, remained largely loyal to the government and enlisted in high numbers into the security services. [72]
  • Many Malayans had fought side by side with the British against the Japanese occupation in World War II, including the future leader of the MPLA, Chin Peng. This contrasted with Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) where colonial officials of Vichy France had been subordinate to the conquering Japanese forces, who fostered Vietnamese nationalism against France.
  • The British military recognised that in a low-intensity war, the individual soldier's skill and endurance were of far greater importance than overwhelming firepower (artillery, air support, etc.) Even though many British soldiers were conscripted National Servicemen, the necessary skills and attitudes were taught at a Jungle Warfare School, which also developed the optimum tactics based on experience gained in the field. [73]
  • In Vietnam, soldiers and supplies passed through external countries such as Laos and Cambodia where US forces were not legally permitted to enter. This allowed Vietnamese Communist troops safe haven from US ground attacks. The MNLA had only a border with Thailand, where they were forced to take shelter near the end of the conflict.

Similarities Edit

Many tactics used by the Americans in Vietnam were similar to those used by the British in Malaya. Some examples are listed below.

Agent Orange Edit

During the Malayan Emergency, Britain was the first nation to employ the use of herbicides and defoliants to destroy bushes, food crops, and trees to deprive the insurgents of cover and as part of the food denial campaign in the early 1950s. The 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (Agent Orange) were used to clear lines of communication and wipe out food crops as part of this strategy and in 1952, trioxone, and mixtures of the aforementioned herbicides, were sent along a number of key roads. From June to October 1952, 1,250 acres of roadside vegetation at possible ambush points were sprayed with defoliant, described as a policy of "national importance". The British reported that the use of herbicides and defoliants could be effectively replaced by removing vegetation by hand and the spraying was stopped. However, after this strategy failed, the use of herbicides and defoliants in effort to fight the insurgents was restarted under the command of British General Sir Gerald Templer in February 1953, as a means of destroying food crops grown by communist forces in jungle clearings. Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft despatched STCA and Trioxaone, along with pellets of chlorophenyl N,N-Dimethyl-1-naphthylamine onto crops such as sweet potatoes and maize. Many Commonwealth personnel who handled and/or used Agent Orange during the conflict suffered from serious exposure to dioxin and Agent Orange. An estimated 10,000 civilians and insurgents in Malaya also suffered from the effects of the defoliant (though many historians think the number is much larger, given that Agent Orange was used on a large scale in the Malayan conflict and, unlike the US, the British government limited information about its use to avoid negative world public opinion). The prolonged absence of vegetation caused by defoliation also resulted in major soil erosion to areas of Malaya. [74] [75] [76]

After the Malayan conflict ended in 1960, the US used the British precedent in deciding that the use of defoliants was a legally accepted tactic of warfare. Secretary of State Dean Rusk advised President John F. Kennedy that the precedent of using herbicide in warfare had been established by the British through their use of aircraft to spray herbicide and thus destroy enemy crops and thin the thick jungle of northern Malaya. [77] [65]

Aerial bombardment Edit

Like the US Air Force in Vietnam, widespread saturation bombardment was used by the Royal Air Force throughout the conflict in Malaya. Britain conducted 4,500 airstrikes in the first five years of the Malayan war. Mapping was poor, communications were abysmal, the meteorology was unfavourable and airfields were few. Buzzing likely enemy positions was used (the modern 'show of force'), and the bombing of potential escape routes was also occasionally practised. Author Robert Jackson said that: "During 1956, some 545,000 lb. of bombs had been dropped on a supposed guerrilla encampment. but a lack of accurate pinpoints had nullified the effect. The camp was again attacked at the beginning of May 1957, dropping a total of 94,000 lb. of bombs, but because of inaccurate target information, this weight of explosive was 250 yards off target. Then, on 15 May. 70,000 lb. of bombs were dropped". "The attack was entirely successful", Jackson declares, since "four terrorists were killed". The author also notes that a 500 lb. nose-fused bomb was employed from August 1948 and had a mean area of effectiveness of 15,000 square feet. "Another very viable weapon" was the 20 lb. fragmentation bomb, a forerunner of cluster bombs. "Since a Sunderland could carry a load of 190, its effect on terrorist morale was considerable", Jackson states. "Unfortunately, it was not used in great numbers, despite its excellent potential as a harassing weapon". On one occasion a Lincoln bomber "dropped its bombs 600 yards short. killing twelve civilians and injuring twenty-six others". The British reported that bombing jungles was largely a waste of effort due to inaccurate targeting and the inability to confirm if a target was hostile or not. Throughout the 12-year conflict, between 670 and 995 non-combatants were killed by British RAF bombers. [55] [64] [78]

Resettlement programme Edit

Britain also set up a "resettlement" programme that provided a model for the US's Strategic Hamlet Program in Vietnam. During the Malayan Emergency, 450 new villages were created and it is estimated that 470,509 people – 400,000 Chinese – were interned in the resettlement program. A key British war measure was inflicting collective punishments on villages where people were deemed to be aiding the insurgents. At Tanjong Malim in March 1952 Templer imposed a twenty-two-hour house curfew, banned everyone from leaving the village, closed the schools, stopped bus services and reduced the rice rations for 20,000 people. The latter measure prompted the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to write to the Colonial Office noting that the "chronically undernourished Malayan" might not be able to survive as a result. "This measure is bound to result in an increase, not only of sickness but also of deaths, particularly amongst the mothers and very young children". Some people were fined for leaving their homes to use external latrines. In another collective punishment – at Sengei Pelek the following month – measures included a house curfew, a reduction of 40 percent in the rice ration and the construction of a chain-link fence 22 yards outside the existing barbed wire fence around the town. Officials explained that these measures were being imposed upon the 4,000 villagers "for their continually supplying food" to the insurgents and "because they did not give information to the authorities". [79]

Search and destroy Edit

Like the USA later did in Vietnam, British troops sometimes set fire to villages whose inhabitants were accused of supporting the insurgents, detaining thousands of suspected collaborators, and to deny the insurgents cover. British units that discovered civilians providing assistance to insurgents were to detain and interrogate them, using torture and the threat of violence against family members, to discover the location of insurgent camps. Insurgents had numerous advantages over British forces they lived in closer proximity to villagers, they sometimes had relatives or close friends in the village, and they were not afraid to threaten violence or torture and murder village leaders as an example to the others, forcing them to assist them with food and information. British forces thus faced a dual-threat: the insurgents and the silent network in villages who supported them. British troops often described the terror of jungle patrols in addition to watching out for insurgent fighters, they had to navigate difficult terrain and avoid dangerous animals and insects. Many patrols would stay in the jungle for days, even weeks, without encountering the MNLA guerrillas. This strategy led to the infamous incident at Batang Kali where 24 unarmed villagers were executed by British troops. [55] [63]

The Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation of 1963–66 arose from tensions between Indonesia and the new British backed Federation of Malaysia that was conceived in the aftermath of the Malayan Emergency.

In the late 1960s, the coverage of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War prompted the initiation of investigations in the UK concerning war crimes perpetrated by British forces during the Emergency, such as the Batang Kali massacre. No charges have yet been brought against the British forces involved and the claims have been repeatedly dismissed by the British government as propaganda, despite evidence suggestive of a cover-up. [80]

Following the end of the Malayan Emergency in 1960, the predominantly ethnic Chinese Malayan National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the MCP, retreated to the Malaysian-Thailand border where it regrouped and retrained for future offensives against the Malaysian government. A new phase of communist insurgency began in 1968. It was triggered when the MCP ambushed security forces in Kroh–Betong, in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, on 17 June 1968. The new conflict coincided with renewed tensions between ethnic Malays and Chinese following the 13 May Incident of 1969, and the ongoing conflict of the Vietnam War. [81]

Communist leader Chin Peng spent much of the 1990s and early 2000s working to promote his perspective of the Emergency. In a collaboration with Australian academics, he met with historians and former Commonwealth military personnel at a series of meetings which led to the publication of Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Communist Party. [82] Peng also travelled to England and teamed up with conservative journalist Ian Ward and his wife Norma Miraflor to write his autobiography Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History. [83]

Many colonial documents, possibly relating to British atrocities in Malaya, were either destroyed or hidden by the British colonial authorities as a part of Operation Legacy. [84] Traces of these documents were rediscovered during a legal battle in 2011 involving the victims of rape and torture by the British military during the Mau Mau Uprising. [85]

In popular Malaysian culture, the Emergency has frequently been portrayed as a primarily Malay struggle against the Communists. This perception has been criticised by some, such as Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin, for not recognising Chinese and Indian efforts. [86]

A number of films were set against the background of the Emergency, including:


Resolution

On 06 October 1951, the MNLA ambushed and killed the British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney. The killing has been described as a major factor in causing the Malayan population to roundly reject the MNLA campaign, and also as leading to widespread fear due to the perception that “if even the High Commissioner was no longer safe, there was little hope of protection and safety for the man-in-the-street in Malaya.” Later, MNLA leader Chin Peng stated that the killing had little effect and that the communists were already altering their strategy, according to new guidelines enshrined in the so-called “October Resolutions”. The October Resolutions, a response to the Briggs Plan, involved a change of tactics by the MPLA by reducing attacks on economic targets and civilians, increasing efforts to go into political organisation and subversion, and bolstering the supply network from the Min Yuen as well as jungle farming.

Gurney’s successor, Lieutenant General Gerald Templer, was instructed by the British government to push for immediate measures to give Chinese ethnic residents the right to vote.

Government’s Declaration of Amnesty

On 08 September 1955, the Government of the Federation of Malaya issued a declaration of amnesty to the communists. The Government of Singapore issued an identical offer at the same time. Tunku Abdul Rahman, as Chief Minister, made good the offer of an amnesty but promised there would be no negotiations with the MNLA. The terms of the amnesty were:

  • Those of you who come in and surrender will not be prosecuted for any offence connected with the Emergency, which you have committed under Communist direction, either before this date or in ignorance of this declaration.
  • You may surrender now and to whom you like including to members of the public.
  • There will be no general “ceasefire” but the security forces will be on alert to help those who wish to accept this offer and for this purpose local “ceasefire” will be arranged.
  • The Government will conduct investigations on those who surrender. Those who show that they are genuinely intent to be loyal to the Government of Malaya and to give up their Communist activities will be helped to regain their normal position in society and be reunited with their families. As regards the remainder, restrictions will have to be placed on their liberty but if any of them wish to go to China, their request will be given due consideration.

Following the declaration, an intensive publicity campaign on an unprecedented scale was launched by the government. Alliance Ministers in the Federal Government travelled extensively up and down the country exhorting the people to call upon the communists to lay down their arms and take advantage of the amnesty. Despite the campaign, few Communists surrendered to the authorities. Some critics in the political circles commented that the amnesty was too restrictive and little more than a restatement of the surrender terms which had been in force for a long period. The critics advocated a more realistic and liberal approach of direct negotiations with the MCP to work out a settlement of the issue. Leading officials of the Labour Party had, as part of the settlement, not excluded the possibility of recognition of the MCP as a political organisation. Within the Alliance itself, influential elements in both the MCA and UMNO were endeavouring to persuade the Chief Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to hold negotiations with the MCP.

Baling Talks and their Consequences

Realising that the tide of the war was turning against him, Chin Peng indicated that he would be ready to meet with British officials alongside senior Malayan politicians in 1955. The talks took place in the Government English School at Baling on 28 December. Chin Ping walked out from the jungle and tried to negotiate with the leader of the Federation, Tunku Abdul Rahman, but the British Intelligence Service worried that the MCP would regain influence in society. The MCP was represented by Chin Peng, the Secretary-General, Rashid Maidin and Chen Tien, head of the MCP’s Central Propaganda Department. On the other side were three elected national representatives, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Dato’ Tan Cheng-Lock and David Saul Marshall, the Chief Minister of Singapore. The meeting was intended to design an end to the conflict but the Malayan government representatives, led by Tunku Abdul Rahman, dismissed all of Chin Peng’s demands. As a result, the conflict heightened, and, in response, New Zealand sent NZSAS soldiers, No. 14 Squadron RNZAF, No.41 (Bristol Freighter) Squadron RNZAF and, later, No.75 Squadron RNZAF other Commonwealth members also sent troops to aid the British.

Following the failure of the talks, Tunku decided to withdraw the amnesty on 08 February 1956, five months after it had been offered, stating that he would not be willing to meet the Communists again unless they indicated beforehand their desire to see him with a view to making “a complete surrender”. Despite the failure of the talks, the MCP made every effort to resume peace talks with the Malayan government, without success. Meanwhile, discussions began in the new Emergency Operations Council to intensify the “People’s War” against the guerrillas. In July 1957, a few weeks before independence, the MCP made another attempt at peace talks, suggesting the following conditions for a negotiated peace:

  • Its members should be given privileges enjoyed by citizens and
  • A guarantee that political as well as armed members of the MCP would not be punished.

The failure of the talks affected MCP policy. At the same time, the strength of the MNLA and ‘Min Yuen’ declined to only 1830 members in August 1957. Those who remained faced going into exile, or death in the jungle. Tunku Abdul Rahman, however, did not respond to the MCP’s proposals. With the independence of Malaya under Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman on 31 August 1957, the insurrection lost its rationale as a war of colonial liberation. The last serious resistance from MRLA guerrillas ended with a surrender in the Telok Anson marsh area in 1958. The remaining MRLA forces fled to the Thai border and further east. On 31 July 1960 the Malayan government declared the state of emergency was over, and Chin Peng left south Thailand for Beijing where he was accommodated by the Chinese authorities in the International Liaison Bureau, where many other Southeast Asian Communist Party leaders were housed.


THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY, 1948-1960

A member of the Malayan Home Guard lifts the barrier at a checkpoint at the edge of town. The Malayan Home Guard was established as part of the counter measures introduced in response to the communist terrorist threat. Checkpoints allowed the authorities to search vehicles and intercept food supplies being smuggled to the insurgents.

The MRLA's terrorist activity reached a peak in 1951 with the ambush and killing of the British high commissioner to Malaya - Sir Henry Gurney. However, under his successor, General Sir Gerald Templer, close co-operation between the civil and military powers began to undermine the terrorist threat. By 1955 many insurgents had been killed or captured and large areas of the country were free of any terrorist activity. In 1960 when the emergency ended, the remnants of the MRLA had been driven to take refuge over the border in Thailand.


The Malayan Emergency Revisited 1948-1960: A Pictorial History

This book tells in pictorial form the story of the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). It opens in 1930 with the formation of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), which saw itself as part of the global struggle against the twin evils of capitalism and colonialism. The spread of communist ideology, however, was disrupted by the Second World War, during which the Japanese Imperial This book tells in pictorial form the story of the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). It opens in 1930 with the formation of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), which saw itself as part of the global struggle against the twin evils of capitalism and colonialism. The spread of communist ideology, however, was disrupted by the Second World War, during which the Japanese Imperial Army invaded British Malaya.

The MCP joined forces with the British to fight the Japanese occupiers by forming the Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Arm (MPAJA), while the British provided weapons and equipment and trained MPAJA members.

When the war ended, the communist guerrillas turned against their erstwhile British allies, now calling themselves the Malayan Peoples' Anti British Army (MPABA). . more


The Malayan Emergency (1947-1960) - History

by David Brent
(Asst Superintendent of Police, Malaya 1952-58)
Here is the other side of the story, The horror and the mayhem of a twelve year bloody conflict by the CPM - the Communist Party of Malaya – to take over Malaya and Singapore. Ruthless and without humanity, they brutally terrorized the rural communities, killing, torturing, extorting and subjugating the impoverished fringe squatter population to gain support and finance for their aims. They ambushed and destroyed police stations and posts, assassinated planters and police officers, burned busses, derailed trains, slashed rubber trees and created economic havoc. The following is a simple itemization of planning and events which finally led to victory and lasting peace and prosperity in Malaya and Singapore and the immediate region.
“The War Of The Running Dogs”
A simple outline of the Malayan Emergency and the solutions applied to achieve lasting success

After WW2 in 1945, the Japanese surrendered in Malaya and the British forces returned to the country under a British Military Administration. During the occupation by the Japanese bands of Chinese, led by a young Communist, Chin Peng, established deep jungle hide-outs from which to carry out harassing attacks on small Japanese units in the countryside. These were mainly small skirmishes and ambushes, followed by rapid retreat back into the jungle. The guerilla bands were named the Malayan Peoples Anti Japanese Army – MPAJA. At the same time a number of British military and administrative officers had also remained behind after the fall of Singapore to form a guerilla group to harass the Japanese. These officers eventually joined up with the Chinese guerillas and helped to train the Chinese guerillas in jungle warfare and guerilla tactics. Eventually contact was made with the British Far East Command HQ in Ceylon and a number of volunteers were parachuted into the jungle to join the British and Chinese guerillas. In addition, large drops of arms, ammunition and equipment were also made to strengthen the capability of the combined jungle forces, designated as Force 136.

After the surrender of the Japanese in 1945 members of the MPAJA returned to civilian life in the Malayan community and surrendered their arms to the British forces. However, this was only a token surrender as they had buried most of the arms and ammunition in secret jungle locations, some still in the unopened canisters which had been parachuted to them during the war. Also a small secret underground organization remained in the jungle to form the nucleus for a post-war rebellion.

The country was in a debilitated state after the Japanese occupation when food production had fallen and general productivity was at an all time low. However, with the welcome return of the British confidence and productivity picked up and rubber estates and tin mines began to come back on stream to meet the upsurge in worldwide demand for raw materials.

In 1947 the British Government granted independence to India and Burma and there was an affirmation by the British Government that Malaya and Singapore would also achieve independence at the earliest possible date.

In the post-occupation period, the Malayan Secret Service – MSS, a forerunner of the role of Special Branch in CID in the re-formed Malayan Police Force, commenced surveillance over Chin Peng and other key communist members of the Communist Party of Malaya – CPM – who were engaged in fostering strikes, violence and disharmony in labour forces of rubber estates and tin mines, paralyzing these industries. There was evidence of a greater plan by the Communists and it was suspected that the intention was afoot to mount a rebellion against the British administration. Political unrest and violence fostered by Communists was also rife in many parts of South-east Asia. It was a dangerous time.

The leaders of the Malayan Communist party were planning an insurrection by organizing all the former members of the MPAJA and other recruits to return to the jungle and commence a military war against the government supported by an underground Communist organization, the Min Yuen 9masses movement9, in the community in order to take over Malaya as a Communist state. And subsequently, Singapore also.

Malaya Planter
However, before the police could carry out a sweep to pull in the leaders of the CPM some renegade members of the CPM ‘jumped the gun’ in 1948 and murdered several British planters and tin mine managers. Alerted to this Chin Peng and the CPM immediately knew that ‘the balloon had gone up’ prematurely and the order was given to immediately divert to the pre-arranged jungle locations across the country and to commence hostilities against the government. They were thus able to escape by a hair's breadth the planned arrests by the MSS.

The CPM formed into military regiment units across the country. The name Malayan Peoples Anti-British Army was chosen – MPABA. Later this was changed to the Malayan National Liberation Army – MNLA. They recovered the arms and ammunition buried in the jungle and wore khaki uniforms with the red star on the caps. A military and political hierarchy was established with a National Central Committee, State Committees and District Committees. Units of companies and platoons were also organized and allotted territories. Political commissars were also appointed and were responsible for political development and discipline. In some locations there were quite elaborate camps with buildings and parade grounds. Practically all the MNLA were Chinese. There were a very few individual Malays and Indians as a token to the multi-racial posture of the MCP. This rebel force was loosely referred to as bandits. The official designation became ‘Communist Terrorists’ – CTs.

Throughout the country CPM underground cells of the Min Yuen were activated to establish secret contact with the jungle military forces of the MNLA and to provide support with equipment and supplies, food, intelligence, recruits and to engage in intimidation, extortion, assassinations, espionage and sabotage.

An onslaught of terrorism was commenced with attacks on rubber estates, tin mines, police stations and government installations. Thousands of acres of rubber trees were slashed and destroyed and machinery on mines was smashed in order to cause the greatest possible harm to the economy. Vehicles were ambushed on the roads and trucks and busses were stopped and burned, trains were blown up and derailed, telephone lines were cut. Ruthless campaigns to terrorize the community into subjugation and cooperation with the MNLA and the Min Yuen were vigorously imposed. Most vulnerable to these tactics were the hundreds of thousands of Chinese squatters in the rural areas on the fringes of the jungle who eked out a living off the land growing vegetables and rearing livestock. Many of these were initially sympathetic to the Communists. However, when the MNLA terrorists believed that a squatter-farmer was being uncooperative, not paying his subscription to the cause or failing to provide food or supplies, he would be assassinated, sometimes cruelly and slowly, with disemboweling, hacking off limbs and other mutilations. At times the assassination squads carried out these acts in front of wives and children. And at times wives and children also became the victims. Min Yuen operatives also engaged in assassinations.

Initially, although not large in numbers, the CPM had wide popular Chinese support throughout the countryside. It adopted the Maoist strategy of ‘Liberated Areas’. The objective was to be able to seize and ‘liberate’ selected hinterland areas and then to link them together into ‘Liberated Regions’ under a Communist administration. The main towns of Malaya and Singapore were to be taken over later. The communists believed that a sudden onslaught would break the will of the Government, already exhausted by war, and that similar revolts in progress in South-East Asia added to their own would bring the whole region under Communist rule.

Estate Managers Under Guard
The entire country was thrown into turmoil. The early response by the government was too slow. The police force was undermanned and under-equipped, the military was poorly equipped and trained and the British Government was too far away and unconcerned to be of sufficient help initially. The CPM had the upper hand. It attacked when it wanted and where it suited and withdrew when there was a response. It called the tune on when and where it attacked. It held the initiative. The morale of the general community was at an all time low. There was a grave danger that the CPM could succeed and achieve its aim to ‘liberate the country’ and that there would be a spread of Communism to Thailand and Indonesia and the further spread throughout Asia.

The Status at that time was that the communist terrorists – CTs – had a large organization of jungle military units spread north and south in Malaya which were well-armed and equipped and well-organized, many experienced in jungle warfare from previous jungle year during the Japanese occupation with the MPAJA. They were supported by a well-trained subversive underground organization in the Malayan community and also in Singapore. They had the initiative – could strike when and where they pleased. A terrorized population was in fear of any opposition to the Communists and many were forced to supply food and money to avoid assassination or harm. All this in an era when the growth of international communism was the world’s greatest problem. The Russian bloc in Europe and the Mao Communists in China were powerful forces and cCommunist underground cells and Communist subversion and propaganda penetrated every corner of the globe. It was a dangerous and precarious era.

The main disadvantage for the Communist forces in Malaya was that the jungle units had no radio communication and were forced to transmit instructions and intelligence via couriers carrying concealed and coded messages from one destination to another. They also resurrected their old ‘post boxes’ in jungle and rural areas [used in the war years] where messages were collected and dropped off on a chain of secret ‘post boxes’ across the country. The slowness of communications became an increasing problem as the years passed and as Special Branch penetrated and detected the couriers and the ‘post boxes’ to advantage. The other disadvantage was that the CPM was isolated on the Malayan peninsula and not able to obtain support externally by land or sea, other than from Singapore where there was a strong underground Communist presence.

The main problems confronting the government and the country at that time were -

Administration and Policy

Replacement of the High Commissioner with an effective and well-briefed incumbent. Later arrival of a military general as High Commissioner, General Sir Gerald Templer.


A Creeping Peace

Peace talks began but did not get far. Operations were increased against the MNLA.

In 1957, Malaya was given its independence. The communist insurrection could no longer label itself as a war of independence against a colonial government. The MNLA was fighting against an independently elected government.

Bit by bit, the rebels were worn away. The last serious resistance was defeated in 1958. Some rebels surrendered, others fled the country.

In 1960, the government declared the emergency at an end. By focusing on undermining the rebel support base, the British and then the independent Malays defeated the communist insurgency.


Watch the video: The Malayan Emergency - Britains Vietnam war (July 2022).


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