Malayan Emergency. 2RAR 1956/57
16th June 1948 the Malayan Communist Party killed two Rubber Plantation
Managers and an Assistant, in the same month the party ordered the
mobilization of former members that had previously served as guerrillas
against the Japanese during WWII as the MPAJA (Malayan Peoples Anti
was an estimated 8 regiments and the supporting Minh Yuen, (their RAASC).
They had supposedly handed in all their weapons and ammunition but
had in fact hidden them securely in the jungle.
was evident from captured weapons that were of that era.
High Commissioner immediately proclaimed a State of Emergency and
thus the Emergency started. There exists a theory that due to the
massive damage expected to the rubber trees and tin mines,
insurance claims would be excessive if it was declared a
Korea was sometimes called a Police Action so was Malaya.
During the first six months the MCP mounted operations with
teams of 400 guerrillas
and there were an
average of 200 attacks a month.
the 12 year period 10,940 people were killed and 3,935 were
wounded, 57 of these were Australians. There were 134 Regiments,
Units and Squadrons that served in Malaya including naval
contingents. In 1948, 30,000 Special Constables and 100,000 part
time home guards were recruited. By 1952
the regular police reached
a strength of 25,000, 39,000 Special Constable's
and 41,000 home guards, these figure increased to 41,000
and 250,000 respectively in 1953 .
2nd April 1955 the Prime Minister announced that
3,500 servicemen would be sent to Malaya. The 2nd Battalion main
body of 800 men arrived in Malaya on MV Georgic on 19th October 1955
just one of 134 different units
from the Commonwealth that served in the 12 year period, not
including naval contingents.
About the author
I served with Assault Pioneer Platoon 2RAR 1955- 57 Malaya. When
we arrived in Malaya at Minden Barracks they called for diggers
to volunteer to become riflemen/medics, (Don't tell me I should
have known better than to volunteer, I know it). I had 3 weeks
solid training and become the platoon medic. It didn't take the
pressure off, still did my stint as forward scout and at dusk
when everyone stood down I had sick parade in the bush. The part
I hated was having to carry the extra weight of the medical kit
as the song says "He was only nineteen". When we
came back from Malaya we went to Holsworthy and In 1958 I was transferred
to RAAMC, Field Ambulance, the RAP at 1st Armoured Regt. at
Puckapunyal, left the Army in 1960 and joined the RAAF in 62,
went back to Malaysia in 68 for 2 years with my wife and kids,
left the RAAF in 1979 after 23 years service in the both
services and joined the Prison Service for 9 years at
Pentridge. Retired a Governor in 1989 after a series of heart
this stage an estimated
1000 guerrillas remained in the jungle from a 1950 total of 11,000. The
second Battalion became part of the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade
along with the 3rd Malay
Regiment and 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers.
In the early years the MCP leaders ordered atrocities against the
Malay population, atrocities that were apparently the same as those carried out by the Vietcong in the Vietnam War.
It is believed this violent approach was one aspect that
contributed to a British/Malay victory. Other aspects were the lack of
communications for the MCP, the various Regiments had to utilize
couriers that travelled the length of Malaya along jungle tracks, many
of whom were killed by security force forward scouts.
(commonly referred to as a hoochie).
is no doubt that the most significant effect on the MCP was the
moving and isolation of villages. They were fortified by barbed
wire fences and supported by home guards, this made the efforts of the
MCP to maintain food supplies difficulty and dangerous forcing them to
leave the safety of the jungle and pick up food parcels in the rubber
plantations where may were ambushed.
These ambushes generally initiated by intelligence reports
were at night, long, arduous and with very few successes in later
British (24 hour-1
man) Ration Packs
L to R: Mars bar, Small block of milk
chocolate (generally white with age and climate. Small bag of
boiled lollies, tea and Sugar (for 3 mugs), Three five
and a quarter oz. tins, Sausages and beans, Liver & bacon
and Beans (other packs had Sausages and egg, steak and egg,
(looked like egg) and so on. Toilet paper, Small tin of Jam and
Small tin of cheese, tin of "Dutch Maid" milk, tube of
condensed milk, packet of rice and hard biscuits and salt
tablets. I remember the spoon come tin opener that was in later
years nicknamed "Fred" (F***ing ridiculous eating
device) and the Hexamine tablets and
stove. In late 1956
Australia came up with a 24 hour ration pack which improved the
a short acclimatization period at Minden Barracks and a 2 day patrol in
the jungle of Penang to sharpen the troops skills, in January 1956 2 RAR
proceeded to the mainland and commenced operations in Kedah for a short
time and then to Perak where the MCP were most active.
The patrols can only be described as frustrating, debilitating.
The Malayan jungle was some of the most formidable in the world,
completely shutting out the sun and sky creating a stifling humid heat.
is no doubt that in the early years, the British Forces broke the back
of the MCP by their jungle skills so
quickly learned by the regular soldiers and a great proportion of
National Service men.
member of the MCP when captured stated that the Lincolnshire Regiment
were the most silent and thus feared in the jungle than any other
soldiers. There is no doubt that the British developed a high level of
expertise in jungle warfare which begged the question why did the OC of
2 RAR, LtCol. J.G. Ochiltree and
his men did not have the benefit of ATOM, the British manual, the
Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya.
was even criticism the each Platoons of 2 RARís two weeks training at
the JTC Canungra was insufficient due to the vast amount of time
training at Enoggera for the Trooping of the Colours.
Cpl Max Stack & Private Vanderloop.
some places a patrol
would cover a mile in about four hours, in some cases where thick
bamboo was encountered, longer and each soldier had to take turns
chopping away with a machete.
huge tree needed to be climbed over and fast running streams
forded, every effort taxed the overheated
body to the limit which was only eased by small sips of
water from a small water bottle.
Malayan style. Private Tom
Hogg wounded in Eagleswoop carried by RAF Pilot and Cpl Max Stack.
that sucked the blood and covered the body were so prevalent one
eventually ignored them, it was not unusual to find 50 or more in
all parts of the body.
red ants, scorpions and ticks big enough to put a pull through,
through a .303 although apart from green harmless tree snakes I
saw only two, a Cobra in a base hut at Kuala Kangsar where every
one left by the same door and windows at the same time and a
python that crawled over Private Jack Tolliday in the night when
he was asleep in the jungle mud hole, he thought he had dreamed it
but in the morning I confirmed that it actually happened.
was the only time the patrol had ever camped in the dark.
It was on the side of a hill on a depressed track down by
sleep ignored the torrent of rain that poured down the hill
settling where we slept. I recall awaking and seeing my
mate with only his nose above the water level, still asleep.
effort was made to conserve energy, using your weapon to push
yourself up a slope or grab a branch and pull yourself forward.
One vine was the Lantana, or called Chute mate, Japanese
for Wait a while so called by a Korean veteran. The barbs on the
vine grabbed you and pierced and tore at your skin.
|Private Jack Hewitt
with his holed tobacco tin. The press stated it was over his
heart, he said it was in front of his family jewels.
weight you carried your
pack and the ammunition varied but was always exhausting, In a
secondary role as platoon medic, I carried the first aid kit, the
radio man his own pack and spare batteries were shared with other
afternoon, most times on top of a mountain or hill you set up camp, in
a circle, each half tent was combined with another digger to form a
tent, a trench was hastily dug with
a trenching tool to keep out the inevitable down pour and you
slept wrapped in your poncho with you pack for a pillow. The medics
conducted sick parades and treated everything from cuts, abrasions, lancing boils,
tinea, blisters and bullet wounds. There were additional hazards such
as malaria, scrub-typhus, jaundice, dysentery, jungle ulcers, prickly
heat, foot rot and ringworm and then there was the enemy. Medical
equipment was basic, with
some supplies like sutures and needles, scalpels and other
had to fight for morphine which we eventually received, calamine lotion was a cure all as was iodine and antibiotics.
water party moving without any gear would scramble down the
mountain to a stream at the bottom and fill all the water
bottles along with
one or two large water bags.
An armed guard led the front, centre and rear.
before dark the platoon stood to, eyes front weapons pointing
outward until dark and it was stand down and a sentry was posted
in the camp centre, generally a 30 minute shift or 1 hour
depending on whether it was a section or platoon patrol.
sentry had the Platoon Commander or Sergeants watch which was luminous
and he sat in the black night with a Light Machine Gun, the minutes
went by so slow as you fought to keep your eyes open, listening to the
snoring, farting and so on of the exhausted.
The worst shift were of course the late morning about 4 onwards
as you were relived and went into a deep sleep only to be woken for
stand to. We were never
attacked during the night in the 2 years, except for one night in the
pouring rain when I heard a guerrilla coming toward us in the pouring
CT fell onto me as I fired a burst of 9 mm into him he screamed out
and disappeared into the night. Everyone
awoke and the Lieutenant said
we will wait until morning then search. In the morning the Sgt found the terrorist about 100 yards
from the camp, he was a Chinese Malay about 150 pounds, stark naked
with pink skin and big tusks, four legs and a curly tail, a real mean
son of a bitch. The
Lieutenant said "You really wanted to take home the bacon Doc, we
won't put this in the report".
were some humorous incidents, the Australian digger larrikinism
is probably alive to this day. I remember an incident involving
the local barber at Minden Barracks named Hajji Baba by the
to a Battalion parade conducted by the RSM Wally Mills, three
members of the Platoon, Private Tolliday, Hokins and Fitch
advised Hajji what the protocol was when the RSM called the
parade to attention.
he did Hajji yelled out at the top of his voice "God bless
Sergeant Major fat Guts you old bastard".
With that the whole parade broke up.
of Australia's Finest in front of a Nissen Hut
are some things that you remember vaguely, some things that never
leave you, some things you never discuss. I do remember to this day
when platoon blindly panicked. We were patrolling
in a rubber plantation, not attacked by a hoard of guerrillas
but the sky went instantly black and dark and was filled with huge mosquitoes,
they got into your eyes, ears and nose breathed in through the mouth.
Too dense to brush away, couldnít find the repellent the only
option was to run like hell, which we did, blindly, everyone in sheer
panic. That was the only
time I felt fear, and I still believe they were Communist Mosquitoes.
all the patrols and ambushes and gate searches that were carried
out three remain prominent in my memory.
The Pipeline Ambush occurred on 14 June 1956 Support
Company based at Kuala Kangsar was relieved by A Company.
Support Coy returned to Minden Barracks and a week later 1
Platoon ran into a major CT ambush.
later stated the
ambush had bee ordered to boost lagging morale in the 13/15
Platoon. It was
believed at the time that the Malay Regiment had been using the
pipeline track on a regular basis. Between 23 and 25 guerrillas
were dug in along the pipeline in thick undergrowth on a hilly
slope over a distance of 100 yards.
the track 3 mines and 2 mortars had been planted to be fired
electrically. Three killed and three wounded in the ambush and
the side attack
from the second A Company Patrol.
Rubber Legs" from 23rd February until 3rd March the Brigade
proceeded deep into the jungle over huge mountains, the only
saving grace was that the whole of HQ Staff went too. It was
described as "encountered
unusually difficult conditions", movement only at night
carrying out "extremely arduous marches".
falling tree while blowing an LZ in the jungle.
the base camp day patrols and ambushes were carried out with
absolutely no success whatsoever. We were visited by the OC, via
helicopter after we made a LZ and after he left the Company departed
back to camp. To ensure
that no CTís dug up our trash pit and found any food a platoon was
left in ambush for 10 days.
of rations, no clean clothes, plenty of drinking water, but no washing
or soap or toothpaste, the ambush was just over the river, one pair of
decent socks left that had been on for a week. A base camp was set up
100 yards from the river and each morning at light a 7 man squad moved
up to observe the clearing and the rubbish dump.
When food was getting light on we were told to break camp and
return to Base. So far 27 days. The Platoon Commander decided on the
quickest way home, straight down the middle of the river. Days later
at Base every one took of their socks and left the soles stuck to the
tinea ridden feet. The
patrol although not a record, this was held by the SAS 122 days, it
was our record, some 30 days.
heals all wounds except those of the soul, I remember the accidental
shooting of a digger in the jungle where there was absolutely nothing
I could do. I remember not shedding a tear when I spent the night
beside the bodies of two diggers, I felt no attachment and no emotion
3 months late upon reading a magazine interview with on of their
mothers, I cried when I read, "He was a milkman before he
enlisted and every morning at 5 am I would hear him coming down the
path, whistling, he would put down the milk and tap on the window,
time to get up Mum, and off he went still whistling. I still hear him
coming down the path whistling".
second patrol "Operation Eagleswoop Part two",
Nothing significant comes to mind about Part one. On 23
June 1957, Support Company under the Command of Major I.A.
Geddes with a strength of 84 was moved by helicopter to a jungle
landing zone on the Thai border, two miles North of Bukit
3 pm on 24 of June two four man patrols of MG Platoon located a
large occupied CT camp, after the scout spotted a sentry whom he
killed with a grenade and the patrol followed up, attacking the
camp, the enemy withdrew after a stoppage with their LMG.
this time the rest of Support Company had arrived and ran into a
large force of CTís (about 30), the enemy fire killed two
diggers and wounded one.
A Ferret Scout
remaining digger with his LMG returned a withering fire from his LMG
and the CT group retired. More reinforcements were brought in to set
up ambushes on the border. Support supplied from 105 Battery, 5
Lincoln Bombers and 8 Venom Jet Fighters Shortly after midday on 25th
June, the Assault Pioneer Platoon whilst having a break were
unexpectedly confronted by 3 CTís.
In the exchange of fire Private Jack Hewitt
was wounded in the arm and tobacco tin.
swears to this day that he got the bastard who dived into the jungle.
On 26th June in a clash of two patrols another good soldier was
accidentally killed. Although a camp and food supplies were found and
the bandits set to flight it was too much of a price to pay.
Battalion was withdrawn from operations at the end of July. On
4th August Support Company less Assault Pioneer Platoon moved to
the JTC at Kota Tinggi in Johore and Pioneers to Kluang
remember a few
incidents at Kluang that I can't reveal but one was a story told
by Lt. Ken Houley our platoon commander.
told us that in the British Officers Mess he was approached by
two one pippers (subaltern).
"Sir I must complain that two of your men failed to
salute us yesterday" Houley
stared at them for a few seconds and replied. "Why should
they, they donít even salute me".
two diggers responsible were Privates Hewitt and Hardiman.
Battalion concentrated at Butterworth on 29th August for its
return to Australia on 17th September.
30 August it took part in the ĎMerdekaí ceremony in Georgetown. At
midnight when the British flag was lowered and the flag of an
independent Malaya was raised for the first time. Someone said
"No matter how far the initial hopes of the Battalion had not
been fully realised, the achievement of independence against the
protracted communist onslaught had surely made the tour worthwhile.
Measured on that scale , as a contribution to a worthy
objective, 2 RAR had played a useful role. Circumstances in Malaya
made any greater achievement almost impossible."
On reflection the loss of so many good men was a high price to
pay for "a useful role and such a worthy objective?".
An indication that the digger humour of WWII was alive relates
to our delayed trip home on the "New Australia" due to the
ship colliding with another off Thursday Island. When it arrived at
Port Swettenham, Penang during the night a white bed sheet with a
large painted "L" had been attached to the bow of the ship
much to the embarrassment of the Captain.
Lest We Forget