Malayan Emergency
The Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 fought between Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army
Malayan Races Liberation Army
The Malayan Races Liberation Army was the name given by British security forces to a combatant in the Malayan Emergency, an insurrection and guerrilla war against the British and Malayan administration from 1948-1960 in what is now Malaysia....

 (MNLA), the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party
Malayan Communist Party
The Malayan Communist Party , officially known as the Communist Party of Malaya , was founded in 1930 and laid down its arms in 1989. It is most famous for its role in the Malayan Emergency.-Formation:...

, from 1948 to 1960.

The Malayan Emergency was the colonial government's term for the conflict. The MNLA termed it the Anti-British National Liberation War. The rubber plantations and tin mining industries had pushed for the use of the term "emergency" since their losses would not have been covered by Lloyd's insurers
Lloyd's of London
Lloyd's, also known as Lloyd's of London, is a British insurance and reinsurance market. It serves as a partially mutualised marketplace where multiple financial backers, underwriters, or members, whether individuals or corporations, come together to pool and spread risk...

 if it had been termed a "war."

Despite the communists' defeat in 1960, communist leader Chin Peng
Chin Peng
Chin Peng, former OBE , was born Ong Boon Hua in Sitiawan, and was a long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party...

 renewed the insurgency in 1967; it would last until 1989, and became known as the Communist Insurgency War
Communist Insurgency War
The Communist Insurgency War, or Second Malaysian Emergency was an insurgency and guerrilla war, conducted by the Malayan Communist Party against Malaysian armed forces from 1968 to 1989.-Origins:...

. Although Australian and British armed forces had fully withdrawn from Malaysia years earlier, the insurgency still failed.


The withdrawal of Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 left the Malayan economy disrupted. Problems included unemployment, low wages, and scarce and expensive food. There was considerable labour unrest and a large number of strikes occurred between 1946 and 1948. During this time, the British administration was attempting to repair Malaya's economy—revenue from Malaya's tin and rubber industries was important to Britain's own post-war recovery. Protesters were dealt with harshly, by measures including arrests and deportations. In turn, protesters became increasingly militant. On 16 June 1948, the first overt act of the war took place when three European plantation managers were killed at Sungai Siput
Sungai Siput
Sungai Siput is a town and also a parliamentary constituency in Kuala Kangsar district, Perak, Malaysia. Since the recent Malaysian general election of 8 March 2008, this parliamentary constituency is represented by Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, from Pakatan Rakyat Party, in the Dewan Rakyat, the lower...

, Perak
Perak , one of the 13 states of Malaysia, is the second largest state in the Peninsular Malaysia bordering Kedah and Yala Province of Thailand to the north, Penang to the northwest, Kelantan and Pahang to the east, Selangor the Strait of Malacca to the south and west.Perak means silver in Malay...


The British brought emergency measures into law, first in Perak in response to the Sungai Siput incident and then, in July, country-wide. Under the measures, the MCP and other leftist parties were outlawed, and the police were given the power to imprison communists and those suspected of assisting them without trial. The MCP, led by Chin Peng
Chin Peng
Chin Peng, former OBE , was born Ong Boon Hua in Sitiawan, and was a long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party...

, retreated to rural areas, and formed the MNLA, also known as the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA), or the Malayan People's Liberation Army (MPLA). The MNLA began a guerrilla campaign, targeting mainly the colonial resource
Natural resource
Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form. A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems....

 extraction industries, which in Malaya were the tin mines and rubber plantations.

The MNLA was partly a re-formation of the Malayan People's 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 trained and armed the MPAJA during the later stages of World War II. Disbanded in December, 1945, the MPAJA officially turned all of its weapons in to the British Military Administration
British Military Administration
The British Military Administration was the interim administrator of British Malaya between the end of World War II and the establishment of the Malayan Union in 1946. Specifically, the entity lasted from September 1945 to April 1946...

. However, many weapons were not returned, and were stashed for possible future use.

Guerrilla war

The MNLA commonly employed guerrilla tactics, sabotaging installations, attacking rubber plantations and destroying transportation and infrastructure.

Support for the MNLA was mainly based on around 500,000 of the 3.12 million ethnic Chinese then living in Malaya. The ethnic Malay population supported them in smaller numbers. The MNLA gained the support of the Chinese because they were denied the equal right to vote in elections, had no land rights to speak of, and were usually very poor. The MNLA's supply organisation was called "Min Yuen." It had a network of contacts within the general population. Besides supplying material, especially food, it was also important to the MNLA as an information gatherer.

The MNLA's camps and hideouts were in the rather inaccessible tropical jungle with limited infrastructure. Most MNLA guerrillas were ethnic Chinese, though there were some Malays, Indonesians and Indians among its members. The MNLA was organized into regiments, although these had no fixed establishments and each encompassed all forces operating in a particular region. The regiments had political sections, commissar
Commissar is the English transliteration of an official title used in Russia from the time of Peter the Great.The title was used during the Provisional Government for regional heads of administration, but it is mostly associated with a number of Cheka and military functions in Bolshevik and Soviet...

s, instructors and secret service. In the camps, the soldiers attended lectures on Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

, and produced political newsletters to be distributed to the locals. The MNLA also stipulated that their soldiers needed official permission for any romantic involvement with local women.

In the early stages of the conflict, the guerrillas envisioned establishing "liberated areas" from which the government forces had been driven, and MNLA control established. They were unsuccessful, however, in establishing any such areas.

British response

The initial government strategy was primarily to guard important economic targets such as mines and plantation estates. Subsequently, General Sir Harold Briggs
Harold Rawdon Briggs
Lieutenant-General Sir Rawdon Briggs KCIE KBE CB DSO and two bars was an officer in the British Indian Army during World War I, World War II and the post-war era.Field Marshal Viscount William Slim said of him-Early life:...

, the British Army's Director of Operations in Malaya, developed an overall strategy known as the Briggs Plan. Its central tenet 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 was multi-faceted. However one aspect of it has become particularly well known: this was 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 Village
New Village
New Villages , also known as Chinese New Villages , are settlements created during the waning days of British rule over Malaysia in the mid-1950s.-History:...

s. These villages were newly constructed in most cases, and were surrounded by barbed wire, police posts and floodlit areas, the purpose of which was both to keep the inhabitants in and the guerrillas out. People resented this at first, but some soon became content with the better living standards in the villages. They were given money and ownership of the land they lived on. Removing a population which might be sympathetic to guerrillas was a counter-insurgency
A counter-insurgency or counterinsurgency involves actions taken by the recognized government of a nation to contain or quell an insurgency taken up against it...

 technique which the British had used before, notably against the Boer Commando
Boer Commando
The Boer commando was the basic unit of organisation of the militia of the Boer people of South Africa. The term came into English usage during the Second Boer War.-History:...

s in the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

 (1899–1902), although in Malaya, the operation was more humanely and efficiently conducted.

In the international scene, the emerging Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 eclipsed the developing conflict in Malaya.

At the start of the Emergency, the British had a total of 13 infantry battalions in Malaya, including seven partly formed Gurkha
Gurkha are people from Nepal who take their name from the Gorkha District. Gurkhas are best known for their history in the Indian Army's Gorkha regiments, the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas and the Nepalese Army. Gurkha units are closely associated with the kukri, a forward-curving Nepalese knife...

 battalions, three British battalions, two battalions of the Royal Malay Regiment
Royal Malay Regiment
The Royal Malay Regiment is the premier unit of the Malaysian Army's two infantry regiments. At its largest, the Malay Regiment comprised 27 battalions. At present, two battalions are parachute trained and form part of the Malaysian Army Rapid Deployment Force...

 and a British Royal Artillery
Royal Artillery
The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery , is the artillery arm of the British Army. Despite its name, it comprises a number of regiments.-History:...

 Regiment being utilised as infantry. This force was too small to effectively meet the threat of the "communist terrorists" or "bandits", and more infantry battalions were needed in Malaya. The British brought in soldiers from units such as the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 and King's African Rifles
King's African Rifles
The King's African Rifles was a multi-battalion British colonial regiment raised from the various British possessions in East Africa from 1902 until independence in the 1960s. It performed both military and internal security functions within the East African colonies as well as external service as...

. Another effort was a re-formation of the Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 in 1950 as a specialised reconnaissance, raiding and counter-insurgency unit.

The Permanent Secretary of Defence for Malaya
Federation of Malaya
The Federation of Malaya is the name given to a federation of 11 states that existed from 31 January 1948 until 16 September 1963. The Federation became independent on 31 August 1957...

, Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson, had served in the Chindits
The Chindits were a British India "Special Force" that served in Burma and India in 1943 and 1944 during the Burma Campaign in World War II. They were formed into long range penetration groups trained to operate deep behind Japanese lines...

 in Burma during World War II. His vast experience in jungle warfare
Jungle warfare
Jungle warfare is a term used to cover the special techniques needed for military units to survive and fight in jungle terrain.It has been the topic of extensive study by military strategists, and was an important part of the planning for both sides in many conflicts, including World War II and the...

 proved valuable 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.

In 1951, some British army units began a "hearts and minds
Hearts and Minds
Hearts and Minds may refer to:* A biblical quotation; see the Wikisource link-Film:* Hearts and Minds , a 1974 documentary film about the Vietnam War-Television:...

 campaign" by giving medical and food aid to Malays and indigenous tribes. At the same time, they put pressure on MNLA by patrolling the jungle. The MNLA guerrillas were driven deeper into the jungle and denied resources. The MRLA extorted food from the Sakai and earned their enmity. Many of the captured guerrillas changed sides. In comparison, the MRLA never released any Britons alive.

In the end the conflict involved a maximum of 40,000 British and Commonwealth troops against a peak of about 7–8,000 communist guerrillas.

Control of anti-guerrilla operations

At all levels of 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 coordinated. Each State War Executive Committee, for example, included the State Chief Minister as chair, 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 day-to-day direction of emergency operations. The operations subcommittees as a whole made joint decisions.

Nature of warfare

The British Army soon realised that clumsy sweeps by large formations were unproductive. Instead, platoons or sections carried out patrols and laid ambushes, based on intelligence (from informers, surrendered MNLA personnel, aerial reconnaissance etc.) A typical operation was "Nassau", carried out in the Kuala Langat
Kuala Langat
Kuala Langat is a district of Selangor, Malaysia. It is situated in the southwestern part of Selangor. It covers an area of 885 square kilometres, and had a population of 222,261 at the 2010 Cenmsus . It is bordered by the districts of Klang to the north and Sepang to the east. Its southern border...

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 December 21, 1954. On January 9, 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 (sic) 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 March 21, 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 a 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 July 7, 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.


On October 6, 1951 the MNLA ambushed and killed the British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney
Henry Gurney
Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney KCMG K.St.J. was a British official who was assassinated by communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency.-Background:...

. 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." More recently, MNLA leader Chin Peng stated that the killing had little effect, and that the communists anyway radically altered their strategy that month in their "October Resolutions". The October Resolutions, a response to the Briggs Plan, involved a change of tactics 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
Gerald Templer
Field Marshal Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer KG, GCB, GCMG, KBE was a British military commander. He is best known for his defeat of the guerrilla rebels in Malaya between 1952 and 1954...

, was instructed by the British government to push for immediate measures to give Chinese ethnic residents the right to vote. He also pursued the Briggs Plan, and sped up the formation of a Malayan army. At the same time he made it clear that the Emergency itself was the main impediment to accelerating decolonisation. He also increased financial rewards for detecting guerrillas by any civilians and expanded the intelligence network (Special Branch).

Government's declaration of amnesty

On September 8, 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
Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, AC, CH was Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya from 1955, and the country's first Prime Minister from independence in 1957. He remained as the Prime Minister after Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore joined the...

, 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 a hitherto 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. Public demonstrations and processions in support of the amnesty were held in towns and villages. Despite the campaign, few Communists surrendered to the authorities. It was evident that the communists, having had ample warning of its declaration, conducted intensive anti-amnesty propaganda in their ranks and among the mass organizations, tightened discipline and warned that defection would be severely punished. Some critics in the political circles commented that the amnesty was too restrictive and little more than a restatement of the surrender terms which have 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 exclude the possibility of recognition of the MCP as a political organization. Within the Alliance itself, influential elements in both the MCA and UMNO
United Malays National Organisation
The United Malays National Organisation, is Malaysia's largest political party; a founding member of the National Front coalition, which has played a dominant role in Malaysian politics since independence....

 were endeavouring to persuade the Chief Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman to hold negotiations with the MCP.

The Baling talks and their consequences

Realizing that his conflict had not come to any fruition, Chin Peng sought a discussion with the ruling British government alongside many Malayan officials in 1955. The talks took place in the Government English School at Baling
Baling is a major town in the northern state of Kedah in Malaysia. It is also the name of a district in which Baling town is situated. It is south of Betong, the southernmost town in Thailand.-Origin of name:...

 on December 28. The MCP was represented by Chin Peng
Chin Peng
Chin Peng, former OBE , was born Ong Boon Hua in Sitiawan, and was a long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party...

, the Secretary-General, Rashid Maidin
Rashid Maidin
-Early years:Rashid Maidin was a senior leader of the Communist Party of Malaya . He was born in Kampung Gunung Mesah, Gopeng, Perak. He is the eldest brother of 7 brothers and 1 sister. He received his early education at the Gunung Panjang Malay School and the Kampung Gunung Mesah Madrasah, which...

 and Chen Tien, head of the MCP's Central Propaganda Department; on the other side were three elected national representatives, Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, AC, CH was Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya from 1955, and the country's first Prime Minister from independence in 1957. He remained as the Prime Minister after Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore joined the...

, Dato'  Tan Cheng-Lock
Tan Cheng Lock
Tun Dato Sri Sir Cheng-lock Tan, DPMJ, KBE was a Malaysian Chinese businessman and a key public figure who devoted his life to fighting for the rights and the social welfare of the Chinese community in Malaya...

 and David Saul Marshall
David Saul Marshall
David Saul Marshall was the leader of the Singapore Labour Front and became the first Chief Minister of Singapore in 1955....

, the Chief Minister of Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

. The meeting was intended to pursue a mutual end to the conflict but the Malayan government representatives, led by Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, AC, CH was Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya from 1955, and the country's first Prime Minister from independence in 1957. He remained as the Prime Minister after Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore joined the...

, dismissed all of Chin Peng's demands. As a result, the conflict heightened and, in response, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 sent NZSAS soldiers, No. 14 Squadron RNZAF
No. 14 Squadron RNZAF
14 Squadron RNZAF was a squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.- New Zealand fighters before 1941 :Until World War II, New Zealand's air force concentrated on training, transport and maritime attack. The vast distance of the Pacific Ocean seemed a defence against attack by air...

, No. 41 (Bristol Freighter) Squadron RNZAF and later, No. 75 Squadron RNZAF
No. 75 Squadron RNZAF
No. 75 Squadron RNZAF was an air combat squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It was formed from the RAF's World War II bomber squadron, No. 75 Squadron, which had been initially equipped by the New Zealand government and was largely manned by New Zealanders...

, and other Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 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". Despite the failure of the talks, the MCP made every effort to resume peace talks with 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; and
  • a guarantee that political as well as armed members of the MCP would not be punished.

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
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 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. A total of 2,702 guerrillas surrendered during the conflict, while approximately 500 more did so at its conclusion. 1,345 Malayan troops and police were also killed during the fighting, as well as 519 Commonwealth personnel. 2,478 civilians were killed, with another 810 recorded as missing.

Australian contribution

Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 was willing to send troops to help a SEATO ally and the first Australian ground forces, the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment is a regular light infantry battalion of the Australian Army. 2 RAR was first formed as the Australian 66th Battalion in 1945 and since then it has seen active service during the Korean War, Malayan Emergency and Vietnam War...

 (2RAR), arrived in 1955. The battalion was later be replaced by 3RAR
3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment is a parachute infantry battalion of the Australian Army, based in Sydney. 3 RAR was initially formed in 1945 as the 67th Battalion and has seen active service in Japan, Korea, Malaya, South Vietnam, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Afghanistan and Iraq...

, which in turn was replaced by 1RAR
1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment is a regular light infantry battalion of the Australian Army. 1 RAR was first formed as the 65th Australian Infantry Battalion in 1945 and since then has been deployed on active service during the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War...

. The Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 contributed No. 1 Squadron
No. 1 Squadron RAAF
No. 1 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force squadron based at RAAF Amberley. The squadron is currently being re-equipped with F/A-18F Super Hornet multi-role fighters.-World War I:...

 (Avro Lincoln
Avro Lincoln
The Avro Type 694, better known as the Avro Lincoln, was a British four-engined heavy bomber, which first flew on 9 June 1944. Developed from the Avro Lancaster, the first Lincoln variants were known initially as the Lancaster IV and V, but were renamed Lincoln I and II...

 bombers) and No. 38 Squadron
No. 38 Squadron RAAF
No. 38 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force transport squadron. The Squadron was formed in 1943 and saw active service in the Second World War, Korean War and Malayan Emergency. No. 38 Squadron has also supported Australian peacekeeping operations around the world including in Kashmir and East...

C-47 Skytrain
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line operations through the 1950s with a few remaining in operation to this day.-Design and...

 transports), operating out of Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, early in the conflict. In 1955, the RAAF extended Butterworth air base
RAAF Base Butterworth
RMAF Butterworth is an Air Force Station of the Royal Malaysian Air Force situated near the town of Butterworth in the state of Penang, directly opposite the island itself.-RAF Butterworth:...

, from which Canberra
English Electric Canberra
The English Electric Canberra is a first-generation jet-powered light bomber manufactured in large numbers through the 1950s. The Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber through the 1950s and set a world altitude record of 70,310 ft in 1957...

 bombers of No. 2 Squadron
No. 2 Squadron RAAF
No. 2 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force squadron. From its formation in 1916, it has operated a variety of aircraft types including fighters, bombers, and Airborne Early Warning & Control.-World War I:No...

 (replacing No. 1 Squadron) and CAC Sabre
CAC Sabre
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Allward, Maurice. F-86 Sabre. London: Ian Allen, 1978. ISBN 0-71100-860-4.* Curtis, Duncan. North American F-86 Sabre. Ramsbury, UK: Crowood, 2000. ISBN 1-86126-358-9....

s of No. 78 Wing
No. 78 Wing RAAF
No. 78 Wing is the Royal Australian Air Force's operational training wing. It is headquartered at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales, and operates the BAE Hawk 127 lead-in fighter. The wing was formed in 1943 and operated P-40 Kittyhawk fighters in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II...

 carried out ground attack missions against the guerillas. The Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

 destroyers Warramunga
HMAS Warramunga (I44)
HMAS Warramunga was a Tribal class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy . Built during World War II, the destroyer entered service in late 1942...

 and Arunta
HMAS Arunta (I30)
HMAS Arunta was a Tribal class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy . Named for the Arrernte Aborigines, the destroyer was laid down in 1939 and commissioned into the RAN in 1942....

 joined the force in June 1955. Between 1956 and 1960, the aircraft carriers Melbourne and Sydney
HMAS Sydney (1944)
HMAS Sydney was a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier operated by the Royal Australian Navy . She was built for the Royal Navy and launched as HMS Terrible in 1944, but was not completed before the end of World War II...

 and destroyers Anzac
HMAS Anzac (D59)
HMAS Anzac was a Battle class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy . Named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the destroyer was commissioned in 1951. The ship served on two tours of duty during the Korean War, and attempts to distinguish herself from British ships led to the...

, Quadrant
HMAS Quadrant (G11)
HMAS Quadrant , named for the navigational instrument, was a Q class destroyer operated by the Royal Navy as HMS Quadrant during World War II, and the Royal Australian Navy from 1945 to 1957...

, Queenborough
HMAS Queenborough (G30)
HMAS Queenborough was a Q class destroyer that served in the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy ....

, Quiberon
HMAS Quiberon (G81)
HMAS Quiberon was a Q class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy . Although built for the Royal Navy and remaining British property until 1950, Quiberon was one of two Q class destroyers commissioned into the RAN during World War II...

, Quickmatch
HMAS Quickmatch (G92)
HMAS Quickmatch , named for the quick-match, a fast burning match used for lighting cannon, was a Q class destroyer operated by the Royal Australian Navy . Although commissioned into the RAN in 1942, the ship was initially the property of the Royal Navy. Quickmatch served with both the British...

, Tobruk
HMAS Tobruk (D37)
HMAS Tobruk was a Battle class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy . Built at Cockatoo Island, the destroyer was completed in 1950. Tobruk was deployed to the Korean War twice, and served with the Far East Strategic Reserve on three occasions during the late 1950s...

, Vampire
HMAS Vampire (D11)
HMAS Vampire was the third of three Australian-built Daring class destroyers serving in the Royal Australian Navy . One of the first all-welded ships built in Australia, she was constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard between 1952 and 1959, and was commissioned into the RAN a day after...

, Vendetta
HMAS Vendetta (D08)
HMAS Vendetta was one of three Daring class destroyers built for and operated by the Royal Australian Navy . The destroyer was built by Williamstown Naval Dockyard and entered service in 1958. During her early career, Vendetta was deployed to the Far East Strategic Reserve on multiple occasions...

 and Voyager
HMAS Voyager (D04)
HMAS Voyager was a Daring class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy , that was lost in a collision in 1964.Constructed between 1949 and 1957, Voyager was the first ship of her class to enter Australian service, and the first all-welded ship to be built in Australia...

 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
Johor is a Malaysian state, located in the southern portion of Peninsular Malaysia. It is one of the most developed states in Malaysia. The state capital city and royal city of Johor is Johor Bahru, formerly known as Tanjung Puteri...


Comparisons with Vietnam

The conflicts in Malaya and Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 have been compared many times and it has been asked by historians how a British force of 35,000 succeeded where over half a million U.S. soldiers failed in a smaller area. However, the two conflicts differ in several key points.
  • The combined support of the Soviet Union and China (PRC) provided vast amounts of the latest military hardware, logistical support and training to North Vietnam.
  • North Vietnam's shared border with its ally China (PRC) allowed for continuous assistance and resupply.
  • The MNLA was isolated and without external supporters.
  • The MNLA was politically isolated from the bulk of the population. It was, as mentioned above, a political movement almost entirely limited to ethnic Chinese; support among Muslim Malays and smaller tribes was scattered if existent at all. Malay nationalists supported the British because they promised independence in a Malay state; an MNLA victory would imply a state dominated by ethnic Chinese, and possibly a puppet state
    Puppet state
    A puppet state is a nominal sovereign of a state who is de facto controlled by a foreign power. The term refers to a government controlled by the government of another country like a puppeteer controls the strings of a marionette...

     of Beijing or Moscow.
  • Britain never approached the Emergency as a conventional conflict and quickly implemented an effective combined intelligence (led by Malayan Police Special Branch against the political arm of the guerrilla movement) and a "hearts and minds" operation.
  • Many Malayans had fought side by side with the British against the Japanese occupation in World War II
    Japanese occupation of Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak
    Throughout much of World War II, British Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak were under Japanese occupation.The Japanese Empire commenced the Pacific War with the invasion of Kota Bahru in Kelantan on 8 December 1941 at 00:25, about 90 minutes before the Attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii at 07:48 on 7...

    , including Chin Peng. This is in contrast to Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) where French colonial officials often operated as proxies and collaborators to the Japanese. This factor of trust between the locals and the colonials was what gave the British an advantage over the French and later, the Americans in Vietnam.
  • In purely military terms, the British Army recognized that in a low-intensity war, the individual soldier's skill and endurance was of far greater importance than overwhelming firepower (artillery, air support, etc.) Even though many British soldiers were conscripted
    Conscription in the United Kingdom
    Conscription in the United Kingdom has existed for two periods in modern times. The first was from 1916 to 1919, the second was from 1939 to 1960, with the last conscripted soldiers leaving the service in 1963...

     National Servicemen, the necessary skills and attitudes were taught at a Jungle Warfare School, which also worked out the optimum tactics based on experience gained in the field.


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

In the late 1960s, the coverage of the My Lai massacre
My Lai Massacre
The My Lai Massacre was the Vietnam War mass murder of 347–504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968, by United States Army soldiers of "Charlie" Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the Americal Division. Most of the victims were women, children , and...

 during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 prompted the initiation of investigations in the UK concerning alleged war crimes perpetrated by British forces during the Emergency. One of such allegations is the Batang Kali massacre
Batang Kali massacre
The Batang Kali massacre is an incident that took place in Malaya on December 12, 1948 during British military operations against native and Chinese communists in the post-World War II Malayan Emergency....

. However, no charges have yet been brought against the British forces involved and claims have been repeatedly dismissed as propaganda by the British government despite evidence suggestive of a cover-up.

In popular Malaysian culture, the Emergency has frequently been portrayed as a primarily Malay struggle against the communists. However, this perception has been criticised by some, such as Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin, for not recognising Chinese and Indian efforts. This depiction also downplays or denies the substantial military and humanitarian aid given by British and Commonwealth forces throughout the conflict.

See also

  • British military history
    British military history
    The Military history of Britain, including the military history of the United Kingdom and the military history of the island of Great Britain, is discussed in the following articles:...

  • British Far East Command
    British Far East Command
    The Far East Command was a British military command which had 2 distinct periods. These were firstly, 18 November 1940 – 7 January 1942 succeeded by the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command , and secondly, 1963 – 1971 succeeded by Australia, New Zealand, and United Kingdom Force...

  • Far East Strategic Reserve
    Far East Strategic Reserve
    The British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve was a joint military force of the British, Australian, and New Zealand armed forces...

  • Communist Insurgency War
    Communist Insurgency War
    The Communist Insurgency War, or Second Malaysian Emergency was an insurgency and guerrilla war, conducted by the Malayan Communist Party against Malaysian armed forces from 1968 to 1989.-Origins:...

    (Second Malayan Emergency)

Further reading

  • Short, Anthony (1975). The Communist Insurrection in Malaya 1948–1960. London and New York: Frederick Muller. Reprinted (2000) as In Pursuit of Mountain Rats. Singapore.

External links

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