Malayan Emergency (1948-60)

The Malayan Emergency was the only war the West won against Communism.Many people remember failures like Korea and Vietnam but few recall the victory in Malaya.

The Malayan Emergency was the only war the West won against Communism.

Many people remember Western failures like Korea and Vietnam but few nowadays recall the victory in Malaya.

It was an intense 12-year jungle war fought by the British, British Commonwealth and Malay forces against the army of the Malayan Communist Party led by Communist fanatic Chin Peng.

The result of the war was the establishment of the independent democractic nation of Malaya, later to become the present day Malaysia.

The violent war started in June,1948 when Chinese Communists cold bloodedly murdered three British rubber planters. The Malayan Communist Party (originally were termed as CTs or Chinese Terrorists but were later officially known as Communist Terrorists) then conducted a continuous terror campaign - murdering, butchering, maiming and torturing British and native men, women and children. They sabotaged installations, derailed trains, burnt buses and generated civil unrest. It was a deliberate campaign to strike fear into civilians.

They also began military strikes against British and Malay security forces, mostly in the form of ambushes.

The CT military force of around 10,000 was mainly jungle based and supported by a large spy network of Chinese who lived in towns and cities. It also relied on supplies from the many jungle fringe dwellers.

The CTs were a highly experienced jungle fighting force who had originally supported the British against the Japanese in World War 11.

Their aim was to make Malaya a Chinese Communist State.

Initially the British and Commonwealth forces were caught unprepared. Much of their jungle fighting expertise had been wound down and many of their troops were raw young inexperienced national servicemen.

Eventually the British developed new and successful jungle fighting techniques that routed the Communists.

In addition to military action the British organised a massive resettlement of nearly 500,000 jungle fringe dwellers to new villages in other regions of the country. This cut off supplies and contacts to the CTs and is said to have been a major factor in British success in the war.

The British also gave Malaya independence in August,1957 which stopped any justification of an armed insurrection.

By 1960 the previously large terrorist jungle army was defeated and reduced to a few hundred men near the Thai border. The Malay Government declared the end of the Emergency in July, 1960 - the Chinese Year of the Rat.

An analysis of the war shows that as well as being defeated militarily, the Chinese Communists lacked the support of the population. The large Chinese sector tended to sit on the fence, particularly when the war turned against the CTs. The Muslim Malays were opposed to the idea of Communism and wary of domination by the Chinese. This resulted in Malay police and Special Forces giving very strong support to the British.

Another major factor was the honest and dignified manner in which the British and Commonwealth forces conducted themselves during the war. While often ruthless in combat with the Communists, the British established a friendly relationship with the general population, based on mutual respect.

This, and the prospect of national independence, was preferable to the terror and death inflicted by the Communists.

It is not clear why the British called the war an "Emergency". Some say it was done to hide the seriousness of the situation and contain its implications politically. Others say it was done so that insurance could be collected on damaged or destroyed property and goods because insurance policies would not cover wartime activities.

As for Chin Peng, the notorious leader of the CTs, he eventually escaped from Malaya and fled to China.

He is now living free in Bangkok, Thailand - uncaptured and unpunished, yet publicly admitting responsibility for all the death and misery he caused.

© High Speed Ventures 2011