An Army patrol in Malaya, 1957
Photograph, Malaya, 1957.
In order to counter the guerilla campaign being waged by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), British soldiers had to be taught how to live and fight in the jungle. The Malayan Emergency started in 1948 when the MCP began attacking plantations, derailing trains and burning workers' houses. The Communists were jungle based and supported by the impoverished Chinese population, who lived mainly in cities and at the fringes of jungles. In order to cut off interaction between the MCP and the Chinese, the British resettled nearly 500,000 Chinese 'squatters' from outlying areas to newly created and protected villages.
This deprived the Communists of their supplies and information. At the same time, the British attempted to win the 'hearts and minds' of the population by promising independence and seeking to unite the racially divided Malayan people against the insurrection. The Communists were soon isolated and gradually hunted down in the jungle. Their campaign had failed largely because of lack of support from the majority Malay community. In August 1957 Malaya was granted independence and in 1960 the emergency was declared to be over. Over 500 soldiers and 1,300 police had been killed during the emergency. The campaign was one of the few successful counter-insurgency operations undertaken by the Western powers.
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National Army Museum, Out of Copyright
National Army Museum, Study collection