70th Anniversary of the Malayan Emergency
Wednesday 20 June, 2018
I rise today
to acknowledge the 70th Anniversary of the Commencement of the
Malayan Emergency, which was marked this past Saturday, June 16th,
with a Commemoration Service at the City of West Torrens Memorial Gardens. I
was pleased to attend and lay a wreath on behalf of the Premier and Government
of SA. Through it I wish to share with this place excerpts from the writings of
author Major Paul Rosenweig OAM MA JP (ret’d), who has made a substantial
contribution in works recording Australia’s military history.
In 2018, the former allied nations
will mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day….Commemorative
ceremonies around the globe will mark this significant event, effectively
closing off a five-year commemoration of the centenary of World War 1.
Receiving far less attention this
year, in fact probably none at all in most quarters will be the 70th
anniversary of the start of the undeclared war known as the ‘Malayan
‘The emergency’, as it is sometimes
known, was a guerrilla war fought in the Federation of Malaya, which lasted
from 1948 until 1960, and cost the lives of 39 Australians.
The Federation of Malaya, a
federation of eleven states (nine Malay states plus two of the British Straits
Settlements, Penang and Malacca), came into existence on 1 February 1948.
Essentially, the Emergency began on 16 June 1948 when three European plantation
managers in the northern state of Perak were executed by members of the Malayan
Communist Party (MCP). The British declared a State of Emergency in Perak on 18
June, and then enacted emergency measures country –wide from July.
The Emergency was the Commonwealth’s
response to a ‘National Liberation War’ fought by communist guerrillas of the
Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), the military arm of the Malayan
Communist Party. The MNLA (predominantly Malayan Chinese) was seeking to
overthrow the British colonial administration in Malaya.
It was an ‘undeclared war’: the
rubber plantations and tin-mining industries urged the use of the term
‘emergency’ since their losses would not have been covered by Lloyd’s insurers
if it had been termed a ‘war’.
Most official records give ’18 June
1948’ as the declared commencement of the Malayan Emergency, however the
qualifying period for the Commonwealth clasp ‘MALAYA’ actually begins on 16
While the Emergency was underway the
Federation of Malaya became independent on 31 August 1957, with Tunku Abdul
Rahman as Prime Minister.
The Commonwealth contribution
included Malayan and British units, including Gurkhas and Royal Marines. Other
Commonwealth troop contributing nations included Australia, New Zealand, Fiji,
Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia.
Australia’s commitment to operations
against the Communist Terrorists fell within the context of its membership of
the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve (FESR).
…More than 7000 Australians served in
the Malayan Emergency, and some estimates suggest as many as 10000 due to the
rotational service of the warships and the rotation of reinforcements into the
The Australian War Memorial records
39 Australian servicemen who lost their lives in Malaya (15 of these deaths
occurred as a result of operations), while 27 were wounded. The three
battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment lost 20 men (including one
attached), the Royal Australian Artillery lost 4 men, and there were a further
three deaths from the supporting services. The RAAF suffered 6 deaths, plus
another 4 at RAAF Butterworth. The RAN lost two men.
In addition, there were a further six
deaths (four Army and two RAAF officers) during the non-operational period
following 1 August 1960 and during 1961.
The Office of Australian War Graves
records that there are 36 Australian war dead from the Malaysian Emergency. They
are buried in various locations…Others are buried or officially commemorated in
Australia in civil cemeteries and crematoria or in OAWG Garden of
Remembrance…The Tedrendak Military Cemetery also contains a Memorial to the
Missing on which those with no known grave are officially commemorated.
Pathway to Nationhood
While the Emergency was still
underway, the Federation of Malaya became independent on 31 August 1957. Then
Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman signed a proclamation on 31 July 1960
declaring that the Emergency was over. The formal conclusion of the Emergency
set the conditions for Malaysia to come into existence in 1963 when the
Federation of Malaya, when the Federation of Malaya joined with the Singapore,
North Borneo and Sarawak Crown Colonies (although Singapore later separated
from Malaysia, on 9 August 1965).
The service of the Australian troops,
and the sacrifice of our 39 Australians, among the 1800 Malayan and
Commonwealth troops who lost their lives in this 12 year conflict, was not in
vain, serving to uphold the sovereignty of Malaya allowing the successful
attainment of independence and the eventual creation of Malaysia on 16