The Malayan Emergency
1950 – 1960
The Malayan Emergency was declared on 18 June 1948 after three estate managers were murdered in Perak, northern Malaya, by guerrillas of the Malayan Communist Party. The situation deteriorated further with the assassination of the British High Commissioner in October 1951. Prolonged operations were undertaken against the communists to destroy their base of support.
Australia’s involvement in the Emergency began in 1950 with the arrival of RAAF aircraft and personnel in Singapore. By October 1955, when the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR), arrived in Penang, the outcome of the Emergency was no longer in doubt, although a lengthy “mopping up” stage followed, largely undertaken by Australian troops.
As the threat continued to dissipate, the Malayan government officially declared the Emergency over on 31 July 1960, though 1 RAR remained in Malaya until October the following year, when 2 RAR returned for a second tour.
In August 1962 the battalion was committed to anti-communist operations in Perlis and Kedah, completing its tour in August 1963.
As well as air and infantry forces, Australia provided artillery and engineering support, and an air-field construction squadron built the runway for the air force base at Butterworth. RAN Ships also served in Malayan waters.
Australian ground forces in Malaya formed part of Australia’s contribution to the Far East Strategic Reserve, which was set up in April 1955 primarily to deter external communist aggression against countries in south-east Asia, especially Malaya and Singapore.
Lasting 13 years, the Malayan Emergency was the longest continuous military commitment in Australia’s history. Thirty-nine Australian servicemen were killed in Malaya, although only 15 of these deaths occurred as a result of operations, and 27 were wounded, most of whom were in the army.