South Australians at War
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Conflicts : The Malayan Emergency

znwsi16127328_19560103_001_Malayan EmergencyA British colony, Malaya had come under Japanese control during World War II. When the conflict ended the Malaysian Communist Party (MCP) began to push for Malayan independence under a communist government. Although not against Malayan independence, the British resisted the notion of a communist government. A state of emergency was declared in 1948 when the militant arm of the MCP, the Malay Races Libration Army, began a campaign of guerrilla warfare. They found support with the discontented Malayan Chinese population who were not given the same rights and privileges as native Malayans. The situation worsened in October 1951 when the British High Commissioner in Malaya was assassinated.

Australia answered Britain's call for assistance in June 1950, contributing advisors to train soldiers in jungle warfare and RAAF aircraft and personnel from 1 Squadron and 38 Squadron. In 1955 Australia sent RAN vessels to patrol Malayan waters and, after some debate about the role Australian soldiers would play, its first contingent of land troops. By the time the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) arrived in Malaya, the MCP was largely defeated, and so 2RAR was involved in patrolling and apprehending the remaining communist insurgents. When 3RAR replaced 2RAR in October 1957 its missions were of the same nature.

Malayan independence was achieved in 1957 and the Malayan government declared the Emergency over at the end of July 1960. Australian forces remained in Malaya until 1963, just before the Federation of Malaysia was declared. During the Malayan Emergency, Australia committed to the Far East Strategic Reserve, which was established to monitor the development of any communist aggression towards non-communist countries in south-east Asia. Australia's commitment to the Reserve would see it involved in the Indonesian Confrontation just a year after withdrawing from Malaya.

7,000 Australians served in the Malayan Emergency with 39 deaths.

While the State Library of South Australia holds reference works related to this conflict, we hold little in the way of records relating to South Australians involved. Those items with a South Australian interest include an oral history with David Ennis of the Second Field Ambulance.

If you have any original items relating to South Australians at war such as photographs, film, diaries and letters, the Library's Archival Field Officers would like to hear from you regarding possible donations, or copies being made for the Library's collections.

Share 'Your story' about this conflict: contribute memories in words and photographs.

See our Military Records Library Guide for more resources about the Malayan Emergency.

Australians in action: Drive on Malayan terrorists
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Interview with David Ennis
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Malaya greets end of emergency
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R.A.A.F. squadron for Malaya: Aid plans revealed
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RAF aid for Australians in jungle
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Role of Malaya troops: Available to fight terrorists
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