11 – The Malayan Emergency
Cdo troop moved from Singapore by train to Kuala Lumpur and then
on to our main base at Tapah.
walked into dining room in the Malay barracks and there was a
large Christmas cake with the Royal Marine gold crest on it. On
Christmas morning we went in for breakfast and the cake was still
sitting out but this time it was covered in maggots. The cooks
had forgotten to cover it up and put it in the cool room that
Needless to say no one had any Christmas cake that year.
Cdo Brigade was based at Ipoh and 45 Cdo Headquarters was based
at Tapah. My section was based at a former planters house in the
Kampar district where I was a Humber scout car driver. The
planter probably had to leave the area when the terrorist
The Scout Car
first thing we did when we were posted there was to clean out the
swimming pool and fill it with clean water. We were probably the
only British army unit in Malaya with their own private swimming
pool. The Royal West Kent’s were operating in an area adjacent
to our patrol area.
Commanding Officer at that time was Lieutenant Colonel Deleaths,
a man who led from the front who had a habit of falling out with
the Brigadier. He also believed in the necessity of good radio
communications and woe-betide any officer or radio operator who
failed to share that enthusiasm.
Just before I left Malaya he was posted as a Training
Officer and replaced by Colonel Ustace. Colonel Deleaths finished
his time as Commandant General of the Royal Marines.
Lieutenant Colonel Deleaths was our CO selected the nickname of
my scout car. Some drivers wanted to put their girlfriends name
on their vehicle but that was ruled out straight away. They had
to settle for their local county names.
were quite a few Ulstermen in 45 Cdo at that time. When I was
issued with my Humber scout car I was in a quandary about what to
call it without offending someone. Colonel Deleaths came to the
rescue and told me to call it after all the counties, ‘Ulster.’
was a REME Captain seconded to our troop in Kampar. He was a
qualified commando but he only wore his green beret when he was
with us. Any other time he wore the black beret. He was the only
man in Kampar who engaged and shot a terrorist.
one particular day he travelled in his Jeep to a meeting in Ipoh.
He ignored all the warnings and took the shortest route without
regard for his personal security. As he negotiated a very
dangerous bend in the road he spotted two terrorists running
towards him. They opened fire on him and he stopped his Jeep,
dismounted and returned fire, killing one of the terrorists.
then ran to a nearby farmhouse and reported the incident to Ipoh
and Kampar and waited there until the support teams arrived.
day near Kampar I was driving the Mortar Troop out for a live
firing practice in our patrol area at Kampar. At dusk we were
returning to our base and I observed some lights glowing in the
area of a cave complex. I knew that there were no locals in the
area and bandits had used the caves in the past. The Mortar troop
dismounted set up their mortars and put a salvo of bombs into the
cave complex. When we stormed the location there were no bodies
but there was a trail of blood. That way we knew that we had
successfully engaged the bandits because they had not stayed
The Mortar Troop - Kampar - 1953
a patrol left the base camp it was checked out to ensure that
none of the equipment rattled, no one carried any cigarettes or
scented items. The terrorists were good in the jungle and we had
to be better. Our chief scout lived with the native tribesmen but
in the end we had to take him out of the jungle and return him to
England. Initially he had asked to live with the tribesmen and
the CO gave his permission. He learned their language, customs
and ate the same food as them. But one day he went too far and he
was returned to England.
patrols operated in the jungle along with native trackers who
dressed the same as us except they did not wear boots or shoes.
One day the patrols killed three terrorists and because of the
difficult terrain they were operating in the patrol photographed
the bodies for identification purposes and then cut the heads off
the bodies. In some areas it was a lot easier to carry a head in
a bag rather than a whole body. There was a risk to the patrol if
they had to detail four men to carry one body over difficult
terrain. If we walked into an ambush under those conditions we
had weakened our firepower.
Green Beret Story
1954 I was a Humber Scout car driver in Malaya with 45 Cdo when
we had our only fatal casualty. One night I was preparing the
Humber for an inspection by a Royal Electrical and Mechanical
Engineers (REME) team and the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) the
following morning at 9am. I had taken everything out of the
Humber and cleaned the interior as well as the twin K guns and
ammunition. The petrol, oil and water were all filled to the
correct level and that car was not for moving until the
inspection was over.
evening a Medical Orderly came along and informed me that I was
to take the Humber out on an escort run because he required fresh
medical supplies from the village of Ipoh.
gunner with me said, ‘You were in Ipoh this morning, why do you
still need to go back there for supplies?’ ‘I forgot and I
still need an escort’, was the Medics reply. ‘Well in that
case it won’t be me and you may go and ask someone else’, I
said. The Medic went to the Regulating Office and the Corporal on
duty ordered me to do escort duties for the Medic. I refused on
the grounds that I had an important inspection in the morning and
if I went out there was no way I could prepare the Humber for
Regulating Corporal managed to coax a TCV driver to do the
journey and ignored my warning that the road to Ipoh was a
category Red route and no single vehicle was allowed to use it at
night. Eventually the pair of individuals left the camp and made
their way to Ipoh. Halfway between Kampar and Ipoh they had to
pass through a small village noted for guerrilla activity. A
terrorist group operating in the area used the village as a
supply point for rice, water and ammunition.
pair were ambushed and their vehicle ran into a monsoon ditch.
The Medic was carrying a machine gun and a pistol and he ran from
the killing zone, leaving the driver to his fate. Later on the
villagers told us that the driver held off the terrorists until
he ran out of ammunition. If he had had the pistol and the
machine gun as back up he would have stood a better chance of
surviving the ambush. The terrorists stripped the body naked,
mutilated it and left the scene with all his equipment including
the Green Beret. None of the Royal Marines were allowed to view
was on duty one day and the 2i/c was a Major Smith from Belfast.
The CO was in Singapore that day on duty. Major Smith called for
my scout car and when I reported to him he informed me that we
were going out. A Malay Police Landrover had been ambushed and
two Malay police officers had been killed at 10am that morning.
The Gordon Highlanders had not put a patrol out on the ground as
yet. The Malay police HQ wanted to know what the problem was and
why was there a delay. Major Smith dropped off the patrol close
to the scene of the murders and I took him into the Gordon
Highlanders base camp.
patrol commander had got as far as lining up a patrol to inspect
their fingernails and boots. When Major Smith asked them why they
were still in the base camp at 2pm when there had been an ambush
at 10am they informed him that they had to wait for the order
from their CO before moving out. Major Smith picked up the radio
handset and said ’Go!’ That was the order for the Royal
Marines on the ground to move in on the most likely areas that
harboured the terrorists.
one hour later the Royal Marine patrol reported that they had
caught the terrorist responsible for killing their comrade. The
scout had emptied a full magazine from a Bren into him and the
patrol recovered their comrades’ rifle and Green Beret. That
particular gang of terrorists left the area after that.
the end of my tour of duty in Malaya I was granted one-month
compassionate leave because my father was terminally ill.
I was at Singapore waiting for a flight home I found enough time
to go and visit the former POW Camp operated by the Japanese at
the horrors I had to endure as a POW of the Germans, I appreciate
that our problems were of a minor nature compared to the POWs
held by the Japanese.
only had twenty minutes at Changi, but that was enough. The area
was empty but you could sense the atmosphere and imagine all the
atrocities suffered by the Allied servicemen in Japanese hands.
my father died I rejoined 45 Cdo in Malta. The whole of 3 Cdo
Brigade had moved there while I was on compassionate leave. At
that time 3 Cdo Brigade consisted of 40, 42 and 45 Cdo as well as
all the support units.
- The Duke of Edinburgh
1952 our Royal Marine Commando were ‘Trooping the Colours’ in
Malta. This was a regular occurrence on the island; each of the
commandos would troop their colours. I was a driver and that
morning after many delays for the wet weather I took a squad of
troops to the parade area and then got ready to line the route
alongside the Maltese Artillery.
decided not to attend the route lining and went to the nearest
restaurant/bar for a few drinks. The Duke had seen us going into
the bar and after the parade was over he mingled with the troops
and came over to talk to us. I did not speak to him personally.
He told us how he sat out the parade feeling like a stuffed dummy
and would have preferred to be with us in the bar.
he finished talking to us he said, ‘Make sure you ‘Splice the
Main Brace’ when you return to your quarters.’ It was normal
practice to be issued with a tot of rum at dinnertime. To
‘Splice the Main Brace’ was an old royal Navy tradition. One
of the most hazardous duties in the old navy was where you had to
repair the main mast to keep your ship under sail. On completion
of that duty you were rewarded with an extra rum ration.
told him that would be unlikely but he turned up at the camp
later and ensured that there was an extra rum ration in the
Sergeants Mess. We went to the NAAFI instead and had an extra
beer or two.
area covered by 3 Cdo Brigade included North Africa including
Tripoli. I was there for four months in 1953. It was generally
believed that the Brigade was being made ready to enter into the
Suez Crisis and we trained constantly but that never happened.