Malay Emergency Instead of War So Insurers Will Pay

Headline from New York Times 16 August 1951

 

THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY 1948-1960 (BF 48) British 25 pounder field guns of the Royal Artillery in position outside a Malayan village during the Malayan Emergency. They are ready to give fire support if called for by the infantry. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212425

 

The Communist insurgency and successful counter-insurgency by British, Commonwealth and Malaysian troops became known as the “Malayan Emergency,” or “Malay Emergency.”

Had the British government used the word “war” then Lloyds of London and other property insurers would have been able to avoid paying out damage claims on policies written on tin mines, rubber plantations, and manufacturing plants destroyed or damaged in war. Insurance policies written for property exclude from recompense damages caused by war and “Acts of God.” These are defined as natural catastrophes over which no human agency could exert control or caused. Tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, tidal waves etc are “Acts of God” in the legal sense of the term.

Many policies also include exemptions from paying claims by civil unrest, riot and other events of mass violence. What constitutes such events area the kinds of things which keep lawyers busy.

 

THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY 1948-1960 (MAL 35) Men of the Malay Police Field Force wade along a river during a jungle patrol in the Temenggor area of northern Malaya. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212413
“Don’t you think, sir, you should have an escort,” said a policeman to the British Adviser to the Sultan of Perak, then part of the British colony of Malaysia. A Communist insurgency had recently broken out and the Adviser had come to inspect a rubber plantation where several British estate managers had just been murdered by Communist thugs.
“Escort? Good God! Why on earth should I need an escort? I’ve got my walking stick and my wife.”

[Source: War of the Running Dogs: Malaya, 1948-1960 by Noel Barber, foreign correspondent of the London Daily Mail in the 1950s and 1960s who later became a bestselling novelist including several romance novvels the most famous of which was “A Farewell to France.”

 

THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY 1948 – 1960 (GOV 3828) Soldiers of 1st Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment patrol in the jungle shortly after arriving in Malaya, c 1951. A patrol spreads out across the ‘lallang’ (tall grass) as they move into the jungle after leaving the shelter of their armoured vehicles. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205189572

The Communist insurgency in Malaya was heavily supported by the Communist Government of the People’s Republic of China. In spite of the immense difficulties involved in chasing down the Communist guerrillas and killing or capturing them in some of the most forbidding terrain in the world, this was the only successful anti-Communist campaign won by any of the Western powers in Asia that did not involved either outright defeat or a partition of the original nation.

 

THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY 1948-1960 (MAL 304) A soldier practicing stalking in the Malayan jungle in preperation for jungle patrols as part of the counter-insurgency campaign of the Malayan Emergency. He is using an air rifle and has a fencing mask to protect his face and eyes from pellets. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212410

After the defeat of the Japanese, the British re-occupied Malaysia which had been a British crown colony before World War Two, that is, a colony ruled by a Governor appointed by the Crown as advised by the sitting Prime Minister. The British wanted the opportunity to re-open tin mines and rubber plantations because of their desperate need of foreign currency.

 

THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY 1948-1960 (MAL 157) British and Malay infantry being transported up river on an armed launch of the Malayan Naval Force during a sweep to locate communist guerillas hidden ain the jungle along the riverside. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212404

 

The British were also determined to hand over a stable, democratic, free and independent nation to the native Malay officials and Parliament. It was a very long haul. This conflict began in 1948 and continued until the destruction of Communist forces in 1960.

Through the use of Malaysia soldiers and police, British and Commonwealth troops, and funds and supplies from the USA, the British succeeded and after they succeeded, they left. This was one of the few success stories of a country emerging intact from its days as a colony of the British Empire. Malaysia was and continues to be a multi-ethnic state because over the decades the British glued different pieces of territories into one colony. So it wasn’t as if one large piece of territory was just sitting there and they came along and snatched it.

 

THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY, 1948-1960 (MAL 2) A patrol of the Security Forces, possibly from either the Malayan Police Field Force or the Malayan Regiment, prepare to travel by raft down a river in the Temenggor area of northern Malaya. The local men accompanying the troops were employed as armed trackers, scouts, guides and boatmen. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212411

The British Empire was built on trade and the suppression of ethnic violence. In many colonies the ethnic mix was such that these different groups had been warring with each other for endless amounts of time. The British usually imposed order by recruiting native police and military units under British command backed up by British troops and the Royal Navy. Hence, there was an unspoken social contract. The British ruled the colony and made money from it and in return provided order and stability so that native elites could also make money and maintain their traditional powers.

The British preferred to rule through native elites and these groups were often among their strongest supporters.

Malaysia was never a “settlement” colony such as Canada or Australia.  At its peak the white population before World War Two might have number 10,000 people. The brutally hot climate of Malaysia was such that few white Europeans wanted to go there for any length of time. It was a trading colony exporting raw sap from rubber trees as well as an immense amount of tin from mines that had been opened up. Because of this, Malaya earned large amounts of foreign currency, especially dollars for the British and this became more and more important as the twentieth century went on.

 

 

BRITISH FORCES IN THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY 1948-1960 (DM 138) Members of the Malay Regiment inspect equipment, supplies and documents captured in a raid on a communist terrorist jungle camp. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205127197

 

BRITISH FORCES IN THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY 1948-1960 (DM 179) Sergeant A J Foster of the Malayan Police sets up a trip-wire across a path on a rubber plantation known to be used by communist terrorists. When touched the wire would set off a flare to illuminate the surrounding area. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205127194

 

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/