Over the Christmas holidays I've been reading "The Malayan Emergency & Indonesian Confrontation" by Robert Jackson. Both were wars where Commonwealth troops were involved in supporting local forces against communist guerrillas to help ensure their transition to independent democratic states. Both have also been used as textbook examples of how to successfully complete a counter insurgency campaign in a jungle environment. The situation in Malaya was very different to that in Vietnam. In Malaya there was no neighbouring state harbouring the guerrillas, and the approximate number of guerrillas was fairly well known throughout the campaign, so despite some similarities the 2 wars came to very different conclusions.
John Chynoweth's book "Hunting Terrorists in the Jungle" describes his time as a National Serviceman in 1953-54, (the Emergency ran from 1948-1960) when as a Lieutenant he was assigned to the Malay Regiment. This is a very interesting read, full of little anecdotes such as the time he was trying to use a smoke grenade to mark a helicopter LZ and the phosphorus set the grass alight and burned out a large part of the valley!
Freddie Spencer Chapman's book "The Jungle is Neutral is also an interesting read, telling of his time in the jungles of Malaya during the Second World War, fighting against the Japanese. One of his allies at this time was Chin Peng of the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army, who received an OBE for his contribution to allied war efforts against the Japanese. Chin Peng later became a leader of the Communist Party of Malaya and thus the main enemy of the allies during the Malayan Emergency, resulting in his being stripped of the OBE.
The Indonesian Confrontation took place 1962-1966. Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak were preparing to combine to form Malaysia. Sabah and Sarawak (along with Brunei) form the Northern part of Borneo. President Soekarno of Indonesia was opposed to this because he had hopes of making them part of Greater Indonesia. The war involved both guerrillas and regular Indonesian army troops in cross border raids and naval landings. Commonwealth troops included British, New Zealand and Australian forces supporting local units.
The Indonesian Confrontation provides a lot of inspiration for wargaming. The cross-border raids which were such a feature of this war provide ideal small-scale actions. In many cases the local police station was the objective for the attack (for instance the attack on Long Jawai, 50 miles inside the border of Sarawak) and at the start of the conflict battles were also fought for control of airfields and oilfields. In January - February 1965 B and D squadrons of 22 SAS undertook operations on the enemy side of the border - they ambushed troop and supply boats on the rivers. "One patrol tapped an Indonesian telephone line several miles across the border, spending five days tape-recording enemy messages and narrowly escaping capture by a patrol of Indonesian paratroops; another, in the course of a dawn skirmish, snatched important documents from a hut that was being used as an advanced HQ by the enemy." (Jackson, op.cit p.133).
A range of naval vessels were included in the confrontation at various different times, the commando carriers HMS Albion and Bulwark, light cruiser HMS Tiger and the carriers HMS Centaur, Victorious, Eagle and Ark Royal. Air support was readily available including Hunters and Javelins, plus Sea Vixens and Buccaneers from the carriers and Australian F-86 Sabres. Even Victors from Britain's V-bomber fleet were available! Canberras proved extremely valuable throughout both conflicts, particularly in the photographic reconnaissance role over these inaccurately mapped jungle countries. The Indonesians were equipped with MiG -17s, also Il-28 and Tu-16 bombers plus C130s for transport duties and the dropping of propaganda leaflets.
Happy Birthday to me - some of the presents
14 hours ago