Getting restless in 1949 I contacted an RAF Regiment friend (Squadron Leader Tommy Dunne) at Air Ministry and asked for a posting to Malaya. His response was ‘after me, but if you bring me two turkeys from Ireland I am sure your application would be very featherably received.’ I did, and by April 1950 I was posted to No. 95 Squadron, RAF Regiment (Malaya), as a Flight Commander, ostensibly based at RAF Station Tengah, on the west side of Singapore Island.
Because of the prevailing Malayan Emergency, the Squadron alternated bases. Our first taste of jungle patrol operations was at Mersing-Endau and the west coast of Johor State, under the command of a Squadron Leader V.H. Deane (later lost on a RAF Dakota aircraft enroute to Hong Kong).
The officers of the Squadron were accommodated in the Government-sponsored Rest House at Mersing. Rest Houses were a feature of the British-administered Malaya of those days. At that time we had no Malay officers but did have Malay and British NCOs. The airmen were all Malay nationals and were a cheerful and happy lot, not encumbered in the least by Koranic (Islamic) religious demands. From time to time we undertook joint operations with the Royal West Kent Regiment, 4th Royal Hussars, the Gurkha Regiment and the Suffolk Regiment.
As Detachment Commander at Endau, at the mouth of the Endau River, I was very much on my own. Occasionally operations would be directed from Mersing but our river patrols were at my discretion. For river patrolling we used a 30 foot launch plus two crew from the Royal Army Service Corps (Water Transport). The Endau was a long, deep river and had a fair traffic flow of long-boats mainly and the large crocodile population was a natural swimming deterrent! My troops were Malays and there was no love lost between them and the majority of the local Chinese population who also comprised the bulk of the Terrorist movement in Malaya. However, that didn’t stop me from going to the local Chinese barber’s shop for a haircut and the occasional shave. The razor across my throat at times caused a little concern. I always took the precaution of being armed and accompanied by my driver.
Returning on one occasion to Mersing from Endau, our convoy of one Landrover and two trucks was ambushed. The Chinese Terrorists let my Landrover through but opened fire on the middle vehicle. We carried out the normal drill for such attacks - ‘return fire and drive through where possible and fifty yards or so on, demount and counter attack’. By the time we got through the roadside jungle, the terrorists had fled. We only had material damage to one truck. We later returned to RAF Tengah and a normal routine of airfield defence. At Tengah I learnt of the death of a friend from Officer Cadet days, Derek Stebbing, killed on a jungle patrol in our former area.
Our next jungle warfare deployment was to the 2/7th Gurkha Camp at Sungei Besi, some twelve miles south of Kuala Lumpur near the small town of Kajang, well-known in intelligence circles as the region which sheltered the notorious ‘Kajang Gang’ led by Liu Kon Kim. He was killed in our time at Sungei Besi by a Police jungle squad. His body was paraded around the region so no one, particularly Chinese, would have doubts that Liu did die. Though I was Squadron Adjutant responsible for the administration of the Unit I also had to do my fair share of ambushes and patrols. We also had detachments at Rawang and Bukit Darah and Puchong in the tin-mining, coal and rubber estate areas in the Kuala Lumpur region. Patrolling was not confined just to jungle areas but also to both abandoned and producing rubber estates. Our presence in the latter areas was a great source of comfort to the Managers of these Estates and their families.
It was while I was leading a patrol in an abandoned rubber estate east of Ampang that we made contact with a Communist Terrorist group - we were quietly moving through this abandoned estate when we reached a clearing where I saw a gang of uniformed Chinese taking off at a rapid rate of knots, leaving behind all their possessions, less weapons. We handed over the abandoned possessions to the O.C. Police District at Sungei Besi. What information the documents contained we were not informed other than the group was en-route from one Terrorist region to another. Luckily they did not have a sentry on duty at the time of our contact or else he was looking in the wrong direction, as leading the patrol on a compass bearing I would have been his first target. I have a Terrorist cap, complete with its Red Star, on the wall of my study as my trophy and reminder of service in the Malayan Emergency. The Squadron had its share of successes - my photographic album record of my service with the RAF Regiment (Malaya) displays some of our activities, and our success rate for one period, July to December 1951.
The Regiment had its only Malay Officer, Pilot Officer Saleh, killed on patrol as was my friend Derek Stebbing, and some sixteen Malay airmen in a dawn attack north of Kuala Lumpur. As far as I can recall, few, if any, decorations were awarded to members of the RAF Regiment (Malaya) during the Malayan Emergency period. Three Mentions-in-Despatches were awarded to Malay Airmen of 95 Squadron.