Published on 16 September 2020
Mayor Guppy and our Chief Executive, Peter Kelly attended a special service outside the Civic Building on Wednesday to commemorate those who served in Malaya/Malaysia.
The Malayan Emergency (1948 – 1960) arose out of an attempt by the Malaysian Communist Party to overthrow the British colonial administration of Malaya. Over the twelve years that conflict took place, New Zealand soldiers, sailors and airmen made a significant contribution to the Commonwealth effort to defeat the communist insurgency.
New Zealand’s first involvement occurred in 1949 when a flight of transport aircraft from 41 Squadron, RNZAF, were used to drop supplies to anti-guerrilla forces. By the time this flight was withdrawn in December 1951, it had carried out 211 sorties, dropping 284,000 kilograms of supplies.
Several New Zealand Army officers served in Malaya while on secondment with British units from 1949, and in January 1951 ten officers and fourteen NCO’s deployed with the 1st Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment. In 1954 a RNZN frigate, HMNZS Pukaki, carried out bombardment of a suspected guerrilla camp, while operating with the Royal Navy’s Far East Fleet. This was the first of a number of bombardments over the next five years.
New Zealand became more directly involved in 1955, following its decision to contribute forces to the British Far East Strategic Reserve. The Army’s initial contribution, a Special Air Service (SAS) Squadron, was particularly suited to operations seeking out guerrillas in their jungle sanctuary.
Meanwhile RNZAF units in the Strategic Reserve were also operating against the guerrillas. On 1 May 1955 Vampires of 14 Squadron carried out the RNZAF’s first operational strike mission since the Second World War and the first in jet aircraft. Between April 1955 and March 1958 the squadron, now equipped with Venoms, mounted 115 strike missions, the Canberra’s of 75 Squadron, which replaced 14 Squadron in July 1958, were also used on bombing missions.
From March 1958 the 1st Battalion, New Zealand Regiment, which had replaced the SAS Squadron, took part in operations designed to clear Perak of insurgents. By the time it was replaced by the 2nd Battalion, in late 1959, most of the guerrillas had retreated across the border into southern Thailand. The greatly improved security situation was reflected in the official termination of the Emergency on 31 July 1960.
Twenty-two New Zealand servicemen lost their lives during the Emergency – three as a result of enemy action.
In 1964 New Zealand provided help to the new state of Malaysia to fight Indonesia’s attempt to wrestle control of the North Borneo territories in what was known as the Confrontation. The following year a small detachment of SAS, together with the 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, were deployed in Borneo. RNZN and RNZAF units were also committed.
On 11 August 1966 representatives of Indonesia and Malaysia signed a peace treaty in Bangkok. The New Zealanders completed their withdrawal from Borneo in October the same year.