Malaya Patrol - The Story of Australian Troops in Malaya

Running time
14 min 28 sec
Date made
Place made
Australian War Memorial

This lengthy piece of film was produced by Defence Public Relations and shows the work of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in Malaya. [AWM F11436]

[In faded colour footage, soldiers in WWII tropical uniforms, including cloth hats, wade waist-deep in a river, then stride up the bank and disappear into thick jungle. They hold their rifles ready and wear packs and rolls on their backs. A yellow title reads, 'Malaya Patrol: The Story of Australian Troops in Malaya'. Yellow credits: Produced by The Directorate of Public Relations.]

VOICEOVER: Toward the end of 1955, the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, together with supporting arms, arrived in Malaya as Australia's contribution to the anti-terrorist campaign. Australian troops are now operating in Perak state, in North Malaya.

[By a broad river, a stately building featuring towers and domes stands in a jungle clearing. Soldiers in slouch hats, their sleeves rolled up, peer at an elegant building. A huge blueish dome tops one section of the building. The arched entryway is topped with a smaller dome and flanked with two black-and-white striped towers and several smaller spires. Keyhole archways line a porch. In the forecourt, Australian soldiers sit by a railing.]

VOICEOVER: Here in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar is the palace of His Highness the Sultan of Perak. Surrounded by fine lawns and spacious gardens, the istana and mosque dominate the town.

[Aerial footage shows a compound of low buildings surrounded by scrubby trees. By a road, a sign reads "3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment". On a red and white sign, the words "Halt! All enquiries" appear above an arrow. A two-storey building is lined with archways and columns. A palm tree towers behind it]

VOICEOVER: Outside the town, in the old palace, is the headquarters of the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment.

[On a strip of land between two waterways, low buildings line dirt roads. A hand points at a wall map. More low buildings sit around a lake. On a red and white sign "CP 57" is painted beside an arrow. On a white building, a sign reads "Police Station." Near a corrugated iron building, soldiers peer at a document, then point.]

VOICEOVER: A Company is located 40 miles away, at Lasah, B Company, 20 miles away, at Sungai Siput. Also in Sungai Siput is the battalion command post.

[A man rides a bicycle down a wide street past tropical two-storey buildings. A mountain topped with a rocky peak looms behind the town. Nestled among palm trees, a stately white building has a tall pointed spire and arched entrances. In a market place, sellers display their wares under marquees and in stalls. In a store, meat hangs from hooks. Dishes are displayed on a bench. Bullocks pull a two-wheeled cart through town.]

VOICEOVER: In 1948, when the Malayan Emergency began, at Ayer Hitam, in Johor, the communist terrorists struck simultaneously in the Sungai Siput area. The government of the United Kingdom stepped in with troops to suppress the communists. The 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, was relieved by the 3rd Battalion in November 1957.

[A hand points a pencil at a wall map.]

VOICEOVER: The 3rd Battalion area covers some 370 square miles. This area is deep jungle. This area is fairly clear of jungle and comprises in the main rubber estates and other cultivations.

[In aerial footage, mountains carpeted with thick jungle rolls to the horizon. A valley is dotted with blue lakes, plantations of thick trees planted in neat rows and patches of stripped, barren dirt. A river winds through the valley. In a rubber plantation a local man strips bark from a rubber tree by running a blade around the trunk. A spout is stuck into the trunk. The rubber sap runs down the spout into a small cup.]

VOICEOVER: In the battalion area are mountains rising several thousand feet, often jungle-clad to the summit. Also in their area is the Kinta Valley - richest tin field in the world. The mighty Perak River forms one boundary of the battalion area. Swamps abound in the forest reserves. Rubber is to be seen flanking almost every road, and the native population go about their tasks.

[In a field, a farmer wearing a wide straw hat gathers a crop. On a road, an overloaded van passes bullocks pulling a cart. The bullock driver has a white beard and a large red turban. Officers stand on a road. A black car pulls up between them. The driver gets out and opens the boot. An officer peers inside. Cyclists ride past. The officer gestures. The driver shuts the boot and drives off. A truck's trailers are piled high with wooden crates. Officers peer through gaps under the crates. A soldier searches a car trunk.]

VOICEOVER: On the roads, the Civil Police maintain checkpoints to stop the transfer of food from inside the towns to hungry communist terrorists outside. The present phase of operations is basically one of food denial, and all civilians and civil vehicles passing the checkpoints are searched for concealed food. The regulations even forbid rubber tappers to carry their lunch outside the towns. A strict curfew is imposed in rubber estates after 4pm.

[In a rubber plantation a man wearing loose trousers carries a bucket from one slender tree to another. Holding their rifles ready, Australian soldiers move warily through the plantation. Soldiers follow a German shepherd-like dog.]

VOICEOVER: As apparently unconcerned tappers work among the trees, Australian troops leave their transport at the roadside and commence a patrol through the rubber. This is clean rubber, free of undergrowth, and can be moved through with ease. Dirty rubber occasionally has undergrowth shoulder-high or higher. The undergrowth is usually alive with mosquitoes, and progress is slow and painful. Patrol dogs are used extensively.

[12 soldiers in dark green uniforms sit on a grassy bank facing an officer. As he speaks, he checks a document. Some soldiers smoke. The officer shows the soldiers the document. The soldiers climb into an armoured vehicles and sit on benches running down both sides. The thick back doors are closed. The huge, black armoured vehicle trundles past a row of large square tents. Inside, the soldiers smile.]

VOICEOVER: These soldiers are being briefed by their platoon commander to carry out an ambush in daylight on a suspected area where communist terrorists are thought to have food concealed. The briefing completed, they board an armoured personnel carrier, commonly known by the troops as a 'Coffin', to be transported some miles from their camp to a point near the ambush position. To those who knew jungle warfare in the South West Pacific Area during World War Two, this specialised type of warfare will appear unusual. The techniques seen in this film have been developed to deal with the peculiar requirements of the anti-terrorist campaign. On reaching the suspected area, the vehicle slows down and the ambush party bails out as quickly as possible. The vehicle then drives on.

[The soldiers leap from the vehicle and run into the jungle, disappearing into the vegetation. Holding their weapons ready, they move through undergrowth, past slender rubber trees. Crouching and lying in the undergrowth, the soldiers keep their weapons ready as they scan the area. Their uniforms blend with their surroundings.]

VOICEOVER: Having rapidly got clear of the road, the ambush party moves slowly and cautiously toward their objective and take up their concealed positions. The target is covered from all possible angles. Quietly, they wait, suppressing the urge to sneeze or cough. Ants crawl over their hands and faces and arms. Mosquitoes and leeches add to the discomfort.

[The sun shines on the leafy branches of a tall tree. In the undergrowth, the soldiers maintain their positions.]

VOICEOVER: Intelligence reports indicate that the communist terrorists use this unusual tree amongst the rubber as a meeting place. Still they wait, perspiring from every pore. Minutes become hours and the day wears on. Often, these ambushes go on for days.

[In a clearing, smoke billows from a huge gun as it shoots toward jungle-clad mountains. Bare-chested soldiers reload and fire the gun. The barrel sticks through a square of armour plating. A soldier wearing shorts, boots and a hat throws the long metal shell casings away from the gun. They are placed in a pile on the pale sandy ground.]

VOICEOVER: Meanwhile, the 25-pounder guns of 100-A Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, fire round after round into the jungle-covered slopes south of Sungai Siput. The aim is to use gunfire and bombing to dislodge the communist terrorists from the ridges and drive them out to the jungle ridge, where a quorum of British, Australian, New Zealand and Gurkha troops is waiting, constantly patrolling, alert for any appearance of the communist terrorists. Empty cartridge cases are thrown aside and dumped out of the way.

[Long, pointed shells are neatly stacked on a rack. Four soldiers work on the gun. A gunner is handed shells, two men load it into the gun. After it's fired, a gunner ejects the spent shell casing. In a tent, shells sit in long stacks. A shirtless soldier rests against ammunition crates. Soldiers rapidly fire the huge gun toward a mountain.]

VOICEOVER: More shells come up, and there are more where these came from. Here in this abandoned tin mine, less than 200 yards in off the main north-south road, Australian gunners are working in sweltering heat, made worse by the glare from the white sands of old tin tailings. The temperature on the sand was 117 degrees Fahrenheit at 11:30am. In the course of the morning, so many rounds were fired that the guns dug themselves in into the soft ground. When the guns stop firing, aircraft commence bombing, rocketing and strafing runs on the same target area.

[Two soldiers standing either side of the gun pull a cord back and forth though the barrel. They stop and watch three fighter planes zoom past. The sleek streamlined planes taper smoothly from their low cockpits to their tails. The gunners light cigarettes. They clean gun components. A mountain topped with a rocky peak looms beyond the clearing.]

VOICEOVER: After a morning's steady shooting, the guns are cleaned and the site reorganised for the next target later in the day. Royal New Zealand Air Force Venoms fly low overhead on their way home after completing their strafing. A welcome breather and then the work goes on.

[A helicopter lands near a tangle of thick trees. A large group of soldiers stand waiting. Soldiers climb in and the camouflage-painted helicopter takes off and flies away into the blue sky. Soldiers pass equipment up into a helicopter, then climb in. It flies away, a soldier sits by the open door. From the helicopter, soldiers are visible standing on a paved road running through the verdant landscape. The helicopter flies over mountains covered with dense jungle. The ground isn't visible through the jungle canopy. The helicopter's shadow moves across trees far below. ]

VOICEOVER: In extremely difficult country where a day's march of 1,000 to 1,500 yards can be considered good going, the helicopter has proved invaluable. The Sycamore, carrying up to three men per lift, can transport troops in six minutes by air over country which could take up to six days to cover on foot. The troops are transported by truck to a point known as the Jalong road-head, where the bitumen road ends on the jungle fringe. From here, men, equipment and supplies are lifted in some 6,000 to 8,000 yards over dense jungle. On this lift, two 'copters speed up the process of lifting a whole platoon, its equipment and 500 pounds weight of rations into a remote jungle landing zone, or LZ.

[At the edge of a jungle clearing, three soldiers wait in the flattened vegetation. The helicopter lands, dwarfed by the surrounding trees. Holding rifles, soldiers jump from the helicopter, pick up bulky packs and head into the jungle. The helicopter takes off.]

VOICEOVER: Deep in the jungle is a small clearing about 100 yards square. Towering all round this clearing are tall trees, some of them over 150 feet high. When all the troops have arrived, the platoon will move away from the clearing into the jungle to make a base camp. From this camp, small patrols will fan out in all directions, searching for the communist terrorists, their camps, resting places, food dumps and tracks. The platoon will remain in the jungle for 11 days, at the end of which, they will be lifted out back to the road-head.

[In the clearing, a bare-chested soldier wears a hat and neck cloth. As a helicopter slowly descends, he waves both arms. A soldier loaded down with equipment walks from a helicopter into the jungle. Soldiers take gear from the helicopter.]

VOICEOVER: A helicopter pilot is guided into the LZ by a marshaller, who indicates required aircraft manoeuvres by hand signals. Thousands of man-hours are spent in this campaign without even sighting a CT. Still more men and equipment arrive. The Bren guns and Owens, which proved themselves in New Guinea, are supplemented by shotguns carried by the forward scouts and the new FN-30 rifles, which are ideal for use in the jungle.

[Through gaps in the airborne helicopter's cockpit, jungle is visible far below. It passes over neat rows of trees. As it lands on the road, a soldier signals. Soldiers unload rectangular fuel cans from a jeep. A soldier pierces the can with a machete. Fuel is poured into a container. The soldiers watch the helicopter take off, its spinning rotors dark in the blue sky.]

VOICEOVER: On completion of the last trip into the jungle, the helicopter returns to the road-head. Here, transport from the battalion is waiting with aviation spirit and oil for refuelling. Having refuelled and completed the mission, the helicopter returns to base at Ipoh some 40 miles south.

[Holding his rifle ready, a soldier moves through head-high grass. He stops and signals. The commander emerges from the grass and surveys the area. More soldiers emerge from the grass. Two soldiers move through the jungle. They crouch. Moving his arm in an arc, one points to a large swathe of jungle. His colleague nods. The first soldier moves away. The second scans the the area his colleague pointed to.]

VOICEOVER: Meanwhile, the platoon has moved from the LZ clearing and is searching for a suitable base camp area. Later in the day, the forward scout calls up the platoon commander. After inspection, the platoon commander decides that this site is suitable and gives the sign, arms outstretched, to the remainder of his platoon to move forward and make camp. In complete silence, except for normal jungle sounds, sentries are posted so that camp preparation can get underway. The sentry carries an Owen gun, the other soldier, an FN-30 rifle.

[In another section of jungle, soldiers tie the corners of a ground sheet to tree trunks. One end is tied lower down, creating an angled shelter. Another ground sheet is placed underneath. Soldiers lather their faces and shave. A soldier places a mess tin of water in on a small stove. A soldier buries rubbish, kicking soil into a hole and stomping it down, then scattering dry leaves over the top.]

VOICEOVER: One party gets busy erecting a hutchie, or shelter made from groundsheets. Others attend to the whiskers. Soon, tea is being brewed. Rubbish is carefully disposed of. The portable transmitter receiver carried on patrol is set up to operate, and the native tracker, a Sarawak Ranger, climbs the nearest tree with the aerial wire. Soon, communications are established and information on progress and position are signalled back to company headquarters.

[A soldier wearing headphones talks with the platoon commander. Near a building, a squat structure has a tall aerial. Near thick bush, a soldier wearing headphones talks into the mouthpiece of a large flat radio. Two soldiers carrying a big spool run yellow cable through the jungle. A third soldier follows, holding his gun ready and scanning the area. The cable is cut and connected to a field phone. A soldier holds the receiver to his ear, then replaces it. He removes the cable and connects it to larger piece of equipment that has many cables running from it. A soldier carries documents from the jungle, puts them in a motorbike saddlebag and rides away. Aerials stand tall in the sky. In a hut, a soldier wearing headphones taps a receiver. Another soldier wearing headphones checks a notepad.]

VOICEOVER: In addition to the regimental signallers with the battalion, there are many members of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals who form the Australian component of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade Signal Squadron at Taiping. This is an integrated unit with both British and Australian personnel. Their tasks are to provide the signals communications within the brigade and forward to the battalions. This involves use of wireless, telephone and dispatch riders, necessitating the setting up in the field of command vehicles from which operations are controlled, the laying of miles of telephone cable and the operation of signals equipment under all types of conditions. Many battles have been lost due to lack of or poor communications. The Royal Australian Corps of Signals plays its part in ensuring that the brigade communications really work.

[Jungle trees and patrolling soldiers are silhouetted against the evening sky. As they move though the trees, rifles ready, the soldiers scan the area. In the pitch darkness, light and smoke fountains from a flare, illuminating the jungle around it.]

VOICEOVER: Day and night, the task of hunting down the communist terrorist goes on. As some patrols return at last light, others will go out, perhaps on patrol, perhaps to set an ambush. This party is setting an ambush for the 53rd successive night. Ambushes are a regular and important part of the anti-terrorist campaign. Automatic weapons - Brens, Owens and FN-30s - are carried on ambushes. Should the communist terrorists walk into their ambush, tripflares will bathe the rubber estate in brilliant light should they blunder in.

[Soldiers move warily through the jungle and splash through water. Gunners fire artillery. Soldiers patrol a rubber plantation and move through chest-high water in a murky river.]

VOICEOVER: Today, with only 30 or 40 communist terrorists in their 370-square-mile area, the battalion's task is not an easy one. Heat and humidity make life far from pleasant. Thousands of man-hours are spent in patrolling rubber and jungle in order that Malaya might be freed from communist terrorism. With true Australian determination, the patrols go on relentlessly.

[From the jungle, a soldier scans the wide river. Credits: An Australian Army Public Relations Film. The End.]

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