Operation Termite

Running time
6 min 45 sec
Date made
Place made
Borneo, Malaya: Kuala Lumpur, Malaya: Perak, Ipoh, Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore
Australian War Memorial

This film is a fascinating look at July 1954's Operation Termite in which the RAAF targeted two communist camps east of Ipoh in the state of Perak. [AWM F02784]


[In black and white footage the image of a leaping tiger appears against a mottled background. Credits read, "Malayan Film Unit presents." On a black screen the title 'Operation Termite' appears in bold white letters. On an airfield, the propellers of fighter planes spin. A huge plane with two propellers on each wing soars into the air. Aerial footage shows cloud covering the jungle below. Five bombers fly over jungle. A river winds through the landscape far below. Through a bomber window, another bomber is visible.]

NARRATOR: At dawn one morning recently Lincoln bombers of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force took off from Singapore to launch one of the biggest combined air ground attacks on communist terrorists hiding in the northern jungles of Malaya. The operation was code named 'Operation Termite'. Loaded with 75 tons of 1,000-pound bombs which were to open the attack, the Lincolns set course for their targets. These were located in 250 square miles of the roughest and toughest jungle country in the Federation lying to the east of Ipoh.

[A long row of military planes wait on an airfield. Soldiers with backpacks, guns and parachutes clamber into a plane. A soldier at the door helps them onboard. The plane's two propellers spin. It speeds down the runway and takes off. Mountains surround the airfield. The plane flies over a rolling jungle landscape. The men sit inside the dark plane.]

NARRATOR: While the Lincolns were on their way, paratroops of the Special Air Service Regiment were clambering into Vallettas at Kuala Lumpur airfield preparing to launch the second phase of the attack by following the bombs onto the targets. Loaded with their heavy equipment, some of it such as the new gear for descending trees being used in action for the first time. These men at first chatted and joked against the roaring engines. But soon gave up and just waited. Some fell asleep.

[The sleek Lincolns fly in formation across the mountainous jungle. Wearing a helmet and mask, the pilot peers from the windows. Each wing bears two stripes and an airforce roundel. An airman surrounded by windows checks a chart. As bomb doors slide open, the heavy round bombs are silhouetted against the sunny landscape below. The oblong bombs rain from the Lincolns. Explosions flare in the dense jungle far below.]

NARRATOR: By now the Lincolns had reached their targets. According to information this patch of jungle hides many communist camps. Bomb doors open. Bombs away! The two main targets showed utter devastation. Tops of trees were still falling hours later.

[On a base, officers in tropical uniforms walk past vehicles and stand outside a tent full of communication equipment. One officer is missing an arm - his empty sleeve swings in the breeze.]

NARRATOR: At advanced headquarters in Ipoh, the Director of Operations General Bourne, the commander in chief Far East Air Force Marshal Sanderson, and other senior officers were kept in touch with progress of the complex operation by air controllers over the targets.

[The Vallettas fly over jungle slopes. Inside, paratroopers prepare equipment. The pilot peers out the window at the dense jungle below. Holding equipment, paratroopers wait at the door. Above their heads one of two lights glows. It goes off and the other light comes on. The paratroopers jump rapidly one by one, a man ushers them out. A group of mushroom-shaped parachutes drop together through the sky. From the plane, the parachute are pale dots against the dark trees.]

NARRATOR: Vallettas now on target. SAS paratroops put on their helmets and make final checks on shoot straps. A doctor was one of the first men out, identified by a white bandage. sound of aircraft in flight First a dummy run to asses the wind drift. And then action station! The first stick of five men stand alert at the door. Red, green and away, as the dispatcher urges them out. And then the next stick goes. Dropping from 700 feet the men took just over a minute to reach the ground. There was not more than a 120 yards between the first and last man of each stick and there were only six minor injuries among the 200 paratroops who dropped.

[Soldiers climb into a helicopter. The cockpit protrudes above the body of the helicopter. It takes off. Its windows and doors open, the helicopter flies away, rotors spinning. From the helicopter, the dense jungle canopy provides no glimpses of the ground below. A rugged peak looms.]

NARRATOR: Meanwhile from Ipoh airfield, naval helicopters took off to carry Iban trackers Aborigine field teams and heavy radio equipment into the area. They later lifted out the injured paratroopers.

[Below, tiny helicopters hover over clearings in the jungle. A helicopter follows a path of fallen trees. Dwarfed by the jungle trees, a helicopter descends into a clearing, then hovers.]

NARRATOR: Landing sites were cut from the jungle for the helicopters by some of the SAS men while others closed in on the terrorist camps. Down they came on the scrap of clearing and went back for another load.

[Holding their guns ready, soldiers move through the thick shadowy jungle. Wading across a rocky stream, they feel carefully for a steady footing. They move from the stream into the dark jungle. Illuminated by light filtering through leaves, a local soldier scans the area.]

NARRATOR: Ground troops, some lead by the Iban trackers, set off on their arduous patrols. Patrols that may lead to nothing in this difficult country where a man can hide two feet away and not be seen.

[A helicopter hovers in the cloudy sky. It lands in a jungle clearing. A shrouded body strapped to a long pole is carried to the helicopter. Rotors spinning, the helicopter takes off. Below, buffeted by the downdraft, soldiers shield their faces.]

NARRATOR: In the first days of the operation three communist terrorists were killed camps were discovered and destroyed, valuable information was obtained and quantities of food clothing, equipment and ammunition were captured. The dead terrorists were lifted out to Ipoh for identification. From the latest reports the first phase of 'Operation Termite' was well on the way to achieving its object to disrupt the communist terrorist hideouts in the jungle east of Ipoh.

[On a black screen, credits read, "The End. Made at Malayan Film Unit Studios. Kuala Lumpur, Malaya."]

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