Australia's allies

Britian and other Commonwealth forces

During the Malayan Emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation Australians cooperated with British forces, locally raised units, and military personnel from various British Commonwealth countries including New Zealand.

New Zealand's involvement in Malaya and Borneo followed a similar pattern to Australia's. After requests from Great Britain, New Zealand sent a flight of three Dakota transport aircraft to Malaya in September 1949. The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) contributed further transport units and, in the late 1950s, squadrons of Venom fighter jets and Canberra bombers to the Commonwealth forces in Malaya.

New Zealand did not have a standing army in the early 1950s. She did, however, provide the officers for the Fiji Infantry Regiment, which served in Malaya from 1952 to 1956. And from 1957 there was a New Zealand infantry battalion in the 28th Commonwealth Brigade in Malaya. Unlike their Australian counterparts, New Zealand SAS personnel also took part in the Malayan Emergency.

New Zealand initially acceded to British and Malaysian requests for assistance in Borneo by training members of the Malaysian Armed Forces, and by again sending a transport flight. From 1965 a New Zealand infantry battalion and New Zealand SAS squadrons served in Borneo. Royal New Zealand Navy vessels also operated in Malaysian waters as part of the Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve during both the Malayan Emergency and the Confrontation with Indonesia.

British Army troops were the mainstay of the Commonwealth forces in Malaya and Borneo. British infantry regiments, mechanised units, a Commando brigade, an SAS regiment, the Royal Artillery Regiment, and a Ghurkha infantry brigade all served in Malaya. The Royal Tank Regiment augmented these units in Borneo. Ghurkha soldiers were heavily involved with Indonesian infiltrators in the early stages of the Indonesian Confrontation, and Australian infantrymen and gunners worked closely with the Ghurkhas in Borneo from 1965.

Most Australian patrols in Borneo were accompanied by an Iban tracker. The indigenous Iban people of Borneo had an ambivalent relationship with the British: some, especially those in eastern Borneo, maintained relatively friendly relations with the Indonesians, while others were willing to assist Commonwealth soldiers. Ibans were also used as trackers on the mainland during the Malayan Emergency, and an Iban with the Australians was wounded in the Pipeline Ambush.

Last updated: 12 January 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Australia's allies, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 16 October 2021,
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