Between July 1949 and January 1953, the 1st Battalion served continuously in various parts of Malaya. Centred on the capital state of Selangor, for three-and-a-half years, they patrolled virtually continuously in the jungles, swamps and rubber plantations in search of an elusive enemy; the communist terrorist.
The Battalion enjoyed considerable success in this field of 'bandit hunting' eagling for themselves a reputation second to none and notched up an impressive list of 'kills' that was not bettered by an Commonwealth Battalion serving there during the Emergency.
Below are a few details of their commanders, their successes and the honours they were awarded.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Wight brought the Battalion from Greece to Malaya and straight away set to work ensuring that every man was well trained and ready for the job that was expected of him. He initiated "One Day Ops" to acclimatise young raw National Servicemen to the jungle and built up morale following several key actions in 1949-50.
Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Morcombe built on the work of his predecessor and strengthened links with the local police and planters. He sought to ensure that publicity over every terrorist killed was commonplace and used extensively native trackers and guides to assist the Battalion. He brought the battalion home from Malaya.
The mainstay and success of the Battalion in Malaya was its junior subalterns and senior NCOs. These young officers and Sergeants, took patrol after patrol out daily to search for the enemy, became highly adept at their task and often turned situations to the best advantage in action.
Officers of the Battalion taken at Kuala Kubu Bahru, November 1952
The Malay Straights Times Billboard from 1952 following the elimination of Long Pin
The Battalion soon learned that they must take the fight to the terrorists deep in their jungle camps and by pushing themselves further, often going out longer, they achieved enviable successes.
Dedication to the task they had to perform was the primary reason for their success and the wish to go out day after day, in the hope of 'bagging' a terrorist, was the driving force for their success.
1951-52 were the 'boom' years for the battalion being responsible for the elimination of Long Pin, Kong Har and the notorious Lieu Kon Kim. The removal of these key figures in the Malayan Communist network in Selangor, did much to dissolve their stronghold in this area and sent them deeper into the jungle as one by one, their supply networks were broken.
The implementation of the 'Briggs Plan' in 1951-52, did much to segregate the native squatters from the intimidation of the terrorists who would come and raid their settlements at will, and who thought noting of killing innocent civilians as method of instilling fear in those who dared oppose them.
Keeping morale high in the Battalion was key to its commanders and although callous, platoon's were encouraged token a 'score board' to push them to always be on top of their game against their enemy.
The Battalion's success in Malaya resulted in the award of two D.S.O.s, one O.B.E, three M.B.E.s, nine M.C.s, one D.C.M, three M.M.s and three B.E.M.s. There were also thirty-nine M.I.D.s.
Of these awards, it was the two that were awarded to young National Servicemen that were perhaps the most spectacular. A young Lance Corporal Bill Price from Hornchurch, was awarded the only Distinguished Conduct Medal of the campaign for his skilful command of his patrol under fire. When his platoon commander and sergeant had been wounded, he formed a defensive perimeter and returned fire.
The other was the award of the Military Cross to Second Lieutenant Ray Hands, who after a spirited chase through jungle and swamp, eliminated the notorious bandit leader, Lieu Kon Kim.
Both these men returned to civilian life, mentioning little of their actions in Malaya, or their awards.
Second Lieutenant Ray Hands, who was awarded the Military Cross in 1952