Since 1999 I have known over one hundred Suffolk Regiment veterans of the Malayan Emergency. It was always an honour to listen to their stories of service whenever they met and together with their photographs, their words form the backbone of the book.
Due to the limitations of space, it was not possible to include the vast majority of their reminiscences in my book, but it was their pictures that now tell the story of their service there in what was their most successful post-war posting.
You can read below, the biographies of just a handful of those I was fortunate enough to meet over the past twenty or so years.
“This is it I thought and with one complete squeeze, I let rip”
1 Platoon, A Company
Dick May worked for British Railways before being called up in 1949. He served with 1 Platoon, nicknamed "the Hellrazors" until late 1951 when he returned home to the railways and became a fireman on the B17 Locomotive 'The Suffolk Regiment.' Dick and his wife Jackie, were huge supporters of the Old Comrades Association, even giving their back garden over to fundraising BBQs.
“As we went forward, his head struck the back of the GMC with a sickening thwack"
Tony did more than any other man to keep the Suffolk Regiment alive. The driving force behind the success of Hemel Hempstead branch of the late 1990s, he sought out former Suffolk soldiers all around the world, making the branch the biggest ever to have existed. An avid chronicler of Regimental life, he produced the branch newsletter and kept everybody in touch with one another.
“It goes without saying that this was not a pleasant experience”
3 Platoon, A Company
Tony spoke little of his National Service in Malaya until his retirement. Tony, along with his wife, Rosie, were instrumental in forming the Lowestoft branch of the Old Comrades Association and they both pushed it from strength to strength making it a welcoming and well attended branch. Tony never missed a Minden Day parade and was always to be seen wearing his original jungle hat.
“If you were good, you could get four bombs in the air before the first one landed”
Colin was a member of the 5th (Cadet) Battalion before he was called up for national Service. He later decided to sign on for regular service and rose to be Training Sergeant at the Depot. In his retirement, he was Standard Bearer for the Bury St. Edmunds branch of the Old Comrades Association and a loyal volunteer at the Regimental Museum for many years.
“I'd never been abroad, not even a day trip to France, so it was quite a thing”
3 Platoon, A Company
Jim 'Sonny' or as he was always known 'Tiger' Horton was called up in 1949 and completed his basic training with the Royal Norfolk Regiment before being posted to Malaya. An superb leading scout, he was always at the head of the patrol armed with his favourite Owen gun. He later became a delivery driver and maintenance man for a string of bakeries and restaurants across the eastern counties.
“They were very obviously scared, that said a lot for their guts"
12 Platoon, D Company
Commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in 1952 from Eaton Hall, Robin commanded the same platoon as his father did in 1918. Upon leaving the Regiment, Robin went up to Oxford and later joined ICI heading up their Far East division. He later worked for the NHS in Cheshire and was awarded the O.B.E. Fiercely proud of the Regiment, he remained in touch with it all his life.
“In the heat of the moment, I fired it right at them"
6 Platoon, B Company
John had never left his native Cambridgeshire until he was called up. Dyslexic, he later became a self-made millionaire by inventing a specially designed ploughing harrow that he sold all over the world. John was an enormously generous man, holding a free BBQ each for his fellow veterans and he donated huge sums of money to local charities and good causes.
“It had to be done, and how could I ask anyone else to do it”
6 Platoon Commander
Pat was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment via Eaton Hall OTC and after time with C Company, he took command of 6 Platoon in 1952. Mentioned in Dispatches; the only National Service subaltern to receive such an honour, he later carried the Colours on the Coronation Parade in Trieste. After university, he worked for Cadbury's before starting up in business for himself.
“We had a glorious drinking session even the officer brought a round!”
George worked as a bricklayer in Ipswich before being called up. He served with A Company and later joined Battalion HQ as the Pay Clerk. A keen writer, he contributed to the compilation of the Battalion Magazine: 'Castle & Key' and often wrote letters home for those men of the Battalion who could not read or write. He was an accomplished watercolour artist in his retirement.
“I felt his pulse and laid my hand on his body. He was ghastly white”
5 Platoon B Company
Martin joined 5 Platoon taking over from Ray Hands who had been posted home following the elimination of Lieu Kon Kim in July 1952. He had a high reputation to live up to, but successfully commanded 5 Platoon until the end of their tour in January 1953. He was deeply troubled by the death on active service, of Lance Corporal Tom Mallows and later campaigned and secured the Elizabeth Cross for his foster family.
“He said in all seriousness: "you know Bernie, I'm going to die tomorrow"
5 Platoon, B Company
Bernie was a painter when he was called up in 1951 and after basic training with the Royal Norfolk Regiment he joined 5 Platoon "the Bearded Wonders" in 1952. He later brought a guest house in Great Yarmouth with his wife Margaret, which they ran successfully for many years. He was a loyal member of both the Beccles and Lowestoft branches of the Old Comrades Association.
“The leach had got into your boot, sucked your blood then you had squashed it”
14 Platoon, C Company
After basic training with the Essex Regiment, Ernie was posted to Malaya to join 8 Platoon, "the Green Devils" A close friend of Bill Price (later awarded the D.C.M.), he later returned to the family engineering business which he turned into a highly successful company with his two sons. In his retirement he became the treasurer of the Hemel Hempstead branch of the Old Comrades Association.
“It was the job we were sent there to do and we just got on with it”
Len served first with D Company before he joined the Intelligence Section. Len was the crucial link between the Battalion and intelligence coming in from the police. Working closely with Special Branch, he assisted in the planning of jungle operations that the Battalion undertook. In 1998 he wrote 'The Suffolks in Malaya' - the seminal book on the Battalions tour.
“I look back on my days with the Suffolks with a great deal of pride"
4 Platoon, B Company
Fred and his life long chum, John Cullen, were called up together in 1951 and both were posted to join 1 Suffolk in Malaya. They served together throughout their time there (Fred bing a bugler first) in 4 platoon and remained friends all their lives. Fred later joined the Fire Brigade and is still a loyal member of the Lowestoft Branch of the Old Comrades Association
“We called ourselves the 'Saints' but we were really nothing of the sort!”
Support Company Commander
Tony was the longest serving officer in Malaya. He was a regular officer being commissioned into the Regiment in July 1949. He later rose to the rank of Major and became Honorary Curator of the Regimental Museum in the 1970s. President of the Stowmarket branch of the Old Comrades Association, he was a regular at regimental functions and did much to promote the activities of the Malayan veterans.