A British colony before the outbreak of World War II, Malaya surrendered to the Japanese in 1942. The population of Malaya was culturally diverse, and included Malays and Thais, as well as Indian and Chinese immigrants who had settled in Malaya to develop rubber plantations and to mine tin during the nineteenth century. The Chinese, in particular, were treated harshly during the Japanese occupation, and many died. In defiance of the occupation of their country, a Malayan guerilla army called the Communist Malayan view image People's Anti-Japanese Army emerged during this period. At the end of the war the Allied forces returned Malaya into the care of the British. However, Britain had been unable to defend its colony and many Malayan people no longer wished to be an outpost of the British Empire. Support grew within Malaya for independence. The Communist Malayan People's Anti Japanese Army was renamed the Malayan People's Anti-British Army.

In 1948 the desire for independence led to an armed coup that attempted to capture the Malayan Government and replace it with a Communist People's Republic of Malaya. In June several British landowners from Perak were murdered by the guerillas and the British Government declared that Malaya was in a State of Emergency. view imageThe British called on Australia to send forces to help fight the communists. In the aftermath of World War II, however, Australia had no available military forces until 1950. A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) bomber squadron was sent initially and then in 1955, after the end of the Korean War, Australian was able to send infantry troops. The 2 Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) arrived in Malaya in October 1955 and was later replaced by the 3 RAR in 1957. The 1 RAR also served in Malaya.

Australian soldiers used trackers, including dogs, to search out the communist guerilla camps and destroy them. Operation Termite was one such venture. Beginning east of Ipoh in the State of Perak, Australian soldiers eventually uncovered 181 guerilla camps. view imageThe Malayan campaign was successful and on 30 July 1960 the British declared the State of Emergency to be at an end. Australian troops stayed on in Malaya, however, pushing the remaining guerillas further into the jungle and across the border to Thailand. Australian troops finally withdrew from Malaya in August 1963. Over the period of Australian involvement in Malaya 51 service people died and 27 were wounded. The Malayan Emergency was Australia's longest military campaign.

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Victorians at War - Oral History Project

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