Biography of R. G. E. Betts

Pte, 4 Section, 2 Pltn, A Coy, 2nd Bn, Royal Australian Regiment, British Forces, Malayan Emergency

The Malayan Emergency 1948 -1960

   The following information consists of how the Malayan Emergency started and why, and also a small part that I played serving with the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment on active service 1955 - 1957.

   The Leader of the Communist Terrorists was a Chinese by the name of Ching Peng who was a member of the Malay Communist Party.

   During the early years of WW11 the Malayan Communist Party was supplied by the British with arms, ammunition and training to help the allies fight terrorist actions against the Japanese when they over ran Malaya.

   When the Japanese were finally routed out of Malaya at the end of WW11, instead of returning all the arms and ammunition supplied by the British, the Communists made stoke piles of this equipment over the Peninsular of Malaya.

   In 1948 the Malay Government announced that a State of Emergency existed in Malaya. I will explain why it was classed an Emergency and not a War. "IT Was A War" but there was a curious reason why it was never declared one. Out of regard for the London Insurance Market on which the Malayan economy based on Rubber and Tin relied for cover, no one ever used the word. The misnomer continued for 12 years for the simple reason that Insurance rates covered losses of Stock and equipment through riot and civil commotion in an Emergency but not in a Civil War.

   My Story starts in Australia when in early April 1955 I was sent to 4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, which at the time was a training Battalion. For the next 12 weeks I underwent and done the advanced Infantry training. It was here that I got my baptism of an Infantry Soldier, as the course was very tough as it was to prepare us for future combat duties, I was then a tender age of 20.

   After completing this 12-week course, because of the hard training, I was as fit as a fiddle and prepared to take on and do anything. We all were put on draft to be flown to Korea to re-inforce the 1st Battalion. After only one week, we were informed by the Company Sargent Major that us chaps who were on draft to go to Korea, would not be going as the draft was cancelled, but instead were being sent to the Jungle War Training School at a place called Cunungra in Queensland. I would like to add that Cunungra has been closed since the end of WW11, so when it was opened up again for us to proceed doing our jungle war training, this area was exactly the same as when it was closed in 1945.

   During WW11 a unit of Americans went to train in Cunungra but only completed half their training, as the conditions were too harsh for them. Also outside the main gate there is a small cemetery with the graves of personnel who were killed during the course of their training.

   In early 1955 we arrived at Cunungra to commence 12 weeks of jungle war training. If I thought the advanced infantry training at 4th Battalion was hard, Cunungra was 100% harder. We were all informed that from day one all training was to be done with live ammunition. Some of the things we had to-do at Cunungra were river crossings, sneaker courses with an Owen sub machine gun, snap shooting at moving targets with a 303 rifle, assault course and muscle toughing course.

   After completing our training at Cunungra we were sent to the 2nd Battalion based at Ennoggra Brisbane. About 4 of my mates and myself were allocated to A Company, 2 Platoon, 4 Section. It is now August 1955 and the 2nd Battalion were preparing for our embarking to Malaya on active service.

   Us chaps from New South Wales were immedially sent on 2 weeks pre embarkation leave, which is granted to everybody who is proceeding overseas on active service. It was during this fortnight that my relationship with my girlfriend started to get serious. I wanted to us to become engaged before I went overseas. By the way the girl I am talking about has been my wife for the last 40 years, and I do believe it was her love that kept me going while I was in Malaya.

   We finally embarked on the 8th October 1955 aboard the "M.V.Georgic"; complete with patrol and tracker dogs bound for Penang Island. To me it was a new adventure, as many of the men in the Battalion were Korean veterans. We arrived at Penang Harbour on the 19th October 1955and anchored middle Harbour overnight and disembarked next morning, and taken then by g.m.c trucks to Minden Barracks which was to be our main garrison for the next 2 years. The Battalion became part of the 28th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade.

   We stayed on Penang Island for the remainder of 1955, getting equipped out with all our combat gear, and as Penang Island was declared a white area we were able to refresh and brush up on our jungle training, as well as climatised to the tropical weather. Just a point of interest the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment was the first Australian Infantry Battalion to return to Malaya since WW11.

   In early January 1956 the Battalion was committed to anti terrorists patrol operations on the main land. We moved to South Kedah Reserve, where on the 11th January 1956 we captured our first C.T (communist terrorist). Regrettably our first casualties occurred on the 24th January, three of our members accidentally shot. Our first fatal casualty was our Platoon Sergeant, Charlie Anderson. We were carrying out a one day patrol on the 4th March 1956 on a search and destroy, when three C.T's laying in ambushed open fire with there old Thomson sub machine guns. Charlie received the full barrage of this ferocious gunfire; he died before we could get him out for help. An Infantry Sergeant is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and I still maintain to this day, that Australia lost a first class soldier and a fine gentleman on the 4th March 1956.

   Our next area of combat duties was at a place called Sungie Siput in Perak, this area was a hot spot as it was here that the Emergency started and surprisingly where it ended in 1960. One of our biggest clashes we had with the C.T's on the 23rd June 1956, which was later known as the Pipeline Ambush. Three members of our unit were killed and two wounded. An award of the Military Cross was made to Lt. Campbell and Military Medals awarded to Pte Pennant and Pte Falk.

   While in this area we had many contacts with the C.T's but they managed to elude us. On two occasions we were called out to one of the biggest Rubber Plantations in the Sungie Sinput area, because the C.T's had come in from the jungle to terrorise the tappers. They shot at point blank range and killed a male tapper, and his wife they tired to a rubber tree and disinbowled her and also cut her off left breast. Even today nearly 44 years down the track I still have nightmares. I must also add that while we were on operations at Sungie Sinput I celebrated my 21st Birthday laying in an ambush in the pouring rain.

   While we were at Sungie Sinput we were involved in food denial to the C.T's, each Village or Kampong as they are called had barbed wire fence around them, in the area outside these Kampongs, the Chinese had there vegetable gardens. From dawn to dark two soldiers, one with a prodding stick, would check the older Chinese, mainly women carrying two buckets of nightsoil on a piece of timber across their shoulders, to be taken to the vegetable gardens. Our job was to check these buckets of nightsoil with the prodding stick to make sure they did not contain any contraband for the enemy. It was a job that I was not very keen on, as we all ended up being called "shit stirrers".

   I must stress at this point, that the best thing for morale was to receive mail from your family and loved ones. It was really something to look forward to after coming back to base camp, to find letters waiting for me from home, after a six week patrol.

   Our next main move was from Sungie Sinput to a place called Kroh. This was on the boarder of Malaya and Thailand. We were to find out that this area was going to be the toughest we ever had. Because the C.T's would use the Thailand side of the boarder as a safety zone, we were under strict instructions, that if the enemy were on Thailand side of the boarder we were not to engage them as they had an agreement with the Thailand Government.

   To overcome this, we would lay ambushes in the hope that we would catch them proceeding to go on the Thailand side of the border or coming back over to the Malayan side. This method was successful, a couple months later; groups of C.T's were caught on their way to the Thailand side.

   A lot of the patrols at Kroh were deep penetration in thick jungle, and many times we were taken to our position by helicopter. On one of these deep penetration patrols, we struck it lucky. As we were patrolling, all of the sudden the forward scout stopped the patrol, and indicated something to his right, we reformed our position and very slowly and quietly made our way towards what the forward scout had indicated. It turned out to be a Communist camp complete with kitchen and sleeping quarters. Crawling on our stomachs we got to a few yards of the camp when suddenly appeared a short fat Chinese armed with a sub-machine gun, our Bren-Gunner brought him down with a short burst. We then attacked the camp, killing 3 more C.T's.

   The Communist Terrorists in the camp were most likely looking after the camp, while the main group was away. We destroyed this camp and confiscated a quantity of tinned food, ammunition, Japanese style grenades and quantity of maps and paperwork which was taken back with us for interrogation.

   We had several more clashes with the C.T's during our stay at Kroh; the fatalities to our company at Kroh were 7 killed and 6 wounded in action. During our period of duty in Malaya, Malaya achieved its independence. The 2nd Battalion held a ceremonial parade at Minden Barracks Penang, and was inspected by the Duke of Gloucester.

   Finally on the 19th October 1957 the Battalion boarded the "New Australia", at last bound for home. After two years active service we arrive home in Sydney on the 31st October 1957. We marched through the city to a ticket tape reception as 100,000 people lined up the streets, and it's moments like this, that it makes one feel proud to be a soldier, and to have done your little part for your Country.


Ex Pte R.G.E. Betts

2nd Battalion

Royal Australian Regiment

A Company

2 Platoon, 4 Section

----- Submitted by Ronald Betts



Malayan Emergency  A Collection of resources regarding the Conflict between England, Malaya and Communist Malayan Rebels from 1948 through 1960 and beyond

Map of Malayan Peninsula, from Allan Robertson

RAR in Malaya Collection, Photographs from Ronald Betts


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