Biography of Allan Robertson

Fusilier, D Co., 1st Bn, Royal Scots Fusiliers, British Forces, Scottish Division

    I am Allan Robertson, (far left middle kneeling in photo above) and I served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers during the Malayan Emergency. The Royal Scots Fusiliers are a lowland Brigade Regiment of Foot. in the British Army. The tune you are hearing is a midi version of the regimental march past titled Highland Laddie, a pipe tune. I was a conscript, signed up as a regular, did three years with the colours, four years in the reserves for a total of 7 years. My rank was fusilier, which equals private. I would not take promotion, as I did not want to be a platoon or section leader, and be responsable for their lives by my actions or decisions.

    I will try to fill you in about the Malayan Campaign. First of all it was an"emergency", Malayan Emergency Campain to give it its proper title. The reason for this being for insurance purposes. If it was declared as a war then Lloyds of London Insurance brokers would not have paid out compensation for tin and rubber destroyed et cetera. It was like Korea, a conflict not a war. Same rules applied, world bloodie politics.

    During World War Two a Lieutenant Colonel by the name of Mike Calvert was landed on the coast of Malaya by submarine near Penang on the main land. He made his way inland to Perak, living off the jungle. His purpose was to contact the Malay's who were known to be operating in the jungle, to organize them into units and train them to combat the Japs and assist the Brits to end the war. They were supplied with arms, food et cetera via airdrops et cetera.

     These people were promised help and recognition to gain control of Malaya after the war. But as it turned out they were communists and as you have guessed the Brits had used them. So after the war they returned to the jungle and their caches of supplies left over from the war and in 1948 started to terrorize the people of Malaya and guerilla type warfare broke out.

     This threatened the tin and rubber supply which was just starting to recover after the war.  Malaya was the biggest producer of tin and rubber in the world at that time, so a state of emergency was declared and marshall law was introduced. So the Brits sent I think ten battalions into malaya to put down the trouble. I think it was 5 Ghurka regiments and 5 Brit regiments. Then the Malaya Police Land Force was formed, and a Malay Regiment was formed as well. Sarawak Rangers were formed at Port Dickson on the West coast. They were recruited from Borneo, they were head hunters or dyaks a sea faring people from Sarawak. They were trained to use rifles et cetera and used as trackers. We also used dogs, both trackers and killers, who were controlled by handler's.

       The enemy we called "CTs" ic communist terrorist, or referred to as bandits.

     And so the war began.

     I did not get there till 1954. We, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, sailed out on the troop ship 'Austorius'.  We landed at Singapore, and trained in jungle warfare school at Kota Tingie in Johore Baru. When we went to jungle school at Kota Tingie they taught you how to exsist in the ulu or jungle to you. We learned to build basher's to live in. What was edible, what was not, where to find drinking water, how to sterilize it, how to fight, to survive. We learned hard, to use varied assortment of weapons; rifles shotguns, machine guns, knifes, garrotie, parang, hands, killing points, you learn it all. If you don't you die. Boobie traps, tracking etc., we learned to fight them on their own ground. We lived like them, the only way to win.

     The Americans in Nam never learned the lesson, they tried to play by their own rules. It did not work. By clearing jungle and trying to make him come to you, it don't work. We told them how, but they would not listen. Hence they were a long time in Nam and it cost them a lot. 

     After Kota Tingie, we were then sent to different locations mostly around the Perak area. Our first camp was Butterworth on the coast, just opposite Penang Island.

     We arrive at Butterworth, "D"coy's first base camp. "C"coy's is in the Cameron Highlands in Kedah, the next state to Perak, all the other coy's A, B, and Support Coy are scattered all over Perak in similar base camps. Some in tents in rubber estates mostly, others like us are living in bashers, (straw huts on stilts). We had our own beatifull beach, palm trees,right next to the sea, it was like a holiday camp. Boy did we get a shock?

     Then came the day when play time was over! We go to work. Our first operation. We drive out to the jungle fringe, at fist light, drop off the trucks and walk in. Our lead scout , or point man, leads the way. We go in single file, keeping your eyes strained, looking every where at once. After a good day's march, we arrive at the map reference some where in the Bong Su area of the ulu. We bash up for the night and form a base camp.

     At first light we form 4 fan patrols of 4 men each. Our patrol consisted of Cpl 'Stretch' Munroe, Fus. Stevenson, Fus. Marshall, and myself. Arms, two carbines mk/1's,a Lee Enfield mk/5 jungle carbine, and myself with an Australian Owen gun, 9 mm. Each patrol heads into the jungle, one to the N.S.E.and West from the base camp to probe around to see if we can find any trace of the communist terrorists, or bandits as we referred to them. Then report back to our section commander. Unfortunately we got lost, which by the way is very easy to do. Our Corporal got his compass reading screwed up, we are going in circles. It starts to rain, monsoon time, night falls, its dark at 6 pm at night. We don't make it back to base camp that night.

     We find ourself on top of a hill, on a ridge, near a track we have been following closely, not on it but near it. We spend the night huddled together in a depression on the ridge. We lay and shivered in the rain, feeling miserable all night. At first light 6 am we we pull our self together, still raining to beat hell. We take stock, we have a few candies, hardtack biscuits and water in our bottles. We discuss the situation and decide to move out, we stumble along the ridge, and I'm leading, and suddenly look down to my left and see a basher below us on the hillside. Lucky for us its raining and it covered any noise we were making. By using the jungle signs we were taught, we make communication with each other. We get quite excited, on what to do now. Its no longer a game? Our first time in action, what happens now?

     Our training seemed to click in automatically. I'm out on a spur above them by now observing them, four of them. It appears they have just woke up! We have advantage of surprise. We could not make up our minds who should shoot first? We were scared to say the least. I don't care who it is, they all have fear. All of a sudden the bandit a little ways from the basher sitting on his heels Asian style moves! I think he sees me! Bang! All hell breaks loose. We exchange shots, firing short bursts. My bandit goes down, the others quickly recover and fire blindly up hill in our general direction. Bullets fly past, thud in the ground all around and into the trees. Two are down for sure, the other two retreat into the jungle firing as they go we lose sight of them in the trees.

     Then we hear the distinct rap of a bren gun, the double bump, and again the report, we look around and every thing goes earie, dead quite. The panic sets in. We take stock quickly we look to one another and every one except Stevie looks ok. He has blood runing down his face, we ask? Are you all right? He reassures us, and wipes away the red dot on his fore head which turned out to be a chip of wood had hit him during his cover behind a tree. Quickly as one we take off along the ridge like a bat out of hell. Ran until we had no wind left. When we stopped and got our breath back, hearts pumping like mad, we thought they were going to burst out off our chest. We had a quick "o" group to decide what to do next. When we had heard the bren gun we thought it was bandit re-enforcements. We got our act to-gether and kept trying to put as much space between them and us. As we proceeded along the track we saw a clearing through the trees and made for it. Then we heard vocies and running water near by? We hit the deck took up offensive positions and waited. Around a rock face appeared a hand carrying a water bag, familar only to the brit forces. Then Cpl. Smith from 12 platoon appeared, were we glad to see him! Him and a few of his section were down the hill at the river filling their water bags. They took us to their base camp, and we filled them in on our expidition. Then they took us to our own base camp where we reported what had happened. We learned it was our guys firing the bren as a regognition signal to us to get a bearing on the sound. Any way next morning a fighting patrol left the base camp and proceeded to where they heard the shots coming from. As we approached along the track we heard shots up front. Every one run up the track and deployed and when a target appeared you fired. It seemed our friends we engaged the day before had been waiting to join up with two food carriers and had just arrived before us, to two dead comrades from the shoot out the day before. Shots were exchanged and they vanished quickly into the jungle. We cleared up and recovered the two we shot and left and brought them out for recognition of the kill, and to the final enquiry.

     After you have had an engagement, you must bring the body or bodies out for recognition of the kill,(body count), then the patrol or section are "grilled,", given the third degree, as to what happened, what took place etc, to see that every bodies story matches up so you do't go about shooting innocent people. The kill is registered then picture's taken and leaflets are made and normally dropped into the jungle as a warning or deterant to the others, so they may surrender, a sort of propaganda. Any thing found on the body or in the encampment is of use to our intelligence section. On the same morning as we got our kill 'C' coy had a contact too led by S Sergeant Dumlow. Anyway they got their body out before us and it was registered before ours although it was shot after ours, so there was always some dispute as to who got the first kill for the battalion.

     There were many patrols after that one some exciting others not. We worked mostly on information filtered out by informants or by bandits who gave up or were captured. Some gave information for the reward money that was offered. Normally our patrols lasted 21 days, but often we did deep penetration long range patrols lasting 6 weeks, some lasted 8 weeks on the Thailand border trying to stop arms and food supplies getting in.

     The Chinese support came across the Thai border. I would not say Russian support as we did not get anything Russian in our catches. We captured small arms mostly Browning 9mm pistols that still had factory grease on them, roughly cleaned off. They came by courier on foot. Otherwise their arms supply was any thing they had captured during an ambush, from sten guns, 9mm's, s.m.l.e.'s (short magazine lee enfield) .303, and shot guns, bren guns, American carbines mk 1and 2's and they had some japanese weapons left over from the second world war. They also had Brit type #36 grenades, mills bombs. Finally there were home made weapons - some very crude like a piece of pipe anchored to a rough stock with strip packaging, metal strip like you would wrap round a packing crate. The bore would be to fit 20 m.m. canon shell catridge usually recharged and a new cap set into the end by way of a green type wax. There would be a crude type bullet made from lead. If you were on the recieveing end it was disastrous. The mechanisem or hammer was usually a nail attached to a piece of metal and a rubber band for a spring maybe cut from a motor cycle tube. Of course they were not that accurate and were used at close range.

     We moved around alot from base camp to base camp. We done alot of jungle bashin from Lengong, a village on the road between Grik and Sungie Siput near Ipoh.  The term "jungle bashin" meant going into the jungle on patrol long range, anything over 21 days. We were supplied by airdrop's by dak's DC 3's by parachute cannisters. Everything came by airdrop about every 8 to 10 days - a re-supply of food, clothing, boots etc. and purser's navy rum, like molasses. You had to water it down. We got a tot ever night at stand-to just before dark. Mostly we were living on compo rations. Compo rations are what you call "k" rations, high protein. There was a self heating soup, a can of soup with ring on top. Pull ring, set off fuse in the middle of the can then can opener the top off and wallah! Your soup is ready.

     We were quite successful at this type of action, blocking the bandit's supplies. However, it sure took its toll on the body, a guy could loose a lot of weight very quickly. 

     After a while I took up driving the trucks etc. then took sick when I went to Singapore for leave, ended up being casivacked by air ambulance to blighty and spent a long time recuperating. Finally got out but I'm still plagued with disease derived from my experience in the jungle, but i'm still proud to have served. If there are any fusiliers out there I would be glad to hear from you, drop me a line you can contact me through this link.

      I have been asked for this interview what my favorite duty was.  My favorite duty would be attending pay parade.

      Sad to say our regiment is no more now. It amalgamated with the Highland Light Infantry in 1959 to be known now as the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

     (MORE TO COME)

----- Allan

        cludgie AT mts DOT net

LINKS

Kota Tingi Jungle School, 1954, Photo from Allan Robertson

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

Royal Scots Fusiliers, Fact File, From Site Dedicated to Scottish Regimental Histories

Royal Scots Fusiliers Lineage Page, From Scotish Historical Society Pages

BACK TO JUSTIN ORAL HISTORY ARMY BIOGRAPHIES HISTORY PAGE

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