Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency 9789812308306

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Table of contents :
About the Author
Foreword
Contents
List of tables and charts
Map of Malaya 1948
Acknowledgments
Prologue
Chapter one. The nature of the Malayan Emergency
Chapter two. The Malayan Security Service and the evolution of the Special Branch
Chapter three. The Special Branch takes over (1948–49)
Chapter four. The principles of intelligence collection
Chapter five. Agents of change (1949–52)
Chapter six. The rise of the Special Branch (1950–52): Sir William Jenkin
Chapter seven. The Special Branch and the Briggs Plan
Chapter eight. General Templer, Colonel Young and the Special Branch: the implementation of the Briggs Plan
Chapter nine. The Special Branch comes of age (1952–56)
Chapter ten. ‘The weather has been horrible’—the Special Branch and communist communications: a case study
Chapter eleven. The Special Branch on the Malayan–Thai frontier (1948–60): a case study
Chapter twelve. Conclusion: the end of the Emergency (1957–60)
Abbreviations, acronyms and glossary
Note on transliteration
Bibliography
Index
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Reproduced from Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency by Leon Comber (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

Malaya’s Secret Police tells the story of the organisation, the personnel, the troubles and the ultimate triumph of Malaya’s intelligence services. Former Special Branch officer Leon Comber provides information inaccessible to most researchers, including comprehensive charts and a wealth of details, especially on personalities. Together these provide a unique insight into the world of intelligence. This book reminds us that generating good counterinsurgency intelligence took time—years not months—careful experimentation, and painstaking acquisition of knowledge of the country and its people, culture and languages. —Karl Hack, History Lecturer, Open University, UK, Co-editor of Dialogues with Chin Peng: new views on the Malayan Communist Party (2004). Leon Comber’s admirable study of the vital role played by the Malayan Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency will undoubtedly become recommended reading for anyone interested in counterinsurgency intelligence. It could well provide, too, the framework for the use of intelligence in counterinsurgency operations in other parts of the world such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr Comber is well qualified to write it as aside from being a specialist in South East Asian affairs, he served as a Chinese-speaking Special Branch officer in the Emergency. —Dr Leong Chee Woh, former Malayan Special Branch officer (1953–84), retired Deputy Director of Operations, Malaysian Special Branch, Royal Malaysian Police.

Other books by Leon Comber 13 May 1969: A Historical Survey of Sino-Malay Relations Through a Bamboo Window: Fate and Fortune in 1950s Singapore & Malaya (Singapore Heritage Society book) The Hui: Chinese Secret Societies in 1950s Malaya & Singapore (Singapore Heritage Society book) Chinese Temples in Singapore The Traditional Mysteries of Chinese Secret Societies in Malaya The Strange Cases of Magistrate Pao Modern Malaysian-Chinese Stories (with Ly Singko) Prizewinning Asian Fiction (ed.) The Golden Treasure Box, Vol. 1 The Golden Treasure Box, Vol. 2 Golden Legends Indonesia Favourite Stories: The Philippines

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) was established as an autonomous organization in 1968. It is a regional centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment. The Institute’s research programmes are the Regional Economic Studies (RES, including ASEAN and APEC), Regional Strategic and Political Studies (RSPS), and Regional Social and Cultural Studies (RSCS). ISEAS Publishing, an established academic press, has issued almost 2,000 books and journals. It is the largest scholarly publisher of research about Southeast Asia from within the region. ISEAS Publishing works with many other academic and trade publishers and distributors to disseminate important research and analyses from and about Southeast Asia to the rest of the world.

The Monash Asia Institute (MAI) is a multi-disciplinary research unit at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Founded in 1988, the MAI brings together a wide range of Asia-related activities at the university to promote and support Monash’s expertise and interest in the Asian region. MAI Press is an imprint of Monash University Press, and specialises in books and working papers about Asia. The books represent a range of disciplines, such as politics, history, women’s studies, business and the environment. MAI Press welcomes authors from many countries and diverse backgrounds. MAI Press books are distributed in Australasia, North America, Southeast Asia and Europe.

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60 The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency

Leon Comber

Monash Asia Institute Clayton

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore

First published in Australia in 2008 for distribution in Europe, North America and Australia by Monash University Press Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia www.monash.edu.au/mai First published in Singapore in 2008 for distribution in Asia by ISEAS Publishing Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 30 Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 119614 E-mail: [email protected] Website: bookshop.iseas.edu.sg All Monash University Press publications are subject to double blind peer review © Leon Comber 2008 National Library of Australia cataloguing-in-publication data: Comber, Leon.

Malaya’s secret police 1945-60 : the role of the special



branch in the Malayan Emergency.



Bibliography.



Includes index.



ISBN 9781876924522 (Monash University Press paperback).



ISBN 978-981-230-815-3 (ISEAS Publishing paperback).



ISBN 978-981-230-829-0 (ISEAS Publishing hardback)



1. National security - Malaysia - Malaya. 2. Intelligence



service - Malaysia - Malaya. 3. Secret service - Malaysia -



Malaya. 4. Malaya - History - Malayan Emergency,



1948-1960. I. Title. (Series : Monash papers on Southeast



Asia ; 67).



363.28309595

Cover design by Minnie Doron. Cover based on an illustration by Michael Perkins. Printed in Singapore by Utopia Press Pte Ltd.

To Jack Barlow, MBE, BEM, CPM (1919–2002) trusted colleague, wise counsellor, loyal friend

About the Author Dr Leon Comber is an Honorary Research Fellow at Monash Asia Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, specializing in Asian studies. He speaks Malay, Chinese (Cantonese and putonghua) and Hindi. His interest in Malay(si)an affairs extends over half a century and dates from the time he landed on the west coast of Malaya in September 1945, after the Japanese surrender, as a Major in the Indian Army. Thereafter, he served for several years as a Chinese-speaking officer in the Special Branch of the Malayan Police dealing with political and security intelligence. He subsequently had a distinguished career in book publishing.

Foreword by Anthony Short Author of The Communist Insurrection in Malaya 1948–60 Leon Comber knows how Special Branch works, knows what happened during the Emergency, what went right and what went wrong. He knows because he was there from the beginning and because he has studied, collected, collated and assessed his material for a large part of his life. This is a profile of what has been the most successful intelligence agency in Southeast Asia for almost sixty years. For those used nowadays in Britain and America to the subordination of intelligence to political purposes, it all seems rather old-fashioned; a view of intelligence as it was and as it was intended to be. Piece the evidence together. If you don’t know, don’t pretend that you do. Let the professionals get on with their job and don’t tell them what to do or how to do it. Conventional wisdom now on the Malayan ‘Emergency’—an equally conventional expression for a largely communist insurrection that lasted for twelve years—is that intelligence was the key that locked counterinsurgency in place. Or, more precisely, intelligence was what eventually turned a largely unknown and alien force into numbers, names, locations and capabilities of a recognisable and credible enemy order-of-battle. Before and without that, the army would struggle and sweat all over the country in the hope of generating their own intelligence, the police would offer themselves in their unarmed vehicles as targets in a shooting gallery, and civilians, mostly Chinese, would suffer by far the heaviest casualties. To begin with, in 1948, post-war intelligence in the shape of the Malayan Security Service was undoubtedly looking the wrong way and had little idea of an impending Malayan–Chinese insurrection. Hardly surprising, suggests Dr Comber, when they were fifty per cent under strength, and only a dozen or so British police officers were able to carry on a simple conversation in Chinese. For the next year or so it was an open question whether the police or the army were in charge of counterinsurgency. Intelligence, which was not always shared, quite often just disappeared and was seldom of immediate operational use. Not until 1950 did the late, great General Briggs produce his master plan in which army, police and civil affairs were totally integrated and in which intelligence began to be recognised as being of supreme importance. ix

x

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

So much, in general terms, is fairly well known. Leon Comber’s outstanding contribution is to embed intelligence in what is, in effect, an additional history of the Emergency, and to show us how Special Branch achieved its pre-eminent position. Changing shape from time-to-time and with one or two unsuccessful initiatives—such as an independent Police Intelligence Bureau—there are some surprising additions to what is, in any case, far more than an administrative history. Arthur Young, as Commissioner of Police, took the major step of separating Special Branch from the CID, but more than one view from below suggests that he didn’t really understand the Malayan situation. Templer, as High Commissioner and Director of Operations, at least toyed with the idea of putting Special Branch and the entire police force under army control. A Director of Intelligence suggested a joint plan to penetrate the Malayan Communist Party leadership in Malaya and Singapore. Surprising, really, considering how different they were, but perhaps a mark of the desperation felt that Chin Peng and the Central Committee were impermeable almost to the end of the Emergency. In the meantime, from hundreds and thousands of pieces, the jigsaw puzzle of intelligence was taking shape. Techniques were refined, procedures standardised, MI5 and MI6 officers, including a future director, flit in and out, and the army provided Special Branch with military intelligence officers. But for the most part, once they have got their bearings, Special Branch were doing it themselves. Scores of Chinese inspectors were examining documents and defectors. One in five Malayan Police officers was working for the Special Branch. Putting together this formidable organisation was a remarkable achievement. Putting together this notable account is equally remarkable. In their anxiety to broadcast their surmises and speculations on the latest intelligence failure or success, it is astonishing nowadays how many purported experts just don’t know what they are talking about. This alone makes this book such a shining exception. This is how the Special Branch and a Special Branch officer should work. By contrast, in another part of Johore, early on in the Emergency, an army raid on the huts of some luckless peasant farmers revealed a framed portrait. The flashlight was rather dim, but the conclusion immediate. ‘Mao Zedong. Definitely. Communists. Round them up.’ Actually, it was Sun Yat Sen. Sorry about that. And a pity Special Branch hadn’t been there.

contents



Foreword by Anthony Short

ix



List of tables and charts



Map of Malaya 1948



Acknowledgments

xvii



Prologue

xix

Chapter one

The nature of the Malayan Emergency

1

Chapter two

The Malayan Security Service and the evolution of the Special Branch

25

Chapter three

The Special Branch takes over (1948–49)

59

Chapter four

The principles of intelligence collection

79

Chapter five

Agents of change (1949–52)

107

Chapter six

The rise of the Special Branch (1950–52): Sir William Jenkin

131

Chapter seven

The Special Branch and the Briggs Plan

147

Chapter eight

General Templer, Colonel Young and the Special Branch: the implementation of the Briggs Plan

173

Chapter nine

The Special Branch comes of age (1952–56)

197

Chapter ten

‘The weather has been horrible’—the Special Branch and communist communications: a case study

219

xiii xv

hapter eleven The Special Branch on the Malayan–Thai frontier C (1948–60): a case study

245

Chapter twelve Conclusion: the end of the Emergency (1957–60)

269

xi



Abbreviations, acronyms and glossary

295



Note on transliteration

298



Bibliography

299



Index

319

List of tables and charts

Table 1 Communist terrorist, police, army and civilian casualties (1948–1960)

page 6

Table 2

Gazetted officers, Malayan Security Service (1948)

33

Table 3

Evaluation of Special Branch information

84

Table 4

Location of MNLA regiments (1948–49)

90

Table 5

Police, army and civilian casualties (1948–49)

110

Table 6

Ethnic composition of Malayan police by ranks

114

Table 7

Rewards scale (1952)

135

Table 8

Police lieutenants employed on Special Branch duties at Malayan–Thai border posts, seaports and airports (1952)

137

Table 9

Communist terrorist contacts and casualties (15 June 1950–14 April 1951)

143

Table 10

Relative strengths of expatriate and Asian gazetted officers (1955 and 1956)

272

Table 11

Breakdown of communist terrorists in Peninsular Malaya (22 April 1959)

275

Table 12

Breakdown of communist terrorists as at 28 August 1959 and eliminations (killed, surrendered and captured) since June 1948

277

Table 13

Communist terrorists eliminated during ‘Operation Ginger’ (February 1958–April 1959)

280

Chart 1

Organisation of Malayan Police: Uniformed Branch, CID and Special Branch (1948–49)

62

Chart 2

Malayan Special Branch federal headquarters under the CID (1948–49)

63

xiii

xiv

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Chart 3

Integration of the Communist Party of Malaya: political and military (MNLA) structure

92

Chart 4

Federal Special Branch headquarters under Sir William Jenkin (1950–51)

140

Chart 5

Outline of government structure under the Briggs Plan (1950–51) Interrelationship between the Special Branch, CID, Uniformed Branch and army under the Briggs Plan (1951)

151

Chart 7

Map of Malaya (1956): locations of CT’s by state

163

Chart 8

Federal Special Branch headquarters under GC Madoc (1952–54) The end of the Emergency: Federal Special Branch headquarters (1960)

198

Map of the Malayan–Thai Frontier (1948–60)

248

Chart 6

Chart 9 Chart 10

156

211

Map of Malaya 1948

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Acknowledgments

There are many people I would like to thank for helping me in so many ways in writing this book. The first and foremost is Professor Marika Vicziany, Director of Monash Asia Institute, Monash University. She encouraged me to finish what I had started researching and writing several years ago as a doctoral thesis, and sent a copy of it to General David Petraeus, the supreme American commander in Iraq, to see whether a study of the recent past might be of some use in the shaping of the intelligence war in Iraq. Her comments, criticisms and suggestions were of great value and without her advice this study could not have been completed. Dr Gale Dixon and A/Professor Kevin O’Connor, of the Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, too, gave me much of their valuable time and advice in the early stages of the project. Dr Justin Corfield and his father Robin, Dr John Leary and Dr Tony Donaldson provided useful comments and encouragement over several years. At Monash Asia Institute, I would like to thank Juliet Yee, Administrative Officer, Emma Hegarty and Jenny Hall, MAI’s Publications Officers and, especially for help in solving computer problems, Anthony Mays, Sanjeev Veloo, and Dr Guibin Zhang. There are many other friends and colleagues I would like to mention including: Helen Semadjio formerly head of the Asian Book Section of the Monash University Library; Marie Sexton, Principal Librarian, and Andrew Gosling of the Asia Collection, National Library of Australia; George Miller of the Southeast Asia Collection of the Australian National University Library (who kindly drew my attention to books that would have otherwise escaped my attention); and Flight Lieut. Anne-Marie Pope, RAAF, who supplied hard to get material from the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra. In Singapore I am indebted greatly to Ambassador K Kesavapany, Director ISEAS (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies), who invited me to spend two months (May/June 2006) in Singapore as an ISEAS Visiting Research Fellow, thus providing me with ‘breathing space’ and xvii

xviii

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

an opportunity to conduct further research connected with this study. Ms Ch’ng Kim See, Head, ISEAS Library, was extremely helpful in making available library resources and offering assistance in so many other ways. Mrs Triena Ong, Managing Editor and Head, ISEAS Publications, and her staff were also of great help. I would especially like to thank all the persons who consented to providing me with information and gave up so much of their precious time in doing so, and even read parts of my study in which the information they provided appeared. The following persons went out of their way to provide me with information that I might otherwise have missed: Jack Barlow, to whom this study is dedicated, a fellow Special Branch officer who served with me in Johore during one of the most turbulent periods of the Malayan Emergency and participated with me in many adventures, Douglas Weir, Dr GED Lewis (my former housemate ‘in another existence’ in Kuala Pilah, Malaysia), and Peter Elphick in the UK, Dr Leong Chee Woh and Dato’ Seri Yuen Yuet Leng in Kuala Lumpur, CC Chin of Singapore and Macau, Dr Yong Ching Fatt of Adelaide, as well as David Brent in Sydney and Ian Morson in Bangkok, who were both former comrades-in-arms during the Malayan Emergency. A/Professor Karl Hack, then of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, was always helpful with his stimulating ideas. I am indebted also to the distinguished Australian foreign correspondent Denis Warner, CMG, OBE, for allowing me to consult his papers relating to Malaya, and the late Brigadier Ted Serong, DSO, OBE, (Australian Army, retired), with whom I spent many interesting hours conversing about tumultuous times in Malaya and South Vietnam.

prologue The Malayan Emergency: a war that lasted 12 years The Malayan Emergency was a name given by the British colonial government to the uprising of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) which lasted from 1948 to 1960. The objective of the CPM was to establish a Communist People’s Democratic Republic of Malaya. In all but name, it was a War remarkable for the fiercely-fought counterinsurgency operations fought in the Malayan jungle between the government security forces and the CPM’s guerrilla army, the Malayan National Liberation Army. The jungle fighting was waged concurrently with the political struggle for the hearts and minds of the Malayan people. Coming so soon after the end of the Second World War, the Emergency had wide-reaching effects and shook the country to its very foundations. Throughout the campaign, the Malayan Police played a vital part and, indeed, paid heavily for it as the police suffered more casualties (killed and wounded) than any of the other security forces. The intelligence branch of the Malayan Police, the Special Branch, was recognised by the government as its supreme intelligence organisation. It was tasked with providing the government with political and security intelligence and made responsible, too, for providing the army with operational intelligence on which counterinsurgency operations could be mounted. This is the story of the critical part played by the Special Branch in waging the intelligence war against the Communist Party of Malaya, which led to its defeat in July 1960 and the withdrawal of the remnants of its greatly-shattered forces into southern Thailand.

xix

xx

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Reproduced from Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency by Leon Comber (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

chapter one The nature of the Malayan Emergency

The historiography of the Malayan Emergency (1948–60), and what has been called the ‘shooting war’, has already been well-covered in the literature, but the role of secret intelligence and the Malayan Police Special Branch in the armed struggle against the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and its military wing, the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), has hitherto been largely neglected.1 In this book, the focus is on the Special Branch, the main intelligence agency of the Malayan government. Of course, there have been several emergencies in the history of Malaya since the end of the Second World War. The present study is focused exclusively on the First Emergency of 1948–60, at a time that tested the capacities of both the British colonial government and the local Malayan government after independence in 1957. Already, at the conclusion of that first Emergency, there was evidence of ongoing communist opposition, which led to what has been called the ‘Second Emergency’, but that subject is beyond the scope of this book. Although intelligence studies have come under the academic scrutiny of Western historians and political scientists, who have come to regard intelligence and political surveillance as a critical feature of modern state and society, similar studies have not emerged in the Asian context. This book attempts to make good this deficiency. It deals with the role of the Special Branch in the Emergency and argues that successful intelligence gathering was a crucial feature not only of British colonial rule in Malaya, but also of the independent Malayan government that took over from the British in 1957. There is little doubt from the evidence presented in the following chapters that without the political and military intelligence provided by the Special Branch, it would not have been possible for the Malayan authorities to defeat the CPM’s armed uprising and bring the Emergency to a successful conclusion in 1960. The expertise and operational intelligence provided by the Special Branch was critical. The central purpose of this account is to examine the organisation, training, modus operandi and role of the Special Branch and its predecessor, the Malayan Security Service, from the return 1

2

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

of British colonial power to Malaya at the end of the Second World War (1945) until the end of the Emergency (1960). This study also provides insights into how the colonial and Malayan authorities developed and refined the Special Branch so that it was able to play a vital part in defeating the attempt of the Communist Party of Malaya to overthrow the Malayan government by force and establish a Malayan People’s Democratic Republic. More specifically, the research addresses the following issues: • How did the Special Branch change over the course of the Emergency? • What were the main agents of change? • What part did the Special Branch play in bringing the Emergency to a successful conclusion? As the Bibliography suggests, the methodology followed was to carry out primary research in official archives in England, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, and conduct interviews or correspondence with retired former Malayan Special Branch officers and other government officers now living in England, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. These had participated in the Malayan Emergency and were able to provide information germane to the study. The author also interviewed Chin Peng, Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Malaya, in Canberra in February 1999. The author has been able to draw, too, on his own experiences as an officer in the Malayan Special Branch during the Emergency, though he has tried not to allow it to distort his view of the Malayan ecumene. The wide range of documents, interviews and other sources gathered for the analysis of the arguments in this book will hopefully demonstrate this point. Occasionally the author has used his own contemporaneous diaries and notebooks to document an observation that cannot be readily documented from other sources and which is referred to in the footnotes as ‘author’s notes’. As biographical data is not easily available about the main ‘agents of change’ and other officers and personalities who played a part in the intelligence war, detailed footnotes have been provided whenever necessary to remedy this omission. A study of this nature presents certain intrinsic problems. The subject is quite ‘elusive’ and it is difficult to obtain information about the Special



THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

3

Branch and secret intelligence. Many of the official British, Malayan and Australian archives dealing with Special Branch activities remain closed in spite of the 30-year rule. This made it difficult to gain access to classified documents. However, in some cases these barriers could be circumvented, as copies of classified documents have sometimes been placed on ‘open’ archival files, where they have evidently been allowed to remain without attracting the attention of officials responsible for weeding out sensitive information. The main contribution of this study is to present an analytical account of the Special Branch in the context of the Malayan Emergency and an understanding of the dynamics of the Special Branch during what has come to be accepted as a critical period in Malaya’s history. Without the input of the Special Branch, it is quite likely that the conflict may have dragged on inconclusively for much longer and, even then, perhaps may have ended less favourably for the British and Malayan authorities, just as it did for the Americans in Vietnam in their struggle against the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. At the beginning of the Emergency, the Special Branch was not ready to take over responsibility for intelligence at short notice from its predecessor, the Malayan Security Service, nor was it organised in those early days to provide the army with the right sort of operational intelligence on which successful counterinsurgency operations could be mounted. However, the situation improved rapidly when the retraining and restructuring of the Special Branch (as described in later chapters of this book) began to show results. From 1950 onwards, professional training in intelligence methods and techniques became available for the first time in the Special Branch/ Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Training Schools in Kuala Lumpur and in courses arranged in London by MI5 and the London Metropolitan Police Special Branch.2 In the latter years of the Emergency, the Special Branch Training School assumed greater importance as a regional training centre and it earned for itself a reputation outside Malaya as a centre of excellence for the training of intelligence officers. Aside from local Malayan officers, intelligence officers attended courses from neighbouring Southeast Asian countries and as far afield as Hong Kong and Australia. The lessons learned from the Malayan Emergency, applying the threepronged approach of a combined police, army and civil government offensive, waged concurrently with a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people, were later followed successfully by the British in

4

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Kenya, Rhodesia and Cyprus.3 They were tried, too, in Vietnam by the British Advisory Mission (BRIAM) headed by Robert GK Thompson (later Sir Robert), the Permanent Secretary of Defence in Malaya during the later stages of the Emergency, who was invited by the South Vietnamese government and its ally, the United States, to share the Malayan experiences.4 The fact they were not successful in Vietnam was not due to any flaw in the Malayan plan but that the intelligence structure of the two countries was very different. There was not, for instance, a unified intelligence service in South Vietnam, such as the Special Branch in Malaya, but a multitude of intelligence agencies, often competing with each other for intelligence. The British colonial authorities in Malaya had the advantage, too, of being in charge of the administration of the country, whereas the Americans in South Vietnam were not in the same position, and had to work through a notoriously corrupt and inefficient local administration. These matters are well brought out in a confidential unpublished paper prepared by Jack Barlow, who was a senior Special Branch officer in Malaya during the Emergency and subsequently a member of the British police team sent to Saigon in the 1960s to help train the South Vietnamese police.5 A summary of the paper is given below. The points that Barlow brings out highlight, too, many of the strengths of the Malayan Special Branch that will be analysed in detail later in this study. • In Malaya, the collection, collation and dissemination of intelligence was unified under the Special Branch, and the Special Branch, the army, and the civil administration worked closely together as a team. (This was the ‘three-pronged approach’ referred to above.) In Vietnam, however, ‘there was an extraordinary multiplication of intelligence organisations, and an almost total lack of mutual trust or co-ordination’ with little central direction. • In Malaya, unlike South Vietnam, every communist guerrilla who surrendered (surrendered enemy personnel, SEP) or was captured (captured enemy personnel, CEP) was treated as a most valuable source of operational intelligence. Every inducement was offered to him to cooperate with government forces. All surrendered and captured guerrillas were thoroughly debriefed and, in some cases, employed on jungle operations against their erstwhile comrades as part of the Special Operations Volunteer Force (SOVF).6



THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

5

• The Malayan Special Branch put to use immediately intelligence obtained from surrendered and captured guerrillas and, wherever possible, used them to take part in ‘Q’ jungle operations.7 • The British controlled the Special Branch, the armed forces and the civil service, and many senior British officers remained in post and continued to work for the independent Malayan government after 1957. • British Special Branch officers were required to speak Malay, as were all Malayan Police officers, and some spoke Chinese too. It helped that, for the most part, Chinese, Malay and Indian government employees spoke English. In Vietnam, the Americans were not in control of the civil service and Barlow said that he ‘never met a Vietnamese-speaking American’. Moreover, only a small minority of Americans were fluent in French, which was a second language for many middle-aged Vietnamese. English-speaking Vietnamese were ‘very thin on the ground’ and, when available, were eagerly sought after as interpreters. • The administration of South Vietnam was in a chaotic state and had not recovered from the departure of the French. Unlike Malaya, corruption was widespread, involving both South Vietnamese and American civilian contractors. • As far as external aid was concerned, Malaya was almost ‘hermetically sealed off’, whereas in South Vietnam, arms and ammunition were freely available from the north via the ‘Ho Chi Minh Trail’. Though this study deals primarily with the Malayan Special Branch and the security situation in peninsular Malaya, mention has been made en passant of the Singapore Special Branch and communist activities in Singapore, where they have a bearing on the main counterinsurgency operations that took place in Malaya.8 While communist activities in urban Singapore were of serious concern to the local Singapore authorities, it was recognised they were quite different in intensity, scale and ferocity from the internecine jungle war taking place in peninsular Malaya.9 As Francis Starner points out, there was some justification for considering the communist movement in peninsular Malaya as separate from communist activities on the island of Singapore.10 In conversations with the author in Canberra in February 1999, Chin Peng, Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Malaya, did not seem to place much weight on the activities of the communist Singapore Town Committee in the overall context of the Malayan insurgency. This is borne out in the scant attention that he paid to Singapore in his autobiography, Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History.11

619 337 251 1207

164 65 229

334 160 494

170 77 200 447 2377

89 60 149

315 90 405

119 92 149 360 1607

1949

374 263 56 693

1948

321 175 409 905 2992

646 106 752

314 79 393

648 147 147 942

1950

454 237 356 1047 3620

533 135 668

380 124 504

1079 121 201 1401

1951

278 123 158 559 2831

343 131 474

207 56 263

1155 123 257 1535

1952

53 64 15 132 1756

85 43 128

58 34 92

959 73 372 1404

1953

89 65 31 185 1411

97 57 154

53 34 87

723 51 211 985

1954

60 43 24 127 1048

62 57 119

47 32 79

420 54 249 723

1955

32 47 36 115 711

30 26 56

25 22 47

307 52 134 493

1956

11 22 7 40 556

22 2 24

5 6 11

240 32 209 481

1957

6 13 — 19 709

3 — 3

3 7 10

153 22 502 677

1958

8 1 — 9 131

3 3 6

1 — 1

21 8 86 115

1959

— — — — 48

— — —

— — —

13 6 29 48

1960

1601 959 1385 3945 19797

2473 810 3283

1346 519 1865

6711 1289 2704 10704

Total

Source: Adapted from Despatch no. 14, Top Secret. High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, Kuala Lumpur, to Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, London, 5 November 1960 & Arkib Negara Malaysia, Misc. 16, Emergency Statistics for the Federation of Malaya since 1948.

Legend: CTs = Communist Terrorists, SFs = Security Forces

Total CTs eliminated Killed Captured Surrendered (a) Sub-total SFs killed Police Army (b) Sub-total Civilians Killed Missing (c) Sub-total Wounded Police Army Civilians (d) Sub-total Grand total

Table 1: Communist terrorist, police, army and civilian casualties (1948–60)

6 MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60



THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

7

Table 1 provides details of the casualties suffered over the twelve years of the Emergency by the communist terrorists (CTs) and the security forces (SFs), consisting of police and army units, and the appalling losses suffered by the civilian population. It depicts clearly the seriousness of the situation in Malaya between 1948 and 1960 and the casualties that resulted from the fierce fighting that took place. The casualty figures underscore the important part played by the police in the struggle against the communist insurgents and indicate, too, that the police suffered more casualties, both killed and wounded, than the army did, a matter that is not generally appreciated. However, what is more extraordinary is that the total number of civilians killed and missing (3283)—and ‘missing’ in this context must mean that they had perished—far exceeds the combined total of police and army killed (1865). The number of civilians wounded (1385), too, is far more than the number of army wounded (959) and only slightly fewer than the number of police wounded (1601). This could not have boded well for the communists, who asserted throughout they were fighting for the freedom of the people from British colonial rule and claimed to act as their champions. The inter-relationship between the Special Branch and the army in the early days of the Emergency was not always as close as it should have been. However, it improved enormously from 1952 onwards when British army military intelligence officers (MIOs) were attached to the Special Branch to provide a channel for the effective transmission of Special Branch operational intelligence to the army. Military intelligence officers did not collect intelligence themselves and, in every case, they worked under the Special Branch unit to which they were attached, as will be elaborated later in this study. They did not operate their own intelligence network. In the words of Richard Clutterbuck (who served as a colonel on the Director of Operations staff during the Emergency and was later to become one of the recognised leading British authorities on terrorism): There is no doubt the soundest (and, in the end, the cheapest) investment against Communist insurgency in any country is a strong, handpicked and well-paid intelligence organisation [Special Branch] backed up by the funds to offer good rewards.12

Professor Peter Edwards, the official historian of Australia’s role in the Malayan and Vietnam conflicts, echoed Clutterbuck’s views and commented in his study of the Malayan Emergency that ‘the most important weapon in counter-insurgency was [Special Branch] intelligence’.13

8

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

The Special Branch obtained intelligence from several sources. The most common was human intelligence, commonly referred to in the intelligence community as HUMINT. The traditional sources of human intelligence are informers and agents, and the evidence indicates that surrendered and captured guerrillas provided the most valuable sources of Special Branch information. As discussed in this study, the Special Branch’s success in exploiting and ‘turning’ surrendered (and sometimes captured) guerrillas to co-operate with the security forces and go straight back into the jungle to attack their erstwhile comrades-in-arms or induce them to surrender, played a critical part in the intelligence war. It enabled the security forces to inflict casualties on the guerrillas and, more importantly, it led to the mass defections referred to later, and incorporated in Table 1, that led ultimately to the collapse of the communist uprising. As Harry Miller has recorded, many surrendered guerrillas ‘showed utter single-mindedness about trailing and killing their former comrades’.14 It is extremely difficult to provide a satisfactory explanation for their action in betraying their comrades and becoming traitors to their cause, but perhaps Professor Lucien W Pye came closest to it in his book, Guerrilla Communism in Malaya, which he wrote after spending several months on the ground in Malaya in 1954 interviewing surrendered guerrillas. During the several weeks he spent at Johore Contingent Special Branch headquarters as part of his stay, he occupied a desk in the room adjoining the author’s room. In interviewing surrendered guerrillas, he had the advantage of being able to speak to them in Chinese and he did not have to rely on interpreters, which would have imposed another layer of understanding about what they said, especially as the Chinese language is rich in ‘political terms’ and the indirect expression of personal opinion. As Pye explained: Almost immediately after surrender, the SEPs [surrendered enemy personnel] sought to take on all the attitudes that they considered appropriate to their new role. They quickly adopted what amounted to an entirely new political vocabulary, readily repeated government propaganda views while trying to drop all traces of Communist terminology. They were not only generally prepared to cooperate with the authorities but usually eager to lead patrols back into the jungle to attack their former comrades. Even when this meant killing people with whom they had lived and worked for many years, they were not troubled by the prospect, since their break with the party had been a personal one. They no longer had any ties with those in the party; they had to establish new ones with those in the government.15



THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

9

In order that the Malayan Special Branch may be seen in the round and against the background of the period, it has been necessary in various chapters to touch on the organisation and structure of the uniformed branch of the police. Although attempts were made from time to time to separate the Special Branch from the police and form a separate and independent intelligence organisation, it should not be overlooked that the Special Branch constituted a department of the police throughout the Emergency and the Head of the Special Branch reported directly to the Commissioner of Police. It has also been thought necessary to examine the organisation and structure of the Special Branch’s main adversary, the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and its military arm, the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA). The aims of the CPM in Malaya and in Singapore were identical; that is, the overthrow of the British colonial power and the establishment of a Communist People’s Democratic Republic of Malaya. However, their tactics were not identical on account of the different political, economic and social patterns of the two territories.16 The ‘Maoist’ strategy adopted in Malaya by Chin Peng, the CPM’s Secretary-General, aimed to work inwards from the jungle, establish liberated areas from which to dominate populated areas, create a reign of terror among government officials, rubber planters and tin miners, disrupt the economy, and finally undertake a countrywide offensive, leading to the defeat of government forces.17 On the other hand, the ‘Leninist’ strategy adopted in urban Singapore aimed to undermine and seize control of open organisations, such as the labour movement, Chinese schools, cultural organisations and later even the People’s Action Party (PAP) when it came to power in June 1959, without actually resorting to guerrilla warfare.18 Communist activities in Singapore, unlike those in peninsular Malaya, formed part of a communist-controlled ‘National Open Front’ strategy, and although no MNLA units were deployed there, the communists did on occasion resort to ‘strong-arm’ tactics and political assassinations.19 The CPM’s Singapore Town Committee reported nominally to the South Malayan Bureau in Johore, which in turn remained in courier contact with the CPM’s Central Committee in Pahang before the Committee withdrew to southern Thailand; but, generally speaking, the CPM in Singapore was largely autonomous.20 The CPM’s policy for Singapore throughout the Malayan Emergency was aptly summed up in a communist document written in April 1957 and recovered by the Singapore Special Branch, which was quoted in the Singapore Annual Report for that year:

10

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Our fundamental policy is to remain under cover and act with dexterity and caution while we conserve our strength. Our basic strategy is to expand and consolidated the patriotic National United Front in order to mobilise the strength of the whole people.21

In 1950, the Singapore Special Branch effectively broke up the CPM’s Town Committee and arrested most of its members.22 A few of them managed to evade the police net and flee to the comparative safety of the Rhio Islands in Indonesian waters south of Singapore, where, according to Chin Peng, they formed a small working committee. While not very effective, it at least enabled them to keep in touch with events in Singapore and even, on occasions, to infiltrate back into Singapore to carry out assignments.23 The term ‘Emergency’ was a euphemism used by the British government for what was to all intents and purposes an all-out war between the Communist Party of Malaya and the British colonial government in Malaya, although the insurgency continued after Malaya attained independence from the British in 1957. It was adopted in order that the London commercial insurance rates on which the Malayan commerce and industry relied (and which, until 1957, determined the prosperity of trade within the British Empire) would not be adversely affected, as they would have been if the conflict had been described as a ‘war’.24 The CPM, however, did not have any such reservations and has always referred to it as a ‘war’, namely, the ‘Anti-British National Liberation War’.25 The establishment of a Malayan People’s Democratic Republic was, in fact, from very early on, the avowed aim of the Communist Party of Malaya and constituted one of the main points of the CPM’s revolutionary program for Malaya formulated at the Third Congress of the CPM in 1932.26 It was the first point of the CPM’s ‘Nine Anti-Japanese Principles’ promulgated during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in February 1943.27 But details of what exactly the CPM had in mind to achieve its objective did not emerge until a year after the Emergency started, when the Malayan Special Branch captured in June 1949 a copy of the clandestine communist newspaper Zhen Bao (True News), which devoted a whole article to the CPM’s political plans under the heading: ‘The Outline of the Malayan People’s Democratic Republic’. These included the expropriation of the property of British ‘imperialists’ in Malaya, the nationalisation of monopolistic capital, the guaranteeing of ‘genuine’ racial equality, the transfer of ownership of the land to the ‘tillers’, equal voting rights for all persons over 18, freedom of political beliefs, the institution of low tax rates and minimum wages, and free elementary and adult education. On the face of it, some of the clauses



THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

11

appeared to be quite unobjectionable, and the Special Branch commented at the time that it did not seem to be a particularly illuminating document, especially as the establishment of a communist republic by force of arms if necessary (on the lines of the Communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in many ways was regarded as the CPM’s mentor and role model) was not mentioned.28 At a World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) meeting in Beijing in November–December 1949, Liu Shao-chi, the vice-chairman of the Chinese Central People’s Government, made it quite clear that China supported the CPM’s struggle against British colonial rule in Malaya. He stated ‘the path taken by the Chinese party is the path that should be followed by many colonial and dependent countries in their struggle for national independence and people’s democracy’. An article in the Cominform journal, For a Lasting Peace: For a People’s Democracy, on 27 January 1950, repeated the same line that the victory of the Chinese people ‘was of enormous significance in strengthening the national liberation struggle in colonial territories’.29 Nevertheless, although the Chinese communists assumed ‘the role of mentors and champions of the Asian revolutionary movement’, their support of the CPM’s uprising was confined to moral and ideological back up only and, as far as it is known, they did not provide any personnel or matériel. Malaya was not placed under martial law during the Emergency and the civil government remained in place, with the army acting ‘in aid of the civil power’. The basic document on which Emergency operations were based, The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya (ATOM), prepared by the Director of Operations, was unequivocal about this point. It laid down that ‘the responsibility for conducting the campaign in Malaya rests with the Civil Government’ and reinforced the point later by adding ‘one of the underlying principles in all operations against the CT in the present Emergency is that the Armed Forces are acting in support of the Civil Power [emphasis added by author]’.30 The Malayan government made it clear that the Special Branch was to be regarded as its main intelligence agency and that it reported to the civilian police. As such, it was responsible for providing the government not only with political and security intelligence, but also, more importantly, with operational or combat intelligence on which the security forces could mount counterinsurgency operations. In the Malayan context, the difference between ‘political’ and ‘security’ intelligence was never officially defined. However, for all practical purposes

12

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

it was understood by the Special Branch that the former included ‘any information needed to protect lives, property and trade from subversion, sabotage and espionage, including communist and extremist nationalist activities’, and the latter was thought of in the broadest sense as covering ‘any other information required for the effective government of a colony’.31 It was, however, obviously difficult to keep the two definitions completely separate and, in practice, they often overlapped. The ‘elusiveness’ of the intelligence records for this period makes it difficult to document all aspects of the counterinsurgency responses to the communist uprising in Malaya. This has been partially addressed by fully understanding where the original records might be found and how the intelligence system worked at this time. In Britain, access to public records is governed by statute, namely the Public Records Act 1958 and the Public Records Act 1967.32 The official position in Malay(si)a 33, Singapore and Australia is very similar to the British one, and records selected for permanent preservation only become available for public inspection when they are thirty years old. However, most secret intelligence (including Special Branch) records are closed for longer periods if their release is considered likely to compromise national security or international relations. This policy obviously imposes a serious impediment to research into secret intelligence and Special Branch activities. It is likely, too, that not all secret Special Branch records were handed over by the British when Malaya was granted independence in 1957, and there is information to suggest that some ‘sensitive’ files were either destroyed or taken back to the United Kingdom.34 Intelligence operations from the time the British colonial power returned to Malaya in September 1945 after the Japanese surrender were the responsibility of the Malayan Security Service (MSS), which had incorporated the functions of the pre-war Malayan and Singapore Special Branches.35 Though the pre-war Malayan and Singapore Special Branches were part of their respective police forces, the Malayan Security Service operated independently and maintained a direct line of communication with the highest echelons of government in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The Malayan and Singapore Special Branches were not re-established until August 1948: that is, around two months after the Emergency started, when the MSS was wound up and handed over its functions to them.36 There was a difference, however. Whereas the MSS had been a panMalayan organisation covering both Malaya and Singapore, the Malayan



THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

13

and Singapore Special Branches were separate and assumed responsibility for intelligence in their own respective territories. In both territories, after the demise of the MSS, they were subsumed into their respective Criminal Investigation Departments, and they did not become separate departments until later in the Emergency, in 1952.37 At the onset of the Emergency, the British colonial government attempted to downplay the seriousness of the situation so as not to affect public morale. The government was anxious to ensure, too, that commercial insurance rates were not affected, as would have been the case if it were publicly acknowledged that a virtual state of war existed in Malaya, and that the Communist Party of Malaya was the central directing force behind the insurrection. Such secrecy also meant that little information about the Emergency is available in the public arena. Sometimes, such publicly available information can be used to cross-check other sources; in this instance, this methodology is of limited value. The High Commissioner of the Federation of Malaya, for instance, suggested to the Secretary of State for the Colonies that such emotive terms as ‘war’, ‘enemy’ and ‘rebellion’ should be avoided, and names such as ‘banditry’, ‘thugs’, ‘terrorism’ and so on be used instead.38 The true meaning of these euphemisms needs to be understood by the research scholar, for a literal interpretation of their meaning would lead to ill-formed conclusions that the British colonial power in Malaya was not faced with an outright war. It was not until 20 May 1952 at a meeting of the Federation of Malaya Executive Council that the British colonial authorities decided to replace the term ‘bandits’ with ‘communist terrorists’ (CTs) as the officially designated name for armed units of the MNLA and the Min Yuen, the People’s Movement.39 The legal definition of a terrorist in Malaya was a person: who by the use of any firearm, explosive or ammunition acts in a manner prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order, incites to violence, or counsels disobedience to the law; carries, possesses or controls any firearm, explosive or ammunition without lawful authority; or demands, collects, or receives any supplies for the use of any person who intends or is about to act or has recently acted in a manner prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order.40

By the time the Emergency had been declared in June 1948, most of the armed units of the CPM had taken to the jungle in peninsular Malaya

14

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

to form what was initially called the Malayan People’s Anti-British Army (MPABA). During the three-and-a-half years of the Japanese occupation, the military arm of the CPM fighting the Japanese in the Malayan jungle, aided by the clandestine British-led Force 136, adopted the name Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).41 When the CPM took up arms against the British colonial government after the war, it was but a step to change the name to the Malayan People’s Anti-British Army. The use of these labels alone suggests that as far as the Malayan communists were concerned, and irrespective of the contributions of Force 136, both the Japanese and British were regarded as colonialists promoting their own national interests rather than those of Malaya. On 1 February 1949, the MPABA name was changed yet again and the guerrilla army became known as the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), in accordance with a special manifesto promulgated by the CPM’s Central Committee.42 Although the English name, Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA), has been adopted in many published accounts of the Emergency, it would appear from the CPM’s own English-language publications that the correct version of the name should be Malayan National Liberation Army (Malaiya Renmin Minzu Jiefang Jun). The difference arises from the mis-translation of the Chinese characters for minzu appearing in the original Chinese name, which should be translated in this context as ‘national’ and not ‘races’.43 After the Second World War, the British government attached great economic importance to Malaya, as it had abundant supplies of rubber and tin. It was, in fact, the world’s largest source of natural rubber. There were therefore compelling economic reasons for Britain to ensure that Malaya did not fall into communist hands. In 1948, for instance, the USA imported from Malaya 371,000 tonnes of rubber and 155,000 tonnes of tin, earning Britain a most-welcome US$170 million at a time when the sterling area had an overall deficit of US$1,800 million.44 Clearly, after the defeat of the Japanese, the old relationship between Britain and its Asian dependencies had re-emerged, whereby Britain’s trade deficits with the US were balanced against exports to the US from the British colonies. The Soviet Union, although providing moral support for communist parties in Asia, and regarded at that time as the leader of the communist world’s opposition to Western imperialism in Asia, was not averse to trading with colonial Malaya and Singapore. In 1946 and 1947, for instance, attempts were made to establish a Soviet representative office



THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

15

in Singapore to purchase rubber, and two representatives of the Soviet trading corporation Exportkhleb, AM Arinitohev and Papel Ivanovich Sizov, were granted visas to visit Singapore from Hong Kong for short stays from 2 to 28 December 1946 and again on 18 January 1947.45 While they were in Singapore, they were kept under close surveillance by the Malayan Security Service, and were observed to be in touch with known local communists.46 However, nothing came of their attempt to establish a purchasing office in Singapore at that time and most of the Soviet orders for rubber were placed through the London rubber market.47 While Malaya found itself back inside the familiar confines of the old colonial relationship with Britain, the attempts by the communists to provide some kind of alternative remained half-hearted and ineffective. Even during the Cold War (1945–90), that began after the end of the Second World War and arose from the fundamentally different ideologies and interests between the Soviet Union and the West and spread to every part of the world, international communist support for the Communist Party of Malaya was not very impressive. It was confined to the WFTU occasionally issuing protests against alleged repression of Malayan workers, communist-controlled Australian seamen and dockers boycotting the loading and shipping of war material to Malaya, the Indian ‘Peace’ Council calling for the observance of a ‘Malaya Day’ in support of the CPM (but nothing seems to have come of it), and the World Peace Council issuing resolutions calling for the cessation of the Emergency in Malaya.48 While it may have been expected that the British Communist Party would maintain close fraternal links with the Communist Party of Malaya, it does not seem to have provided much support aside from occasional references to the situation in Malaya in the Daily Worker, the British communist newssheet. It did, however, issue a declaration (which did not seem to be particularly objectionable) in support of the freedom of the ‘working class movement’ in Malaya at the Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties of Countries within the Sphere of British Imperialism, held in London in 1947. When the Emergency was declared in June 1948, the British Communist Party confined itself to saying that the Emergency was the result of the ‘British government collaborating with British capitalists to maintain profits at the expense of the legitimate aspirations of Malayan workers’.49 The history of the tumultuous events of the Emergency, in which the Special Branch played such an important part, needs to be viewed in the light of the Cold War, which was fought essentially by secret intelligence agencies. Throughout this period, communism was perceived to be the

16

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

principal adversary of democracy, and anti-communism became virtually a crusade. In Asia, the Cold War brought about repeated crises, such as the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the First and Second Taiwan Straits Crises, and communist uprisings in many Southeast Asian countries. Chin Peng, the CPM’s Secretary-General, undoubtedly hoped, although he did not express it in so many words, that if he could hold out long enough, the People’s Republic of China would come to his aid as had happened in the Korean War, when the PRC had intervened on the side of the North Korean army.50 In the wider view of the events surrounding the Emergency, the ‘domino theory’ figured prominently in the minds of many contemporary military and political leaders. The term, coined in 1954, gave rise to a theory arguing that communism was advancing throughout the world in the same way that a row of dominoes falls until none is left standing.51 It brought about a sense of urgency and a real apprehension at the time that unless the communist insurgency in Malaya could be defeated, Malaya would be in danger of being overrun by the victorious communist forces that were sweeping through Indo-China into Thailand and southward toward the Malayan frontier. An important question raised by various people is what part did the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) play in defeating the communist uprising? Though the CIA station in Singapore kept in touch with what was going on and maintained close relations with the Malayan and Singapore Special Branches, it did not actually intervene.52 It is worth noting, however, that in the 1950s, intelligence operations in Southeast Asia were divided territorially between the British and the Americans. In 1954, Sir John Sinclair, a senior MI6 officer from London, and Fergie Dempster, the MI6 representative in Saigon, flew to Washington, DC, to discuss intelligence operations in the Far East with Allen Dulles, the CIA Director-General. They were accompanied by Maurice Oldfield (later Sir Maurice), the MI6 representative at Security Intelligence Far East (SIFE), Singapore.53 The discussions resulted in what is referred to as the ‘Four Square Agreement’; the corners of the so-called ‘square’ being occupied by the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore and Burma. Under the agreement, the CIA retained intelligence responsibility for the Philippines, formerly an American colony until it gained independence in 1946, leaving the British intelligence services to look after Malaya, Singapore and Burma, which were traditionally accepted as forming part of the British colonial empire. Both intelligence services agreed to co-operate in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia.54



THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

17

Dick White (later Sir Dick), then head of MI6 in London, visited Kuala Lumpur in the latter part of 1954 to advise General Templer and GC (Guy) Madoc, then Director of Intelligence, of the effects of the ‘Four Square Agreement’.55 One of the results of White’s visit was the strengthening of the relationship between the Special Branch and MI5/MI6 and it became easier for the Special Branch to call on assistance from the British intelligence services. It was agreed, too, that MI5/MI6 officers would be made available from time to time to lecture at the Malayan Special Branch Training School.56 As explained earlier, the Malayan Special Branch re-emerged in August 1948 after the abolition of its predecessor, the Malayan Security Service (Chapter 2). Fortunately, the Special Branch’s appearance coincided with the onset of the Emergency, and was just in time for the conflict that lay ahead. The next chapter examines the role of the Malayan Security Service, the reasons for its demise, and the circumstances that led to it handing over its duties to the Special Branch. Chapters 2 and 3 serve as introductions to the organisational changes that had their roots in the return of the British to Malaya in 1945. Subsequent chapters deal with three major dimensions to the evolution and work of the Special Branch: Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8 focus on the organisational changes that occurred and the key personnel involved in pushing them through; Chapters 4 and 9 focus on the circumstances of the Emergency and the role of intelligence collected by Special Branch; and Chapters 10 and 11 provide case studies to illuminate how the Special Branch engaged with the logistical demands of using intelligence to contain the Emergency.

Notes 1

2

Noteworthy studies of the Emergency are to be found in Karl Hack, Defence and Decolonisation in Southeast Asia: Britain, Malaya and Singapore 1941–1968, London: Curzon Press, 2001, and Chin Peng, Alias Chin Peng. My Side of History (as told to Ian Ward & Norma Miraflor), Singapore: Media Publishing, 2003. MI5, also known as the Security Service, originated in London in 1909 as the internal arm of the British Secret Service Bureau. It is Britain’s internal security intelligence agency. In 1931, it assumed responsibility for assessing threats to national security, which included international communist subversion. Traditionally, too, it liaised with and provided advice and assistance to the British colonies, which were regarded as part of the British Empire. It operates under the provisions of the Security Service Act 1989 and 1996, and is placed under the authority of the Home Secretary. Its responsibilities cover protection of the state against terrorism, espionage and, most recently, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In addition, MI6, also known as the British Intelligence Service, is Britain’s external or foreign intelligence service and is placed under the

18

3

4

5

6 7

8

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

authority of the Foreign Secretary. It is responsible for Britain’s intelligence activities in foreign countries (see National Intelligence Machinery, London: The Stationery Office Ltd, 2000). See Randall W Heather, ‘Intelligence & Counter-Insurgency in Kenya 1952–56’, Intelligence and National Security 5(3), July 1990. The Mau Mau Insurgency in Kenya and the Cyprus Emergency occurred in 1952–56 and 1952–59 respectively. Very little has been published about BRIAM in Vietnam, which was in Saigon for around three years from 1961. It consisted of four members, all with experience of Malaya during the Malayan Emergency: Robert KG Thompson, head of mission, and Dennis J Duncanson, both formerly of the Malayan Civil Service (MCS), and Jock Hindmarsh and DS (Desmond) Palmer, both former senior officers of the Malayan Police Special Branch (author’s discussion with Brigadier Ted Serong, DSO, OBE, Melbourne, 5 January 2000). Letter to author from Jack Barlow, c July 1995, enclosing a copy of the report. Jack Barlow, MBE, BEM, CPM (1919–2002) served in the London Metropolitan Police at the outbreak of the Second World War before being commissioned in the Royal Armoured Corps with which he served in Burma. At the end of the war, he was posted as Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal (DAPM) to the British occupying force sent to Japan. After demobilisation, he joined the Malayan Police as an assistant superintendent of police. He transferred to the Special Branch soon after and served for several years in Johore, where he was the author’s colleague. After leaving Malaya in 1956, he became Deputy Director of the Cyprus Special Branch (1956–59), and subsequently joined the littleknown British police mission to South Vietnam (1964–67) as Police Adviser to the South Vietnamese Police Force. The Police Mission worked alongside BRIAM (British Aid Mission to Vietnam) headed by Sir Robert Thompson. Barlow informed the author that he worked closely in South Vietnam with the CIA and, in particular, Major-General Edward G Landsdale and Daniel Elsberg of the Rand Corporation (author’s discussion with Jack Barlow in London, 12 August 1996, and Barlow’s letter to author 15 December 1996). By the time General Templer, then High Commissioner and Director of Operations, returned to England in 1954, 300 surrendered guerrillas were serving in the SOVF. ‘Q’ operations was a term used by the Special Branch to refer to jungle operations mounted by mixed squads of surrendered guerrillas, often members of the SOVF, who had agreed to cooperate with the security forces against their former comrades, and Special Branch officers disguised as guerrillas. After contacting their former comrades, the ‘turned’ guerrillas, relying on their party rank and status, endeavoured to persuade their former comrades to give up the struggle, lay down their firearms and surrender, or be killed. (See also Anthony Short, The Communist Insurrection in Malaya 1948–60, London: Frederick Muller Ltd, 1975, pp 490–1). The activities of the CPM in Singapore are well covered in Lee Ting Hui’s, The Communist Organisation in Singapore: Its Techniques of Manpower Mobilisation and Management, 1948–66, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1976, and the same author’s The Open United Front. The Communist Struggle in Singapore 1954–1966, Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996. For communist activities in mainly pre-war Singapore, see CF Yong, The Origins of Malayan Communism, Singapore: South Seas Society, 1997.



9

10

11

12

13

THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

19

See CO 825/82/55404/4, Singapore Political Review, June 1950, Appendix A, Secret, ‘Review of Threat to Security of the Colony…by the Malayan Communist Party and Chinese Communist Party’, pp. 1–6. See also The Role of the Communists in Malaya, Division of Research for Far East, Office of Intelligence Research, Department of State, Secret, OIR Report No 3780, Washington, DC, 16 March 1947, p 7. Francis L Starner, ‘Communism in Singapore and Malaysia. A Multifront Struggle’ in Robert A Scalapino (ed), The Communist Revolution in Asia. Tactics, Goals and Achievements, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969, p 236. Information provided to the author by Chin Peng, Secretary-General of the CPM, at the ‘Chin Peng Workshop’, Australian National University, Canberra, 22–23 February 1999. See also Chin Peng op cit. Chin Peng first visited Australia in February 1998 at the invitation of Professor Merle Ricklefs, then Professor of Southeast Asian History, Australian National University, to carry out research for his autobiography. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) cleared his visit. During his stay, he visited the Australian Archives and the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra, and met privately with some of his family members living in Sydney. In December of the same year, arrangements were made by Professor Anthony Reid, then Director, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, for him to visit Canberra again, when the author and several other persons were invited to participate in a workshop with him on the Malayan Emergency. Before the workshop, on 12 February, Chin Peng gave a talk to academics and graduate students in the Australian National University Asian Studies’ tearoom on his reasons for becoming a communist. The participants in the workshop that followed came mainly from universities in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, Scotland and Japan. The author also met Chin Peng separately for lunch and discussions at the Ruby Restaurant, Dickson, Canberra, on 19 February, in the company of CC Chin, and contacted him on other occasions too. A record of the dialogue and papers originating from the February 1999 workshop with Chin Peng, edited by CC Chin and Karl Hack, has been published by Singapore University Press, 2004, under the title Dialogues with Chin Peng. New Light on the Malayan Communist Part. Richard Clutterbuck, The Long, Long War. The Emergency in Malaya 1948–1960, London: Cassell & Co, 1967 (2nd edition), p 100, and letter to author from Clutterbuck dated 21 October 1994. Colonel Clutterbuck (later Major-General RL Clutterbuck, CB, OBE), entered academia after retiring from the regular British army and became a lecturer in political science at Exeter University. He is generally recognised, together with Sir Robert Thompson and General Sir Frank Kitson, as being one of the leading British authorities on counter-insurgency for that period. However, in more recent times, all three have attracted criticism for advocating that the army and police could employ what their critics referred to as ‘unnecessary force’ and ‘controversial methods’ in putting down disturbances (see Adam Roberts’ paper, ‘The British Armed Forces and Politics: A Historical Perspective’, in Cynthia H Enloe and Ursula Semin-Panzer (eds), The Military, the Police and Domestic Order. British and Third World Experiences, London: Richardson Institute for Conflict and Peace Research, 1976). Peter Edwards, ‘The Malayan Emergency (1948–1960) as a Case Study in Low Density Conflict’ in Barry Carr and Elaine McKay, Low Intensity Conflict, Theory and Practice in Central America and South-East Asia, Melbourne: La Trobe University Institute of Latin American Studies & Monash University, Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, n.d., p 45.

20

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

14 Harry Miller, Jungle War in Malaya. The Campaign against Communism 1948–60, London: Arthur Barker Ltd, 1972, pp 107–8. 15 Lucian W Pye, Guerrilla Communism in Malaya. Its Social and Political Meaning, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1956, pp 338–9. 16 Starner, op cit, p 236. 17 See Mao Zedong’s Primer on Guerrilla War, translated by SB Griffith II in TN Greene (ed), The Guerrilla and How to Fight Him, New York: Frederick A Praeger, 1962, pp 5–11. Griffith translates Mao’s often-quoted dictum referring to the relationship between the masses and the guerrillas (which applied to Malaya just as much as it did to China) as follows: ‘the former may be likened to water and the latter to the fish who inhabit it…’. See also Sam C Sarkesian, Unconventional Conflicts in a New Security Era, Westport, Connecticut & London: Greenwood Press, 1993, pp 66–7. 18 Lee Kuan Yew, From Third World to First. The Singapore Story: 1965–2000, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000, p 121. 19 On the evening of 28 April 1950, a communist terrorist threw a hand grenade at the Singapore Governor, Sir Franklin Gimson, as he was leaving the ‘Happy World’ Amusement Park in Singapore with Air Vice-Marshall FJW Mellersh, the senior-most RAF officer in Malaya, where both men had attended a boxing tournament. The hand grenade hit Gimson in the knee and fell to the ground two paces away, but fortunately the detonator was faulty and the grenade failed to explode (Melbourne Herald, 29 April 1950). For a detailed account of a communist killer squad in Singapore, based on confidential documents held by the Singapore Police Force, see Peter Clague, Iron Spearhead. The True Story of a Communist Killer Squad in Singapore, Singapore: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia) Ltd, 1980. After the Second World War, Clague served in the Judge Advocate General’s office, Singapore, and then as a magistrate, before taking up the newly created post of Police Secretary of the Singapore Police Force for six years in the 1950s, and was privy to much confidential information. 20 Starner, op cit, p 247. 21 Singapore Annual Report 1957, Singapore: Government Printing Office, 1959, p 11. 22 Melbourne Herald, 29 April 1950. 23 See also Starner, op cit, p 237. 24 See CO 537/4773, No 3, Secret Despatch No 5, para 16, ‘Insurance’, 30 May 1949, from Sir Henry Gurney, High Commissioner, Federation of Malaya, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. 25 See ‘A Short History of the Communist Party of Malaya’ in The Communist Party of Malaya. Selected Documents, published by the South East Asia Documentation Group, 1979, p 53. No author’s name or place of publication is given. The document is to be found in the Australian National University Library, Canberra (call number ApHX400.6.A6.M34). According to the foreword, ‘The aim of the documentation is to publish some of the important statements of the Communist Party of Malaya…[and to] inform readers of the political line, programme and history of the Communist Party of Malaya and the revolutionary struggle of the Malayan people’. Material collected in this publication was assembled over the years from ‘transcripts of the Voice of the Malayan Revolution, a clandestine radio station of the Communist Party of Malaya’, broadcast from China. It is interesting to note, too, that the United Nations similarly avoided the use of the word ‘war’ in referring to the Korean War (1950–53), and preferred to call



26

27

28 29

30

31 32

THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

21

it a ‘police action’ in order to lessen the risk of the Soviet Union becoming involved and the hostilities escalating into a general nuclear conflict. See Cheah Boon Kheng, From PKI to the Comintern, 1924–1941: The Apprenticeship of the Malayan Communist Party, Ithaca: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1992, p 104. National Archives of Singapore, BMA HQ Singapore Division, Secret, 54/1945 dated 5 September 1945, ‘Singapore Town Committee of the Malayan Communist Party’, BMA 1945–46, Box 5, Ministry of Social Affairs. CO 717/178, Eastern Department, Colonial Office, 1–7 July 1949, citing Pan Malayan Review, No. 13. Australian Archives, Canberra, Series No. A7133/3, Australian Secret Service – Records on Singapore and Malaya – Part 2 (Australian Secret Intelligence Service, ASIS, Malayan Communist Party, Malayan Emergency), Secret, ‘Soviet Imperialism, The Malayan Communist Party—An Analysis of Subversive Tactics’, pp 26–7. This should be contrasted with the joint statement issued some years later by Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Indian President KK Narayan, on the occasion of the latter’s visit to China in May 2000, that ‘there is no justification in using terrorism as a political tool’ (Indian Perspectives, New Delhi: August 2000, p 3). But by then, of course, the policy of the Chinese government had changed. The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, Restricted, prepared under the direction of the Director of Operations, Malaya, 1952, Chapter III, ‘Own Forces’, Introduction, p. 1 and ‘The Police’, p 10. It would appear, however, that General Templer, when he was High Commissioner and Director of Operations, must have given some thought to bringing the police under army control. Colonel Young, then Commissioner of Police, has recorded in his personal papers an extraordinary exchange he had with General Templer in 1952 that appears to confirm this. According to Colonel Young, Templer referred several times in conversation with him to his intention to bring the police under army control. The last time Templer did so, he said, ‘I am going to do it’, to which Young replied, ‘No, you’re not’. Templer continued, ‘Then, who is going to stop me?’ Young answered, ‘I am, because I shall go back to the City if you do’ (Young had been seconded from the City of London Police as Commissioner of the Malayan Police). Then one evening not long afterwards, Templer telephoned Young in his bungalow, ‘Is that you, Arthur?’ Young answered, ‘Sir’. Templer said, ‘Was all that ballyhoo I was talking about?’ Young said, ‘Not entirely but substantially [sic]’. Templer replied, ‘Good night, old cock’, and according to Young the matter was never referred to again (see Rhodes House Library, Oxford, ‘Young Papers’, folder headed ‘Malaya 1952. Narrative Report, 1967’). Young related the same incident to Lewis James Hawkins in New York when the latter interviewed him on his way through to London in 1953. Hawkins was then researching a University of Delaware MA History thesis, ‘British Administration of Malaya during the Emergency’ (see ACC 8011-132, ‘Correspondence of Major DL Lloyd Owen, DSO, MC, Military Assistant to General Sir Gerald Templer, High Commissioner, Malaya, March 1952–September 1953’, National Army Museum, Chelsea). CAB 158/20/ JIC (55) 28, Secret, ‘Asia Official Documents 1945–65, Chief of Staffs Committee’. The Public Records Act 1958 stipulated that public records are to be made available to the public after fifty years and the 1967 amendment reduced the period to thirty years.

22

33

34

35 36 37 38

39

40 41

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Even so, some records containing information dealing with security and intelligence that, it is considered, may damage national security, are held back beyond thirty years and closure periods may extend to fifty, seventy-five and even one hundred years. In some cases, records are not transferred to the public archives at all, but are retained by the relevant government department. Malaysia was formed as a political entity in 1963 and comprised peninsular Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. Singapore ceased to be a member in 1965 and became a separate independent republic in the same year. When the author was carrying out research in Kuala Lumpur in 1996, he was reliably informed by an officer of the research unit attached to the federal headquarters of the present-day Malaysian Special Branch that it was experiencing problems in obtaining information about Special Branch operations during the Emergency as many ‘sensitive’ files had been taken back to Britain by the British colonial authorities. An account of the Malayan Security Service will be given in the next chapter. The term ‘re-established’ has been used, as the two Special Branches actually existed pre-war until they were absorbed into the Malayan Security Service in 1941. Colonial Annual Report, Malaya 1948, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1949, p 124. CO 537/4773, No 3, Secret Despatch No 5, para 16, ‘Insurance’, 30 May 1949, from Sir Henry Gurney, High Commissioner, Federation of Malaya, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. CO 1022/48, File SEA 10/172/01, ‘Proposed the Bandits in Malaya be officially known as Communist Terrorists’. The Min Yuen, the Romanised spelling of the two-character abbreviated form of the Chinese name Minzhong Yuendong, meaning literally ‘People’s Movement’, was an undercover communist organisation on the jungle fringes and in villages and towns that was providing support for the communists’ jungle army. The Chinese language readily lends itself to abbreviations of this kind. The Min Yuen was under direct Communist control and was primarily a network of party sympathisers supplying intelligence and supplies to the CPM (Australian Archives, Canberra, Australian Secret Service Records on Singapore & Malaya, Part 2, Item No 13, Series No A71133/3, Top Secret. ‘Soviet Imperialism—The Malayan Communist Party—An Analysis of Subversive Tactics, April 1956’). See also Malcolm Postgate, Operation Firedog. Air Support in the Malayan Emergency 1945 [sic]—1960, London, HMSO, 1992, p 4, and The Straits Times, Allington Kennard & Harry Miller, ‘The End of the Emergency’, 29 July 1960, and in the same newspaper, ‘The Great Victory Series. Continuing the Story of the Emergency in Malaya’, 30 July 1960. In their articles on the end of the Emergency, Kennard and Miller describe the Min Yuen as ‘a sort of CPM Home Guard’. Laws of Malaya, Act 18, Internal Security Act, 1960. Force 136, a clandestine British army organisation, was originally formed in India during the Second World War to contact, supply and direct guerrillas in Japanese-occupied Burma, Malaya, Thailand and Indo-China. In July 1942, the headquarters of Force 136 moved to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and a section (Group B) was added for Malaya. (See SOE. Operations in the Far East. An Introductory Guide to the Newly Released Records of the Special Operations Executive in the Public Records Office, London: Public Records Office, 1993).



42

43

44

45 46

47

48 49 50 51

52

53

THE NATURE OF THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY

23

CO 717/178, 20–26 May 1949, Secret, Appendix A to Report 17, ‘Summary of Manifesto dated 1 February 1949 issued jointly by the Central Executive Committee CPM and the General HQ MNLA’. See also Salient Operational Aspects of Paramilitary Warfare in Three Asian Areas, Washington, DC; Department of the Army, Office of the Asst. Chief of Staff, 1954, p 35. See minzu in The Chinese English Dictionary, Hong Kong: The Commercial Press Ltd, 1979, p 474. See also Dato’ JJ Raj, The War Years and After. A Personal Account of Historical Relevance, Kuala Lumpur: Pelanduk Publications, 1995, p 261. AJ Stockwell, British Policy and Malay Politics during the Malayan Union Experiment 1942–1948, Kuala Lumpur: MBRAS Monograph No 8, 1979, p 74 and Clyde Sanger, Malcolm MacDonald, Bringing an End to Empire, Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press, 1995, p 269. For details of world natural and synthetic rubber production and consumption 1948–49, see Economic Colonialism in Southeast Asia, Division of Research for the Far East, Office of Intelligence Research, Department of State, Secret OIR Report No. 5036 (PY), Washington, DC, 26 August 1949, pp 16–18. See The Role of the Communists in Malaya, op cit, p 107, and New York Times, 18 January 1947. MI6, the foreign section of the British secret service, advised the British Board of Trade in 1946 that the Russian KGB (Committee for State Security) and the GRU (Chief Directorate for Intelligence, Russian Army Staff) were running secret intelligence networks undercover in Soviet trading companies such as Amtong Trading Corporation and the Soviet Purchasing Commission, and the exact status of Exportkhleb in Asia was viewed with some suspicion. (See NAB 250, Foreign Office Weekly Political Summary, ‘Indo-China 1946’, and secret telegram No 348, 16 November 1946, from the British Embassy, Saigon, to the British Foreign Office). Geoffrey Jukes, The Soviet Union in Asia, Sydney: Angus and Robertson (Publishers) Pty Ltd in association with The Australian Institute of International Affairs, 1973, p 146. Richard V Hall, A Spy’s Revenge, Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 1987, p 29. Nicholas J White, ‘Capitalism and Counter-insurgency? Business and Government in the Malayan Emergency, 1948–57’, Modern Asian Studies, 32(1), 1998. See Chin Peng, op cit, p 255. As far as it is known, the term ‘domino theory’ was first used by President Eisenhower at a news conference on 7 April 1954. He applied it to French Indo-China, and stated that if the communists succeeded in Indo-China they would then advance successfully from one country to another in Southeast Asia. When the author visited the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Division of Security, State Department, Washington, DC, in 1949, under arrangements made by the US Consul-General, Kuala Lumpur, several officers showed a keen interest in the Malayan Emergency. Tom Bower, The Perfect English Spy and the Secret Intelligence War 1935–90, London: Mountain Books Paperbacks, 1986, p 226–7. There was an Australian connection with SIFE at the time, as Harvey Barnett (T Harvey Barnett, AO), afterwards Director-General of ASIO (1981–88), was attached to Oldfield’s office in Singapore. He was then an

24

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) officer, though he later transferred to ASIO (author’s conversation with Harvey Barnett, Melbourne, 17 March 1993). 54 Bower, ibid. At an earlier secret meeting between French, British and American intelligence services in Singapore in May 1951, it was agreed that the CIA and the French foreign intelligence service (Service de Documentation Extérieux et de Contreespionage) should meet twice weekly to exchange ‘raw’ air and naval intelligence on China. The listening duties for broadcasts from China were divided among the British, French and American intelligence services (see Douglas Porch, The French Secret Service. From the Dreyfus Affair to the Cold War, New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1995, p 316). Some MI6 officers worked closely with BRIAM, headed by Robert Thompson, which has been referred to earlier (see Anne Blair, There to the Bitter End. Ted Serong in Vietnam, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 2001, pp 55, 113 and 160). 55 Interview DA Weir, London, 3 August 1996. Weir was Assistant Commissioner Special Branch at Kuala Lumpur Federal Special Branch headquarters when White visited Kuala Lumpur in 1954. 56 Conversation with the author, Douglas Weir, London, 12 August 1996.

Reproduced from Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency by Leon Comber (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

chapter two The Malayan Security Service and the evolution of the Special Branch 1 Planning for the military administration of Malaya had been carried out in London as early as 1943 by the War Office and the Colonial Office. After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, units of the British Military Administration of Malaya landed in Singapore with the occupying British forces in September 1945. The British Military Administration’s main intelligence organisation was the Malayan Security Service. It was responsible for the provision of political and security intelligence, and operated on a pan-Malayan basis, covering both Malaya and Singapore under a Director MSS based in Singapore.2 This chapter examines the functions of the Malayan Security Service from September 1945 until it was wound up and handed over to the Malayan and Singapore Special Branches in August 1948. It provides an account, too, of the unsettled security situation that prevailed in Singapore and Malaya at the end of the war, when the MSS returned as part of the British Military Administration. Although the MSS was separate from the BMA Civil Affairs Police and reported directly to the higher echelons of the government in both territories, it liaised closely with the BMA Civil Affairs Police commanding officers in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.3 Short describes the MSS as ‘a sort of super intelligence organisation’ that was ‘supernumerary to the police and in particular to the CID’.4 Aslie and Ibrahim refer to it in their study of the history and role of the Malayan police as the ‘Malayan Secret Service’.5 Both these definitions are not far from the truth, but its official charter listed its functions as follows: (a) To collect and collate information on subversive organisations and personalities in Malaya and Singapore. (b) To advise, so far as they [sic] are able, the two Governments [Malaya and Singapore] as to the extent to which Internal Security is threatened by the activities of such an organisation [sic]. 25

26

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

(c) To keep the two Governments informed of the trends of public opinion which affect, or are likely to affect the Security of Malaya. (d) To maintain a Central Registry of Aliens. (e) To maintain a close liaison with other Security Intelligence Organisations, and the Defence Security Officer [MI5].6 Although it has been stated that the MSS only came into existence postwar,7 it had actually been formed pre-war, and it became operational some time before the Japanese invasion in December 1941. It was established in September 1939 by Arthur Dickinson, Inspector-General of the Straits Settlements Police, with the approval of the Straits Settlements and the Federated and Unfederated Malay States governments.8 The MSS then took over the functions of the Straits Settlements and Malayan Police Special Branches.9 As Dickinson writes: The political layout of pre-war Malaya necessitated multiple separate Police Forces and Police Intelligence Services. The ‘Fortress Defence Scheme’ of MI5 provided not only for the (Military) Defence Security Officer, but also for a Civil Security Officer in the person of the Straits Settlements InspectorGeneral of Police. In 1939, this officer [Dickinson] recommended the setting up of the Malayan Security Service to coordinate the work of the various Police organizations in the Peninsular [sic], to establish a central control and uniform legislation for aliens, to provide security control of the Northern Border and pan-Malayan direction from a central office in all police civil security affairs, which covered a very wide field…And ‘Malayan Security [Service]’ was in operation some time before the outbreak of the Malayan Campaign giving aid in local state intelligence and executive action, and assisting the Governor and High Commissioner…10

The control and registration of aliens referred to above was primarily a measure aimed at keeping under surveillance the activities of Japanese businessmen and ‘tourists’, who often turned out to be agents working for the Japanese intelligence services.11 This particular need, of course, did not arise post-war. Pre-war, the MSS was charged, too, with liaising and cooperating with intelligence organisations outside Malaya, that is, the British colonial Special Branches in Hong Kong and Burma, and the Dutch and French intelligence agencies in the Netherlands East Indies and French Indo-China respectively.12 Dickinson candidly admitted, however, that the MSS was still in its infancy in 1941, and said that the sheer rapidity of the Japanese advance down the Malayan peninsula towards Singapore and the fall of Singapore



THE MALAYAN SECURITY SERVICE

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on 15 February 1942 prevented it from becoming as effective as had been hoped.13 As stated above, the MSS resumed its function as the main government intelligence agency after the return of the British colonial power at the end of the Second World War.14 However, as will be discussed later, it was disbanded in August 1948, not long after the start of the Emergency, and its functions taken over by the newly resuscitated Malayan and Singapore Police Special Branches. Throughout its post-war existence, the MSS faced considerable difficulties in operating in the troubled and uncertain times that prevailed in Malaya and Singapore following the Japanese surrender. When the British forces reoccupied Singapore in September 1945, some weeks after the Japanese surrender, the city was already gripped by lawlessness and violence. The Singapore police force was completely disorganised and unable to restore law and order after the depredations of the Japanese occupation.15 According to the Japanese scholar Akashi, the behaviour during the Japanese occupation of members of the former Singapore Police Special Branch and Criminal Investigation Department in helping the kempeitei, the much-feared Japanese secret police, carry out anti-Chinese purges, had aroused deep resentment among the local Chinese community.16 In peninsular Malaya, the situation was no better, where some members of the police had earned for themselves an unsavoury reputation in collaborating with the Japanese in killing and torturing civilians. The majority of the population regarded the police with fear. By the end of the war, police morale was at an all-time low. Equipment was poor and in short supply. There were no standard police uniforms; no two men were dressed alike. As soon as the Japanese forces had surrendered and withdrawn to their barracks and camps to await the arrival of the British forces, and in the hiatus of several weeks that ensued before the re-occupying British forces landed, armed gangs of civilians emerged to take the law into their own hands to mete out summary justice to those members of the police force who had collaborated with the Japanese in ill-treating the local population. At the time the British forces landed in Singapore, reliable information was received that a plan was afoot to destroy and raze to the ground the former Special Branch/CID headquarters at Robinson Road, and it was necessary to place a British army guard on it. The building symbolised in many ways the inhumanity and brutality of the Japanese kempeitei and its police supporters. It had, in fact, already been looted and stripped of its

28

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

fittings before the return of the British, and whatever furniture remained had been removed. Most of the confidential and secret Special Branch and CID files stored in it had been scattered or destroyed.17 Both in Malaya and Singapore, there was a virtual breakdown of law and order, and after the British forces returned, first priority had to be given to restoring some semblance of law and order, combating the crime wave, and restoring public confidence by putting police patrols on the streets, backed up by British troops.18 From the early days of the British return, disturbing reports of lawlessness continued to be received from various parts of Malaya, but there was little that could be done to deal with the situation, as the police for the most part were disorganised and no longer functioning as a disciplined force. More alarmingly, there was a dangerous flare-up of inter-racial ill feeling between Malays and Chinese, which led to ugly armed clashes in many places. In a muted form, there had been pre-war latent inter-racial friction between some misguided members of the Malay and Chinese communities, the two main races of Malaya. This had been kept in check by the British colonial power maintaining an even-handed approach, but during the Japanese occupation, relations were exacerbated by the Japanese policy of favouring Malays over Chinese; the Japanese used the predominantly Malay police to support operations undertaken by the Japanese army and kempeitei against the predominantly Chinese MPAJA, the military wing of the CPM, and its sympathisers.19 The first annual report of the Malayan police, published in 1946 after the Japanese occupation, gives prominence to the serious increase in violent crime, including murders, kidnapping and armed robbery, which was mainly attributed to the CPM that had by then emerged from the jungle to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawing Japanese forces, before the return of the British.20 It was clear that the CPM was already the most powerful and well-organised political organisation in Malaya, with branches throughout the country.21 In January 1945, some seven months before the end of the war, as a portent of things to come, the CPM had in fact prepared a secret ‘analysis of the international situation and notes on the Malayan revolution’, which fell into police hands much later on. It claimed inter alia that it was ‘the only political party which had all along been leading the revolution in Malaya’, and went on to say rather ominously ‘if the Malayan people want to achieve their complete emancipation they must be self-reliant, expand



THE MALAYAN SECURITY SERVICE

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their own strength and be prepared for a more determined and more bitter bloodshed struggle [sic]’.22 The Communist Party of Malaya had been banned pre-war, and many known communists were detained. However, just before the fall of Singapore, the Singapore Governor agreed to some of the communists being released to join Dalforce, a hastily assembled guerrilla unit under the command of Lieutenant Colonel JD (John) Dalley, a Malayan Police officer, to take part in the defence of Singapore.23 At the end of the war, the British Labour Party then in power in Britain adopted a liberal approach towards political parties and the Communist Party of Malaya was afforded recognition, until it was once again banned on 23 July 1948 a month after the declaration of the Emergency.24 Meanwhile, there were mass anti-government demonstrations in Singapore and many towns in peninsular Malaya, orchestrated by the CPM on a variety of pretexts, as well as widespread labour disturbances on tin mines and rubber estates. In keeping with Leninist theory, the aim of the CPM, in the early days after the return of the British colonial power to Malaya, was to undermine through civil disturbances and political crises the determination of the British to govern and, at the critical moment, take over the government, by force if necessary, and establish a Malayan People’s Democratic Government. However, this policy was abandoned when it became apparent that the CPM’s attempt to paralyse the economy had failed, and subsequently, when the CPM took up arms against the British authorities in June 1948 and a state of emergency was declared, the CPM’s Secretary-General, Chin Peng, adopted instead the policy that had been successfully followed by Mao Zedong in China. He decided that as the industrial proletariat in Malaya did not provide a sufficiently large base from which to mount a successful revolution, the way forward lay in establishing rural bases in peninsular Malaya, which could be supported by Chinese squatters living on the jungle fringes. The CPM’s attempt to overthrow the government was part of the Cold War. The term ‘Cold War’, as opposed to an atomic ‘hot war’, then came into popular usage to indicate the struggle between the Soviet bloc countries and their supporters on the one hand, and the USA and Britain on the other.25 In the early days after the war, the Malayan Security Service was staffed by gazetted police officers, inspectors and detectives seconded for duty from the Singapore and Malayan police forces, who retained their police

30

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

rank, seniority and pay. At that time, the senior cadre of the Singapore and Malayan police forces, which formed part of the British Colonial Police Service, was made up for the main part of British gazetted police officers. They were usually appointed as cadet assistant superintendents of police until they passed the required examinations in police law, Malay language and government regulations, for confirmation as assistant superintendents (ASPs).26 The inspectorate consisted mainly of locally appointed Asian officers, although in the early post-war period there was a cadre of British police inspectors too.27 Vacancies for confidential clerks, stenographers, translators, photographers, drivers, and telephone operators were filled by the appointment of suitably qualified locally employed civilians. As Onraet emphasised in his report to the BMA Chief Civil Affairs Officer, it was of the utmost importance for the civil governments of Malaya and Singapore to maintain a unified and strong intelligence organisation.28 It appears that Dalley, the MSS Director, intended that the MSS should become the local equivalent of MI5, the British Security Service. Like MI5, the MSS did not exercise any powers of arrest and arrests had to be carried out on its behalf by the Malayan or Singapore police. With the return of the MSS after the war, Dalley ensured that it remained separate from the police and had direct right of access to the highest echelons of the government in Singapore and Malaya. Dalley clearly considered that, in terms of the government hierarchical structure, the Director MSS was at least the equal in rank of the Malayan or Singapore Commissioners of Police. Many of the experienced pre-war Singapore and Malayan MSS/ Special Branch officers had been killed during the war, and those who had survived were either medically boarded out or required lengthy periods of convalescence before they were fit to return for duty. Those officers with pre-war MSS or Special Branch experience who did return for duty were in most cases seconded for service with the MSS so that their experience of intelligence work could be used. ML Wynne, the pre-war head of the Singapore Special Branch, and HB Sym, the pre-war head of the Malayan Special Branch, who had been absorbed into the pre-war MSS, died in Sumatra in 1942, when they were captured by the Japanese after escaping from Singapore in an attempt to get away to Australia or India. Major KS Morgan, a former Indian Army officer and a fluent Japanese speaker, who had been in charge of the Japanese Section of the Singapore Special Branch, was captured by the Japanese in Sumatra with Wynne and Sym. He survived the war, but was medically



THE MALAYAN SECURITY SERVICE

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boarded out and did not return for duty after the war.29 D Matheson, another experienced Malayan police officer with Special Branch experience, died in Sumatra. Lieutenant Colonel Dalley, the Dalforce commander during the fighting in Singapore who had considerate intelligence experience, was captured in Sumatra with his colleagues and transferred back to Singapore where he was interned for the rest of the war. After taking recuperative leave in Britain, he returned to Malaya to become Director of the MSS.30 In September 1945, when the MSS returned to Singapore with the British Military Administration, the head of the Singapore division was Major JC Barry. His counterpart in Kuala Lumpur was Lieutenant Colonel JM McLean. Both were pre-war Malayan police officers. According to the Annual Report of the Singapore Police 1946, Barry was credited with retrieving an ‘amazing amount’ of the pre-war Special Branch records, which provided a ‘valuable foundation for the new Central Registry of Records’, but even so many secret Special Branch records were irrevocably lost as a result of the war. When Barry returned to Britain on sick leave on 26 November 1945, he was replaced by EAG (Alan) Blades, another senior pre-war Singapore Special Branch officer.31 Both Barry and McLean subsequently retired on medical grounds. When GC (Guy) Madoc, a senior pre-war Malayan police officer (who was afterwards to become head of the Malayan Special Branch and later Director of Intelligence, Malaya), returned in May 1946 from leave in Britain, he took up the appointment of deputy director MSS in Kuala Lumpur.32 After the war, the MSS was faced with a daunting task in view of the total disruption of the pre-war police intelligence organisation and the unsettled state of the country. In particular, the loss of experienced police intelligence officers as a result of casualties suffered during the Japanese war, who would otherwise have undoubtedly served in the MSS, was a serious blow to the MSS. In the immediate post-war period, there was a shortage of police officers trained in intelligence duties and the MSS was operating as best it could at 50 per cent below its authorised gazetted officer establishment. The MSS, too, had to make a fresh start to establish from scratch a network of secret agents and informers to replace the secret intelligence network that had existed pre-war and, at the same time, begin to rebuild police intelligence records. It has been well said that secret intelligence is a slow, plodding business and it was realised at the time that an undertaking of this magnitude would inevitably take time.33 It was fortunate, however, that the

32

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MSS could still obtain information from Lai Teck, Secretary-General of the CPM, who had been successfully planted as a secret agent in the CPM by the Singapore Special Branch in around 1935, and had survived the war. He re-established contact with the British authorities in Singapore early on after the Japanese surrender. However, when Lai Teck disappeared in March 1947, taking with him the CPM Party’s funds, the MSS was deprived of an important source of intelligence about the CPM at the highest possible level, which placed it at a considerable disadvantage.34 By the end of January 1947, Dalley had settled in as Director of the MSS in Singapore after returning from recuperative leave in Britain. The MSS was a much larger organisation than it had been pre-war; no doubt because Dalley was ambitious and had built it up. At the pan-Malayan headquarters in Singapore, Dalley was assisted by a deputy director, and additionally there was an assistant director in charge of Singapore and another deputy director in Kuala Lumpur responsible for peninsular Malaya (see Table 2). At the beginning of 1948, the MSS consisted of 13 British gazetted officers, 44 Asian inspectors, and two archivists in charge of the MSS secret registry: JF Allen, Chief Archivist, assisted by T Knott.35 A British gazetted officer was posted for duty in each of the state capitals of Johore, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Perak, Penang and Kedah/Perlis (regarded as one state or contingent from the police point of view), with three in Singapore. They were officially termed ‘Local Security Officers’ (LSOs).36 As Director MSS, Dalley was ex officio member of the Joint Intelligence Committee (Far East) in Singapore, which processed intelligence reports from Southeast Asia for the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in London. The Joint Intelligence Committee in London was the ‘supreme’ intelligence coordinating body in Britain and, through its secretary, had right of access to the Prime Minister. In the early days after the British return to Singapore, Norman Bain, Chief of Staff of Lord Killearn, British Special Commissioner for South East Asia, chaired the JIC (Far East), and Francis Stuart, Political Secretary at the Australian Commission in Singapore (1947–50), was Secretary of the Committee. Aside from Dalley, the other members were the heads of the Singapore and Malayan CIDs, the local MI5 and MI6 representatives, the British navy, army and air force Directors of Intelligence, and a representative of the local Joint Planning Staff at Lord Killearn’s headquarters.41



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Table 2: Gazetted officers, Malayan Security Service (1948) Name

Rank

Location

JD Dalley

Director, Pan-Malaya

Singapore

NG Morris37

Acting Deputy Director

Singapore

EAG Blades

Assistant Director

Singapore

CMJ Kirke

Acting Deputy Director

Kuala Lumpur

IS Wylie38

Local Security Officer

Selangor

W Elphinstone

Local Security Officer

Johore

DN Livingstone

Local Security Officer

Kedah/ Perlis

HTB Ryves39

Local Security Officer

Perak

KB Larby

Local Security Officer

Penang

RW Quixley

Local Security Officer

Negri Sembilan

JE Fairbairn

Local Security Officer

Singapore

RB Corridon40

Local Security Officer

Singapore

HJ Woolnough

Local Security Officer

Singapore

Source: Malayan Establishment Staff List 1948, pp 90–1.

The MSS had often been criticised for not forewarning the Malayan authorities of the impending uprising by the CPM. Both Sir Edward Gent, the Malayan High Commissioner, and Malcolm MacDonald, then Commissioner General, had expressed their dissatisfaction about the paucity of intelligence provided by the MSS concerning the CPM’s intentions.42 Although Dalley had provided a general review of the CPM at a meeting attended by Gent and MacDonald on 26 June 1947,43 it was not actually until a subsequent meeting on 22 June 1948, a few days after a state of emergency had been declared, that he reported that the MSS had received information from a reliable source of the CPM’s plan of action.44 However, the following points should be born in mind:

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(a) The authorised establishment for Local Security Officers was 18 (11 in peninsular Malaya and 7 in Singapore),45 but with only 9 LSOs (6 in peninsular Malaya and 3 in Singapore), the MSS was operating 50 per cent under-strength, which would have seriously restricted its intelligence gathering capabilities. (b) There was a gap in the MSS coverage for Pahang, Malacca, Kelantan and Trengganu, due to a shortage of trained police intelligence officers, and the criminal investigation branches in these territories were expected to cover political intelligence and security matters for the MSS. Even though MSS officers sometimes visited these territories,46 it was not entirely a satisfactory arrangement, although it was the best that could be done in the circumstances. (c) While one of the main targets of the MSS was the CPM, which had to all intents and purposes a predominantly Malayan–Chinese membership, the only LSO who could speak Chinese was Wylie in Selangor, who had been sent pre-war by the Malayan government to study Cantonese in Canton.47 In 1947, the Chinese constituted 38.4 per cent of the total population of peninsular Malaya,48 but there were only 12 British police officers, or 3.6 per cent, out of a total establishment of 333 gazetted police officers (nearly all of whom were British) in the Malayan Police, who were able to carry on a simple conversation in Chinese.49 Moreover, throughout the Emergency, the rank-and-file of the uniformed branch of the Malayan police were handicapped by the small number of Chinese in the force, which made it difficult for Malay policemen, the vast majority of whom had no knowledge of Chinese, to establish close relations with the Chinese community. The differences of language, religion and culture acted as a formidable barrier between the two ethnic groups.50 As mentioned previously, the Director MSS maintained the right of direct access to the British Governors of Singapore and Malaya, as well as other senior government officials and service officers in both territories. Sir Edward Gent, Governor, Malayan Union, and later High Commissioner of the Federation of Malaya, referred to the MSS as a ‘combined department of the Malayan and Singapore governments’, and noted that its establishment and staff were subject to the control of the two governments.51 He confirmed that it had ‘no executive powers, [and] actual raids or arrests’ were carried out by ‘the regular police acting on the advice of the Malayan Security



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Service’.52 In this respect, as previously noted, it resembled closely MI5, the British domestic intelligence service.53 Apropos MSS’s sources of information and the running of agents, Dalley wrote in a secret letter, dated 13 July 1948, to Sir Ralph Hone, the SecretaryGeneral of the Commissioner-General for South East Asia, Singapore, in the following terms: The sources of information are too many to enumerate here but mention should be made of the potential source. It would be expected that the Police would be prolific sources of information, but mainly because they have been so absorbed in the investigation of criminal activities the amount of information received from the Police has been negligible. The main sources of information are (1) underground and secret agents (2) surveillance in all its forms. Secret agents are operated by all ranks and the results pooled in the Central Registry at HQ. Results of surveillance are also collated in the Central Registry.54

From as early as 1947, the security situation in Malaya and Singapore began to cause the government serious concern. In February 1947, an armed gang of 40 ‘bandits’ (a code name for communist terrorists) had raided Klian Intan, looted the shops in the village, and had shot dead a customs officer and several Chinese villagers, before withdrawing into the jungle. In March of the same year, acting on information received, the police recovered 230 firearms and 10,000 rounds of ammunition that had been buried in a dump some nine miles from Kuala Lumpur. It is believed that the CPM had secreted them there during the war with the intention of retrieving them later. In May 1947, what were described to the police as an ‘armed gang of communists’ derailed the Kuala Lumpur–Penang night mail train and killed eight passengers. In the same month, another armed communist gang threatened to burn down Klian Intan unless the village paid a collective ransom of $30,000. In June, Short relates that a police party and twenty ‘bandits’ engaged in an hour-long gun fight near Grik.55 ‘Bandits’ ambushed two buses with a police escort in a lorry near Klian Intan in September. Three police and six civilians were killed in this incident and 14 wounded.56 Labour unrest was growing steadily and alarmingly, both in Malaya and Singapore. In 1947–48, it became clear that the CPM was making an all-out attempt to control the trade union movement, by intimidation and force if necessary. It seemed that acts of violence and lawlessness were building up to a crescendo. In Singapore, the powerful communist-controlled Singapore

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Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) called a general strike in April 1948, and issued leaflets inciting workers to ‘bloodshed and violence’. The SFTU’s request to hold a May Day celebration with a huge procession through the city centre was refused by the Singapore Commissioner of Police, who considered that it might get out of hand and lead to rioting.57 The communists then turned their attention to Malaya, and in April and May 1948, according to government reports, there were waves of strikes throughout the country.58 The communists seized a rubber estate in north Johore and what were described as ‘communist agitators’ held it for a month. In Kedah, reliable reports were received that the communists had formed workers into military units and had drilled them. The Labour Department reported that vast quantities of rubber had been stolen by communists and some rubber estates even burnt down. On 28 May 1948, the security forces found an abandoned camp in the jungle ‘north of Baling’ large enough to contain an estimated 40 guerrillas. Twelve hand grenades were found in it.59 In the three weeks between 17 May and 7 June 1948, the communists murdered 12 rubber estate managers and foremen (11 Asian and 1 European).60 By early June 1948, the overall security situation in peninsular Malaya had deteriorated further and there were numerous reports of determined attempts by armed gangs of communists to intimidate and control labourers on rubber estates and tin mines. In the first half of June, according to government reports, there were 19 murders and attempted murders, 3 cases of arson, and armed attacks on isolated police stations in Pahang, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Johore.61 There was reliable information that members of the communist-controlled Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU) were being mobilised in the jungle to prepare for an armed struggle. On 12 June 1948, the government banned the PMFTU and it was declared an illegal association.62 The situation in Selangor was described as serious. Police reinforcements were sent to a number of isolated areas, local constabulary units were formed on rubber estates, and estate managers were issued with Sten guns for self-protection. Some managers on remote isolated rubber estates were advised to move to safer areas. In the first half of June 1948, the MSS received reliable reports that at a secret CPM meeting held at the end of April near Kajang in Selangor, a program of armed violence against the government had been adopted that involved the organisation of killer squads of former MPAJA members to carry out assassinations.63 The MSS had reported in early June that former MPAJA members in the Ipoh and Sungei Siput areas had taken to the hills,



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and ‘open’ CPM-affiliated establishments in towns, including the MPAJA Ex-Comrades Associations, were being closed.64 On 9 June 1948, Chinese detectives led by Assistant Superintendent of Police W Stafford, acting on MSS information, arrested Liew Yit-Fun, a Chinese Eurasian born in Jamaica, on a charge of sedition.65 Liew, who spoke excellent English as well as several Chinese dialects, was the ‘open’ representative of the CPM in Kuala Lumpur and manager of the Min Sheng Pau (Voice of the People), a newspaper that had commenced publication in Kuala Lumpur under communist auspices on 1 June.66 The police raided the premises of the newspaper on 15 June and arrested twenty persons found there.67 Two days later, a police raid was carried out on the headquarters of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army Ex-Servicemen’s Association in Kuala Lumpur, where eight Chinese were detained. This was the signal for police raids to be carried out on the offices of the CPM and its affiliated organisations throughout the country. By this time, most of the CPM leaders had gone underground and taken to the jungle, but 600 suspected communist supporters were detained for questioning.68 Matters were brought to a head on 12 June 1948, when a communist killer squad shot dead three Kuomintang (KMT) leaders in central Johore who were suspected of collaborating with the British colonial authorities.69 Four days later, a gang of twelve communist terrorists, armed with Sten guns and pistols, shot dead in cold blood three British rubber estate managers in the Sungei Siput district of Perak: Arthur E Walker on Elphil Estate, and John M Allison and his newly arrived assistant, Ian D Christie, on Phin Soon Estate. Although the government (and the MSS) were criticised for being slow to react to the unfolding of events, and the governor Sir Edward Gent was specially singled out for blame, a state of emergency was declared in parts of Perak and Johore, which were the most troublesome areas, on 16 June 1948.70 It was extended to the remainder of both states on 17 June and finally to the whole country on 18 June 1948. Although the murders did not mark the start of violence in Malaya, they did trigger the declaration of the state of emergency. A state of emergency was declared in Singapore a week later on 24 June 1948 and the CPM’s Singapore offices in Queen Street and the Singapore Federation of Trade Unions’ offices were raided by the police and closed down three days afterwards.71 All Malayan Police officers on leave in Britain were recalled to Malaya by air, while officers on local leave were told to report for duty.

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Finally, on 23 July 1948, the CPM and its associated organisations in Malaya and Singapore were declared illegal.72 The stage was now set for the ‘shooting war’ between the Communist Party of Malaya and the Malayan authorities that was to last twelve years. Meanwhile, at midnight on 20 June, the British colonial government had promulgated a series of Emergency Regulations that provided for the death penalty for the unlawful possession of firearms, ammunition or explosives. The writ of habeas corpus was suspended and authorised police officers were conferred with wide powers of arrest and detention. The regulations provided the authorities with extraordinary powers, such as the imposition of curfews, the seizure of any article that could be used as an offensive weapon, and the requisition of buildings, vehicles and boats. Later in the Emergency, the movement of foodstuffs and other essential supplies was controlled and the population was issued with identity cards. The Secretary of State for the Colonies recalled Gent to London on 26 June for what were described diplomatically as ‘consultations’.73 Malcolm MacDonald, at that time Governor-General, Malaya, had in fact earlier reported adversely on Gent to the Secretary of State,74 and his report was supported by the British army’s Commander-in-Chief for the Far East, and the Air Officer Commanding Malaya. MacDonald’s main complaint was that Gent had underestimated the seriousness of the situation and failed to appreciate the challenge to law and order posed by the CPM. Further, he criticised Gent for ignoring warnings by the MSS about the impending communist uprising, and failing to take action to deal with complaints about the inadequacy of the Malayan police higher command.75 It was understood that Gent would resign on arrival at London. Tragically, the RAF York transport aircraft in which he was travelling collided with a Skymaster Scandinavian Airlines airliner in bad weather on its approach to Northolt airport, and crashed. All on board the two aircraft were killed.76 The CPM’s resort to arms in many ways placed Dalley and the MSS in an awkward position. Although it appeared that Malcolm MacDonald had criticised Gent for ignoring warnings given to him by the MSS, in London, British Colonial Office officials were highly critical of what they perceived to be MSS’s failure to provide advance warning of the communist uprising that resulted in the Malayan authorities being caught off-balance when the communists took to the jungle. A Colonial Office official, for instance, writing on 29 September 1948, considered ‘there is some justification for saying authorities in Malaya were not given full warning of the scale and



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manner of the attack’. Another minute dated 11 October records, ‘By 1 June 1948, there was still no evidence produced by the MSS that the Malayan communist party was directly or indirectly involved in the campaign of lawlessness and it was not until 7 July this was forthcoming’. And later in the same minute, ‘The MSS gave no warning of the outbreak of the campaign of violence’, although it was conceded that intelligence had been received from the MSS pertaining to ‘our general knowledge about communist techniques’.77 The omission of a ‘warning’ on the part of the MSS was ascribed to ‘the insufficiency of the intelligence service’ and ‘attributed to a communist purge and to the loss of many trusted agents during the [Japanese] occupation’. The fact that the MSS was greatly understrength, and the disappearance of Lai Teck, its most important agent, has been adverted to earlier.78 The difficulty may well have been that Dalley, while providing a considerable amount of general information about the CPM, did not actually spell out the actual scale and timing of the CPM’s decision to resort to an armed struggle.79 It could be said, too, that in many cases the information he provided in the MSS’s Political Intelligence Journal was diffuse and spread over a wide range of topics, without necessarily singling out the CPM as the main target. As Short comments, Dalley did tend to give prominence to Malay, Indonesian and Kuomintang activities rather than the CPM’s, and his reports often contained inordinately long sentences that were difficult to unravel. In Short’s view, ‘the problem of having Dalley as an intelligence adviser was that he nearly always hedged his bets’. 80 The Governor of Singapore took a slightly different view and considered that the ‘pictures painted by Dalley of the Security Service’ were inclined to be too lurid and ‘he tends to assume that any agitation is communist and then looks about for evidence in support of this, where really he should proceed in the other way’.81 In any event, Dalley does not seem to have been successful in communicating, at least to the Malayan authorities, that the main threat came from the CPM and not Malay or Indonesian nationalists, such as the Malay Nationalist Party (MNP) and the Malayan Democratic Union (MDU), that were opposed to British colonial rule. Nevertheless, the records do indicate that Dalley did expound at some length in general terms on the threat posed by communism in Malaya and Singapore on 26 June 1947 at a special conference convened by Malcolm MacDonald in the Governor General’s office at Phoenix Park, Singapore, one year before the declaration of the Emergency.82 The conference was attended inter alios by Sir Edward Gent, Governor, Malayan Union; the

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

officer administering the Singapore government; the commander-in-chief British Southeast Asia Land Forces; the naval commander-in-chief; Major PH Winterborn, the acting Director of Security Intelligence Far East (the joint MI5/MI6 office located in MacDonald’s office in Singapore); as well as other senior government officials.83 It may well have been that MacDonald had this conference in mind when he said that Gent had ignored the warnings given to him by Dalley, but the records are not clear on this point. In his capacity as the senior British representative in Southeast Asia, MacDonald had observed the rise of communism in post-war Malaya and Southeast Asia, and he opened the conference with the words ‘Communism is Enemy No. 1 in these territories and in South East Asia’. He continued at some length to expatiate on the threat posed by the CPM to law and order in Malaya and Singapore, as well as the necessity for devising an effective programme of counter-measures against it.84 Dalley, as Director of the MSS, reinforced MacDonald’s account and traced in some detail the activities of the CPM, including its penetration of trade unions and Malay political organisations, such as the MNP, the MDU and left-wing anti-British political bodies, and their use as instrumentalities of subversion to foster anti-British sentiments.85 He produced a chart showing ‘the whole political set-up from the extreme left to the extreme right’. MacDonald felt that perhaps more use could be made of Kuomintang supporters in Malaya,86 who could be counted on as being anti-communist, especially in view of the civil war raging in China between the Kuomintang and CCP. But Gent and the Secretary of Chinese Affairs for Malaya did not favour this suggestion and took the view that the government should not be seen to be supporting any one political party. Dalley referred to the CPM’s overseas links, particularly with China and Russia,87 and said that three CPM representatives had been sent to attend the recent conference of British Empire communist parties in London, convened by the British Communist Party.88 MacDonald and Dalley both made it clear that the CPM’s first aim was to overthrow the British colonial government in Malaya.89 With regard to police intelligence, MacDonald remarked that the MSS and SIFE were ‘complementary’ and working together,90 but he was aware that both organisations were short of ‘competent trained personnel’. He said that consideration could be given to augmenting their staff from overseas if suitably qualified staff were not available locally. Gent pointed out that the establishment and staff of the MSS, as a ‘combined department’ of the Malayan and Singapore governments, was subject to the control of the two governments. It was then proposed that Dalley should first consult the Malayan and Singapore Commissioners of Police to see whether they



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agreed to the establishment of the MSS being increased by the seconding of any suitably qualified officers from their respective police forces before consideration was given to bringing in officers from outside. Winterborn agreed that qualified personnel with intelligence training were scarce, but said that nevertheless MI5 had been able to obtain some recruits, mainly from former British officers of the Indian Police.91 As this high-level conference was held in June 1947, it is likely that Dalley’s presentation about the CPM was based on information that had been provided by Lai Teck, the CPM’s secretary-general, before he disappeared in March 1947. But from then on, once Dalley’s main source of ‘inside’ toplevel information about the CPM was no longer in place, he would obviously be at a great disadvantage in providing detailed information about the CPM’s plans. This, in fact, may well explain why Dalley later laid himself open to criticism for not forewarning the government in more precise terms of the CPM’s decision to take up arms,92 although it was generally acknowledged that he was able to provide a great deal of valuable background information about the CPM and his intelligence canvas was not entirely blank. However, Dalley’s reports on Malay and Indonesian subversive activities in Malaya, in which he had showed a special interest dating back to 1930–31 when he had been stationed in Perak dealing with Malay political activities and Malay secret societies, continued to be impressive, and his network of Malay informers was still intact.93 Dalley was not a ‘Chinese-language officer’ and it is probably fair to say that he was more at home in dealing with Malay and Indonesian political movements than Chinese. Both Tan Sri Dato’ Mubin Sheppard, a senior Malayan Civil Service officer, and Norman Cleveland, a tin-miner and member of the Malayan Legislative Council in Kuala Lumpur, who knew Dalley well, testify to his expert knowledge of Malay criminal and subversive movements.94 Dalley also continued to be well-informed about Kuomintang activities in Malaya. His source was most probably Khaw Kai Boh, then an MSS inspector in Perak, who was responsible for breaking up the Kuomintang underground organisation in Perak in 1946–47.95 Khaw himself maintained close links with the Kuomintang, which provided him with unrivalled knowledge about its activities. Khaw was undoubtedly a capable intelligence officer, if somewhat controversial, and on the demise of the MSS, he transferred to the Special Branch. After qualifying as a barrister in London, he later left the Special Branch to become a junior minister in Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s government after Malayan independence.96

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

The evidence appears to support the view that Dalley’s focus on subversives other than the Malayan Communist Party was due to his having to rely on skewed sources of information to which he had access after March 1947 when his main agent, Lai Teck, vanished from the scene. Malay political associations and their connection with Indonesia were always given prominence in MSS reports. When Malcolm MacDonald informed the Colonial Office on 6 July 1948 that the MSS, for various reasons, had not succeeded in getting more than a fraction of the information needed about the CPM’s strength and plans and that ‘we are groping in the dark’, it should have been clear to Dalley that the very existence of the MSS was under threat.97 This is probably the reason why, a month after the declaration of the Emergency, Dalley wrote on 13 July 1948 to Sir Ralph Hone98 to say, rather ominously, that he had heard of ‘a number of discussions which have been taking place regarding the future of MSS’. He added that a ‘Brigadier from Far East Land Forces Headquarters’, Singapore, had told him the previous day that the ‘MSS as present constituted was about to cease to exist’.99 The main purpose of Dalley’s writing the letter, which reads somewhat like an apologia, was to ensure that Hone was aware of the role, organisation and activities of the MSS and the difficulties under which it had operated since the end of the war. He wrote that the MSS had been ‘desperately short of staff’ from early 1947, and although he had requested the Malayan and Singapore Commissioners of Police to second suitable police officers to the MSS to bring it up to strength, they had not fully acceded to his request. He went on to complain that he had been hampered throughout by an acute shortage of office staff and translators, and that the government pay scale for these positions was unattractively low compared with the going rate in the open market. The result of this had been a considerable backlog of CPM documents in Chinese awaiting translation. It is odd that he did not refer to the CPM by name in his letter. He did maintain, however, that he had forecast on several occasions ‘the events which are occurring in Malaya today’, and asserted that ‘much detailed information has been passed on to various authorities in Malaya, including the Police, most of which recommended action’.100 There is no trace in the files of Hone’s reply to this letter. In any event, as it turned out, the information Dalley had received about the future of the MSS proved to be correct, and soon afterwards, he was instructed to wind up the operations of the MSS and hand over its staff and functions to the Singapore and Malayan Special Branches. The MSS was



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officially disbanded on 23 August 1948 and its functions taken over by the two Special Branches, which had been re-formed and subsumed as subdivisions respectively of the Malayan and Singapore CIDs,101 where they came under the overall command of the respective Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the CID in each territory.102 The official annual reports of the Malayan and Singapore police forces are silent as to the actual reasons for the demise of the MSS but the Report of the Police Mission to Malaya (1950), in referring to the winding-up of the MSS, concludes rather laconically (although it gives the date incorrectly as the ‘early part of 1949’) that ‘it made for efficiency to distribute its [MSS] work and staff among the two Special Branches’.103 But the real version is likely to be found in the dissatisfaction with the performance of MSS as the government’s main intelligence agency and its perceived failure to warn the Malayan government in good time of the CPM’s intentions to wage war against it. On reviewing the information now available, there is no doubt, too, that Dalley’s personality played a not inconsiderable part in the government’s decision to dissolve the MSS. He was by all accounts untactful and a rather difficult person to deal with and he did not entirely endear himself with many of his former police colleagues when he made it clear that he regarded the MSS as his own separate ‘empire’ outside the established police structure. He has been described by several Special Branch officers who knew him as a ‘prima donna’ and a ‘loner’, who ran the MSS very much as his own ‘cloak and dagger’ operation.104 There is a little-known incident, too, involving Dalley and Sir Percy Sillitoe, the Director-General of MI5, who was visiting Singapore at the time and staying with Sir Franklin Gimson, the Singapore Governor.105 According to the Governor’s Secretary, Christopher Blake, Dalley was ‘irritated’ at the way he thought he had ‘been sent for’ to meet Sillitoe to provide him with a briefing on MSS’s activities, which he interpreted as implying criticism of what the MSS had been doing, and he referred to Sillitoe in a derogatory fashion as a ‘Glasgow corner boy’, or a good-fornothing loafer or idler. When this somehow came to Sillitoe’s ears, he was incensed by what Dalley had said, especially as he was rather sensitive about his social background as he had not come from the usual privileged background of most of the MI5 officers at the time and had started life as a constable in the Glasgow Police Force. Before the meeting commenced, which was attended by Gimson, Blake and Dalley, Sillitoe ‘confronted a startled Dalley with his alleged remark’

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and refused to start the meeting until Dalley tendered an apology. Blake writes that he had ‘seldom witnessed so tense a scene’ and it was obvious that the head of the British domestic intelligence service and the head of the Malayan Security Service had got off to a bad start.106 On the dissolution of the MSS, Dalley retired as Director MSS and returned to Britain, thus ending his long career in Malaya, which had begun in 1920.107 However, the matter did not end there. Many years later, Dalley entered into correspondence with Hugh Bryson, a former Malayan Civil Service officer and then Secretary of the Association of British Malaya, London, whom he had known in Malaya, to provide his version of events. It is not known why he waited so long to write about events that had occurred some twenty years earlier. In letters he wrote on 10 February and 3 July 1965, he maintained that he had written in September 1947 to Sir Edward Gent, the Malayan Governor, to urge action against ‘armed Communists training and encamped in the jungle’, but Gent had been reluctant to do so.108 According to Dalley, his concern had been referred to the Malayan Commissioner of Police (HB Langworthy), and the British Residents of Johore and Perak for their comments. The Malayan Chief Secretary had replied to him on behalf of Gent that the Commissioner of Police, the two British Residents, and the Chief Police Officers of Johore and Perak, had disagreed with the information he had provided and his assessment of it. However, on a visit to Ipoh, Perak, during the first part of 1948, when Dalley had called on the British Resident, Dalley wrote that the latter had then admitted that the information he had provided was correct. According to Dalley, he had persistently advocated the coordination of action by the security forces against the CPM throughout Malaya and Singapore, and had recommended that known ‘open’ and ‘secret’ communist offices should be raided by the police, and combined police and army operations mounted against the communist guerrilla camps that he had by then located in the jungle. Dalley maintained that although the Singapore government was willing to take action on his reports, and the Governor-General, Malcolm MacDonald, supported him, Gent was reluctant to do so and refused to accept the veracity of his reports.109 In his correspondence with Bryson, Dalley wrote that ‘in December 1947, I was desperate. I wrote out about three pages of Gent’s omissions and commissions. I sent one copy to MacDonald and one copy to Gent. In April 1948’, he continued, ‘a number of conferences were held when it was



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obvious to everybody that an uprising was about to take place (Singapore took independent action on April 14th)—Malayan Union refused to cooperate or coordinate [sic]’.110 Further, Dalley asserted that in May 1948, at a conference in Kuala Lumpur, he had produced an estimate of the strength of the CPM, details of their plan of action, and proposals for counter-action. He estimated there were 5,000 ‘activists’ (presumably referring to armed members of the MNLA who had already taken to the jungle) and 250,000 supporters (Min Yuen and other ‘open’ communist-affiliated organisations) among the population in towns and villages. The figure of 5,000 activists, he asserted, was based on reliable information obtained by the MSS, while the 250,000 was an estimate of the known membership of communistcontrolled organisations. The last conference Gent attended before he departed for London was held at Malcolm MacDonald’s residence at Bukit Serene in Johore Bahru early in June 1948. According to Dalley, Gent was ‘very subdued’ on this occasion. He asked to see Dalley privately, and then, according to Dalley, ‘he produced from an attaché case the memorandum I had written on his omissions and commissions and went through it paragraph by paragraph, admitted it all and asked me if we could continue to be friends. As we shook hands on it, I felt quite emotional but my main feeling was one of relief, feeling that when he reached London he would give full support to all-out action. It was sad that he did not reach London’.111 As stated earlier, it is not clear why Dalley waited so long to provide an account of his version of events and answer the strictures that had been passed on him. It is possible, of course, that he did issue a rebuttal at the time but, if so, it has not been possible to trace any record of this in the official records. There is no record, too, of Bryson’s replies to what Dalley had written. It may well be that additional information will come to light when further official files dealing with police intelligence are released into the public domain. In view of the lack of official documents, it is sometimes a puzzle to understand actions and intentions.112 In the meantime, too, the main characters referred to by Dalley who would be in a position to substantiate his version of events, such as, Gent, MacDonald, Langworthy (then Commissioner of Police), J Innes Miller (British Resident, Perak) and ENF Pretty (British Resident, Johore), have all passed from the scene. This long chapter describes why the British Colonial Office was so dissatisfied with the MSS, although evidence to explain the decision to abolish the MSS altogether is not available. In this dissatisfaction we note a

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rising tone of alarm about the successes of the Malayan–Chinese communists and the incapacity of the MSS to respond to the challenge. However, some of the problems facing the MSS were endemic to the nature of British intelligence in Malaya at this time and the lack of expertise in Chinese languages. Other problems were endemic to the state of lawlessness and confusion that confronted the British when they returned after the Second World War. Did the effectiveness of British intelligence improve when the Special Branch took over in August 1948? This is the subject of the next chapter.

Notes 1 2 3

4 5

6

7 8

An earlier version of this chapter (‘The Malayan Security Service (1945–1948’) appeared in Intelligence and National Security, 18(3), 2003. See BMA Annual Report Singapore Police 1946, Singapore: Government Printer, 1947, passim. The Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945. Lieutenant Colonel HB Langworthy, a senior pre-war Malayan police officer, commanded the Malayan Civil Affairs Police unit, and Lieutenant Colonel RE Foulger commanded the Civil Affairs Police unit in Singapore. Langworthy joined the Federated Malay States Police as a cadet gazetted officer in July 1920. He served mainly in the uniformed branch of the police, and was Chief Police Officer, Selangor, with the rank of police superintendent, at the time of the Japanese invasion. RE Foulger, a pre-war officer of the Straits Settlements Police, became Commissioner of Police, Singapore, 1945–50. (See Sir John Harding and GEJ Gent (eds), The Dominions Office and Colonial Office List for 1940, London & Dunstable: Waterloo & Sons Ltd., 1941, p 392, and FCO Library JF 1521, Malayan Establishment Staff List as at 1 July 1941, p 53). Short, op cit, p. 80. Short’s book, which has been reprinted in Singapore by Cultured Pearl Pte Ltd, remains the standard account of the Malayan Emergency. TPP Mohd Reduan Haji Aslie and Inspector Mohd Radzuan Haji Ibrahim, Polis Diraja Malaysia: Sejarah, Peranan dan Cabaran (‘The Royal Malaysian Police: History, Role and Challenge’), Kuala Lumpur: Kumpulan Karangkraf Sdn Bhd, 1987, p 311. The authority for the use of the name ‘Malayan Secret Service’ is not given and the author, who was in the Malayan police at the time, never heard it used. The MSS was usually referred to in Malay as Cawangan Khas, and the same term was used later for the Special Branch (see ‘Laporan Madoc dan Reaksi Tanah Melayu’, www.pulo.org/ laporan.htm, 28 October 2002). MSS Ind Ocn S.254 (2), Rhodes House Library, Oxford, JD Dalley, Director MSS, secret letter reference MS.86 dated 13 July 1948 to Sir Ralph Hone, KBE, MC, TD, KC, Commissioner-General’s Office, Singapore, p 2. John Coates, Suppressing the Emergency. An Analysis of the Malayan Emergency, 1946–1954, Boulder: Westview Press, 1992, pp 24–5. See report by AH Dickinson, CMG, OBE, former Inspector-General of the Straits Settlements Police, to the Colonial Office, dated 12 January 1946, entitled ‘Organizations in Malaya Concerned in the Period September 1939–February 1942 with Political Intelligence and Security’, pp 1–4, BEAM Collection, Royal Commonwealth Library,



9

10 11

12 13 14

15 16

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Cambridge University. Peter Elphick drew the author’s attention to this document, and both he and DA (Douglas) Weir supplied copies of it to the author. The latter is a former senior Malayan police officer who served in the uniformed branch, CID, and Special Branch of the Malayan Police (1939–55). He was police staff officer on General Sir Harold Brigg’s staff when the latter was Director of Operations in 1951. After retiring from the police, he qualified in law. Arthur Harold Dickinson, CMG, OBE, joined the Straits Settlements police in Singapore in 1912. He spent most of his career in the Special Branch in Singapore, Malacca and Penang, and was promoted Inspector-General of the Straits Settlements Police in July 1939. See letter PA.1/3 dated 19 January 1946, p 5, from René H de S Onraet, Police Adviser, BMA, to Chief Civil Affairs Officers, HQ BMA, Kuala Lumpur. The Special Branch had been formed in late 1918 as part of the CID of the Straits Settlements Police. Its first Director was G Savi (see Ban Kah Choon, Absent History. The Untold Story of Special Branch Operations in Singapore 1915–1942, Singapore: SNP Media Pte Ltd, 2001, p 74). Onraet was Dickinson’s predecessor as Inspector-General of the Straits Settlements Police, 1936–39. After the Second World War, he was recalled from retirement by the Colonial Office to advise the BMA on the constitution and reorganisation of the Malayan and Singapore police forces. Onraet’s article ‘Building the Special Branch’, The Straits Times, 12 January 1946, p 6, also adverts to Dickinson forming the MSS pre-war to amalgamate the work of the Singapore and Malayan Special Branches. See Dickinson, op cit, p 2, and ‘The Intelligence Organisation’ www.britain-at-war. org.uk/WW2/London_Gazette_1948/html/body_p1s8.htm (28 October 2002). For an interesting account of Japanese intelligence operations in Malaya before the war, see Eric Robertson, The Japanese File, Hong Kong: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia) Ltd, 1979, especially chapters headed ‘The Growth of the Japanese Community in Malaya’ (pp 23–9) and ‘The Espionage Network’ (pp 156–64). Robertson’s book is based on secret Special Branch records brought out of Singapore just before it fell to the Japanese, and the book had to be cleared by the British Foreign Office before it was published. See also GJ Roberts, ‘British Management of the Japanese Problems in Malaya during the Tenure of Governor Shenton Thomas, 1934–1942’, BA (History) thesis, Faculty of Social Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia, 1 November 1996. Dickinson, op cit, pp 2–4. ibid. See also Peter Elphick, Singapore: The Pregnable Fortress. A Study in Deception, Discord and Desertion, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995, p 80. Onraet in his letter to the BMA Chief Civil Affairs Officer (see fn 9 supra), in referring to the post-war MSS, opined that he and the BMA Malayan and Singapore Commissioners of Police would actually have preferred to call the MSS by its ‘old name of Special Branch’. However, as Onraet brings out, the BMA Chief Civil Affairs Officer favoured the re-establishment of the pan-Malayan Malayan Security Service to meet the security problems resulting from the aftermath of war, the Japanese occupation, as well as the ‘future conditions of uncertainty’. See BMA Annual Report, op cit, passim. See Yoji Akashi, ‘Lai Teck, Secretary General of the Malayan Communist Party 1939–1947’ in CF Yong, (guest editor), Journal of the South Seas Society (special issue ‘Singapore Politics in the Late Colonial Era’), Vol 49, 1994, p 58 et seq. The kempeitei, a Japanese term meaning literally ‘military police unit’, has a much more sinister

48

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18 19

20

21

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connotation in Japanese than in English and it is much closer to the German Gestapo, the secret state police noted for its ruthlessness and brutal methods of interrogation, than it is to the British idea of ‘military police’. Author’s personal knowledge. The author was then a major in the BMA Civil Affairs Police, initially based at Central Police Station, High Street, Kuala Lumpur, and was kept in close touch with events in Singapore. After a few weeks, he was transferred to Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan, on the northeast coast of Malaya, as Commissioner of Police, Kelantan. After the civil government took over from the military administration in April 1946, the post was designated Chief Police Officer (CPO), Kelantan. BMA Annual Report, op cit. Akashi, op cit, p 59; Paul H Kratoska, The Japanese Occupation of Malaya 1941–1945, St Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1998, p 360, and Willard H Elsbree, Japan’s Role in Southeast Asian Nationalist Movements 1940 to 1945, New York: Russell and Russell, 1953, p 148. See also Vice-Admiral The Earl of Mountbatten of Burma, Post Surrender Tasks. Section E of the Report to the Combined Chiefs of Staff by the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia 1943–1945, London: HMSO, 1969, pp 301–2. BMA Annual Report, op cit, passim. A good description of the social effects of the war is given by TN Harper in his unpublished paper ‘Health, Welfare and the Reconstruction of the Colonial State in Malaya 1945–1948’, presented at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Conference held at the Centre for Advanced Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 1–3 February 1989. In the three years leading up to the outbreak of the Emergency in June 1948, there were several other political parties in existence in Malaya that were of interest to the MSS, including the Kuomintang, Malay Nationalist Party (MNP), Malayan Democratic Union (MDU), Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). The CPM had close connections with the left-wing MDU and MNP. According to Lieutenant Colonel John Dalley, Director, Malayan Security Service, the CPM had ‘seeded’ the MNP with a large donation of funds at the end of the war (MSS. Ind. Ocn. S. 254, Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Top Secret, ‘Special Conference held under the Chairmanship of H.E. the Governor-General on 26 June 1947’, contained in JD Dalley, ‘Threat of Communism in Malaya and Singapore, 1947’). By the end of 1948, only UMNO and MIC survived. The CPM itself was proscribed on 23 July 1948, about a month after the declaration of a state of emergency. Four other political parties with communist connections were banned at the same time: MPAJA Ex-Servicemen’s Association, New Democratic Youth League, Ikatan Pemuda Tanah Ayer (PETA) (a Malay youth movement), and the Indian New Democratic Youth League. See CAB 128/13, CM 52 (48) 5, ‘Proscription of the Malayan Communist Party’, and Cheah Boon Kheng, ‘Some Aspects of the Malayan Emergency: 1948–1960’, in Khoo Kay Kim (ed), The History of South-East, South and East Asia. Essays and Documents, Kuala Lumpur, Oxford University Press, 1977, pp 111–23. CO 537/3752, Malayan Security Service Political Intelligence Journal, no. 14/48, Supplement No. 9 of 1948, dated 31 July 1948. Dalforce, originally called Dalco, was formed in Kuala Lumpur in December 1941 as a guerrilla unit to operate behind the Japanese lines. When it withdrew to Singapore, it was augmented by Chinese volunteers, including some communist cadres released from Changi Jail, and took part in the fierce fighting against the Japanese that ensued in Singapore in February 1942. Lieutenant Colonel Dalley’s second-in-command



24

25

26 27

28 29

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was Major Foh Toh Cheng. Each company was commanded by a British officer. (See Singapore Records Office, MLF11. MLF/377, HQ Chief Civil Affairs Officer, British Military Administration (Malaya), Kuala Lumpur, 8 January 1946, and Peter Elphick, Far Eastern File. The Intelligence War in the Far East 1930–1945, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1997, p 338). After the war, Dalley became the Director of the Malayan Security Service. A Short History of the Malayan Communist Party, Confidential, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1955, p 22. No author’s name is indicated, but it was an official document with the aim, as described in the preface, of describing ‘the origins and development of the Communist Party of Malaya and its policies for the information of Government Officers in South-East Asia’. It is believed to have been written by JH Brimmell, a senior MI5 officer, who was recognised as an authority on communism in Southeast Asia. The Cold War was officially ended at a summit meeting in Malta in December 1989 between Presidents Bush and Gorbachev. By then, the communist regimes of the Warsaw Pact countries in Europe were collapsing and NATO began to change its role and invited the former Soviet countries, including Russia, to join a ‘partnership for peace’. Gazetted officers were considered the equivalent of commissioned officers in the British armed forces and inspectors the equivalent of senior non-commissioned officers. After the Second World War, the rank of British inspector was gradually abolished. Some of the British inspectors were offered promotion to gazetted rank if they were considered suitable, while the remainder were allowed to retire on pension (see Onraet’s letter of 19 January 1946, op cit, p 2). Suitably qualified Asians then filled the vacancies for inspectors left by the departure of the British inspectors. In 1948, there were 250 gazetted officers, 226 Asian and 28 British inspectors, 495 British sergeants, 693 detectives, and 10,900 rank and file (9,764 Malays and 1,136 Indians) in the Malayan Police (see WO106/5990, ‘Strength and Composition of the Army and Police’, Tables I and II, Appendix B, and Annual Report, Federation of Malaya Police 1948, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printers, 1949, pp 122–3). ibid., p 6. Major Kenneth Sayce Morgan (b. 1895), a British officer of the Indian Army, was recruited by Onraet in 1936 as an assistant superintendent of police in the Singapore Special Branch to head the newly formed Japanese section. While in the Indian Army, he qualified as a first-class interpreter in Russian as well as Japanese, and had served in the Indian Intelligence Bureau at Simla. See Elphick, op cit 1997, pp 127–8, 130, 134–6, 138, 149, 176–8, 184, 230 and 461. Lieutenant Colonel John Douglas Dalley (b. 1900) joined the Federated Malay States Police in November 1920. Before the war he served in Kedah, Selangor, Johore, Perak, Singapore and Trengganu, and was promoted to superintendent in 1938. On 1 January 1940, he was Director of Criminal Intelligence, Federated Malay States. He commanded Dalforce during the fighting in Singapore with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel, and escaped to Sumatra at the fall of Singapore, where he was captured by the Japanese and brought back to Singapore. He was interned in Singapore 1942–45. On his return to Malaya after the war, he became Director MSS in 1947. (The Dominions Office & Colonial Office List 1940, London & Dunstable: Waterlow & Sons Ltd, 1940, p 688; FCO Library JF 1521, Malayan Establishment Staff List as at 1 July 1941, p. 53; The Colonial Office List 1948, London: HMSO, 1948, p 428). Dalley had a long connection

50

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32 33

34

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

with Malaya. His only son, Peter John Layard Dalley, a captain in the Royal Artillery attached to the British Army Air Corps, was tragically killed in an aircraft crash in Taiping in February 1958, during the Emergency (letter to author from Robin Corfield dated 8 April 1992. See also Justin Corfield and Michael Thomson (eds), The Corian 1998, Corio, Victoria: Geelong Grammar School, 1999, p 420). BMA Annual Report, op cit. EAG Blades, OBE, CPM (b. 1907), a quintessential ‘career’ Special Branch officer, had a distinguished career in the Singapore Police, culminating in his being appointed the last British Commissioner of Police 1958–63. He joined the Malayan Police as a cadet on 21 February 1930 when gazetted British police officers formed part of a combined Malayan–Singaporean police establishment and were liable for service in either territory. He was confirmed as an assistant superintendent of police in 1932, and in 1936 was sent to Japan for Japanese language training. On returning to Singapore, he was appointed head of the Counter-Japanese Encroachment Unit of the Singapore Special Branch, dealing with the growing menace of Japanese espionage in pre-war Singapore and Malaya. At the fall of Singapore, Blades escaped to India, where he was employed from 1942 to 1945 on intelligence duties in the Far Eastern Bureau of the Ministry of Information in New Delhi. On returning to Singapore after the war, he joined the MSS until it was disbanded in 1948. He was promoted to Superintendent of Police in 1948, and Assistant Commissioner Special Branch in 1950. In 1953, he was promoted to Senior Assistant Commissioner, and two years later became Director of the Singapore Special Branch. In 1958, he was appointed Commissioner of Police, Singapore, a post he held until he retired to Britain in 1963. He was the last British officer to hold this appointment. Blades had a distinctive appearance, as he was the only gazetted officer in the Singapore/Malayan police forces allowed to wear a small goatee beard, which he kept neatly trimmed. Letters to author, dated 10 June 1994 and 10 March 1995, from GC Madoc, CBE, KPM, CPM, former Director of Intelligence, Malaya. GJA O’Toole, Honorable Treachery. A History of US Intelligence, Espionage, and Covert Action from the American Revolution to the CIA, New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991, p 447. CO 537/3752 cited in Richard Stubbs, Hearts and Minds in Guerrilla Warfare. The Malayan Emergency 1948–1960, Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989, pp 58–9. After Lai Teck fled overseas with the CPM’s funds, Chin Peng was detailed to track him down. He was eventually located in Bangkok in 1947 where, according to Chin Peng, he was inadvertently strangled by Communist Party of Thailand cadres when he put up fierce resistance to being apprehended by them. His body was placed in a hessian sack and thrown into the fast-flowing waters of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. The missing CPM Party funds were never recovered (Chin Peng, op cit, p 1980; Chin & Hack, op cit, p 131: Xing Zhou Daily News, 19, 21–29 June 1998). Lai Teck led a life of political intrigue and adventure, and was a triple agent who was employed during his time by the French, British and Japanese secret services. Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1953, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1954, p 232. See also Malayan Establishment Staff List 1948, pp 90–1. Short, op cit, p 80, refers to them as ‘Security Liaison Officers’ but this title was actually used for the MI5 officers stationed in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and not MSS officers.



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37 NG (Nigel) Morris joined the Straits Settlements Police in 1934, and served as an Assistant Superintendent in the Special Branch (1937–39). He was promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police in 1948 after leaving the MSS, and served again in the Special Branch before eventually becoming Singapore’s Commissioner of Police (1953–57). 38 IS (Ian) Wylie was an Assistant Superintendent of Police in 1941. He escaped from Singapore to Australia at the time of the Japanese invasion and was commissioned in the British army. He served in the Inter-Service Liaison Department, a cover name for the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), and was dropped by parachute into Johore towards the end of war. After leaving the MSS, he headed the Malayan Special Branch at Federal Police headquarters in 1949, and eventually became Deputy Commissioner of Police (1955–58). 39 HTB (Harvey) Ryves was head of the Johore State Special Branch in 1953, and subsequently became head of the Malayan Special Branch at Federal Police headquarters before retiring to England. 40 RB (Richard) Corridon was the only MSS officer who had not served pre-war in the Malayan/Singapore Police. He was born in India, and during the Second World War served as an officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps in India. He came to Malaya with the BMA. After leaving the MSS as Assistant Director for Indian Affairs, he joined the Singapore Special Branch. He remained in Singapore after independence as a Special Branch officer and later headed the Singapore Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. He worked closely with the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. (The author is grateful to Mrs Claire Corridon for the information she provided in her letters of 26 April and 10 May 1994 about her late husband). 41 Author’s interview with Francis Stuart in Canberra, 28 January 1993. See also Francis Stuart, Toward Coming of Age. A Foreign Service Odyssey, Brisbane: Division of Asian and International Studies, Centre for the Study of Australian–Asian Relations, Griffith University, 1989, pp 117–18. 42 Short, op cit, p 85. 43 Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Mss Ind Ocn S 254, JD Dalley papers, Top Secret, ‘Threat of Communism in Malaya and Singapore, 1947’, containing minutes of Special Conference held Under the Chairmanship of HE the Governor-General, 26 June 1947. 44 Short, op cit, p 85. 45 Malayan Establishment Staff List 1948, pp 90–1. 46 Secret letter MS 86, dated 13 July 1948, from Dalley to Hone, op cit. 47 Author’s notes. 48 The 1947 total mid-year population of peninsular Malaya was 4,908,086. The racial composition by percentages was Malays 49.5 (2,427,834), Chinese 38.4 (1,884,534), Indians and Pakistanis 10.8 (530,638), and others 1.3 (65,080). The Malays outnumbered the Chinese as a whole. 49 See Straits Budget, 15 December 1949, and Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1949, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printers, 1950, p 139. 50 See Leon Comber, 13 May 1949. A Historical Survey of Sino-Malay Relations, Kuala Lumpur: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia) Ltd, 1983, p 6. 51 MSS Ind Ocn S.254, Top Secret, ‘Special Conference, etc,’ op cit, p 27.

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52 ibid. 53 See Nigel West, MI5, New York: Military Heritage Press, 1981, p 158, and Tony Bunyan, The History and Practice of the Political Police in Britain, London: Julian Fiedmann Publishers, 1976, p 118. Sir John Moylan in his book Scotland Yard and the Metropolitan Police (London & New York: Putnam & Co, 1934, p 217) describes the British Special Branch as the ‘English substitute for a political police’. Like the MSS and MI5, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has no powers of arrest, which have to be carried out on its behalf by the Australian police. ASIO was founded in 1949, with responsibility for Australia’s internal security, and it maintained from its early days a fraternal relationship with the Malayan Special Branch. (See Richard Hall, The Secret State. Australia’s Spy Industry, Stanmore & North Melbourne: Cassell Australia Ltd, 1978, p vi). 54 ibid, pp 4 and 5. 55 Short, op cit, pp 27, 32. 56 ibid, p 27. 57 ibid. 58 The Federation of Malaya and its Police, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1952, pp 28–9. 59 Short, op cit, p 27. 60 The Federation of Malaya and its Police, op cit, p 29, and Yuen Yuet Leng, ‘Operation Ginger. A Federal Food Denial Operation, 1958–1959’, unpublished ms, pp 21–2. Dato’ Seri Yuen Yuet Leng served as a District Special Branch Officer (DSBO) and thereafter occupied several senior positions during the Emergency in the Malayan Special Branch before becoming Chief Police Officer in Perak (February 1976–February 1981) and a key figure in the Perak State Security Committee. 61 A Short History of the Malayan Communist Party, op cit, p 21. 62 Yuen Yuet Leng, op cit, p 3–4. A succinct account of the events leading up to the outbreak of the Emergency is given in Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 7th Volume (10–17 July 1948), London & Bristol, Keesing’s Publications Ltd, 1948, columns 9391–9392A. The CPM’s decision to resort to violence was taken at the 4th Plenary Session of the Central Committee on 21 March 1948 and it was ratified at the 5th Plenary Session of the Central Committee held on 10 May 1948 at a rubber estate in south Johore, at the 17½ milestone Johore Bahru–Kulai Road. The MPAJA issued a ‘call to arms’ against the British on 10 June 1948. See Chin Peng, op cit, p 207 and Chin & Hack, op cit, p 287. 63 At the time, a communist ‘killer squad’ sent the author—who at the beginning of the Emergency was Officer-in-Charge Police District (OCPD), Kuala Lumpur South, Central Police Station, High Street, Kuala Lumpur—a death threat through the post. 64 Yuen Yuet Leng, op cit, p 4. 65 Stafford was then Officer-in-Charge Detectives, Central Police Station, High Street, Kuala Lumpur, and usually carried two revolvers on his belt, for which he was dubbed ‘Two-Gun Stafford’ in the local press (author’s notes). 66 According to MSS records, Liew was born in Jamaica in 1914, and educated in Hong Kong. His father was Chinese and his mother English. He joined the CPM in 1938, and served with the 3rd Regiment MPAJA during the Japanese occupation (CO 537/3751,



67 68 69 70 71

72

73 74 75 76 77

78 79

80 81 82

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Supplement no. 3, MSS PIJ no 1/48, dated 1 April 1948, Who’s Who Serial No 50, PF No 11/282). See also Keesing’s Contemporary Archives (10–18 July 1948). The Times (London), 17 June 1948. Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 10–18 July 1948. The Times (London), 14 June 1948. Throughout the Emergency, Perak and Johore were to remain hotbeds of communist terrorist activity and a thorn in the side of the Malayan Special Branch. The Times (London), 17, 18, 25 and 28 June 1948. On the afternoon of 16 June, a delegation from the Malayan rubber planting industry met Sir Edward Gent, the Malayan High Commissioner. Their spokesman said, ‘There was straight talking, and we demanded immediate, ruthless action’ (see Peter Edwards, ‘The Adoption of Armed Struggle by the MCP in 1948’, discussion paper presented at the Chin Peng Workshop, Australian National University, Canberra, 22–23 February 1999, pp 1–3; and Yuen Yuet Leng, op cit, pp 4–5). CO 537/3753, No 35, MSS Political Intelligence Journal No 15/48, 15 August 1948, and A Short History of the Malayan Communist Party, op cit, p 22. The delay of one month in banning the CPM was probably due to the British government wishing to ensure without any possible doubt that the Communist Party of Malaya was responsible for the campaign of violence in Malaya. The Times (London), 29 June 1948. CAB 129/28, CP (48) 171, dated 1 July 1948,’The Situation in Malaya’: Cabinet memorandum by Mr Creech Jones, para 15 (viii). Sanger, op cit, pp 293–5. The Times (London), 5 July 1948, and Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, op cit, 4 July 1948, column 9379C. CO 537/3753, ‘Malaya—Political Developments. Political Intelligence Journals’. See minute from JB Williams dated 4 September 1948 to JD Higham, Assistant Secretary, Head of the Colonial Office’s Eastern Department, South East Asia Department, and Trafford Smith. The minute dated 29 September is signed by a Colonial Office official named ‘Robertson’, but it is not possible to decipher the signature appended to the subsequent minute dated 11 October 1948. ibid. CO 537/3753, ‘Malaya—Political Developments. Political Intelligence Journals’. See minute from JB Williams, dated 4 September 1948, to JD Higham, Assistant Secretary, Head of the Colonial Office’s Eastern Department, South East Asia Department, and Trafford Smith, which acknowledged, however, that intelligence had been received from the MSS pertaining to ‘our general knowledge about communist techniques’. Short, op cit, pp 80–2, 84. CO 537/3751, Top Secret letter from Sir Franklin Gimson, Governor of Singapore, to HT Bourdillon, Colonial Office, dated 26 February 1948. Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Mss Ind Ocn S 254, JD Dalley papers, Top Secret, ‘Threat of Communism in Malaya and Singapore, 1947’, containing minutes of Special Conference held Under the Chairmanship of H.E. the Governor-General, 26 June 1947. This report does not appear to have been referred to by Anthony Short.

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ibid. ibid, p 2. Chin Peng, op cit, p 155. There were Kuomintang consular representatives in Malaya until Britain recognised communist China on 6 January 1950. Although they were anti-communist and manoeuvring to obtain official recognition by the British of the Kuomintang in Malaya, they were not averse at the same time to criticising British colonial policy. For instance, YT Ma (Ma Tin Ying), the Kuomintang Chinese Consul in Kuala Lumpur, who was a Chinese Moslem, made several forthright remarks in this respect in 1948. While deploring the CPM’s recourse to arms, he suggested that the British colonial government in Malaya was responsible for what had happened because they had treated the MPAJA shabbily at the end of the war ‘by paying them a few hundred dollars’ for their wartime services, whereas British government officials who had been interned by the Japanese during the war were paid ‘thousands of dollars arrears in salary’ (CO 717/183, Pan Malayan Review, No 2, Part 1, ‘Sino-Malaya Relations’, Secret Political Intelligence Review, 19 January 1949). 87 Most of the communist parties in Southeast Asia accepted the premises of the Chinese view of the Asian situation. The pro-Chinese parties then included those in Malaya, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, North Korea, Vietnam and Thailand (see DE Kennedy, The Security of Southern Asia, London: Chatto & Windus for the Institute for Strategic Studies, 1965, pp 113–15). In mid-1949, after the Malayan Special Branch took over from the MSS, it was instrumental in arranging for the New China News Agency’s Morse transmissions from what was then referred to as Peiping (Beijing) to be monitored by the Telecommunications Department, Kuala Lumpur. Similarly, the Special Branch arranged for Radio Malaya to monitor on its behalf the language broadcasts from the same station (CO 717/183, Secret, Federation of Malaya Monthly Newsletter, No 6, 16 June–16 July 1949). 88 The full name of the conference held in London in February 1947 and convened by the British Communist Party, was the 2nd Empire Conference of Communists and Workers’ Parties. The CPM was represented by Wu Tien Wang, Abdul Rashid bin Maidin (also known as Rashid Mydin) and RG Balan (see The Role of the Communists in Malaya, Secret OIR Division of Research for Far East, Office of Intelligence Research, US Department of State, Report No 3780, 16 March 1947, p 106). Balan was arrested on 30 May 1948 for instigating labour unrest on rubber estates in Perak, and eventually detained for ten years under the Emergency Regulations. (Short, op cit, p 92). Lim Hong Bee, the Singapore-Chinese, London-based editor of the communist Malayan Monitor, which was the mouthpiece of the CPM, attended the 3rd Empire Conference of Communists and Workers’ Parties in London in April 1954. He presented a paper, ‘Malaya Fights for Freedom’, calling for the withdrawal of British forces and civil servants from Malaya, and the establishment of a provisional people’s government. (Dato Sri CC Too papers, Sp127/A/3, ‘Notes on History of the Communist Party of Malaya’, p 120, University of Malaya Library, and John J Coe, Beautiful Flowers and Poisonous Weeds. Problems of Historicism, Ethics and Internal Antagonism: the Case of the MCP, PhD thesis (restricted), University of Queensland, 1993, pp 174–5). A chart displayed at the conference placed the number of communists in Malaya at 10,000 (Salient Aspects of Paramilitary Warfare in Three Asian Areas, Operational Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, operating under contract with the US Department of the Army, reference ORO-T-229 (nd, probably 1952), p 32, citing Basic Paper,



89 90

91

92 93

94

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Special Branch, Federation of Malaya, October 1950, and Intelligence Review, G-2, US Army, No 193, June 1952, p 36). This figure probably referred to the CPM’s armed units as well as their supporters. Wu Tien Wang, alias Ng Tin Wong (the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese characters for his name), tabled a 23-page paper at the 2nd Empire Conference entitled ‘The Communist Party of Malaya’, which presented a potted history of the party from 1930 to 1946. He called upon the ‘Communist Party of Britain to leave no stone unturned in your effort to help us in the fight for the attainment of democratic rights’. He later expressed his disappointment that the British Communist Party’s support of the CPM’s armed insurrection, at least in tangible terms as opposed to vocal support, was negligible (letter to author, dated 5 March 1994, from John J Coe, enclosing a copy of Wu’s paper). India, Burma, Indonesia and Vietnam were already demanding independence from their colonial masters, and the Indian Communist Party’s delegates at the conference could not understand why Wu Tien Wang did not take a much stronger line and demand independence for Malaya (see Cheah Boon Kheng, ‘Legal Period, 1945–48. MCP and Relations with Malays, British and “bourgeois nationalists”’, p 2, discussion paper, Chin Peng Workshop, Australian National University, 22–23 February 1999). Wu Tien Wang , who was undoubtedly a dedicated communist, although prepared to criticise what he perceived to be the CPM’s shortcomings, survived the Emergency only to be executed in an ‘internal purge’ carried out by the CPM’s North Malayan Bureau in south Thailand in early 1969. According to Special Branch information, Secretary-General Chin Peng opposed Wu’s execution, but as he was away in Beijing at the time, he did not come to hear about it until it was too late (author’s telephone conversation with CC Chin, 15 October 1999). Sanger, op cit, p 293. MacDonald was correct in stating this, as the Special Branch, MI5 and military intelligence are considered to be part of an interdependent matrix (see Bunyan, op cit, p I). JD Dalley papers, Top Secret, ‘Threat of Communism in Malaya and Singapore, 1947’, op cit. No MI5 officers were actually attached for duty to the MSS, although later during the Emergency in the 1950s, when HTB Ryves was head of the Malayan Special Branch, some MI5 officers were seconded to the Special Branch at Federal Special Branch headquarters, Kuala Lumpur, and MI5 officers lectured, too, at the Malayan Special Branch Training School. See Dalley, ibid, p 36 fn 54. CO 537/3752, Top Secret Supplement No 5 of 1948, MSS PIJ, No 11/48, dated 15 June 1948, MSS paper on ‘Malay/Indonesian communists and the growth of communism among Malays/Indonesians in Malaya since 1924’, which appeared just a few days before the outbreak of the Emergency. Letters to author from Sheppard and Cleaveland, dated 17 November 1992 and 27 April 1993 respectively. Dalley is mentioned in Mubin Sheppard’s Taman Budiman. Memoirs of an Unorthodox Civil Servant, Kuala Lumpur: Heinemann (Asia), 1979, pp 34–5, and Norman Cleaveland’s Bang! Bang! in Ampang: Dredging Tin During Malaya’s Emergency, San Pedro: Symcon Publishing Co, 1973, pp 81–2. The Kuomintang in Perak, in the area from Kuala Kangsar to Grik, was supported by the Ang Bin Hoey secret society (ABH, literally ‘Men of the Ang’ (or ‘Hung’, according to the Cantonese pronunciation)). The ABH’s traditional rival, supporting the CPM, was the Han group of Chinese secret societies, based in Johore and the area inland from

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Sungei Siput. The ABH was practically destroyed around the end of January 1947 by MSS action initiated by Khaw Kai Boh, leaving the CPM intact (see Dalley’s letter, dated 5 February 1965, to Hugh P Bryson, formerly of the Malayan Civil Service and more latterly Secretary of the Association of British Malaya in London, in Bryson Papers, BEAM Collection, Royal Commonwealth Library, Cambridge University). The relationship between Chinese secret societies and the CPM has not yet been sufficiently explored, although Leong Yee Fong has provided a useful preliminary essay in his paper entitled ‘Secret Societies and Politics in Colonial Malaya with Special Reference to the Ang Bin Hoey in Penang (1945–1952)’, presented at ‘The Penang Story—International Conference 2002’, 18–21 April 2002, City Bayview Hotel, Penang. 96 Khaw Kai Boh (b. 1918) served in both Malaya and Singapore, first as an MSS inspector and then as an assistant superintendent in the Special Branch, before resigning from the police to take up law. Before the Second World War he had been an assistant boarding officer, Chinese Protectorate, Singapore (1939), and immediately after the Japanese surrender, he was seconded to the British army field security unit at SEAC HQ (1945–46), before joining the MSS. When the People’s Action Party came to power in Singapore, he was in the Singapore Special Branch, and after being warned that he was considered persona non gratia by the PAP, probably due to his allegedly dabbling in local politics and being involved in local dubious business deals, he decided to leave Singapore for Malaya. He subsequently joined the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and eventually became a junior minister in Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s government. 97 Author’s conversation with Malcolm MacDonald at King’s House, Kuala Lumpur, in July 1949. The author was then an honorary police aide-de-camp to Sir Henry Gurney, the Malayan High Commissioner. MacDonald used to fly up to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore regularly to brief the Malayan Legislative Council on the security situation in Malaya and Southeast Asia. See also Short, op cit, pp 80–90. 98 Sir Ralph Hone was Secretary-General to the Governor-General of Malaya (Malcolm MacDonald), 1946–48, Deputy Commissioner-General for South East Asia, 1948–49, and Governor, British North Borneo, 1949–52. 99 Rhodes House Library, Oxford, MSS Ind Ocn s.254 (2), ‘Dalley Papers’, Secret letter MS86, dated 13 July 1948, from John Dalley to Sir Ralph Hone, KBE, MC, TD, ED, Commissioner-General’s Office, Singapore. 100 ibid. 101 Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1948, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1949, p 144, and Annual Report of the Singapore Police Force 1948, Singapore: Government Printer, 1949, p 19. 102 Colonial Annual Reports—Malaya, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1948, p 124. 103 Report of the Police Mission to Malaya March 1950, Kuala Lumpur: Government Press, 1950, p 11. 104 Letters to author from Norman Cleaveland and DA Weir, dated 17 November 1992 and 5 May 1995 respectively. 105 Sillitoe was then en route to Australia for discussions with the Australian Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, which were to lead eventually to the establishment of ASIO, the Australian domestic intelligence organisation.



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106 Christopher Blake, A View from Within. The Last Years of British Rule in South-East Asia, Somerset: Mendip Publishing, 1990, p 89. 107 Report on the Police Mission to Malaya, March 1950, op cit, p 11. 108 Bryson Papers, BEAM Collection, Royal Commonwealth Library, Cambridge University. Letters from JD Dalley to Bryson, dated 10 February and 3 July 1965. Dalley must have been on familiar terms with Bryson as his letters are addressed to ‘Dear Hugh’ and signed ‘John’. 109 Gent was not alone in ignoring the warnings he had been given. JB Williams, Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Colonial Office, minuted on 24 May 1948 that he did ‘not think that any information which has reached the Eastern Department during the last month would lead us to suppose that any serious trouble is brewing in Malaya’. See CO 537/4733, minutes by JB Williams and GF Seel, 28–31 May 1948. 110 Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Mss Ind Ocn S. 254, JD Dalley papers, Top Secret, contain copies of Dalley’s correspondence. Dalley is referring to the action taken by the Singapore government in April 1948 and subsequently as part of ‘Operation Bulldog’, when the Singapore Special Branch raided the communist-dominated Singapore Federation of Trade Unions, and obtained banishment warrants against communist party members engaged in criminal intimidation of the labour force and other illegal activities. The MSS was instrumental, too, in the police banning a proposed public assembly and procession by the CPM on 1 May (Labour Day), which it had cause to believe would result in an outbreak of violence, and instructing the Singapore police to carry out arrests of persons suspected of being responsible for the throwing of a hand grenade in a coffee shop (CO 537/3753, ‘Effect of Action by the Governments in Malaya to Counteract Malayan Communist Party Plans’, Supplement No 11, MSS PIJ, No 15/48, dated 15 August 1948, and Singapore Annual Report 1948, Singapore: Government Printer, 1949, p 7). 111 Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Mss. Ind. Ocn. S. 254, JD Dalley papers, Top Secret, containing copies of Dalley’s correspondence. 112 In spite of the 30-year rule covering the release of government records, the Public Records Office (PRO) CO 1035 Series dealing with intelligence, security and police matters had still not been released in its entirety at the time of writing this account. Moreover, all enclosures in CO 1030/16 dealing with security and intelligence services in Malaya during the Emergency and pre-Emergency period had been removed from the file, and CO 968/727 (1945–51), dealing with the organisation of intelligence services in the colonies, had been ‘returned to department’, which meant effectively that it was not available for consultation. In the Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, 22 files (A/1, 3, 39,116, 127,154, 178, 206, 268, 289,300, 496, 616, 664, 869, D/21/SJ, 21/SJ.3 and P/6, 14, 15, 17 and 23), dealing mainly with police personnel and other police matters, remain closed to researchers. If these sources become available for research purposes, it may be possible to shed light on many areas that still remain obscure.

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Reproduced from Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency by Leon Comber (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

chapter three The Special Branch takes over (1948–49) The Malayan Special Branch found itself at a considerable disadvantage in taking over responsibility for political, security and operational intelligence at such short notice from the Malayan Security Service. Though the Special Branch absorbed most of the former Malayan Security Service personnel based in Malaya, it was still under-strength in the first few years of the Emergency. As related in the preceding chapter, the MSS itself was understrength when it handed over its functions to the Malayan and Singapore Special Branches, and in Malaya Lieutenant Colonel Dalley had to arrange, at least temporarily, for the local police CIDs in the territories of Pahang, Malacca, Kelantan and Trengganu to cover political and security intelligence on behalf the MSS. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that at the beginning of the Emergency, the Special Branch was criticised by the higher echelons of the military and the civil administration for its perceived unpreparedness and slowness in providing operational intelligence. In many cases, handwritten and cyclostyled communist documents recovered from communist camps or found in the possession of captured or dead communist insurgents were discarded as being of little more than routine value and not afforded the importance they deserved. From the evidence available, it would seem there was some validity to the criticisms.1 One of the reasons for the jam of documents was, of course, that the Special Branch was under-staffed and simply unable to cope with the backlog of documents awaiting translation. The MSS may have inadvertently contributed to this state of affairs by handing over a large backlog of communist documents awaiting translation to the Special Branch in August 1948. In Dalley’s letter of 13 July 1948 to Sir Ralph Hone, for instance, he admitted the MSS had a considerable accumulation of communist documents awaiting translation because of an acute shortage of translators and supporting office staff (Chapter 2). As the tempo of counterinsurgency operations increased, so an increasing number of communist documents recovered from communist jungle camps or seized from surrendered, captured or dead insurgents was passed to the Special Branch. In March 1949, the Malayan High Commissioner (Sir Henry Gurney) reported to the Colonial Office that the Special Branch 59

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had insufficient translators to deal with the ‘flood of [captured] Chinese documents pouring in’.2 It was, in fact, not until a few years later, when the Special Branch had expanded and there were additional Special Branch translators at State and federal level, often aided by translators from the Psychological Warfare section of the government information service, that it became possible to give due attention to the examination of communist documents. It then became apparent that a careful analysis of their contents often disclosed important information about communist plans and intentions.3 Aside from the shortage of Chinese translators and the other problems facing the Special Branch, there was, too, a serious shortage of Chinese personnel at all levels in both the Special Branch and the uniformed branch of the police. At the beginning of the Emergency in June 1948, the regular Malayan police force consisted of: • 250 gazetted officers, nearly all of whom were British (13 were employed in the Special Branch)4 • 23 British inspectors (uniformed branch) • 226 Asian inspectors (44 employed in the Special Branch) • 495 British sergeants (ex-Palestine Police, employed mainly in training Special Constables) • 10,900 uniformed rank-and-file, made up of 9,764 Malays and 1,136 Indians; there were no Chinese • 132 detectives employed in the Special Branch and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) against an approved establishment of 693 (thus, there was a significant shortfall of 561 detectives).5 The lack of Chinese in either the junior or the senior ranks of the police was a serious matter. For instance, out of 250 gazetted officers in the police in 1948, only three were Chinese. The vast majority of the 226 Asian inspectors were Malays, with some Indians, and only 27 were Chinese. There were no Chinese ‘other ranks’, or ‘rank-and-file’ to use police terminology, in the uniformed branch of the police. Bearing in mind that the Chinese constituted 41.7 per cent of the total population of Malaya in 1947, the lack of Chinese representation in the police was clearly unacceptable.6 Even though steps were taken to deal with the situation, the problem was never completely solved by the British colonial authorities, although there was a marked improvement after Malaya became independent in 1957.7 By



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1958, for instance, there were 98 Chinese gazetted officers and 395 Chinese inspectors. As Komer brings out in a report he prepared for the Rand Corporation in 1972, the ‘Special Branch [in 1948–49] was not adequately trained and prepared to deal with the communist uprising’.8 Even so, many critics of the Special Branch in those early days simply did not realise that even in normal circumstances the process of creating and training an intelligence service is inevitably a slow and painstaking one. In professional intelligence circles, it is usually accepted that it takes at least two or three years before an intelligence service can be brought up to a sufficiently efficient level to enable it to deal with the various and often urgent demands that are made on it. There is little doubt, too, that the criticisms levelled at the Special Branch could have been applied with equal cogency not only to the Special Branch but also to the Malayan police force as a whole, since it was still struggling to regain its former peacetime level of efficiency after the disruption of the war years and the Japanese occupation. Chart 1 illustrates how the Special Branch fitted in with the uniformed branch of the police, from federal level down to police district level. The chart shows the position in 1948–49 when the Special Branch was subsumed into the CID to form what was virtually a ‘political intelligence sub-division’ of the CID. The Special Branch then came under the overall command of BMB (Basil) O’Connell, Deputy Commissioner of Police (CID), and his second-in-command, Assistant Commissioner JN (Ken) Duthie, both of whom were senior prewar Malayan police officers. O’Connell had been appointed Director CID in 1946. When the Special Branch was subsumed into the CID, he selected two outstanding police officers, IS (Ian) Wylie and CH (Claude) Fenner, to establish and take charge of Federal Special Branch headquarters.9 The way in which the Special Branch developed during this initial period owes much to the groundwork put in by these two officers, which undoubtedly helped to counter the earlier criticisms of the Special Branch. Federal Special Branch headquarters was then divided into five sections (see Chart 2): a Communist Section (headed by a British army Intelligence Corps captain attached to the Special Branch), and four ‘racial’ (the term used by the Special Branch at the time) sections, Chinese, Malay, Indian, European and ‘Others’. ’Others’ was used for Eurasians and other small ethnic groups in Malaya. The racial sections were headed by Asian inspectors, although in 1949, in view of the over-riding importance of Chinese political activities, the Chinese section was headed by an assistant superintendent of police.10

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Chart 1: Organisation of the Malayan Police: Uniformed Branch, CID and Special Branch (1948–49) Commissioner of Police

Deputy Commissioner

Administration

Operations

Supply/Finance

CID

Criminal Investigation

Contingent Police HQ Chief Police Officer Dy. Chief Police Officer Police Circles each under an OSPC

Administration

Operations

CID/Special Branch

Special Branch (see Chart 2)

10 Contingents Selangor Negri Sembilan Malacca Johore Perak Pahang Trengganu Kelantan Kedah/Perlis Penang

Police Districts each under an OCPD

Assistant Officer in Charge

Police Stations

Police

CID/Special Branch

Village Constables

Special Constables

Legend: Contingents = States/Settlements. OSPC = Officer Superintending Police Circle/ OCPD = Officer in charge Police District. Source: Adapted from Sam Sarkesian, Unconventional Conflicts in a New Security Era: Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, Westport, Connecticut & London, Greenwood Press, 1993, p. 140, and author’s notes.



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Chart 2: Malayan Special Branch federal headquarters under the CID (1948–49)

Dy.Commissioner CID

Supt. Crime

Crime Records

1xSupt. 1xASP Special Branch

Investigations

Registrar of Criminals

Photographic Section

Chinese Section 1xASP

Malay Section 1xInsp

Railway CID

10 contingent or State CID units - see below

Indian Section 1xInsp

European & Others 1xInsp

Communism Section 1xCapt

Secret Registry 2xArchivists

10 contingent or State Special Branch units: Johore, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Perak, Penang/Province Wellesley, Pahang, Kedah/Perlis, Kelantan, Trengganu. Notes: Deputy Commissioner CID: BMB O’Connell. Superintendent Crime: KJN Duthie. Head Special Branch: Superintendent IS Wylie. Dy. Head Special Branch: Assistant Superintendent CH Fenner (promoted Superintendent in 1949). Assistant Superintendent Chinese Section: (1949) Leon Comber. Archivists: JF Allen & Chan Fook Wing. Source: author’s notes.

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The function of the racial sections was to collect, analyse and report on issues of current political and security interest relevant to the particular ethnic groups concerned. The racial sections also monitored newspapers, magazines and radio programs in the appropriate vernacular languages. The Communist section was responsible for collating intelligence about the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and its military wing, the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), and other communist movements in Southeast Asia that were likely to affect the local situation. Special Branch confidential, secret and top-secret files and reference materials were housed in a secret registry that was maintained by two archivists who had formerly been working in the Malaysian Security Service’s secret registry.11 In June 1949, an inspector from the London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) Special Branch was invited to visit Federal Special Branch headquarters to advise on the setting up of the secret registry and the general organisation of the Special Branch.12 While no details are available of the discussions that took place, his visit marked the beginning of the cooperation and assistance that the Special Branch received over the course of the Emergency from the London Metropolitan Police Special Branch.13 In general, the pre-war functions of the Malayan Police were law enforcement, the maintenance of public order and the investigation of crime, and this was the first time it had faced a terrorist insurgency aimed at overthrowing the government by force of arms. The Special Branch now found itself standing in the first rank of national defence, with prime responsibility for providing combat intelligence to the army as well as safeguarding the integrity of the country (see Chapter 7, Chart 6). From the Special Branch point of view, the communist uprising could not have come at a worse time. The Japanese occupation had been characterised by a massive displacement of the work forces from rubber estates and tin mines, and shortages of foodstuffs and medicines. The general social, political and economic state of the country was still in disarray.14 The Japanese had in many places replaced senior local officers in charge of police stations. The police was given only limited powers of investigation and serious cases had to be referred to the much-feared kempeitei, the Japanese secret police, which was noted for its brutal methods of interrogation and torture. It was virtually a law unto itself and wielded extraordinarily wide power over both the Japanese military and the Malayan civilian population. In pre-war British colonial times, the Malayan police had been a disciplined,



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armed force, organised along para-military lines, but the Japanese withdrew the .38 revolvers and .303 Lee Enfield rifles that the British had issued, and replaced them with old shotguns confiscated from villagers in rural areas.15 Many people could still remember the apparent ease with which the Japanese had overthrown the seemingly invincible British colonial power in 1942 and could not help wondering whether the British would suffer the same fate at the hands of the communists.16 It did not help, too, that the civil administration of the country was still not firmly established. It was not until October 1948 that Sir Henry Gurney, who had been appointed Sir Edward Gent’s successor as High Commissioner of Malaya, arrived at Kuala Lumpur.17 To compound matters, it was unfortunate that just after the start of the Emergency, the Commissioner of Police, Lieutenant Colonel HB Langworthy, a well-respected senior pre-war Malayan police officer who had headed the Malayan police since the time of the British Military Administration, retired on medical grounds.18 His replacement did not arrive for another two months, when Lieutenant Colonel WN (Nicol) Gray, the former Inspector-General of the Palestine Police, was appointed on 12 August 1948.19 Gray arrived in Singapore a few days after his appointment was officially announced in London, at about the same time that the Special Branch took over from the Malayan Security Service. He brought with him an advance contingent of ex-Palestine Police officers, mainly sergeants, which had been hastily recruited by the Colonial Office to reinforce the Malayan police after the disbanding of the Palestine Police in 1948.20 At this critical stage, too, the offices of Attorney-General and Financial Secretary, the country’s chief law officer and treasurer respectively, who had a vital role to play in the rebuilding and development of Malaya, had still not been filled substantively and they were occupied by relatively junior officers in an acting capacity.21 An added element to the general uncertainty and lack of direction characterising Malaya at this time that affected the police (and the Special Branch) more than any other government department, was that the General Officer Commanding the army in Malaya, Lieutenant General Sir Charles Boucher, had assumed command only a few weeks before the Emergency started. He had hardly had time to acquaint himself with the local situation before having to exercise operational control over the military units under his command.22

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It was unfortunate for police and army relations that Boucher and Gray did not see eye-to-eye almost from the time that Gray arrived at Malaya. Following the departure of Colonel Langworthy, Boucher had taken over the co-ordination of counterinsurgency operations prior to Gray’s arrival.23 When Gray arrived, he maintained that he had been tasked by the Colonial Office to assume the overall direction and control of counterinsurgency operations, with authority to co-ordinate police and army operations, including intelligence operations. Gray argued that the army was acting in support of the civil power and that martial law had not been declared. The High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, supported Gray’s point of view. In a despatch to the Colonial Secretary, dated 30 May 1949, he stated unequivocally that: the military force available to aid the civil power should be at the disposal of the Commissioner of Police and operate under his general instructions… the manner to which troops are employed is, of course, a matter for the military commander but there should be no difference of opinion that the general power of direction of the operations in which police and troops are engaged belongs to the Commissioner of Police.24

When the Chief of the British General Staff, Field Marshall Sir William Slim, visited Malaya in October 1949, he made it quite clear in his report that he supported Gray’s and Gurney’s viewpoint and that he regarded the situation in Malaya as more a matter for civil rather than military action.25 However, the difference of opinion between Gray and Boucher did not do anything to improve police–army relations. Fortunately, the matter resolved itself when Boucher left Malaya in 1950.26 The paramountcy of the civil government vis-à-vis the army was subsequently confirmed in the officially sanctioned ATOM (The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya), prepared under the direction of the Director of Operations, Malaya, as related in Chapter 1. The confusion over the control of the counterinsurgency campaign may well have arisen because the War Office Notes on Imperial Policing, published in 1934, with which Boucher was familiar, did not make it clear whether the army or the police was to exercise the leading security control.27 Further, in referring to intelligence, one section of the Notes read: ‘In the case of prolonged operations it is desirable that the whole intelligence system should come under military control, and in extreme cases it may ultimately be necessary to replace the civic system’. However, as Keith Jeffery comments, any remaining doubts were cleared up when the War



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Office issued a revised edition of the Notes in 1949, not long before Boucher left Malaya, confirming that in the Malayan situation the army’s role was to act in aid of the civil power, and making it clear there was no question of military intelligence controlling or taking over the work of the Special Branch.28

The relative strengths of the opposing forces When eventually the Malayan government declared a state of Emergency in June 1948 to counter the lawlessness that was engulfing the entire country, there was at least a sense of relief that positive steps were being taken to deal with the situation. From the military point of view, the security situation was summed up in a few words in a War Office statement, dated 18 August 1948 (some two months after the declaration of Emergency), which emphasised the importance of defeating the communists as soon as possible and not allowing the conflict to drag on: Militarily, it is of the utmost importance that we get the upper hand as soon as possible. Delay in doing this adversely affects the situation in other Far Eastern countries faced with the same communist problems.29

‘The situation in other Far Eastern countries’ referred to the ongoing struggles with local communist movements that were taking place in Thailand, Burma and French Indo-China. Obviously, no-one realised at the time that the Malayan Emergency would take twelve years to resolve. Meanwhile, according to a Special Branch assessment, there were an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 communist guerrillas under arms in the jungle at the beginning of Emergency.30 In the early days, they usually operated in mobile groups, which gave them the advantage of being able to strike at will from their jungle hideouts. They were helped by receiving material support and information about the movements of security forces from the large numbers of Chinese squatters living on the jungle fringes who had been allowed to exist mostly outside the British colonial administrative framework since the end of the war. At the beginning of the Emergency, the army itself was largely untrained and unready to engage in counterinsurgency operations on the scale required. There were only two battalions of British troops and one battalion of the Malay Regiment immediately available for deployment, making up a force of not more than around 2,500 men. An under-strength and largely untrained

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Brigade of Gurkhas, providing an additional estimated 2,500 men, was in reserve.31 It was not until much later in the Emergency, after the establishment of an army jungle training school at Kota Tinggi, Johore, that the army acquired the experience and expertise necessary to fight a ‘low-intensity’ war against guerrillas of the type facing it in Malaya.32 Consequently, in the early days of the Emergency, the police, as the only other readily available armed and disciplined force, was called upon to provide paramilitary units or jungle squads to undertake what was virtually an infantry role alongside the army in counterinsurgency operations.33 On the civil government side, as Gurney reported in May 1949 in a despatch to Creech Jones, the Colonial Secretary in London, the uniformed branch of the Malayan police (including Special Police constables and auxiliary police) was in the forefront of the fight against the communists. It strength amounted to over 72,000 men.34 As he observed, however, a formation of this strength approximated that of two army corps, each of which would have had an elaborate headquarters’ staff under a lieutenant general, whereas Gray, with far fewer staff officers at federal police headquarters, was administering and controlling a police force that was just as large.35 Moreover, the duties of the largely understaffed Special Branch had increased considerably, as it was now expected to provide not only non-operational political and security intelligence but also operational intelligence to enable the army to carry out counterinsurgency operations. Army reinforcements did not arrive until 1949, by which time it was apparent that the government was faced with a more serious security situation than at first had been envisaged. By the end of the year, four British infantry battalions, one British Field Regiment Royal Artillery (without its artillery pieces and operating in an infantry role), two battalions of the Malay Regiment, a Squadron of the RAF Regiment (employed in an infantry role) and additional Gurkha troops were committed. Further reinforcements consisting of the 4th Hussars (an armoured car unit) were on their way to Malaya at the request of the British army commander for the Far East, and three battalions of the Scots Guards were placed on stand-by to arrive within a matter of a few months.36 Later in the Emergency, the military forces available were greatly increased. British, Malayan, Australian, New Zealand, African and Fijian army units were committed, supported by aircraft of the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Malayan Air Force



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(RMAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and vessels of the Royal Navy (RN), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Malayan Navy (RMN) and the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).37 The navy patrolled the Malayan coastline to guard against external infiltration,38 and its vessels were sometimes called upon to bombard suspected communist camps in the jungle. The security forces on the ground were supported by the air force’s strafing and bombing of communist formations and hideouts in the jungle. The air force also dropped propaganda leaflets prepared by the Psychological Warfare Section (Psyops) of the Department of Information over target areas in the jungle, calling upon the terrorists to surrender. Police and army patrols operating in the deep jungle were also supplied by air, and specially adapted aircraft fitted with loudspeakers broadcast pre-recorded messages in Chinese (Hokkien and Cantonese, the two most common southern Chinese dialects used by the guerrillas, together with putonghua, the Chinese national language), calling upon the communist guerrillas to surrender. The air force allocated three DC3s and two Auster aircraft for this purpose. Apropos ‘external infiltration’, it is worth noting that in 1949, when the author was in the Chinese Section at Federal Special Branch headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, low-grade intelligence reports were received of unmarked aircraft dropping supplies in the Malayan–Thai border area, and ‘Chinese submarines’ landing supplies and even personnel (reportedly Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers) on deserted stretches of beach on Malaya’s east coast. However, none of these reports was ever substantiated. When the author subsequently raised the matter with Chin Peng in Canberra on 19 February 1999, the latter stated that the CPM/MNLA had not received supplies from any external source during the Emergency. While this may be so, there is little doubt that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), acting as the CPM’s mentor, constantly provided ideological encouragement and support.39 In 1951–52, when the fighting was at its fiercest, the Special Branch estimated there were some 10,000 communists under arms in the jungle, supported by an estimated 50,000 members of the Min Yuen.40 The Special Branch attributed the increase in strength of the communist jungle army to the encouragement given to communist supporters to go underground and join the MNLA by the successes of the Chinese Communist Party in China. Reports in the local Chinese-language press of the likely arrival of Chinese Communist consuls in Malaya following the recognition of the

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Chinese People’s Republic of China by the British government on 6 January 1950 contributed to the situation. In the event, the opposition of Malcolm MacDonald and Sir Henry Gurney to the appointment of consuls by the People’s Republic of China convinced the British Foreign Office that it would be unwise to agree to any such arrangement.41 During the critical years 1951–2, when the fighting was at its highest, an estimated 10,000 communist guerrillas were opposed by some 40,000 regular troops, supported by not fewer than 67,000 regular police and approximately 350,000 Home Guard, which for operational purposes came under police command.42 But the conflict was, in essence, an infantry subaltern’s or a police jungle squad commander’s war. The fact remained that the war had to be fought on the ground, and although there were no pitched battles between large bodies of opposing forces, as happened in the Vietnam War, there were often bloody clashes between the communist guerrillas and the security forces, and the fighting between the two sides was internecine. During the twelve years that the Emergency lasted, there were 21,022 ‘incidents’ (the official term used for guerrilla-initiated incidents) and 8,714 ‘contacts’ (engagements initiated by the army or police when the security forces opened fire first).43 Both sides suffered severe losses. The casualties suffered by the communist insurgents during the Emergency amounted to 6,711 killed, 1,289 captured and 2,704 surrendered. Police casualties were higher than the army’s and amounted to 1,346 killed and 1,601 wounded of all ranks (including Special Police Constables and Auxiliary Police), twice the combined total of all other security force casualties.44 Army casualties, of all ranks, amounted to 519 killed and 959 wounded (see Chapter 1, Table 1).45 Victory did not come cheaply. Harry Miller, the senior reporter of the Straits Times, who covered the Emergency, was given access to privileged material by the authorities and was on good terms with several senior police and army officers, estimated the cost for the British and Malayan governments of the twelve-year insurrection at some M$5,150 million, a figure that was generally accepted.46 Over the period of the Emergency, the security forces (excluding the Home Guard) opposing the MNLA were often between five to twelve times larger than the MNLA. Although the imbalance in the strengths of the opposing sides was large, it fitted the classic pattern of low-intensity, counterinsurgency operations. According to Colonel John Cross, a recognised jungle warfare expert, one of the characteristics of guerrilla



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warfare is the large number of government forces required to hold down and take the offensive against much smaller insurgent forces.47 However, as Sir Henry Gurney remarked to the Secretary of State for the Colonies as early as 1949, and repeated several times subsequently, in the final analysis, the communist insurrection would not be subdued by the sheer weight of security forces arrayed against it, but by reliable operational intelligence provided by the Special Branch on which successful military operations could be mounted.48 Based on his previous experience as Chief Secretary in Palestine, Gurney was aware of the central importance of intelligence in dealing with civil unrest. Thus, from the time he arrived at Kuala Lumpur, he took every opportunity to emphasise the importance of the Special Branch as the government’s main intelligence arm and the vital role it would have to play in the Emergency.49 Gurney’s task as High Commissioner was probably made easier by his being well acquainted with Nicol Gray, as they had served together in Palestine and, as Short said, ‘they enjoyed each other’s mutual confidence and support’.50 It helped, too, that Malcolm MacDonald supported Gurney’s views on the importance of the Special Branch, and in a despatch to the Colonial Office, he recommended the expansion of the Special Branch’s role by the establishment of interrogation centres and the provision of improved translating facilities.51

Conclusion The Special Branch that had been resurrected from its pre-Second World War existence immediately found itself confronted by a range of exceedingly difficult problems of both an intelligence and operational kind. These difficulties have been documented at length in this chapter. Above all else, the lack of Chinese language competency was evident from the start. In hindsight, the problems surrounding the reconstruction of the Special Branch in a manner that would enable it to respond effectively to the communist insurgency were of such an order that questions arise as to why the MSS itself was abolished at all. One can only speculate about what the answer might be. What is certain, however, is that the degree of disenchantment with the MSS was so deep that by 1948 nobody in high authority had any confidence in its capacities. It could be that the head of MSS, namely Dalley, had had such an impact on the MSS that it created a mindset within the organisation that the highest authorities judged to be incapable of reform. Only in such extreme circumstances can one begin to

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understand why the Colonial Office took the risky step of abolishing the MSS at the outbreak of the Emergency and rebuilding, virtually from scratch, an entirely new infrastructure for intelligence gathering. By 1948–49, a new Special Branch had been built in the manner described in this chapter. The following chapters deal first with the basic principles observed by Special Branch in the collection of intelligence. After that, an analysis is given of the inevitable reforms that followed a series of urgent visits by various British government officials, ranging from Cabinet Minister down to a Police Mission of Inquiry.

Notes 1

2 3 4

5

In 1950, Lieutenant General Sir Harold Briggs, Director of Operations, complained about the dearth of operational intelligence coming forward from the Special Branch. The eponymous Briggs Plan that he introduced called for the army to act in support of the police to provide a striking force to clear communist terrorists from the south to the north of Malaya. An important element of the plan was the compulsory resettlement of around half a million Chinese squatters in New Villages throughout the country. However, as Briggs reported to the High Commissioner, the army had had to undertake operations with little or no operational intelligence (see Michael Carver, War Since 1945, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1980, pp 20–1 and Ng Ngee Seng, ‘Sir Henry Gurney as High Commissioner during the Emergency Oct. 1948–Oct. 1951. A Critical Assessment’, MA thesis, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 2002, p 34). CO 967/84, Secret, ‘Briefs—Federation of Malaya’, 1949. See Lim Cheng Leng, The Story of a Psy-Warrior. Tan Sri Dr CC Too, Kuala Lumpur, published privately, 2000, p 76. By the end of 1952, the Special Branch had expanded considerably, with 93 gazetted officers (nearly all gazetted Special Branch officers at that time were British) and 195 inspectors and police lieutenants serving in it. By the following year, Special Branch strength had increased further to 126 gazetted officers and 279 inspectors and police lieutenants (WO 106/5990). WO 106/5990, ‘Strength and Composition of the Army and the Police, Tables I and II’, Appendix B; Annual Report Federation of Malaya Police 1948, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1949, pp 122–3, and Annual Report Federation of Malaya Police 1949, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1950, p 139. During service in the regular police, a police constable could expect promotion, depending on ability and seniority, to lance corporal, corporal, sergeant, sergeant major, sub-inspector (ranks sometimes referred to as subordinate police officers) and inspector. Gazetted officer ranks were cadet assistant superintendent, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent (a rank introduced in 1952), superintendent, assistant commissioner, senior assistant commissioner, deputy commissioner and commissioner. After the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the Malaysian police force was commanded by an inspector general of police. On 1 August 1950, a new rank of police lieutenant was introduced. Police lieutenants were employed on a renewable contract basis; it was a temporary rank junior to



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inspector, filled mainly by former British sergeants who were serving in the police, and ex-servicemen recruited from Britain and Australia. The Chinese out-numbered all other ethnic groups in Malaya. According to the 1947 Census, there were 2,614,667 Chinese out of a total population of 5,848,910. The largest Chinese group was Hokkien (827,411) and the second largest Cantonese (641,945). The Malays and aborigines (orang asli) combined totalled 2,543,569. Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Royal Federation of Malaya Police Annual Report 1958, ‘Racial Composition’, mimeograph, p 3. See also National Army Museum, Chelsea, London, ACC 9501-165-11, ‘Memorandum on the Police Force, Federation of Malaya’, by Colonel WA Muller, Colonial Office Adviser on the Colonial Police. In conversation with Chinese friends and contacts in 1948–49, the author was given many reasons for the apparent Chinese disinclination to serve in the police—an aversion to serving in a British force to fight against their own countrymen, a general dislike of serving in a disciplined force, the perceived low salary scales, and the perceived low social status of serving as a policeman. To sum up the situation, an old Chinese adage was often quoted: ‘You don’t use good steel to make nails and you don’t use good men to make soldiers’. There is little difference in Chinese eyes between ‘soldiers’ and ‘policemen’. RW Komer, The Malayan Emergency in Retrospect. Organisation of a Successful Counterinsurgency Effort, Santa Monica, Rand Corporation, 1972, pp 42–3. The Rand Corporation is a research body with close connections with the CIA. See also Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1952, Kuala Lumpur, Government Printer, 1953, p 220. Wylie joined the Malayan Police in 1929 and was senior to Fenner. He had been sent to Canton (Guangzhou) pre-war to study Cantonese for two years. At the fall of Singapore, he escaped to Australia, where he served as an army officer with the clandestine InterService Liaison Department (ISLD, a cover name for the British Secret Intelligence Service or MI6) that had been formed for special operations against the Japanese in Japanese-occupied territories (see Richard J Aldrich, Intelligence and the War against Japan. Britain, America and the Politics of Secret Service, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p 214). In 1942, Wylie commanded a small guerrilla group that was infiltrated by submarine into Japanese-occupied Portuguese Timor to carry out reconnaissance and establish contact with local anti-Japanese resistance movements. Towards the end of the war in 1945, Wylie parachuted into Johore to join up with the MPAJA forces operating in the jungle there. After the MSS was dissolved in 1948, he became the first head of the Malayan Special Branch. He retired from the Malayan Police as Deputy Commissioner of Police in 1958, after holding several senior appointments (See AJ Stockwell, ‘British Imperial Police and Decolonisation in Malaya 1948–52’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 13(1) 1984, p 291). Stockwell gives Wylie’s initials incorrectly as ‘IC’ instead of ‘IS’. Fenner joined the Malayan police as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent in 1936. He was sent pre-war to study Hokkien for two years at Amoy (Xiamen). On escaping from Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion, he was initially posted to the Nigerian Police, but shortly afterwards he was commissioned in the British Army and posted to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to join Force 136 (Group B). In July 1945, he parachuted with Captain LVC White into Negri Sembilan, close to Titi, where he joined up in the jungle with the local MPAJA unit. When the Special Branch took over from the Malayan Security Service in 1948, he became Wylie’s second-in-command at Federal Special Branch headquarters. After filling several senior appointment, he was appointed Commissioner of Police in 1958 (paradoxically Wylie was then his deputy but Fenner had received accelerated promotion although

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junior to Wylie on the Malayan Police Staff List). After the formation of Malaysia in 1963, he became Inspector General of the Royal Malaysian Police. He was knighted by both the Malaysian and British governments, and he retired in 1966 as Tan Sri Sir Claude Fenner, PMN, KBE, CMG. He died in Britain in 1978 (see Ian Trenowden, Operations Most Secret SOE: The Malayan Theatre, London: Wm Kimber Ltd, 1978, pp 13–5, 87,90, 98, 104, 190–1; Aldrich, op cit, pp 189–90, Mohd Reduan & Mohd. Radzuan Ibrahim, Polis Diraja Malaysia. Sejarah, Peranan dan Cabaran, pp 543–6, Federation of Malaya Staff List, 1941, Foreign & Commonwealth Office Library, pp 56 & 58, and Malayan Police Magazine, 33(1) 1966, pp 10–14). After the war, Arthur Dickinson, the pre-war Inspector General of the Straits Settlements Police, included both Wylie’s and Fenner’s names in a list of Malayan police officers whom he brought to the attention of the Colonial Office for allegedly escaping from Singapore without permission. However, it does not appear that the Colonial Office pursued the matter further (see AH Dickinson’s report, dated 22 December 1945, headed ‘The Colonial Office—Its Policy in regard to officers who deserted immediately preceding the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942’ addressed to GEJ Gent, Eastern Department, Colonial Office, and Gent’s reply (Colonial Office reference 50745/3/45), and letter to author from JM Gullick, dated 13 May 1993. The author is grateful to DA Weir for providing him with copies of the Dickinson correspondence). The author joined the Federal Special Branch HQ in March 1949 on transfer from the uniformed branch, and was posted to the Chinese Section. See letter reference SF/1/3 (Y), dated 16 March 1949, from BMB O’Connell, Deputy Commissioner CID, to Deputy Commissioner, Uniformed Branch, and letter reference CP/FM/193/49, dated 23 September 1949, from DP Macnamara, Assistant Commissioner (Personnel) to Chief Police Officer, Selangor (copies in author’s possession). In his letter, O’Connell wrote, ‘I am satisfied that Mr Wylie and Mr Fenner have far too much work to enable them to do it with the thoroughness and attention that its great importance deserves. The maintenance of control in Special Branch is of paramount importance to the war effort’. Author’s notes. Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1949, Government Printing Office, Kuala Lumpur, 1950, p 144. The Metropolitan Police Special Branch became the executive arm of MI5, the British domestic intelligence service, after MI5’s creation in 1909. The Metropolitan Police Special Branch sets the national policy and standards for all British regional police forces Special Branches (Richard M Bennett, Espionage. Spies and Secrets, London: Virgin Books Ltd, 2002, p 294). The London Metropolitan Police Special Branch was merged in September 2005 with the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the Metropolitan Police to form a new department known as the ‘Counter-Terrorism Command’. See TW Harper, ‘Health, Welfare, and the Reconstruction of the Colonial State in Malaya, 1945–48’, Paper presented to the Asian Studies Association of Australia, Centre for Advanced Studies, National University of Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 1–3 February 1989. Kratoska, op cit, p 59. Such comments were not made publicly, but the author, who was Officer-in-Charge Police District, Kuala Lumpur South, High Street Police Station, Kuala Lumpur, at the



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declaration of the Emergency, frequently heard them from members of the public with whom he came in contact. It emerged after Gent’s death that some 400 banishment orders covering the expulsion to China of communists in the trade union movement that had been prepared for his signature by the MSS in early 1948 had been left unsigned, and ‘all who should have been apprehended disappeared into the jungle’ to join the communist army (see Stockwell, 1984, op cit). Gent’s Private Secretary, Basil Chapman, attributed Gent’s delay in signing the orders, in spite of urgent reminders, to his having doubts about the policy of banishing communists to China where they would most likely fall into the hands of the Kuomintang government that was then in power in China. Steve Hurst, ‘The Crisis in the Malayan Police Force, 1948–52’, MA dissertation, Department of Modern History, Royal Holloway College, University of London, September 1999, p 9. CAB 129/28, ‘The Situation in Malaya’, 1 July 1948. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Prime Minister. The Secretary of State reported that WN Gray, late Inspector-General of the Palestine Police, with special experience in combating terrorism, had been sent out to Malaya, and that ‘very active measures’ were being taken to strengthen the Malayan and Singapore police forces. Sir Alec Newboult, then Officer Administering the Government of Malaya, had requested Gray’s services. In Newboult’s view, there was no suitable officer in the Malayan Police to fill this appointment. Lieutenant Colonel William Nicol Gray, DSO and bar, CMG, KPM (1908–88), did not have an intelligence or Special Branch background. He had been appointed Inspector-General of the Palestine Police (1946–48) after serving with distinction in the Royal Marines (1939–46) (Who Was Who, London, A & C Black Publishers, 1996). Gray landed at RAF Changi Airfield, Singapore, on 15 August from Britain with 40 handpicked ex-Palestine policemen. CWD Hall, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, announced that a further batch of 300 former Palestine Police officers would arrive by the end of August (The Age, Melbourne, 16 August 1948). Short, op cit, p 120. Short, ibid. Lieutenant General Sir Charles Boucher, KBE, CB, DSO and bar, (1898–1951), a regular Gurkha Rifles officer in the Indian Army, had served with distinction during the Second World War in India, the Middle East, Italy and Greece. He was General Officer Commanding (GOC), Malaya District (1948–50) (Who Was Who, op cit). His predecessor as GOC, Malaya, was Lieutenant General Galloway. It is worth noting that in June 1947, a year before the declaration of the Emergency, Galloway had prepared an assessment for the High Commissioner that the maintenance of law and order depended on the highest-grade intelligence system (Short, op cit, p 78). General Boucher is, unfortunately, best remembered in Malaya for the over-optimistic statement he gave at a press conference shortly after the declaration of the Emergency: ‘I can tell you this is by far the easiest problem I have ever tackled…In spite of the appalling country, the enemy is far weaker in technique and courage than either the Greek or Indian Reds’ (Henry A Shockley, ‘The Reluctant Raj: Britain’s Security Role in Malaysia (1940–1970)’, PhD dissertation, American University, Washington, 1973, p 167). Ng Ngee Seng, op cit, p 35. CO 537/4773, No 3, Despatch No 5, dated 30 May 1949, from Sir Henry Gurney to Creech Jones, ‘Insurgency & Counter-Insurgency’.

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25 CO537/4374, No 5, ‘Notes on Tour of South-East Asia, October 1949. Report by Field Marshall Sir William Slim on Importance of Civil Action in Counterinsurgency’. 26 When General Sir Harold Briggs became Director of Operations on 3 April 1950, he took over from Colonel Gray ‘full powers of coordination of the Police, Naval, Military and Air Forces’. But Briggs, a retired regular Indian Army officer, was appointed in a civilian capacity. See AIR20/777, Secret, ‘Early History of Emergency. Report on the Emergency in Malaya from April 1950 to November 51’ by Lieutenant General Sir Harold Briggs, KCIE, CB, CBE, DSO, Director of Operations, Malaya, p 3. 27 Notes on Imperial Policing, London: War Office, 1934, p 8, quoted in Keith Jeffery, ‘Intelligence and Counter-Insurgency Operations: Some Reflections on the British Experience’, Intelligence and National Security, 2(1) 1987, p 121. 28 ibid. 29 FO371/69698, ‘Military Situation in Malaya in August 1948’. 30 It was not always possible for the Special Branch to be definitive about the actual strength of the MNLA, as its estimates were based on information provided by SEPs and CEPs and gleaned from captured communist documents. Moreover, estimates provided in the literature and official documents do not always tally. Chin Peng, the CPM’s Secretary-General, himself was rather vague on this point when he wrote in his memoirs: ‘In all, several thousand troops—from army, navy and air force—would be committed against our guerrilla strength, which at its peak numbered no more than 5,000 men and women and for the most part functioned at around 3,000’ (Chin Peng 2003, op cit, pp 26, 398). Further, as he admitted, ‘At the height of the Emergency… we didn’t have proper communications, didn’t have the proper statistics—so we had different estimates. My estimate was that at the height of the Emergency it is about 5,000. Another one of my colleague’s estimate, at the height of the Emergency in 1951 was about 8,000 [sic]. So the number varied from five to eight’ (see Chin & Hack, op cit, p 151). Nevertheless, by 1952–53, the Special Branch probably had a clearer view than anyone else of the guerrilla strength, as it had already started to make considerable progress in building up an accurate order of battle for the communist guerrilla army, based on information obtained from surrendered and captured guerrillas and a detailed analysis of captured communist documents. 31 According to Short (op cit, p 113), the number of army battalions available for counterinsurgency operations in Malaya at the outbreak of the Emergency varied according to source. 32 Since 1945, the British army has spent more time in what is referred to as ‘low intensity’ operations against guerrillas, terrorists and insurgents than in conventional warfare. The major counterinsurgency operations in which it has been involved are Palestine (1943–48), Malaya (1948–60), Kenya (1952–56), Cyprus (1955–59) and Aden (1964–67) (see Jeffery, op cit, p 118). The term ‘low intensity’ operations, often used synonymously for ‘counterinsurgency’, is defined in this context as a politico–military conflict between contending forces, below the level of conventional war involving the clash of armies and large military formations. 33 By the end of 1949, there were 253 police jungle squads. They subsequently formed the nucleus of the Police Field Force, totalling some 3,000 men, that was organised on military lines (Komer, op cit, p 38). 34 Special Constables (SCs) were mainly ex-regular policemen employed full-time on static defence duties as guards on rubber estates and tin mines. Some of them were



35 36 37

38 39 40 41 42

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used, too, to augment regular police formations and as members of police jungle squads. Auxiliary police were unpaid, part-time volunteers. Many rubber estate managers were appointed as auxiliary police inspectors (CAB 129/48, C (51) 59 (Malaya), Cabinet Memorandum by Oliver Lyttelton, dated 21 December 1951). CO537/4773, op cit. See Coates, op cit, p 73, fn 46. In 1949, the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the UK agreed to co-ordinate defence planning in the ANZAM (Australia, New Zealand and Malaya) region covering Australia, New Zealand and the British colonial territories of Malaya, Singapore and Borneo. During the early phases of the Emergency, both Australia and New Zealand provided small air and naval units in support of ground forces fighting the communist insurgents. Later in 1955, ANZAM arrangements expanded to cover the defence of Malaya, and Australian and New Zealand ground units joined British and other British Commonwealth forces in counterinsurgency operations. They also formed part of the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve based in Malaya. Even after Malaya attained independence in 1957, Australia and New Zealand continued to contribute limited air, naval and ground forces in support of Malaya against internal and external aggression under terms of the Anglo–Malayan Defence Treaty 1957 (see Robert L Rau, ‘The Role of the Armed Forces and the Police in Malaya’ in Edward A Olsen & Stephen Jurika Jnr (eds), The Armed Forces in Contemporary Asian Societies, Westview Press, Boulder & London, 1986, pp 153–70). See CO1022/145, ‘External Aid for Malayan Communists’. See Chapter 1 regarding Liu Shao-chi’s declaration of ideological support for the CPM. Australian Commissioner’s Office, Singapore, Top Secret memo No 1746 (25/5/2/1), dated 4 December 1954, to Department of External Affairs, Canberra. Short, op cit, pp 213–6. In April 1952, Major General ER de Fonblanque, a retired British army officer, was appointed Inspector-General of the Home Guard, which was reorganised under his direction. It assumed responsibility for the defence of Malay kampongs and eventually took over the defence of 74 ‘New Villages’ (see Chapter 4). It co-operated with the police in the defence of other New Villages, too, and carried out patrols and sometimes participated with security forces on counterinsurgency operations in areas assigned to it (Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1953, op cit, p. 346). Arkib Negara Malaysia, Misc 16, Emergency Statistics for the Federation of Malaya since 1948, Appendix B, D Inf 7.60/160 (Emerg). ‘Incidents’ were officially classified under two headings: (a) major incidents carried out by CTs, resulting in loss of life, serious injury or considerable damage to property; and (b) minor incidents, that is, all other incidents carried out by CTs. ‘Incidents’ were further subdivided into Type A or B, depending on whether they resulted from ‘careful’ CT planning, involved a degree of risk to the CTs, and demonstrated aggression on the part of the CTs. An ‘incident’ that occurred when the CTs opened fire first was classified as an ‘encounter’. A ‘contact’ was the term used for an encounter between CTs and security forces when the security forces opened fire first. For these detailed classifications, see The Conduct of AntiTerrorist Operations in Malaya, op cit, ‘Definitions’, p xvii.

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44 Despatch No 14, Top Secret. High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, Kuala Lumpur, to Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, London, 5 November 1980, and Zakaria bin Haji Ahmad, ‘The Police and Political Development in Malaya. Change, Continuity and Institution Building of a “Coercive” Apparatus in a Developing Ethnically Divided Society’, PhD thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 1977, p 47. 45 Despatch No 14, Top Secret. High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, Kuala Lumpur, to Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, London, 5 November 1980. 46 Miller, op cit, p 181. 47 Colonel Cross illustrated this point by saying that in Central America in 1957 a strike force of no fewer than 43,000 of Guatemala’s soldiers was required to contain 3,000 guerrillas; in El Salvador 49,000 government troops were arrayed against 4,000 guerrillas; in Honduras 22,000 against 2,000; and in Nicaragua 75,000 against 18,000 (see JP Cross, Jungle Warfare. Experiences and Encounters, London: Guild Publishing, 1989, p 100). 48 CO 171/178. Confidential Inward Telegram No 215, 14 February 1949, from Sir Henry Gurney to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. 49 Julian Paget asserted that ‘good intelligence is undoubtedly one of the greatest battlewinning factors in counter-insurgency warfare’ (Julian Paget, Counter-Insurgency Campaigning, London: Faber & Faber, 1967, pp 163–4). 50 Short, op cit, p 141. 51 ibid, p 145. The Right Honourable Malcolm Macdonald, PC, had dual responsibility for colonial and foreign affairs in the area. He was appointed Governor-General of Malaya, Singapore and British Borneo in 1946, and in 1949, he took over from Lord Killearn as British Commissioner-General in South East Asia, with the personal rank of ambassador (Sanger, op cit, p 335). MacDonald’s father, Ramsey MacDonald, was Britain’s first Socialist Prime Minister (1924 and 1929–35).

Reproduced from Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency by Leon Comber (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

chapter four The principles of intelligence collection

In this chapter, the methods used by the Special Branch in obtaining intelligence will be discussed, together with the system used to evaluate and grade information. A description will be provided, too, of the CPM’s/ MNLA’s hierarchical structure and organisation. This chapter will also examine how intelligence collected in the Malayan region, including Special Branch intelligence, fitted in with the overall British intelligence picture. The role of SIFE, the combined MI5/MI6 intelligence centre for the Far East, based in the sprawling Singapore offices of the British CommissionerGeneral for South East Asia will be looked at, as well as SIFE’s relationship with the British Joint Intelligence Committee (Far East). Throughout the Emergency, the Special Branch depended heavily on what is referred to in the intelligence community as HUMINT, or human intelligence, rather than technical intelligence. Although the Special Branch was successful in planting agents in the Min Yuen, in detention camps and New Villages, and penetrating the communist courier system, it did not meet with the same success in planting agents in the ranks of the CPM and its military arm, the MNLA, in the jungle. The CTs were extremely suspicious of outsiders. Rather, the Special Branch was able to construct de novo a comprehensive picture of the CPM’s/MNLA’s structure and organisation from information obtained from the interrogation of captured and surrendered guerrillas, as well as the careful examination and analysis of captured communist documents. Captured and surrendered CTs were an unrivalled and unique source of intelligence, as they were able to provide information about the inner workings of the CPM/MNLA that was not available from any other source in the intelligence war. By the early 1950s, the Special Branch had succeeded in constructing a good model of the MNLA’s order-of-battle (or military organisation) and had obtained a clear understanding of the close interrelationship between the CPM and MNLA. It was clear that the Malayan National Liberation Army was a political army and an integral part of the CPM; where necessary, party 79

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officials commanded MNLA units, and MNLA leaders, in turn, carried out political functions. Pre-war, the Special Branch had gathered a considerable amount of information about the Communist Party of Malaya from Lai Teck, the agent it had planted in the heart of the party in the 1930s and who rose to become Secretary-General of the party. But a fresh start had to be made after the war, as most of the pre-war records had been lost during the war or destroyed by the Japanese at the end of the war, and Lai Teck himself had disappeared from the scene in March 1947, when he absconded with CPM funds. It took the Special Branch several years of painstaking work to complete its task of constructing an order-of-battle for the communist insurgents. As soon as a guerrilla was identified, he was charted and allocated a Wanted List (WL) number, and a personal file (PF) or dossier was opened for him in the Special Branch secret registry containing his personal and family particulars, the Chinese characters for his name, including any known aliases, a photograph if available, his rank in the communist organisation, his known operational area, and other pertinent information. In Special Branch terms, he became a ‘charted CT’. While Wylie and Fenner were at Federal Special Branch headquarters (1948–50), they instructed Special Branch units under their command to give top priority to obtaining information about the organisation and structure of the communist forces and securing operational intelligence. At the same time, at federal headquarters itself, a wide-range of ‘non-operational’ intelligence was collected on topics such as: • communist infiltration of ‘open’ organisations, such as trade unions, Chinese schools, political parties and clubs • CPM links with overseas communist parties • trafficking in arms and ammunition • religious sects and practices of political or security importance • politically interesting ‘open source’ material from English and vernacular language newspapers, magazines, and radio programs • prominent political personages.1 By the early 1950s, the Special Branch had constructed a reliable model of the CPM’s/MNLA’s organisation and had established files on almost every individual ranking communist terrorist in the country.2 The Special Branch liaised, too, with the Secretary for Chinese Affairs in the Labour Department3 and the Director of Immigration, who were often



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able to provide information of Special Branch interest that came to their notice in their respective departments. There is no doubt that the best intelligence about the communist organisation could be obtained by planting agents or ‘moles’ within its ranks, but this was not easy as the guerrillas were extremely suspicious of outsiders joining them in the jungle. In any case, once an agent had been planted in an MNLA unit in the jungle, there would rarely be an opportunity to meet with or pass on information to his Special Branch case officer. In the relatively few instances where the Special Branch succeeded in inserting agents into the communist jungle army, their debriefing had to wait until an opportunity occurred to extricate themselves and return to the outside world.4 Although the membership of the CPM was predominantly Chinese, a few Malayan-Indians and Malays had joined the communist movement and gone underground at the outbreak of the Emergency. However, the degree of their involvement in the Malayan communist movement was always small and not significant. The Special Branch estimated, for instance, that Malayan-Indians never accounted for more than 5 per cent of the insurgent force. Although Chin Peng intended to ‘Malayanise’ the CPM, he had little success in recruiting either Malay5 or Malayan-Indian members, though the communists encouraged wherever possible the revolutionary potential of both these ethnic groups, especially Indian labourers, who had been active in the Malayan trade union movement before the Emergency. The Indian minority provided the greater part of the labour force on rubber plantations, although some Indians occupied leading positions in the professions, as lawyers, doctors and teachers. The communist movement suffered throughout the Emergency by having a predominantly Chinese membership. It failed to obtain the support of the Malay and Indian populace, which, combined, represented 53.7 per cent of the total Malayan population (with the Indian component only representing around 7 per cent of the total). The result was that the CPM remained throughout a predominantly Chinese party.6 In his autobiography, Chin Peng does not discuss the failure of the CPM in enlisting Malay and Indian support, but in hindsight it is clear that without their support the communist insurrection was doomed to failure.7 The Special Branch was successful in placing undercover agents in the Min Yuen on the jungle fringes. This was often achieved by ‘turning’ targeted Min Yuen members and known communist supporters and threatening to detain them under the Emergency Regulations unless they agreed to co-

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operate.8 The Emergency Regulations (ERs) that were promulgated at the beginning of the Emergency to combat communist terrorism conferred on the Special Branch and the police uniformed branch extraordinary powers of arrest and detention without trial. The writ of habeas corpus was suspended and police were empowered to carry out arrests under the Emergency Regulations for what in more normal times would not have constituted ‘seizable offences’. They were also given authority to search persons and premises without warrant, impose curfews to restrict the movement of persons and vehicles, control the movement of certain foodstuffs (to prevent food being passed to the guerrillas in the jungle), and so on.9 The mandatory sentence under the Emergency Regulations for the unlawful possession of firearms or explosives was death.10 The Secretary of Defence was empowered under Section 17 of the Emergency Regulations, to extend the detention of any persons arrested under the Emergency Regulations for up to twelve months without trial. The period was later increased to two years.11 Another strategy was relocation. By 1952, some half a million Chinese squatters had been moved from areas previously dominated by the communists into resettlement areas or New Villages.12 The Special Branch was successful in placing agents in detention centres and New Villages, especially where, according to Special Branch information, some of the detainees and ‘New Villagers’ were known to be in contact with the guerrillas. The Special Branch also succeeded in penetrating the guerrilla courier system and arresting and ‘turning’ some couriers, who were induced to hand over the documents they carried for reading and copying before they were allowed to be passed on to the next stage in the communist communications system.13 From the point of view of operational intelligence, the Special Branch’s most immediate and valuable sources of information were surrendered and captured guerrillas. As Keith Jeffrey observes, ‘the immediate, thorough and systematic interrogation of a captured terrorist is the most important source of operational intelligence, which should be obtained and acted on immediately if it is to produce results’.14 The extent of the information surrendered and captured guerrillas were willing to reveal was always surprising, and many of them displayed a prodigious memory for names and events. They were often prepared to co-operate with the security forces and provide information about their erstwhile comrades, reveal the location of ‘dead-letter boxes’ where messages were left for collection in the jungle, indicate the jungle paths used by CTs, and guide police and army



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units to attack camps and mount ambushes, literally within hours of giving themselves up or being captured. Concerning interrogation methods, it is worth noting that some intriguing questions have been raised in a little-known booklet on the Emergency written by RJW (Dick) Craig, a former head of the Federal Special Branch, which has only recently become available. It would appear that he wrote it at the time he retired from the Malayan Special Branch to join MI6 in 1964. As Craig specifically mentions ‘the employment of excessive strong-arm measures’ [sic] and the use of ‘truth drugs’ to extract information, it is worth quoting the passage in full: Officers on the ground were left to collect information in whatever manner they saw fit. The employment of excessive strong-arm measures to extract information was common, and much use was made of the highly vaunted truth drug [author’s emphasis]. Such instances were symptomatic of the times. The immediate need was for operational intelligence and this was obtained without convention [sic] or restraint. Fortunately, the police soon realised that such measures were proving to be counter-productive because in a guerrilla situation it is of fundamental importance that at least part of the civil population is won over. Prisoners were at least treated in a humane manner and once this was general knowledge, surrenders from the terrorist organisation began to occur. Surrendered enemy personnel (SEPs) quickly provided valuable tactical information for use by Security Forces and from their full interrogation, a wide range of exploitable intelligence was later obtained.15

Though Craig made it clear that he felt that torture was not justified and that prisoners should be treated in a ‘humane manner’, his account refers to practices that were clearly at odds with the generally accepted ‘British’ standards of fair treatment of prisoners and detainees and the constraints of the Geneva Convention. The author wrote to Craig on 7 April 1994 to invite elucidation of his comments but he did not receive a reply, probably because Craig was seriously ill at the time. Although the author subsequently sent him a reminder, he did not hear from him and Craig unfortunately passed away on 25 July 2000 without being able to shed further light on the subject.16 However, as far as it is known, Craig’s reference to ‘strong-arm measures’ and a ‘truth drug’ being used in interrogations has not been mentioned elsewhere in the extensive literature on the Emergency. The author attempted to verify what Craig had written by contacting retired

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British and Asian Special Branch officers but they, too, were unable to confirm his assertions. Nevertheless, unsubstantiated allegations of police brutality do emerge from time to time, though it is always difficult to pin down their source so that they can be investigated. The author himself has no knowledge of such practices. However, it is possible that such allegations may have been fuelled by published reports of the Cyprus Police using strong-arm methods during the British administration of Cyprus, which were subsequently substantiated after enquiry by the British authorities. During the Northern Ireland conflict, it was alleged, too, that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch used force to interrogate IRA prisoners, although in this instance, while admitting there had been some physical ill-treatment of prisoners, the allegations were dismissed by an official British government enquiry. In more recent times, of course, allegations have been made of the ill-treatment of prisoners by US and British forces in Iraq.17 Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that in her doctoral thesis dealing with the Emergency, the Korean scholar Dr Park Bum-Joo Lee quotes the reply of an unidentified senior Malayan police officer who, on being asked in 1954 what was in his opinion the biggest difference between the Emergency then and the Emergency in 1948, replied: ‘less beating up’.18 The subject is clearly of some importance and worthy of further research. The Special Branch’s grading of intelligence supplied by agents and informers was based on the well-known ‘Admiralty System’, as shown in Table 3. Table 3: Evaluation of Special Branch information Source reliability

Information accuracy

A—Completely reliable

1—Confirmed

B—Usually reliable

2—Probably true

C—Fairly reliable

3—Possibly true

D—Not usually reliable

4—Doubtfully true

E—Unreliable

5—Improbable

F—Reliability cannot be judged

6—Accuracy cannot be judged

Source: National Army Museum, Chelsea, ARC 9501–16, ‘Intelligence Grading’, General Sir Rob Lockhart’s Papers.



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According to this system, ‘A–5’, for instance, would mean that a source is ‘completely reliable’(based on past performance) but the information provided is ‘improbable’ (based on available evidence).19 The Police Frontier Force, which was established in 1949, provided yet another valuable source of Special Branch information about the movement of guerrillas on and across the Malayan–Thai frontier.20 The Special Branch regularly received reliable information in the early days of the Emergency that small groups of guerrillas were crossing Malaya’s northern frontier into southern Thailand to take refuge and re-train in safe havens they had established there, out of reach of the Malayan security forces. There were unconfirmed reports, too, of the CTs being involved in smuggling drugs across the international border from southern Thailand into Malaya.21 Although technical intelligence gathering was not very sophisticated, the Special Branch was able to arrange through the government Posts and Telegraphs Department for small Special Branch teams to tap the telephones of ‘persons of interest’ whose names were on a Special Branch Watch List. These practices were made easier by the obsolete telephone equipment used and the relatively small number of telephone exchanges and post offices. The Special Branch made similar arrangements for the interception and reading of mail addressed to or from selected target addresses. The simplest equipment was used for this purpose—steam tables and plastic blades.22 Sir Henry Gurney outlined his views on the role of the Special Branch in an official dispatch, dated 9 May 1949, addressed to Creech Jones, the Colonial Secretary in London. They are worth repeating, as they reflect very closely Wylie’s and Fenner’s own interpretation of the functions of the Special Branch: Under modern conditions and trends the police must be sufficiently well informed to forestall where possible and meet if necessary any threat to internal security. They require detailed and precise information regarding political movements, trends and personalities. Politics and crime can quickly become integrated and almost inseparable. The Police must therefore know and understand political movements and trends and their interaction. In other words, the Police must have an efficient Special Branch, which will in fact be the eyes and ears of the Government and the Police themselves. They must work in the closest co-operations with other intelligence organisations and the intelligence branches of the armed forces in the territory.23

In 1950, the Special Branch took over a top-secret interrogation centre, or Holding Centre, that had been originally established earlier in

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the Emergency by a British army research team sent out by the British War Office ‘to cater for the reception, interrogation and the aftercare of surrendered enemy personnel’.24 It was located at Jalan Gurney (now renamed Jalan Semarak), on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, near the Kuala Lumpur Police Training Depot. It was well-concealed on ten acres of land and surrounded by a ten-foot high barbed wire fence that was patrolled by armed police guards. Auster aircraft of the British army Air Corps used a light aircraft landing strip that ran alongside the Centre to fly in high-level captured or surrendered guerrillas for interrogation and important communist documents for translation. It was ‘custom built’ and the ceilings of some rooms or cells had listening devices wired into them. Interrogation rooms were fitted with two-way mirrors, and there was a room for opening and copying intercepted mail, and a workshop for making ‘technical devices’.25 The Holding Centre was seldom referred to openly, even among Special Branch officers, at the time and its existence was not widely known. In the early days of the Emergency, it was referred to among a small group of Special Branch officers at federal Special Branch headquarters who were aware of its existence as the ‘White House’.26 One of the most effective of the ‘technical devices’ was a homing device that could be fitted to battery-operated radio receivers of the type known to be used by the guerrillas in the jungle. The Special Branch ensured that some radio sets ‘adapted’ in this way were made available at attractively cheap prices to Chinese sundry-goods shops known to be covertly supplying goods to the guerrillas. When the radio was switched on, it transmitted a ‘silent signal’ that could be detected by a spotter aircraft flying overhead, thus enabling it to ‘fix’ the location of a guerrilla camp.27 Very little has been written about the ‘technical services’ provided by the Holding Centre for the Special Branch’s more clandestine operations, but it produced a variety of ‘gadgets’, as the various implements of sabotage and destruction were known. It maintained close contact with the British army’s small research team that was attached to the Director of Operations’ staff in Kuala Lumpur. The research team played an important role in developing new techniques and weapons and its personnel often accompanied police and army patrols on operations to experience first-hand the effects of Malaya’s climatic conditions on both men and equipment (especially weapons and radio transmitters) in the jungle, and participated in ambushes.28 Many of the team’s findings were incorporated in The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya (ATOM), a restricted operational manual for the security forces published under the imprimatur of the Director of Operations, Malaya.29



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After he became High Commissioner and Director of Operations in 1952, General Templer, too, showed a great interest in the Holding Centre. According to his biographer, he often visited it to observe the Special Branch staff there using ‘tooth-picks to prise open the thin, delicate, easily-hidden, rice paper rolls’ on which the communist guerrillas preferred to write messages, and observe messages being decoded and translated.30 The thin rice-paper rolls on which these messages were written in minute Chinese characters were typical of the messages carried by communist couriers and left at dead-letter boxes in the jungle as part of the communist’s underground communications system. A small specially selected team of high-ranking CPM/MNLA defectors who were experts in ‘turning operations’ assisted the Special Branch officer in charge of the Holding Centre. As they were familiar with communist terminology, they were of great help in translating ‘difficult’ communist documents.31 In the mid-1950s, the most important of the communist defectors working with the Special Branch at the Holding Centre were William Chow Yong Bin, Wong Lin Hong, Tay Ah Meng and Goh Chin Kim.32 William Chow Yong Bin, known colloquially as the ‘Gen’, was the commander of the 1st Regiment MPAJA in Selangor during the Japanese war. He took part in the Victory Parade in London at the end of the war as a member of the MPAJA contingent. Early on in the Emergency, he had a major disagreement with the CPM hierarchy on a matter of ideology and defected to the Special Branch. Wong Lin Hong, whose party name was Chan Choong, was the General Secretary of the communist-controlled Malayan Rubber Workers’ Union in Perak before the Emergency. He became disillusioned with the party and defected to the Special Branch, where he was given the nom de plume of ‘Hardy’. Tay (sometimes spelt ‘Teh’) Ah Meng was arrested by the Special Branch in Singapore. He was at the time the Secretary of the Communist Singapore Town Committee. The details of his arrest and agreeing to work for the Special Branch are as follows. A Chinese Special Branch detective’s attention was drawn to a man waiting for some time at a bus stop in Singapore, who seemed to be ill at ease. Presently, another man approached him and, after greeting each other, the two men exchanged the magazines they were carrying. When they parted, the detective, whose suspicions were aroused by the men’s behaviour, arrested both of them and the magazines

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were found to contain communist documents. The Singapore Special Branch was able to identify one man as Tay Ah Meng and the other as the Secretary of the communist-controlled Singapore Students’ Committee. The documents they were carrying implicated other members of the Singapore Town Committee, all of whom were arrested in 1950. Tay was ‘turned’ and agreed to work with the Special Branch.33 It has not been possible to obtain any information about Goh Chin Kim’s background or how he was ‘turned’, but while working at the Holding Centre, he acquired a formidable reputation as a skilful interrogator and he participated in the interrogation of most of the leading communist guerrillas brought into the centre. In the mid-1950s, the Special Branch referred to him as the ‘Communist Party of Malaya’s most wanted man’. At the end of the Emergency, Goh was provided with a new identity and the Special Branch arranged for him and his family to immigrate to Canada.34 Tay Ah Meng was given a new identity, too, at the end of the Emergency, before disappearing into the community.35 ‘Hardy’ met his death at the hands of an unknown assailant in 1973. His murder remained unsolved, but it was believed to be the work of the Malayan communists levelling scores. The ‘Gen’ survived the Emergency and died of cancer in 1992. Following the appointment in May 1950 of Sir William Jenkin, a retired senior Indian Police Special Branch officer, as Special Branch/CID adviser, the Federal Special Branch headquarters was further fine-tuned and new sections or units were formed to take over responsibility for some of its more specialised interests (which will be reviewed in Chapter 6).36 It took some time to build up the Special Branch, but gradually the improvements that were made began to show results. At the end of 1954, for instance, Lieutenant General Sir Geoffrey Bourne, the Director of Operations, singled out the Special Branch for praise in his Review of the Emergency Situation in Malaya, copies of which were circulated to the Colonial Secretary and the Chiefs of Staff Committee in London: It has taken some time to build up the strength and efficiency of the Special Branch but it is now producing information of increasing accuracy about the Communist Terrorists. Besides dealing in terrorist and underground communism, the Special Branch watches for extremist tendencies in the domestic political field and for local evidence of aspirations of neighbouring countries which may seek to take advantage of the situation. Some 30



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military intelligence officers have been integrated with the Special Branch. Their task is to assist in the collation and presentation of tactical intelligence for Emergency operations.37

CPM/MNLA structure and organisation As mentioned earlier, as the Special Branch became organised on a more efficient basis and its expertise improved, it built up a comprehensive picture of the communist organisation—the CPM hierarchy, the MNLA and the Min Yuen—from information supplied by captured and surrendered guerrillas and a study and analysis of captured communist documents.38 As related in Chapter 1, the genesis of the MNLA was the MPAJA, the wartime underground army of the CPM.39 Like the MNLA, the MPAJA was a political army on the usual communist pattern, with political curbs at all levels. Though the MPAJA was disbanded in October 1945, it did not hand in all of its weapons to the authorities. A large quantity of firearms and ammunition, including Bren light machine guns, Sten guns, revolvers, carbines and rifles, that had been dropped by parachute during the war and never reported to the British forces operating with the MPAJA were hidden in secret caches in the jungle for future use.40 As the MPAJA stood down at the end of the war, its members joined the MPAJA Ex-Service Comrades Association. The latter became, in effect, an ‘MPAJA reserve unit’ to be re-activated when the time came for the CPM to take up arms against the British colonial government. The political and military wings of the CPM were always closely integrated, and the MPAJA Ex-Service Comrades Association and its various branches throughout the country shared premises with the CPM’s political branches.41 When it became inevitable that there would be an armed conflict, members of the MPAJA Ex-Service Comrades Association were instructed to take to the jungle and form what became known in February 1949 as the Malayan National Liberation Army. The name ‘Malayan’ was deliberately chosen to attract Malay and Indian participation, and a cap badge of three red stars symbolising the three main ethnic groups of Malaya was adopted. By mid-1950, the guerrillas began to wear uniforms, usually either khaki or green coloured shirts or trousers, with short puttees and rubber-soled boots, to reinforce the concept that they were an ‘army’, though some continued to wear non-descript plain clothes that often made them indistinguishable from rubber tappers or farmers.42

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At the beginning of the Emergency, in June 1948, the MNLA consisted of 10 regiments, totalling some 4,000 personnel. Its strength was later increased nominally to 12 regiments, but the additional two regiments, the 9th and 11th, existed in name only and were never formed (see Table 4). According to CC Too, who headed the Psychological Warfare Section of the Director of Operations Staff and became widely known as an authority on the Communist Party of Malaya, it was intended that those two regiments would operate in east Johore and central Pahang respectively.43 The communists planned to raise, too, an all-Indian 13th Regiment MNLA, but because of a lack of support from the Indian community, it was never formed.44 Although lacking precise information, the Special Branch estimated that about 10 per cent of the guerrillas operating in the jungle were women, who were armed and trained to fight alongside their male comrades.45 Each of the 10 regiments was divided into five companies of four platoons each.46 The strength of a regiment varied from 300 to 800. As O’Ballance has stated, although the actual strengths of the regiments may have changed from time to time during the Emergency, their formation titles continued to be used.47 Because of communication difficulties in the jungle and the delays imposed by the courier system used, each regiment was allowed a certain amount of freedom in interpreting military policy according to local conditions. Table 4: Location of MNLA regiments (1948–49) 1st Regiment MNLA

Selangor

2nd Regiment MNLA

Negri Sembilan

3rd Regiment MNLA

Malacca/North Johore border

4th Regiment MNLA

South Johore

5th Regiment MNLA

Perak

6th Regiment MNLA

North Pahang

7th Regiment MNLA

Perak/Trengganu border

8th Regiment MNLA

Kedah/Province Wellesley

9th Regiment MNLA

Not activated

10th Regiment MNLA

Malay Regiment, Pahang

11th Regiment MNLA

Not activated

12th Regiment MNLA

South Thailand/Perak border

Source: Adapted from Arkib Negara, CC Too, Secret, ‘Notes on the Malayan Communist Party’, p 138 & Lim Cheng Leng, op cit, p 164–5, 169.



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Later in the Emergency, probably from 1957 onwards when the government security forces were gaining the upper hand, the MNLA regiments were split up into Independent Platoons varying in strength from about 15 to 30 each, with each platoon consisting of three or four sections. Female nurses often accompanied platoons. When MNLA losses began to mount and increasingly large numbers of guerrillas surrendered to take advantage of the government’s amnesty offers, the surviving platoons were reformed and given dual numbers.48 For example, the remnants of the 13th and 15th platoons in Perak were consolidated into a composite Independent Platoon and renamed the 13/15 Independent Platoon.49 Independent Platoons then became the principal striking forces of the MNLA.50 This was most likely done to retain some semblance of organisation and strength at a time when the military campaign was turning against the communists, and possibly to confuse the Special Branch’s charting of the MNLA order of battle.51 Independent Platoons usually operated under the control of a State Committee Member. According to Craig, locally raised Armed Work Forces (AWFs) were formed to provide a light, forward screen for the Independent Platoons, which relied on them ‘for supplies, intelligence and often for the identification of targets’. An AWF unit usually numbered 14 men.52 Chart 3 shows in diagrammatic form the CPM/MNLA organisation. The CPM itself did not produce an organisational chart showing its political and military structure, and the chart has been constructed from information obtained by the Special Branch from captured and surrendered CTs and a detailed examination and analysis of captured documents. The political and military sides of the CPM were closely integrated, and both Regional Bureaux and State Committees combined, as necessary, political and military functions.53 O’Ballance came close to the situation when he described the CPM’s Central Military Committee as the ‘Politburo under another name’.54 The CPM was organised on orthodox Communist Party lines. As shown in Chart 3, the Central Committee was at the apex of the party structure. It usually consisted of 11 to 15 top-ranking CPM members under the direction of Chin Peng, the Secretary-General. The Central Committee created in plenary session the Politburo, consisting of the Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General and one or two other members of the Central Committee. In practice, because of the difficulty of convening meetings of the Central Committee, whose members were scattered in various parts of the jungle throughout Malaya, the full Central Committee rarely met and the Politburo issued policy directives in the name of the party.55

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Chart 3: Integration of the Communist Party of Malaya: political and military (MNLA) structure Central Committee (11–15 members) Politburo (3–4 members) Central Military Committee MNLA General HQ MNLA

3 Regional Bureaux North Malayan Bureau (3 members) Central Malaya Bureau (4 members) South Malaya Bureau (2 members) (political-military leaders controlled MNLA units within their respective Regions)

State Committee Members (3–11 members)

State Secretariat Political State/Regional Committee Members (Chairman/Members often commanded MNLA Regiments or acted as Political Officers) District Committee Member Branch Committee Member (providing jungle couriers) Cell Leader/ Min Yuen Member

MNLA Regimental Commander Company Commander Ind. Platoon Commander Armed Work Force (AWF) Section leader Combatant (See Table 4 for location of MNLA Regiments)

Party Membership MNLA approx. 1,000 CPM approx. 3,000 (June 1948) Singapore Town Committee (4 members—no MNLA units) Source: Adapted from Special Branch, Federation of Malaya, ‘Organisation of Malayan Communist Party (since June 1948)’; Salient Operational Aspects of Paramilitary Warfare in Three Asian Areas, The John Hopkins University Operational Research Office, ORO-T-228 (operating under contract with the US Department of the Army); Dato’ Yuen Yuet Leng, Operation Ginger: A Federal Priority Food Denial Operation, 1958–59, unpublished ms, 20 January 1993, p 191; Edgar O’Ballance, Malaya: The Communist Insurgent War, 1948–60, London: Faber & Faber, 1966, pp 98–101; The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, Director of Operations, Malaya, 1958, Restricted, Chapter II, ‘The Communist Terrorists (CT)’, Section 7, ‘Armed Forces of the MCP’, p 8.



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The Special Branch established that the CPM divided Malaya geographically into three regional bureaux: North, Central and South (see Chart 3).56 Directives and instructions were passed from the Central Committee through the Regional Bureaux for transmission to the State Committees operating under the Regional Bureaux. The State Committees, in turn, passed them on to the District Committees, which transmitted them to the Branch Committees. Each State was divided into a number of Districts that were, in turn, sub-divided into Branches to facilitate political and military activities. The District Committees were the main functional organisations of the CPM, with each District Committee controlling an average of four Branch Committees. The District and Branch Committees directed the Min Yuen, the organisation of the masses.57 In large States, where for tactical and administrative convenience it was considered necessary, the CPM established Regional Committees, which worked under the State Committees, such as the North Johore Regional Committee and the South Johore Regional Committee. The CPM’s organisation consisted of ten State/Regional Committees, fifty District Committees and about 200 Branch Committees, with some key personnel serving as both CPM and MNLA leaders.58 The CPM’s state boundaries did not correspond exactly in every case with the official administrative boundaries; they were demarcated by population distribution rather than geographical features. This sometimes caused operational problems when security forces operated across the boundaries of two official administrative states, but any problems that arose were usually solved in a practical way by liaison between the security forces of the two states involved. Towards the latter part of the Emergency, following the general withdrawal of the MNLA to southern Thailand and the Malayan–Thai border area, the MNLA was reduced to three regiments: the 8th Regiment MNLA (or ‘West Regiment’), the 10th Regiment MNLA (or ‘East Regiment) and the 12th Regiment MNLA (or ‘Central Regiment’). The use of the terms ‘West’, ‘East’ and ‘Central’ provided an indication of the locations of the three regiments in southern Thailand. The 10th Regiment MNLA (‘East Regiment’) was a predominantly Malay unit recruited in Temerloh, Pahang. The Special Branch estimated that it consisted of approximately 160 Malays. There were estimated to

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be 140 Malays in other guerrilla units. When the 10th Regiment MNLA retreated into southern Thailand, it was re-organised into a ‘Department of Malay Work’ and allocated the task of promulgating communist propaganda among the local Malay community and supporting the long-standing Malay irredentist movement in southern Thailand, which will be discussed in Chapter 11.59 There was a special reason behind the formation of an all-Malay 10th Regiment in Pahang. As the Communist Party of Malaya claims in its short history published in 1946, under the title Nan Zao Zhi Chun (‘Spring in the South Seas’), Pahang was the centre of a protracted Malay uprising against British rule in the late 19th century that took the British five years to quell.60 In the 1950s, the British colonial authorities still regarded Pahang as a centre of Malay disaffection and it was considered a ‘difficult’ state to administer. The Pahang uprising became enshrined in local folklore and it was kept fresh in the memory of local Malay nationalists, who held it up as an example of Malay resistance to British colonial rule. The sizeable population of recent Indonesian immigrants, who had settled in the state and were hostile to British colonial rule, did not make the situation any easier.61 Generally speaking, Malays and Indians were not attracted to communism, though there were some notable exceptions, and even when they joined the communist movement, it was difficult to determine whether they were motivated by nationalist or communist ideals.62 In any event, they were mistrusted by the Chinese-dominated CPM and usually kept in their own separate sections or units. Towards the end of the 1950s, some changes in the CPM’s organisation took place. The Central and the West Regional Bureaux (see Chart 3) ceased to exist after most of the guerrilla units under their control had moved across the border into southern Thailand. The North Regional Bureau remained to cover the northern Malayan territories of Penang/Kedah, Kelantan and Perak, but it was later replaced by two branch committees covering the same area.63 At the beginning of the Japanese war, Chin Peng was based in Perak with the 5th Regiment of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army. By the end of 1943, he became Secretary of the CPM’s Perak State Committee, with responsibility for the Party and the MPAJA in Perak. He was responsible for liaising with the British Force 136 officers, who had been infiltrated by submarine from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) early on in the Japanese occupation to establish contact with the MPAJA.64



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The Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Malaya, Lai Teck, a Vietnamese of obscure origins, remained in Singapore and did not go underground to join the MPAJA in the jungle.65 Not long after the fall of Singapore, his identity was revealed to the Japanese kempeitei and he was forced under pain of death to change sides and work for them. His case officer was Major Satorou Onishi, who was arrested at the end of the war as a war criminal and sentenced to life imprisonment.66 Lai Teck betrayed to Japanese intelligence many of his erstwhile comrades in the CPM. At the end of hostilities, when it seemed likely that he would be denounced to the CPM as a Japanese spy, and his pre-war activities as a British secret agent unmasked, he absconded with the CPM’s funds, only to be tracked down in Bangkok, after some months on the run, where he was killed by communist cadres.67 This led the way open for Chin Peng to take over as Secretary-General of the CPM. Many volumes could be written about Lai Teck, who had worked prewar for the French intelligence service Sureté Général Indochinoise in French Indo-China and had been handed over by them firstly to the Hong Kong Special Branch when his activities as a French agent were about to be unmasked, and then passed on to the Singapore Special Branch. His communist credentials were impressive and the Singapore Special Branch planted him in the early 1930s as a mole in the Communist Party of Malaya. It says much for the expertise of the Singapore Special Branch and Lai Teck’s own ability and deviousness that he quickly rose through the CPM’s ranks to become Secretary-General of the Party.68 Although Chin Peng does not refer to it in his memoirs, Lai Teck’s pre-war Special Branch case officer was FI (Innes) Tremlett, an assistant superintendent in the Singapore Special Branch, who escaped from Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion, and was commissioned in the British army. He joined Force 136 in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and became head of Force 136’s Malayan Country Section. Tremlett returned briefly to Singapore as a lieutenant colonel in Force 136 at the end of the war, but was tragically killed in an air accident returning to Force 136 headquarters in Ceylon in October 1945.69

The British Central Intelligence machinery How did Special Branch intelligence collected on the ground in Malaya fit in with the matrix of British intelligence in the area and the central intelligence machinery in London? It did impinge at some points, though

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not in a significant or direct way, as will be examined below. The Special Branch was mainly concerned with real-time operational intelligence that could be used by the security forces on the ground in Malaya to fight the communist terrorists, whereas the London intelligence organisation was concerned with higher-level strategic intelligence of national importance. The hub of Britain’s intelligence interests in the Far East was SIFE in Singapore.70 It maintained an office staffed by MI5/MI6 officers from Britain in the regional headquarters of the British Commissioner General for South East Asia in Singapore. The Times (London) aptly described the Commissioner-General’s sprawling offices at Phoenix Park, Tanglin Road, Singapore, as a ‘tropical duplication of Whitehall’.71 They consisted of five departments: diplomatic, colonial, economic, technical and labour, each headed by a senior British civil servant and supported by a large staff of expatriate secretaries. Though SIFE maintained contact with the heads of both the Singapore and the Malayan Special Branches, as stated, it was not concerned with routine ground-level counterinsurgency intelligence with which the Special Branch was feeding the military in Malaya, but it was provided by both Special Branches with copies of any higher level intelligence papers that were likely to be of strategic interest.72 In Malaya, MI5, as Britain’s domestic security service with an interest in security intelligence in British colonial territories, maintained contact with the Malayan Special Branch in Kuala Lumpur through the MI5 Security Liaison Officer based there. Although it did not run its own agents in Malaya and it did not interfere in the work of the Special Branch, it was understood that its advice would be available if requested. On the other hand, MI6, as Britain’s foreign intelligence service, was not directly concerned with internal security in Malaya, and it used Singapore as its regional hub for intelligence gathering in non-British territories in Southeast Asia. SIFE prepared intelligence briefs as instructed by the Joint Intelligence Committee (Far East) in Singapore, which submitted regular reports to the British JIC in London, the most important element of the British central intelligence machinery with a direct link to the Prime Minister.73 The JIC in London was part of the British Cabinet Office and employed an assessment staff of about forty intelligence officers, seconded from the armed forces, MI5, MI6 and the Foreign Office. At the time of the Emergency, the JIC in London prepared a Weekly Review of Current Intelligence for the British Chiefs of Staff and government ministers dealing with secret intelligence



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matters.74 The JIC had an important role to play in providing British ministers and departments with regular assessments of matters likely to require highlevel policy decisions relevant to Britain’s security, defence and foreign affairs. The committee members were senior officers of the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence, Department of Trade and Industry, Treasury, and the Heads of MI5, MI6 and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Other departments, including the Home Office, attended JIC meetings by invitation. The Colonial Office, however, ensured that colonial intelligence matters were not neglected by appointing a permanent representative to the JIC on 8 October 1948, probably as a result of the deteriorating security situation in Malaya resulting from the communist uprising in Malaya. The chair of the JIC, known as the Intelligence Coordinator, had the right of direct access to the British Prime Minister through the Secretary of the Cabinet.75 At the same time, there was a parallel reporting channel to the Colonial Office in London through the British High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, who drafted monthly intelligence reports incorporating Special Branch intelligence for the information of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, copies of which were supplied to the service directors of intelligence in London. It was from these reports, and similar reports from other British colonies, that the Colonial Office compiled its own monthly Colonial Office Political Intelligence Summary for the heads of British government departments. Additionally, the Colonial Office prepared an abstract from the summary, called the Colonial Office Review of Current Intelligence, for the information of the JIC.76 As Britain’s most senior and prominent Colonial and Foreign Office representative in the area, Malcolm MacDonald, the British CommissionerGeneral for South East Asia, played an important part in furthering Britain’s diplomatic and political interests, and he was particularly interested in the role of intelligence in the struggle that was taking place in Malaya. At his headquarters in Singapore, he chaired annual meetings of the Joint Intelligence Committee (Far East) and the Defence Co-ordinating Committee, attended by senior civil and service intelligence officers to review regional political, economic and security intelligence matters. MacDonald used to visit Kuala Lumpur regularly to be briefed by the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, on the progress of the Emergency and at the same time he provided informal briefings to members of the

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Malayan Legislative Council on political developments in the wider field of Southeast and Northeast Asia. When General Templer became High Commissioner and Director of Operations in 1952 (Chapter 8), he paid particular attention to the Special Branch and intelligence matters, and ensured that Special Branch intelligence was not overlooked in his monthly reports to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Conclusion In summary, although after taking over from the MSS in August 1948 the Special Branch had been criticised by senior officers of both the civil administration and the army for failing to provide timely operational information on which the police and army counterinsurgency operations could be mounted, by the early 1950s, there had been a noticeable improvement in its performance. At federal level, the Special Branch had been organised on a functional basis, and Special Branch officers had been posted on the ground at police contingent (state) and district levels. Information was being gathered at Federal Special Branch headquarters on a wide range of operational and non-operational topics, and Special Branch and army relations had begun to improve after it was accepted that the Special Branch was the government’s main intelligence agency and that the army was acting in support of the civil power. By the early 1950s, the Special Branch had begun to settle down as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the government. It had become more confident and proficient in establishing a widespread network of agents and informers and collecting, collating, analysing and disseminating information. By 1951, based on information provided by captured and surrendered CTs and an analysis of captured documents, it had obtained a good understanding of the close relationship between the CPM and its military arm, the MNLA, and had worked out the hierarchical structure of the CPM/MNLA. Most of the leading communist terrorists had been identified and allocated Wanted List numbers. Despite these achievements in setting up the infrastructure for intelligence gathering, by the end of 1949 the British government was so anxious about the threat of the communist insurgency that it decided to send a series of high-level visitors and delegations to review the counterinsurgency strategies that had been developed after the abolition of the MSS and the establishment



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of the Special Branch. In particular, the Colonial Office was concerned to develop a much more effective system for monitoring and countering the activities of the Malayan–Chinese communists, who continued to evade detection partly because of the low level of Chinese language expertise at the Special Branch. The colonial administration was all too aware of the weaknesses of the Special Branch at this time and hence sought to find out how the police, military and civil administration could be harnessed more effectively. This was no mean task, given the ongoing commitment to running the counterinsurgency response as a civilian action rather than a military campaign. The next chapter looks at these ‘agents of change’ as a prelude to the appointment of the first Director of Intelligence in 1950 and the Briggs Plan of the same year. The chapters following emphasise the administrative initiatives that followed the high-level visits, and look at more fundamental logistical assumptions about the intelligence war.

Notes 1 2

3

4

5

Author’s notes. WO 106/5990, Secret, ‘1957 Review of Director of Operations Malaya’, p 27, and Komer, op cit, pp 42–5. See also Karl Hack, ‘British Intelligence and Counter-Insurgency in the Era of Decolonisation: The Example of Malaya’, Intelligence and National Security, 14(2), 1999, pp 124–55, and Zakaria bin Haji Ahmad, ‘The Police and Political Development in Malaya’ in Zakaria bin Haji Ahmad (ed), Government and Politics of Malaysia, Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1997, p 116. The Secretariat for Chinese Affairs was known before the Second World War as the ‘Chinese Protectorate’. It was, in effect, an administrative department staffed by British Malayan Civil Service (MCS) administrative officers who could speak Chinese and whose duties brought them into close contact with the Chinese section of the population. It acted virtually as a ‘bridge’ between the Chinese labour force and the government. Its name was changed post-war to ‘Secretariat for Chinese Affairs’ when it was merged with the Labour Department (see JM Gullick, Malaysia, London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1969, p 108). An outstanding example is that of Inspector TS Sambanthamurthi, a Special Branch officer, who risked his life by ‘joining’ a small Indian guerrilla unit in the Kluang area of Johore. Details of his exploits are still embargoed but when he emerged from the jungle he brought with him a considerable amount of valuable information. He was awarded the George Medal (GM) for bravery at a secret ceremony held at King’s House, Kuala Lumpur, in 1955, but it was not until 1957 that the award was publicly announced (see Tim Hatton, Tock Tock Birds. A Spider in the Web of International Terrorism, Sussex: The Book Guild Ltd, 2004, p 211). In 1947–48, the CPM seeded the formation of the Malay Nationalist Party (MNP), a left-wing anti-British political body, with an initial grant of 50,000–60,000 Straits dollars. The intention was that the MNP would throw its support behind the CPM, but the MNP was soon proscribed by the British colonial authorities and the CPM’s attempt

100

6

7 8

9

10

11 12

13

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

to obtain Malay support in this way failed. See Short, op cit, pp 25, 58, and Chin Peng, op cit, p 155. Approximately 90 per cent of the CTs were Chinese. However, in addition to some Malay and Malayan-Indian members, there were, too, a few Javanese, Thais and Japanese (see The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya (ATOM), Director of Operations, Malaya, Restricted, Chapter II, ‘The Communist Terrorists (CT), Section 9, ‘Notes on the CT Organisation’, 3rd edn, 1958, p 10). The small Japanese group consisted initially of perhaps as many as 100 Japanese soldiers, together with some Japanese civilians who had worked in Malaya during the Japanese occupation, who had refused to surrender at the end of the war and had thrown in their lot with the CPM to fight against the return of British colonial rule. The most prominent Malayan-Indian member of the CPM was RG Balan, who had been one of three CPM representatives sent to attend the Empire Conference of Communist Parties in London in 1947. He had been active pre-Emergency in the left-wing Perak Rubber Labourers’ Union. He was arrested in May 1948 when he was about to enter the jungle to join the guerrillas, and detained for ten years under the Emergency Regulations. He was elected in absentia Vice-President of the CPM Central Committee in 1955. (See Cheah Boon Kheng, ‘The Legal Period: 1945–8. The Malayan Communist Party and its Relations with Malays, British and “Bourgeois Nationalists”’, in CC Chin & Karl Hack (eds), Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Communist Party, Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2004, pp 255–9). See Leon Comber, review of Alias Chin Peng. My Side of History (Chin Peng, op cit), in Intelligence & National Security, 19(1) 2004, pp 125–9. For a definition of ‘turning operations’ see Chapter 1. Turning operations are said to have derived from the practice followed by MI5 in 1939 after the start of the Second World War, of ‘turning round’ captured German spies who had been infiltrated into England, rather than executing them, and then using them to transmit false information back to Germany (see Desmond Ball & David Horner, Breaking the Codes. Australia’s KGB Network, St Leonard’s: Allen & Unwin, 1998, p 277). CO 717/167, ‘The Emergency Regulations Ordinance, 1948’ (Federation of Malaya No 10 of 1948), Supplement to the Federation of Malaya Government Gazette, 15 July 1948, and subsequent revisions and additions enacted in 1949 and 1953. See also Short, op, cit, pp 141–2. On 1 June 1950, the mandatory death sentence was extended to cover ‘anyone demanding, collecting or receiving supplies for guerrillas’ (Short, op cit, p 241, fn 7). Up to 30 November 1949, 77 CTs had been hanged. By the end of 1949, 5,000 persons had been detained under the Emergency Regulations. DEF 7/421/10A, Secret, Despatch No 3, dated 12 January 1950, from Sir Henry Gurney, High Commissioner, Federation of Malaya, to Secretary of State for the Colonies. Short devotes a whole chapter to the squatter problem (Short, op cit, pp 173–205). After Chin Peng moved his headquarters from Pahang to the Betong Salient in southern Thailand in 1952, the Special Branch ascertained that there was a clearly defined courier route stretching some 800 kilometres from the Malayan–Thai border to Johore and Singapore in the south. Guerrilla units in the jungle usually maintained contact with each other through a network of trusted couriers operating to pre-arranged ‘dead letter’ boxes or rendezvous where messages could be left or handed over for onward



14 15

16 17 18 19

20 21 22 23 24 25

26 27

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transmission. Wireless communication in the Malayan jungle was notoriously unreliable and difficult (see The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya (ATOM), op cit, Chapter XVI, ‘Wireless Communications in Malaya’). See Jeffrey, op cit. RJW (Dick) Craig, ‘A Short Account of the Malayan Emergency’, cyclostyled booklet, September 1964, p 6. Richard Craig, OBE, MC, CPM (1921–2000) had a distinguished career as a soldier, colonial police officer (Special Branch) and intelligence officer (MI6). He served in the Palestine Police in 1946 and joined the Malayan Police in 1948 soon after the beginning of the Emergency. He retired from the Malayan Police in 1964 as Head of the Federal Special Branch, with the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police. He was subsequently employed by MI6 and served in the Gulf States (1966–69) and in Delhi (1973–75). According to The Times (London) obituary, 10 August 2000, ‘His public face was that of a large, talkative and boisterous Irishman—an impression of which he was well aware and which he was not above exploiting. Underneath was a conscientious, hardworking, professional with a sensitive feeling for situations and people’. The Guardian, 20 April 2004, and The Australian, 7 January 2005. See The Age (Melbourne), 6 November 2006 p 14. Park, Bum-Joo Lee, ‘The British Experience of Counterinsurgency in Malaya: The Emergency, 1948–1960’, American University, PhD, 1965, p 126. See also Henry Howe Robinson, The Intelligence Establishment, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970, p xv. A similar system used by some US intelligence organisations is referred to as the ‘Double Six’ system. Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1949, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1950, p 142. Author’s notes. Letter from Guy C Madoc to author, dated 10 March 1995. CO717/178, Confidential, Despatch No 2, dated 9 May 1949, from Sir Henry Gurney to Secretary of State for the Colonies. Lim Cheng Leng, op cit, p 82. Author’s notes and conversation in Kuala Lumpur on 17 November 1995 with VK Jeganathan, KMM, AMN, former Superintendent of Police, Special Branch, who was employed in the Holding Centre in the 1950s. The design of the Holding Centre resembled a similar MI5 specialist interrogation centre at Latchmere House, known during the Second World War as ‘Camp 0200’, near the Surrey village of Ham Common in Britain, which was enclosed within two perimeter fences surrounded by a thick wicket fence cutting off visual contact with the outside. It had cells that were ‘bugged’ and an interrogation room with a two-way mirror (see West, op cit, pp 141–50). Author’s notes. Lieutenant General John Coates, former Chief of Staff of the Australian Army, told the author that the transmission of such a signal gave away the location of the communist camp in the jungle near Ipoh that enabled it to be bombed by Lincoln bombers (author’s telephone conversation with Lieutenant General Coates, Defence Force Academy, Canberra, 5 March 1990).

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28 See The Straits Times, 9 March 1958, for an interesting article by Harry Miller on the British Army’s Research Unit. The operational research unit sent an officer to Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising to see if there were any worthwhile techniques used there that could be adapted for use in Malaya. As a result of observing the ‘natural’ tracking expertise of local ethnic tribes, it was decided to bring in some Iban trackers from Borneo who, after first attending a course at the British Army Far East Jungle Warfare Training Centre at Kota Tinggi, Johore, were employed as trackers on jungle patrols with the security forces. 29 The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, Restricted, Kuala Lumpur: Director of Operations, Malaya, 1958. 30 John Cloake, Templer, Tiger of Malaya. The Life of Field Marshall Sir Gerald Templer, London: Harrap, 1985, p 234. 31 The ‘turning’ of communist terrorists to win them over to the government side, referred to previously, required an intimate understanding of communist terrorist psychology. It depended largely on the interrogating officer’s ability, skill and rapport in dealing with the person under interrogation. Arguments were developed to emphasise: (a) the overwhelming strength of the security forces and the sheer futility of carrying on the struggle and existing for years in the jungle without any benefit; (b) the prevalence of internal rivalries and differences within the CPM and the MNLA; and (c) the fear of the death penalty that was mandatory for the unlawful possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives. The system of large rewards offered by the government for the capture, surrender or killing of their erstwhile comrades, and the recovery of firearms, explosives and ammunition, undoubtedly provided a powerful incentive. 32 Singapore National Archives, Oral History Centre, Interview No B000032/030, George E Bogaars. Bogaars was a local senior Singapore civil servant who was appointed by the then Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, to head the Singapore Special Branch. It was the first time a non-serving police officer had been appointed to the post. In Bogaars’ oral testimony, he referred to the communist experts at the Holding Centre as the ‘Brains Trust’. 33 See John Drysdale, Singapore. Struggle for Success, Singapore: Times Books International, 1984, pp 69–70. 34 Letter to author from Yoong Siew Wah, a former senior Singapore Special Branch officer, dated 7 June 1994, and discussions with VK Jaganathan, former Superintendent, Malayan Special Branch, Kuala Lumpur, 17 November 1995. Yoong had a distinguished career in the Singapore Special Branch in the 1950s. In 1961, he was appointed Director of the Singapore Anti-Corruption Agency before returning to intelligence duties in 1971 and becoming Director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD), the successor of the Singapore Special Branch. 35 Yoong Siew Wah, ‘Reminiscences of a Special Branch Executive (1984)’ (unpublished manuscript in possession of the author), p 1, and letters to author from Yoong, dated 16 May and 7 June 1994. The author is grateful to Yoong Siew Wah for his assistance in providing him with a copy of his unpublished manuscript. 36 Sir William Norman Prentice Jenkin, Kt, CSI, CIE, KPM (1899–1983), a former senior Indian Police officer, was brought out of retirement in the UK to take up the appointment of Director of Intelligence, Malaya (1950–51). He joined the Indian Police Service in 1919 and was promoted to Superintendent in 1927. Before retiring in 1947, he had been



37 38

39 40 41 42 43

44 45 46 47 48

49 50 51 52 53 54 55

56

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Deputy Director, Indian Intelligence Bureau, Home Department, Government of India (Who Was Who, op cit). Secretary, Director of Operations Review of the Emergency Situation in Malaya at the end of 1954 (10 January 1955). The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, Restricted. Kuala Lumpur: Director of Operations 1958 (3rd edn), Chapter II, ‘The Communist Terrorists (CT)’, Section 7, p 8. Edgar O’Ballance, Malaya: The Communist Insurgent War, 1948–1960, London: Faber & Faber Ltd, 1966, p 103. The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, op cit, Section 4, ‘The Disbandment of the MPAJA and After’, p 4. Short, op cit, p 33. O’Ballance, op cit, pp 105–6. Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, CC Too Papers, Secret, ‘Notes on the Malayan Communist Party, Précis of a Talk given at the Information Services Headquarters on 3.5.56’, p 318, and Lim Cheng Leng, op cit, pp 164–5, 169. Lim Cheng Leng, a senior Special Branch officer, was a long-term colleague of CC Too in the field of psychological warfare. Author’s notes. O’Ballance, op cit, p 89. Komer, op cit, pp 7–8. O’Ballance, op cit, p 140. The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, op cit, Chapter II, Section 7, ‘Armed Forces of the MCP’, p 8, and Kumar Ramakrishna, ‘Content, Credibility and Context: Propaganda Government Surrender Policy and the Malayan Communist Terrorist Mass Surrenders of 1958’, Intelligence & National Security, 14(1), 1999. Leong Chee Woh’s email to author, 25 March 1999. The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, op cit, Chapter II, Section 7, ‘Armed Forces of the MCP’, p 8. Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, CC Too Papers, Secret. ‘Appendix ‘B’, Précis of Talk given on 8.3.56’, p 39. Craig, op cit, p 10. The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, op cit, Chapter II, Section 6—Present Organisation, para 5, ‘Military High Command’. O’Ballance, op cit, p 89. Arkib Negara, Secret, CC Too Papers, ‘Notes on the Malayan Communist Party’, PWS/ Conf/79/72, para 34, and The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, op cit, Chapter II, ‘The Communist Terrorists (CT), Section 6, ‘Organisation of the MCP’, p 7. CO 717/178 (20-26/5/49), Annex to Report No 17, paras 6, ‘Secret Strategic Plan, October & December 1948’, Eastern Department, Colonial Office. A document recovered by the Special Branch, believed to be in the handwriting of Chin Peng, confirmed the establishment of the three bureaux prior to December 1948.

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57 The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, op cit, Section 6, ‘Organisation of the MCP’, p 6. 58 Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Young Papers, ‘Organisation of MCP (January 1955)’. 59 Starner, op cit, p. 145; Leong Chee Woh, Scorpio. The Communist Eraser, Taiwan: Lao Bai & Tang Publishing House, 1996, p 40; and Craig, op cit, p 5. 60 A British expeditionary force put down the Pahang Rebellion in 1895 (Amarjit Kaur, Historical Dictionary of Malaysia, Metuchen, & London: The Scarecrow Press Inc, 1993). 61 See Short, op cit, pp 208–9. 62 CO 1022/205, CIS (53) (3) (Amended Final). Secret. ‘Malay Participation in the Present Emergency’, paper by the Combined Intelligence Staff. 63 Starner, op cit, p 245. 64 Chin Peng, op cit, pp 102, and 138. Chin Peng has provided an interesting account of this period in his autobiography. See also CC Chin, ‘In Search of the Revolution: A Brief Biography of Chin Peng’ in CC Chin & Karl Hack (eds), Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Communist Party, Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2004, p 350. 65 ibid, p 23. According to Denis Warner, the distinguished Australian foreign correspondent, Lai Teck’s original Vietnamese name was Nguyen Van Long (see Denis Warner, Out of the Gun, London, Hutchinson, 1956, p 138 and Warner’s letter to author, dated 4 May 1994) but it has not been possible to confirm this from any other source. Warner gives his source as Tran Vin Dinh, a Vietnamese who was heavily involved with the Vietnamese resistance to French colonial rule. Lai Teck adopted many aliases, including ‘Mr Wright’ (a name probably based on the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese characters for ‘Lai Teck’), Chang Hung, Wong Siu Tong, Wong Kim Geok and many others. Chin Peng (op cit) gives his name as ‘Lai Te’, following the putonghua pronunciation. 66 Chin Peng, op cit, pp 82–3. 67 ibid, p 190. 68 An excellent account of Lai Teck and his activities is provided by the Japanese scholar Yoji Akashi (op cit, pp 37–103). See also Ban Kah Choon, op cit, p 133. 69 According to the Malayan Establishment Staff List (FCO Library, JF 1521, 1 July 1941, p 57), Tremlett was an assistant superintendent in the Singapore Special Branch in 1941. For mention of Tremlett in Force 136, see Charles Cruikshank, SOE. Special Operations Executive in the Far East, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986, pp 12, 129, 209fn, 210fn. Edward Gent, then a senior Colonial Office official, reported his death in a letter, reference 50745/5/445 dated 14 December 1945, to AH Dickinson, former Inspector General of the Straits Settlements Police. Chin Peng told the author on 19 February 1999 in Canberra that he was introduced to Tremlett by Colonel John HL Davis, Force 136, in Kuala Lumpur in 1945 after the Japanese surrender, which must have been just before Tremlett left Singapore to return to Ceylon. After Tremlett’s tragic death, AEG (Alan) Blades, then in the Malayan Security Service, became Lai Teck’s case officer until Lai Teck absconded in 1947 (author’s notes).



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70 See Richard J Aldrich, The Hidden Hand. Britain, American and Cold War Secret Intelligence, Woodstock & New York: The Overlook Press, 2002, p 496. 71 The Times, London, 5 December 1952. 72 An example of this, according to the author’s recollection when he was at Federal Special Branch headquarters in 1949, was a paper that he prepared on arms trafficking across the Straits of Malacca between Malaya and Indonesia. 73 Philip HJ Davies, ‘The SIS Singapore Station and the Role of the Far East Controller: Secret Intelligence Structure and Process in Post-War Colonial Administration’, in Richard J Aldrich, Gary D Rawnsley & King-Yeh T Rawnsley, The Clandestine Cold War in Asia, 1945–65, London & Portland: Frank Cass Publishers, 2000, pp 105–6. See also National Intelligence Machinery, London: The Stationery Office Ltd, 2000, passim. 74 CAB 158/20/JIC (55) 28, Top Secret. ‘Methods of Handling and Distribution of Intelligence Reports from the Colonies’, pp 8–9. 75 National Intelligence Machinery, op cit, passim. See also Sir Rodvic Braithwite, ‘Assessment and Analysis: Building an Accurate Picture’, in Harold Shukan (ed.), Agents for Change. Intelligence Services in the 21st Century, London: St Ermine’s Press, 2000, pp 97–107. 76 CAB 158/20/JIC (55) 28, Top Secret, ‘Methods of Handling and Distribution of Intelligence Reports from the Colonies’, p 7.

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Reproduced from Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency by Leon Comber (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

chapter five Agents of change (1949–52)

From 1949 onwards, the British government sent several senior officials, a police mission, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), and a Cabinet minister to Malaya to assess and report on the situation on the ground. It was becoming increasingly clear to the government that the communist insurgency could only be defeated by an improvement in the higher direction of the campaign and the re-thinking of the strategy to be followed. This chapter seeks to review the above visits and the impact they had on the Special Branch and the intelligence war. As noted at the end of Chapter 3, reform of the Special Branch was badly needed and it fell to these ‘agents of further change’ to suggest what should be done. In particular, the lack of Chinese-speaking expatriate officers in the Special Branch and the civil administration received special attention. One of the first senior officers to visit Singapore and Malaya from the Colonial Office after the declaration of Emergency was Colonel WC Johnson, Police Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He arrived in Singapore in September 1949.1 Before being appointed to his Colonial Office post in 1948, Johnson had been one of His Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary in Britain. He was responsible for reviewing the organisation and performance of the various British colonial police forces, especially the work of the Special Branch.2 The appointment, which was new one, was made when it became apparent to the British authorities that the Comintern was attempting to stir up ‘disaffection and disturbances in the colonial dependencies of Western “imperialism”’.3 It is likely that Johnson’s visit resulted from a memo that Ernest Bevan, the British Foreign Secretary, sent to the British Prime Minister in the autumn of 1948 indicating that as ‘our colonial territories are likely to be the principal objectives of communist attack…we should have the best possible intelligence about communist activity’.4 General Hollis, the Principal Staff Officer to the Ministry of Defence, supported Bevan’s submission to the Prime Minister. In furtherance to what Bevan wrote, he expressed the view to the Prime Minister that ‘the best way to achieve this is to strengthen and 107

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tune up our colonial police forces. We must have good intelligence on the spot so that communist activities can be apprehended right from the start… recent events…in Malaya demonstrated this need’ (see Table 5).5 The Prime Minister accepted the proposals and it was decided on 8 October 1948 that the Colonial Office should appoint a permanent representative to the Joint Intelligence Committee to ensure that secret intelligence matters referring to the colonies were not overlooked.6 At the same time, Creech Jones, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, sent a secret despatch to all colonial governors advising them to ensure that their Special Branches were ready and up-to-strength, and their police forces placed on alert to deal with what was likely to be a serious threat to internal security posed by local communist parties. As Creech Jones pointed out, the Special Branch would be the vanguard of any counter-offensive against communist subversion.7 As far as the Colonial Office in London was concerned, as early as 1948 it had considered establishing a ‘political intelligence section’ to replace the existing Defence and General Department to deal specifically with matters that were likely to fall within the purview of police intelligence. Nothing came of it at the time, but when the matter was raised again and given further consideration, a Defence, Intelligence and Security section or department was formed in the Colonial Office in 1955.8 How serious was the internal security situation at the time of Johnson’s visit? Bearing in mind that Johnson visited Singapore in September 1949 and went on to Kuala Lumpur in early October, Sir Henry Gurney’s despatch to the Secretary of State for the Colonies covering the period from the outbreak of the Emergency to the end of November 1949, provides an overall impression of the security situation at the time of Johnson’s visit.9 In the general body of his report, Gurney pointed out that ‘information given by bandits [sic]10 who have surrendered…has furnished most valuable intelligence not obtainable earlier in regard to the composition, condition and plans of the bandit forces, and as to their communications and sources of supply’. Gurney’s comments confirm the importance the Special Branch attached to information obtained from captured and surrendered CTs referred to in the preceding chapter. Nevertheless, Gurney sounded a note of warning by adding that ‘the political brains behind the Communist effort remain for practical purposes untouched and unlocated’.11



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In his despatch, Gurney recounted the government’s successes during the 18 months under review against the communist terrorists, which are summarised below: • 942 communist terrorists had been killed, 303 wounded, 241 surrendered and 569 captured. • 4,456 firearms/explosives of various sorts had been recovered, including 3,600 rifles, 45 machine guns, 1,488 hand grenades and 565,000 rounds of small arms ammunition.12 • 72 communist terrorists had been hanged for capital offences under the Emergency Regulations. • 1,108 terrorist camps in the jungle had been located and destroyed. • Approximately 10,000 communist terrorists and ‘their supporters and families’ had been deported to China.13 • Approximately 5,000 communist supporters had been detained under the Emergency Regulations for participation in the armed uprising in one form or another.14 • 4,500 Chinese squatters had been resettled from areas ‘previously dominated by the Malayan Communist Party’. Gurney did not provide details of civilian or security force casualties for the same period, but the figures for June 1948 to December 1949 are indicated in Table 5. They substantiate that the police were in the vanguard of the struggle against the communist insurgents and consequently suffered more casualties, killed and wounded than the army did, but more importantly, they cast a spotlight on the grievous losses suffered by the civilian population. They were far larger than the police and army’s combined losses—836 police/army were killed and wounded, while 1,248 civilians were killed and wounded. In fact, throughout the twelve years of the Emergency, civilian casualties remained high (see Chapter 1, Table 1), which does not appear to have been remarked on in the literature. The high rate of civilian casualties, mostly inflicted by the insurgents, would reflect badly on the CPM’s attempts to win over public support for its cause.

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Table 5: Police, army and civilian casualties (1948–49) Security forces and civilians

June 1948–December 1949

Killed Police

253

Army

125

Civilians

899*

Wounded Police

289

Army

169

Civilians

349

*includes 250 ‘missing’, who must be considered killed. Source: Adapted from Despatch no. 14, Top Secret, High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, Kuala Lumpur, to Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, London, 5 November 1960 & Arkib Negara Malaysia, Misc. 16, Emergency Statistics for the Federation of Malaya since 1948.

In spite of the losses suffered by the MNLA that Gurney referred to, the strength of the communist jungle army remained unchanged, and it was evident that the guerrillas were able to make up their losses by attracting recruits from the Min Yuen and other communist supporters. O’Ballance remarks there was no shortage of keen young men and women who opposed British colonial rule and were willing to join the MNLA. They were encouraged, too, by the successes of the Chinese Communist Party in China in the civil war against the Kuomintang forces. There was even a ‘waiting list’ for recruits and some volunteers were told to return home after receiving basic training in jungle warfare and communist doctrine to await call-up when they were required.15 Further, the Special Branch received reliable information that members of the Chinese community were paying subscriptions to the communists, (whether extorted or voluntary was not always clear), ‘augmented by the proceeds of rubber stolen from Chinese estates whose owners live in towns and exercise no proper supervision’.16 To revert to Johnson’s visit, after spending several weeks in Malaya, he prepared his inspection report, which was addressed to the Commissioner of Police through the High Commissioner, with a copy for information to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.17 Johnson paid particular attention to the Special Branch in his report, no doubt bearing in mind the importance the Secretary of State for the Colonies attached to the Special Branch, and



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recommended that steps should be taken urgently to increase its strength and provide further training in intelligence techniques. And after his return to London, he made arrangements for Malayan Special Branch officers to be sent on courses dealing with the general organisation and duties of the Special Branch, organised by the London Metropolitan Police Special Branch at New Scotland Yard, and for training at MI5’s headquarters in London in domestic intelligence and counterintelligence methods.18 Johnson arranged too for uniformed branch officers to attend courses at British police training centres, such as the Police College, Ryton-on-Dunmore.19 From 1951 onwards, cadet assistant superintendents on first appointment to the Malayan Police were required to attend an eight-month training course before leaving for Malaya. The course included three months’ training at a police recruits’ basic training centre (for example, the No 4 Police District Training Centre, Mill Meece, Staffordshire), and another three to four months’ training on the Special Colonial Police Course at the Hendon Police College. The latter course included short attachments to various British police forces, both metropolitan and country, as well as military police units.20 The program was a great improvement on the system that had prevailed in the immediate post-war period of allowing cadet assistant superintendents to take up their appointments without formal training, thus leaving themselves, as Johnson put it in his report, ‘almost entirely in the hands of their subordinates’. However, although Johnson does not refer to it, there was simply no time after the end of the Second World War for the handful of officers appointed directly to gazetted officer rank in the Malayan Police to be given formal police training, since they were required to take up their duties immediately on account of the prevailing unsettled conditions in Malaya and the shortage of gazetted police officers. There was an urgent need to fill vacancies as soon as possible, as many pre-war officers of the Malayan Police has become casualties during the Malayan campaign. British officers appointed directly at this time had held commissioned officer rank in the British armed forces.21 Johnson arranged, too, for regular conferences of colonial police commissioners to be held in Britain to provide a forum for colonial police matters to be discussed and to share experiences and strategies. The conferences provided the commissioners with an opportunity to meet senior military intelligence officers, the Director-General of MI5, other senior British intelligence officers and senior Colonial Office officials.22

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Colonel Gray, the Malayan Commissioner of Police, attended the first conference held from 1 to 7 April 1951 at the Police College, Ryton-onDunmore. Other officers attending included Colonel Arthur E Young, then Commissioner of the City of London Police who was later in February 1952 to succeed Gray as Commissioner of Police in Malaya; Sir Percy Sillitoe, Director-General of MI5; and DG (Dick) White, a senior MI5 officer who was afterwards to head successively both MI5 and MI6.23 Sillitoe and White spoke at the conference on a wide range of topics of Special Branch interest, including: • the organisation of MI5 • the role of MI5 and its relationship with colonial police Special Branches • the system of posting MI5 Security Liaison officers to the colonies to work closely with local Special Branches • methods and techniques of Soviet subversion throughout the world • the objects and capabilities of the British Communist Party. There was a general discussion on the best strategies to be followed to control the spread of communism and counter communist propaganda and ideas in the colonies, and the commissioners were ‘in complete agreement’ that the primary task of the colonial police in the present circumstances was to protect the community against politically inspired terrorism.24 The colonial police commissioners were presented to King George VI and the Queen when they visited the College on 5 April. Further conferences were held in 1954, 1957 and 1960. At the 1957 conference, it was stated that the visits of MI5 officers to the colonial Special Branches, which had been taking place since the last conference, had brought about a considerable strengthening of the organisation of the Special Branches, and MI5 officers had been able to advise on the setting up of a system of local intelligence committees in the colonies.25 One of the most important officers to visit Malaya from the Special Branch point of view was Field Marshal Sir William Slim, Chief of the British Imperial General Staff.26 He arrived in October 1949, just after Johnson’s visit, as part of a tour of Britain’s Southeast Asian colonies. Probably of all the visitors to Malaya at this time, he was the best qualified to comment on the Emergency and the local situation, due to his extensive Asian experience as a regular Indian Army officer, both before and during



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the Second World War. His ensuing report highlighted several matters of Special Branch interest.27 While acknowledging the improvements to the general organisation of the police that Colonel Gray had made since taking over as Commissioner of Police in July 1948, Slim pointed out that the Special Branch required restructuring on ‘sound modern lines’ and that it should have a ‘proper central Headquarters’. His comments were undoubtedly well-founded and, in fact, Sir William Jenkin made it his task to attend to these issues soon after his arrival at Kuala Lumpur in June 1950 as Adviser to the Special Branch/CID. Slim stressed in his report that it was important for the civil administration, police and army to work closely together. He recommended, too, that Chinese squatters, who occupied land in outlying areas outside the effective administrative control of the government, should be brought under police control to disrupt their contact with the communist guerrillas. This could be done, he said, by either establishing police stations or posts in the squatter areas or resettling the squatters in alternative sites where the police could protect them. Slim’s recommendations in many respects presaged the action taken in the following year as a result of measures introduced by General Briggs, Malaya’s first Director of Operations, as part of his Briggs Plan (see Chapter 7).28 Slim undoubtedly put his finger on a sensitive spot by commenting that the police and civil administration were not, in his words, ‘capable of dealing with the Chinese’. He gave two reasons for this: (a) the lack of British administrative officers and police officers, especially in the Special Branch, who could speak Chinese; and (b) the lack of uniformed Chinese police constables in the police.29 To remedy the situation, he recommended the transfer or secondment of Chinese or British Cantonese-speaking Special Branch officers and uniformed Chinese police constables from the Hong Kong Police to the Malayan Police. The main Chinese dialect spoken in Hong Kong is Cantonese, which is one of the two most widely spoken Chinese dialects in Malaya, the other being Hokkien. Although the Colonial Office doubted whether any police officers could be spared from Hong Kong in view of the tense internal security situation prevailing there, following the advance of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to Shumchun (Shenzen) on the border with Hong Kong, it was clearly a novel idea that deserved serious consideration. In the end, a compromise was reached. While no uniformed Chinese police constables were transferred, some Cantonese-

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speaking British police officers were transferred from Hong Kong to serve in the Malayan Special Branch.30 Table 6: Ethnic composition of Malayan Police by rank, 1947 and 1958 1947

1958

Ethnic group

GOs (a)

Insp

P/Lt

SPOs & PCs (b)

GOs

Insp

P/Lt

SPOs & PCs

European (c)

130

8





165



197



Malay

19

115



7,999

141

629



17,006

Indians & Pakistanis

3

41



1,469

87

240



948

Chinese*

2

24



402

98

395



1,927

Others



4



33

17

35



83

Total

154

192



9,903

508

1,299

197

19,964

(a) Gazetted officers. (b) Subordinate police officers and police constables. (c) ‘European’ was the term commonly applied to British officers in the Malayan Police and colloquially to all Caucasians in Malaya at the time. * The figures for 1958 reveal the significant increase in the number of Malay, Chinese and Indian/Pakistani gazetted officers and Inspectors employed as the result of the government’s ‘Malayanisation’ program introduced after independence in 1957. However, the Chinese percentage of the total was still low, viz, in 1947: GOs 1.3 per cent, Insp. 12.5 per cent and SPOs & PCs 4.1 per cent; and in 1958: GOs 19.3 per cent, Insp. 30.4 per cent and SPOs & PCs 9.6 per cent. Source: Adapted from Federation of Malaya Police Annual Reports 1955 and 1958; and Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, 120/8/4, ‘Racial Composition of the Malayan Police’, p. 3.

With regard to Slim’s comments about the lack of Chinese-speaking British police officers, the matter had in fact been adverted to several times since the British returned to Malaya after the war. In 1949, not long after arriving at Kuala Lumpur, Sir Henry Gurney had written a despatch touching on the same subject to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.31 Gurney realised, however, that there was no easy solution to the problem, as the study of Chinese, unlike Malay and most other Asian languages, posed unique difficulties for foreigners because of the tonal nature of the spoken language and the complexity of the Chinese written ideographs. Later, Sir Richard Catling, a former Senior Assistant Commissioner in the Malayan Police, was to write:



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If I were asked to sum up our main difficulty in one word I would say ‘Language’…A British officer in the field was ineffective unless he had a good working knowledge of at least the main local language [Malay]…In addition, we needed specialists in other languages and were hampered by the lack of sufficient Chinese speakers [author’s emphasis] in Malaya.32

As Leung Chee Woh, a former senior Chinese Special Branch officer, relates in his memoirs, Chinese officers played a very significant part in the work of the Special Branch ‘as the Communist insurgency problem was mainly a Chinese one’.33 There is no doubt that most former British officers of the Malayan Special Branch would agree with him. As there were few Chinese gazetted officers in the police during the first few years of the Emergency, British Special Branch officers had largely to rely on the assistance of Chinese inspectors to overcome the language problems they encountered in dealing with the Chinese populace. They provided invaluable assistance in the interrogation of surrendered and captured communist guerrillas and the running of informers and agents. In July–August 1951, the government attempted to overcome the shortage of British Chinese-speaking officers by providing Chinese language courses locally for selected Malayan police and civil service officers. Two courses in colloquial Cantonese and Hokkien were started, each lasting five-and-ahalf months, at a newly established government Chinese language school in the Cameron Highlands under the directorship of Robert Bruce, a British Council officer and former missionary in China. Bruce was well-versed in Cantonese and Mandarin (putonghua), the Chinese national language. Thereafter, Chinese language courses were held at regular intervals.34 Twenty police officers (mainly Special Branch) and four Malayan Civil Service (MCS) officers attended each of the first two courses, and the same number of officers attended each of the next two courses, commencing in January and February 1952.35 In February 1953, courses were offered in colloquial putonghua and Hakka too. In pre-war days, it was the practice to send a small number of selected British police and administrative officers to China to learn Cantonese in Canton (Guangzhou) or Hokkien in Amoy (Xiamen) for 18 months’ to two years’ full-time study. They employed individual tutors on a one-to-one basis to study intensively both the spoken and written language in order to sit for oral and written examinations set by the Malayan government. While the shorter Chinese language courses held at the Cameron Highlands did not aspire to reach this level of competency, they did aim to train officers

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to be able to carry on a simple conversation in Chinese. No instruction was offered, however, in the written language, although one or two dedicated Special Branch officers did try to overcome this omission by studying written Chinese in their own time and at their own expense.36 The appointment of Gray as Commissioner of Police in 1948 to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Colonel Langworthy, and the ensuing influx of large numbers of ex-Palestine Police officers in 1948 and 1949 after the withdrawal of the British from Palestine, eventually brought about a schism between the pre-war members of the Malayan Police and the newly arrived ex-Palestine Police contingent.37 Colonel Gray himself had been Inspector-General of the Palestine Police before coming to Malaya. There was perceived to be a wide difference in their views, attitudes and approaches to policing in Malaya. As the top echelons of the police became increasingly embroiled in what had developed into a power struggle between the two factions, Sir Henry Gurney moved decisively to resolve the problem. He recommended to the Colonial Office that a high-level police mission should be sent out to Malaya to investigate the causes of the friction and carry out a widesweeping review of the Malayan Police. 38 The Mission appointed by the Colonial Office was chaired by Sir Alexander Maxwell, a former Permanent Under-Secretary at the Home Office, assisted by Major JF Ferguson, Chief Constable of the Kent Police Force, and RL Jackson, Secretary at Scotland Yard to the London Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Jackson was a barrister, specialising in police intelligence (Special Branch) and criminal investigation, who afterwards became Assistant Commissioner (CID) of the London Metropolitan Police and later head of Interpol. The Mission arrived one month after Field Marshall Sir William Slim’s visit. John Gullick, a Malayan Civil Service officer, was appointed Secretary of the Mission, and remained with it as escort officer during the two-and-a-half months from 27 November 1949 to 12 February 1950 that it remained in Malaya.39 The Mission’s report was diplomatic. While acknowledging there was a ‘preponderance at police headquarters of officers who were newcomers to Malaya’, which was a tactful way of referring to the ex-Palestine Police officers who had been brought in by Gray, it downplayed the suggestion that had been made that pre-war Malayan Police officers had been discriminated against. It also did not find favour with the view that there had been a significant number of premature retirements or resignations of pre-war Malayan Police officers on account of the animus between the two factions



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in the police. The reference to ‘retirements’ and ‘resignations’ clearly alluded to the resignations of Basil O’Connell and Ken Duthie, Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner respectively, who headed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)—it will be recollected that the Special Branch was then subsumed in to the CID—and who had resigned after some disagreements with Gray not long after he became Commissioner of Police.40 With reference to the lack of Chinese police officers, the Mission recommended that ‘Malaysians’, that is, Malays, Chinese and Indians, should be appointed to gazetted rank as British officers were, and that Chinese should be encouraged to assume a greater share in the work of policing the country. From the Special Branch point of view, the most important recommendation was that a police officer experienced in intelligence work should be appointed as adviser to the Special Branch/CID. The Mission recommended that ‘the most suitable man would be one with Colonial or Indian [Special Branch] experience of conditions similar to those now existing in Malaya’.41 It was as a result of this recommendation that Sir William Jenkin was appointed in May 1950, on one year’s contract in the first place, as ‘Adviser on CID methods and the reorganisation of the Branch [Special Branch/ CID]’.42 He arrived in Kuala Lumpur on 22 June 1950. Jenkin was an experienced Indian Police Special Branch officer who had retired three years earlier as Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Home Department, Government of India, on India becoming independent.43 By the end of the year, Jenkin had come to the view that his title as ‘Special Branch/CID Adviser’ did not provide him with the executive authority over police intelligence matters that he required. It was therefore agreed that his appointment should be redesignated as Director of Intelligence ‘to facilitate his work in advising and assisting in the reorganisation of the Special Branch/CID’.44 He thus became Malaya’s first Director of Intelligence. His contract was later extended, and during the 18 months he spent in Malaya, he reorganised and retrained the Special Branch, although unfortunately not all of the measures he put forward met with the approval of Gray. Jenkin intended, for instance, that the Special Branch, like the Malayan Security Service before it, should be separated from the CID (and the police) and play a more independent role as an intelligence organisation, with a direct line of reporting to the High Commissioner. When Gray disagreed with him, relations between the two men deteriorated further and Jenkin resigned. He returned to Britain in January 1952.

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While there is no evidence to suggest that Tan Cheng Lock (later Tun Sir Cheng Lock Tan), the leader of the Malayan Chinese Association, was privy to the several official reports that were in existence at that time dealing with the problem of obtaining greater Chinese support for the government and encouraging Chinese to join the police, it did emerge that he and his colleagues in the MCA had been thinking along similar lines.45 In May 1950, for instance, he submitted a confidential memorandum to the Colonial Secretary (Creech Jones) and the Secretary of State for War (John Strachey), who were then visiting Malaya, advocating the greater use, as he put it, of ‘Chinese to fight Chinese’. He urged the setting up of what he called a ‘Malayan Chinese secret service’ and a ‘Malayan or Chinese Brigade’ under the command of British Special Branch officers to fight communist terrorism.46 Tan’s proposals, however, were not taken up by the government at the time, probably because the Special Branch was concerned that if they were accepted, an opportunity would be provided for former Kuomintang (KMT) army officers then living in Malaya to participate in and form what would become a ‘Third Force’ to fight the communists. The difficulty was that on 6 January 1950 Britain had recognised the Communist government in China, after the Kuomintang under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek had been driven into exile in Taiwan, and it did not wish to be seen as favouring the Kuomintang in Malaya. According to Special Branch intelligence, many members of the Malayan Chinese Association and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Malaya and Singapore supported the Kuomintang, which in the meantime had had considerable success in penetrating the auxiliary police in Malaya. In 1951, there were some 2,300 auxiliary police in Malaya.47 The Special Branch reported that the officer-in-charge of the Chinese auxiliary police unit in Johore Bahru was Deputy Director of the Singapore office of the Alumni of Chinese Military Academics. He was a graduate of the KMTaffiliated Central Military Academy, Chungking, who had fought against the communist army in China during the Second World War. The alumni of the Academy were scattered throughout Malaya and Singapore, and included three former KMT colonels, six lieutenant colonels, twelve majors, fifty captains, forty lieutenants and twelve second-lieutenants.48 The three main constituent parts of Tan’s plan were as follows: • to ‘create, train and equip a Malayan Chinese Brigade under British officers’ to be deployed as a counterinsurgency force



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• to form a ‘Malayan Chinese Constabulary’, together with a force of kampong guards under British control, ‘in every squatter settlement and every village’ to help the regular police win over the confidence and active co-operation of the Chinese population • ‘to create, train and maintain a large Malayan Chinese secret service’ under the Special Branch to penetrate the communist network outside the jungle. As Tan put it, ‘the best man to catch the Chinese bandit [sic], communist agent or rebel is the Chinese policeman, Chinese spy or Chinese soldier’. Although the government did nothing about Tan’s plan, he discussed it several times later with the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney. In a further proposal made in October 1951, which resembled in some ways the recommendations that had been made by Slim, he suggested that an approach should be made to the British colonial government in Hong Kong to send ‘a strong body of Hong Kong Chinese police to form the nucleus of an adequate Malayan Chinese police force’. Gurney agreed to meet Tan and a small committee representing the MCA on 28 October 1951 at King’s House, Kuala Lumpur, to give further consideration to Tan’s proposals, and he invited Malcolm MacDonald, the British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia, and Sir Franklin Gimson, the Singapore Governor, to attend. It was unfortunate that the meeting did not take place, as Gurney was killed in a guerrilla ambush on his way up to Fraser’s Hill on 6 October.49 Although it was suspected at the time that there was a communist agent among Sir Henry’s domestic staff who had revealed details of his travel plans to the communist guerrillas, subsequent Special Branch enquiries confirmed that this was not the case. From communist documents that were recovered at the ambush site, it was determined that the communists intended to ambush an easy target to capture firearms. The ambush had not been specifically laid to kill Gurney, and it was a ‘chance’ ambush. It was unfortunate that Sir Henry’s limousine was seen by the communist guerrillas to present an easy unprotected target, as his police escort had become dispersed on the narrow winding road leading up to Fraser’s Hill and one of the police armoured cars forming part of his escort had broken down.50 In spite of this setback, Tan did not let the matter drop. He submitted his proposals in a slightly modified form to Oliver Lyttelton (later Viscount Chandos), the newly appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies after the Conservative Party under Winston Churchill came to power in Britain, when he met Lyttelton at King’s House, Kuala Lumpur, on 3 December 1951.51

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

The newly installed Conservative government in the UK was concerned about the security situation in Malaya, and Lyttelton was sent out urgently to Malaya in November 1951 to ascertain what should be done to improve what was seen to be the worsening situation in Malaya. Lyttelton does not refer directly to Tan’s proposals in his memoirs, and there is no indication of what transpired between the two men when they met, but he does mention meeting ‘one or two deputations’, including representatives of the Malayan Chinese Association, after his arrival at Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of December 1951.52 Lyttelton’s mission to Malaya after the death of Sir Henry Gurney included Colonel WA Muller, Johnson’s successor as Inspector-General of the Colonial Police,53 and a small personal staff consisting of his Parliamentary Private Secretary (Hugh Fraser), his Private Secretary (Angus MacKintosh), and the Under Secretary of State at the Colonial Office in charge of the Far East (John Paskin). The inclusion of the Inspector-General of the Colonial Police in his party is indicative of the importance Lyttelton attached to police matters. As Lyttelton brings out in his memoirs, he devoted much of his time in Malaya to the subject of law and order, which included the organisation of the Special Branch. As Lyttelton wrote later in his memoirs: It was evident that we were on the way to losing control of the country, and soon. The repercussions of such a loss on South-East Asia, one of the most troubled and tender parts of the world, were incalculable. Moreover, rubber and tin were amongst the most important exports and dollar earners on the Commonwealth.54

A number of important decisions had to be made. The successor to Sir Henry Gurney had not yet been found. Meanwhile, the Gray and Jenkin had both resigned, as will be related later. Lieutenant General Sir Harold Briggs, had recently retired, too, worn out by his efforts as Director of Operations, and his deputy, Lieutenant General Sir Rob Lockhart, had taken over from him.55 Muller remained behind in Malaya for some time after Lyttelton returned to London to advise on ‘what measure of police reorganisation may be necessary’.56 Muller, however, was not an intelligence specialist, and his report dated 27 February 1952 did not refer specifically to the Special Branch but concerned itself with the general training of the police force, which Muller claimed had fallen behind because of the tremendous expansion that had taken place since 1948.57 The Straits Times reported that Muller had



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held talks with the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Operations to do with the training of special constables and the need for trained police instructors, but no other information was publicly disclosed.58 On his return to London on 29 December 1951, after his whirlwind visit to Malaya including a few days spent in Hong Kong writing up his report, Lyttelton submitted his report to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the British Cabinet. Its main thrust was to recommend that an outstanding serving or retired military officer, or ‘supremo’, as he put it, should be appointed to direct both military operations and the civil administration in the Emergency. This suggestion was not, in fact, entirely new. John Strachey, Secretary of State for War, following his visit to Malaya in November 1950, had urged the prime minister to appoint a ‘British High Commissioner for the Far East’ with ‘supreme powers in Malaya’ over both the police and the army, with the ability to oversee the ‘political, economic and democratic development of Malaya’.59 Lieutenant General Sir Rob Lockhart, who had just taken over as Director of Operations from General Briggs, had anticipated Lyttelton’s recommendations, too, in a top-secret report dated 26 November 1951 that he had sent Field Marshall Sir William Slim. Lockhart’s report envisaged the appointment of a serving or retired military leader ‘of proved capacity’ to direct the campaign in all aspects, with ‘complete executive control over all services, civil and military’.60 Lyttelton does not refer to Strachey or Lockhart’s recommendations in his report and it is not possible to say whether he was aware of them. Lyttelton’s report contained several important recommendations with direct relevance to intelligence and the Special Branch, as follows: • A Director of Intelligence with an intelligence staff (drawn as far as possible from police and army headquarters) should be appointed to the Director of Operations staff so that the Director of Operations would be able to direct, co-ordinate and distribute intelligence from the Special Branch and military intelligence sources. • Special Branch intelligence should include ‘live’ as well as ‘blown’ or ‘dead’ sources. • The collection of intelligence should come from five main sources: (a) aggressive patrolling by police and military (b) police round-ups and security checks

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

(c) patrolling in deep jungle by irregular army units (d) reconnaissance by air (e) interrogation by the Special Branch of persons suspected to be in contact with communist terrorists, as well as surrendered and captured communist terrorists. • Action should be taken to increase the number of police and government officers able to speak Chinese and Malay. • A Chinese Home Guard should be formed as a first step to gain increased Chinese support. Lyttelton hoped this would have a two-fold effect in leading to an increase in the flow of information from Chinese sources to the Special Branch and encouraging young Chinese men to enlist in the regular uniformed branch of the police. (Lyttelton’s recommendations in this respect are very similar to Tan Cheng Lock’s proposals but Lyttelton does not allude to them).61 The Cabinet accepted most of Lyttelton’s recommendations, and with some minor modifications they were implemented. By ‘live’ sources, Lyttelton was probably referring to HUMINT, that is, human intelligence provided by surrendered and captured communist guerrillas, as well as intelligence obtained from Special Branch agents and informers. The Special Branch was fully aware that these sources of ‘realtime’ intelligence were probably the most important sources of intelligence on which counterinsurgency operations could be mounted. By ‘blown’ or ‘dead’ sources, Lyttelton was evidently referring to intelligence derived from captured or recovered communist documents that were usually of ‘historical’ value only and bereft of operational intelligence (OPINTEL).62 In referring to ‘patrolling in deep jungle by irregular army units’, Lyttelton had in mind the ‘Malay Scouts’ or ‘Ferret Force’ (1948–50), an irregular guerrilla unit led by British officers with experience of jungle operations that had been formed early on in the Emergency at the suggestion of the General Officer Commanding, Malaya, to operate in the jungle against the communist insurgents, often remaining in the jungle for prolonged periods of time.63 It was later replaced by the SAS, the British army’s Special Air Service. The sources of intelligence enumerated by Lyttelton in his report were, of course, not unknown to the Special Branch, and they were, in fact, subsequently incorporated in The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in



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Malaya (ATOM), a revised edition of which was prepared for the security forces under the direction of General Templer when he became High Commissioner and Director of Operations in 1952. With regard to a separate reference Lyttelton made in his report about the desirability of tightening up security against infiltration by communist agents, Lyttelton may well have been influenced by a secret Special Branch report, dated March 1950, describing widespread communist activities in the Ipoh Detention Camp that had escaped detection by the camp staff until they were eventually found out and broken up by the Special Branch. During this operation, the Special Branch searched the camp and recovered a quantity of communist documents revealing the existence of communist cells in the camp. It was discovered that the communist detainees had established a ‘Central Directing’ group in each block of the camp with a fully-fledged Party member in charge. Only ‘democratic’ and ‘progressive’ elements were eligible to become members of the organisation, and a register had been kept of Party members in the camp, with details of their life history and the circumstances of their arrest, and so on, ‘to ensure that all members of the organisation are loyal to the Party’. The Central Directing Group took steps to keep in close contact with communist elements outside the camp and supplied them with information about the layout of the camp, the location of police guards, and the identity of known Special Branch agents and informers in the camp.64 Lyttelton acknowledged in his mission report that Sir William Jenkin’s reorganisation of the Special Branch had brought about a ‘firmer [intelligence] framework and [that] already military commanders reported an increased flow of information’.65 In his autobiography, Lyttelton claimed to have secured the resignation of the ‘Commissioner of Police [Colonel Gray] and the Head of the Special Branch [Sir William Jenkin]’.66 However, this does not appear to be strictly true, as both Gray and Jenkin had decided to submit their resignations long before his visit.67 Gray, in fact, had given notice several months previously and Jenkin had given three months’ notice in September 1951. When Jenkin submitted his resignation in September 1951 because of what was officially described as ‘differences of opinion about the organisation of police intelligence work’, it was in fact the second time he had done so. He had initially offered to resign on 10 November 1950 because of fundamental differences that had arisen between him and Gray over his plans to reorganise the Special Branch, but he had been persuaded

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to stay on as Director of Intelligence with a new two-year contract.68 Jenkin’s second resignation in September 1951 came after the short-lived ‘Police Intelligence Bureau’, which he had established from April to October 1951 while Gray was on leave in Britain, was ordered to be disbanded after Gray’s return from leave.69 Aside from Gray’s serious disagreement with Jenkin, as Short brings out, Gray had also had a difference of opinion with General Briggs, Director of Operations, over the control and functions of the police. Moreover, the Malayan Chamber of Commerce and British rubber and tin mining interests in Malaya, which carried a considerable amount of influence with the British government, had complained to the Secretary of State for the Colonies that they had lost confidence in him and that he was not doing enough to protect their interests.70 When Gray repeated his offer to Lyttelton to resign during the latter’s visit to Kuala Lumpur, he had not expected it to be accepted, but Lyttelton did accept it, as he said, ‘to facilitate any reorganisation which [he] might feel to be necessary for a more effective prosecution of the campaign against the Communists’.71 Questions were asked in the Malayan Legislative Council about the seemingly sudden departures of Gray and Jenkin, in view of their important positions in regard to the prosecution of the Emergency. The Secretary for Defence, FB David, explained on behalf of the government that Jenkin had resigned because of a ‘disagreement about the status of his post and the extent to which [the Special Branch] should work directly under the Government’. He said that Gray had first offered to resign 14 months earlier and when he had persisted with his offer to Lyttelton in Kuala Lumpur, it had been reluctantly accepted. Jenkin left Port Swettenham by sea on 14 January 1952 and Gray departed from Kuala Lumpur by RAF transport aircraft on the same day to return to Britain.72 Fortunately, except for very few persons at the highest level in the administration and the police, no-one was aware of the differences of opinion between Jenkin and Gray, and the main cadre of Special Branch and uniformed branch police officers carried on working as usual. All these official visitors to Malaya and their recommendations brought out the seriousness of the situation to the British government, as indeed Lyttelton had emphasised in his report to the British Cabinet after his return from Malaya. Important decisions had to be made as soon as possible to appoint a ‘supremo’ to succeed the assassinated High Commissioner Sir



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Henry Gurney, and replacements for Briggs, Gray and Jenkin. All of these events had taken place at around the same time, and it was vital that their successors should be appointed without delay so that the campaign against the communists should not falter. The appointments of their successors in early 1952, that is, General Templer, who combined the duties of High Commissioner and Director of Operations, Colonel Young as Commissioner of Police, and JP Morton as Director of Intelligence, will be discussed in Chapter Eight. Before that, the next chapter will examine the work that had been put in before Lyttelton’s arrival by Sir William Jenkin, Special Branch/CID Adviser and the first Director of Intelligence; and Chapter 7 deals with the work of General Briggs, Director of Operations, whose Briggs Plan provided the blueprint for winning the war against communist insurgency.

Notes Singapore Annual Report 1949, Singapore: Government Printer, 1950, p 120. Colonel WC Johnson, CBE, held the post from 1948 to 1951. It was restyled ‘InspectorGeneral of Colonial Police Forces’ on 13 January 1950 to provide him with more authority in dealing with the various colonial police commissioners. 3 CO 537/5439, ‘Secretary of State’s Report on Recent Developments in Colonial Police Forces’, p 15. 4 CAB 158/20/JIC (55) 28, ‘Asia Official Documents 1945–65’, Top Secret. ‘Methods of Handling and Distribution of Intelligence Reports from the Colonies’, pp 8–9. 5 ibid, p 7. 6 ibid. 7 CO 537/5439, ‘Secretary of State’s Report on Recent Developments in Colonial Police Forces’, pp 13–16. 8 CAB 158/20/JIC (55) 238, Top Secret. ‘Chiefs of Staff Committee, JIC, Colonial Intelligence and Security’, 23 March 1955, pp 4–5; Anne Thurston, Records of the Colonial Office, Dominions Office, Commonwealth Relations Office and Commonwealth Office, London: HMSO, 1995, p 318. 9 DEF 7/421/10A, Secret, Despatch No 3, dated 12 January 1950, Sir Henry Gurney, High Commissioner, Federation of Malaya, to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 10 As noted in Chapter 1, the Malayan authorities finally decided on 20 May 1952 to replace the term ‘bandits’ with the term ‘communist terrorists’ (CTs), which has been used in this study. 11 The Special Branch did not receive intelligence until later, probably in 1952–53, that Chin Peng and the CPM’s Central Committee were located in deep jungle in the interior of Pahang, before they subsequently retreated into southern Thailand in 1954 (author’s notes). 12 The insurgents were armed with a motley collection of firearms, including Bren guns (British army light machines guns), .303 Lee Enfield rifles (Second World War British 1 2

126

13

14

15 16 17 18

19 20

21 22 23

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

army standard issue rifles), double-barrelled shotguns, Thompson sub-machine guns, Sten guns, Nambu (Japanese light machine guns), Japanese army rifles, and various types of revolvers and automatic pistols. A selection of these weapons is displayed in the Royal Malaysian Police Museum, Kuala Lumpur. In the early stages of the Emergency, entire Chinese squatter villages were rounded up and moved to detention camps from which the majority were repatriated to China (Gullick, op cit, p 115). The author was in charge of small police escort that was deputed to take back one of the first batches of ‘deportees’ to China on the SS Anhui, sailing from Port Swettenham on 20 May 1949. Of the 51 deportees, all of whom were male communist supporters, 3 were for Hoihow (Haikou, Hainan Island), 12 for Hong Kong (where they were taken over by the Hong Kong Special Branch for escorting to the China border and handing over to the Chinese authorities), 7 for Amoy (Xiamen) and 29 for Swatow (Shantou). The handing over of the 3 deportees at Hoihow was the first time that Malayan police officers had come into direct contact with the Chinese Army. The police had been heavily involved in 1948 and 1949 in carrying out mass arrests of communists and their supporters and in many cases the houses (usually plank and attap (palm leaf) structures) they occupied had been indiscriminately burned (see Ng Ngee Seng, op cit). As soon as Gurney became aware of this practice, he instructed the Commissioner of Police to ensure that it was stopped forthwith. O’Ballance, op cit, p 101. DEF 7/421/10A, Secret, Despatch No 3, dated 12 January 1950, op. cit. CO 537/5439, Report of the Police Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, December 1949. In September 1950, after visiting FBI headquarters and the US State Department’s Division of Security in Washington, DC, the author attended short Special Branch and MI5 courses in London, before returning to Malaya (letter, dated 1 June 1950, from Richard A Poole, American Consul, Kuala Lumpur, to Donald Nicholson, Chief, Division of Security, Department of State, Washington, DC; Federation of Malaya Police Headquarters letter CP/485, dated 7 September 1950; and Colonial Office letter 275/11/50, dated 13 September 1950). CO 537/5439, op cit, ‘Training’, extract from Report of the Police Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, December 1949. The author is indebted to David Brent, former Assistant Superintendent, Malayan Police, for this information. Brent attended the second series of Colonial Police Courses in Britain from September 1951 to April 1952. The commandant of the Hendon Police College Special Colonial Police Course in 1952 was a former superintendent of the Nigerian Police. The uniform worn by colonial police cadets attending the courses consisted of navy blue battle dress (without belt), peaked caps (fire brigade issue), with individual police force badges for Malaya, Nigeria and so on (David Brent’s letter to author, dated 2 August 1992). Author’s notes. CO 1037/106, ‘Conference of Colonial Police Commissioners—Record of Proceedings, 1951’. Sir Dick White, as he afterwards became, served in British intelligence for 35 years. He was described as ‘Britain’s most respected and experienced intelligence chief’.



24 25

26

27

28

29

30

31 32

33

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In 1952, General Templer offered him the post of Director of Intelligence, Malaya, but he declined, and Jack Morton, the head of Security Intelligence Far East (SIFE), Singapore, was appointed instead (see Bower, op cit, p 136). The Director-General of MI5 was charged in his charter ‘in consultation with the Colonial Office to assist and advise [British] colonial administrations’. MI6, on the other hand, was tasked to gather intelligence in foreign countries (see The Intelligence Services Act 1994). CO 1037/106, ‘Conference of Colonial Police Commissioners—Record of Proceedings, 1951’ pp 13–14. CO 1037/106, ‘Conference of Colonial Police Commissioner, 1954, 1957, 1960’. The main topic of discussion at the 1960 conference was ‘Special Branch Training’, but regrettably the papers addressing this topic have been removed from the relevant PRO file and replaced with a note reading ‘enclosures retained in Department under section 3 (4) of the Public Records Act 1958’. Field Marshal Sir William Slim (1891–1970), Indian Army (retired), 1st Viscount of Yarralumla, Chief of the British Imperial General Staff (1948–52), Governor-General of Australia (1953–59). CO 537/4374, No 5, ‘Notes on Tour of South-East Asia, October 1949: Report by Field Marshall Sir William Slim on the Importance of Civil Action in Counterinsurgency’. See also CO 537/3741, No 76, letter, dated 5 December 1949, from Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir Henry Gurney, High Commissioner, Federation of Malaya, dealing with the points raised in Slim’s report. CO 537/3741, No 76, ibid. Under the Briggs Plan, drafted by General Sir Harold Briggs, an enormous resettlement program was launched to resettle Chinese squatters living on the jungle fringes into about 500 New Villages under police protection to deny the guerrillas their main source of supplies and manpower (http://home.pacific. net.sg/~alfarabi/briggs.htm). In some Malay States, as late as 1953, there was not a single British gazetted officer in the Special Branch who could speak Chinese (AJ Stockwell, ‘Policing during the Malayan Emergency, 1948–60, Communism, Communalism and Decolonisation’ in Anderson, David M and Killingray, David (eds), Policing and Decolonisation: Nationalism, Politics and the Police, 1945–1965, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992, pp 126–39). A British ‘Chinese-speaking officer’ was officially defined as an ‘officer who had sufficient knowledge of one or more Chinese dialects to be of use to him in the course of his duties’ (CO 1020/343, ‘Training of Malayan Civil Servants in Languages,’ Confidential CSO 102/34. Kuala Lumpur Executive Council Paper No. 9/4/53 dated 26 February 1953). Among the Hong Kong police officers transferred to the Malayan Special Branch were Lance Searle (at one time the author’s colleague in Johore, who was tragically killed in a night ambush on 20 May 1954 in Selangor), Alan Nicol, William Sykes, Brian Faye and William Morris (author’s notes). CO 537/4773, No 3, Secret. Despatch No 5, 30 May 1949, from Sir Henry Gurney to Secretary of State for the Colonies. Sir Richard Catling, ‘The Catling Memoirs, IV. Retrospect’, Royal Malaysia Police Former Officers’ Association of the United Kingdom, Newsletter, Issue 11, August 2001, p 5. Leong, op cit, p 64.

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34 CO 1020/343, ‘Training of Malayan Civil Servants in Languages’; Singapore National Archives SCA 35/53, MEO Circular No 7 of 1952, ‘Course in Chinese at the Government Officers’ Language School’, 4 September 1952; and Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, ‘Particulars of Courses Attended by Officers and Rank & File of Federation of Malaya Police During the Period January-December 1955’, mimeograph 120/84, Appendix ‘D’. 35 Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1951, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1952, pp 202–3. 36 The official view was that no officers could be spared to undertake Chinese language study in China during the Emergency. However, the documents reveal that there were in fact two in 1952. An assistant superintendent of the Singapore Police was studying Cantonese in Macau (then a Portuguese colony on the South China coast) and an MCS cadet officer had been attached to the British consulate at Tamsui in Taiwan to study Mandarin. 37 During Gray’s tenure, more than 1,000 British sergeants and police lieutenants were recruited, most of whom had served in the Palestine Police. They assisted in the raising and training of some 40,000 Special Constables and provided a small cadre of specialists in the police transport and signals sections. Some police lieutenants were employed in the Special Branch (The Federation of Malaya and its Police 1786–1952, Kuala Lumpur: 1952 (no publisher stated), p 5). 38 CO 717/178, ‘Police Mission November 1949’. 39 JM (John) Gullick’s letter to author, dated 12 April 1994. The author is grateful to John Gullick for providing his personal recollections about the Mission. Gullick served in the Malayan Civil Service (1945–57), and after leaving Malaya, followed a legal and business career in London. He has written several excellent books and a number of papers about Malaya’s culture and history. 40 Alexander Maxwell, JF Ferguson and RL Jackson, Report of the Police Mission to Malaya, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1950, pp 10–12. The official reason given for O’Connell’s resignation was his differences with Gray ‘on matters concerned with the internal organisation of the Police Force’. Duthie had had a major operation in March 1949, but the results ‘were not as good as expected’, and it was explained that he had exercised his right to retire on 4 May 1949 on reaching the optional retirement age of 50 (The Straits Times, 29 September 1949). For an account of the pre-war Malayan Police officers’ discontent with Gray, see the unpublished memoirs of a senior Malayan Civil Service officer, HP Bryson, ‘Twenty-Nine-and-a-Half Years in the MCS,’ deposited in the Cambridge University Library, South Asian and Commonwealth Studies Section, BAM 3118. 41 ibid, p 21. 42 Annual Report of the Federation of Malaya 1950, p 153. 43 The Times, London, 16 May 1950. Sir William Norman Prentice Jenkin (1899–1983), CIE, CSI, knighted (1947), joined the Indian Police Service in 1919, and had a distinguished career in the Indian Special Branch (Who Was Who, 1981–90, p 393). The Melbourne Herald (15 May 1950) reported that he had played an important part in the Indian Police Special Branch, where he had been in charge of counterintelligence, government security and vetting government personnel. 44 Annual Report of the Federation of Malaya Police Force 1951, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1952, p 209.



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45 Maxwell, Ferguson & Jackson, op cit, pp 10–12. 46 CO 1022/148, ‘The Organisation of Chinese Resistance to Communism in Malaya. Proposed by Tan Cheng Lock for Formation of a Secret Chinese Organisation to Combat Communism in Malaya’ (closed until 1983) and CO 1045/484, ‘Papers, including Communist Influence in Chinese Schools 1959’. See also CAB 129/40, CP (50) 125, dated 13 June 1950, ‘Preliminary Report on a Visit to Malaya and Singapore: Cabinet Memorandum by Mr Griffiths’; CAB 21/1681, MAL C (50) 21, dated 17 June 1950, ‘The Military Situation in Malaya: Memorandum by Mr Strachey for Cabinet Malaya Committee’; CAB 128/17, CM37 (50)1, dated 19 June 1950, ‘Malaya Cabinet Conclusions on Reports by Mr Griffith and Mr Strachey Following Their Visits to Malaya’; and CAB 21/1681, MAL C6 (50) 1, dated 19 June 1950, ‘The Civil Situation in Malaya: Cabinet Malaya Committee Minutes’. 47 Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1951, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, p 201. 48 WO 208/3934, Top Secret, Pan Malayan Review, No. 3, 29 September 1948, ‘KMT Activities’. See also CO 537/7292, Top Secret, ‘Kuomintang. The Strength and Activities of Kuomintang Members in Singapore’ (closed until 1982). With the recognition of the Chinese People’s Republic of China in January 1950, the KMT in Malaya officially ceased to exist. However, the KMT consular officials, including the KMT ConsulGeneral in Kuala Lumpur, were allowed by the British colonial authorities to remain in Malaya as private citizens. 49 Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, SP13/A/15 (1948–53), Senarai Peneriman Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tan’s letter to Hans Taussig, Editor, Eastern World, London, dated 18 December 1951. 50 Chin & Hack, op cit, pp 157–8. 51 Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, SP13/E/16, ‘Notes Submitted for Consideration by Rt Hon Oliver Lyttelton, Secretary of State for the Colonies’, 2 December 1951. 52 Oliver Lyttelton, Viscount Chandos, PC, DSO, MC, LL.D., The Memoirs of Lord Chandos, London: The Bodley Head, 1962, p 370. 53 Colonel WA Muller, CMG, (1898–1970), Inspector-General of the Colonial Police 1951–57, had previously served in the Ceylon Police (1920–48) and had been Commissioner of Police, Trinidad, and Commissioner of Police, Tanganyika, before taking over as Inspector-General of the Colonial Police. He paid a second visit to Malaya in February/March 1955, and his official report on this visit is to be found in CO 1030/168, ‘Muller Report’. In his 1955 report, Muller said that he ‘would hesitate to suggest any radical changes to the organisation [of the police] which is now working smoothly’, and he expressed his satisfaction with the efficiency of the Special Branch. 54 Lyttelton, op cit, p 362, and Sin Jew Jit Poh, 30 November 1951. 55 Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Keith (Rob) Lockhart, KCB, CIE, MC, Indian Army (retired), was Director of Operations in Malaya from 3 December 1951 to 6 February 1952, on taking over from Briggs. He agreed to stay on as Deputy Director of Operations after General Sir Gerald Templer arrived at Kuala Lumpur in February 1952 to take over as High Commissioner and Director of Operations. 56 CAB 129/48, C (51) 26, Annexe II. 57 CAB 1022/165, ‘Memorandum on the Police Force, Federation of Malaya’, 27 February 1952.

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58 The Straits Times, 18 December 1951. 59 PREM 8/1406/2, 11 December 1950, ‘The Malayan Situation and the Far East’, minute by Mr Strachey to Mr Attlee urging the appointment of a regional supremo. 60 National Army Museum, Chelsea, ACC 9501-165-30, Papers of General Sir Rob Lockhart, Top Secret, ‘The Situation in the Federation of Malaya from Point of View of Director of Operations’, 26 November 1951, p 15. 61 CAB 129/48 C (51) 59, Malaya: Secret. Lyttelton’s Cabinet paper re. Mission to Malaya, ‘Appendix IX, Intelligence Services and Related Counter-Measures’. See also ‘Lyttelton Stresses Govt’s Greater Trust in Chinese’ in The Singapore Standard, 12 December 1951. According to Lyttelton, Hugh Fraser, his Parliamentary Private Secretary, drafted the appendix of his report dealing with intelligence. 62 See Winn L Taplin, ‘Six General Principles of Intelligence’, Intelligence & National Security, 3(4), 1989 p 485. 63 See Caroline Merz (ed), Wise After the Event. Donald Wise: A Celebration, Norwich & Los Angeles: The Tagman Press, 2003, Chapter 2, ‘Ferret Force: 1947–50’, pp 31–41. 64 Australian Archives, Canberra, A1838/278-413/2/6/3 pt. 6, Secret, Federation of Malaya Police Operational Summary No 89, dated 23 March 1950. 65 CAB 129/48 C (51) 59, Malaya: Secret. Lyttelton’s Cabinet paper re. Mission to Malaya, ‘Appendix IX, Intelligence Services and Related Counter-Measures’. 66 Lyttelton, op cit, p 374. 67 Technically speaking, Jenkin was not ‘Head of the Special Branch’ as such, but ‘Director of Intelligence’. The Head of the Special Branch/CID serving under him was JMNA Nicholls, whose position was not affected. 68 See CO 577/5973, Secret. ‘Police Department Staff. Internal Differences’, letter from SWP Sutton, officer administering the Malayan government, to Sir Henry Gurney, and Jenkin’s letter of 10 November 1950 to the Acting Chief Secretary, Federation of Malaya. See also CO 537/7271, Weekly Situation Report South East Asia Department, Colonial Office, 21–27 September 1951, ‘Resignation of Sir William Jenkin, Director of Intelligence, Federation of Malaya Police: Difference of Opinion between Jenkin and Malayan government over organisation of police intelligence work.’ 69 Jenkin intended that the uniformed branch of the police should take over responsibility for investigating routine non-Emergency crime, and the Special Branch/CID (renamed the Police Intelligence Bureau) should concentrate on intelligence directly connected with the Emergency. Annual Report of the Federation of Malaya 1951, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1952, p 209. 70 Short, op cit, pp 306, 335. The views of the Malayan rubber and tin magnates carried considerable weight with the British government, as Malaya was an important source of US dollars which it needed to adjust Britain’s balance of payments account with the US (see also Richard J Aldrich, British Intelligence Strategy and the Cold War, London: Routledge, 1992, p 308). 71 The Straits Times, 10, 15, 31 January 1952, and Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 26 January–2 February 1952, Column No 11982. 72 The Straits Times, 15 and 31 January 1952.

Reproduced from Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency by Leon Comber (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

chapter six The rise of the Special Branch (1950–52): Sir William Jenkin The watershed years for the reorganisation, restructuring and training of the Malayan Police and its Special Branch may well be said to have been between 1950 and 1954. The overall structure of the Special Branch that finally emerged after 1954 was, in fact, to remain unchanged, except for minor variations, until the end of the Emergency in 1960. During this time, several important figures emerged on the Malayan scene, and the recommendations they made concerning the development of the police, and the Special Branch in particular, were examined in the previous chapter. This chapter seeks to analyse the important part played by Sir William Jenkin and identify his achievements in reorganising and strengthening the Special Branch during his relatively short stay of one-and-a-half years in Malaya before he resigned. It will examine, too, the attention he paid to coastal and border security, his codification of the work of the Special Branch, and the joint police–military operational intelligence rooms that he established. Jenkin had a distinguished career in the Indian Police Special Branch and the highly regarded Indian Intelligence Bureau in Simla before coming to Malaya and he was the first trained professional intelligence officer to take over the Malayan Special Branch. He arrived in Kuala Lumpur to take up his appointment as ‘Adviser of the Special Branch/CID’ on 22 June 1950. At this stage, the Special Branch was still subsumed in to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). At the end of the year, his appointment was redesignated as Director of Intelligence to facilitate his work in advising and assisting in the reorganisation of the Special Branch/CID. He was the first officer to hold the appointment of Director of Intelligence in Malaya.1 Jenkin quickly realised the vital importance of strengthening the Special Branch by increasing the intake of Chinese officers, a matter that had been recommended several times in the past, but with little being done about it. He proposed that an additional 215 Chinese probationary inspectors should be appointed to the Special Branch as soon as possible and argued that this was absolutely essential if the Special Branch was to carry out effectively its function as the government’s main intelligence agency and provide the 131

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military with operational intelligence. He reasoned that if more Chinese personnel were employed in the Special Branch, it would be easier to obtain intelligence. To increase the intake of Chinese inspectors, he suggested that the normal recruiting requirements for inspectors should be modified to include candidates with excellent Chinese language qualifications who would otherwise have been considered ineligible because of their lack of command of English.2 He also recommended that the age requirements for such appointments should be extended so that older candidates could apply. As part of his recommended increase in the number of Chinese probationary Special Branch inspectors, he proposed that 29 places out of the proposed 215 vacancies should be reserved for serving Chinese members of the police rank-and-file, who were to be selected on merit and given accelerated promotion. While the recruitment of external candidates to fill the vacancies for Chinese probationary inspectors proceeded rather slowly, eventually154 candidates who had obtained their School Leaving Certificate (Senior Cambridge or matriculation) were selected for appointment. Jenkin proposed, too, that Chinese detectives should be recruited directly into the Special Branch without first having to join the uniformed branch of the Police and undergo police recruit training at the Police Depot.3 Meanwhile, it was noticeable that while there was still a reluctance on the part of Chinese to serve in the uniformed branch of the police, they were not adverse to serving in the Special Branch or the Criminal Investigation Department, where they could wear civilian clothes and not be subject to such strict discipline as they would be in the uniformed branch. Sir Henry Gurney, the High Commissioner, made several attempts without much success to overcome this reluctance. Eventually, it was decided in December 1950 to introduce a National Service Bill that would enable the government to draft any male between the ages of 17 and 45, including Chinese, into the police or the army. By 1951, 1,223 Chinese had been drafted under the new legislation into the uniformed branch of the police. Their numbers for the first time compared favourably with the number of Indians and Pakistanis already serving in the uniformed branch, although it was still far below the figure of 6,239 Malays who formed the vast majority of the police uniformed branch.4 Jenkin took steps, too, to increase the number of gazetted police officers who would command and direct the inspectorate and the rank-and-file in the Special Branch. In 1949, before Jenkin’s arrival, there had been only 16



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gazetted officers in the Special Branch, that is, 3 per cent of the total strength of all gazetted police officers. However, by the time he left Malaya at the end of 1951, he had succeeded in increasing the Special Branch establishment to 93 gazetted officers or 16.8 per cent of the total of 554 gazetted officers, and 192 inspectors and police lieutenants or 14.4 per cent of the combined total of 1330 inspectors and police lieutenants. Thereafter, the numbers continued to increase, and by December of the following year, for instance, the number of gazetted Special Branch officers and inspectors/ police lieutenants reached 126 and 279 respectively, making up approximately 20 per cent of all gazetted officers and 18 per cent of all inspectors/police lieutenants in the police.5 In November 1951, Jenkin pressed for a large increase in the strength of the Special Branch/CID by the further recruitment of 80 Chinese inspectors and 500 Chinese detectives. These would be in addition to the 1,500 Chinese rank-and-file that the Commissioner of Police required urgently for the uniformed branch. The government hoped to enlist the support of the Malayan Chinese Association in its recruiting campaign, as the MCA was its main ‘unofficial’ channel of contact with the Chinese community. Tan Cheng Lock, the MCA President, expressed interest in the government’s plans, as they fitted in with the general drift of his recommendations to the government regarding the greater use of Chinese in the police force (see previous chapter). However, the MCA considered that police rates of pay were unlikely to attract Chinese candidates, who could earn much more in the private sector, without having to expose themselves to what they perceived to be an arduous and dangerous life. Tan’s solution was to suggest that the Malayan Chinese Association should be allowed to subsidise the wages of Chinese recruits to bring them up to market rates. However, the MCA’s offer was not taken up. The government was reluctant to allow a part of the police force to be ‘privatised’, especially if by doing so, it would be seen by some people that the Chinese contingent of the police was controlled by the MCA. It was argued, too, it would not be acceptable for Chinese recruits to be paid more than their Malay counterparts.6 As part of his plan to develop and strengthen the Special Branch, Jenkin arranged for assistant superintendents of police (Special Branch) to be posted at police contingent (state), circle and district levels, thus ensuring that a Special Branch presence could be felt at all levels of the police force.7

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Jenkin brought detention camps within the purview of the Special Branch, and stressed the importance of Special Branch officers being able to interrogate detainees to obtain information of security value. He stationed an assistant superintendent of police (Special Branch) and a small team of Chinese inspectors and detectives at all detention camps for this purpose. As Jenkin wrote: It is right that Detention Camps should come within the cast of this Special Branch net. In these camps, the detenus [sic] are persons who have been arrested because they have been or have been strongly suspected of being guilty of political subversive activity of a most serious character. Such persons are the responsibility of the Special Branches [sic] who had to undertake most of the work concerned with them, except their physical guarding and general supervision of their custody. From the Special Branch point of view, the task is not an unprofitable one, for if persons have been detained on good grounds, they should have in their possession information of much value to the Special Branch and the Government. Interrogation is the procedure which brings this information to the surface.8

Aside from interrogation, the Special Branch teams were tasked to: • maintain detainee records kept under the Emergency Regulations • separate ‘hardened communists from misguided sympathisers’ • recommend the suitability of detainees for rehabilitation and release • determine whether any detainees could be ‘turned’ and employed as Special Branch informers • maintain a record of detainees’ visitors • prevent the covert passing of messages between visitors and detainees.9 In 1951, 4,745 detention orders were issued. Over 1,500 Chinese detainees (excluding dependents) were repatriated to China under Emergency Regulation 17C that empowered the government to banish Chinese detainees from Malaya if there were reasonable grounds to believe they were communist supporters. A further 245 detainees accepted voluntary repatriation. Detainees who were not likely to pose a security risk were released and some of them agreed to work as Special Branch informers.10 Special Branch interrogation units were established at all police contingent (state) headquarters to re-interrogate surrendered and captured



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guerrillas at length and on a much more thorough and detailed basis than would have been possible at the time they first fell into the hands of the security forces.11 By introducing the above measures, Jenkin ensured that the Special Branch would play a more significant part in the handling of surrendered and captured guerrillas and in deciding how best the knowledge they provided about their former comrades-in-arms could be used.12 He argued that it was largely on information obtained from surrendered and captured communist guerrillas that the Special Branch would be able to obtain operational intelligence, create an order of battle of the Malayan National Liberation Army, and a ‘Who’s Who’ of the communist leaders.13 Table 7: Reward scale (1952) Information leading to capture of CTs (M$)

Information leading to killing of CTs (M$)

CPM rank

250,000 (₤29,167/-)

125,000 (₤14,583/-)

Secretary-General

200,000 (₤23,333/-)

100,000 (₤11,667/-)

Politburo members

150,000 (₤17,500/-)

75,000 (₤8,750/-)

Members of the Central Committee, and North, Central and South Bureaux

120,000 (₤14,000/-)

60,000 (₤7,000/-)

75,000 (₤8,700/-)

35,000 (₤4,083/-)

18,000 (₤2,100/-)

14,000 (₤1,633/-)

District Committee secretaries

13,000 (₤1,517/-)

10,000 (₤1,167/-)

District Committee members

8,000 (₤933/-)

6,000 (₤700/-)

Commander and 2nd-in-command of Independent Platoons

6,500 (₤758/-)

5,000 (₤583/-)

Branch Committee secretaries

4,000 (₤467/-)

3,000 (₤350/-)

Section leaders

2,500 (₤292/-)

2,000 (₤233/-)

CPM members and members of any armed CPM organisation

State and Regional Committee secretaries State and Regional Committee members

Note: Rewards converted at 1952 prevailing rate of M$1.00 = 2s.4d. Source: Adapted from Federation of Malaya, Emergency Information Services, D.Inf.4/52/295 (EMERG), Kuala Lumpur, 10 April 1952.

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In 1952, the government announced a revised reward scale for information leading to the capture, surrender or killing of CTs (see Table 7) to replace the ad hoc rewards that had been offered previously, and an earlier scale in 1950. Surrendered enemy personnel were eligible to receive rewards equal to one-half of those given to the general public, although if they were released for rehabilitation they became eligible to receive the full amount. Later in the Emergency, SEPs became eligible to receive the full reward scale.14 In his report on the progress of the Emergency for the period 1 January—31 May 1951, General Briggs described the re-organisation of the Special Branch/CID as being well-advanced and noted that intelligence obtained from the interrogation of surrendered and captured guerrillas is ‘being handled and sifted better and results are becoming more apparent’.15 Jenkin showed particular interest in the work being done at the Special Branch Holding Centre (see Chapter 4) that had been established at Jalan Gurney near the police training school on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, and gave priority to any requests for assistance that it made. Under Jenkin, the Special Branch in 1950 assumed responsibility for the surveillance and security control of Malaya’s coastal regions and the Malayan–Thai frontier.16 Even at this early stage, Jenkin was aware of the importance of the Special Branch keeping the rugged Malayan–Thai border under close surveillance, and he arranged for the Royal Air Force to make regular reconnaissance flights along the border as well as over the islands off the east coast of Malaya.17 The Malayan–Thai frontier was the funnel through which the Japanese had invaded Malaya during the Second World War, and if the communist guerrillas were to receive reinforcements or matériel overland from the north, as was considered a distinct possibility at one time, it was more than likely they would follow the same route. Police lieutenants assigned to the Special Branch took charge of security at border posts. Initially, only four police lieutenants were used, but in 1951, Jenkin obtained authority for the employment of an additional 26, making a total of 30 police lieutenants to be employed at land frontier posts, seaports and airports, in addition to the regular police units that were stationed there. The land frontier posts were situated at Pengkalan Chepa and Rantau Panjang (Kelantan), Ayer Panas (Kroh, Perak), Changlun and Kuala Perlis (Perlis), all strategic crossing points on the Malayan–Thai border, where small customs and immigration posts already existed (see Table 8). In August 1952, following instructions given by Jenkin prior to his departure from



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Malaya, a small Frontier Intelligence Bureau was established at Contingent Special Branch headquarters in Penang. This was an important development that was to lead eventually to the formation of a combined Malayan–Thai Special Branch post at Songhkla in southern Thailand, with outposts at Sadao and Betong (see Chapter 11).18 Table 8: Police lieutenants employed on Special Branch duties at Malayan–Thai border posts, seaports and airports (1952) Seaports

Passport control

Security

Penang

2

2

Port Swettenham

2

2

Malacca

2

2

Kota Bharu (Kelantan)

2

2

Penang

1

1

Kota Bharu (Kelantan)

1

1

Pengkalan Chepa (Kelantan)

2



Rantau Panjang (Kelantan)

2



Changlun (Perlis)

2



Kuala Perlis (Perlis)

2



Ayer Panas (Kroh, Perak)

2



Total: 30

20

10

Airports

Land frontier posts

Source: Adapted from National Army Museum, Chelsea, ACC 9501-165-1-18, Appendix C, ‘Note dated 2 November 1951 by SAC CID re. employment of P/Lts for SB duties’.

The Special Branch was tasked to give priority to the interrogation for operational purposes of surrendered and captured communists guerrillas and communist suspects as soon as possible after they were arrested or captured. However, because of the lack of Chinese-speaking British officers already alluded to, the interrogation was often carried out by Chinese Special Branch officers or by Chinese and British Special Branch officers working together. The function of the Chinese Special Branch officers was a vital one, as they were able to bring into use their superior language skills and their familiarity with local customs and culture.

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

An initial questionnaire was prepared for the guidance of investigating officers to ascertain whether a surrendered or captured guerrilla had useful operational information. The following headings were used: • Name, race and dialect • Length of time the SEP/CEP had been in the jungle • Rank and unit • Does the SEP/CEP know of any other guerrillas who wish to surrender? If so, is he prepared to return to the jungle and persuade them to do so? • Is the SEP/CEP prepared to return to his unit in the jungle (if his defection has not been noticed) and operate undercover as a Special Branch agent? • Can the SEP/CEP lead the security forces to any guerrilla camps? Are the camps likely to be occupied, and if so, by whom? How long will it take a foot patrol to reach them? • When does he think his absence is likely to be noticed? • Does he know of any tracks used by the communist terrorists to approach or leave their camps? • Does the SEP/CEP know of any arms dumps?19 By April 1951, Jenkin had reached the conclusion that the further development and efficiency of the Special Branch was being hampered by its being subsumed within the CID. The purposes and functions of the two departments were quite separate: the Special Branch had responsibility for political, security and operational intelligence, whereas the CID was concerned with the investigation of non-political crime. He thereupon decided to separate the Special Branch from the CID and establish a separate ‘Police Intelligence Bureau’ along the lines of the Intelligence Bureau in India with which he was familiar, and the former Malayan Security Service.20 Jenkin envisaged the Police Intelligence Bureau being independent of the police, headed by himself as Director of Intelligence, and reporting directly to the highest levels of government. However, his plans were not approved by Colonel Gray, so the Bureau was wound up in September 1951 and the Special Branch reverted to its previous status. The dissolution of the Bureau may well have contributed to Jenkin’s resigning later in the month (see previous chapter).



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Probably the best, and certainly the longest-lasting, legacy that Jenkin left the Special Branch was Directive No 9, or to give it its full name, ‘Memorandum on Intelligence with Particular Reference to the Special Branch and Joint Operations Intelligence Rooms’. It laid down detailed guidelines for the day-to-day work of the Special Branch and the establishment of joint (police–military) operations intelligence rooms. All relevant operational intelligence would be maintained in the joint operations intelligence rooms, with an up-to-date order of battle for CPM/MNLA units known to operate in the area. The Special Branch, the uniformed branch of the police and the army would provide intelligence for the use of the personnel maintaining these rooms. The Directive was issued on 22 August 1950 under Jenkin’s signature from Special Branch/CID headquarters. It was drafted by Jenkin as part of the series of Emergency directives issued under the imprimatur of General Briggs covering all aspects of the war against the communist guerrillas. Under the Directive, Jenkin re-organised Federal Special Branch headquarters into seven functional sections (see Chart 4). Up to then, there had been only five (see Chart 2). The three ethnic sections were retained, although they were given much more of a political focus than they had been previously. The additional four sections were: • Liaison and Operations • Security • Trade Unionism and Societies • Communism. The Liaison and Operations section dealt with joint counterinsurgency operations with the army; the Security section with measures taken to protect against espionage; the Trade Unionism and Societies section with detecting communist activities in the labour movement and ‘open’ societies; and the Communism section with combating the challenges posed in various forms by the CPM and its military arm, the MNLA. The Communism section was the most important. It was headed by GC (Guy) Madoc, who had by then (early 1950) returned from his undercover assignment with the British Embassy, Bangkok, to join Federal Special Branch headquarters under Jenkin. It covered a wide range of activities as shown by its division into four sub-sections as shown in Chart 4. The sub-heading ‘external communism’ included information about China and neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.21

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Chart 4: Federal Special Branch headquarters under Sir William Jenkin (1950–51)

Senior Asst. Commissioner SB

Liaison & Operations

Security

Indian & Misc. Political Movements

Malay Political Movements

Chinese Political Movements

Trade Unionism & Societies

Communism

Secret Registry

External Communism Banditry Underground Communism Other Manifestations of Communism

Source: Adapted from Emergency Directives Issued by Director of Operations, Federation of Malaya, Directive No. 9, ‘Intelligence, the Functions of the Special Branch and the Joint Operations Rooms’, Top Secret, Special Branch/CID Headquarters, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 21 August 1950.



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141

Other topics that Jenkin dealt with in his Directive No 9 included a list of files and indexed records that were to be maintained in the Special Branch secret registry, the processing of information ‘to ensure that it is given its proper weight and its right place in the general political picture’, and the importance of the Special Branch and the army maintaining the closest liaison. Jenkin appended a separate note detailing the functions of joint police–military operations intelligence rooms at police contingent (state) level and lower levels. He specified, too, the information to be covered in Daily Situation Reports, Weekly Summaries (state level), and Combined Federation Headquarters Weekly Summaries. These daily and weekly reports and summaries, in effect, chronicled items of operational intelligence, as well as details of security force operations throughout Malaya, and constituted a valuable source of information. In January 1951, Jenkin opened two Special Branch/CID training schools, one for detectives at Sentul, Selangor, and the other for gazetted officers and senior subordinate police officers in a disused police station at Salak South, a suburb on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. This was an important development, as Special Branch personnel had been obliged previously to learn ‘on-the-job’, without recourse to formal training or lectures on the theory and practice of their craft. It was the first time postwar that systematic training in investigation, the analysis of intelligence and intelligence techniques had been provided. Both training schools served a useful purpose; during the year, 193 detectives passed through the Sentul training school and 287 gazetted Special Branch/CID officers and subordinate police officers graduated from the Salak South training school.22 In mid-July 1951, Jenkin and Briggs, working together with the MI5 Security Liaison Officer (SLO) in Kuala Lumpur, identified the Min Yuen as an important Special Branch target.23 Usually a small group of some three to five Min Yuen workers, constituting a cell, operated under the direction of a branch committee. In turn, several branch committees came under the control of a district committee. Working closely with and subordinate to the Min Yuen workers were ‘executives of the masses’, who were squatters on the jungle fringes carrying on their usual occupations.24 Jenkin instructed each Contingent Special Branch to concentrate on the Min Yuen in its own area, and create a comprehensive and detailed record of its structure, under the following headings:

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• the identities of members of CPM Defence Corps, Self-Protection Corps and Armed Work Forces • the identities of members of the Working Committees of the masses organisation • the identities of executives of the masses organisations and members of their cells classified according to employment, viz, food suppliers, intelligence agents, propagandists, cells among the labour forces, cells in Chinese schools, and so on • the identities of couriers operating between (a) district committee members and branch Min Yuen executives; (b) individual branch and Min Yuen groups; and (c) district committee members, state MNLA headquarters and MNLA units in their areas.25 In his final reports of April and October 1951 before retiring, Briggs acknowledged officially the improved flow of intelligence that the increased establishment of British and Asian Special Branch officers had brought about. He commended, too, the amount and quality of intelligence provided by the Special Branch, and the speed with which operational intelligence had been passed on to the army.26 All of this must have been very gratifying to Jenkin, in view of the previous strictures passed on the Special Branch and the time and effort he had devoted to restructuring and strengthening the Special Branch. As Table 9 shows, during Jenkin’s tenure in Malaya, though the ‘shooting war’ reached a high level and the government was still concerned with winning over the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Chinese population, there were encouraging trends in the war with the communist guerrillas that augured well for the future.27 In the period from June 1950 to April 1951, the increased level of contact with the CTs had in fact provided the security forces with increased opportunities to inflict casualties on them, as demonstrated in Table 9. The increase in the surrender rate was especially gratifying, as surrendered guerrillas (SEPs) were an important source of operational intelligence for the Special Branch. To summarise, Jenkin was successful in codifying for the first time the work of the Special Branch, and by establishing joint police–military operations intelligence rooms, he ensured that the police and army worked together with the minimum of friction. He introduced training in Special Branch duties and focused attention on the security situation on the Malayan–Thai frontier, which was to become an area of increasing



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143

consequence as the communist insurgents began to withdraw into southern Thailand to distance themselves from the Malayan forces, as will be recounted in Chapter 11. Table 9: Communist terrorist contacts and casualties (15 June 1950–14 April 1951) 15 June– 14 November 1950

15 November– 14 April 1951

% increase

Contacts

371

778

+109.7%

CT casualties (killed, captured)

365

434

+18.9%

Surrenders

30

49

+ 63.3%

Source: Adapted from AIR20/7777. Secret. Briggs Report. ‘Progress Report on the Situation in Malaya dated 20 April 1951’, p. 58.

The work that Jenkin put in to reorganise and strengthen the Special Branch undoubtedly enabled it to play an increasingly crucial role in the Emergency and fulfil its functions as the government’s main intelligence body. It made GC (Guy) Madoc’s task much easier, too, when he was appointed Head of the Federal Special Branch in February 1952, as will be discussed later. Jenkin’s great contemporary was Briggs, whose work parallelled that of Jenkin in both time and need. While Jenkin paid close attention to restructuring the Special Branch’s on-the-ground operations in the interests of efficiency, Briggs developed an over-arching blueprint that co-ordinated the needs of the police, army and civilian administration. This will be the subject of the next chapter.

Notes 1

2 3

SWP Sutton, the officer administering the government, announced the appointment of Jenkin for ‘two years’ as Director of Intelligence on 21 November 1950, thus extending his tenure of office and upgrading his appointment (The Times, London, 22 November 1950). Sutton stated that efforts were being made to bring the Federation of Malaya’s security forces, particularly the Special Branch and CID, up to full strength and the highest standard of efficiency (see The Straits Times, 31 January 1952, p 4). Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1951, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1952, p 209. ibid, pp 200, 209.

144

4 5

6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

14 15

16

17 18 19

20 21

22

23

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, SP/13/A/41, ‘Chinese Police Recruits’, Senerai Peneriman Tun Tan Cheng Lock. Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1953, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1954, p 232. The figures for inspectors and police lieutenants are grouped together and it not possible to provide separate figures for them. ibid. Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1950, Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1951, p 156. Directive No 9, Emergency Directives issued by the Director of Operations, Federation of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur: Government Press, 1950, p 81. Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1951, op cit, p 209. Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1952, op cit, p 223. ibid. ibid, p 233. By 1957, Lieutenant General Sir Roger Bower, then Director of Operations, was able to confirm, in his annual review of the Emergency, the progress that the Special Branch had made in this respect: ‘The Police intelligence system [Special Branch] has not only charted nearly every member of the enemy army, but has brought about the great majority of contacts resulting in elimination’ (WO 106/5990. Secret, 1957 Director of Operations Review, 12 September 1957, p 27). Pye, op cit, p 118, fn 1. AIR20/777, Secret, Report on the Emergency in Malaya from April 1950 to November 1951 by General Sir Harold Briggs, KCIE, CB, CBE, DSO, Director of Operations, pp 51–2. CO 1022/205, CIS (52) (2) Final. Top Secret, ‘The Situation on the Thai/Malayan Frontier as at 15 April 1952’, p 11; Annual Report of the Federation of Malaya 1950, op cit, p 156. British Malaya, December 1948, p 147. Short, op cit, pp 373–5. See Chapter 10 infra. The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya, prepared under the direction of the Director of Operations, Malaya, Restricted, Third edition, 1958, Chapter XIV, ‘Intelligence’, Appendices A and B. Sir Percival Griffiths, To Guard my People. The History of the Indian Police, London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1971, p 347. United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federation of Malaya. National Intelligence Estimate, No. 64–58 [sic], Secret, 14 January 1958 (declassified by 058375 on 17 November 1955), Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 1958, p 12. Federation of Malaya Annual Report 1951, op cit, p 156. See also Top Secret, CO 1022/51 (extract from Cabinet Paper C (51) 59, dated 21 December 1951), ‘Intelligence Services and Related Counter-Measures. Intelligence Services’, Appendix IX, para 1A (4), dealing with the training of Special Branch/CID staff at all levels in basic intelligence methods. See Director of Operations, Malaya. Directive No. 1, Director of Operations, Malaya, 16 April 1950.



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24 CO531/7300, ‘Political Developments—Min Yuen Organisation’ and ‘Extract from Secret Abstract 1–15 July 1951’ headed ‘Min Yuen—the People’s Movement (with acknowledgements to the MI5 Security Liaison Officer, Kuala Lumpur)’. This is an important file containing a comprehensive and detailed description of the genesis and organisation of the Min Yuen. 25 ibid. 26 AIR20/777. Secret. Briggs Report. ‘Progress Report on the Situation in Malaya dated 20 April 1951’, AIR 20/777, ‘Briggs Plan. Progress of the Emergency as on 31 October 1951’. 27 The Special Branch reported, however, that many Chinese merchants in the towns were terrorised by the communist insurgents into paying protection money under threat of death, and lorry owners, bus companies, Chinese rubber estate owners and rubber dealers were regularly being forced to subscribe to the communist coffers (AIR 20/777, Secret, ‘Report on the Emergency in Malaya from April 1950 to November 1951 by General Sir Harold Briggs, KCIE, CB, CBE, DSO, Director of Operations). The author was told by Chinese contacts at the time, ‘We are between two hard rocks. If we pay protection money to the communists and are arrested for doing so, the worst that can happen to us is that we will be detained. If, on the other hand, we refuse to pay protection money to the communists, we shall be killed and our family’s livelihood placed in jeopardy’ (author’s notes).

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Reproduced from Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency by Leon Comber (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

chapter seven The Special Branch and the Briggs Plan

This chapter will turn the spotlight on the strategies devised by General Briggs, Director of Operations (1950–51), to defeat the communists that were incorporated in the eponymous Briggs Plan. It will also review the various directives issued by General Briggs under the Briggs Plan that affected the Special Branch. With the implementation of the Briggs Plan, or to give it its full name, the ‘Federation Plan for the Elimination of the Communist Organisation and Armed Forces in Malaya’, the scene was set to enter a new phase that marked the beginning of the end of the Emergency and the defeat of the communist uprising. The essence of the Briggs Plan was a combined offensive involving the police, the army and the civil administration, working closely together in State and Settlement War Executive Committees, to plan the measures to be taken to destroy the Communist Party of Malaya and its underground guerrilla army, the Malayan National Liberation Army. The Federal War Council in Kuala Lumpur, chaired by Briggs, provided overall policy. This chapter examines, too, Special Branch involvement in the Briggs’ resettlement plan, involving the removal of some half a million Chinese squatters into New Villages to sever their contact with the communist guerrillas. Chin Peng was to admit subsequently in his autobiography that the Briggs’ resettlement plan was the communists’ Achilles Heel, as it isolated the guerrillas from the squatters, who were their main sources of food and intelligence.1 Moreover, the sheer necessity of having to obtain food in order to survive in the jungle forced Chin Peng to give instructions for all large-scale terrorist attacks to be scaled back and for the guerrillas to break up into smaller groups in search of food.2 General Briggs regarded psychological warfare as an extension of intelligence and the functions of the Emergency Information Services (EIS) that he caused to be formed in September 1950 will be discussed.3 Lieutenant General Sir Harold Briggs, a retired regular Indian Army officer, arrived in Kuala Lumpur on 3 April 1950 to take up a new post as Director of Operations, following Sir Henry Gurney’s request for a Director 147

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of Operations to be appointed to co-ordinate and direct police, army, navy and air force counterinsurgency operations.4 Up to then, Colonel Gray, the Commissioner of Police, had co-ordinated counterinsurgency operations but it was now felt that his police duties had expanded to such an extent that they warranted his full and undivided attention. Briggs was appointed in a civilian capacity, ranking equal with the Chief Secretary, and was responsible for the performance of his duties to the High Commissioner. His civilian status undoubtedly helped to emphasise that Malaya remained under civil government, that martial law had not been declared, and the armed forces were in support of the civil power. He did not ‘command’ the police and the military forces as such, but coordinated and directed operations that were carried out under their own respective commanders. General Briggs agreed to accept the appointment for one year, which was later extended by six months. Since being commissioned in 1914, he had served throughout with the Indian Army, and with his thirty-four years’ experience of warfare in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, he was extremely well-qualified for the position. His last army appointment before retiring in 1948 had been as Commander-in-Chief Burma.5 On arriving in Kuala Lumpur, Briggs carried out a rapid tour of the country to obtain as much information as he could about the situation on the ground, with which to augment the briefings he had received in London and Singapore. The plan he subsequently drafted for defeating the communists, which became known as the Briggs Plan, was subsequently approved by the High Commissioner and the British Defence Coordination Committee (Far East) for implementation on 1 June 1950.6 To execute the plan, Briggs established a supreme Federal War Council, with himself as chair. The other members were the Commissioner of Police, the Chief Secretary, the army and air force commanders, a senior naval liaison officer and the Secretary for Defence. The Council was responsible under the High Commissioner for policy and the prosecution of the war against the communist insurgents. Similar subordinate committees were established in each state or settlement (State and Settlement War Executive Committees or SWECs) and at district level (District War Executive Committees or DWECs).7 In summary, the Briggs Plan envisaged action being taken along the following lines:



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• Overhauling and strengthening the Special Branch.8 • Clearing the country, state by state, of communist armed units, starting from Johore, the southernmost Malayan State, in a drive to the north. • Resettling some 500,000 squatters, 85 per cent of whom were Chinese, into New Villages to sever their contact with the guerrillas. There was also to be some regrouping of rubber estate and tin mine labourers. The resettlement scheme was also intended to provide the Special Branch with an opportunity to penetrate and destroy the Min Yuen organisation. • Imposing strict food control measures to prevent food reaching the guerrillas.9 • Attacking the guerrillas on the police’s and army’s own ‘killing fields’ when they emerged from the jungle in search of food. • Providing Special Constables to guard the New Villages until they were able to form their own Home Guard.10 Squatters were officially defined by the government as ‘unlawful occupants of land in jungle clearings in pockets adjacent to roads, rivers, and railway lines, old tin mining land and on the outskirts of many town and kampongs’.11 They were living mostly outside government control, without title to the land they occupied. The compulsory regrouping and resettling of squatters represented a vast upheaval of the civilian population and, as Karl Hack comments, ‘over ten per cent of Malaya’s population was uprooted including the majority of the rural Chinese population’.12 Under the plan, squatters were moved into some 400 or so (the records are not precise about the exact number) heavily guarded and protected New Villages to bring them under government control and disrupt their contact with the communist jungle army.13 With the squatters concentrated in this way, the Special Branch was able, as intended, to develop a wide network of ‘spies’ and informers among them, although it was not an easy task as many of the squatters resented being compulsorily resettled.14 In Brigg’s own words, ‘security of the population and the elimination of the communist cells must be the primary task of the Police’,15 and under the separation of duties required by the Briggs Plan, the uniformed branch of the police was allocated the task of maintaining law and order in the populated areas, including villages, and labour lines on rubber estates and tin mines. The Special Branch was tasked to concentrate on penetrating and destroying the Min Yuen.

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

While food could be taken into the New Villages under police escort, none could be taken out, and there were police and army checkpoints at the main gates to prevent this happening. Briggs recognised that the success of his plan largely depended on the Special Branch being able to carry out effectively the role that it had been allocated, and he hoped that a strengthened Special Branch would be able to provide precise intelligence, based on which the army could lay ambushes when the guerrillas approached the barbed wire fences of the New Villages at night to collect supplies from their contacts. Briggs’ own personal staff was small. It initially consisted of four staff officers: two army officers (Major RW Saunders, MBE, and Colonel JK Shepherd, DSO, OBE), a police officer (DA (Douglas) Weir, who was subsequently to serve as deputy head of the Federal Special Branch and Chief Police Officer, Malacca) and a Malayan Civil Service (MCS) officer (RGK (Bob) Thompson, DSO, MC, who was eventually to become Permanent Secretary for Defence, 1959–61).16 This was not the first time that resettlement had been thought of as a way of dealing with the problem of squatters in Malaya. A few years before the Briggs Plan, the government’s Squatter Committee Report 1948 had recommended that squatters who could not be policed effectively should be resettled. However, no decisive action was taken on the report at the time, although the Special Branch urged the government to take action, and it was not until the Briggs Plan was implemented that the problem was finally addressed by moving the squatters into New Villages. One of the main difficulties was that the Malay state rulers did not want Chinese squatters to be resettled on or given title to land that was reserved for Malays.17 There seems little doubt that the resettlement of Chinese squatters and the dislocation of the support—mainly food, medicines, printing materials, as well as intelligence—that they provided the guerrillas constituted one of the definitive turning points of the Emergency, as indeed Chin Peng conceded in his memoirs.18 Interestingly enough, although it has not been widely commented on in the published literature, the Briggs’ resettlement plan bears an extraordinary resemblance to the Japanese Protection Village program introduced by the Japanese when they invaded Manchuria and China in the 1930s. Although there is no evidence that the British authorities in Malaya had studied the Japanese plan, the matter is worthy of further research. According to the Japanese plan, Chinese farmers and entire village communities in



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Chart 5: Outline of government structure under the Briggs Plan (1950–51) High Commissioner Executive Council Personal Staff General Briggs

Director of Operations

Chief of Staff

Director of Intelligence

Navy (2,000)

Police/Army

Army (35,000)

Federal War Council, Chair. Director of Ops SWEC’s (State War Executive Committees) (11) DWEC’s (District War Executive Committees) (60)

Air Force (7,000)

Director of Information

Police (45,000)

Home Guard (180,000)

Civil Govt. Departments

Finance

Information Liaison with D of Info

Chief Secretary (Defence & Police)

Legal

Public Works

Protector of Malayan Aborigines (Orang Asli)*

Source: Adapted from Riley Sunderland, Organizing Counterinsurgency in Malaya: 1947-1960, Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, 1964, p. 34. * By the beginning of 1951, control of the Orang Asli, by disrupting their contact with CTs and resettling them, was high on the list of government priorities and M$500,000 had been budgeted for this purpose (Anthony Short, The Communist Insurrection in Malaya 1948-60, London: Frederick Muller Ltd., 1975, p. 443).

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Manchuria and north and central China were compulsorily regrouped into protected villages to isolate them from the Chinese communists, who were then putting up stiff resistance to the Japanese invaders. In 1942, after the Japanese occupied Malaya, they introduced a similar plan to cut off contact between Chinese squatters and the MPAJA.19 There were other similarities too. During the Japanese occupation of Malaya, all residents of Japanese Protection Villages were registered and issued with identity cards to provide the Japanese with a means of controlling and monitoring their movements. This measure resembled closely the Malayan government’s decision to issue national registration identity cards under the Emergency Regulations as a means of population control during the early part of the Emergency. Both the Japanese and the British resettlement programs were resented and disliked by the Chinese squatters. In Malaya, many Chinese, who were not necessarily communist supporters, referred to the New Villages established under the Briggs Plan as ‘concentration camps’, because the liberty of movement of the New Villagers was severely restricted and the New Villages were enclosed behind barbed wire fences that were under constant armed police guard and kept under surveillance by the Special Branch.20 During the Japanese occupation of Malaya, the Japanese designated areas that were cleared of communist influence as ‘Model Peace Zones’. This idea was very similar to what the Malayan authorities referred to as ‘White Areas’ during the Emergency, that is, zones where the security situation had improved to such an extent that restrictions imposed under the Emergency Regulations, such as curfews and food control measures, could safely be lifted.21 It was General Sir Gerald Templer who introduced the concept of White Areas in Malaya.22 Malacca was the first area to be declared ‘white’ in 1953, when the Malacca Special Branch reported that most of the guerrillas had been eliminated or driven out of the state. Guy Madoc gave credit for the improvement in the security situation in Malacca to the excellent work done by the Malacca Special Branch under William (Bill) Woolnough.23 As the security situation improved and the communist guerrillas retreated across the Malayan border to take refuge in southern Thailand, other areas were declared ‘white’ until eventually the whole country was declared free of communist influence, with the exception of the immediate vicinity of the Malayan–Thai frontier.



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153

The SWECs and DWECs established under the Briggs Plan brought together for the first time representatives of the police, army and civil administration at state and district levels to co-ordinate operations against the guerrillas. The nerve centres of counterinsurgency operations at state and district levels were the joint police–military operations intelligence rooms that had been set up by Sir William Jenkin (see preceding chapter). The Special Branch, the uniformed branch of the police and the army fed the joint operations intelligence rooms with information. It was the responsibility of the Special Branch to ensure that the information, including the order of battle of local MNLA units, was kept up-to-date and ready to be made available to authorised persons. The Special Branch maintained a card index of individual communist guerrillas and members of the Min Yuen. Joint operations intelligence room staff briefed police and army operations patrols before they left on operations and debriefed them on their return.24 Between April 1950 and November 1951, Briggs issued a comprehensive series of 18 directives, ranging in security classification from ‘confidential’ to ‘top secret’, to cover the implementation of his plan. They were subsequently compiled in booklet form as Emergency Directives Issued by Director of Operations, Federation of Malaya and ‘issued to all officers responsible for implementing the policies laid down’ in the plan.25 They constituted what was virtually a master plan for fighting the war against the communist terrorists, and defined how the uniformed police, the Special Branch, military and civil service were to interact with each other, and the strategies to be followed. It was a brilliant plan that has not been accorded the importance it deserves. Directive No 9, drafted by Sir William Jenkin and dealing specifically with the functions of the Special Branch, has already been discussed in the previous chapter, but other directives issued by Briggs specifically impinging on the work and functions of the Special Branch will be examined below. Directive No 1 In Directive No 1, dated 16 April 1950, which was issued just prior to Jenkin’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur, Briggs announced the formation of a new Federal Joint Intelligence Advisory Committee.26 The task of this body was to oversee intelligence activities and ensure that Special Branch intelligence on which operations could be mounted was analysed and disseminated without delay to the army before it became ‘stale’ and overtaken by the course of events.27 Briggs’ main concern was to eliminate the delays that

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

had often occurred in the past in passing on operational intelligence to the army. It was an important document that was eventually to lead to the attachment of military intelligence officers to Special Branch units, with responsibility for speedily transmitting operational intelligence to the army in a form that could readily be understood in military terms. It was made clear that MIOs worked under the control and supervision of the Special Branch and were not able to act independently of the Special Branch, which remained the government’s supreme intelligence organisation throughout the Emergency. Directive No 2 Directive No 2, dated 12 May 1950, dealt inter alia with the payment of rewards from Secret Service funds. It stated that ‘rewards should be [paid] according to results, and in proportion to the real risk run [that is, to the informer]’.28 In actuality, it ratified the practice that the Special Branch was already following. Although it is difficult to ascertain from available public records the total amounts paid by the Special Branch from the Secret Service Vote for information provided by agents, informers and ‘co-operative’ surrendered guerrillas, it is clear that large sums of money were involved. In the six months from the end of 1950 to the beginning of June 1951, for instance, M$500,000 was disbursed. In 1954, M$918,455 was paid out and in the following year, M$822,062.29 An appreciable part of the reward money for 1955 was paid to surrendered guerrillas who had either persuaded their former comrades to come out of the jungle and surrender, or led security force patrols back into the jungle to locate and attack guerrilla camps. Under Directive No 2, the Special Branch was directed to develop intelligence sources in ‘resettlement areas’ or New Villages that had been established as part of the Briggs Plan. As the Emergency progressed, an increasing number of ambushes were laid based on Special Branch information obtained in this way from informers. The guerrillas were most vulnerable when they approached the barbed wire perimeter fences surrounding the New Villages, usually at night, to obtain food and other supplies that their supporters inside the New Villages had arranged to leave for their collection.30 For a picture in diagrammatic form of the interrelationship of the Special Branch, CID and uniformed branch of the police, and the interrelationship of the police with the army, see Chart 6 and its accompanying explanatory note.



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Directive No 16 This directive, issued on 18 September 1950, deals with propaganda, a topic that hitherto had been largely neglected.31 As Komer notes, in the ‘first two years of the Emergency there was no information service or co-ordinated anti-guerrilla information campaign’, and the use of psychological or political warfare and propaganda in the fight against the communist uprising had only been given cursory attention.32 General Briggs played a significant part in arranging for the government’s information and propaganda services to become, as he termed it, an ‘auxiliary intelligence instrument’ working closely with the Special Branch throughout the Emergency. General Templer, like Briggs, rated psychological warfare ‘on a par’ with intelligence.33 In the first two years of the Emergency, information and propaganda was the responsibility of the Department of Public Relations under JN McHugh, but it was based on a pre-Emergency model and not geared to the ‘war-time’ conditions that prevailed during the Emergency. Briggs required a much more dynamic approach to be adopted and in 1950 he recommended to the High Commissioner that a new unit should be formed—the Emergency Information Services—with responsibility for psychological warfare and countering communist propaganda, and reporting directly to himself as Director of Operations. Gurney requested the Secretary of State for the Colonies to second a suitably experienced officer to head the new department, and Hugh Carleton Greene was seconded for one year from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).34 Carleton Greene, the brother of the well-known novelist Graham Greene, had been a foreign correspondent in Berlin before the Second World War and was well-versed in the use of propaganda under war conditions. He had directed BBC broadcasts to Russia during the war. He arrived in Singapore on 19 September 1950 and served as head of the EIS until September 1951.35 Prior to Greene’s appointment, little emphasis had been placed on the spoken word in disseminating information on behalf of the government, and consequently the use of broadcasting and film as a propaganda tool had been largely neglected. Liaison with the Special Branch, too, was not all that it should have been and little use had been made for propaganda purposes of surrendered guerrillas or the databank of detailed information about the communists that had been assembled so painstakingly by the Special Branch. It was said at the time that communist leaflets and posters were a more common sight than the thousands of copies of government leaflets and

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Chart 6: Interrelationship between the Special Branch, CID, Uniformed Branch and Army under the Briggs Plan (1951) Federal Police Headquarters Commissioner of Police Personal Asst

Private Secretary Deputy Commissioner

Comdt. Police Depot

Snr ACP Uniformed Branch ACP. Admin

Snr ACP CID . ACP ACP Special Crime Branch Branch

Supt. Operations Branch

G Branch HQ Mal. Dist. GSOII (Int) HQ Mal Dist. Brigade Commander

GSO II Bde. HQ

Chief Police Officer Deputy Police Officer (state or settlement) ASP Uniformed Branch ASP Ops. Branch

GSOII (Int) Bde. HQ

Supt. CID

Special Branch

CO of Battalion or Local Mil. Commander

Crime Branch

OSPC (police circle) ASP Branch & Staff

ASP Criminal Investigation

ASP Special Branch

Bn. Intelligence Officer

Company Cmdr. or Local Mil. Commander

OCPD (police district) Uniformed Br.

Criminal Investigation

Special Branch

Source: Adapted from Appendix ‘A’, Secret, Directive No.2, Director of Operations, Kuala Lumpur, 1951.



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Explanatory Notes – Chart 6 1. This Chart delineates in diagrammatic form the interrelationship between (a) the Special Branch, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and the uniformed branches of the police and (b) the interrelationship of the Special Branch with military intelligence in 1951. It shows the police line of command stretching downwards from the Commissioner of Police at Federal Police headquarters to subordinate police formations at State, circle and district levels. The linkages between Special Branch and military intelligence officers are highlighted in bold. 2. In 1951, the Special Branch was still subsumed in to the CID and it is shown as a sub-division of the CID at Federal Police headquarters. 3. Army, police, and Special Branch linkages at different levels are shown by dotted lines. 4. (a), (b), (c), and (d) below provide the linkages between military intelligence officers and their equivalent Special Branch officers at different levels. Military Intelligence

Special Branch

(a) GSO I (Int) HQ Mal. Dist. (General Staff Assistant Commissioner Special Branch Officer Grade 1 (Intelligence) Malaya District Federal Police headquarters Headquarters) (b) GSO II (Int) Bde HQ (General Staff Officer Special Branch, Contingent (State) Grade II (Intelligence) Brigade Headquarters) police headquarters (c) Bn. Intelligence Officer (Battalion Special Branch, police circle Intelligence Officer) headquarters (d) Company Cdr or Local Mil Commander Special Branch, police district (Company Commander or Local Military Commander) headquarters

posters that had been printed and distributed. Dr GED Lewis, the Pahang State Emergency Information Officer (SEIO) in 1950, relates that Greene, who had come to visit him soon after his arrival in Malaya, expressed a desire to visit Temerloh and Triang, which were considered dangerous parts of the state. On the way, Greene complimented him on the number of propaganda posters prominently fixed to rubber trees, but as soon as they were clear of the rubber estate, Lewis told him that communist guerrillas had posted up the propaganda posters he had seen.36 Under the new arrangements, the EIS moved into a new building that had been specially built for it in the federal police headquarters compound at Bluff Road, Kuala Lumpur, which allowed it to work more closely with the Special Branch. The head of the Federal Special Branch, the Director of Intelligence, the Director of Operations, and the Commissioner of Police all had their offices in the same compound, which made it easier to plan and co-ordinate activities (see Chart 5).37

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

Finally, clear objectives were introduced and the EIS’s propaganda campaign against the communist guerrillas followed closely the objectives laid down by General Briggs in Directive No 16, that is: (a) to raise the morale of the civilian populations and encourage confidence in the government and resistance to the communists, with a view to increasing the flow of intelligence to the Special Branch (b) to attack the morale of members of the MNLA, the Min Yuen and their supporters, and drive a wedge between their leaders and the rank-and-file, with a view to encouraging defection and undermining the determination of the communists to continue the struggle (c) to create an awareness of the values of the democratic way of life which were threatened by international communism.38 After Greene took charge of the EIS, he made a special point of developing a close working relationship with the Special Branch, and he gave instructions that the extensive information the Special Branch had accumulated about the communist guerrillas and their organisation should be studied and made greater use of for propaganda purposes. The Special Branch arranged for selected surrendered communist guerrillas to assist Greene’s department in preparing material that could be adapted for use in leaflets, radio broadcasts and local newspapers. In February 1951, Greene appointed Harry CC Too (Too Chee Chew) as his senior Chinese assistant. CC Too, as he was usually called, had an excellent knowledge of English, as well as spoken and written Chinese, which stood him in good stead in his appointment. After Greene’s return to the BBC in London at the end of his contract, the top post was held briefly by two other officers until General Templer appointed EDC (Eric) Peterson to take over as Director-General of Information Services in July 1952. During the Second World War, Peterson had been Deputy Director and Controller of Black Propaganda on the headquarters staff of the British South East Asia Command in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).39 Unfortunately, Peterson and Too did not see eye-to-eye over the handling of propaganda, which led to Too resigning from government service not long afterwards. He did not return to take up an appointment with Information Services until April 1955, by which time Peterson had returned to the UK. However, by November 1956, Too had become Head of the Psychological Warfare Section, a post he held with some distinction until he finally retired from government service in January 1983.40 He worked closely throughout with the Special Branch until the end



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of the Emergency in 1960, and soon established a reputation as a leading authority on psychological warfare and counterinsurgency.41 In August 1951, government approval was given for SEPs to work with SEIOs in some of the Malay states and settlements, and among the first batch, Lee Chou, Wong Ah Koo and Ho Kei, all surrendered guerrillas, became the special assistants of SEIOs in Selangor, Kedah and Johore respectively. Their detention orders under the Emergency Regulations were suspended for this purpose. Many of the photographs and diaries that surrendered guerrillas had brought out from the jungle with them when they surrendered provided a wealth of information that could be used and adapted for propaganda purposes by the Special Branch and EIS.42 At EIS headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, CC Too became the mentor of Lam Swee, the first top-ranking communist to defect to the Special Branch. Lam Swee was important as he had been the Vice-President of the CPM’s Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions, political commissar of the 4th Regiment MNLA, and a member of the South Johore Regional Committee. As a result of a dialectical disagreement with the communist leadership and his severe criticism of the conduct of the Central Committee, he was stripped of his rank, disarmed, placed under close arrest, accused of being an internal spy and ordered to carry out self-criticism.43 However, he managed to escape and make his way out of the jungle to surrender to the Special Branch at the end of June 1950. There is little doubt that if he had not escaped he would have been executed. After his surrender, with the encouragement and assistance of CC Too and the Special Branch, he wrote a booklet entitled My Accusation, which was a striking indictment of the communist leadership.44 About 100,000 copies of this small book, which was written in Chinese, were printed by the government printing press, distributed throughout Malaya and dropped by air into the jungle in areas known to be frequented by the CTs.45 Lim Cheng Leng, a senior Special Branch officer who worked closely with Too, writes that the booklet created a furore in the CPM, which quickly issued a statement branding Lam Swee as a traitor and calling upon all local CPM committees and branches to hold meetings to denounce him.46 Hitherto, Lam Swee had only been known in the southern State of Johore, but the publication and wide distribution of his booklet and the measures taken by the CPM to discredit it served to bring his case to the attention of his comrades in the jungle throughout the country.

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MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

With Peterson’s and CC Too’s help, the ‘black’ propaganda campaign against the communist guerrilla was escalated, usually with Special Branch assistance.47 Misleading and false information was deliberately planted with the Min Yuen, in the knowledge that false information passed on to the guerrillas as genuine by the Min Yuen would have the effect of discrediting the Min Yuen as a source of reliable information. With the information the Special Branch already had on record about the public and private lives and activities of some of the leading communist guerrillas, it was not difficult to make up convincingly authentic but disreputable stories about their private lives which, if circulated by means of leaflets dropped by aircraft into the jungle, would be likely to bring the leaders into disrepute in the eyes of the communist rank-and-file.48 Suitable material for the black propaganda campaign was provided, too, by the Information Research Department (IRD) of the office of the British Commissioner-General for South East Asia in Singapore and the Singapore CIA station under Bob Jantzen.49 Although the CIA station in Singapore was not allowed to run operations in Malaya or Singapore without British approval, it nevertheless provided Washington with a window on the Emergency.50 The top secret IRD had been established in 1947 at the height of the Cold War by the British Foreign Office in London. Its main target was Russia, but its resources were also used in the British colonies against the spread of communism and nationalism where they were perceived to pose a threat to colonial rule.51 When the MNLA had streamlined its command structure down to detached companies and platoons in the jungle so that communication with regimental headquarters became increasingly difficult, the Special Branch found that small isolated guerrilla units in the jungle were often highly susceptible to disinformation of black propaganda. On a visit to Johore Bahru in 1951, General Briggs stressed to the head of the Johore Contingent Special Branch that, from the point of view of longterm political intelligence as opposed to short-term operations intelligence, the Special Branch should attach great importance to extracting as much information about the CPM/MNLA as possible from in-depth interrogations of surrendered or captured guerrillas.52 This, in fact, was demonstrated later in a detailed interrogation of a surrendered guerrilla that was carried out in 1952 at Johore Contingent Special Branch headquarters. The interrogation was carried out jointly by Jack Barlow, a senior Special Branch officer, and Feng Yeh Kim, a Chinese Special Branch inspector, and was spread over a period of some three weeks, with Feng interpreting for Barlow from Mandarin.53 Barlow has provided the following note of the interrogation,



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which shows the thoroughness with which in-depth interrogations were conducted and the wide range of information they provided: I have always been interested in the terrorists’ total recall and have attributed it to the fact that they lived for years in a very enclosed and confined environment—especially those who had served with the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA). All those long days and nights in jungle encampments with nothing to do but talk and talk and talk about their joint experiences. They must have learned a great deal about their ‘comrades’ and about every aspect of their lives and backgrounds. I cannot remember the name of the SEP concerned, but he produced an extraordinary and lengthy account of all his experiences in the greatest detail. He mentioned well over 600 names and gave details of their history in the organisation, including their Party names. When the report was read in Kuala Lumpur no one could believe its accuracy. [But it was] proved to be fully justified when a large quantity of documents were recovered from a major terrorist HQs. These tallied almost exactly with the information provided by the SEP…I recall that we gradually built up a fairly comprehensive record of the MNLA and Min Yuen operating in Johore and on the borders of Malacca and Negri Sembilan…54

It was from details of the lives of guerrillas in the jungle obtained from interrogations of this kind that the Emergency Information Services was able to cull information that could be used for propaganda purposes. In the interrogation carried out by Barlow, the information obtained assisted the Special Branch in finalising the order-of-battle and a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the MNLA and Min Yuen operating in Johore and the Johore–Malacca–Negri Sembilan border area. Further, in the following passage, Barlow brings out clearly the painstaking and methodical way in which the Special Branch built up personal files on communist terrorists and how intelligence obtained from a variety of sources was dovetailed together to form a composite picture (see Chapter 4). In particular, it was useful to identify the many identities and aliases that the communist terrorists used. We prepared personal files on a great number [of CTs] and included in these dossiers were extracts from captured documents, from the interrogation reports of captives and defectors, and details, including photographs, from old files on the various Communist trade unions…The task of the interrogator was greatly simplified when, on identifying a CEP or SEP, he was able to produce a highly informative file of his subject. The psychological effect on the subject was considerable…We sometimes found that we had duplicated personal files or, in some case, opened files on a terrorist’s nickname. I

162

MALAYA’S SECRET POLICE 1945–60

recall one name which appeared regularly in nominal rolls of a company’s personnel, showing that he had taken part in an ambush or attack on a plantation, etc. I cannot remember the Chinese but in translation he was shown as ‘Army, Navy and Airforce’. I later discovered that he had claimed, rightly or wrongly, that he had served in all three in China…we ‘targeted’ the MNLA leaders and built up as comprehensive record of them as possible. The file on Ho Lung was my pride and joy. After my departure from Johore, he defected and I often wonder what he made of my efforts. Every clue to his history, political background, general characters and idiosyncrasies, his family connections, close friends, etc., were all painstakingly recorded.55

The ‘file on Ho Lung’ that Barlow refers to was painstakingly built up from information obtained from the detailed interrogation of several SEPs, as well as a careful examination of captured communist documents.56 ‘Ho Lung’, which is usually spelt Hor Lung in its romanised form, surrendered to the police in Johore on 5 April 1958. He was the head of the CPM’s South Malaya Bureau, and controlled the guerrilla organisation for the whole of southern Malaya, stretching from Malacca and the Johore border with Negri Sembilan to southern Johore. After the Second World War, he became a member of the CPM’s Johore State Committee and subsequently, in March 1947, a member of the Central Committee, before taking charge of the South Malaya Bureau. He was the first member of the CPM’s Central Committee to surrender, and the Special Branch regarded him as the highest-ranking terrorist in south Malaya—a good catch.57 Hor Lung walked into a police station near Segamat in north Johore, unarmed, clad only in khaki shorts and a white singlet, and wearing rubber shoes, and surrendered to the Malay sergeant on duty.58 In view of his importance, the Special Branch was immediately informed. Hor Lung intimated that he wished to take advantage of the government’s amnesty offer (the Merdeka Amnesty) that had been announced by Tunku Abdul Rahman on 31 August 1957, which he had learnt about from a government leaflet he had picked up in the jungle.59 Under the terms of the Merdeka Amnesty, which was considered controversial at the time because of the lenient approach it took to CTs who had ‘blood on their hands’, guerrillas who wished to surrender were assured they would not be prosecuted for crimes committed under communist direction. If they recanted communism, they were given an undertaking that the Special Branch would not interrogate them, and that they would receive ‘fair treatment’, and be allowed to leave for China, if they wished.60 Both SEPs and CEPs were eligible for large government rewards for the capture or killing of their erstwhile comrades (see Table 7).



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Chart 7: Map of Malaya (1956): locations of CT’s by state

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