Malaya and the Emergency (1950-53)
Chapter   7 - Selangor — Klang
Klang is a fairly large and quite pleasant town twenty-five miles due west of Kuala Lumpur, and five miles from the coast at Port Swettenham. There are many of the old original colonial buildings left in the town, which was once the capital of the State of Selangor. Up to the time of the Battalion’s arrival there had been no security forces in the area. But a serious incident involving some shooting in one of the main streets had made it necessary to move troops to the district.

The move took place on September 1st. Battalion Headquarters was between Klang and Port Swettenham on the opposite side of the main road to a disused airstrip. “A” Company base was at Telok Datok twenty miles to the south, “B” Company was near Batang Berjuntai twenty-four miles to the north, and “D” Company was in Klang itself. “C” Company remained at Paloh in Johore (see map in chapter 6). The Companies settled into their new bases quickly, and within a few days they were out on patrol again.

On September 17th Colour-Serjeant Sydney Charles Petherbridge, of “C” Company, collapsed and died shortly after playing a game of football. He had served for many years in the Regiment. He was known as a fine footballer and an excellent soldier. His death was a great loss to the Regiment.
The Battalion was now due to have a new Commanding Officer, and on September 19th Lt.-Col. P. H. Graves-Morris, D.S.O., M.C., assumed command from Lt.-Col. A. H. Gillmore, O.B.E., who had commanded the Battalion since May, 1949. Shortly afterwards Col. Gillmore returned to England and was appointed Provost Marshal—B.A.O.R.

On the afternoon of November 7th took place what was probably the most serious incident of the Emergency. His Excellency The High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, was travelling with Lady Gurney and his Secretary to spend the weekend at the hill station at Frasers Hill. Fifty-six miles from Kuala Lumpur the convoy was ambushed by about 20 Terrorists on the narrow winding road which leads up the 3000ft. mountain. For its last twenty miles the road rises steeply and twists its way through thick jungle. The sides of the road are steep and provide countless good ambush positions. His Excellency was travelling in an unarmoured saloon car with a police escort of about twenty. In the opening burst of fire there were heavy casualties in the police escort, and His Excellency’s Secretary and driver were both wounded. With great gallantry Sir Henry Gurney got out of the car in order to divert the fire from Lady Gurney, his Secretary and his driver. The full weight of the terrorist fire was turned on to him and he was killed instantly. Lady Gurney was unhurt. A large military and police operation was mounted in the area immediately, and “B” Company was called from Batang Berjuntai to take part. Several terrorists were killed during the operation and it was established that some of these had taken part in the ambush.

Lt.-Col. A. H. Gillmore, O.B.E.

A few days later, less than six weeks after the Battalion’s arrival at Klang, orders were received that “A” and “ D” Companies with a small Tactical Headquarters were to return to their previous bases in the Kluang area of Johore. There followed a hurried packing of kit and striking of tents and half the Battalion moved down to Johore. The Battalion was now split as follows: “A,” “C” and “D” Companies with a Tactical Headquarters were in their previous locations in Johore, “B” Company was at Batang Berjuntai, and Rear Headquarters was at Klang. The two parts of the Battalion were separated by about two hundred miles, although direct contact was still maintained by wireless.

On October 21st a patrol of 1st Battalion The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment was returning in vehicles from an operation when it was ambushed by a very large terrorist force. Twelve soldiers were killed and many were wounded, but the Royal West Kents fought back and held their position. Eventually the terrorists withdrew. In the follow-up operation after this incident “5” and “6” Platoons were called away to take part.

Selangor - Klang

From “C” Company on October 24th came the account of an action, which was typical of so many in Malaya. 7 Platoon, after travelling for three days through thick jungle and swamp, came across a terrorist track, which appeared to have been used about three days previously. An ambush was laid on a suitable part of the track and a base camp established a thousand yards in rear. The Platoon waited for three days in the ambush, and it rained heavily for most of the time. Late in the afternoon of the third day, just as the platoon began to think that this was another fruitless ambush, two armed terrorists came down the track. The men in ambush made no mistake, and in the first burst of fire the terrorists were blown to pieces.

On the other hand, a patrol might spent weeks or months patrolling and ambushing without a sight of the enemy. Then suddenly he appears, there is a quick burst of fire and it is all over in a matter of seconds. Even then there were a great number of occasions when the wounded escaped into the jungle or the enemy disappeared before the men could get a good shot at them.

On the day following 7 Platoon’s action, 4 Platoon of “B” Company (2/Lt. D. C. Tyson) achieved the most successful terrorist kill, which the Battalion had in Malaya. The operation took place near an unsavoury Chinese squatter area called Ulu Tiram Burok. (see map above) “B” Company had carried out many patrols in the area but so far they had not managed to make contact with the terrorists.
The Company Commander (Major St. J. C. Brooke-Johnson, M.B.E.) received information from the District Officer that there were fifteen terrorists in a patch of very thick jungle swamp covering about one hundred square acres. The Company was already heavily committed on other operations, but it was decided to send 4 Platoon (only 12 strong) to search the area.

Having accomplished the difficult task of getting into the patch of jungle by first light without attracting the attention of the squatters, they moved slowly and quietly forward. Not long after they heard the sound of voices. Taking the greatest care the platoon moved in the direction of the noise; they moved very slowly and it took them a further one and a half hours before they reached what appeared to be a clearing surrounded by thick undergrowth. 2/Lt. Tyson left six men with his platoon Serjeant, Serjeant Whitehouse, and began to work round the clearing to find the best way in. After covering about thirty yards in half-an-hour, they found that the undergrowth began to thin out and a “basha” could be seen. 2/Lt. Tyson then split his party into two groups and moved in towards the clearing. When the assault party got within ten yards of the “basha” they stood up and saw six terrorists inside. 2/Lt. Tyson gave the order to fire, and a tremendous burst of fire poured into the “basha.” All the terrorists were hit and four of them killed instantly, the remaining two tried to run away but were killed by 2/Lt. Tyson and Private Stredder as they charged into the camp. As the party entered the camp a grenade landed in their midst, but fortunately failed to explode. The grenade appeared to have come from behind a screen where some washing was hanging. Fire was opened and the party thought they saw a woman, but whoever it was escaped into the jungle. By this time 5 Platoon had arrived in support, and an attempt was made to get the bodies out of the jungle before dark, but this was prevented by a terrific rainstorm.
At first light the following morning 4 Platoon and 5 Platoon returned to the camp where sounds were again heard. The platoons attacked, and then the sound of a man was heard crying out. The man was found in the camp and it was discovered that he had been wounded during the attacked on the previous day. He disclosed that seven other terrorists had been holding a meeting a hundred yards away from the camp; they had dispersed very hurriedly. He also stated that two other terrorists had been wounded during the attack. The total terrorist casualties for the action were: Six killed, one wounded and captured, and two wounded. 4 Platoon suffered no casualties.

The dead bodies were now carried out by 4 Platoon, while 5 Platoon remained behind to ambush the camp. The terrorists did not re-visit it.

So ended an operation in which skill and patience of a high order were rewarded by a resounding success (2/Lt. Tyson was subsequently awarded the M.C.).

Down in the Kluang area the other Companies were busy but they saw little of the enemy, although 9 Platoon of “C” Company killed one terrorist whilst on a deep penetration operation. On December 5th a platoon of “A” Company, whilst following up a party of terrorists, were fired on and Private Wilson was wounded and later died of his wounds. Two days later “B” Company had a further success; this time it was 5 Platoon (2/Lt. A. W. S. Hargrave). The platoon, after standing waist deep in a swamp for several hours, ambushed a man and a woman terrorist, killing the woman.

After serving about eighteen months in Malaya, infantry battalions were usually sent to Penang or Singapore for a period of “Rest and Retraining.” It was now the turn of the 1st Battalion to go out for rest. The Battalion was to go to Penang and advance parties left in the first week of December, and the main body of the Battalion moved to the Island on December 8th.

Penang Railway Station