Malaya and the Emergency (1950-53)
Chapter   8 - Penang
Penang was quite another world. To leave the mainland at Butterworth and take the ferry across to Georgetown was to leave behind the tension of the Emergency, the constant watchfulness of tape at a Company base, and all thoughts of patrols and incidents. In Penang the very atmosphere was relaxed, there was no need to carry a gun, there were no operations, and the inhabitants seemed scarcely to have heard of the Emergency.

Between December 8th and 12th the various widely scattered parts of the Battalion were moving by road and rail to Penang. This was the first time that the Battalion had been concentrated together since leaving Singapore in July, 1950.

The Battalion was stationed at Minden Barracks about four miles to the south of Georgetown. The barracks were comfortable and pleasantly situated on rising ground, which gave a good view of the Straits and the mainland. But it was not long before the Battalion discovered that their two months’ “Rest and Retraining” were going to be very busy indeed. There were new drafts to be trained, range courses to be fired, inspections to be prepared for, parades to be rehearsed, as well as a full programme of sports.

Christmas came round quickly and was celebrated with more than usual gaiety, while on Boxing Day each Company went out to one of the many beaches on the North-West of the Island for a picnic and a day’s swimming and lazing in the sun.

Early in the New Year they were honoured by a visit from the Archbishop of York (Dr. Garbett), who, accompanied by the Bishop of Singapore, dined with the officers, and on the following day unveiled a memorial to men of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who had fallen in action during the Emergency.

On February 6th, after a great deal of hard work and preparation, Brigadier R. T. K. Pye, D.S.O., O.B.E., carried out an administrative inspection of the Battalion. On the same evening came the tragic news of the death of His Majesty, King George VI. Three days later, just before leaving the Island, two hundred men of the Battalion took part in the Proclamation parade for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

The Battalion’s new base was to be at Ipoh in Perak, where they were to relieve 42 Commando, Royal Marines. Advance parties left on February 9th and four days later the Battalion said goodbye to Penang.

The two months on the Island had passed quickly. There had been a great deal to do, and everyone had had to work extremely hard. It had, in fact, been a change rather than a rest. And as the Battalion once again split into its Company groups, boarded the ferry, and crossed the Straits, there were very few backward glances—they were glad to be back at the job.