Military history of Australia during the Malayan Emergency

The Malayan Emergency (Anti-British National Liberation War) was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party, from 1948 to 1960 in Malaya. Australia's commitment to the emergency lasted 13 years, between 1950 and 1963, with army, air force and naval units serving. The Malayan Emergency was the longest continuous military commitment in Australia's history. Thirty-nine Australians were killed and 27 wounded.

The Australian Government sent Royal Australian Air Force Dakota transport aircraft of No. 38 Squadron and Lincoln bombers of No. 1 Squadron to Malaya in June 1950. The 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR), arrived in 1955.[1] The battalion was later replaced by 3 RAR, which in turn was replaced by 1 RAR. In 1955, the RAAF extended Butterworth air base, from which Canberra bombers of No. 2 Squadron (replacing No. 1 Squadron) and CAC Sabres of No. 78 Wing carried out ground attack missions against the guerillas.

The Royal Australian Navy destroyers Warramunga and Arunta joined the force in June 1955. Between 1956 and 1960, the aircraft carriers Melbourne and Sydney and destroyers Anzac, Quadrant, Queenborough, Quiberon, Quickmatch, Tobruk, Vampire, Vendetta and Voyager were attached to the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve forces for three to nine months at a time. Several of the destroyers fired on Communist positions in Johor State.

In 1973 an Australian Army infantry company, known as Rifle Company Butterworth, was deployed to RAAF Base Butterworth to provide a protective and quick-reaction force for the base during a resurgence of the Communist insurgency in Malaysia.[2] While the base was handed to the Royal Malaysian Air Force in 1988 and the insurgency officially ended in 1989, Rifle Company Butterworth was maintained as a means of providing Australian soldiers with training in jungle warfare and cross-training with the Malaysian Army.[3]


  1. ^ "Malayan Emergency, 1950–60". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  2. ^ Horner 2008, p. 256.
  3. ^ Horner 2008, p. 340.


  • Horner, David; Bou, Jean (2008). Duty First: A History of the Royal Australian Regiment (2nd ed.). Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74175-374-5.

Further reading

  • Bannister, Colin (1994). An Inch of Bravery: 3 RAR in the Malayan Emergency, 1957–59. Canberra: Directorate of Army Public Affairs. ISBN 0-642-21207-4.
  • Coates, John (2006). An Atlas of Australia's Wars. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-555914-2.
  • Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey; Morris, Ewan; Prior, Robin (1995). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (1st ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-553227-9.
  • Dennis, Peter; Jeffrey Grey (1996). Emergency and Confrontation: Australian Military Operations in Malaya and Borneo 1950–1966. The Official History of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948–1975. Volume 5. St Leonards: Allen and Unwin. ISBN 1-86373-302-7. OCLC 187450156.
  • Macdougall, A. (1991). Australians at War: A Pictorial History. The Five Mile Press. ISBN 1-86503-865-2.
The Official History of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948–1975

The Official History of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948–1975 covers Australia's involvement in the Malayan Emergency, Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation and Vietnam War. The series is an official history and was funded by the Australian Government and published by Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial. Peter Edwards was appointed the official historian for the series in 1982. The series comprises nine volumes, which were published between 1992 and 2012. A single-volume summary of the series, Australia and the Vietnam War, was published in 2014.

The coverage of the effects of Agent Orange in volume 3 of the series has been criticised by some Australian veterans of the Vietnam War, who argue that it presented veterans who sought compensation as being dishonest. In 2015 the Australian War Memorial commissioned a book to consider the long-term effects of Agent Orange on veterans' health, as well other medical effects of the war.

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