By Major Godfrey Chang (Rtd)
We are fortunate that we live in a peaceful country with relative wealth and plentiful resources. We have almost everything and in the midst of plenty, we sometimes squabble over wealth and pride and speak unkindly of our brethren from other communities, just so we portray ourselves as champions of our race.
Unless we look back, we sometimes forget where we come from and we could lose our direction forward. What everybody needs is a proper perspective of the country’s history.
This is especially so of the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) where all Malaysians, irrespective of race, fought together alongside the British and the Commonwealth Forces against the communist insurgents. The second Emergency started from 1968 to 1989, where a post-independent Malaysia’s multi-ethnic Armed Forces proved their capability to defend the sovereignty of the country.
This part of the recent Malayan and Malaysian history seemed to have been forgotten. One plausible reason is the lack of proper records of this period, where most of the war history is written from the perspective of the British or the Commonwealth forces.
If there is one book that I will recommend to college and high-school students, teachers, armed forces personnel, police and other uniformed bodies, it would be this memoir. This book recorded the contributions of the Malaysian Armed forces personnel during that period, from a local perspective.
This book is well organised and places everything into perspective, in a readable chronological manner. The chapters begin with a brief note of the period in time followed by narratives of veterans who served during the period. The stories are vivid, lively and enlightening.
The book begins with a chapter introducing the Malaysian Armed Forces before, during and after Independence. This gives us a perspective of what our armed forces were like during that time and how it started. The second chapter dived straight into the First Malayan Emergency, detailing the contribution of the Home Guards, Volunteer Forces, Territorial Army and the set-up of the Templer’s Twelve – officers that were groomed to lead the new nation’s military after independence.
The chapter on Counter-Insurgency Warfare was especially riveting. It is amazing how the soldiers fought in a jungle terrain which has been described as a ‘neutral terrain’ by Chapman: Everyone has an advantage or disadvantage, camouflaged and concealed by the dense foliage.
There are also chapters dedicated to the Royal Malaysian Air Force and Royal Malaysian Navy. It is interesting to know the first aircraft and naval vessel deployed and the contribution of RMAF and RMN to counter-insurgency warfare. The helicopter rescue of those injured in the jungle was exciting and admirable.
What charmed me most was the hundreds of invaluable photographs and newspaper clippings of the time. It brings back snapshots of that period.
Before anyone points fingers at who fought for the country and who were the villains, it is necessary that they first read the Memoirs.
I would highly recommend the book to all.
Incidentally, the book launch will be held at the Royale Chulan Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, March 7. For reservations please call Carol: 012 303 2326 or Mary: 012 335 6760.