As life moves on many campaigns are forgotten and the detail becomes blurred. Jim D as taken the time to put down some of the facts surrounding two of these campaigns which you may find interesting. Thanks Jim D.
1. The Malayan Emergency
Notwithstanding fighting alongside the United States in Korea, the New Zealand forces along with their Australian counterparts were part of a British Commonwealth division. Traditional ties with Britain would continue throughout the 1950s.
In 1949 New Zealand joined an evolving
Commonwealth defence plan known as ANZAM, a name derived from the countries it encompassed – Australia, New Zealand and British-ruled Malaya. Its initial concern was the protection of wartime sea communications in the area. This was provided during the period 1953 to 1955 by the frigates Kaniere and Pukaki and the cruiser Black Prince.
In 1955 New Zealand was to respond to its responsibilities under ANZAM, when the British asked for support during the Malayan Emergency. New Zealand promised to commit two ships (four ships rotated during the period 1955 – 1961: frigates Kaniere, Pukaki and Rotoiti and the cruiser Royalist), a fighter bomber squadron, half a transport squadron and a Special Air Service (SAS) squadron.
In announcing New Zealand’s support, Prime Minister Sidney Holland commented that New Zealand needed to pull its weight ‘in the British boat … That, is a British thing to do.’ No. 14 Squadron RNZAF was withdrawn from Cyprus in April 1955 to be based in Singapore, and they were re-equipped with de Havilland Venoms leased from the British. The Squadron’s first offensive action took place on 1 May when five of the Squadron’s original Vampires attacked terrorist positions. The Squadron continued to fly until 1958, when it was replaced by 75 Squadron which was equipped with English Electric Canberra bombers. These aircraft flew alongside no. 45 Squadron RAF until the Emergency in Malaya ended in July 1960.
The SAS squadron of 133 personnel was attached to the British 22nd SAS Regiment early in 1956, and was replaced by the 1st Battalion, the New Zealand Regiment consisting of 740 personnel. This in turn was replaced by the 2nd Battalion in 1959.
2. The Indonesian Confrontation
As a part of its withdrawal from its Southeast Asian colonies, the United Kingdom moved to combine its colonies in Borneo – Sarawak and British North Borneo – with those on peninsular Malaya, to form the Federation of Malaysia. The government of Indonesia opposed this move; President Sukarno argued that Malaysia was a puppet of the British, and that the consolidation of Malaysia would increase British control over the region, threatening Indonesia’s independence.
The Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation began on 20 January 1963 when Indonesian Foreign Minister Subandrio announced that Indonesia would pursue a policy of Konfrontasi (Confrontation) with Malaysia. British forces conducted a successful counter-insurgency campaign against Indonesian guerillas (often regular Indonesian Army soldiers) but it was a strain on resources and by early 1965, 60,000 British and Malaysian servicemen were deployed in the region, together with a Royal Navy surface fleet of more than eighty warships, including two aircraft-carriers. Repeated requests had been made since December 1963 to New Zealand and Australia to provide combat forces for Borneo. Prime Minister Keith Holyoake’s National Party government initially refused – while it was felt that Malaysia should definitely be supported against an enemy that had clearly acted as an aggressor, the government did not wish to see New Zealand embroiled in a major war with Indonesia. Indonesia is New Zealand’s closest Asian neighbour and there was a fear of spoiling future relations. In refusing, the government argued that present British and Malaysian forces were sufficient to contain the insurgency. In 1964 Sukarno decided to intensify the Confrontation by extending military operations to the Malay Peninsula. When 98 Indonesian paratroopers landed in Johore in September the 1st Battalion of Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment was one of the only Commonwealth units in the region and with the New Zealand government’s permission hunted down the infiltrators.
The following month, 52 soldiers landed in Pontian on the Johore-Malacca border and were also captured by New Zealand soldiers.
A change in New Zealand policy came as Sukarno increased the flow of Indonesian insurgents into Borneo and British military resources were stretched to almost breaking point. The New Zealand government could no longer deny the genuine appeals for assistance and the first New Zealand deployment was made to fight the insurgency – a Special Air Service detachment and the 1st Battalion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, along with former Royal Navy minesweepers HMNZS Hickleton and Santon, the cruiser HMNZS Royalist and the frigates HMNZS Taranaki and Otago. The SAS detachment, and its later replacement, took part in Operation Claret alongside British and Australian SAS soldiers. The 1st Battalion did not see action until May 1965, when it relieved a Gurkha battalion in Sarawak, where it was involved in a series of skirmishes. The battalion was relieved in October 1965 and was not to see further combat – when it returned to Borneo in May 1966, Confrontation was essentially over. Towards the end of 1965, General Suharto came to power in Indonesia, following a coup d’état. Due to this domestic conflict, Indonesian interest in pursuing the war with Malaysia declined, and combat ceased. On 28 May 1966 at a conference in Bangkok, the Malaysian and Indonesian governments declared the conflict was over. Violence ended in June, and a peace treaty was signed on 11 August and ratified two days later.