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The Malayan Emergency

...The Crucial Years: 1949-53, a new Images of War title from Pen & Sword

Title: The Malayan Emergency
Author: Mark Forsdike
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 0978-1-39908-224-2

Subtitled 'The Crucial Years:1949-53', a recent Images of War release from Pen & Sword. A 252-page soft-cover book, one of the larger books in this popular series, and interesting for covering a campaign we see little about and featuring largely National Service troops rather than regulars/conscripts.
The book doesn't attempt to tackle all of the Malayan campaign, but a period when the 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was posted to Malaya for a little over 2 years. The story is spread across 6 chapters, each of which begins with a few pages of text to set out the detail appropriate to each one, then accompanied by a selection of archive images which illustrate the events previously described. From the scene setting at the start, with the arrival of the Suffolks, how they learnt to cope with their enemy, both the 'bandits' and the jungle environment they hid in. Another element that makes this story a bit different is that while some veterans may have had earlier experience in the jungles of Malaya, the bulk of the troops were National Servicemen, many of whom had never been outside the UK before. Here they were, having to adapt to living in the jungle and to fight a war. As well as their enemy, it tells us of how they adapted to the jungle, what it meant to cope with leaches, and adapting their equipment to jungle warfare, different boots, adapting hats and webbing, even down to the favoured weapon choices. By the time they finish their deployment and went home, they had proved very successful at what they did, and were able to pass the fruits of their success on to their replacements.
This is an interesting read, events which are often overshadowed by events of the Korean War. The photos very much focus on the men and the jungles where these events took place. There is little in here for the vehicle enthusiast, and I feel I should repeat the warning in the book that there are pictures of dead bandits, who were brought back to publicly reinforce the success of the British troops. I enjoyed this book and learnt a good deal more about the successful British Malayan Campaign, which did in the end lead to an independent state.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.


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