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'Transmogrifying' Malaya: the impact of Sir Gerald Templer (1952-54).

This article rebuts recent attempts to diminish Sir Gerald Templer's role in the Malayan Emergency. It contends that the revisionists overlook the decisive psychological impact of Templer's Malayan sojourn. Fundamentally, through very deliberate words and deeds, he gave both government and Malayans confidence that the communists could and would be beaten.

It is generally accepted that the tenure of General Sir Gerald Templer, High Commissioner and Director of Operations, Federation of Malaya (1952 - 54), represented the turning point in the 12-year-long counterinsurgency campaign against the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) known as the Malayan Emergency. The prevailing orthodoxy holds that Templer laid the foundations for eventual victory by injecting new life into a moribund colonial administration, introducing 'new methods of police training and new jungle tactics', revamping the intelligence system and intensifying the psychological warfare campaign. [1] Consequently during his two years in power 'twothirds of the guerrillas were wiped out, the incident rate fell from 500 to less than 100 per month, and the civilian and security force casualties from 200 to less than 40'. [2] By the time he left Malaya, therefore, it had 'become clear that the communists would never be able to regain the initiative and that their revolt had not the faintest chance of succeed ing.' [3] In sum, Templer was said to have 'taken a difficult, deteriorating situation, checked it, and turned it around'. [4] His tenure had been 'both decisive and successful.' [5] This traditional historiography, however, has recently been challenged. The revisionists suggest that Templer in fact 'arrived in February 1952 with the turning tide, but before it was obvious this was in fact what it was.' [6] In other words, he actually 'inherited a defeated enemy, a victorious Army, a booming economy, a sound plan and an efficient administrative machine, so that all he had to do was drive in the right direction'. [7] Thus, 'improvements before summer 1952 were due more to cumulative progress in New Village security and to changing MCP tactics and strengths than to Templer and his tenure was characterised by 'continuity' rather than the 'drastic change depicted in much of the traditional historiography'. [8] Indeed this revisionist historiography suggests that Templer was 'unsophisticated', and was akin to an ' enthusiastic Boy Scout', who in implementing initiatives inaugurated under previous administrations, basically brought a 'blustering barrackroom style and ripened language to the war effort', which entertained and at times offended. [9]

The Templer revisionists are not developing a new line of argument; they merely represent the modern purveyors of a school of thought which originated with Templer's contemporary arch critic, the Chinese scholar, Victor Purcell. [10] As early as 1954, Purcell had already suggested that 'the main success against the Communists was, in fact, won before General Templer's arrival', and somewhat less charitably, that the High Commissioner's only dubious achievement in Malaya was creating a police state characterised by a 'bankruptcy of imaginative resource' and a 'complete lack of mental content'. [11] This article contends that while Templer revisionists past and present completely miss the essence of his impact, his supporters fail to go far enough in identifying his most critical contribution to the counterinsurgency effort: confidence. It is argued that it was in the realm of the psychological that Templer made his most fundamental and enduring contribution to winning the Emergency. Because he instinctively u nderstood that high levels of confidence bred salutary operational consequences, Templer deliberately -- through both word and deed -- sought to impart to government and the key rural Chinese public, the requisite moral/psychological ballast to withstand and ultimately overcome the onslaught of the MCP.

The Operational Context

The origins of the Malayan Emergency have received detailed attention; suffice it to note that the marriage of convenience between the defeated British and the MCP which endured during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya (February 1942 to September 1945) was -- following the resumption of civil government in April 1946 -- almost immediately transmuted into open confrontation. The communist 'open and legal struggle' against the 'British imperialists' resulted in considerable penetration of the labour force, and this provoked a campaign of repression by first the Malayan Union, and then from 1 February 1948, the Federal government in Kuala Lumpur. By 18 June 1948, the government, discerning a sharp upturn in violence and lawlessness on rubber estates and mines, declared a State of Emergency throughout Malaya. This declaration accelerated the exodus of MCP members and supporters into the ubiquitous jungle, from which they launched an insurrection. This was aimed at disrupting the Malayan economy and creating libe rated communist-controlled areas as a prelude to defeating the British colonial power and establishing a Communist Republic of Malaya patterned on the Maoist model. The Malayan Emergency had begun. [12] Unfortunately, the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA) -- the new incarnation of the wartime Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) -- relied far too heavily on terrorism while neglecting 'masses work' or political education of the people. The upshot of this was that by October 1951 the Central Committee of the MCP had to publish a set of directives, now known as the October Directives, calling on its cadres to cease unrestricted terrorism and to henceforth devote more resources to rebuilding relations with the public. [13] Of especial importance in this regard was the rural Chinese community -- including the rubber tappers, tin miners, timber workers and squatters -- which, given its geographical propinquity to the jungle fringe, had been the main source of food, medicines and funds, as well as manpower and information. [14] As Judith Strauch observes, the rural Chinese bore the brunt of MCP terror, 'presumably because they presented both the greatest hope and the greatest danger'. [15] By the end of 1951, therefore, the MCP had inadvertently provoked general aversion towards itself amongst the mass of the rural Chinese, a situation that proved impossible to redress, and all but destroyed any prospect of success in the shooting war. [16]

If communist relations with the rural Chinese left much to be desired by the end of 1951, it cannot be claimed that the community's dispositions toward the government were any better. The ordinary Chinese peasant in post-war Malaya had not been all that dissimilar to his relative in southern China: they both deeply distrusted authority, given centuries of gross abuse by officials, soldiers, and 'persons dressed in uniform.' In fact in China both the soldier and the bandit had been perceived as equally oppressive. [17] To compound matters, the abolition of the old Chinese Protectorate after the war created a dangerous communications vacuum between government and the mass of the ordinary Chinese. [18] Moreover, following the appointment of Lieutenant-General Harold Briggs as Director of Operations, from June 1950 the relocation of Chinese squatters from the exposed jungle fringe into defended Resettlement Areas was accelerated. The Chinese were naturally upset that they had to leave behind their 'animals, fish ponds and homes', [19] and in these pre-Templer days, they were none too pleased at the government's apparent attitude that 'the mere fact of herding squatters behind barbed wire' was enough. [20] In June 1951, moreover, stringent food control restrictions were introduced which sharply controlled the amount of foodstuffs in circulation within and around villages, estates and mines. [21] The practical implications of food control were onerous for the rural Chinese. For instance, rubber tappers leaving a Resettlement Area for work every morning were subjected to body searches by suspicious Malay Special Constables to ensure that they did not bring out food for the terrorists; this meant that they had no mid-day meal and less energy to work, while the time spent being searched at the checkpoints meant that they had less time to spend tapping and thus less revenue to earn. Moreover, movement was completely restricted by a dusk-to-dawn perimeter curfew, and from 2300 to 0500 hours, a house curfew. [22] Finally, i t was remarked that the early Resettlement Areas with their closely packed huts generated a 'concentration camp feeling.' [23]

Much more damagingly, the prevailing mindset in official circles up to the end of 1951 was that the Chinese possessed a 'streak of hysteria' and a 'secret society complex' that made them prone to 'intimidation organisations' such as the MCP. Thus, the argument went, in order to persuade the Chinese to co-operate, one had to make them 'fear Government more than they fear the Communists.' [24] This stereotyping inevitably produced a 'bashing the Chinese' mentality in official circles. [25] One extreme end product was a My Lai-type Security Force misdemeanor at Batang Kali, Selangor, in December 1948, in which British troops were implicated in the shooting of 24 Chinese men. [26] More generally, the rural Chinese were the target of government's Emergency measures: in particular individual detention and deportation, mass detention and deportation, and by the end of 1950, collective punishment - involving communal fines and curfews. [27] For instance, by February 1951, 2,800 Chinese had been deported to China, an d by the end of that year, of 25,641 Malayans detained more than 28 days under the Emergency Regulations, a massive 22,667 were Chinese. [28] So widespread, deeply felt and painfully obvious was the subsequent Chinese antipathy towards government, that Dato Tan Cheng Lock, president of the Malayan Chinese Association, felt compelled in December 1951 to implore the Federal authorities to reduce 'the number of offences committed by the Security Forces against the general public especially in the rural areas'. He added that in general government had to work harder to 'avoid doing anything to antagonise them or alienate their sympathies in any way'. [29] Dato Tan's comments came only two months after MRLA terrorists assassinated the high commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, and a few days after LieutenantGeneral Briggs, the outgoing Director of Operations, had left the country. Indeed Briggs' eponymous plan to deprive the MRLA of its supply networks through resettling the rural Chinese into defended Resettlement Areas , was after a bright start floundering through bureaucratic delays and inertia. [30] Things were not going well for either the government or the public. It was this inclement strategic context that confronted Templer on his arrival in Malaya as both High Commissioner and Director of Operations - combining the appointments held by Gurney and Briggs - in February 1952.

Templer and Government Confidence

The revisionists do not appear impressed by Templer's obvious dynamism. Hence Karl Hack repudiates the notion that 'charismatic leadership can have instant, transmogrifying effects on complex and dispersed campaigns.' [31] On the other hand, the traditional historiography acknowledges in a limited way the psychological aspects of Templer's achievements by the time he departed Malaya: hence Edgar O'Ballance notes that Templer 'raised morale and instilled a will to win in the people' [32] while Miller observes that he bequeathed a mood of 'buoyancy' where 'two years before there had been extreme depression'; [33] and John Cloake declares that he 'restored morale to a country that was desperate, and confidence to a people who were despairing'. [34] These somewhat intangible, essentially psychological achievements would have been well appreciated by the great Prussian philosopher of war Clausewitz. He always maintained that the 'moral elements are among the most important in war; constituting 'the spirit that pe rmeates war as a whole; and that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon, the finely-honed blade'. [35] Clausewitz thus helps us appreciate the centrality of the psychological/moral commodity of confidence. In the context of the Emergency, only if the Chinese squatter was confident in government's ability to protect him would he provide much-needed intelligence to the Police, and only if government and the Security Forces were confident that they would prevail eventually against the MCP, could they have persevered throughout the dark days of the campaign. In this respect, it cannot be overstressed that confidence was conspicuously absent by late 1951 and early 1952 amongst the public and in government circles. Mervyn (later Tan Sri Dato Mubin) Sheppard recalled as British Advisor Negri Sembilan the gloom that permeated official meetings:

There was a general feeling of hopelessness at that time ... most people felt that the Briggs Plan had been tried ... the Army was doing its best, the police were doing their best; and nobody seemed able to win. There was a general feeling of depression. [36]

Commissioner-General Malcolm MacDonald also recalled that amongst Malayan Civil Service (MCS) officers there was a feeling that 'something's going wrong, providence is not on our side'. [37] In addition, Dato J.J. Raj, a senior Malaysian policeman who was officer commanding Police District (OCPD) Pagoh, Johore at the time, recollected that: 'It is not easy [to] describe the seriousness of the situation and the gloom and despair in Malaya at the time of arrival of Sir Gerald Templer in February 1952 ... the overall situation was one of alarm and despondency.' [38] For his part, J.L.M. Gorrie, a district officer in Selangor, considered that following the Gurney murder, morale had hit 'rock bottom'. [39] In these circumstances, Donald Mackay's observation that all Templer had to do was 'drive in the right direction' tends to obscure the very serious malaise afflicting the country at the time: before Templer could 'drive' anywhere he had to get Malaya on its feet again.

In contrast to T.N. Harper's contention that Templer was 'unsophisticated; contemporary observers, very soon after his arrival, came to hold a different view. The respected British advisor to Pahang, W.C.S. Corry, said that Templer grasped the complex situation in Malaya with 'incredible speed; and his speeches to the Legislative Council revealed a 'clarity of thought and knowledge of detail which were outstanding'. [40] Indeed, after one particular Templer sermon, one official confessed sheepishly to Police Commissioner Young that he had had 'no idea that a General could talk so lucidly -- somehow one expects a soldier to be dumb'! [41] Templer conceived his first task to be energising government at all levels and devoted the first months of his term to cracking the whip. This was absolutely necessary as Templer did not by any means inherit an 'efficient administrative machine', as Mackay claims. Briggs had come up with a sound institutional blueprint, integrating civil, police and army resources at all lev els in the Federal War Council (FWC) and State and District War Executive Committees (SWECs and DWECs). Chaired by the High Commissioner at the Federal level, the Mentri Besar (chief minister) at the state and the district officer at the district level, this war committee system was designed to co-ordinate and implement resettlement as well as conduct operations against the terrorists. Briggs' plan was doubtlessly a 'counter-guerrilla classic' [42] but the problem was that the war committee system was hamstrung by bureaucratic inertia and a lack of urgency. [43] By March 1951 the British cabinet was still concerned at the lackadaisical pace of government action in Malaya, [44] and as late as November there was even a complaint that in one case an SWEC directive took five months to reach a DWEC. One observer lamented that District officials were behaving as if they were involved in a 'discussion group' instead of a 'WAR with innumerable people being killed'. [45] There were consequently demands that an 'inspec tor of emergency measures be appointed post-haste to ensure that Briggs' directives were implemented efficiently at the lower levels. [46]

Templer thus had every reason to crackdown, and in so doing provided his detractors then and now with plenty of ammunition for criticism of his authoritarian methods. Certainly, his 'violence of language was a fact', [47] he spoke with a 'rasping, acid voice', and was not above jabbing people with a cane when he addressed them. [48] Many officials were 'awfully frightened of him'. [49] Furthermore his effective if controversial method of resolving personality clashes in SWECs and DWECs was by threatening a mass sacking if those concerned failed to buck up. [50] It would nonetheless be a mistake to accept Purcell's two-dimensional picture of Templer as a mere military dictator. [51]

Templer was always 'more than just a soldier with full powers from Churchill,' [52] and one former Chinese Affairs officer declared -- even as late as 1998 -- that Templer was the most 'effective and admirable leader' he had ever met. [53] Templer's leadership style certainly merits closer scrutiny; it has been suggested that he was deeply influenced by Montgomery of Alamein, his mentor. [54] It is of no little significance that Tempter himself opined that Monty's 'greatest contribution to modern warfare' was not 'tactical technique' but rather 'moral inspioration.' [55] Montgomery had understood that the 'morale of the soldier is the greatest single factor in war.' In particular, he argued that to build and maintain this precious commodity, 'operational command must be direct and personal' by means of frequent visits to the field, and that 'plain speech' from 'the commander to his troops' was 'far more effective than any written word.' [56] This may perhaps explain the importance Templer attached to the per sonal visit as method of command. Leaving the day-to-day administration to Deputy High Commissioner Donald MacGillivary, he set out on tours three days a week to 'quiz those responsible, encourage the faint-hearted [and] congratulate the successful.' [57] It is evident that Templer consciously sought to build the conviction amongst government officials and the Security Forces that the communists could and would be beaten. Thus Tempter's aide David Lloyd-Owen recalled that Templer possessed - and communicated - an 'infectious and confident determination to win and made 'large difficulties seem mere stumbling blocks'. [58] Mubin Sheppard recalled being overwhelmed by Templer's 'electric personality' 'tremendous drive' and 'great charm.' He returned to Seremban 'feeling like an electric torch' that had just been 'filled with new batteries.' [59]

Templer and Rural Chinese Confidence

It was clear, moreover, that the administration was not the only group in need of a boost. In an address to civil servants in October 1952, Templer declared that it was operationally vital that the ordinary people of Malaya were given 'confidence' that the government was 'winning.' [60] Of particular importance, Templer was very keen to ensure that the rural Chinese felt the full impact of his personality. Certainly this was no original insight; Briggs had early on identified the 'uncontrolled squatter areas, unsupervised Chinese estates and small holdings, estate labour lines and timber kongsis' as the key sources of MRLA sustenance. [61] Templer subsequently declared in a speech to the Chinese Chambers of Commerce that 'by enlisting the support of the Chinese villagers we would solve not one-sixth of the Chinese problem in this country, we would solve at least half of it.' [62] In according such importance to the Chinese villagers, Templer signalled his understanding that if the pace of constitutional adva nce in Malaya was contingent on the progress of the counterinsurgency campaign, the latter was in turn dependent on bringing the rural Chinese into government's fold. As Clutterbuck observes, Templer recognised 'that no victory would be permanent unless the government won over many of the Chinese', and that 'to gain their confidence, the government had to free them from the fear of Communist violence'. [63] In fact, most shrewd observers noted that the rural Chinese were relatively apolitical - rather than abstract 'political rights', they as a whole desired only that government should be 'intelligent, scrupulously lust and efficient'. Chinese Affairs officer W.J. Watts, for instance, emphasised that the former squatter, 'fully wrapped up in his struggle for existence', tended to ask: 'What value is it to me if I became a Federal citizen?' [64] Moreover, the Secretary for Chinese Affairs Pahang, scoffing at the 'ludicrous' suggestion that the rural Chinese were disloyal to Malaya, asserted instead that 'they scarcely can realise the place exists.' He argued that their 'world' was 'their village, their rubber estate, a village in China perhaps, the struggle to make a living - and fear.' [65] The preponderantly materialistic bent of the rural Chinese was apparent even beyond the small circle of Chinese Affairs staff. Thus Attorney-General Michael Hogan felt that the Chinese peasant 'was just worried about his bowl of rice', and was not 'particularly conscious or anxious' about 'constitutional change at that time'. [66] Templer noted this, and while he did try to promote 'parish-pump politics' through the formation of Local Councils, [67] he also actively sought, through word and deed, to persuade the community that the government was well capable of being the provider of physical and socio-economic security.

A revitalised Information Services was of prime importance in the quest to project to the Chinese that the government was provider. To this end Templer in October 1952 appointed the former grammar school headmaster A.D.C. Peterson as Director-General Information Services (DGIS). As DGIS, Peterson successfully rationalised the information and propaganda set-up in Malaya, which had been plagued by duplication of effort and lack of coordination. Hence the Emergency Information Services, which had been set up in September 1950 to conduct psychological warfare against the terrorists, was merged with the Department of Information, which had been responsible for general information work amongst the public. Moreover, the Malayan Film Unit was brought under Peterson's ambit, while Radio Malaya, though retaining its independence, nevertheless agreed to accept policy guidelines from DGIS. [68] Thus re-organised, Information Services mobile unit field teams were increased in number and intensified their visits to the ru ral areas and the New Villages. They kept the public abreast of developments in the campaign, and entertained them with film shows produced by the MFU, as well as anti-communist skits performed by Surrendered Enemy Personnel (SEPs). Meanwhile the number of inexpensive wireless receivers distributed to rural areas continued to increase, enabling villagers to tune into Radio Malaya's popular Community Listening Service, which featured songs, skits, news, and features which were largely designed to be of current interest to the rural Chinese community. In addition, following successes in Malacca, from 1953 state information officers nationwide organised Civic Courses in which groups of villagers were brought to government offices for a week-long tours and exposed to talks, demonstrations and skits by police, army and government officials. These courses, of which 116 were put together in 1953, accommodated 1,400 Chinese and proved popular, making a material contribution to closing the government-rural Chinese gap . [69]

Properly understood, the work of Information Services constituted propaganda - the planned use of mass communications to influence the attitudes and behaviour of a specific audience. However, Peterson had observed in his August 1952 report on Malayan Information Services that mass communications should not be seen as comprising merely film shows, pamphlets and radio programmes, and hence as the function of Information Services alone. He argued that 'propaganda, in its widest interpretation,' was the task of all government officers, and that all government departments had to become 'propaganda-minded' in order to 'win the confidence' of the public. Peterson added that what was needed was 'an extremely vigorous propaganda effort, carried out in accordance with a coherent plan, by all departments and levels of Government'. [70] Subsequently, in December 1952, Commissioner of Police Arthur Young inaugurated Operation Service, a massive public relations campaigned intended to transform relations between the large ly Malay mata-mata (detectives) and the Chinese villagers. Policemen were told that their advancement prospects henceforth depended not merely on performance of routine duties but also on their success in developing close ties with the public. [71] The police responded enthusiastically, performing deeds such as summoning a doctor for a member of the public, helping children across roads, and in one case even delivering a baby in the absence of a midwife. As the Secretary of State for the Colonies observed, in the context of Malay-Chinese relations such actions had considerable significance, [72] and Templer was told that Operation Service was the best thing the government had done in the past few years. [73] Templer promptly extended Operation Service to all government departments by January 1953; hence the Post Office launched Operation Courtesy, and the Medical Department followed suit. [74] Inevitably Operation Service was seen as a publicity gimmick, [75] and while it cannot be claimed that the campaign t ransformed government-Chinese relations at one fell stroke, it definitely represented a much-needed official attempt to rectify the gross errors of the first four years of the Emergency. In fact, by the end of 1954, there were increasing signs that the image of the police was improving, [76] and a few months later, growing government-Chinese amity would be manifested in the formation of the first Good Citizen's Committee in Baling, Selangor. The GCC movement was to experience tremendous growth in subsequent years and contribute directly to the collapse of the MRLA. [77]

Templer tried to project the idea of government as Provider in other ways. He took a deep personal interest in the New Villages, decreeing in March 1952 that they be so named and no longer termed the rather dreary-sounding 'Resettlement Areas' of the Briggs era. [78] Importantly, Templer formulated a checklist for evaluating their quality of life: criteria included, inter alia, the provision of adequate agricultural land especially for those who were full-time farmers and not wage earners on nearby mines and estates; the availability of titles to house plots within the Villages; adequate sanitation and hygiene; and provision for schools and teachers' quarters. [79] Inevitably, the New Villages were not an unqualified success, and there continued to be numerous complaints by the Chinese about deficiencies in their new homes. [88] Nevertheless, as John Davis, the government s resettlement coordinator noted, all administration was built on complaints. [81] Hence it was more important to whom the villagers were complaining. In this respect, while an increasingly effective Police Special Branch rooted out communist sympathisers from within the body politic in each village, the villagers were able to bring their problems and complaints not to MCP Masses Executives but rather to government or government-approved personnel. By 1953, the latter included Chinese Assistant Resettlement Officers (AROs), who actually lived in the villages; European but Chinese-speaking Resettlement Officers (ROs) and state Secretaries for Chinese Affairs (SCAs); and local Chinese Affairs officers (CAOs) who worked with the state SCAs. Meanwhile Christian missionaries, the Red Cross and St John's Ambulance teams also provided vocational training, literacy classes and medical services to grateful Chinese. [82] The consolidation of resettlement and the concomitant expansion of administrative coverage of the rural areas also enabled Templer to rely less on the more drastic Emergency measures. [83] Hence figures for detention and deportation bega n a steep decline from the second half of 1952: in particular, the number of all persons detained and deported under the notorious ER 17D -- the dreaded mass detention and deportation instrument -- fell drastically from 2,037 in January 1952 to zero by l953. [84] In fact Templer abolished ER 17D on 17 March 1953. [85] Furthermore, although he did employ ER 17DA -- collective punishment -- on a few occasions and notoriously at Tanjong Malim in March 1952, [86] he did so in a calculated attempt to project to the whole country that government 'was prepared to do something'. [87] In fact, he never felt comfortable with the measure [88] and abolished it on 25 November, declaring for good measure that government was keen to relax the Emergency Regulations whenever practicable. [89]

Of particular importance was Templer's inauguration of 'White Areas'. Following up a recommendation by Police Commissioner Young in February 1953 that the Emergency'restrictions ought not to be applied for a moment longer than they are justified', [90] he inaugurated the idea of 'White Areas', Districts in which the MRLA no longer posed a threat had all restrictions lifted to enable the people to live normally once more. Templer and his staff fully recognised the huge propaganda potential of the concept. As GOC Malaya, Maj-General Hugh Stockwell noted, the 'psychological effect on the population of severe restrictions followed by their complete removal should not be disregarded.' [91] To amplify the 'psychological effect' of the very first White Area in Malacca, declared on 3 September 1953, a massive publicity drive was mounted. Thus while Templer addressed 400 Malacca leaders in the garden of the Residency, overhead Voice Aircraft flew, broadcasting Templer's congratulations and exhorting the people in the Area to keep the terrorists out. At the same time Radio Malaya broadcast news of the White Area, while Information Services staff distributed leaflets with a map of the Area as well as messages by Templer and Malacca Resident Commissioner G.E.C. Wisdom. Templer pointedly emphasised that the irksome restrictions they used to grumble about were no more:

Everyone in this 'white area' will be able to take out a proper mid-day meal to their tapping, their padi Field or their garden. They can take food in and out of the village without restriction or the need for a permit. No one will be searched for food at the village gates. [92]

Templer urged that ordinary people assist the Information Services by spreading news of the White Area via 'word of mouth' to illiterate folk in the rural areas especially: 'kampongs, the old villages, the New Villages, the labour lines, on rubber estates.' While Templer underscored this 'very genuine attempt on the part of government to make their lives easier and happier he hinted that he would not hesitate to reimpose restrictions if these new freedoms were abused. [93] The impact of the Malacca White Area was 'terrific,' according to one observer, recalling driving up from Singapore 'in the dark emptiness, with everyone confined to their houses, and suddenly coming into the liveliness of the White area, with the streets full of people and lights everywhere.' [94] Moreover, Templer actively sought to stimulate in neighbouring districts a desire for similar White Area freedoms; hence signs were erected proclaiming triumphantly: 'You are now entering the Malacca White Area.' [95] So sensitive were Templer's propaganda antennae that he decreed in May 1954 that Johore officials must keep silent about the impending Mersing White Area, as he desired to leave the formal announcement to 'the machinery for making this new development known to the people in the way most likely to serve our course best and did not want anyone to 'spoil the effect' of the announcement. [96] By the time he left Malaya at the end of May 1954, there were 1,314,400 Malayans residing in White Areas. [97]

As noted, Hack has challenged the notion of the traditionalists that Templer had a 'transmogrifying' effect on the Emergency. And yet the evidence suggests that this was precisely the effect Templer had. As noted, it was Templer's deliberate and calculated intention to 'electrify' Malaya, and being Montgomery's protege, he firmly believed that effective leadership meant being seen and heard by those in harm's way. Hence his extensive programme of face-to-face tours was not merely confined to SWECs and DWECs, but also reached the common people in the rural areas. One contemporary observer noted that Templer's high profile travels enabled him to know the Malayan countryside better than Europeans who had been in the country for 20 years, [98] while another recalled that Templer was the first high commissioner whom even relatively insular Chinese trishaw riders would readily recognise and greet. [99] Templer's clear object was to build trust in government, in particular amongst the rural Chinese. He sought to bu ild such trust in two ways. First, 'very conscious of his propaganda impact' and seeking to be 'feared and respected', [100] he deliberately projected the image of power. Although his was a civilian appointment, he wore his uniform and travelled in a Humber armoured car or Churchill bullet-proof car, followed by a strong army escort. When he rode into the village of Broga in July 1952, for instance, he was accompanied by a strong force of armoured cars. He stopped in the centre of the market place, put his hands on his hips and summoned the Village Committee, which 'came running' with 'hundreds of villagers looking on Templer's party included the Mentri Besar, British advisor, chief police officer, state Secretary for Chinese Affairs and the Commander 18 Brigade. Templer's cavalcades thus 'made an impressive sight which was long remembered with awe by the people in the communities he visited.' [101] As C.C. Too noted, the ordinary Chinese respected power,' [102] and Templer exuded this in spades.

At the same time, however, Templer was equally keen to project the idea that government was not an oppressive power like the MCP, but rather a benevolent Provider, a friend. One way Templer attempted to communicate this message was through what may be described as personal campaigning in the New Villages and estates. Hence while visiting a rubber estate, for instance, while former High Commissioner Gurney would 'always pay particular attention to the Special Constables and wire fences, Sir Gerald on the other hand, always made a bee-line for the estate labour lines to chat with the labourers and pick up some bouncing baby in his arms'. [103] Templer's high visibility proved salutary for public morale -- a fact which did not go unnoticed even by contemporary observers who were not quite his admirers. In September 1952, for example, Leslie Hoffman of the Straits Times, whose liberal instincts were offended by Templer's imposing and heavily armed motorcades, nevertheless conceded that the high commissioner had 'engendered a new spirit' amongst not only planters, government servants and urban populations but also in the New Villages, old kampongs and regrouped labour lines. Thus it was 'no longer unusual to see the people in the little towns and villages line the roadside and wave at the familiar convoy.' Hoffman added -- significantly -- that 'more than just respect for higher authority', this phenomenon signified that 'the unnamed fear of Communist reprisals [was] beginning to be replaced with a new confidence'. [104]

In addition to the calculated personal touch, Templer took pains to ensure that government made a practical difference to the lives of the New Villagers. He declared that one rationale for his numerous personal visits was to demonstrate that 'government extended right down the line into the lives of the simple people and that 'government -- which on those occasions were represented by me -- always kept its word when it made a promise.' [105] It was this desire to ensure that the people could see that government actually kept it's promises that prompted him to introduce the system of 'red minutes'. Despatch riders delivered these to SWECs and DWECs when Templer wanted action on some matter in a district. The contents of these minutes were in red and at the bottom of each sheet were printed the words 'An answer is required by ... days'. Templer ruthlessly enforced the system and heads rolled if the action he wanted was not taken. The system acted as a 'deterrent' to 'sloth', and administrative efficiency on the ground was enhanced. [106] Templer thus built up considerable capital with the rural Chinese. As Dato J.J. Raj recalled: 'I know this for a fact, that leaders in the New Villages...would look forward to visits from the Templers for they knew very well that if they asked for something valid, Templer would not turn them down'. [107]

Certainly, Templer was not perfect. His brusque language and behaviour towards what he perceived to be deadwood in the administration and uncooperative Chinese villagers almost inevitably generated fear and antipathy towards him. Thus there were undoubtedly Chinese who would recall 'Templer's reign as one of fear and resentment'. [108] Moreover, Templer's well-known hostility towards Victor Purcell may have prevented him from recognising the kernel of truth in the latter's observation that some British soldiers tended to stereotype all Chinese as communists and engage in injudicious behaviour towards them. [109] In addition, Templer, like most British officials, failed to fully grasp the extent of the relative lack of civic consciousness of the rural Chinese as expressed in the community's lacklustre response to local politics and for that matter local defence. Thus two of his key projects, the Local Councils and the Home Guard, were far from an unqualified success in the New Villages. [110] Having said that , however, on balance the Templer era was decisive in turning the tide of the counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya. The assertion of the revisionists that the tide was already turning before his arrival is simply not sustainable. The evidence suggests instead that without Templer, the government would have -- instead of purring to victory as the revisionists seem to suggest -- simply ground to a standstill in 1952. This is precisely why practically everyone -- European and Malayan -- connected with the Emergency at all levels of the administration and society makes great stock of Templer's 'transmogrifying' impact. Hence Sheppard opined that someone other than Templer, even if he were a general, would not have emulated Templer's success, [111] while in the words of Dato J.J. Raj:

To my mind Providence had sent the right man, at the right time to the right place to crush the communist terrorists in Malaya. A lesser man would have failed. [112]

According to Raj:

By the sheer force of his personality, drive, energy and determination, General Templer, in a short space of time was able to win over the hearts and minds of large masses of the population... [Templer] commanded enormous respect from the Police, the Armed Forces, and the Civil Service and more especially from people in the kampongs and the New Villages. [113]

'Sheer force' of 'personality', 'drive', 'energy and determination': these are not quantifiable variables, yet they were very real to those in the administration and the public who actually had to contend with the communist insurrection. While the revisionists miss the entire point about Templer, the traditionalists do not go far enough in pressing the point home. Templer's enduring contribution to the eventual victory over the MRLA was not physical but psychological: the creation of the conviction amongst government officials and especially the rural Chinese that the Communist threat could and would be neutralised. In other words, between 1952 and 1954, over and above his not unimportant institutional and operational reforms, he remoralised government, began closing the breach with the rural Chinese and in so doing laid the moral/psychological foundations for eventual victory. Hence he did have a 'transmogrifying' impact, and as Clausewitz would have chided the revisionists, given the centrality of moral/ps ychological factors in war, this was precisely the point.

Assistant Professor Kumar Ramakrishna's postal mailing address is Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, South Spine, S4, Level B4, Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798, and his e-mail address is: [].

(1.) John Coates, Suppressing Insurgency: An Analysis of the Malayan Emergency, 1948-1954 (Boulder and Oxford: Westview, 1992), p. 186.

(2.) Richard Clutterbuck, Conflict and Violence in Singapore and Malaysia 1945-1983 (Singapore: Graham Brash, 1985), p. 186.

(3.) Harry Miller, Jungle War in Malaya: The campaign against Communism 1948-60 (London: Arthur Barker, 1972), p. 108.

(4.) John Cloake, Templer: Tiger of Malaya (London: Harrap, 1985), p.326.

(5.) Edgar O'Ballance, The Communist Insurgent War (London: Faber and Faber, 1966),p. 141.

(6.) Karl Hack, 'Iron Claws on Malaya: The Historiography of the Malayan Emergency Journal of Southeast Asian studies, 30, 1(1999):112.

(7.) Donald Mackay, The Malayan Emergency: The Domino that Stood (London and Washington: Brassey's, 1997),p.151.

(8.) Hack, 'Iron Claws', pp. 112, 114.

(9.) T.N. Harper, The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, l999), pp. 310-11.

(10.) Purcell, offended at Templer's autocratic methods, produced, ostensibly in his capacity as the MCA's honorary advisor in the United Kingdom -- something which the MCA denied -- a series of articles in late 1952 and early 1953 in The Times, Daily Telegraph and the New Statesman and Nation criticising the government's New Village policy and accusing Templer himself of being anti-Chinese.

(11.) Victor Purcell, Malaya: Communist or Free? (London: Victor Gollancz, 1954), pp. 5-19.

(12.) On the origins of the Emergency, see Anthony Short, The Communist Insurrection in Malaya (London: Frederick Mueller, 1975), pp. 34-61; A. J. Stockwell, '"A Widespread and Long-concocted Plot to Overthrow the Government in Malaya"?: The Origins of the Malayan Emergency', Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 21, 3 (1993): 66-88; M.R. Stenson, Industrial Conflict in Malaya: Prelude to the Communist Revolt of 1948 (London: Oxford University Press, 1970).

(13.) Karl Hack, British Intelligence and Counter-Insurgency in the Era of Decolonisation: The Example of Malaya', Intelligence and National Security, 14.2 (1999): 124-55; Aloysius Chin, The Communist Party of Malaya: The Inside Story (Kuala Lumpur: Vinpress, 1995), pp. 28-33.

(14.) Rhodes House, Oxford (RHO), W.J. Watts Papers, MSS. Ind. Ocn. s.320, David Gray to W.J. Watts, 17 Dec. 1951; also David Gray, 'The Chinese Problem in the Federation of Malaya', July 1952.

(15.) Judith Strauch, Chinese Village Politics in the Malaysian State (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 65.

(16.) Hack, 'Iron Claws', pp. 99-125.

(17.) C.C. Too, 'Psychological Warfare and Some Aspects of the Psychology of the People in Southeast Asia in Areas where Communist Insurrection is Likely to Arise', transcript of a speech at the US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 15 Oct. 1962. In author's possession.

(18.) The Protectorate had been formed in 1877 to address the needs and interests of the Chinese community. See Kumar Ramakrishna, 'A Matter of Confidence: Propaganda of Word and Deed in the Malayan Emergency, June 1948 to Dec. 1958' (Ph.D. diss., Royal Holloway University of London, 1999), pp. 116-17.

(19.) W.P. Coughlan, personal correspondence, 9 Dec. 1998.

(20.) RHO, John C. Litton Papers, MSS. Ind. Ocn. s. 113, Litton circular, 30 Nov. 1951.

(21.) CO 537/7262, Director of Operations, Malaya, Directive No. 14, 'Offensive to Prevent Leakage of Supplies to Communist Elements', 22 May 1951.

(22.) Ibid. See also Clutterbuck, Conflict and Violence, pp. 246-7, and Richard Stubbs, Hearts and Minds in Guerrilla Warfare: The Malayan Emergency 1948-1960 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 104-5.

(23.) RHO, Granada Television 'End of Empire' Papers (EEP), MSS.Brit.Emp.s.527, John Davis interview, Aug. 1981.

(24.) RHO, Watts Papers, Gray to Watts, 17 Dec. 1951; W.L. Blythe Papers, MSS.Ind.Ocn.s.116; W.L. Blythe, 'The Significance of Chinese Triad Societies in Malaya', 16 March 1949; CO 537/4751, 'Present Attitude of the Chinese Population', 11 Apr. 1949.

(25.) RHO, Watts Papers, Gray to Watts, 17 Dec. 1951.

(26.) First-hand accounts of the incident by two women, Ching Yoong and Wong Foo Mol, both interviewed by Granada Television in 1981, are found in EEP, RHO.

(27.) See Emergency Regulations 17 [1], 17C, 17D and 17DA. A comprehensive discussion of the Emergency Regulations and their effects, including on Chinese sentiments towards government, is found in R. D. Rhenick, Jr, 'The Emergency Regulations of Malaya: Causes and Effect', Journal of Southeast Asian History, 6, 2 (1965): 1-39.

(28.) Detention and Deportation during the Emergency in the Federation of Malaya (Kuala Lumpur: Government Press, 1953), p.14; CO 1022/165, WA. Muller to H. Fraser, 22 Dec. 1951.

(29.) Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Tan Cheng Lock Papers, TCL.3.271, Memorandum to the Right Honourable Oliver Lyttelton, Secretary of State for the Colonies, by an MCA Delegation headed by Dato Tan Cheng Lock at King's House, Kuala Lumpur, 2 Dec. 1951.

(30.) Mackay, The Malayan Emergency, pp. 111-18.

(31.) Hack, 'Iron Claws', p. 112.

(32.) O'Ballance, The Communist Insurgent War, p. 141.

(33.) Miller, Jungle War in Malaya, p. 108.

(34.) Cloake, Templer, p.326.

(35.) Carlvon Clausewitz, On War, ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), PP. 184-5.

(36.) RHO, EEP, Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard interview, n.d.

(37.) RHO, MSS. Brit. Emp.s.533/6, Ivan Lloyd Phillips' interview with Malcolm MacDonald 15 Dec. 1972.

(38.) Dato J.J. Raj, Jr, The War Yea Years and After: A Personal Account of Historical Relevance (Petaling Jaya: Pelanduk, 1995), p. 126.

(39.) J.L.M. Gorrie interview, 16 Jan. 1998.

(40.) RHO, W.C.S. Corry interview, MSS.Ind.Ocn.s.215.

(41.) RHO, A.E. Young Papers, MSS.Brit.Emp.s.486, Box 3,'Outline of C.P.'s Talk for America', n.d.

(42.) Anthony Short, 'Communism and the Emergency', in Malaysia: A Survey, ed. Wang Gungwu (London and Dunmow: Pall Mall Press 1964),p. 155.

(43.) CO 1022/22, Hugh Fraser, 'Papers on the Emergency in Malaya', 16 Jan. 1952; CAB 130/65, summary of a meeting between Prime Minister Attlee, Gurney and Briggs, 27 Nov. 1950.

(44.) [Briggs Plan]: Cabinet Office summary of a further meeting at 10 Downing Street on 8 Mar. 1951 called by Mr Attlee to consider the plan's slow progress, PREM 8/1406/2 GEN 345/7,9 Mar. 1951, in British Documents on the End of Empire (BDEEP), Series B, vol. 3, Malaya, Part II: The Communist Insurrection 1948-1953 ed. A.J. Stockwell (London: HMSO 1995), Doc. 233.

(45.) CO 1022/1, Viscountess Davidson to Oliver Lyttelton, 1 Nov. 1951.

(46.) CO 1022/1, minute by T. C. Jerrom, 26 Oct. 1951.

(47.) Short, Communist Insurrection, p. 382.

(48.) Brian Lapping, End of Empire (London: Paladin, 1989), p. 220; Charles Allen, Savage Wars of Peace: Soldiers' Vaices 1945-1989 (London and Sydney: Futura, 1991), p. 37.

(49.) RHO, EEP, Guy Madoc interview, Aug. 1981.

(50.) RHO, MSS. Brit.Emp.s.397, A. Kirk-Greene's interview with Sir Kerr Bovell, 12 June 1972.

(51.) Purcell, Malaya, pp. 11-19.

(52.) RHO, Robert Heussler Papers, MSS. Brit.Emp.s.480, Box 17, J.D.H. Neill to H.P. Bryson, 11 June 1969.

(53.) O. W. Wolters, personal correspondence, 27 Feb. 1998.

(54.) Montgomery was Templer's instructor at Staff College in Camberly in 1928; in 1940, Templer commanded a brigade in Monty's 5th Corps. In May 1945, Montgomery, as Commanding Officer 21st Army Group, appointed Templer as Director of Civil Affairs and Military Government in Germany. When Montgomery became Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Templer served as his Director of Military Intelligence.

(55.) Nigel Hamilton, Monty: The Making of a General: 1887-1942 (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1981), p.565.

(56.) Field-Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Memoirs (London: Collins, 1958), pp.80-90.

(57.) National Army Museum, Chelsea (NAM), 8011-132, David Lloyd-Owen to L. Hankins, 15 Apr. 1969.

(58.) Ibid.

(59.) Cited in Cloake, Templer, p.213.

(60.) NAM, 7410-29-l, 'Address by H. E. the High Commissioner to Division III officers at the Selangor Badminton Hall, Kuala Lumpur,' 30 Oct. 1952.

(61.) Briggs Plan, in BDEEP, Malaya: The Communist Insurrection, Part II, Doc. 216.

(62.) NAM, 7410-29-1 ,Speech by H. E. the High Commissioner to F.M.S. Chamber of Commerce 25 Apr. 1952.

(63.) Richard Clutterbuck The Long, Long War: Counterinsurgency in Malaya and Vietnam (New York: Praeger, 1966), P. 85.

(64.) RHO, Watts Papers, Watts to A.D.C. Peterson, 24 Mar. 1953.

(65.) RHO, Litton Papers, Litton, circular letter, 30 Nov. 1951.

(66.) RHO, EEP, Sir Michael Hogan interview, n.d.

(67.) In May 1952, Templer pushed through a Local Councils Ordinance that called for elected Village Councils. By July, there were 200 such Councils in existence. They did not possess much authority, however, as licence fees and taxes still went to the District Office. RHO, Heussler Papers, Box 9, Frank Brewer, 'The Malayan Emergency'; Strauch, Chinese Village Politics, pp.70-2.

(68.) CO 967/181, A.D.C. Peterson, 'Report and Recommendations on the Organisation of information Services in the Federation of Malaya 20 Aug. 1952; Ramakrishna, 'A Matter of Confidence pp.272-3.

(69.) Ibid, pp.275-82.

(70.) CO 967/181, Peterson Report.

(71.) RHO, Young Papers, Box 3,'Malaya', May 1967.

(72.) RHO, Young Papers, Box 2, draft article for New York Herald Tribune, 6 May 1953; MSS. Brit.Emp.s.525, Prof. Max Beloff interview with Oliver Lyttelton, 27 Feb. 1970.

(73.) NAM, 7410-29-1,'H. C.'s Speech at the First Meeting of the 6th Session, Legislative Council, 18 March 1953'.

(74.) NAM, 7410-29-1,'A New Year Message from the HC to all Public Servants, 1 Jan. 1953'.

(75.) Yorkshire Post, 19 May 1953.

(76.) WO 291/1787, 'P.B. Humphrey, 'Some Statistics Relating to Communist Terrorist Recruitment in Malaya', ORS (PW) 16/54, 21 Dec.1954.

(77.) Department of Information Weekly News Summary, week ending 26 Mar. 1955; Ramakrishna, 'A Matter of Confidence', pp.347-9.

(78.) CO 1022/29, Inward Saving. From High Commissioner Federation of Malaya to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 24 Mar. 1952.

(79.) CO 1022/29, Extract from Federation of Malaya Saving. No. 470, 16 Mar. 1953.

(80.) T.N. Harper, 'The Colonial Inheritance: State and Society in Colonial Malaya', (PhD diss., Cambridge University, 1991), pp. 217-8.

(81.) RHO, EEP, Davis interview.

(82.) Ramakrishna, 'A Matter of Confidence', pp. 243-5.

(83.) Detention and Deportation during the Emergency, p.8.

(84.) CO 1022/132. Extract from 'Federation of Malaya Administrative Report for January 1953'; extract from 'Federation of Malaya Saving No. 79, 18 Jan. 1954'.

(85.) CO 1022/132, Extract from FM Saving. No. 645, 11 Apr. 1953.

(86.) On the background to Tanjong Malim, see Stubbs, Hearts and Minds, p. 165.

(87.) NAM, 8011-132-2, 'Proposed Dialogue Script for a Filmed Discussion with Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer on the Anti-Terrorist campaign in Malaya', 30 Mar. 1977.

(88.) NAM, 7410-29-2, 'High Commissioner's Press Conference: Replies to Written Questions', 26 May 1954.

(89.) CO 1022/58, Extract from 'High Commissioner's Budget Speech to Federation of Malaya Legislative Council, 25 Nov. 1953'.

(90.) RHO, Young Papers, Box 2, 'An Appreciation of Police Affairs', 5 Feb. 1953.

(91.) Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London (LHCMA), Major-General Dennis Edmund Blaquiere Talbot papers, Lieutenant-General Hugh Stockwell, 'Appreciation of the Situation in Malaya', 15 Oct. 1953.

(92.) CO 1022/58, Federal Government Press Statement, 3 Sept. 1953.

(93.) Ibid.

(94.) Author's correspondence with C.M. Turnbull, 31 July 1997.

(95.) CO 1022/58, Inward Savingram 1480 from HCFM to SSC , 28 Aug. 1953; Federal Government Press Statement, 3 Sept. 1953.

(96.) NAM, 7410-29-1, 'H.E.'s Address to State Councillors and Heads of Departments of the Johore State Government 13 May 1954.

(97.) CO 1030/1, Federal Government Press Statement, 29 Apr. 1954.

(98.) C. Northcote Parkinson, Templer in Malaya (Singapore: Donald Moore, 1954), pp. 35-6.

(99.) J.L.M. Gorrie interview, 16 Jan. 1998.

(100.) Turnbull personal correspondence, 31 July 1997.

(101.) Straits Budget (SB), 17 July 1952; Stubbs, Hearts and Minds, p. 146.

(102.) Too argued that one problem in the early years of the Emergency was that by appealing to the Chinese villagers for help against the terrorists, the government projected an image of weakness. C.C. Too, 'Psychological Warfare' lecture, 15 Oct. 1962.

(103.) RHO, Heussler Papers, Box 17, J.D.H. Neill to H.Bryson, 11 June 1969.

(104.) SB, 11 Sept. 1952.

(105.) NAM, 8011-132-2, 'Proposed Dialogue Script'.

(106.) NAM, 8011-132, Lloyd-Owen to Hankins, 15 April 1969; NAM, 8011 - 132-2; 'Proposed Dialogue Script'.

(107.) Raj, The War Years and After, p. 131.

(108.) Hack, 'Iron Claws', p. 118.

(109.) See Purcell's letter to the editor, Spectator, 19 Mar. 1954.

(110.) On the unreliability of the Chinese Home Guards, see CO 1030/10, Director of Operations Review 1955. On the relative lack of rural Chinese interest in grassroots democracy, see W.C.S. Corry, A General Survey of the New Villages (Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer, 1954), pp. 38-40, and Strauch, Chinese Village Politics, p.71.

(111.) RHO, EEP, Sheppard interview.

(112.) Raj, The War Years and After, p. 134.

(113.) Ibid., p. 131.
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Author:Ramakrishna, Kumar
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
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Date:Feb 1, 2001
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