During the 1950s and 1960s, Australian forces were engaged in two conflicts involving Malaya (now Malaysia). British Commonwealth forces played a key role in combatting a twelve-year long Communist insurgency, known as the Malayan Emergency, between 1948 and 1960.
From 1964, Australians served in support of the newly Federated States of Malaysia. This second conflict, known as Confrontation, ended in 1966, by which time Australians had engaged in operations in Indonesian territory on the island of Borneo and on the Malayan peninsula.
The Commonwealth contribution included Malayan and British units, including the Gurkhas and Royal Marines, operating in support of the Federation of Malaya Police.
Other troop contributing nations included Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia.
Australia’s commitment to operations fell within the context of its membership of the Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve (FESR).
This period remains today, as the longest operational commitment in Australian Military History and embraces the Malayan Emergency 1955-1960, the Indonesian Confrontation 1962-1966 and several periods of unrest until 1971. Australian Defence Records and Military Historians indicate the following broad statistics of government allotments to the respective theatres:
Malayan Emergency 1955-1960
Armed with an Owen gun, this unidentified Lance Corporal carefully checks the identity papers of rubber plantation workers as they pass through the barbed wire gates to a village in the Kuala Kangsar area. All people and vehicles passing through the village gates are searched for food and other contraband as part of a 2RAR food denial operation against known Communist terrorists who are known to be operating in the area.