In June 1948 a state of emergency was declared in Malaya, South East Asia, after the murder of three rubber planters by the Malayan Races’ Liberation Army (MRLA), a guerrilla army pursuing an independent Malaya. Under the leadership of Chin Peng, the MRLA had its origins in the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army which had existed in the latter stages of the Second World War and drew the majority of its support from landless, mostly Communist, Chinese 'squatters' living on the fringes of the jungle.

Through establishing camps in the jungle, the MRLA aimed to attack government and military installations, damage Malaya’s rubber industry and create areas of Communist control. The British introduced a raft of countermeasures to combat these activities, most notably the implementation of the Briggs Plan, which established a framework for rapid responses to terrorist incidents, increased security to protect vulnerable sites and the organisation of volunteer auxiliary forces. With the co-operation of the civil administration, a programme of land reform was introduced and number of fortified 'new' villages were constructed.



A member of the Malayan Home Guard lifts the barrier at a checkpoint at the edge of town. The Malayan Home Guard was established as part of the counter measures introduced in response to the communist terrorist threat. Checkpoints allowed the authorities to search vehicles and intercept food supplies being smuggled to the insurgents.

The MRLA's terrorist activity reached a peak in 1951 with the ambush and killing of the British high commissioner to Malaya - Sir Henry Gurney. However, under his successor, General Sir Gerald Templer, close co-operation between the civil and military powers began to undermine the terrorist threat. By 1955 many insurgents had been killed or captured and large areas of the country were free of any terrorist activity. In 1960 when the emergency ended, the remnants of the MRLA had been driven to take refuge over the border in Thailand.

Related Content

Indian Independence is celebrated in Malaya shortly before the start of the Malayan Emergency. The Indian flag is raised at Klang, Selangor.
© IWM (TR 3292)
Britain And The Commonwealth Since 1945

The End Of The British Empire After The Second World War

After the Second World War, the disintegration of Britain's empire transformed global politics. Before the war, Britain maintained colonies all over the world, which provided valuable raw materials, manpower and strategic bases. By 1945, however, colonies were an expensive liability for Clement Attlee's newly elected Labour government. 

A Blackburn Buccaneer aircraft of 800 Naval Air Squadron from HMS EAGLE on patrol over Aden and Khormaksar airfield, during the withdrawal of British troops on 29 November 1967.
© IWM (A 35119)
Britain And The Commonwealth Since 1945

A Short History Of The Aden Emergency

In 1839 Britain captured the town of Aden (now part of Yemen) in the south of the Arabian Peninsula.

Here we explore a short history of the Aden emergency. 

The Type 42 destroyer HMS SHEFFIELD on fire after being struck by an AM.39 Exocet missile fired from an Argentine aircraft from a distance of 6 miles.
Britain And The Commonwealth Since 1945

A Short History of The Falklands War

The Falklands Conflict was a short undeclared war between Argentina and Britain over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands (known as Islas Malvinas in Argentina), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.