The Jungle Beat

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  • Author:
    Roy Fellows
    Subtitled "Fighting Terrorists in Malaya"

    Roy Fellows was a young man post WW2 who was looking for adventure and something a bit more than the mundane office life of many of his compatriots. Having been unsuccessful in his application for the Palestine Police, Fellows then tried his luck with the Malayan Police and was accepted. His book deals with his time as a Police Inspector fighting the Communist Terrorists (CTs) in Malaya. It has to be said here that this role is more that of a Platoon Commander in an Infantry unit than a police officer as we know them.

    He took command of a small police platoon and an area of Malaya which was his to patrol and bring to justice any CTs they find. This was a very brutal war with no quarter being given on either side. Captured personnel, both police and CTs, often did not make it out of the ambush site alive, wounded or not. It was a nasty little war with very little ‘glory’ but with lots of courage and discipline.

    Fellows’ writing is very easy on the eye and it was no problem mentally placing oneself in the jungle with him and his men. He tells of patrols, how he learned to live in and use the jungle, how to command the respect of the little Malayan policemen and how to track, ambush and kill CTs. This called for the toughest of men displaying skills and manner of living most Europeans did not know about and had they done so, would have avoided like the plague. But Fellows had a job, one in which he believed implicitly, to get rid of the CTs who were making the life of everyone from the government down to local villagers a misery. He describes the jungle where a hard day’s march would be no more than a mile or so, with everyone giving all they have got. Energy sapping, constantly damp or wet through, eating rations airdropped every few days or living off the jungle meant Fellows lost all his surplus fat and some. Yet he thoroughly enjoyed it.

    He is a hard, resilient man who carried out his task to the best of his abilities, earning respect from local tribesmen and villagers as well as that of the men he commanded. He was also feared by the CT as a very effective operator, responsible for capturing or killing many of their men and disrupting their activities in his area. Not everything went to plan, seldom ever does, but working round problems and finding solutions was his everyday life.

    This is one man’s story of his role at the tail end of the British Empire and is well told. If you have any interest in the Malayan Emergency Campaign post WW2, then this book is a must for your bookshelf. For anyone with an interest of fighting in a jungle environment, then this book is definitely for you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Fellows’ exploits so give this book a well deserved 4.5 out of 5 Mr Mushroomheads.

    Auld Yin
You, overopensights, CanteenCowboy and 6 others like this.

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  1. seaweed
    Since my last post here (last year) I (as remarked on the What Are You Reading thread) have re-read Han Suyin's novel 'And The Rain My Drink' written while she was a hospital doctor in JB 1952-3 which treats the subject from a Chinese pov. Recommended.
  2. Auld-Yin
    I would just like to point out that I am not the author, which your first couple of sentences seem to imply. No way am I of the same age as the author, but more importantly nowhere near the same calibre.
    1. CanteenCowboy
      Yes looking at it now clearly see I should have stated written by Roy Follows, not @Auld-Yin.
      CanteenCowboy, Dec 2, 2015
  3. CanteenCowboy
    After wrestling a copy of this off @Auld-Yin in a pot luck competition, he asked if I'd add my comments.
    The book describes his experiences in the Malay Police both as a Platoon Commander and when placed in command of an isolated Fort in an Aboriginal area. He gets straight to the main scene, spending the briefest time describing his National Service and time at sea.
    The author writes in a sparse wry manner but still brings the jungle and the campaign to life. Along with his descriptions of learning the basics of Jungle soldiering and getting to know his Platoon of Malay and Chinese Policemen he describes the environment and situation in his area. It is clear he developed a close bond with his men and inspired them with his natural leadership and also developed an affinity for the jungle.
    His descriptions of patrolling the jungle and infrequent successful operations are excellent and conveys the tensions and frustrations of operating in such a close and debilitating environment.
    A personal highlight for me was the discovery of a sealed Guinness bottle on a beach on route back from a lengthy patrol, but I'll let you read that for yourself.
    I fully intend to search out the sequel Four Wheels and Frontiers, which covers an epic journey from Malya to the UK in a surplus jeep.
  4. combatintman
    I can't remember when I bought this but absolutely agree with this review - I enjoyed it thoroughly.
  5. seaweed
    I remember reading Chapman's book ages ago. What sticks in the mind is a scene where he is having a meal of stew with some aboriginals deep in the jungle. He asks what sort of monkey he is eating. 'Jap'.
      sirbhp likes this.
  6. beagleboy
    Keeping with the 'Malayan' theme, a book that was on the compulsory reading list prior to posting to a 'certain' training Wing:

    The Jungle is Neutral by Colonel F.Spencer Chapman D.S.O.
      sirbhp likes this.
  7. beagleboy
    As an aside, had a briefing years ago by an officer of Force 136, who parachuted into Malaya and was attached to Chin Peng's little band of desperadoes.

    Tells a goodly story how the allies kept dropping arms & ammo in the hope that some rearguard action would take place against the Japanese Army. Nope, just stockpiled. The officer kept informing HQ (based in India) to cease supplies. Listened on deaf ears. He asked Chin Peng how come he won't attack the Japanese. Told that "you allies will win this war, we will be arming ourselves to take the battle to the British colonial rule."

    Amazing story and insight into the leading Malayan CT.
      seaweed likes this.
  8. MoleBath
    Interesting review , when I joined TA in 71 some of the mid ranking NCOs had served there
  9. metellus cimber
    It sounds as though this book - which I have not yet read - deserves its mushroomheads. It chimes exactly with what my late father, who was RAMC, attached to the 1st Bn Malay Regiment, with whom he would go on patrol, told me. Had he still been alive, this would have been his Christmas/birthday present!
  10. seaweed
    Absolutely concur the mushroomheads. I was briefly in the area in 1956 although spared the Pongo stuff of plodding through rain-soaked, leech-infested ulu with 99% humidity, snakes, mosquitoes and other nasties let alone the CTs. Somewhere I picked up a 1999 ppbk of this with the author's autograph in it and it was well worth keeping for the corner of my bookshelf covering what became Malaysia and our adventures there. For fiction, Anthony Burgess' Malayan trilogy 'The Long Day Wanes' is well worth a read for light relief yet with an underlying serious look at the various races all trying to see each other off as Merdeka (Independence) approached.
      metellus cimber and Auld-Yin like this.