Malaya medals

Despite its Covid 19 enforced closure, the museum continues to add to its extensive collection of medals, with the acquisition of two important groups from soldiers who served with the regiment in Malaya in the early 1950s.

Thanks to the generosity of a number of private donors, enough funds were raised to secure the medals of Colin Helmn and John Dunton, sold as separate lots at a recent auction.  They will take their place in the museum’s Medal Room in due course.

“The majority of our collection consists of medals donated by soldiers and relatives who see the museum as their natural permanent home,” explains Director and Curator, Lynda Powell. “Our policy is to only purchase medals under exceptional circumstances, and the Trustees deemed these two medal groups met that criteria.  Adding these medals to our collection helps us to bring to life the stories of two young soldiers who conducted themselves with extreme professionalism and bravery whilst serving in an incredibly hostile environment.”

  • Military Cross
  • General Service Medal (with Malaya clasp)

Londoner, John Dunton, was called up for two years National Service in 1950 and selected for officer training.  After his service in Malaya, he kept up his military links in the Territorials, whilst pursuing his civilian career with United Glass Bottle Manufacturers Ltd.  In 1956 he joined 10th (City of London) Parachute Battalion (TA) as a Lieutenant, rising over the next decade to become a Major. Each year, men from 10 Para would drop into Arnhem as part of the commemoration events for Operation Market Garden.

“On 7th August 1952 Second Lieutenant Dunton was ordered to take a patrol consisting of himself and 8 Other Ranks to investigate an area where terrorists had been reported. He entered the jungle at about 0400 hours and by 0600 hours had found what appeared to be a bandit track. He therefore deployed his patrol in an ambush position. At about 0950 hours an armed bandit entered the ambush area and as he appeared to be alone was engaged and slightly wounded. Second Lieutenant Dunton immediately seized the bandit before he could escape and persuaded him to give information which divulged the location of a camp occupied by 5 other bandits. Second Lieutenant Dunton then led his patrol stealthily but with all possible speed to within 200 yards of the camp. Here he halted and despatched half of his men to form a stop in the rear of the Camp. At 1130 hours by which time the stop had been ordered to be in position Second Lieutenant Dunton worked his way forward to the edge of the camp. The 5 bandits in the Camp at this stage became aware of the patrol but before they could take action Second Lieutenant Dunton engaged them with fire, killing three and wounding and capturing one other. The fifth was captured attempting to escape. A search of the Camp produced several arms, a quantity of ammunition, clothing, food and numerous documents. This National Service Officer by complete disregard for his personal safety, and by outstanding leadership, thus ensured the annihilation of an entire bandit camp which included a District Committee Member. His conduct in continuing the action after capturing the first bandit was most praiseworthy, as an officer of less initiative might well have returned to base flushed with success.”  John Dunton’s Military Cross citation.  London Gazette 10 October 1952.

  • Military Medal
  • General Service Medal (with Malaya clasp)
  • Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

Despite being exempt from National Service due to his profession as a farm worker, Helmn joined up in January 1951 for a five year stint.  He eventually retired in 1973!  His three sons all served with the regiment, and all had the nickname, Charlie.

“Corporal Helmn is a young N.C.O. who has consistently displayed initiative and skill and determination to make contact with the enemy. On 17 April he was ordered to deploy his section in an ambush position in the Tampin area. After a wait of 48 hours a terrorist entered the ambush and was personally killed by Corporal Helmn. On 21 May he killed one of the two terrorists destroyed by his platoon in the Tampin area. On 18 August Corporal Helmn’s section formed part of a platoon ambush in the Tapah area. In due course three armed terrorists approached his position. He waited with great coolness until they were at point blank range when he personally killed two of them. The third attempted to escape but was severely wounded by the cross fire of his section and the remainder of the platoon, and was captured.On 29 Sep and 3 Oct Corporal Helmn was present with patrols which made contact with small parties of terrorists resulting in one being killed on each occasion. This N.C.O.’s outstanding enthusiasm and leadership has been largely responsible for the several successful operations in which his section has been concerned. He has always shown a complete disregard for his own personal safety and invariably worked in the forefront of any operations in which he has taken part. In the period covered by this citation he has personally killed four Communist terrorists.”  Charlie Hemn’s Military Medal citation. London Gazette 28 April 1953.

The Malayan Emergency (1948-60)

In June 1948 a state of emergency had been declared in the British colony of Malaya, now Malaysia. The Malayan National Liberation Army (the armed wing of the Malayan Communist Party) began attacking rubber plantations, mines and police stations, derailing trains and burning workers’ houses.

The conflict was described as an ’emergency’ because insurers would not have compensated plantation and mine owners if it had been labelled a ‘war’.  Soldiers often referred to their enemy as ‘bandits’, despite the official term ‘Communist Terrorists’.

The emergency was one of the few successful counter-insurgency operations undertaken by the Western powers during the Cold War. Between 1949 and 1952 soldiers from 1st Battalion the Green Howards, many of them National Servicemen, were part of the force sent to combat the communist threat.

‘The answer lies not in pouring more soldiers into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the Malayan people… The shooting side of this business is only 25% of the trouble and the other 75 lies in getting the people of this country behind us.’
General Sir Gerald Templer, 1952

In August 1957 the Federation of Malaya was granted independence and the insurrection lost its rationale as a war of colonial liberation. Many guerrillas gave up their fight.  In 1960 the Emergency was officially declared over. More than 500 soldiers and 1,300 police had been killed during the conflict. Communist losses are estimated at over 6,000 killed and 1,200 captured.

Still studied today, the Malayan Emergency provides many important lessons on how such campaigns should be conducted.