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The Special Operations Executive in Malaya: Impact and Repercussions, 1941-48

Kenneison, Rebecca (2017) The Special Operations Executive in Malaya: Impact and Repercussions, 1941-48. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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During World War II, agents of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) infiltrated into Japanese-occupied Malaya. They worked with Malayan guerrilla groups, including the communist-sponsored Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA). The MPAJA is regarded as the precursor of the communist insurgent army of the Malayan Emergency, and has been examined from that perspective, but its relationship with SOE and with other Malayan guerrilla groups remains poorly understood. Using SOE and related sources as a route into the Malayan interior during a pivotal period, this thesis traces the development of SOE’s Malayan operations, before analysing the interactions between SOE and the various guerrilla groups, and their relationships with each other. It explores the extent of Malay disillusionment with Japanese rule, and demonstrates how guerrilla service acted as a nursery for some later Malay leaders of the independent nation. Furthermore, it contributes to our knowledge of wartime Malaya by revealing the existence of a proto-state in northern Malaya ruled by guerrillas allied to the Chinese Nationalist Party. The destruction of this proto-state by the MPAJA, coupled with the communists’ acquisition of jungle-fighting weapons from SOE and their actions during the lawless period following the Japanese surrender, provides clear insights into the long-term ambitions of the Malayan Communist Party. However, the reports written about the MPAJA by SOE operatives just after the war failed to draw out the likely future threat posed by the communists to the returning colonial administration, foreshadowing the intelligence failure in the lead-up to the Malayan Emergency. In both cases, the British possessed a wealth of local information, but failed to catalyse it into active intelligence. This thesis leads us to re-assess the impact of SOE on Malayan politics, to reconsider the nature of Malayan communism’s challenge to colonial rule, and to rethink British post-war intelligence in Malaya.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Force 136, Malaya, Malaysia, Malayan Emergency, Special Operations Executive, Oriental Mission, British Empire, decolonisation, guerrillas, Malayan Communist Party, Kuomintang, Guomindang, Wataniah, Askar Melayu Setia
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
Depositing User: Rebecca Kenneison
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2017 09:27
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2017 10:39

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