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Confrontation The War with Indonesia 1962 – 1966 (ePub)

Military P&S History

By Nick Van der Bijl
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 3.4 MB (.epub)
Pages: 304
Illustrations: 16pp B & W Photos
ISBN: 9781781598702
Published: 20th September 2007


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For over four years in the 'Swinging Sixties' the armed forces of the UK were engaged in a little publicised but crucial jungle war against communist aggressive on the vast island of Borneo.

At any one time up to 50,000 troops (half of the Army's strength today) were deployed along a 1,000 mile front. Their enemy were the communist led Indonesians whose leaders were determined to seize the states of Sarawak, Sabah and the oil rich Brunei, all of whom for their part wished to maintain their Commonwealth links. The catalyst for the war was the 1962 uprising in Brunei which was quickly crushed by the bold intervention of British army units.

The arrival of Major General Walter Walker, himself a controversial figure, gave the subsequent campaign a clear direction. Indonesian incursions were rigorously defended and ruthlessly pursued. Top Secret 'Claret' operations took the fight to the enemy with cross border operations initially using Special Forces and later with Chindit-style long range patrols. The outcome was a text book military victory thus avoiding a British 'Vietnam' debacle.

The author joined the Intelligence Corps in 1970 but since retiring from the British Army has been responsible for other books including "Nine Battles to Stanley".

This book describes a period with which I'm unfamiliar, and occurring after the Malay problems, but prior to the problems in Vietnam.

It sets out in some detail both the immediate history of the problems in terms of the population and the politics of the time in setting up the loose federation of Malaysia.

The author follows the campaign through in rough chronology with very little overlap and he appears to have access to many documents and individuals who were involved including Peter de la Billiere, Paddy Ashdown and Julian Thompson. Many wished to remain anonymous, but he has collected them together into a narrative.

This is not a book recounting personal exploits, recollections and endeavours. It is much more akin to a collection of the diaries of the battalions involved in the conflict which provides an overview with details added. It is, however, scattered with some personal anecdotes which act as comedy relief.

The book is quite intense, but I'm guessing the author didn't have much access to the aggressors diaries, and for those people wishing information to set up skirmish or jungle battles they should find sufficient information in this volume to do so because he quotes actual service people involved, their numbers, weapons, uniform and support available.

This book should definitely be seen as "bigging up" the British Army, as there is a lot of drum thumping, but he does mention the lack of support and spares from Whitehall occasionally and the lack of journalistic scrutiny.

He does also recount all the battles where soldiers were mentioned in despatches or awarded medals. Only one VC awarded during the whole campaign, because the author believes that there was lots of interference from a resentful superior and rather topically the recipient was Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu, 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles.

A good read and I recommend it.

Michael Thompson

About Nick Van der Bijl

Nick van der Bijl is a former soldier. He has written numerous books including Nine Battles to Stanley, Victory in the Falklands, Operation BANNER, Confrontation and The Cyprus Emergency. He lives at Mark, Somerset.

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