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Random PSYOP leaflet - THE SITUATION... 4 February 1945


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Psychological Warfare - Malaya - 1948-1955

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Notes by Major Reginald J Isaac for the Directorate of Forward Plans outlining the development of psychological warfare and information operations through the first years of the Malayan Emergency.

Malayan Emergency PsyWar Leaflet



1. The first attempts at Psychological Warfare in MALAYA were made by the Director, Public Relations Office. Though he had wartime association with Psychological Warfare at HQ SEAC, CEYLON, his organisation was too small and too Asianised to be capable of supporting an army fighting a Communist terrorist war. It lacked the necessary Military knowledge, it was too slow to keep pace with events, it lacked initiative and for the sake of security it was often badly informed on operational matters. This is not surprising as the organisation was meant to keep the public informed on civil and social matters, how to deal with rabies, babies and scabies.

2. In 1949, whilst discussing sources of intelligence at a Conference at KUALA LUMPUR, it was agreed that the only worthwhile information was that obtained from defectors. In the Minutes of this Meeting it was suggested that there was a need for Psychological Warfare to support military operations and campaigns or surrenders.

3. It was not until 1950 that the cry “We want Psychological Warfare” reached the top of the “MALAYAN Administrative Tree” and re-echoed in Whitehall. The reaction there was “Let’s send someone from the BBC”. The person sent was HUGH CARLETON-GREENE.

4. CARLETON-GREENE reviewed the problem and set up what he called ‘The Emergency Information Service’. It was to perform two functions:-

(a) Act as a liaison to the press and be responsible for the issuing of the Daily Communiqué, which had previously been handled by the Police.

(b) Act as adviser to the Director of Operations on all aspects of Psychological Warfare.

5. He could have taken over the Public Relations Office, but he declined, stating that his Organisation was operational and should be maintained separately under the Secretary for Defence.

6. It was not long before CARLETON-GREENE’s advisory role became executive and the Organisation took on a new look. As the Organisation proved its effectiveness it gained the confidence of the Government and was given the increased financial assistance from the ‘DEFENCE BUDGET’ to widen the field of activities.

7. CARLETON-GREENE’s contract was for a year only, but during that time he proved the effectiveness of Psywar as a weapon and was the instigator of important policy rulings, including a new Surrender policy and rewards schemes. Though some Intelligence Officers boosted the Organisation by feeding material and making suggestions, there was no direct military representation on the Staff.

8. CARLETON-GREENE left MALAYA at the end of 1951 and nominated as his successor a CHINESE speaking MALAYAN Civil Servant. He also suggested to the Secretary for Defence that Major R.J. ISAAC, Intelligence Corps (then in UK) should be appointed as the Deputy Head. This was done and the new hierarchy was in office by March, 1952.

9. In early 1952 the following Organisation was proposed and agreed:-

Table 1 - Emergency Information Service

10. This expansion had not been completed when the High Commissioner, General Sir General TEMPLAR attached his third priority target – The Information Services. Though a great supporter of Psywar, the High Commissioner was continually confusing the work of the Emergency Information Service with that of the normal Public Information Service. Finally he said that it was nonsense to have two Organisations and proposed a plan to form one super Information Service headed by a Director-General. The Emergency Information Service was not expecting this and before the Organisation could be re-planned, the Director (Public) Information Service presented a ready made plan and overnight the Organisation changed as follows:-

Table 2 - Emergency Information Service Reorganisation

11. The Head, Emergency Information Service, returned to normal duties and Major ISSAC became Head, Operations Division, with very restricted activities and a depleted Staff. Major ISSAC tendered his resignation, but withdrew it on assurances from the new Director General, Information Services, who had arrived from England, that full activities would be restored. (The Director General, Alec PETERSON, was formally a Member of the Psywar Executive at SEAC during the war).

12. Within the new framework Psywar activities increased, but were often handicapped by tempo of the slower organisation and by its dislike for anything which appeared out of the ordinary. It was also realised afterwards that the re-organisation had inadvertently given the Minister of Home Affairs and the Chief Secretary a responsibility in the planning and execution of Military Operations.

13. Towards the end of 1954 Major General OLIVER, PSO to Director of Operations, laid claim to Psychological Warfare as a weapon and as such, should be put in his hands. This was accepted and the Operations Division, Information Service, became Psychological Warfare Section, Director of Operations Staff and responsibility for estimates and questions raised at the Legislative Council passed back to the Secretary for Defence. The Organisation of the Section was as follows:-

Table 3 - Psychological Warfare Section

14. Though Psychological Warfare was split from the Civil Information Services, the Head, Psychological Warfare Section, continued to act as adviser to the Director-General on all matters effecting operations and continued to use the material resources of the Information Services.

15. Major ISAAC left MALAYA after 3 years secondment to the MALAYAN Government, in May, 1955. His place was taken by a Senior Member of the MALAYAN Civil Service who, though blessed with fluent Chinese, unfortunately had neither the aptitude nor the inclination to indulge in such an unorthodox task.

16. The present Head, Psywar Section, was formerly a Senior Chinese Member of the Staff. In some ways he is quite brilliant and since he was at school with the present Chinese Secretary for Internal Defence, he can thump the table and argue when wishing to expound his theories and logic.

[Source: TNA DEFE 28/12 supplied via a FOI Act request, transcribed by]



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