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  • Recollections of My Time in Malaya (1945-1956) Part 1
  • J. M. Gullick


This is a revised version of a typescript entitled 'My Time in Malaya' which I wrote by stages in 1969-70 as a contribution to the memoirs that surviving retired members of the MCS were invited to provide for the use of Professor Robert Heussler in his task of writing a history of the MCS. The original memoir and my subsequent correspondence with Heussler are, I believe, among the 'Heussler Papers' at the Rhodes House Library, Oxford.

Since writing 'My Time in Malaya' I have published several short papers on the BMA period (1945-6) and the final decade of colonial rule. These include papers in JMBRAS 79(2) (2006) and the Overseas Pensioner, No. 98 (October 2009) and Southeast Asia Research 5(2) (1997), Asian Affairs (c.1997), J. Smith (ed.) Administering Empire: The British Colonial Service in Retrospect (1999) and articles commissioned by the Malaysian Ministry of Culture for publication in Malaysian newspapers during the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Malaysian independence in 2007.

So there is really no need for me to return to the subject yet again. However 'My Time in Malaya' was written with the focus, especially in the opening pages, on a career in the Colonial Administrative Service which is hardly pertinent to the history of Malaya. There are additions to the 1970 text that I wished to make, parts of a memorandum that I wrote in 1974 at Heussler's request on the role of the secretary to the British Resident/ Resident Commissioner in Malay states, and some points that seem more significant now (2010) than in 1970. When I began, my intention was to stick closely to the text 'My Time in Malaya' without following it verbatim. As I got into revising it I felt that parts of 'My Time in Malaya' were discursive and prolix, and so made more extensive alterations. But in making changes I have retained the general coverage of topics and my recollection of how I remember them.

It is doubtful whether a publisher would publish this memoir on normal terms and I do not intend to publish it at my own expense; the 1970 version is already in the public domain at Oxford. Anyone who may contemplate publishing it, or more probably extracts from it, should obtain copyright permission in the normal way from me or my executors. [End Page 59]

How I Got to Malaya (in 1945)

I was born in Bristol on 6 February 1916, the eldest of my parents' three children. The family business (wholesale coal distribution) struggled in a contracting market after the 1914-18 war and finally failed in the 1932 slump. Throughout my childhood my parents were hard-pressed for money. I began my education at a Church of England primary school in a Mendips village and then won scholarships that took me to Taunton School (a minor public school) (1927-35) and to Christ's College, Cambridge (1935-8) to read classics, in which I obtained a double first.

After graduating in 1938 I obtained a place in the Colonial Administrative Service and attended (1938-9) the probationers' course at Cambridge. I arrived in Uganda just as the war was beginning and after a few months, mainly in an up-country district, was released for military service (1940-6). When the East African campaign was over (in 1941) I was one of the Colonial Administrative Service men in the East African forces assigned to the military government of the Italian colonies and Ethiopia. Thus I spent the rest (1941-5) of my war time military service as a specialist in what was called 'Civil Affairs', i.e. the branch of the army that dealt with the population of territory occupied by British forces. From East Africa I moved on to Madagascar, the Middle East and Southeast Asia Command. This brought me to Malaya early in September 1945 as a member of the British Military Administration (BMA) of Malaya and Singapore, which ended at the beginning of April 1946, when civil government was restored in Malaya. I had been transferred from the Uganda to the Malayan...


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