1st Battalion The Manchester Regiment
1947 –1958 - Germany and Malaya
Following the end of WWII all Regiments of Infantry of the Line were instructed to reduce to one Regular battalion. In order to maintain the traditions of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, successors to the 63rd and 96th Regiments, it was decided that the title of the amalgamated battalion would be 1st Battalion The Manchester Regiment (63rd/96th). Abbreviated when appropriate to 1MANCH. Official amalgamation took place on 4th April 1947.
After a short stay in Dunham Park, Altrincham the battalion moved back to Germany and the industrial town of Wuppertal, between Cologne and Dusseldorf. In April 1950 their next posting was to the divided city of Berlin, shortly after the Soviet blockade of the city had been lifted.
One of the duties of the battalion was to provide a military guard at Spandau Prison where leading members of the Nazi party, who had been found guilty of war crimes, were held.
Berlin proved to be an excellent posting and the Manchesters enjoyed the excitement of the beleagured international city whilst taking advantage of the splendid sporting facilities available in the Olympic Stadium and elsewhere. All this came to an end when the battalion left Berlin in April 1951. Their success in all fields, military and sporting was reflected in the message which Lieutenant Colonel George Frampton received from Lieutenant General Sir Charles Keightley, Commander in Chief Rhine Army:
Your reputation stands higher than that of any other battalion under my command. I am proud to have had such troops in Germany and am delighted to know that you will still be under me in my next appointment.
After a short stay in Chester, when many young inexperienced National Servicemen joined, 1st Manchesters set sail in the troopship Empire Halladale for Singapore.which was reached on 28 June 1951. A month was to be spent on the island getting aclimatised and carrying out an intensive training programme in jungle warfare.
On 29 July the battalion moved by sea and rail to the State of Kedah in the north of Malaya. Companies had their own individual locations spread throughout the State, two were close to the border with Thailand. The intention was to complete jungle training and get used to living in and using the jungle before going after the terrorists. Contrary to all expectations, within 48 hours of arrival both ‘C’ and S’ Companies were engaged in action; a state of play that continued throughout the stay in Malaya.
The majority of company locations were tented, with a few attap roofed wooden huts which were the canteen, dining hall, officers and sergeants messes.Each company had its Chinese or Indian interpreters and increasinglyh a number of Iban trackers from Borneo.Very rapidly every one was introduced to the jungle. It was even worse than that which had been experienced by 2nd Manchesters in Burma during WWII. In overgrown secondary jungle a patrol might barely cover a mile in four hours. Patrols had to make their way cautiously in single file along narrow jungle tracks, sometimes with the sun completely shut out by the overhanging foliage, constantly looking for tracks to indicate terrororist movement and ever watchful for a possible ambush.
The ‘Emergency’ in Kedah was at its height at this time; terrorists burnt busses and transport, attacked rubber estates and police stations, terrorising and mudering police and civilians every day. Gradually the battalion gained the upper hand. Much ot this was due to highly successful co-operation with the Police and particularly its Special Branch. They were able to penetrate the Communist organisations and provide operational intelligence which was passed on to the military.
For the men from Greater Manchester life consisted of endless days of patrolling and laying ambushes, relieved by.sudden and usually brief clashes with their enemy. Many were carrying out their compulsorary National Service which, without exception, they faced with courage and determination. Fifteen Manchesters were killed in action and several wounded.Two were awarded the Military Medal – Private Ronald Holt from Dowry Street, Oldham and Private Franciszek Mrozek from North Manchester. Mrozek was one of several Poles from the post-war Polish Resettlement Corps who enlisted in the Manchester Regiment during 1948. Several other officers, NCOs and men were Mentioned in Despatches.
In April and May 1952 the battalion moved down to the State of Perak where a concentrated offensive against the Communist terrorists was taking place.. Operations in the new area started slowly but confidentally as soldiers got to know the new area of operations. In the first three months the battalion killed or captured five terrorists, discovered twenty jungle camps and 65 food dumps. No sooner had the battalion settled into this new area of operations, getting to know th lie of the land and develop relationship with the local Malayan Police Force than it was time for retraining.
Each British battalion after completeing a year of jungle operations was given a two month period in which to re-train. So it was back to the island of Penang at the end of July, then the return to Kedah and old haunts two months later. Operations continued with continual patrolling and laying of ambushes.
Soon the time came for preparations to return to the UK. The final shots were fired, more terrorists were captured or surrendered. The young men from Manchester had become tough, aggressive, well trained soldiers. Acting on information supplied by an increasiningly efficient Police Special Branch, assisted by Iban trackers and substantial air support they had outfought the terrorists on their own ground. They could return home knowing that they had done a good job.
After their return to the UK the battalion moved back to Berlin and the front line of the Cold War on 22 August 1954. Then to the pleasant town of Minden, Westphalia in 1956. To the UK and Brentwood in 1957 where in 1958 the battalion celebrated the bi-centenary of the formation of the 63rd Regiment from the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Regiment. Amalgamation with the King's Regiment (Liverpool) took place at Brentwood in 1958.
Further reading on the Manchesters and the Malayan Emergency in Jungle Bashers, by Robert Bonner, available from the Museum of The Manchester Regiment.