Malayan Scouts Special Air Service

Malaya Scout SAS Patch

Malayan Scouts SAS commander ‘Mad’ Mike Calvert was ambushed but survived because a former Jungle Warfare student of his wanted to leave him a message at one point during the Malayan Emergency, Calvert recalls:

My driver and I were moving at a fair pace along a jungle road when a burst of machine-gun fire came from the thick bush, slightly ahead of us. We jerked to a halt and flung ourselves into a ditch by the side of the road. For the first time in more than five years I was under enemy fire and when a grenade landed neatly beside me in the ditch, I thought it was for the last time. I snatched up the grenade, hoping to be able to throw it out before it went off, and then I noticed that the pin was still in position. A piece of paper was attached to it and a scrawled message said; “How do you do, Mr Calvert?” It could mean only one thing. Somebody I had known, and probably trained, in the old days in Hong Kong or in Burma, was now on the other side, fighting for the Communists’. Calvert: Fighting Mad, p. 202

“Mad” Mike Calvert (left), Lt. Col. Shaw, and Maj. James Rutherford (right) with 77 Brigade in Burma
Brigadier James Michael Calvert aka Mad Mike to his men, third from left, with Orde Wingate (centre)
Mad Mike Calvert

Michael Calvert earned the name "Mad Mike" because he would charge at a WW2 Imperial Japanese Army Unit far outnumbering him and his brigade personally leading from the front without any regard for his personal safety. Calvert was as mad as a marsh hare when it came to taking on superior in numbers enemy forces. It was his jungle warfare doctrine that has set the textbooks today on how to win a guerrilla war.

Michael Calvert was one of the most colourful and unorthodox characters thrown into prominence by the Second World War. He had an exceptional flair for analysing the unfamiliar and for devising counter-measures. His name will always be linked with the long-range penetration Chindit expeditions into Japanese-occupied Burma led by General Orde Wingate in 1943 and 1944. The Malayan Scouts SAS was formed by Brigadier Mad Mike Calvert to undertake deep penetration operations in order to locate and destroy communist terrorists in post war Malaya no matter where they tried to conceal themselves. This they did with little fuss and less credit than appears to be the form today. The Malayan Scouts were not liked by regular army units. Senior officers often accused these men of being an ill disciplined group of unorthodox fighting soldiers. The initial anti terrorist Ferret Force had unearthed the need for an unconventional unit that could hunt the Communist Terrorist (CTs) deep within the virgin jungle. A unit that could recce landing zones, discover weapons caches, ambush trails and raid enemy camps. The Malayan Scouts (SAS) aimed to do just that and much more. They’d also breathe life into the newfound hearts-and-minds strategy. Brigadier Mad Mike Calvert was selected to navigate the unit through the torrents of bureaucracy. And he had his own personal classified agenda. The British general headquarters GHQ had intended the Malayan Scouts SAS to be temporary (that’s why it was named Malayan Scouts). But Calvert’s goal was the exact opposite: to ensure that a regular Special Air Service Regiment (21 SAS, which had been formed in 1948, as a territorial regiment) survived the war. The CTs were well experienced trained and militarily equipped jungle fighters numbering about 8000 with a support group of communist sympathisers over a million strong.

Two members of Malaya Scouts SAS carrying .30 M1 carbines
Malayan Scouts SAS with .303 No 5 Jungle Carbines

Michael Calvert’s success against the Communist terrorists was well articulated by General Headquarters, Far East Land Forces (GHQ, FARELF). A fully comprehensive report was sent to the Under Secretary of State at the War office regarding the Malayan Scouts successful role against the communists’ terrorists ‘bandits’ despite their elusiveness or their deep jungle hide outs.