The Batang Kali massacre was actually the killing of 24 unarmed villagers by the cold-blooded British troops of the Scots Guards on the 12th of December 1948 during the Malayan Emergency. The horrendous incident had occurred during counter-insurgency operations against Malay and also Chinese communists in Malaya and the colony of the British Crown. Described ‘Britain’s My Lai’ in Christopher Hale’s Massacre in Malaya that exposed Britain’s My Lai.
Despite several investigations by the British government since the 1950s and a re-examination of the evidence by the Royal Malaysia Police between 1993 and 1997, no charges were brought against any of the alleged perpetrators. The British troops rounded up the civilians at Sungai Rimoh near Batang Kali. The men were separated from the women and children for interrogation. A total of 24 unarmed men from the village were killed by automatic weapons fire.
After World War II, the British returned to Malaya to recover control from Japanese military forces. During the war, the British government had supported the guerrillas who continued to fight against the Japanese forces. However, in August 1945, many resistance units did not completely disband. The groups instead became the foundation for the independence movement against British rule in Malaya. Some guerrillas turned from agitation to communism and began targeting British commercial interests in the colony by attacking rubber plantations and tin mines.
Escalating violence and the assassinations of several prominent British landowners led colonial authorities in Malaya to declare an “Emergency”. That gave the Royal Malaysia Police and government greater powers and flexibility in combating the insurgents. Although the British had extensive experience in jungle warfare, most recently in the Burma Campaign during World War II, military leaders had not formalized their experience into a specific jungle warfare curriculum.
Michael Gilbert, a member of the Suffolk Regiment, said that his training “Was teaching you how to march, how to handle a rifle, and how to behave in a soldierly manner”. Raymond Burdett, another member of the Suffolk Regiment, reflected on his experience and said that the trainers sought “to get us to follow instructions, not to question commands”. Basic training for the troops focused on infantry skills, not their ability to judge the appropriateness of orders in the context of international law.