When the Japanese invaded Malaya in the Second World War, John Davis’s service in that country could have ended. Determined to help the land he had come to love, however, he transferred from the Federated Malay States – M16 – and then, in 1942, to the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Escaping to India by fishing boat as Japan established its grip in the Far East, Davis set about planning the infiltration of Chinese intelligence agents and British officers into the Malayan peninsula. In 1943 he entered Occupied Malaya by submarine, as Mountbatten’s representative in charge of the Resistance mission, known as Force 136. After striking up a friendship with the youthful Chin Peng, Davis led negotiations at the end of 1943 with the Anti-Japanese Forces and the Malayan Community Party under the enigmatic Lai Tak. Their Agreement effectively enabled the British to return unopposed in 1945.
From 1947 Davis held key positions in the Malayan Civil Service, was Mentioned in Despatches, and was awarded two Malay honours for his contribution to Malaya’s security, to add to his British wartime CBE and DSO.
In the twelve-year Emergency Davis pitted his energy and know-how with increasing success in the jungle war against the Communist forces, in which Chin Peng, as General Secretary of the Malayan Communist Party, had become Britain’s Public Enemy No 1. However, memories of their wartime friendship survived. In 1955 the two met under a truce at Baling, and in 1998, the fiftieth anniversary of the Emergency, the Communist leader visited John at his home in England.
Radical, sometimes a maverick, and a man of strong convictions, John Davis was more than an extraordinarily courageous hero of the Second World War: he became an iconic figure in Malaya’s colonial history. Now his story can be told for the first time and is illustrated by photographs from his personal albums.
The book’s ISBN (Hardcover) is 978-0-7509-4710-7