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Ambush At Tanjong Malim Part 1 - Assistant District Officer Michael Codner And Eleven Others Killed
On 25th March 1952 a communist ambush took place in the hills above Tanjong Malim that killed 10, including R M C Codner (above), world famous escapee from Stalag Luft III as recorded by the book "The Wooden Horse". Born in Malaya in 32 years before that daring escape, he joined the Civil Service after the war and was known and respected in the area. Responsible for six New Villages he was a tireless worker who did his best to get those resettled into New Villages to understand that the barbed wire was for their protection not to keep them prisoner.
The town's water supply was from a two mile long pipeline in the jungle that had been sabotaged by communists five times since 1948. Each time it had been repaired with no sign of communist attack, but when the pipe was again smashed on Monday 24th March, the communists had a different idea.
The town's repair party set out at 7am the next morning. The party consisted of Michael Codner, ADO, W H Fourniss (Executive Engineer, South Perak), Public Works technicians and fifteen men of the Police Jungle Squad (later known as the Police Field Force). Not expecting any trouble they followed the pipe looking for the damage. Two miles into the jungle they walked straight into an ambush, the first burst of fire killing most of the repair party, Codner and Fourniss among them.
The policemen left alive fought back bravely. Constable Lew Thai Lim, one of the two bren gunners, having had his arm shattered in the first burst handed his weapon to another constable and continued firing his rifle with one arm until he was killed. The other police bren gun was manned by Harun bin Ismail who despite being surrounded at close range, fired off two magazines before he was killed.
Down in the town Police Lieutenant W J Jones heard the firing, immediately loaded his platoon into a truck and after reaching the perimeter fence ran for a mile or more along the pipeline until they came into range of the battle. Jones mounted a counter-attack, charging up the hill with his men, in the face of enemy fire. The communists fled!
Codner and Fourniss were among twelve dead men including seven policeman. Eight other policemen were wounded and only three of these could move unaided. Only one man, a Malay water overseer escaped uninjured.
Of the estimated forty terrorists in the ambush only two were killed. Some of their ambush positions had only been a few feet from the track and they were therefore able to easily capture the police weapons of dead constables, making off with a valuable hoard of a bren gun, several rifles, sten guns and pistols.
To read Part 2, about the aftermath of the ambush and General Templer's punishment of the town, click here.
To read more about New Villages and the "Briggs Plan", click here.