This is Part I of a series. You can read part II here

The 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 more.  They’d also breathe life into the newfound hearts-and-minds strategy.

Brigadier “Mad Mike” Calvert was chosen to navigate the unit through the torrents of bureaucracy.  And he had a secret agenda.  British HQ, you see, meant the unit 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.

“Mad Mike” Calvert inspecting the SAS in 1945. He was pivotal for their rebirth a few years later. (Wikimedia)

The initial hundred recruits flocked from Ferret Force and Force 136, the SOE’s Pacific branch, veterans and from soldiers serving in the Far East; a few troopers from 21 SAS also joined.  They became A Squadron.

At the jungle warfare school in Johore, they underwent rigorous training.  They learned and practiced patrolling, ambushing, immediate action drills, jungle and riverine navigating, combat tracking, first-aid, and airborne insertion (either by parachuting or later by helicopter).

John Woodhouse, a WWII veteran and future CO of the unit, who’d go on to form the famous selection course that SAS aspirants still go through, engineered an advanced training course.  In this graduating school of sorts, drills were realistic and always with live ammo.

Calvert claimed Kota Tinggi as the Scouts’ base.