Unique post WW2 Saigon Operations MC group sold in 22nd April Auction

23rd April 2015


An outstanding and unique post WW2 MBE, Saigon Operations Military Cross group to Captain Philip Geoffrey Malins, Royal Army Service Corps, sold in our 22nd April medal and militaria auction, realising £3,685.

After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the Allies had to occupy large areas of south-east Asia in order to repatriate their POWs, round up surrendered Japanese and maintain law and order. Malins flew from Burma to French Indochina as the Supply and Transport Officer of the 80th Indian Infantry Brigade. The local population soon realised that the British presence was merely the precursor to the return of their former French rulers. As a result, Saigon was besieged and, every night, buildings were set on fire. As casualties mounted it became clear that the brigade did not have the manpower to defend a large city.

It was offered together with an official copy of the MC citation:

"On 27 September 1945 No EC 8253 WS/Lieut, T/Capt PHILIP GEOFFREY MALINS, ROYAL INDIAN ARMY SERVICE CORPS, Bde Supply and Transport Officer of 80 Indian Infantry Brigade was in charge of a convoy proceeding to LATHIEU to collect surrendered arms from the Japanese. It was vital that these arms reached SAIGON intact despite the likelihood of hostile interference by rebel ANNAMITES. After negotiations the convoy was allowed to proceed to LAITHIEU. Capt MALLINS then received the reliable information that the roads leading back to SAIGON had been barricaded and that rebel ANNAMITES intended to attack and prevent the arms reaching SAIGON. He decided to remain for the night at LAITHIEU and with an additional escort of two platoons of Japanese to augment his small force of eighteen Gurkhas, twelve Dutch and thirty Japanese soldiers to take the convoy through to SAIGON. At TAN THOI the convoy was fired on by forty ANNAMITES, held up by a road block and under fire the road block was cleared and the ANNAMITES in ambush held off. Nine trucks of the convoy were successfully extricated from the ambush, but realising he could not get the remaining five through without incurring more casualties, he ordered these to return to the Japanese Headquarters at LAITHIEU. He halted the convoy outside TAN THOI and clear of the road block to reorganize his force and send definite orders back to LAITHIEU to ensure the safety of the five trucks he had ordered back. Another attack was put in by a minimum of two hundred riflemen with between ten and twenty Light automatics. This attack was beaten off and although still under fire, he successfully extricated the convoy and the escort. Throughout the action fought at the ambush, in which two separate battles were being fought: the re-grouping of the convoy and the second attack on it, Capt MALINS showed outstanding powers of leadership above that to be expected of his branch of the service. By his bravery and resource he successfully extricated the convoy without any loss of the arms and ammunition. His leadership and bravery whilst in command of a mixed force of Gurkhas, Dutch and Japanese troops was directly instrumental for the success of the operation in which the casualties to his own troops of five killed and seven wounded might easily have been much heavier."

It is a remarkable story that just 2 weeks after the Japanese surrender (in S.E. Asia it was 12 Sep), Major Malins was fighting in command of Japanese troops alongside their former POWs. Some of these POWs, in a cruel twist of fate, had survived 3½ years as prisoners only to be killed in action, just days after being liberated.

The medals are offered together with a copy of the Daily Telegraph obituary.

Philip Geoffrey Malins was born in Birmingham on May 8 1919, educated at King Edward VI Grammar School. He joined the TA in 1938 and was subsequently commissioned into the RIASC. He took part in the evacuation from Dunkirk and was the only survivor when a German bomb scored a direct hit on the truck in which he was travelling, and which was carrying three tons of petrol. Malins arrived in Burma in 1943. On one occasion he had to oversee the crossing of the 600 metre wide Chindwin River by 1,350 mules, as 32 Indian Infantry Brigade advanced 250 miles to capture the key town of Budalin. South of the town, at night, his muleteers ambushed a Japanese truck. To his enduring regret, Malins was obliged to give the order to fire, killing 22 Japanese soldiers. When he gave the order to "cease fire" one man was not dead and fired at Malins from four yards away. The bullet passed through his ammunition pouch without exploding the ammunition. The soldier then killed himself with a hand grenade carried for the purpose. In Saigon he was responsible for providing rations for 6,700 Allied personnel, including newly released PoWs and 69,000 surrendered Japanese personnel. After being demobilised he spent six years in Malins Engineers, the family business, before becoming Midland regional manager of the British Institute of Management. After he retired he dedicated his time to various ex-Services associations. With Vera Lynn, he played a leading part in the British Legion's campaign to obtain an ex gratia payment of £10,000 to surviving prisoners of the Japanese, together with widows and civilian internees. He believed strongly in the importance of reconciliation between former enemies and, as chairman of the International Friendship and Reconciliation Trust, helped to organise services at Coventry and other cathedrals. He was responsible for creating the Grove of International Friendship and Reconciliation at the National Memorial Arboretum. As a member of the Burma Campaign Fellowship Group, he visited Japan several times and helped host return visits by former Japanese servicemen to England. In 2003 he received the Japan Society award for his contribution to Anglo-Japanese reconciliation. He remained an enthusiastic long-distance cyclist well into his eighties. He died on 9th April 2012.

The Order of the Rising Sun was awarded for his reconciliation work with the Japanese and was accompanied by a Buckingham Palace letter of authority to wear the award, dated 16/12/2010. The group was offered with excellent supporting documentation including MBE bestowal scroll dated 6th June 1946, covering letter and envelope, Buckingham Palace transmittal letters for MBE and MC, boxes and outer boxes for MBE and MC, copied photo in uniform, Burma Star Assoc blazer embroided badge, spare ribbons and mounting bar when medals have been re-ribboned, 54 page typed booklet "The Operations of 20 Indian Division in French Indo China September to December 1945" written by Major Malins himself in 1981, Dunkirk Medal etc.

Are you selling a medal or militaria collection? We provide free medal and militaria valuations without obligation. Please contact medal expert paul.murray@warwickandwarwick.com if you have medals or militaria for sale for a free valuation.

Paul Murray

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