The superb Second World War, Malayan Scouts Special Air Service and Rhodesian Bush War Rhodesia Exemplary Service Medal group awarded to Major E.P. ‘Smoky’ Poulton, Southern Rhodesia Far East Volunteer Group, later retitled Rhodesian Squadron Malayan Scouts, and ‘C’ Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment, who originally served with the South African Armoured Corps in Italy during 1945.
Group of 7: Zimbabwe Independence Medal 1980, rim officially impressed: ‘11883’, and this privately inscribed: ‘MAJ. E. POULTON’; Rhodesia: Exemplary Service Medal, officially impressed naming; (CAPT E.P. POULTON); Rhodesia General Service Medal, officially impressed naming; (CAPT. E.P. POULTON); Italy Star; War Medal; Africa Service Medal 1939-1945, last three all named in officially impressed South African issue style; (613261 E.P. POULTON); General Service Medal 1918-1962, GVI 2nd type bust, 1 Clasp: Malaya; (S.R.320 SGT. E.P. POULTON. S.RHOD.MIL.F.), mounted swing style as worn.
Condition: Good Very Fine.
Together with recipient’s group of miniature medals mounted swing style as worn, tunic medal ribbon bar; pair of dog tags, these stamped: ‘0582 E P POULTON RC’; seven Rhodesian cloth unit patches, all different, including Malaya Command patch; Rhodesian Special Air Service Parachutist Wings; a shipping card for the Royal Interocean Lines, this being the company which shipping the South Rhodesian Volunteers out to Singapore in March 1951, the inside of the card giving hand written details on the Rhodesian Squadron of the Malayan Scouts Special Air Service Regiment, detailing the formation and arrival for service in Malaya; and an important list of men of the Southern Rhodesian Volunteers who travelled out to Singapore in March 1951, listed by order of rank, Poulton’s name included, this being a complete list of all those men who travelled out, and Poulton has additionally inscribed the troop served with of everyman on the list, and there are a large number of signatures of the men added to the list, this being quite possibly a unique selection of signatures representing this elite force of men.
Edward Patrick Poulton, known as ‘Smoky’, was born on 26th April 1927, in Johannesburg, South Africa, and went on to work as a clerk for Johannesburg City Council. However with the ongoing Second World War, he then attested for service as a volunteer with the Union Defence Force at Pretoria on 1st September 1944, and was posted as a Private (No.613261) to a training unit, before being posted to the Transvaal Scottish on 14th October 1944 in readiness for imminent posting to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Rifles / Rand Light Infantry, being based at Potchesfroom in Transvaal.
Embarked aboard the transport ‘Speed the Victory Fair’ on 7th December 1944, he then briefly saw wartime service in the Middle East from 17th Febriary 1945, and then in |taly from 27th February 1945, with the Reserve Armoured Regiment, South African Armoured Corps, and having latterly seen service as a Liaison Officer with the Central Mediterranean Forces from 4th February 1946, then returned to South Africa in December 1946, and was discharged on 19th December 1946.
Poulton was one of those small number of men who then re-enlisted into the South Rhodesian Forces for service in Malaya, formed as the ‘Far East Volunteer Group, which on arrival in Singapore in March 1951, became known as the Rhodesian Squadron of the Malayan Scouts, and then later the same year was retitled ‘C’ Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment.
As such Poulton saw service in Malaya as a Corporal (No.SR.320) with ‘C’ Rhodesia Squadron of the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, he having been a part of the first draft, and then conducted a tour of operations.
On arrival in Singapore in March 1951, Poulton being with the first draft, his unit became known as the Rhodesian Squadron of the Malayan Scouts, and then later the same year was retitled ‘C’ Rhodesia Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment (Malayan Scouts). Walls quickly set to work in training his men in readiness for the jungle warfare ahead, himself being an early member of the team which carried out experimental “tree-jumping” as a means of entry into the deep jungle terrain. Mick Coetzee, in the book S.A.S. Rhodesia, takes up the story: ‘The answer was to drop directly into the jungle and since clearings were almost non-existent, dropping into trees was the only way. A member of ‘C’ Squadron was tasked with studying tree-jumping. The first experiment was conducted in a rubber plantation. Another experiment was to drop from a helicopter and this was actually tried over water. The difficulty was that there was no slipstream to assist in the development of the chute. Using helicopters was also expensive. The biggest helicopter in service was the S55 which had a ten-man capacity.
Getting down to the ground from the tree was a problem. A hand-over-hand descent using knotted rope was successful but the physical effort required left the soldier almost exhausted on the reaching the ground. The hobby of the Regiment’s Medical Officer at the time was climbing in the Swiss Alps and he came up with the idea of the abseiling technique for making the tree-to-ground descent. For training purposes a scaffold was erected in camp and individuals were taught the technique. An experiment with the technique in the jungle proved successful. Unfortunately Peter Walls was wounded in the lower jaw at the moment the helicopter touched down on the helipad. It was speculated that the pieces of metal extracted from his jaw and lower face had come from the helicopter rotor which broke on touchdown.’
By January 1952, Walls - recovered from his injuries - was ready to take ‘C’ Squadron into action from a new base at Sungei Besi camp in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, the Rhodesians mounted no less than four operations in the months ahead, namely “Helsby” in Perak, “League” in Pahang, “Copley” in Kelantan and “Hive” in Negri Sembilan. In Rhodesia S.A.S., Trooper Geoff Turner-Dauncey describes the type of conditions the Squadron faced on such operations: ‘From the moment we stepped into the jungle until we returned to base we got soaked, and stayed wet, from the humidity, crossing rivers and swamps, and the soaking vegetation caused by monsoon rains. In that humidity, one has to learn to cope with impetigo skin diseases including ringworm, leeches and other ailments. Insect and leech bites began to fester, and ringworm, many forms of eczema, and athlete’s foot resulted in widespread ulceration of the skin. Ointments only aggravated rotting fleah, so where possible penicillin wound powder was applied to open sores. With our operational dress torn and rotting, and stinking of sweat, rifle oil and decaying vegetation, it was common practice to burn our clothes on returning to base. For a while troops returning to base from operations looked rather like clowns: wearing just P.T. shorts, sandals and berets, their bodies lavishly painted with mercurochrome, gentian violet and Whitfield’s lotion until their skin problems healed ... As darkness falls, the ulu comes alive with a cacophony of noise. Frogs, insects, flying foxes, and night birds all add up to the chorus, interrupted from time to time by an almighty crack like a rifle shot. This is caused by giant bamboos over a hundred feet tall succumbing to the sheer weight of all the water collecting in each of the hollow sections that form the main stem. As the bamboo bends over and breaks, the crash does wonders for those of a nervous disposition! Other denizens of the jungle are huge rats. We never saw them until an Army Medical Research team deliberately trapped some of them to find out what was polluting the drinking water at a jungle base camp situated on Bukit Jangau. The disease that cost Sergeant Otto Ernst his life, and very nearly cost Colour Sergeant Dudley Diedricks his life, was caused by rats’ urine in the hollowed out bamboo pipes bringing water from the spring to base camp along the contours of the ridge. The indigenous Sakai and the Dyak trackers from the Iban tribe in Borneo were totally at home in the jungle. But in no way can it be considered as the long-term habitat of the European serviceman.’
It was not just training accidents and the terrain that they operated in however which could kill, but the enemy themselves claimed one man killed.
Another Trooper, Frank Wentzel, describes in S.A.S. Rhodesia how he was lucky to escape a lethal burst of fire, and their comrade, Corporal “Vic” Visagie, was not so fortunate: ‘I recall that we were dropped off along a tar road in the Cameron Highlands. This was a full Squadron operation commanded by Major Walls. We climbed a steep bukit (mountain) and when we reached the top in the late afternoon a halt was called. I was Bren Gunner on that occasion and was exhausted, having to carry my own kit plus Bren plus spare magazines. Major Walls was three to five yards away and I distinctly heard him say, “Vic, take some chaps and scout around for water.” Vic was facing me about two yards away and I asked, “Me too, Vic?” and he replied, “Yes, you too.” I went over to pick up my Bren and was straightening up when shots came over my back and head from behind. I saw Vic crumple and hit the deck very smartly. The shots sounded very loud as they had been fired from nearby. A couple of men charged forward and I seem to recall that a few shots were then fired. The Squadron had actually stopped, unbeknown to us, no more than fifty yards from a C.T. base camp complete with bashas [barrack huts], cookhouse and parade ground. Hot food was found cooking in the cookhouse which I saw some of our men eat later.My own summing up was that Vic was targeted by a watchful terrorist guard. The next day Vic’s body was carried down to the tar road by 14 Troop for transport to Kuala Lumpur.’
As part of the first draft, Poulton came home in December 1952, being posted back to Southern Rhodesia, where the unit was disbanded during 1953.
Poulton later gained a commission into the Rhodesian Army, serving during the Bush War period, and whilst a Captain he received the Rhodesian Exemplary Service Medal, and then as a Major the Zimbabwe Independence Medal in 1980.