The information below was provided by Ernie Guest who served with Lionel in Malaya. Both had been called up for National Service.
Lionel was killed in action in a jungle skirmish in Malaya in May 1951.
?I was in the same unit as Lionel: 8 Platoon which was part of C Company and that was part of the Suffolk Regiment. We were stationed at a place called Kajang, 20-25 miles south of the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. It was a hotbed of communism. The communists were more or less running the town. We couldn?t even go there unless we were in a minimum of 3 men all fully armed. Eight Platoon was stationed in a wooden hut in the grounds of an old school. It used to be a communist school that was turfed out by the army. There were 24-30 of us who were split into small units of 10-15 men to go on patrol to pick up signs of communist activity and track them down.
At that time there was a war in Korea, communist Russia had occupied Eastern Europe and there was a lot of tension in the world. That is why National Service was increased from 18 months to 2 years.
In Malaya they were leading up to independence. Malaya was a key part of the British Empire and an important provider of tin and rubber. The communists, backed by China and Russia, were infiltrating down from the north and there was an army of 8 ? 10,000 in various camps deep in the jungle trying to overthrow the government and take over the country.
Generally the camps were deep in the jungle and they would send out small units to attack police stations, railways, blow up buses and things like that and to bring down the economy by doing things like slashing the rubber trees. Because of the terrain (mountainous and covered in jungle) it was not easy for army units. It was more like a guerrilla war, with no more than 30 men to winkle the communists out of their camps and do away with them. Even 30 men would be difficult. As you know, when soldiers are on patrol they have to keep spaced out for safety reasons. Thirty men in the jungle where visibility is no more than 30-40 yards can easily get split up. So more often than not it was small units of maybe 12-15 men at the most, so if you bumped into a large unit of communists you were in trouble. The communists generally operated in small units of 6 or 10 but they had to keep moving as their camps could be detected from the air ? cooking smoke and so on ? so you might be unlucky and bump into a large unit moving through the jungle to set up camp elsewhere. This is what happened to the group with Lionel Killick.
On that day there were only 8 men on Lionel?s patrol plus 2 Iban trackers from Borneo who were not armed. They were on their way back from a 3 day patrol when, at about 10 in the morning, they bumped into a large unit of about 30-50 communists. In the opening fire the sergeant in charge of the unit was badly wounded and so was Lionel. He had been carrying the Bren gun. Two other men were also wounded, one in the arm and one in the leg, so it didn?t leave many of them to fight back. But they stood their ground, took cover and fought off the enemy for well over 1? hours. They couldn?t open their radio because you had to string a long wire between the trees and they were constantly under fire. So one of the men, ?Daddy? Knights, volunteered to take the sergeant?s compass and try to get to the road to summon help. This was a very courageous thing to do as the last thing anyone wanted was be alone in the jungle and he would be alone and surrounded by communists. But he made a run for it and was successful in evading them and managed to reach the road.
What they didn?t know was that the gun shots were in hearing distance of the rubber plantations. They could hear the firing and had already contacted the army and the police and a rescue operation was underway, including myself. I was escorting the stretcher party. The unit was about an hour from the road through thick jungle and undergrowth and we went straight in for the rescue. Other men went to the left and right to sweep through the area. By the time we reached them it was all over. There were 3 communist dead and 5-6 wounded so those 8 men, reduced to 7, 4 of whom were wounded, did a pretty good job. The sergeant was moved out very quickly but the medics took an hour or 2 to try to stabilise Lionel before they could move him. By that time it was getting quite late and the sun goes down rapidly in that part of the world. It took an hour or 2 to move back to the road. Lionel was taken to hospital but died the next day from gunshot wounds. He was 19.
We were all very close and his death had a profound effect on morale for some time afterwards. The other wounded men recovered from their injuries. As the sergeant was incapacitated, the lance-corporal, another national serviceman, took over command and was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), exceeded only by the Victoria Cross for gallantry.
Interview by Fay Breed, Maeve McLaughlin and Rosie Hoskins
Read Ernie's own story under the "Other Conflicts" heading.