Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Computer and Security Science


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Dave Brooks

Second Advisor

Professor Narayanan Srinivarsan

Third Advisor

Associate Professor Ken Fowle


History has lessons for the present; could this be the case for modern counterinsurgency operations in countries resembling Iraq and Afghanistan? This research set out to study three historical counter-insurgencies campaigns in, Malaya (1947-1960), Kenya (1952- 1960) and Rhodesia (1964-1980), with a view to establishing whether or not the Colonial authorities had a substantial advantage over modern forces when combating insurgencies. If this was the case, are these advantages transferable to aid forces involved in modern counterinsurgencies?

The research questions focussed on how important the role of the Colonial Forces was to the eventual outcome, examining the principal factors that contributed to their effectiveness? Included in this examination were aspects of strategy, together with an appreciation of the concept of ‘hearts and minds’, tactics and the evolution of counterinsurgency doctrine.

A qualitative research design was adopted, using a case study methodology based upon comparative analysis of the data collected. Case studies were constructed for the three conflicts, based around the narratives obtained from a series of semi-structured interviews, with surviving members of the security forces; predominately police and Special Branch. The primary data was coded, using a thematic framework developed from the Literature Review. These themes were then synthesised, analysed and interpreted in response to the research questions related to the perceived problem. Lastly, the findings were compared and contrasted to provide theoretical recommendations and conclusions.

The study indicated the significant role played by the Colonial Police Forces, especially Special Branch, which appears to have been instrumental in dominating initiatives against the rebels. Supporting the police, were Colonial army units together with locally recruited indigenous militias in a combined approach to prosecuting an effective counterinsurgency campaign. In addition, this was reinforced by the Colonial Government’s ability to apply draconian legislation in support of the strategic plan, to reinforce the rule of law by the police, coupled with its ability to garner popular support through civil projects, such as schools, clinics and housing. Evolving counter-insurgency doctrine advocated the need to cut off the insurgents from their supplies, by separating them from the general population. Separation was achieved by the forced movement of the population into ‘Protected Villages’ backed up by food control, harsh collective punishments, detention and curfews. Further key beneficial factors for the Colonial Forces included their knowledge of religious customs, culture and language, which enhanced their ability to gather vital intelligence direct from the population; rather than second hand.

Analysing the concept of ‘hearts and minds’ since 1947, indicated it was evolving as a strategy and was not operationally as well accepted as it is today. Although often considered a benevolent approach to gaining the support of the population, the research also demonstrated the antithesis of this approach occurred by the insurgents applying power over ‘minds’ of the population though intimidation, terrorism, and physiological control. This psychological control was achieved through sorcery, spirit mediums and the taking of oaths.

Ultimately, political solutions not military ones ended the insurgencies. The theoretical recommendations indicated that greater attention needs to be expended in training counter-insurgency forces to empathise with the local population when conducting overseas operations; especially improved knowledge of religious customs, culture and language. The outcome would enhance their capabilities through better population support resulting in superior intelligence.

Access Note

Access to Appendix A of this thesis is not available.