THE LAST DISTRICT OFFICER IN KUALA LUMPUR WHO HELPED TO OVERSEE THE TRANSISION
TO AN INDEPENDENT MALAYA
Michael Aldridge Kidner was born at Lytham St Anne’s in Lancashire on 26th November 1923. (d. Monday 29th July 2019). His Father at the time was a serving Sapper Officer India, His Mother, the Daughter of a dentist. He was one of five children.
Much of his early years was spent living at Camberley and Sherborne, were he was at boarding school. Michael or “Mick” grew up with strong ties to his Christian Beliefs and the love of nature and the country side, played hockey and rugby, tennis and enjoyed horse riding.
He signed up in 1942 and was posted to, the 25 Medium and Heavy Regiment, R.A. at Yorkshire’s Maske-by-Sea where he applied for a Officers Commission and was sent on to Aberdeen for Officer Instruction.
March 1943 now back in uniform and at The Gordons’ Barracks, ten weeks of drill.
1944 the posting to India came. Moved from Ranchi onto Kohima in November, where one of the hardest battles of WW2 had been fought in April of that year. A walk up “Lone Tree Hill” was his first introduction to a “battlefield”. On top of this hill was “all the refuse of war – slit trenches, bunkers, torn and rotting clothing and equipment and almost a deathly silence”.
It was January 1st 1945, Michael started moving south and met enemy Action at Kandaw. The division crossed the Irawaddy River. The task was to secure the bridge for part of the 17th Indian Division and 255 Tank brigade could start their dash to Meiktila 70 miles S.E.
Moving 12 miles north to Sindewa Chaung as a Forward Observation Officer, (with two radio operators supporting ‘C’ company, 4/15 Punjabis) he directed fire into a strong Jap position at Sakabrought. This was face to face warfare and personal. A few days later he was ordered to join the 7/2 Punjabis with whom he saw more action.
On May 5th 1945 he received orders that he would join No 5 Naval Bombard Centre, Combined Operations, Bombay as a Forward Observation Officer operating in conjunction with the R.N. for the coming invasion of Malaya. Shortly on arriving in Calcutta only to discover the Navy posting had been cancelled, so leave was granted. It was May 8thth Victory Day (Europe)! Posted back to Burma.
By August the Japs were on the run, trying to break out to the east. The 17th Indian Division was waiting for them!
August 9th – from Rangoon, leave was granted, and Darjeeling and the Belleview Hotel awaited. The date was now 15th when the radio announced, the Atomic Bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima a few days earlier on August 6th.
The Gymkhana Club Immediately organised a “Victory Ball”. It was here on this day, Michael met his future wife Noreen Baldry, daughter of the tea planter at the Teesta Valley Tea Estate -Thomas and Dorethea.
The war now over, peace time soldiering held little interest and in January 1946 he transferred to “The Civil Affairs Service (Malaya) while in Bangkok.
Work at CAS consisted of issuing Visa’s (and not accepting bribes). Rangoon was also a transit camp for Asian “displaced persons” who had survived the forced labour of the Burma/Siam railway and temporary hospitals had been set up. Kidner was assisted by his team of Dutch army non-commissioned officers. Large amounts of rice were being stolen so refugees were invited to write on a bit of paper the name of a suspect. Most slips were blank that were placed in the box but some names came up more. Six suspects were arrested one rushed Kidner with a long pointed dagger! He was stopped in his action, by a police officer. The rice thefts ceased.
Posted down to Singapore for 6 months, as Staff Captain, A Branch at the HQ of “Allied Land Forces, South East Asia” where he was mainly concerned with Jugra Awards. These were grants of land in India to Indian Troops in recognition of good service. Departure to UK January 1947.
Married in Bedford to Noreen Baldry, Bedford, England on 28th June 1947. A son Michael was born in 1948 while taking exams for entry to the Colonial Service.
30th December 1948, appointed to” The Colonial Administration Service-Malaya” working in Kuala Lumpur as Private Secretary to Sir Alec Newbolt, Chief Secretary to Government. In September 1950 His office was in his new residence, “Carcosa Cottage”. Here many important government papers passed across the desk giving an insight to all that was going on within the country. The State of Emergency had been declared in 1948.Overcoming communist insurgency was first priority. All other work by Government officers came second.
In 1950 with the birth of his second son, James he was posted to Lumut District as D.O. A difficult time as there were thought to be about 20 rather ruthless terrorists active in the area. Re-settling whole villages between 1949-1952 was a priority in safeguarding villagers and cutting off the food supply to insurgents’.
Moving to Bukit Mertajam in 1953 was a welcome relief! Almost opposite Panang Island. This area also had active Terrorists until the truce in December 1955. A most unusual task befell Kidner while in BM. Ghostly figures were seen roaming the local graveyard at night. This challenge was met by posting notices for the unwelcome ghosts. The order instructed the spirits, “to go away and leave the Villagers in peace”. The order was signed by Kidner on a suitable Government ‘Chop’ and two weeks later a report came back the spirits were no more seen!
Returning from leave in 1956 the new post was Assistant D.O. Kuala Lumpur. The work mainly consisted of all matters regarding Land – Mining, Registration etc.
August 31st, Merdeka Day! Independence Day for Malaya (later to become Malaysia). On March 1st 1961 Kidner was appointed D.O. for K.L. The workload became heavier with the extension of the airport and re-routing the railway, all this involved purchasing land. There was also a new town growing on the outskirts of K.L. named, Petaling Jaya and the building of the University and the opening of the Klaug Gates Dam, to the north of K.L.
His work came to an end on 19th August 1962.
Back in the UK the working day was very different. Joining the Engineers Employers Association, with who he remained until retiring in 1983, as Association Secretary.
Noreen died in 1981. He married again in 1991 to Pamela Wallwork, a widower herself and was sadly widowed again in 2010.
We have lost a thinking man, who loved the sounds and sights that nature produced, walking, his books, music and travel. Always interested in all that surrounded him. He will be missed by family and friends. He is survived by a son and Granddaughter, by his first marriage.
by James Kidner