Losing the blanket, building a fence

Australian anxiety and the end of military colonialism in Malaysia

Sean Brawley*, Mathew Radcliffe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


From 1955 to 1988, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) maintained a large airbase in Northern Malaysia. For the first 15 years of its existence, RAAF Butterworth had a modest and incomplete perimeter fence. With the end of British military colonialism in Malaysia and Singapore following the implementation of the ‘East of Suez’ policy, the Australians became preoccupied with their physical security and the role of the perimeter fence. By exploring the adoption of practices of exclusion via physical barriers in the wake of British withdrawal, this paper argues that the changing psychological outlook of Australian military officials reflected broader Australian anxieties about their own sense of ‘Britishness’ and the nation’s place in a decolonising Asia. As the Australians lost their British ‘blanket’ they built a fence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1026-1048
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2017


  • Australia's Asian context
  • Britishness
  • Malaysia
  • military colonialism
  • neo-colonial
  • post-colonial
  • Royal Australian Air Force
  • 'East of Suez'

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