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The Anthropologist who Disappeared – the Solution

In 1953 General Gerald Templer, the new High Commissioner and Director of Operations appointed Richard Noone as ‘Protector of Aborigines’. His job had little to do with ‘protection’. His task was to break the bond between the MNLA communist guerrillas and the Orang Asli, the aboriginal tribes who supported many guerrilla platoons in the deep jungle. Richard’s brother the anthropologist Pat Noone had studied the Temiah (Senoi) tribe in northern Perak and married a Temiah woman called Anjang. Pat had disappeared a year after the Japanese invasion of Malaya.  One evening in December, 1953, Noone was working late, puzzling over his missing brother Pat’s old research papers about the Temiah, the ‘Dream People’, to try and ferret out some psychological advantage that might help win over the Senoi tribes to the government side. It was more than a decade since Pat had vanished, but Richard was obsessed with solving the tormenting puzzle of his disappearance. The telephone shattered his concentration. It was the duty office at the 22 SAS headquarters.  ‘We’ve just had an urgent signal. I can’t discuss it over the phone, but the colonel would like to see you straightaway.’ When Noone walked into the SAS ops room, […]
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The Anthropologist who disappeared… 1

Months after the Japanese invasion, an unusual encounter took place in the Malayan jungle. It was a meeting of very different minds and cultures that would have unexpected consequences  not only in Malaya during the Emergency war but later in Vietnam. Herbert Deane Noone, always called Pat, was a British anthropologist who had taken a First in Archaeology and Anthropology at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.[1] Pat’s father was the splendidly named Herbert Vander Vord Noone who made enough money in India to retire at forty-four and return to England where he lived a somewhat peripatetic life with his family. ‘HV’ was inordinately ambitious for his children. Pat and his bother Richard, who was ten years younger, grew up in Dymchurch on the Kent coast and across the channel in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the Basque country of south-west France.  Pat, his brother recalled, was ‘blessed’. He had inherited his mother’s blue eyes and fair colouring; he excelled at sports; he passed any exam effortlessly; he was supremely confident and assured. After coming down from Cambridge in 1930, he was offered a job by the Perak State Museum in Taiping as a field ethnographer and readily accepted. At the time, Taiping was a […]
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