Ryves, Harvey Theodore Blackburne (1916 MYS - 2005 ENG)


Ryves, Harvey Theodore Blackburne Ryves


Father: Vivian William Ryves
Mother: Edith 'Molly' Hamnett

Birth: 19th March 1916, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Birth Source: Family Bible etc.

Death: 28 Mar 2005 Redhill, England
Death Source: England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007

Spouse1: Eileen Elsie Corbett


Harvey Ryves C.B.E., J.M.N., Q.P.M. was the only son of Vivian William Ryves and Edith 'Molly' Hamnett. At the age of 8 he was sent to a boarding school in Brighton, England, before going on to Kings College Wimbledon where he became a Senior School Prefect, Captain of Cricket and played for the First XV Rugby team. During his time at school in England, he lived with his aunt Mariquita ('Quita'), her husband Walter Braun and their three sons in Wimbledon. On leaving school, Harvey worked firstly for the Mercantile Bank of India (1935-1936) and subsequently spent a year teaching at the South Kensington Preparatory School.

Harvey entered the Colonial Police Service (Malaya) in 1937, his first appointment being as Personal Assistant to the Chief Police Officer, Selangor (1938-1939). He then became Officer-in-Charge of Police District in various parts of the country and also spent 9 months on secondment to the Immigration Department, assigned to specialist duties including intelligence work on the Malayan/Thai border.

He married Eileen Elsie Corbett, daughter of the Government Entomologist to Malaya, George Hamblin Corbett on 20th October 1940 at St Mary's Church, Kuala Lumpur and was to have 3 sons with her.

At the time of the Japanese invasion, in December 1941, he was OCPD in Kuala Kangsar. Following the invasion, he travelled South, firstly to Kuala Lumpur and then to Singapore. His personal account of the 70 days between the initial Japanese invasion and the capitulation of Singapore is held at the Imperial War Museum, London. As one of the few senior police officers who had remained at his post until the capitulation, he was interned by the Japanese and held, firstly at Changi Gaol and subsequently at Sime Road Gaol, until the end of the war.

In 1946, following a short period as Officer-in-Charge of the C.I.D. in Perak, he was appointed Officer Commanding Special Branch in Perak and promoted to Superintendent where he was responsible for the internal security of the State and the creation of an intelligence service to combat the outbreak of the communist armed rebellion in Malaya. He was promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police in 1953.

In 1954 Ryves was appointed to the post of Senior Assistant Commissioner in charge of Federation Special Branch, taking over the role from his friend and colleague Guy Madoc. From this point he was responsible to the Malay Government, with direct access to the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence for all matters affecting the internal security of Malaya. In September 1957, his rank was 'upgraded' to that of Deputy Commissioner of Police and Director, Special Branch. During his tenure, Harvey reorganised Federal Special Branch headquarters into eight divisions, each headed by an Assistant Commissioner or, in one case, an army Lieutenant-Colonel seconded to Special Branch. He also secured the secondment of several MI5 officers to assist Special Branch, an initiative originally proposed by his predecessor in the role, Guy Madoc.

In his final three years in Malaya, Ryves was also tasked with supervising a large and concentrated training programme of Asian officers as part of the pre-independence 'Malayanisation' of the Police force.

Harvey was awarded the Perak Meritorious Service Medal (1950), Colonial Police Medal for Meritorious Service (1953), Queen's Police Medal for Distinguished Service (1957), Honorary Johan Manku Negara (JMN) by the Paramount Ruler (1959) and the C.B.E. in the Queen's birthday honours list (1960).

Following his retirement from Malaya, Harvey Ryves was asked to join the British Advisory Mission in Vietnam as its 'expert' on Communism and counter-insurgency. He declined this offer. In retirement, he lived with his family firstly at Storrington, Sussex and then at Colgate, West Sussex. He died from pneumonia on 28th March 2005.

Research Notes

Most of the above details have been taken from personal papers and correspondence or from information freely available in the public domain.


Belfast Telegraph - Friday 27 February 1959
Seventy Days, The Japanese Invasion of Malaya, A Memoir by Harvey Ryves C.B.E, J.M.N
Moon Over Malaya, Jonathan Moffatt & Audrey Holmes, McCormick, Spellmount, 2014.
Malaya's Secret Police 1945-1960: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency, Leon Comber, ISEAS/MAI, 2008

Contributors to this page: David_Ryves .
Page last modified on Thursday 04 of January, 2024 05:35:26 CST by David_Ryves.