The Royal Malay Regiment (Malay: Rejimen Askar Melayu DiRaja) is one of two infantry regiments in the Malaysian Army. The regiment is the premier unit in the Malaysian Army. At its height, 27 battalions of the Malay Regiment were formed. At present, two battalions of the Malay Regiment are parachute trained and forms a component of the Malaysian Army Rapid Deployment Force. Another battalion has converted into a mechanized infantry battalion. The remaining battalions are roled as standard light infantry battalions.
The 1st Battalion Royal Malay Regiment is the ceremonial battalion for the King and is usually accompanied by the Central Band of the Malay Regiment.
As its name suggests, it only recruits ethnic Malays to its ranks.
Since 1902, The Malay Rulers led by Sultan Alang Iskandar Shah (Sultan of Perak), Tuanku Muhamad Ibni Yam Tuan Antah (Negeri Sembilan), Raja Chulan (Perak Royal Family) and Dato Abdullah Haji Dahan (Undang Luak Rembau) have urged the British Colonial office for the formation of an army regiment raised from the local population. Previously, various British and Indian Army battalions (including the Burma Rifles) provided security for the Malay States.
On 23 November 1932 the British War Office gave approval for the formation of the Malay Regiment as a locally raised regiment of the British Army. On 23 January 1933, the Federal Consultative Council passed the Malay Regiment Act, as Act No. 11 The Federal Legislative Council also approved an allocation of $70,000 for the purchase of the Kong Sang Rubber Estate in Port Dickson for use as the Recruit Training Centre.
The regiment can trace its origins back to the 1st Experimental Company in 1933. This was a company of native Malays established as the beginnings of a native military force in Malaya. On 1st February 1933, 25 young Malay locals were chosen from the initial 1000 applicants as suitable to be recruited for the new regiment. Formed on 1 March 1933 in the Haig Lines, Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, this Experimental Company started off with the chosen 25 recruits. The Commanding Officer was G. Mc Bruce, and Captain K. G. Exham appointed Adjutant. The Regimental Sergeant Major was A. E. McCarthy and E. Oldfiled served as Quartermaster Sergeant.
The company was designated "Experimental" because at this stage, the "Company" was only an attempt to "find out how the Malays would react to military discipline." (Major-General G. Mcl. S. Bruce, O. B. E. M. C. (retired). (Excerpt from article "Trying it out with No. 1 Squad" in Pahlawan, Vol. 1, Kuala Lumpur, 1952.) On 1 January 1935, the Experimental Company became The Malay Regiment with a complement of 150 men. Recruitment speeded up. With another 232 recruits, two rifle companies were started and an HQ wing that included a Vickers machine-gun Platoon, a Signalling Section and a Corps of Drums. On 1st January 1938 the 1st Battalion Malay Regiment had a complement of 17 British officers, 6 Malay officers, 11 Warrant Officers and 759 non-commissioned officers and other ranks.
As the shadow of war loomed larger, training was intensified. Long route marches and exercises at battalion and brigade levels became frequent. The Regiment also began training with mortars and anti-tank weapons. In August 1941, a Bren gun carriers platoon was formed. Under Captain R. R. C. Carter, it trained with the British 2nd Loyals Regiment.
In March 1941, the Colonial Governor of the Straits Settlements, authorised the increase of the Regiment's strength to two battalions. The 2nd Battalion was established in 1941, and the two battalions of the Malay Regiment along with the 2nd battalion The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) formed the 1st Malaya Infantry Brigade and went on to play a major role in the defence of Malaya during the Second World War.
Company A of 2nd Battalion was the first Malay Regiment unit to engage the Japanese forces landing at Kampung Salak in Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan. Outnumbered, the unit withdrew to Kuala Krai and later to Singapore.
The first battle between the Malay Regiment and Japanese soldiers occurred on 13 February at around 1400 hrs. The Japanese 18th Division started to attack the south-western coast along the Pasir Panjang ridge and astride of Ayer Rajah Road. The Japanese 56th Infantry Regiment, supported by a considerable force of artillery, attacked the ridge during the morning. One of the units defending the line was the B Company of 1 Malay. Under the heavy fire of Japanese troops supported by artillery and tanks, B Company was forced to retreat to the rear. However, before all of them could retreat, the Japanese army succeeded in breaking through B Company's position. In the battle, B Company troops fought hand-to-hand combat using bayonets against the Japanese. A few from "B" Company managed to save themselves while others were captured as prisoners-of-war. This penetration led to the withdrawal after dark of both 44th Indian and 1st Malaya Brigade to the general line Mount Echo (junction of Ayer Rajah and Depot Road) Buona Vista.
On this hill, 7 Platoon, C Company of the 1st Bn Malay Regiment, led by Lt Adnan Saidi, made their famous final stand against the Japanese attack. Lt Adnan Saidi's bravery was exemplified in the battle and he was killed together with many of his Malay Regiment soldiers in the last defence battle at Pasir Panjang. His motto "Biar Putih Tulang Jangan Putih Mata" is still proudly remembered. The translation loosely means, it is better to die fighting than to live crying in regret till the eyes becomes blind. In other words, Death Before Dishonour.
Opium Hill was situated on high ground overlooking the island to the north and had the Japanese gained control of the ridge, it would have given them direct passage to the Alexandra area. The British army had its main ammunition and supply depots, a military hospital and other key installations located in the vicinity.
C Company's position was separated from D Company by a big canal. Oil was burning in the canal, which flowed from Normanton Depot. The burning oil prevented C Coy soldiers from retreating further south. C Company was under the command of CPT Rix who died during the early part of the engagement on this hill. Command had automatically passed to Lt Adnan Saidi.
The Japanese troops pressed their attack on Opium Hill in the afternoon. Under the guise of a deception, they sent a group of soldiers, dressed in Punjabi uniforms, passing themselves off as Punjabi soldiers from the British army. But Lt Adnan Saidi saw through this trick. British soldiers march in threes and Japanese soldiers march in fours. When the disguised soldiers reached the Malay Regiment's defence line, C Company's squad opened fire on them with their Lewis machine guns. Some of the Japanese troops were killed and the rest badly wounded. Those who survived rolled and crawled downhill to save themselves. Point to take note, in the previous years military competition held in Singapore, the four top marksmen went to the very same men of this regiment.
Two hours later, the Japanese launched an all-out assault in great numbers. The Japanese were in point blank location to the Australian artillery. In order to save ammunition, the Australian artillery did not fire on the Japanese. This very move surprised the Japanese army. Those same artillery round that was "saved" by the Australian artillery was handed over to the Japanese army on the next day when General Percival surrendered Singapore to General Yamashita.
Soon the attack overwhelmed the Malay Regiment. Greatly outnumbered and short of ammunition and supplies, the Malay Regiment continued to resist the Japanese troops. It was reported that 2LT Adnan manned a Lewis machine gun against the Japanese troops. Some soldiers engaged in fierce hand-to-hand combat using bayonets. Yet, they stood their ground frustrating their enemy. 2LT Adnan was seriously wounded but he refused to retreat and instead encouraged his men to fight to the last. It was this disregard of danger that inspired the company to stand up gallantly. 2LT Adnan was captured and tortured before being bayoneted to death.
In another incident on 28 February 1942, 8 Malay officers who were taken prisoner of war were executed in Pasir Panjang by the Japanese Army for refusing to remove their British Army uniforms. They were Leftenan 8 Ariffin Hj Sulaiman, Leftenan 29 Abdul Wahid Jidin, Leftenan 57 Abdullah Saad, Leftenan 12 Ibrahim Sidek, Kapten Raja Aman Shah Raja Harun Ar-Rashid, Leftenan Abbas Said, Leftenan Abu Bakar Umar, and Leftenan (Dato’ Naning) Usman Kering. Leftenan Ahmad Noordin, ‘A’ Company 1st Bn was executed 15 February 1942 while Leftenan Muhammad Isa Mahmud, HQ Company, 1st Bn was executed on 12 February 1942.
For the entire Malayan Campaign, but largely on 12, 13 and 14 February 1942 in Singapore, the Malay Regiment suffered a total of 159 killed (six British officers, seven Malay officers, and 146 other ranks) and a large but unspecified number wounded. But not all were convinced that the Malays were a martial race (Ashmore, et al) (War and Memory in Malaysia and Singapore By Patricia Pui Huen Lim, Diana Wong, pg 151)
By mid 1946, the idea of a multi racial Malay Regiment was dropped. The all-Malay Malay Regiment would be part of a Federation Army of one division strength freeing up British regiments for other (more strategic) duties. The British strategy of developing a strategic reserve of 3 brigades held in Britain would require the raising of more local regiments.
By 1947, the Overseas Defence Committee endorsed a gradual expansion of the Malay Regiment to 6 battalions by 1950 where the Malay Regiment would be used mainly for internal security, with multi racial formations in the supporting arms. (Hack, pg. 112), (Patricia Pui Huen Lim, Diana Wong pg 151)
In 1960, the regiment gained the 'royal' prefix, becoming the Royal Malay Regiment and by 1961 had a strength of 11 Battalions.
Three colours were chosen- green (the Muslim colour), yellow (for Malay royalty) and red (for the British Army influence).
The 1st Bn Royal Malay is the most senior infantry battalion of the Regiment. This was also the battalion group which Lieutanent Adnan Bin Saidi was posted to. In 2008, the 1st Battalion became the first overseas unit to provide the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace from a nation that was not a Commonwealth Realm.
5 Bn also maintains the tradition of having a bagpipe platoon. The tradition started when an officer of KOSB was seconded to 5 Bn Royal Malay in 1953. 5 Bn have just then formed a pipe platoon. The Scottish officer introduced the bagpipe and helped train the pipers, and the bagpipe platoon was formed. To this day, the bagpipe platoons of both battalions maintained their alliance. The bagpipe platoon has, in the past, been invited to attend the Edinburgh Festival. The last time 5 Bn attended the festival was in January 1990, celebrating the KOSB’s 300th anniversary.
The seconded officers were gradually replaced by Malay officers and in early 1954, 21 of the 26 officers of the battalion consisted of Malay officers replacing their British counterparts. Jeneral (Rtd) Tun Ibrahim Ismail was the first Malay Commanding Officer of the battalion, taking command from 11 August 1958 until 14 June 1960. He later went on to become the first Malay Chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces (now called Chief of Defence Forces)
The battalion is a Standard Infantry Battalion of the Malaysian Army. The battalion has participated in the Kris Mere exercises with the New Zealand Army the battalion was also deployed to The Congo as part of the Malayan Special Force serving under the United Nations Command.
On 7 April 1973, Kapten Hamid and his company detected a Communist Terrorist encampment. Kapten Hamid organised his company for an assault on the camp. Kapten Hamid fired an M79 grenade round to mark the start of the attack and rush into the Communist Terrorist camp. In the heat of battle, a communist terrorist tried to shoot down one of Kapten Hamid’s man. Kapten Hamid immediately rushed to the terrorist and hit the terrorist in the neck with the M79 grenade launcher.
Kapten Hamid’s company scored 3 kills and captured 3 enemy weapons, as well as ammunition and assorted equipment. Kapten Hamid’s company suffered 1 KIA. Kapten Hamid was awarded the SP on 6 June 1973.