179: British Colonies & Protectorates Ceylon, China, Malaya
British Colonies & Protectorates Badges part 2
Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps
Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps was a regiment attached to the Ceylon Defence Force which was the predecessor to the Sri Lanka Army prior to 1949 when the Ceylon Army was formed. It was a volunteer (reserve) regiment based in Kandy, made up of only Europeans, who were tea and rubber planters of the hills of Sri Lanka.
After the disbandment of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment (CRR) in 1873 the only locally raised regular outfit some British planters and mercantile elite want to had before this had tried to create a volunteer infantry unit loosely known as the Matale Rifle Volunteer Corps but only months after its creation it was decommissioned.
In 1900 a new regiment named the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps was established with headquarters in Kandy; the officers and other ranks were made up of Europeans, who were tea and rubber planters in the central highlands of Ceylon. Its first Commanding Officer was Colonel R.N. Farquharson, a retired Naval Captain. The regiment was a volunteer regiment mobilized under internal emergencies or for deployments overseas.
The regiment’s first deployment was in 1902 when a detachment was sent to South Africa arriving just before hostilities ended, not having experienced combat in the Second Boer War. The overall conduct of Ceylon troops received accolades from General Kitchener, Chief of Staff to Lord Roberts in South Africa, who affirmed, “The Ceylon Contingent did very good work in South Africa I only wish we had more of them.”
In the First World War the regiment sent a force of 8 officers and 229 other ranks commanded by Major J. Hall Brown. The unit sailed for Egypt on October 1914, and was deployed in defence of the Suez Canal. After which the unit was transferred to the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and was in 1915 dispatched to Anzac Cove (‘Z’ Beach) on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The CPRC also performed operational duties as guards to ANZAC headquarter staff, including the General Officer Commanding ANZAC, Lieutenant General William Birdwood, who remarked, “I have an excellent guard of Ceylon Planters who are such a nice lot of fellows.” According to its onetime Commanding Officer (CO), Colonel T.Y. Wright (1904–1912), the CPRC had sustained overall losses of 80 killed and 99 wounded in the First World War.
The CPRC was once mobilized once more when World War II started in 1939. Although primarily deployed for home defence in Ceylon the CPRC source for officer reinforcements, providing an estimated 700 volunteers to be commissioned as officers in the British Army and British Indian Army. Between August 1940 and July 1942, the CPRC dispatched six contingents amounting to 172 soldiers as officer reinforcements to the Officer Training School at Belgaum, India.
In 1984 on request of planters in the highlands, the Sri Lanka Rifle Corps was created, based on the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps . The two battalions were raised in Pallekele and Neuchatel Estate Neboda. The Rifle Corps has since then been deployed both in the central highlands and other parts of Sri Lanka due to the current civil war, with its members coming from the highlands and the plantations.
Ceylon Light Infantry
The Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) is the oldest regiment in the Sri Lanka Army and the oldest infantry regiment in the army. It is made up of ten regular battalions, five volunteer battalions. Headquartered at Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda. Over the years it has become the most distinguished and dependable regiments in the army.
The origins of the regiment goes back to the formation of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteer force was formed on 1 April 1881 by a proclamation issued by the Governor of Ceylon it was a reserve unit.
The first commanding officer of the force was Lt. Col. John Scott Armitage and the Colonel of the Regiment was HRH Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales. It is said that the Regimental March “I am Ninety Five” and the Regimental Bugle Call, in use up to now, was adopted soon after raising of the force. In the same year, the Unit had the distinction in that HRH the Prince of Wales accepted the Honorary Colonelcy of The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers, by virtue of which fact the Unit adopted his Crest and motto as Its badge. In 1892, a mounted infantry company was formed and later it became a regiment of its own by the name of the Ceylon Mounted Rifles.
The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteer force troops were sent to South Africa in 1900, for the Boer war and after the distinguish service in South Africa the force obtained the Banner from HRH The Duke of York.In 1902, King Edward VII became the Colonel-in-Chief.
In 1910 with formation of the Ceylon Defence Force CLIV became a part of it and was renamed as the Ceylon Light Infantry. The regiment saw action during World War I along with allied troops. Soon after the war a regular element of the regiment was formed to take up garrison duties in Ceylon. This unit was named the Mobilised Detachment of Ceylon Light Infantry (Mob. Det., CLI). The regiment was again mobilized during World War II and was deployed in the Seychelles and the Cocos Islands.
After Ceylon gained its independence from Britain in 1948 and with the Army Act of 1949 the CLI became the Ceylon Infantry Regiment and came under the newly formed Ceylon Army. But in 1950 the regiment once again became the 1st Battalion, The Ceylon Light Infantry becoming the regular unit and the and the Volunteer Battalion was re-designated as the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion, Ceylon Light Infantry.
The regiment was deployed for counter insurgency operations in during the 1971 Insurrection and in 1972, when Sri Lanka became a republic, the regiment changed its name to Sri Lanka Light Infantry. In the early 1980s units of the regiment has been deployed in the norther parts of the island. In the ambush of the Four Four Bravo patrol from the C Company of the 1st Battalion marked the beginning of the Sri Lanka civil war. Since then the SLLI has been deployed combat operations thought out the island and has expanded to its present size of 15 Battalions.
The regiment took par in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti in 2003
In 1881 a cadet platoon was formed at Royal College, Colombo attached to the CLI. This eventually expanded to became the Cadet Battalion, Ceylon Light Infantry under the Ceylon Defence Force. Later this unit became the Ceylon Cadet Corps, now know as the National Cadet Corps.
The regimental colours were awarded to the regiment in 1921 and on 22 March 1922 Ceylon Light Infantry was awarded with the King’s and the Regimental Colours. When the first battalion regular force was formed HM Queen Elizabeth II presented the new colours to the battalion in 1949. The Queens and Regimentals Colours were presented to the 1st battalion on 21 April 1954 by HM Queen Elizabeth II. With the declaration of the Republic of Sri Lanka were land to rest within the regimental museum on 29 June 1974.
In 10 October 1978 H.E. President J.R. Jayawardena awarded the President’s and Regimental Colours to the 1st Bn SLLI and 2nd Vol Bn SLLI.
In early stage, from March 1881 to 28 November 1881 volunteer corps used an elephant and a coconut tree as their emblem. With the declaration of republic of Sri Lanka 1st and 2nd battalions of CLI decided to retain as much with the configuration and pattern of the existing badge. As result of these suggestions, a new insignia was introduced with following details;
- To retain the silver bugle horn bound with brass, which is on the existing badge. This was retained because the bugle traditionally represents the infantry arm and by doing so, the Regiment could perpetuate in no small measure some of the high ideals associated with the previous insignia.
- It in corporate with three sheaves of paddy arranged in a manner of up to the three plumps on the existing crest. These were in corporate to signify prosperity and the heritage of the people as an agrarian nation. It retains the motto of the Prince of Wales “ICH DIEN” which has been adopted as the motto of the regiment in its translation form “I SERVE”.
The Kenya Regiment was formed in 1937 and disbanded in May 1963.
Volunteers were recalled in about 1950, with European settlers making up the main force. At the end of 1950 a call-up of eighteen-year-olds was introduced as the Mau Mau uprising was beginning. The first recruits were sent to Salisbury, now Harare, in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, for basic military training and then on to operational units. Later, training was conducted at Sgt Leakey V.C. Barracks (Kenya Regiment Training Centre) at Lanet, near Nakuru, Kenya.
The Kenya Regiment then operated as a part of combined operations, which included British Regiments, King’s African Rifles, Kenya Police and Kenya Police Reserve, and the Royal Air Force. Apart from the Kenya Regiment operating in its own right, it also seconded officers to the King’s African Rifles and as District Officers in the Kenya Administration.
Tanzania Defence Force
The Tanzania Peoples’ Defence Force (TPDF) (Swahili: Jeshi la Wananchi la Tanzania (JWTZ)) was set up in September 1964. From its inception, it was ingrained in the troops that they were a people’s force under civilian control. They were always reminded of their difference from the colonial armed forces The TPDF was given a very clear mission: to defend Tanzania and everything Tanzanian, especially the people and their political ideology. TPDF sailors, pilots and officers are trained in China.
Tanzanian citizens are able to volunteer for military service from 15 years of age, and 18 years of age for compulsory military service upon graduation from secondary school. Conscript service obligation was 2 years as of 2004.
The formation of the TPDF was a result of the disbandment of the Tanganyika Rifles after a mutiny in 1964. Soldiers of the regiment mutinied on January 1964. The Mutiny began in Colito barracks in Dar es Salaam, then spread to Kalewa barracks in Tabora with Nachingwea, a new barracks, following suit. The mutiny was over pay, promotions, the removal of British officers and Africanisation. Julius Nyerere conceded that the “soldiers had genuine grievances and the demands presented a perfectly reasonable case.” However, he could not tolerate a mutiny. The mutiny raised questions about the place of the military in the newly independent Tanganyika — a military under a foreign command and not integrated into the country’s system. After the mutiny, the army was disbanded and fresh recruits were sought within the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) youth wing as a source.
TPDF officers also trained African National Congress fighters in Morogoro. TPDF officers also participated in the training of the new Democratic Republic of Congo army, but were later withdrawn because of the war in the Congo.
The most significant TPDF involvement in the Uganda-Tanzania War following a Ugandan invasion of Kagera in 1978. Idi Amin with the help of Libya, accused Julius Nyerere of being at the root of his troubles and of waging war against Uganda. Amin invaded Tanzanian territory on 1 November 1978 and annexed Kagera. Julius Nyerere told the nation that Tanzania had the reason to fight Amin, was intent on fighting Amin and had the ability to defeat him. The war effort was not for the army alone on 22 November 1978, but for the entire population, the nation understood him and the reaction was predictable. In April 1979, Tanzania took Kampala and Amin fled the country to Libya and eventually ending up in Saudi Arabia after falling out of favour with Muammar al-Gaddafi. Unlike Amin’s soldiers, the TPDF had a relaxed relationship with the locals and at times went out of their way to assist them.
Royal Malay Regiment
The Royal Malay Regiment (Malay: Rejimen Askar Melayu DiRaja) is one of two infantry regiments in the Malaysian Army, and is the premier unit of the army. At its height, 27 battalions of the Malay Regiment were formed. At present, two battalions are parachute trained and form a component of the Malaysian Army Rapid Deployment Force. Another battalion has converted into a mechanized infantry battalion. The remaining battalions are standard light infantry battalions. The 1st Battalion Royal Malay Regiment is the ceremonial battalion for the King of Malaysia, and is usually accompanied by the Central Band of the Malay Regiment. As its name suggests, the regiment only recruits ethnic Malays into 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) 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 approved 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 traces its origins back to the 1st Experimental Company in 1933. This was a company of native Malays established as the beginning of a native military force in Malaya. On 1 February 1933, 25 young Malay locals were chosen from the initial 1,000 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 25 recruits selecred. The Commanding Officer was G. McBruce, and Captain K. G. Exham was 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 accelerated, and with another 232 recruits, two rifle companies were established, as well as a headquarters wing that included a Vickers machine-gun platoon, a Signalling Section, and a Corps of Drums. On 1 January 1938, the 1st Battalion Malay Regiment had a complement of 17 British officers, six Malay officers, 11 Warrant Officers, and 759 non-commissioned officers and other ranks.
As the shadow of war loomed larger, training 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 Japanese forces landing at Kampung Salak in Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan. Outnumbered, the unit withdrew to Kuala Krai, and later to Singapore.
Battle of Pasir Panjang Ridge
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 ‘B’ Company of 1st Battalion, Malay Regiment. Under the heavy fire of Japanese troops supported by artillery and tanks, ‘B’ Company was forced to retreat to the rear. However, before they could retreat successfully, the Japanese succeeded in breaking through ‘B’Company’s position and encircled the entire company. In the battle, ‘B’ Company troops fought savagely in hand-to-hand combat using bayonets against the Japanese when their ammunition ran out. Captain Yazid Ahmad of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force who was seconded to the Malay Regiment took over ‘B’ Company due to the mounting officer casualties and let them in a heroic and glorious last stand eclipsing the later achievements of 2nd Lieutenant Adnan Saidi which have been largely exaggerated. Captain Yazid died where he stood leading his men. A few men from ‘B’ Company managed to break out from the encirclement while the other survivors were captured as prisoners-of-war. The destruction of ‘B’ Company led to the night withdrawal of both the 44th Indian and 1st Malaya Brigade to the general line of Mount Echo (junction of Ayer Rajah and Depot Road)- Buona Vista.
Battle of Bukit Chandu
On 14 February, the Japanese again launched a heavy attack at 0830 hours, supported by intense mortar and artillery fire, on the front held by the 1st Malaya infantry Brigade. The fighting included bitter hand-to-hand combat, and losses from both sides were heavy. At 1600 hours, an attack supported by tanks eventually succeeded in penetrating the left, and the defenders on this flank were forced back to a line from the junction of the Ayer Rajah and Depot Road through the Brick Works and along the canal to Bukit Chermin. Owing to the failure of units on both its flanks to hold their ground, the 1st Malaya Infantry Brigade withdrew at 1430 hours. It was at this point that C Company of the Malay Regiment received instructions to move to a new defence position Pt. 226, Bukit Chandu (Opium Hill).
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, four Malay Regiment officers who were taken prisoner of war were executed in Pasir Panjang by firing squad for refusing to join the Imperial Japanese Army at the urging of Malay traitor Major Mustapha Hussein of the Fujiwara Kikan. They were Lieutenant (No.8) Ariffin Hj Sulaiman, Lieutenant (No.29) Abdul Wahid Jidin, Lieutenant (No.57) Abdullah Saad and Lieutenant (No.12) Ibrahim Sidek. Lieutenant Ahmad Noordin of ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion was executed earlier on 15 February 1942 while Lieutenant Muhammad Isa Mahmud of the HQ Company, 1st Battalion was executed on 12 February 1942. Most of the surviving captured Malay Regiment officers defected and joined the Imperial Japanese Army.
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. On the whole the British were not convinced that the Malays were a martial race in view of the widespread desertions among Malay Volunteer troops leading to most of the remaining Malay Volunteers being disarmed before they entered Johor and ordered home. A small core of well trained and loyal Malay Volunteer officers and NCOs fought to the very end in the defence of Singapore.
In 1946, the British Military Administration recommended a quick reconstruction of the Malay Regiment and mooted the idea of opening recruitment of the Malay Regiment to all races. This would create a racially integrated regiment, along the political lines of fusing the states of Malaya. A multi-racial Malay regiment was seen as a unifying force in post war Malaya. This proposal was met with bitter opposition from the Malay Rulers and the Malay population, and was seen as a link to British efforts to erode Malay supremacy (Ketuanan Melayu) which was a key feature of the Malayan Union.
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 three 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 six battalions by 1950 where the Malay Regiment would be used mainly for internal security, with multi-racial formations in the supporting arms.
The Malayan Emergency
By 1948, the British Army had 7 partially reformed Gurkha battalions in Malaya, in addition to 2 battalions of the Malay Regiment. In mid 1948, only 3 British battalions were in Malaya providing security to the Federation. The Malay Regiment also played a major role against the Communists during the Malayan Emergency when an eventual 7 battalions served during the Emergency, with the 3rd battalion raised in 1948.
In 1960, the regiment gained the ‘royal’ prefix, becoming the Royal Malay Regiment and by 1961 had a strength of 11 Battalions.
Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Michael Klinegardner, a member of the Beachmaster Unit (BMU) One, detachment Western Pacific’s craft control team, explains his role in landing craft, air cushioned (LCAC) operations to landing force members of the Royal Malay Regiment (RMR)
Malayan Special Forces In Congo
The 4th Bn Royal Malay Regiment under the command of Lt Kol Ungku Nasarudin formed the core of the Malayan Special Force that served under UN command in the Congo in 1960. In turn the 6th Bn Royal Malay,7th Bn Royal Malay and 2nd Bn Royal Malay served in the Congo under UN command. 2nd Bn Royal Malay ended the Congo deployment on 28 April 1963 and returned home.
The 19th Bn Royal Malay Regiment (Mechanised) was part of the United Nations deployment in Somalia UNOSOM and started deployment of its 870 members on in Mogadishu from 18 June 1993. The battalion was involved in the combat rescue of US Army Rangers during the Battle of Mogadishu, where the Battalion provided the Radpanzer Condor armoured personnel carriers for the QRF force from the 10th Mountain Division that effected the rescue. One member of the battalion, a driver of one of the APCs, Private Mat Aznan (posthumously promoted to Corporal) was killed and 4 APCs were destroyed during the rescue.
23rd Bn Royal Malay and 3rd Armor formed MALBATT I as part of the United Nations Protection Force and started deployment in September 1993. 23 Bn Royal Malay served until August 1994 and replaced by MALBATT II comprising 5 Bn Royal Malay and 2nd Armor. MALBATT III (28 March 1995 until November 1995) was formed from 12 Bn Royal Malay and 1st Armor. Malcon 1 (2 Royal Ranger Regiment & 4th Armor), Malcon 2 (18 RMR & 2nd Armor), Malcon 4 (2 RMR & 1 Armor)
During the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, the Royal Malay Regiment were also deployed in Sabah and Sarawak. It was during this deployment that the Kalabakan incident happened on 29 December 1963. An outpost in Kalabakan in Tawau, established and manned by members of C Company of the 3rd Battalion under the command of Maj Zainal Abidin bin Haji Yaacob was ambushed by “volunteers” of the North Kalimantan Army while performing their Maghrib prayers. The company however reacted and stood to, and were finally able to repel the attacking force. However, 7 members of the company, including Major Zainal Abidin were killed and 16 others were wounded.
The Regiment’s crest was designed with a pair of tigers, supporting an Oriental Crown. Within the circle of the crest are a kris and a scabbard with the Regimental motto “Ta’at Setia” written in Jawi, meaning “Loyal and True”. Major G. McI. S. Bruce and Captain K. G. Exham, the founding officers of this Regiment, designed the crest.
Three colours were chosen- green (the Muslim colour), yellow (for Malay royalty) and red (for the British Army influence).
Royal Ranger Regiment
The Royal Ranger Regiment (Malay: Rejimen Renjer DiRaja; RRD) is an infantry regiment of the Malaysian Army. Although it is second in seniority to the Royal Malay Regiment (Rejimen Askar Melayu DiRaja; RAMD), the RRD can trace its origins back to the mid 19th century and the establishment of The Sarawak Rangers, the peacekeeping force in the Sarawak region. This force was absorbed by the Sarawak Constabulary in 1932, but the name was revived in 1941 as a British Colonial unit; this unit commanded by British Lieutenant Colonel C.M. Lane was captured by the Japanese in 1942.
In 1948, at the beginning of the Malayan Emergency, groups of Iban trackers were recruited to help in the defence against the Communist Party of Malaya. These Iban trackers were organized into a regimental formation as the Sarawak Rangers in 1953. Prior to 1963, they were attached as scouts to many British units serving in Malaya. One of the trackers, Awang anak Rawang was awarded the George Cross on 20 November 1951, during his attachment to the Worcestershire Regiment.
In 1963, following the formation of Malaysia on 16 September of that year, the unit was transferred from the British Colonial Forces to the new Malaysian Army and expanded into a multi-battalion, multi-ethnic regiment named Renjer Malaysia. This became the Rejimen Renjer in 1971, before being given the ‘Royal’ prefix and hence known as the Rejimen Renjer DiRaja (Royal Ranger Regiment) in 1992.
The RRD is organized in the same way as the RAMD and currently consists of nine battalions,
The 1st to 6th, and the 9th are light infantry battalions.
A Ranger – A Special Malaysian Soldier
Unlike other units of the Malaysian Army, a private rank in the Rangers battalion is addressed as ‘Ranger.’ In the Rejimen Gerak Khas, a commando formation, a private is addressed as Trooper as well as the Royal Armoured Corps. In the Royal Engineers Regiment, a private is known Sapper, while the Royal Artillery Regiments addressed as Gunner. For the rest of the Malaysian Army, a private rank soldiers is addressed as Private.
As an infantry regiment whose recruits are drawn from every race and pribumi (native) group of Malaysia, Rejimen Renjer Malaysia is rich with cultural heritage. The “Ngajat”, the Iban Warrior Dance of the Sarawak Dayak community is now part of the regimental drill used to welcome visiting dignitaries. The adoption of this warrior dance as part of the regimental culture is due to the fact that this reincarnated unit of the Sarawak Rangers was once almost exclusively filled in the ranks by Iban soldiers.
Col.(R) Dunstan Nyaring Angking of 1 Renjer was the first native Iban officer to attain the rank of full colonel in the Malaysian army. He served with 1 Renjer during the Indonesian confrontation and was the ensign that received on behalf of his battalion, the battalion’s Battle Truncheon. The Battle Truncheon was presented by the late Governor of Sarawak, Tun Abang Haji Openg Bin Abang Sapi’ee on 19thNovember 1966 in Lundu, First Division, Sarawak. In his address to the battalion, he had this to say amongst other things:
“This TRUNCHEON which is presented to you is an emblem from the State Government. It is also a mark of appreciation of the Government and the people of Sarawak for your services to the country and for the worthy upholding of the best tradition of our people. This a great honour earned through your conduct, bearing and bravery in battle every-where you are called upon to serve”.
Currently, Col. Stephen Mundaw from Pakit, Sri Aman, Sarawak is the only known highest native Iban officer serving the Malaysian Army as full Colonel. On November 1, 2010, he became the first native Iban officer to be appointed as Brigadier General. Apart from that, another known Dayak officer is Lt. Col. Jimbai Bunsu PBK, currently a 2nd I/C of the 1st Bn/511th Regiment TA based in Kuching.
The other well known native Iban officers are Lt. Col.(R) Robert Rizal Abdullah @ Robert Madang PGB PBK from Lachau, Sri Aman and Lt. Col.(R) James Tomlow ak Isa and Lt. Col.(R) Linus Lunsong, who later became first Iban to command 22nd Malaysian Special Forces.
A known Malay officer from Sarawak to have commanded the Ranger regiment as Commanding Officer, was Lt. Col (R) Abang Hamdan Bin Abang Hadari. Another Sarawakian Malay officer, Capt.(R) Ahmad Johan, later became well known businessman and now known as Tan Sri Ahmad Johan.
Battalions of The Royal Malaysian Rangers
Following the terms of the Defence Agreement, Britain had agreed to raise, train and maintain one infantry Battalion, each from Sabah and Sarawak. HQ Malaya Command Ranger Group was formed and headed by Colonel I.G. Wellstead to coordinate and implement this clause of the agreement.
The First Battalion Malaysian Rangers, was formed on 16 September 1963 at Baird Camp, Ulu Tiram, Johore – the same camp occupied by the Sarawak Rangers. Lt. Col E. Gopsill OBE, DSO, MC of the 7th Gurkha Rifles was appointed the Commanding Officer.
The Sarawak Rangers disbanded on 15 September 1963 and was absorbed – approximately 100 strong – into the new battalion. Amongst them was Lt. James Tomlow ak Isa who was originally granted a Governor’s Commission in the Sarawak Rangers was subsequently granted the Regular Commission by the Agong.
In October 1963, the nucleus of the Battalion moved out of Baird Camp to Kandy Lines, Trg Depot BDE of Gurkhas at Sungai Petani to prepare and conduct recruit training and continuity training for the new intakes. The recruits went through about four months of basic individual training followed by another two months continuity training.
Initially, this British Colonial battalion was almost exclusively composed of Sea Dayak (Iban) soldiers Sarawak Rangers]and a small number of Malay and Indian officers. On the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963, the Sarawak Rangers was disbanded and absorbed into the Malaysian Armed Forces. The 1st Battalion is the premier battalion and remains the icon of the Ranger Corps. Prior to the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the Sarawak Rangers gained their fearsome reputation during the Malayan Emergency. Concurrently, during the post-colonial reconstruction era, the 1st Battalion fought on extensively against the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), Clandestine Communist Organization (CCO) the military arm of the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP ) and its affiliate the Parti Rayat Kalimantan Utara (PARAKU) and the Tentera Nasional Indonesia (TNI). Accounts from captured Communist Terrorists (CTs) in the ’60s and ’70s suggest that other than the (British Royal Marines) commandos, the CPM feared the deployment of the 1st Battalion in the immediate vicinity. The Rangers also saw action at the Malaysian-Thai border
The 1st Battalion remains an active unit of the Malaysian armed forces, although rather inexplicably, the recruitment of Iban stock has been gradually declined significantly over the last 20 years. Consequently, it’s racial composition is about the same as other Malaysian infantry battalions.
It is worth noting that in the 1950s and 1960s, the British SAS were taught jungle tracking by Iban soldiers. The Ibans from the jungles of Borneo are particularly suited to jungle warfare, serving as jungle trackers for many Commonwealth battalionsSurviving and living off the land are just daily routines to these jungle soldiers. During the Malayan Emergency, Iban trackers from the previous Malayan Scouts were attached to and served in several SAS units.
8th Rangers was formed on 1 March 1973, 3 years after the formation of 7th Rangers. 8th Rangers was raised as the first parachute infantry battalion in the Malaysian Army, and achieved operational status on 1 July 1990 as a component of the elite 10 Paratroop Brigade (Malaysia).
8th Rangers gained fame during the communist Insurgency in the 1970s and 1980s. 8th Rangers engaged in several search and destroy missions against Communist Terrorists in Sarawak. From 1977, the battalion was particularly successful against Communist Terrorists in search and destroy missions in the Hulu Perak, Kinta and Kuala Kangsar regions in Perak.
Several members of the battalion were awarded the nation’s highest gallantry award, the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP) and the Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) medals. Pegawai Waran II Kanang anak Langkau remains to this day the only recipient of both the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa and the Panglima Gagah Berani medals. Sarjan Michael Riman anak Bugat and Sarjan Beliang anak Bali were both awarded the Panglima Gagah Berani medal.
Rangers in Combat
6th Rangers-Ambush at Klian Intan
On 27 August 1970, in a successful ambush of communist terrorists near Tanah Hitam, Klian Intan in Perak, 5 Communist Terrorists (CTs) including a branch committee member were killed, and several weapons were captured by members of 6 Bn Ranger Regiment. Mejar Ismail bin Salleh, commading officer of Charlie Company and Leftenan Muda David Fu Chee Ming who was the platoon commander of 8 Platoon were awarded the Panglima Gagah Berani on 2 June 1971.
Based on information gathered by the Special Branch, that 60 Communist terrorists would be infiltrating Tanah Hitam moving on to Grik, Charlie Company with a complement of 3 officers and 94 other ranks were tasked to lay an ambush along the infiltration route. Charlie Company was split into 3 groups, with Company Hq and 9 Platoon forming the centre blocking force, 7 Platoon to the right and 8 Platoon to the left. The groups were given 2 days to prepare their ambush positions and lay booby traps and Claymore mines.
On 20 August, 1 Section consisting of 8 personnel heard the rustling of branches and bamboo being snapped by footfalls. 1 section immediately stood to in their bunkers. Renjer Abu bin Mat saw an armed CT on the trail, 35 meters from their bunker, a lead scout of a larger group. Renjer Abu bin Mat and Renjer Abu Samah Hj. Ibrahim who were manning the Section’s support GPMG, along with Lans Koperal Abdullah bin Nawi held their fire and continued their wait. Moments later, another CT appeared on the trail, and joined by another 2 CTs.
At 3:45 p.m., Lans Koperal Abdullah detonated his Claymore mine while the GPMG crew opened fire, joined by the LMG manned by Lans Koperal Karim bin Sidek manning the left bunker. At 4:20 p.m., the CTs ceased fire, even though movement could still be heard in the trail. 1 Section opened fire to suppress the CT’s movements. With nightfall, the CTs made an attempt to retrieve their fallen comrades. Mejar Ismail called for close in artillery support on the trail, walking the artillery rounds close to 1 Section’s position. The CTs withdrew before morning, leaving behind their dead. Searches the following morning revealed 5 dead CTs.