Zulfikar Shariff: Remember The Malay Regiment?

The Malay Regiment was established in 1933 as “a body of Malay
troops who would share the responsibility of military defence and protection of their homeland”.

The British were initially hesitant to train the Malays since they were known to be warlike and were fighters.

They felt the problem was “not to get the Malays to fight (at which they had shown themselves only too ready) but to prevent them from fighting.”

Johor established a Malay Regiment in 1885 and its success was used as proof of the efficacy of the project.

The first batch of 25 soldiers from Malaya were selected from 1,000 applicants. This ensured a very high standard of recruits.

During the Japanese invasion of Singapura, the Malay Regiment fought with their heart and their blood to defend the island.

In the words of General Percival, the Malay Regiment “acquitted themselves in a way which bore comparison with the very best troops in Malaya.

In particular, by their stubborn defence of the Pasir Panjang Ridge at the height of the Battle of Singapore, they set an example of steadfastness and endurance which will become a great tradition in the Regiment and an inspiration for future generations.”

On “the morning of the 14th again saw enemy shells falling steadily on the Malay Regiment area and casualties mounted.”

After heavy fighting, including some hand to hand combat, the Japanese army tried to trick the Malay Regiment by dressing like Punjabi soldiers.

But the Malays quickly realised the trick and gunned down the enemy “at close range (which) left about 22 (Japanese) lying on the ground dead or wounded.

The ruse having failed, the Japanese staged a determined attack about two hours later in overwhelming strength. Although the defenders fought bitterly with grenades and automatic weapons they were unable to hold the hill.”

“Lt. Adnan, commander of Platoon No. 7,… encouraged his men. Mortally wounded he ordered his men to fight on to the last man.”

Many of the men and all the officers (except Second-Lieutenant Abbas) died in the close and at times hand-to-hand fighting which developed. A number of the captured survivors were massacred by the Japanese.

Lt. Adnan who, along with his brother officers, fought gallantly in this action was shot down and bayoneted by the enemy.

His body was then hung upside down from a nearby tree; no one was allowed to cut it down for burial.”

British “surrender did not mean the end of casualties to the Regiment.

Within a fortnight five Malay officer-internees of the Regiment were summarily executed for refusing to serve under the Japanese or, alternatively, to put on civilian clothes and accept release.

Most officers and men who escaped internment at Singapore were arrested on their return home during the year and imprisoned for a while.

A number of the other ranks were pressed into forced labour gangs and sent to work as far afield as Siam and Indonesia.

The majority were released from prison camps in Singapore at different dates in March when all up-country evacuees in Singapore were ordered to return home.

Several of them in a party of 98 Malay personnel serving with the Imperial forces were removed by the Japanese military police and machine-gunned near the Gap.”


Ramli, Dol. “History of the Malay Regiment 1933-1942.” Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (1965): 199-243.

Picture: NCOs and Men of The Malay Regiment 27th May 1941.


Source: Zulfikar Shariff

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