HISTORY OF THE ROYAL MALAYSIAN NAVY
Compiled by : Choo K.C. (RO) (1-11-2011)
This article, researched and written by the late Captain (Rtd) Khoo Tee Chuan (Lt. Cdr. 1968 then) is the only existing well documented history of the Royal Malaysian Navy from its inception to 1968. Most importantly it offers a rare glimpse into its formative years and its close association with the British Royal Navy and the Singapore Naval Force (SNF).
The late Captain Khoo Tee Chuan had just passed away a few months back and it is an honour to have this website publish this extremely rare historical document.
On 28th April, 1934, the Straits Settlements Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (SSRNVR) was formed under the command of Commander L.A.W. Johnson, RN, with a complement of 25 officers and 150 ratings. Shore training was carried out once weekly in a part of the drill hall of the Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC) headquarters at Beach Road and sea training was carried out in His Excellency the Governor’s yacht SEA BELLE II.
The MRNVR was honoured by the visit of two VIPs in April, 1958. Mr. J.B.L Thomas, the First Lord of the Admiralty on 17th April and Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the First Sea Lord on 21st April.1957 was a year of consolidation for the Singapore Division of the MRNVR. The year also saw the formation of the object of training women between the ages of 18 and 35 in all aspects of naval shore duties so that their male counterparts could be released for deployment at sea in time of war.
Captain Lammert who had assumed command of the Division since April, 1947, relinquished his appointment at his own request on 31st December 1957. He was succeeded by Captain R. S. Tuffnell, CBE, VRD MRNVR who remained in command from 1st January 1958 until his departure from Singapore. In the meantime the RMN was administratively and operationally transferred from the Singapore Government to the Government of the Federation of Malaya on 1st July, 1958. The Federation Government assumed full financial responsibility for the RMN on 1st January, 1959. On 1st November, 1960, Captain R. G. Banks, OBE, VRD, MRNVR assumed command of the Singapore Division of the MRNVR.
1962 saw much planning and deliberations as a result of political discussions for the merger between Singapore and Malaya to be followed by the formation of a greater Malaysia to include Sarawak and British North Borneo. Eventually the Federation of Malaysia was formed on 16th September, 1963 and Singapore became a state with Malaysia, on that date the RMN came to be known as the ROYAL MALAYSIAN NAVY and the Selangor and Penang Divisions of the MRNVR became the respective Divisions of the RMNVR (Royal Malaysian Naval Volunteer Reserve). At an impressive ceremony held on 22nd September, 1963, the Singapore Division of MRNVR was formally transferred from the command of the Royal Navy to that of the Royal Malaysian Navy, becoming the Singapore Division of the RMNVR. HMS LABURNUM, HMS PANGLIMA and HMS PANJI (a 60 foot ex-RAF pinnacle) were re-commissioned as K.D. SINGAPURA, K.D. PANGLIMA and K.D. PANJI respectively.
From October, 1963 Indonesian ‘Confrontation’ forced the pace of RMN expansion. This expansion was not enough to cope with the treat and reservists from all three RMNVR Divisions were called up for fulltime service. In January, 1964 four officers from KD SINGAPURA were called up to fill important billets. In April, 1964 KD PANGLIMA, was put on seaward defence patrols in the Singapore Strait. Throughout the period of ‘Confrontation’ many more officers and ratings were called up for full-time service.
“ IT IS OUR EARNEST HOPE THAT THE SEPARATION OF KD SINGAPURA
FROM THE ROYAL MALAYSIAN NAVAL COMMAND ON 1ST FEBRUARY
WILL IN NO WAY DISTURB THE CLOSE AND FRUITFUL ASSOCIATION
BETWEEN THE RMN, RMNVR AND SINGAPORE DIVISION.
THE RMN WILL ALWAYS BE AVAILABLE TO ASSIST AND ADVISE THE
SINGAPORE NAVAL VOLUNTEERS IN ALL THEIR ENDEAVOURS.
GOOD LUCK. “
Our ties with the SNF are close despite these rather drastic changes that have taken place. Some of us in the RMN have served together with SNF personnel during World War II against the common enemy, the majority of us have known each other in the days of Indonesian ‘Confrontation’.
Sarawak on the north coast of Borneo was an independent state during this period and also a British protector (since 1888). Her area of 48,000 square miles was populated by 600,000 including about 100 Europeans. Armed forces included about 500 soldiers of the Dayak tribe under the command of a British officer. At the time there was still a slave trade (price US$1.00 for a person). Sarawak had only one railway line of 95 miles. There were no real ports but a good anchorage was located in Kidorong Bay. Foreign trade was served mainly by British and German ships.
The Navy consisted 5 old and small gunboats.
1. LORNA DOONE - Gunboat
2. Aden - Paddle Gun vessel (launched 1884)
3. Aline - Gunboat (launched 1875)
4. Kaka (1901, 400grt, paddle)
5. The yacht Zahora (1894) and a few armed launches.
All these ships were discarded by 1920. The Government owned the Alice Lorraine (1904, 125grt)
CHIEF OF NAVAL STAFF (CNS)
First Malaysian Chief Of Naval Staff Commodore K. THANABALANSINGAM, AMN. Appointed Chief 1st December 1967
Compiled by : Tuan Haji Mohd Ismail Mirasa (Bingo) (RO) ( 24.11.2012)
RSS Panglima (a.k.a. KD Panglima) had a long and distinguished history of maritime defence for Singapore and Malaysia.
The first Panglima was a 75-foot motor launch built in 1937 in Singapore. It was used for the training of naval officers and ratings in the Malayan Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (MRNVR). During World War II, the ship was involved in the evacuation of British and Australian troops from Johor, escort duties and patrol duties. However, in February 1942, while evacuating troops from Singapore, it was bombed and sunk.
The Panglima was revived in 1944 when a 90-foot Motor Fishing Vessel was built in England for the Royal Navy. When World War II came to an end, this ship was transferred over to the command of the re-established MRNVR as a replacement for the earlier vessel. However, being made of wood, it proved to be unsuitable for use in the tropical waters of Singapore. The high salinity and humidity of the Singapore waters meant that the wooden hull would begin deteriorating faster than it would in colder climates.
On 14 January 1956, the third Panglima was commissioned by Lady Black, wife of the then British Governor of Singapore. It was a much better equipped ship than the previous two vessels, being fitted with an assortment of modern equipment such as Sonar and Radar. With a maximum speed of 15 knots and a range of 3000 miles, it became an essential member of the MRNVR in its fight against piracy and illegal smuggling.
The history of the Panglima continued into the merger of Singapore into Malaysia in 1963. The ship was absorbed into the Malaysian Navy, as KD Panglima. After Singapore's independence in 1965, the Panglima became one of the three pioneer ships in the newly formed Singapore Naval Volunteer Force. The other two ships were the RSS Singapura and RSS Bedok.
After serving loyally for the next 36 years, the Panglima was finally retired from active service. In a decommissioning parade held on 09 July 1991 at Brani Naval Base in Singapore, the flags of the ship were lowered for the last time and handed over to the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). This signaled the end of active service of the ship in the (RSN).
Compiled by : Tuan Haji Mohd Ismail Mirasa (Bingo) (RO) ( 24.11.2012)
Country : Japan
Type/Class : Mine layer
Ordered to built : fiscal 1939
Builder : Harima Shipyard
Laid down : November 15, 1940
Launched : July 12, 1941
Name : HIJMS Wakataka|
Commissioned : November 30, 1941
Struck : July 1, 1946
Fate : Demilitarized in 1947 and given to UK as prize of war.
Country : Federation of Malaya
Name : HMMS Laburnum
Acquired : September 1949
Struck : December 31, 1965
Fate : Transferred to Singapore
Country : Republic of Singapore
Name : RSS Singapura
Acquired : January 1, 1966
Commissioned : May 5, 1967
Struck : Mid-1968
Fate : Scrapped
General characteristics :
Type : Mine layer
Wakataka (若鷹 Young Hawk) was the third and final vessel in the Hatsutaka-class of medium-sized mine layers of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which was in service during World War II. She was designed as an improved version of Shirataka net layer. However, during the Pacific War, due to the critical shortage of patrol ships for convoy escort duties, she was fitted with depth charge racks and her mine laying rails were removed.
After commissioning, Wakataka was assigned to the Sasebo Naval District, but was soon reassigned to the Second Base Force of the IJN 3rd. Fleet, based at Takao in Taiwan.
During early 1944, Wakataka continued to be assigned to convoy escort duties in the eastern Netherlands East Indies. In early February, she unsuccessfully attacked USS Hake (SS-256) with depth charges in the Celebes Sea and in March unsuccessfully attacked USS Bowfin (SS-387). Likewise, while on convoy protection patrol, she unsuccessfully attacked USS Sand Lance (SS-381) at Staring-baaion on 14 July. In October, she towed the damaged mine layer Japanese mine
Repairs at Surabaya took until early March 1945 to complete, at which time Wakatakawas reassigned to the IJN 10th. Area Fleet. On March 25, 1945, south of Sumbawa, Wakataka was attacked by HMS Stygian (P249) and takes a direct torpedo hit which removed off her bow, killing around 20 crewmen. Repair crews at Surabaya fashioned a false bow at the break, shortening her length by about 5–6 meters, and she returned to active duty in July with the Southwest Area Fleet; however, repairs were not completed by the time of the surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945 due to shortages of materials.
After the end of World War II, Wakataka was demilitarized and used as a repatriation vessel, evacuating Japanese troops from Labuan and Kuching to Singapore. She was officially removed from the navy list on March 1, 1946.
Returned to Japan, Wakataka was repaired at Kagoshima in March 1946 and continued to be used as a repatriation vessel by the SCAP in 1946, primarily between Manila, Saigon, Takao, Singapore, Okinawa, Palembang, Bangkok and Hong Kong through the end of the year. After repairs in January 1947, Wakataka was turned over to the Royal Navy as a prize of war on October 17, 1947.
In December 1948, the British government created the Malayan Navy Volunteer Force(MVF) and in September 1949 assigned Wakataka to the new organisation as the HMMS Laburnum to be used as a training vessel. The MVF became the Royal Malayan Navy in August 1952. HMMS Laburnum continued to serve until 1956, when it was removed from active service and placed in the reserves.
In 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia to become an independent republic. On January 1, 1966, HMMS Laburnum was assigned to the Singapore Naval Volunteer Force (SNVF) as a training vessel, while remaining berthed at Telok Ayer Basin. On May 5, 1967, the ship was re-commissioned as RSS Singapura and became the official headquarters of the Republic of Singapore Navy. The naval headquarters was relocated on-shore in mid-1968, at which time the RSS Singapura was sold for scrap.