(Former Communications Branch Members)


   1957-1963       1963-1968   1968



 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Tee Chuan  had just passed away a few months back and it is an honour to have this website publish this extremely rare historical document.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.

In 1936, HMS LABURNUM, a British Flower sloop hitherto on loan to the Royal New Zealand Navy was presented by the British Admiralty to the Singapore Government. She was steamed to Singapore by an RNZN ship’s company and was berthed at Telok Ayer Basin (TAB). The end of the quay and the godown at TAB had since been the headquarters of the SSRNVR until the fall of Singapore in 1942.

In 1937, ML PANGLIMA, a 75-foot motor launch similar to ML PAHLAWAN which was already in service was built in Singapore by Messrs. Thornycroft Ltd. The PAHLAWAN and the PANGLIMA were used for sea training of SSRVNR officers and ratings.

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, SSRNVR personnel were called up for full time service.  At the same time the British Government decided to strengthen the strategically important base of Singapore by raising the Malay section of the Royal Navy (later popularity and familiarly referred to as “The Malay Navy” were all loaned by the Admiralty while the ratings, all Malays, were recruited mainly into the Seaman and  Communications branches for service in minesweepers and patrol craft.

In 1941 the Straits Settlements Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (SSRNVR) became the Singapore Division of the Malayan Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (MRNVR).

Japan entered the war in 1941 at a time when Britain was desperately engaged in the west. During the two-month Malayan campaign personnel of the MRNVR and “The Malay Navy” were distributed amongst more than a hundred minesweepers and patrol craft under the operational command of the Captain Auxiliary Vessels, Royal Navy. The Malayan campaign took a heavy toll on local navy personnel. The majority of the officers of “The Malay Navy”, including Lt. Cdr. Vickers, and a hundred men died on active service and about  the same number were reported missing; one hundred and fifty men of “The Malay Navy” were evacuated from Singapore in February, 1942, and after seeing service in Ceylon, East Africa and India, returned to Malaya with the liberating forces in September, 1945. During the evening of 13th February, 1942, HMS LABURNUM was sunk. That same evening the Royal Navy, “The Malay Navy” and the MRNVR carried out major evacuation operations. Only nine of the 61 ships manned by MRNVR personnel which broke out of Singapore, got through to Sumatra and Java and then to Australia of Colombo. The MRNVR lost 173 officers and ratings in an encounter with Japanese cruisers in the Banka area; of these 53 were known to have been killed and the remainder reported missing. ML PANGLIMA was sunk off Singapore whilst evacuating military personnel from Singapore in February, 1942.

Prior to Singapore’s liberation by Allied Forces, HMS LABURNUM was raised and by the addition of two funnels was used as a decoy against Allied bombers. She was again sunk and her hull now lies ahead of a line of hulls off the former Royal Singapore Yacht Club Lagoon.

After liberation “The Malay Navy” was re-formed in September, 1945. Personnel were at first accommodated in a section of the former Indian Transit Camp on the Singapore Race Course. In December, 1945, they were moved to the barracks at Pulau Blakang Mati. By end of 1946 about 650 men reported back for duty, many with exciting tales to tell of their experiences. However, post-war financial stringency caused the British Labour Government, with the greatest reluctance to disband “The Malay Navy”. Orders for demobilization were received in February, 1947, and disbandment was completed in early April 1947.

In the meantime, in early April, 1947, the MRNVR was re-formed under the command of Commander (later Captain) F.E.W. Lammert, CBE, DSC, VRD,  MRNVR. Regular parades again took place at the SVC  headquarters at Beach Road.

On 5th September, 1948, MFV PANGLIMA, a 90-foot motor fishing vessel built in England in 1944 for the Royal Navy and the second craft to bear the illustrious name of PANGLIMA, was presented to the Singapore Government as a replacement for the first PANGLIMA for practical sea training of the MRNVR officers and rating. In the meantime in December, 1948, the Malayan Navy Force (MNF) was raised by the Singapore Government as the colony’s contribution towards the defense of the Malayan Peninsula, the nucleus of the MNF was provided by former members of “The Malay Navy”.

During 1950 and 1951 MFV PANGLIMA in company with other ships of the RMNVR, motor launches of the Marine Police and Seaward Defense Motor Launches (SDML) of the MNF, carried out anti-bandit patrols in the Johore River and off the Pengarang Peninsula.

On 27th January, 1951, a new HMS LABURNUM was named by Lady Gimson, wife of the Governor of Singapore, Sir Franklin Gimson, KCMG, This was the former 1,890-ton Japanese minelayer WAKATAKA which was launched in 1942 and flagship of Japanese vessels. She was captured by the Royal Navy who in turn presented her to the Singapore Government.  After modification and refit the new HMS LABURNUM berthed at TAB, became the headquarters of the MRNVR until 31st August, 1967.

     Japanese Minelayer HIJMS  WAKATAKA 

In the meantime, in 1952, Her Majesty the Queen, in recognition of its services in action off the Malayan peninsula, had granted the MNF the title of Royal Malayan Navy (which was still controlled and financed by the Singapore Government).

Like the majority of other wooden craft built in England in 1944, MFV PANGLIMA’s hull was not suited to the tropical waters and before long she came to the end of her useful life. So in 1954 the keel of the third vessel to bear the illustration name of PANGLIMA was laid in the shipyard of Messrs. United Engineers Ltd. She was launched as HMS PANGLIMA on 14th January 1956 by Lady Black, wife of the Governor of Singapore Sir Robert Black, KCMG, OBE. HMS PANGLIMA, with a 117 foot fairmile type hull, has a beam of 20 feet and a draught of 7 feet, her hull is built of Siam teak and Malayan hardwood with steel and light alloy. Besides the captain’s cabin she has living accommodation of 9 officers and 39 ratings. She was completed and commissioned in May, 1956.

KD Panglima

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.

On 22nd September, 1964 Captain Banks was succeeded as Commanding Officer by Captain A.C.D. Leach, DSC, RMNVR.

On 29th July, 1965 His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Raja Permaisuri Agong paid an official visit to KD SINGAPURA. This was the first visit of the Division by members of the Malayan Royal Families and especially historic as being the first and last visit to Singapore by the monarch who on the occasion wore the uniform of an Admiral of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

On 9th August, 1965 Singapore separated from Malaysia and became an independent sovereign nation within the Commonwealth. A transitional period was allowed by both the Singapore and Malaysian governments before the Singapore Division was handed back.

By agreement with the Malaysian Government and by virtue of The Singapore Naval Volunteers Ordinance, 1966, the Singapore Division of the RMNVR became the Singapore Naval Volunteers (SNV) on 1st February, 1966 and its vessels (except KD PANGLIMA) were re-commissioned as Republic of Singapore Ships (RSS). They wore the Singapore Marine Ensign at the ensign staff and the Singapore State flag at the Jackstaff. KD SINGAPURA (the SNV headquarter ship) and the BEDOK (a Police patrol craft taken over by SNV in 1966) became RSS SINGAPURA and RSS BEDOK respectively. Command of the SNV and its ships was transferred from the Malaysian Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to the Singapore Ministry of the Interior and Defence (MID). KD PANGLIMA and all personnel called up for service in the RMN, however, remained under the command of the Chief of the Naval Staff of the RMN.

In a signal bearing date-time-group 310835Z Jan. 68, the Chief of the Naval Staff sent the following message to KD SINGAPURA:








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’.


           HISTORY OF SARAWAK NAVY  1850 - 1888

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
Displacement : 118t gross
Dimensions   : 103ft 4in x 17ft 2in (31.5 x 5.23m)
Machinery    : 1 shaft, 40nhp
Armament     : 2 small guns
Iron-hulled, schooner-rigged and with one funnel and two mast, built at Port Glasgow.
Discarded after 1914

2.     Aden - Paddle Gun vessel (launched 1884)
Displacement : 300t gross
Dimensions   : 149ft 9in x 25ft 2in (45.64 x 7.67m)
Machinery    : 75nhp = ? kts
Armament     : 1 small gun
Iron-hulled and schooner-rigged built at Port Glasgow.
Discarded after 1914.

3.     Aline - Gunboat (launched 1875)
Displacement : 175t gross
Dimensions   : 142ft 6in x 21ft 5in (43.45 x 6.48m)
Machinery    : 1 shaft, 35nhp
Armament     : 2 small guns (2 x 1 )
Iron-hulled and schooner-rigged, with one funnel and two mast, built at Port Glasgow.
Discarded after 1914.

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)
and L'Aubaine.




       First Malaysian Chief Of Naval Staff                                                                                      Commodore K. THANABALANSINGAM, AMN.                                 Appointed Chief 1st December 1967



 Merdeka Day (Independent's Day) 31st August 1957



 MERDEKA day 31st August 1957

( Click photo - video clip ) 

Flag hoisting ceremony held at
Merdeka stadium. 





 On 31st August 1957, LRTO Oliver Cuthbert Samuel (J800283) and ABTO Shariff  Kalam (J800663) of the Royal Malayan Navy (then) were given the honour of hoisting the Federation of Malaya Flag at Merdeka Stadium on Merdeka day ( Independent's day ). 



KD Panglima
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).

KD Panglima


     HIJMS Wakataka / HMMS Laburnum / RSS Singapura

Compiled by : Tuan Haji Mohd Ismail Mirasa (Bingo)
 (RO) ( 24.11.2012)  

HIJMS Wakataka


     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
Displacement : 1,608 long tons standard - 1,860 tons normal
Length : 82.5m pp, 86.5m waterline
Beam : 11.3m
Draught : 4m
Propulsion : 2-shaft geared turbine engine, 3 boilers, 6,000 hp (4,500 kW)
Speed : 20 knots
Range : 3,000 nautical miles at 14 knots
Complement : 202
Electronic warfare & decoys : Type 22 and 13 radars and Type 93 and/or Type 3 sonar
Armament : 2 × Type 3 80 mm AA Guns, 4 × 13mm machine guns, 24 × Type 96 510m
anti-submarine nets or 100 × Type 93 naval mines


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.

Operational History

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.
At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, Wakataka was assigned to "Operation M", (the invasion of the northern Philippines), escorting several convoys of transports between the Japanese home islands, Palau and landing zones in the Philippines.
In January 1942, Wakataka was assigned to the invasion of Dutch Borneo, covering the invasion of Tarakan by the Kure No. 2 SNLF and the Sakaguchi Brigade (the 56th. Mixed Infantry Brigade) early at the beginning of the month, and Balikpapan at the end of the month. On 10 March, Wakataka was re-assigned to the Second Expeditionary Fleet under the Southwest Area Fleet, based at Surabaya and was assigned to patrol and convoy escort duties. During Operation S (the invasion of the Lesser Sunda Islands) in May, Wakataka transported a portion of the Yokosuka No.1 SNLF from Surabaya to Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, and Kupang on Timor. Following the successful completion of that operation, Wakataka remained on patrol duty in the Netherlands East Indies until December 29, 1942, when she was reassigned to the 25th Base Force of the Southwest Area Fleet, and participated in the capture of Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea in January 1943.
During most of 1943, Wakataka shuttled between Ambon Manokwari and Hollandia, with occasional voyages to Palau and to points around Halmahera. She was reassigned to the Fourth Expeditionary Fleet (still within the Southwest Area Fleet in November), and transported part of the IJA 26th. Division to New Guinea by the end of the year.

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
layer Itsukushima from Celebes but was spotted by Royal Dutch Navy submarine HNLMS Swaardvisch (P322) (ex HMS Talent) while transiting the Java Sea on 17 October. Swaardvisch fired five torpedoes, one of which sank Itsukushima, and another of which struck Wakataka in the bow but did not explode.

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.