Taiping platoon guards, 1930


(Photograph source: Arkib Negara Malaysia)

Front (left to right): Pte. Mat Shah (died 1932), Sgt. Wan Mohamed, Raja Hussain, Ariffin and Wan Hashim.
Back row (left to right): Pte. Mohamad, Pte. Hashim and anon.

These men posing at the guard room possibly represent a platoon of the 1st Perak Battalion of the Malay States Volunteer Rifles, later the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force (FMSVF).


Footnote: 8 November 2009 is Remembrance Day, during which HM Queen Elizabeth II will lead the UK in remembering the war dead, previously known as Armistice Day which was a public holiday on 11 November in the Malay States during British colonial times. The day is now moved to the Sunday nearest to 11 November. Malaysia remembers her war dead on Hari Pahlawan which is on 31 July.

Platoon VIII (Taiping), Perak Battalion – Armistice Day Parade in Taiping, 1931


Armistice Day is the anniversary of the symbolic end of World War I on 11 November 1918. The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, to commemorate those members of the armed forces who were killed during war. The 1st Perak Battalion was part of the Malay States Volunteer Rifles, later the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force (FMSVF). As the Federated Malay States consisted of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang, volunteers from these states were also organised into 4 Battalions:

Perak – 1st Battalion FMSVF
Selangor – 2nd Battalion FMSVF
Negri Sembilan – 3rd Battalion FMSVF
Pahang – 4th Battalion FMSVF

There was also an FMSVF Signals Battalion, FMSVF Light (Artillery) Battery, FMSVF Reserve Motor Transport Company and FMSVF Field Ambulance units. The total number of men in the FMSVF was 5,200. The origin of the Volunteers was in Britain’s major conflicts of the 19th and early 20th centuries – the Crimean War led to the enrolment in 1854 of the original Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps with its proud motto In Oriente Primus (‘First in the East’), and the Boer War of 1899-1902 further stimulated the Volunteer movement with the formation of the Malay States Volunteer Rifles in 1915. The Volunteers came from all nationalities and walks of life in the pre-war British Malaya. They were not only Europeans, but Malays, Chinese, Indians and Eurasians. They came from all branches of the Malayan Government Service, from the Mines and Plantations, from the business communities, from the Medical Profession and from the Church. Many other civilians who would have joined the Volunteers, were prevented from doing so because they were in so-called ‘reserved occupations’ considered essential for the continued smooth running of the country. Whatever their background, they were motivated by a profound sense of wanting to do everything in their power to defend the country.

1. Wikipedia
2. Fell R. The Malayan Volunteer Forces. COFEPOW website.

The courage of Captain Raja Aman Shah

Raja Aman Shah as a teenager, 1921.

Raja Aman Shah as a teenager, 1921.

YM Captain Raja Aman Shah was the son of YAM Raja Haji Harun al-Rashid ibni Almarhum Sultan Idris Murshidul Azzam Shah, the Raja Kechil Sulong (1918-1945). He was born in 1902 and was educated at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar.

He was initially commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Perak Batallion of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force (FMSVF) in 1929. He was also the Assistant District Officer in several districts around the Federated Malay States (FMS), including Ulu Selangor (1933-1934), Kuala Langat (1934-1936) and Jelebu (1936-1938), and was finally the District Officer for Port Dickson in 1938.

He was made Captain in the 3rd Negri Sembilan Batallion and served in World War 2 during the Japanese invasion of Malaya in 1941. When the FMS and Straits Settlement Volunteer Forces were mobilised at the beginning of the invasion, he applied to be released into military service, even though he could have remained as DO.

A photo of Raja Aman Shah posing in uniform. (Newspaper clipping courtesy of Mazeta Hassan)

He and his comrades of the Volunteer Force fought bravely against the Japanese army in Johor and ultimately in Singapore in 1942. Following the fall of Singapore on February 15 1942, Capt Raja Aman Shah along with other soldiers from the Royal Malay Regiment and the British Volunteer Forces were rounded up in Farrer Park. In his book, Malay Nationalism Before Umno: The Memoirs of Mustapha Hussain, Mustapha Hussain described the selflessness of Capt Raja Aman Shah who declined an escape attempt from the Farrer Park detention camp and was willing to cover for a fellow POW from Perak if there was an investigation by the Japanese. He was also initially given a chance to be released, but declined when he was told that the release letter was for him alone. He then said that it was Allah’s will if he was to be released, and it was also Allah’s will if he and his comrades were to die together.

On February 28th 1942, he and the other POWs were marched on foot from Farrer Park to Geylang. Whilst many Malay volunteers were released to return home by the Japanese, the remaining Malay officers that remained were rounded up and brought to Bedok where all were shot at close range in trenches. The bodies of these Malay Officers, along with that of Capt Raja Aman Shah, were left where they fell, and were not accorded a formal burial.


Memorial plaque at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore – Raja Aman Shah is named in the third column. (Photograph Copyright © Martin Edwards 2005)

Capt Raja Aman Shah was posthumously decorated and was commemorated on the Singapore Memorial at the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.

[YM Capt Raja Aman Shah Raja Harun Al Rashid was married to YAM Tunku Baharum binti Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid, daughter of the Sultan of Kedah, and one of his sons was also an officer of the Armed Forces, YM Major (R) Raja Ahmad Feisal Raja Aman Shah.]

1. RoyalArk.net
2. Hussain M. Courageous fighting Malay men. In Malay Nationalism Before Umno: The Memoirs of Mustapha Hussain. p 9-14
3. Sheppard M. Man of valour. In MCKK Impressions (1905-2005). p 10-12
4. www.roll-of-honour.com