Ceylon (Malay) Rifle Regiment – Orang Regiment

In 1802, the Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II had sent a contingent of his Malay subjects to serve in Celyon (now Sri Lanka) where they were also joined by Malays from the Straits Settlement namely Malacca (Melaka), Singapore and Penang (Pulau Pinang).
By the end of January 1803, hostilities began to arise between the British and the Kandy Kingdom. Two British military expeditionary forces were established, one consist of  1900 men comprising European infantrymen of the 1st Foot, 19th Foot, 2 companies of Bengal Artillery, a company of Malays from the 1st Ceylon Regiment and the others made up of lascoreens of the Ceylon Native Infantry. Another force comprising 700 men mostly Malays of the 1st Ceylon and Sepoys of the Madras Artillery together with some Moorish gunners under the command of Colonel Barbut, commenced its expedition from Fort Ostenburg in Trincomalee.
The Malays in Ceylon were not only serving their British master. Some joined the Kandy Kingdom as mercenaries and King’s bodyguard known as Padikara Peruwa. These were remnant of the Dutch Army commanded by Governor Baron Van Eck that were left behind during the Dutch-Kandyan War in 1765-1766.
Others were former soldiers of the of the Dutch Malay Corps who deserted to the Kandyans, since they did not want to join the British after the Maritime Provinces were surrendered by the Dutch in 1796. There were also those Malay soldiers who had taken loans from their officers and being unable to pay back, melted away into the countryside and later joined the Kandyan King who was always on the lookout for trained soldiers for his army.
Among Kandyan Malay famous chief was Prince (sometimes referred as Captain) Sangunglo or Sankelan whose half brothers Capt Noordin (Nuruddin) Gowa and Capt Karaeng Sapinine (Saifuddin) were captured during the fierce fight between the Kandyan and the British forces. Sangunglo himself was killed during the fight. After stabbing Quartermaster Brown with his Kris in a close quarter battle he was bayoneted by Ensign Barry and the death blow was delivered by Major Davie with his sword.
Nevertheless, Major Davie and his men were quickly overwhelmed and captured. The Major was beheaded. Capt Noordin and his brother were killed weeks later after they refused to prostrate to the Kandyan King. The King was enraged and ordered them to be hanged and their bodies were thrown to the jungle without proper Islamic burial. The sacrifice and loyalty of Capt Noordin and the his men of the 1st Ceylon (Malay) Rifle regiment has touched Governor Fredrick North.
Another well known ex-soldier was Drum Major ‘William’ O’Deane, a Malay non-commissioned officer of the 1st Ceylon Regiment, who deserted to the Kandyans in the war of 1803. He was absorbed into the service of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe and provided with a Singhalese girl as his wife. For over ten years he lived there contentedly and had three children. But the happy days were to end soon. The British invaded Kandy again, and this time they had the backing of several Kandyan Chiefs. When the Kingdom was captured by the British in 1815, O’Deane and his family were among those captured. He was arrested for his act of treason by deserting to the enemy, summarily court-martialed, and then sentenced to be shot.
However O’Deane had much information on his former Commanding Officer, Major Davie, whilst he was a captive of the Kandyan monarch. In addition, Governor Robert Brownrigg was impressed with the ‘uniform good conduct’ of the 1st Ceylon (Malay) Regiment. Taking these factors as mitigation, O’Dean’s sentence was subsequently commuted to “transportation to the Penal settlement of New South Wales in Australia”. And so, O’Deane and family sailed away from Ceylon in Jan 1816 on board the “HMS Kangaroo”. A chapter in his life ended and a new one began.
O’Deane was subsequently appointed as a Watchman, then Constable of the govt. domain and as Malay Interpreter for the Australian government until his retirement.
After the complete conquest of Ceylon in 1815, the 1st Ceylon (Malay) Regiment enjoyed a high status. Nevertheless, throughout the years, the numbers of Malay recruits from Malaya seems to be dwindling despite the fact that recruiting stations have been established in Penang and Singapore. From 1847 until 1854, a contingent of a Malay detachment was sent to serve in Hong Kong but they suffered heavy casualties there. Despite the Regiment’s success to quash a rebellion in 1848, its popularity among the Malay seems to dwindle and by 1870′s most of the men joined local police force or return to Malaya.
A Corporal of the 1st CRR
A Corporal of the 1st CRR
Ceylon remains important to Malaya throughout the 20th century especially when the Japanese Imperial Forces invaded Malaya in December 1941. After the Fall of Malaya and Singapore on February 1942, men of the Malay Navy Section and Malay officers attending training in India or the U.K later joined OSS’s Force 136, the fore-bearer of today’s Malaysian special operation force.
Those who stayed established a unique Malay minority known as the Sri Lankan Malay. Today, less than 40,000 Malays still lived in Sri Lanka and they had continue to play significant role in the Sri Lankan military and police force. 4 Sri Lankan Malays became Brigadier General in the Army while others became top officers in the police force and intelligence unit.
Among Sri Lankan Malay Generals were Brig Gen T.S.B ‘Tacky’ Sally (Tuan Samayraan Buhary Sally), Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan Army, Brig Gen Tuan Fadyl Meedin, Brig Gen Suraj Bangsajayah and Brig Gen M.Z.R Sallay.
Brig Gen T.S.B Sally
Brig Gen T.S.B Sally
Colonel Tuan Nizam Muthaliff is a recipient of  Rana Wickrama Padakkama for his gallantry in the battlefield during war against the LTTE insurgents. Unfortunately he was killed by the LTTE gunman on May 31, 2005.
Col T.N. Mutaliff
Col T.N. Mutaliff
M.R. Latiff, another Sri Lankan Malay was the Deputy Inspector General of Police.
More on the 1st Ceylon (Malay) Rifle Regiment hereherehere and here
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