120 soldiers of the Royal Malay Regiment have become the first all-Islamic Company to provide a British monarch's ceremonial guard. The following are excerpts from a report by Shell Daruwala.
email@example.com, on Flickr" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/22214753@N07/2496568713/" target=_blank>At Buckingham Palace on Friday 2 May 2008, red jackets and black bearskins were replaced by pristine white tunics, brocade 'sampins' and gold-banded 'songkoks', when the Malay Regiment changed guards with 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. The Regiment is visiting the UK to strengthen ties between Malaysia and the UK. Malaysia is only the fourth Commonwealth nation, after Canada, Australia and Jamaica, to be honoured in performing Public Duties in England.
Major Mohd Fuad bin Md Ghazali led his Company as the Malaysian Army's first Captain of the Guard at Buckingham Palace: "It is a great honour to be here guarding Her Majesty, who is the Head of the Commonwealth, and it is an expression of the close ties between our two countries."
firstname.lastname@example.org, on Flickr" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/22214753@N07/2496569025/" target=_blank>The Royal Malay Regiment (RMR), or Rejimen Askar Melayu DiRaja, is the most senior in the Malaysian Army. The 1st Battalion (1 RMR) is the ceremonial battalion to their King and only draws recruits from the ethnic Malay population. Because the State religion of Malaysia is Islam, the elite soldiers of the 1st Battalion must all be practicing Muslims. 1 Battalion RMR is allied to the Royal Anglian Regiment.
Founded by British Commanding Officer, G McBruce in 1933, the Royal Malay Regiment began life as an Experimental Company of just 25 men, becoming the Malay Regiment, with a complement of 150 men on 1 January 1935. The Regiment now consists of 25 Battalions and has a distinguished record of service in the Second World War, The Malaysian Emergency in the 1950s and the Indonesian Confrontation in the 1960s. More recently, the Regiment's 19 (Mechanised) Battalion were involved in the rescue of downed American servicemen during The Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 – a story immortalised in the Hollywood film 'Black Hawk Down'.
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The Regiment's own band accompanied the Guards onto parade. Wearing Malay dress uniform consisting of white tunics and trousers, gold and green brocade 'sampins' (a type of kilt or sarong), topped off with gold-banded, green velvet 'songkoks' (Islamic caps), the bandsmen played a selection of traditional Malaysian tunes to the delight of the gathered crowds.
Major Norhisham bin Kamar, of 1 RMR, said that this was a proud moment for the Regiment: "This is a very historical moment for us doing this job, and we will show the best to the audience here, as well as to the Queen.” He said that this was also a way to help break through religious tensions between the people of Islamic and non-Islamic nations: "Nowadays there is some difficulties between religion," he said. "Here we will show that Muslim countries can work together with non-Muslim countries. We came from a Colonial country - there's no problem with us – and can show how Muslim countries have no problem to work together with other people."
Welsh Guards Drill Sergeant, Warrant Officer Second Class Dorian Thomas, was one of the three British trainers who spent three weeks training the RMR in Malaysia, preparing them for their ceremonial duties in the UK. He said: "I've now trained many incremental Companies that have come across here, and their standard of drill to begin with was immaculate. All we really had to teach was the procedures, or the different procedures we use on our Guard Bands."
Following the ceremony, WO2 Thomas said that the Malaysians had been outstanding; the best visiting company he had ever seen. Another of the trainers was Warrant Officer Class 1 W D G Mott OBE, who is the Garrison Sergeant Major at London District and oversees all the Royal ceremonial parades taking place in London and the Home Counties: "I think it's lovely to have the Malay Regiment on guard now," he said. "They're on Queen's Guard. They've mounted. They're very professional. They've got a lovely attitude towards it.
“From the inception of this with the Chief of General Staff with the Chief of Army over in Malay, General Ismael, everything has been 'cooking on gas'. They've been positive all the way through – very professional as I say – and it's lovely to have them on board... The Malay Regiment are very professional men and they've come on board with an absolutely outstanding attitude. And that three weeks – you'd think they've been training for about six months." He said that Malaysians everywhere should take pride in the professionalism of their soldiers: "If we have Malay persons that live in this country, they should be proud and they should come into London to see them. Over in Malaysia they should be very, very proud of their countrymen that are over here on Royal Guards looking after Her Majesty, the Sovereign."
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