Sikh History of Malaysia
The lack of knowledge among most non Sikhs about Sikh gallantry, bravery and heroism is very widespread. This is not unusual where minorities are concerned. The role of a minority community is always down played. This can be seen when reading about the British Empirical Forces; in the history of East African States the role of the Asian migrants has been downplayed.
The same has happened in the far eastern Malaysia where the role of the non-Malays has been almost forgotten; in this is included the role of the Sikh Police and army men, who not only were pioneers, but also laid the roots of the current policing of countries like Fiji, Singapore and Malaysia. Unless, the Sikhs themselves take to write and share through all means available, it may just be forgotten in time to come. The same has happened in India, where the factual history of Sikhs, in every sphere of Indian is being played down and also distorted, when ever they can get away with it.
Being a Malaysian born, I have had particular interest in the Sikh role in Malaysia and have collected some material from time to time. I share here another one such story of Sikh heroism in Malaya.
Malaysian Sikh Role in defending the Country.
Today many Indian historians, [ as well as others in the newly independent ex colonies of the British] in the all India nationalist spirit try hard to play down the role of the Sikh participation as soldiers of the Raj and the extent of their heroism and role in the development of the British colonies.But such attempts can never be further from the truth; nor succeed, as someone somewhere will always have the real story and records to share with the world.
I shall try and cover the Sikh defence at Nyior, which I believe is in the state of Negeri Sembilan.There is also a Sungai Nyior in Province Wellesley.It was in late December 1941 that Captain Mohan Singh was captured after the invasion of Malaya by the advancing Japanese troops comming down from Singorra and crossing the land borders of Yala into Malaya.The captured Mohan Singh was the highest ranking Indian officer of the British Indian army.
The real founder of the Azad Hind Fauj, was Giani Pritam Singh Ji; who along with Major Fujiwara met with Capt.Mohan Singh on the outskirts of present day Alor Star, where he was held a prisoner.Giani Pritam Singh offered Capt.Mohan Singh the operational Command of the Azad Hind fauj, which he accepted, and became the first Operational Commander of the AHF.
It is very unfortunate while many of the papers, records and survivors are still around, Malaysian Sikhs have not impressed upon the government nor undertaken the task of preserving some form of memorial of this historic event on the exact spot or even in the nearest Gurduara at Alor Star, for future Sikh Malaysians and other Malaysians to be proud of their own history.
In September 1940, the situation in Malaya had deteriorated by the Japanese occupation of Northern China and Hong Kong and the threats to the Malay peninsular, the 5th Sikh brigade was despatched to be part of forces defending Malaya.Although the 5th Sikh brigade defended Kuantan, Moran, then Rawang and fought tenaciously at Labu, but the general order to withdraw was followed very orderly, even though at many positions the 5th Sikhs had given a great account of themselves and held the enemy back.
However, the most significant encounter of the 5th Sikhs took place at the battle of Nyior with the advancing Japanese forces.For the first time since the Japanese armies took to attacks and invasions of foreign lands in 1939, and before that in the Russo- Japanese war of 1902 , it was at the Battle of Nyior that the 5th Sikhs finally shattered the invincibility of the "invincible" Japanese myth.
In hand to hand fighting, charged fully with sharp bayonets and kirpans, the sky thundering with shouts of the Bole So Nihal-- Sat Sri Akal unnerved the large number of Japanese soldiers, who left their positions , throwing their arms in retreat in an effort to escape the fury and wrath of the 5th Sikhs, defending their own lines.Many hundreds of Japanese were bayonetted by the 2500 Sikhs charged to defend this line.The Sikhs continued to slaughter the enemy for good 30 minutes, chasing individually after Japanese soldier stragglers still trapped behind.
The Sikhs continued firing upon the Japanese at close ranges of 20 to 100 yards till the enemy had fully with drawn in disarray, and taken cover out of range defences.The Japanese had lost nearly 600 men, unknown injured that were dragged along;180 motor cycles, 300 hundred cycles, and also scores of heavy machine guns and five mortars that they abandoned on the far side of their original attacking positions.
The Sikhs role and success was complete.In an equal and determined fight the Sikhs had laid bare the " bogey of the super Japs".A group of Japanese moving through scrub , undergrowth and jungle attacked the Maran T harbour, as well as the wagon lines of the artillery.As battles raged furiously for sometime, a platoon of Sikhs of the D company [of the 5th Sikhs] charged with fixed bayonets in a furious counter attack.Again thundering out the war cry of the Sikh faith..Bole So Nihaal, Sat Sri Akaal!....the Sikhs charged....suddenly the noise died off and they saw 35 Japanese soldiers lying dead in front and around them, with the remaining fleeing back through the under growth, indicting this subsidiary battle too had been won by the Sikh soldiery.
The success of the Sikhs at Nyior was the most significant military event of the entire Malayan campaign.The brigade gained a name for heroic dash and determination coupled with good leadership.
There were headlines in all the newspapers upon the heroics of these Sikhs.The Japanese casualties were mentioned in detail. The sky thundering war cries of Sat Sri Akal were mentioned in detail. This highlights the great achievement of the 5th Sikhs.
It gave the allies the much needed confidence and brought appreciation and congratulations from notable persons like Maj Men.A.E Barstow, the divisional commander and Lt Gen Sir Levis Heath, the corps commander. Even Major General Gardon Bennet, the Australian GOC who at a conference on the 20th of August, had made derogatory remarks about Indian troops; was highly impressed by the Sikh achievement; and said so without mincing his words "Only if I had such men under my command, I can break the Japanese advance".
A few nights later, the news of the Sikh action at Nyior was carried out over the world service of the BBC. The Sikhs had exposed the imaginary invincibility of the Japanese soldiers, and shown to the British that they were better troops than the Japanese and the British...and far better than the Japanese in an equal fight, or even an unequal fight. For this the Sikhs were awarded the "BATTLE OF HONOUR of NYIOR". Malaysian Sikhs must identify these places and record in history so we can share with the others our own participation the defence of the country.
Related and other stories: