Here’s something that not many might know (I certainly didn’t before) – Malaysia has its very own version of Fort Knox !
Part of the coastal town of Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan is also known as ‘Bandar Tentera’ or Army Town, being home to numerous army camps and military training facilities. Through the main archway, a vast parade field stands to the right, while insignia, flags and murals line a long wall on the left. Barracks, housing and other facilities are scattered throughout the town, but visitors are allowed access to common areas such as the Muzium Tentera Darat or Army Museum.
I was surprised to find that the Army Museum defied stereotypes of how museums should be (ie boring) – there was loads to see and do, and a lot of interesting information to be gleaned from its interactive exhibits. Best part of it all? Entrance is free.
Upon entering, visitors are greeted by two large military aircrafts – a plane and a fighter jet. My bro ventured to ask if they were real, which made my mom laugh and ask if he thought they were plastic models.
Walking up the hill, where cannons and artillery line the sides
Looks like something out of a Star Wars film !
The main square, featuring a fountain and several monoliths inscribed with names of soldiers who have served in the army.
It started raining cats and dogs, so we retreated to the indoor exhibit area. (Above) A large propeller ?
Decompression chamber used by divers, to prevent necrosis from underwater pressure.
There are nine indoor galleries housed in two old buildings that have been converted into a museum. Each section depicts a different timeline in the history of Malaysia’s armed forces; from pre-independence right up til the present day. Some of the exhibits featured : pistols, guns and weaponry used by the British during Malaya’s colonial era, by the Japanese during World War II, and by the communists.
British officer’s cap. These were also worn by wealthy Chinese miners – mom remembers them from when she was a child in Perak, as her neighbour used to wear them while going about town.
The Japanese invaded Malaya via Thailand, riding down the coast on bicycles. They took the Peninsula in less than three months while the British retreated to their stronghold in Singapore (which eventually fell anyway).
Radio and communications equipment, bicycles and other items used during the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation. While we were walking around there were also some volunteers (?) walking around in army regalia. You are welcome to take pictures with them.
A section dedicated to Liutenant Adnan Saidi.
When mentioning Malaya’s greatest soldiers, his name will undoubtedly top the list. Considered a national hero by both Malaysians and Singaporeans, Adnan led a 42-strong platoon from the 1st Malay Regiment in defence of Singapore against the invading Japanese. Hopelessly outnumbered while defending Bukit Chandu in what is known as the Battle of Pasir Panjang, Adnan urged his men to fight to the end, despite enemy shelling from guns and tanks, as well as critical shortages of food, medical supplies and ammunition. On the last day, Adnan and his men were down to only a few hand grenades and fought with bayonets in hand-to-hand combat (figures on Wiki estimate that the Japanese losses were 800 (!) although not sure if this was inflated)
All members of the Malay regiment were killed, save one, who fell underneath a pile of dead bodies and pretended to be dead. Adnan himself was shot, tied to a tree upside down and stabbed with bayonets; his mutilated body never recovered. He was only 27.
I get goosebumps thinking of the immense love for the country that these brave men had that has shaped our history. If they had not fought so valiantly, perhaps more lives here would have been lost. And for that, I salute them.
Old posters from colonial times calling for people to join the armed forces.
Map of the Malay Regiment quarters in Port Dickson, pre-world war II.
Outdoor exhibits of military tanks and trucks.
Perhaps the most impressive section of the museum is the underground ‘tunnel’, made to replicate communist hideouts. Communists were mostly ethnic Chinese, and during WWII, were the largest anti-Japanese resistance force in Malaya (many Chinese hated the Japs for the cruelties inflicted on the people of China).
Working together with the Brits, they formed MPAJA or the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese army. After the Japanese were defeated, the MPAJA became a problem as they saw it as a chance to take over the ruling of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency, a dark chapter in the country’s history, lasted from 1948 – 1960, with communists waging war against the British. Lacking proper resources, they often fought guerilla-style in jungles and made ‘camps’ underground.
The dimly lit tunnel became increasingly claustrophobic after awhile. Thankfully the walk wasn’t too long, 15minutes tops if you’re also looking at the exhibits.
Guns and weaponry used by the communists.
AS mentioned earlier, a large part of the communists in Malaya were ethnic Chinese, so promotional materials were mostly in Chinese (some probably brought in from China).
A ‘sick bay’ where injured communists were operated on. Given the conditions (dark, dank and a lack of fresh air), I doubt many of these soldiers recovered properly. It was a dangerous life of hiding, fraught with dangers.
Glad to emerge back into daylight ! More exhibits of helicopters and aircraft.
Military jeep. Visitors are allowed to climb into them to take pictures.
It was a very informative/educational trip, and I was impressed with how well maintained everything was. Those visiting PD shouldn’t miss on paying this place a visit. And it’s free. 🙂
PORT DICKSON ARMY MUSEUM
Kem Sirusa,, Persiaran Pahlawan, Kampung Baru Sirusa, 71050 Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Open: Weds – Sun (10AM-5PM, closed Mon & Tues)