For my latest trip to Vietnam I decided to fly AirAsia and stop over in Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days to check out some of the military related museums and also see if I could find any interesting bits of militaria for my collection. Browsing the net I identified the Royal Malaysian Police Museum, the Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum and the Malaysian Armed Forces Museum as places of interest. I wasn’t able to find much information on militaria or antique dealers worth visiting, but fellow collector Sin Cheng Soon came to the rescue and suggested a couple of places which may be worthwhile.
Day 1. The Royal Malaysian Police Museum. First stop was the Royal Malaysian Police Museum, which is located at Lake Gardens, adjacent to the KL Bird Park, National Planetarium and a short walk from the Islamic Art Museum. Whilst walking past the latter I noticed an advertisement highlighting their arms and armour collection so decided, if time permitted, to include it on my itinerary.
Entry to the museum is free but photography is forbidden within the exhibition areas. The restriction on photography was a disappointment as the museum is extremely well planned and executed, with some very interesting and unusual artefacts that will be of interest to all militaria enthusiasts. I was able to discretely take some photos on my iphone, but they really do not do justice to the museum.
As can be expected, the various regional as well as Federal police forces in Malaysia played an important role in the ‘Emergency,’ which was in reality a guerrilla war but so named because of commercial concerns regarding the terminology and its effect on insurance policies. The museum is divided into four principle areas. The grounds surrounding the building feature a number of the larger exhibits including armoured vehicles, numerous artillery pieces, a police boat and fixed wing Cessna aircraft.
Entering the first exhibition area, Gallery A, you can see the various uniforms and insignia worn by the different regional police units since formation in Penang in 1807. There are also weapons, artefacts and a good overview of how Law & Order was maintained in the Malacca Sultanate era, through conquest by the Portuguese in 1511, then Dutch and finally British rule.
Gallery B continues the historical timeline and also includes the weapons gallery, which includes a very interesting cross section of small arms used by the police forces and also seized during the Emergency. There are some interesting examples of modified and home made weapons, including .303 SMLE rifles that had been ‘chopped down’ and converted to pistols as well as firearms ‘scratch-built’ by the Communist guerrillas in their secret workshops. There are also displays of medals and contemporary police uniforms within this gallery.
Gallery C features displays from the ‘Emergency period’, the ‘Confrontation’ with Indonesia as well as more displays relating to general policing and criminal activities. As with the other galleries, there are interesting ‘case histories’ throughout the exhibits giving insights into criminal gangs and specific incidents. I found the Royal Malaysian Police Museum to be extremely well planned, the exhibits to be well preserved and presented.
Royal Malaysian Police Museum, 5 Jalan Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur. Open 10am to 6 pm everyday except on Mondays. 10am to 12:30pm and 2:30pm to 6pm on Fridays. Tel: +6 03 2272 5689
Militaria Shops. Fellow collector Sin Cheng Soon suggested a couple of places that I could check out. First stop was the Malay Trading Company a military tailor’s shop that has been around for some time. It can be quite difficult to find and even my taxi driver had to ask for directions to confirm its location, so if you’re a first time visitor planning to visit, print out a map, the address and take a taxi. Whist there are still some faded 1950’s era posters, featuring British rank and qualification insignia on the walls, stocks of any of these are long gone and the shop only has a limited range of contemporary Royal Malaysian Armed Forces uniform items available for sale. They do still manufacture many badges and all their metal insignia has their MTC logo stamped on the reverse. I was able to pick up some generic Malaysian parachutist and pilots wings for my collection, but no specific unit insignia.
TSG Malaysia Trading SDN. BHD (Formerly known as Malaya Trading Co.) 93 Jalan Medan Bunus Jalan Masjid India 50100, KL Ph: +60 3 2698 5825
Using my map I was able to walk from the Malaya Trading Company to the Pertama Centre, which is one of KL’s older shopping malls. Squeezed in the left corner on the bottom floor are a couple more military tailor’s stores which feature more of the same, although the selection is somewhat larger than the MTC and includes some camouflage, field gear and equipment items. If you are chasing contemporary Malaysian military items and you know precisely what you are looking for, including the Malaysian names then these guys may have it, but once again, only contemporary issue items and I was unable to find any older obsolete insignia. The larger of the two shops is
Uni Karisma Dagang GF 06, Imej Ceria Pertama Complex Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, 50100 Kuala Lumpur Ph: +60 3 2694 1229
Day 2. The plan was to visit the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces Museum (Muzium Angkatan Tentera Malaysia) that according to the information gleaned from the Internet was supposed to be located within the Army base at Jalan Padang Tembak. However upon arrival I was told that the museum had been relocated to the town of Port Dickson, so nothing to report here.
Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum. Next on the list was the Air Force Museum, which was quite easy to find as it’s located at the old KL airport which can be seen from the freeway as you drive in to Kuala Lumpur from the International Airport.
I was particularly interested in the uniform and insignia exhibits, however these were all closed for renovation and when I asked when they would be reopening, the Air Force Duty Officer said that he did not know as they were awaiting a budgetary allocation to commence the refit. So, instead I had to be content with the aircraft hanger containing the various obsolete aircraft that had been used by the RMAF over the course of its history and the selection of rusting hulks in the field outside. Worth a visit if you are an aircraft buff, but at the present time, there is nothing else of interest as everything apart from the aircraft hanger is closed to the public. If you are an aviation patch collector you can buy examples of all the RMAF Squadron patches for RM10 each at the entrance gate.
Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum c/o RMAF Base Jalan Lapangan Terbang Lama, 50460 KL Ph: +60 3 241 1133 ext 4129 / 4198 Open: 10am – 4pm Saturday – Thursday Closed: Fridays and public holidays. http://www.malaysian-musuems.org/rmaf
So, with a bit of time on my hands, I decided to head to the Islamic Art Museum to check out their Arms & Armour collection. Along the way I stopped off at the National Museum Negara, which details the history and peoples of Malaysia. Like the Police museum this is a first class museum with good exhibits that are well presented and preserved. There isn’t a great deal of military items on display, I was hoping for more about the Colonial period and Japanese occupation during WW2 (a bicycle, Jap helmet and a few swords) but it does exhibit some interesting examples of Malaysian Kris’ and other regional edged weapons.
Islamic Art Museum Malaysia. Another well-presented museum where photography is prohibited, the museum, as it’s name suggests, details the art and design related to the Islamic faith. I particularly enjoyed looking at the scale models outlining significant mosques throughout the world and their small selection of arms & armour dating back several centuries is well worth a look.
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia Jalan Lembah Perdana 50480 Kuala Lumpur Ph: +60 3-2274 2020 Open: 10am – 6pm everyday Admission: RM12 (adult) http://www.iamm.org.my
Overall, I found that with some planning, the two days transit time that I had before heading to Vietnam were more than sufficient to cover the areas I wanted to see, plus still have time to relax with a cold beer and escape the oppressive humidity. English is widely spoken so there is no difficulty in communicating or reading the descriptive plaques at the museums. I mostly used a taxi to commute between locations and I would suggest that if doing the same, only take one where the driver is prepared to use the meter, in my experience these guys are more honest and helpful than the taxi’s loitering near the tourist traps who insist on outrageous fixed prices and are quite reluctant to find specific locations if they’re not immediately known to them. On my return journey I’ll pass through Malacca where I visit the Royal Malaysian Navy Museum and return to KL via Port Dickson so that I can see the Armed Forces Museum.