Malaysia trip report #2 – The Royal Malaysian Navy, Customs and Maritime museums, Melaka

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia) Melaka

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia) Melaka

During my first trip to Malaysia I did not leave Kuala Lumpur and whilst I did get to visit the Air Force and Police museums as well as some militaria shops, I did not make it to the two other places that I was keen to see, the Royal Malaysian Army and Royal Malaysian Navy museums, both of which are outside of KL.  So, on a return from a trip to visit the battlefields of Central Vietnam, I arranged to extend the break between AirAsia flights to give me a couple more nights in Malaysia.  Arriving at KLIA from Danang in the early evening, I took a taxi straight from the airport to the town of Melaka, about an hour and a half’s drive away. A one way trip cost me roughly the equivalent of US$45 and whilst it was not the cheapest option, it was the quickest for somebody who only had limited time.

Melaka (also referred to as Malacca) is the capital of the state of Malacca in the southwest of Malaysia and during the 15th century was one of South East Asia’s greatest trading ports, so as a result the town is steeped in maritime history. I came to visit the Malaysian Navy Museum, but first stop was the Maritime Museum of Malacca, situated just across the road and housed in a 36m long replica of the Flor De La Mar, a treasure-laden 16th century Portuguese galleon which sank during a storm in 1511 somewhere in the Straits of Malacca. The museum gives an overview of Malacca’s importance as a regional trading hub and its seafaring traditions from the time of the Malacca Sultanate through the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods. I quite enjoyed the museum, particularly the models and the cost of entry also included the Navy Museum, so this is definitely worth including on a visit to the Melaka.

Melaka Maritime Museum / Flor De La Mar                                                                          

Jalan Merdeka, Bandar Hilir,                                                                                                                75000 Melaka

Telephone: +60 (0)6-282 6526

Email: helpdesk@perzim.gov.my

Web: www.perzim.gov.my

Right next door to the Maritime Museum is the Royal Malaysian Customs Department Museum (Muzium Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia) so I decided to check it out as well. This is a fascinating museum that is free to visit and has an abundance of items on display.  Exhibits include uniforms, customs measuring devices and of course, various seized items of contraband ranging from pornography to weapons and narcotics.

Royal Malaysian Customs Department Museum (Muzium Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia). Knives seized by Malaysian Customs. The brass handled dagger design appears to have been influenced by aspects of the Fairbairn Sykes commando stiletto.

Royal Malaysian Customs Department Museum (Muzium Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia). Knives seized by Malaysian Customs. The brass handled dagger appears to have been influenced by some design and manufacture aspects of the Fairbairn Sykes commando stiletto.

Royal Malaysian Customs Department Museum

Jalan Merdeka, Bandar Hilir,                                                                                                                75000 Melaka

Telephone: +60 (0)6-2833924

Web: http://www.customs.gov.my/en/mp

Across the road, the Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia) or Muzium TLDM to the locals, is dedicated specifically to the Malaysian Navy rather than a general naval history of Malaysia. Through a series of didactic panels, supported by various exhibits the museum outlines the development of the Royal Malaysian Navy and the role it plays in Malaysian society. The material being displayed is a mixture of equipment, uniforms, insignia, photographs and items related to the Royal Malaysian Navy’s interactions with other nations naval forces.

As a badge collector, I found the insignia exhibits particularly informative as it is often difficult to find good reference material identifying contemporary uniforms and badges. Most of the explanatory captions and panels also include English translations so it is quite easy to make sense of the displayed material. My specific interest in Airborne and Special Forces unit insignia was also well catered for with displays of uniforms and insignia relating to the Malaysian Naval Special Operations unit, Pasukan Khas Laut or more commonly known as PASKAL also being shown in the exhibits.

Insignia detail of a uniform worn by members of the Malaysian Naval Special Operations unit, Pasukan Khas Laut, more commonly known as PASKAL.

Insignia detail of a uniform worn by members of the Malaysian Naval Special Operations unit, Pasukan Khas Laut, more commonly known as PASKAL.

After spending the middle of the day checking out the Maritime and Naval Museums, I took a stroll back to my room via the touristy Jonker Street, checking out a couple of antique shops along the way. Nothing much to satisfy my needs and possibly over-priced to take advantage of gullible tourists such as myself, but worth a look anyway. In retrospect I should have headed to the Submarine Museum (Muzium Kapal Selam) but I had wanted to check out the shops around Jonker Street, so all good… next time. Then it was time for a quick bite and a beer before retiring for the night. In the morning I’d arranged for an early pick up to take me to back to KL International Airport via the Army Museum at Port Dickson… and I’ll save those pix for another post.

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium TLDM)                                                                      

Jalan Merdeka, Bandar Hilir,                                                                                                                75000 Melaka

Telephone: +60 (0)6-283 0926

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:30 (closed 12:15 – 14:45 Friday)

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia)

Royal Malaysian Navy Museum (Muzium Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia)

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Malaysia trip report #1- Two days in KL.

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.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

One of the many interesting armoured vehicles found in the grounds of the Police Museum, the “Armoured Wickham Trolley” (AWT) armoured car was used by the Federation of Malaya Police during the emergency from 1953 until 1960 as a pilot train and guard vehicle. It carried up to six policemen at any one time.

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.

Royal Malaysian Police 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.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

Pre Federation uniforms and plaques in Gallery A of the Police Museum.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum.

Federated Malay States Police Cap, 1920

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

‘Songkok’ (cap) used by the Deputy Commissioner of Johore Police

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.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

Improvised ‘hand guns’ made by chopping down .303 Lee Enfield bolt action rifles.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

Quite an unusual item in Gallery B. A very rarely seen grenade launcher built on to an M-2 Carbine. Up until seeing this example in Gallery B I thought that the only option for this weapon was the M8 type launchers.

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

Pertama Complex

A selection of current Malaysian badges in the shop window of Uni Karisma Dagang shop at the Pertama Complex

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.

Malaya Trading Company

Exterior of the long running ‘Malaya Trading Company’. Because of its slightly hard to find location, I’d suggest using a taxi and take a map. My driver had to stop twice to ask for directions to the exact location.

Malaya Trading Company

TSG Malaysia Trading SDN. BHD, formerly known as the Malaya Trading Company.

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

Location of Malaya Trading Co and Pertama Complex military tailors

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

Pertama Complex

Uni Karisma Dagang, tucked away in the bottom corner of the Pertama Complex.

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.

Malaysian_Air_Force_Museum-

Aircraft hanger at the Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum

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.

Malaysian_Air_Force_Museum--14

Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum

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.

The selection of RMAF patches available for sale at the Air Force museum.

The selection of RMAF patches available for sale at the Air Force museum.

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

National Museum Negara

National Museum Negara. The small selection of items related to the Japanese occupation of Malaya during WW2.

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 Art Museum

Islamic Art Muesum. Ottoman Turk double-barrelled flintlock pistol with concealed dagger. Walnut woodwork inlaid with silver and overlaid with gold. Circa 19th Century.

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.