Malaya Command

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Malaya Command
Active 1924 to 1942; 1945 to 1957
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Command
Garrison/HQ Singapore

The Malaya Command was a formation of the British Army formed in the 1920s for the coordination of the defences of British Malaya,[1] which comprised the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States and the Unfederated Malay States. It consisted mainly of small garrison forces in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Taiping, Seremban and Singapore.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the command reinforced its strength in anticipation. With the bulk of British forces being tied down in the war in Europe and the Near East, the command was mainly augmented by units from India.

On 18 November 1940, the command was placed under the command of the British Far East Command and later on 7 January 1942 under the short-lived South West Pacific Command or ABDACOM which was tasked to maintain control of the "Malay Barrier" (or "East Indies Barrier"), a notional line running down the Malayan Peninsula, through Singapore and the southernmost islands of Dutch East Indies.

The command was disbanded on 15 February 1942 with the surrender of all Commonwealth forces in the conclusion of the Battle of Singapore.

With the Surrender of Japan, the command was re-formed from the 14th Army with its HQ based in Singapore on 1 November 1945. The command was divided and downgraded to two separate military districts; the Malaya District and Singapore District in August 1947 but was upgraded again into a full command in August 1950 due to the Malayan Emergency.

With the independence of Malaya on 31 August 1957 the command was disbanded and succeeded by Overseas Commonwealth Land Forces (Malaya).

Formation and Structure[edit]

In November 1940, the total strength of Malaya Command was at 17 battalions. The Indian Army contingent was mainly organised as III Corps with their HQ based in Kuala Lumpur.

When Japanese forces invaded Malaya on 8 December 1941, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Malaya in charge of Malaya Command, with a force of 88,600 faced the 70,000 strong Twenty Fifth Army of the Imperial Japanese Army under the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita.

Allied Land Forces (8 December 1941)[edit]

As of 8 December 1941

Indian III Corps[edit]

  • As of 7 December 1941

Commanding Officer Indian III Corps – Lt Gen Lewis Heath

Maj-Gen Arthur Edward Barstow, 28 January 1942 at Layang-Layang near Bota)
HQ : Kuala Lumpur
Brig Berthold Wells Key
HQ : Kota Bharu
Brig G.W.A.Painter
HQ : Kuantan
  • Command Troops
  • 88th (2nd West Lancashire) Field Regiment RA – Lt. Col. Sylvain Claude D'Aubuz
  • 42nd Field Park Company (Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners)
Maj-Gen David Murray-Lyon / Brig Archibald Paris / Maj-Gen Berthold Wells Key
HQ : Sungai Petani
Brig William Oswald Lay / Lt. Col. Henry Sloane Larkin
HQ : Jitra
Brig Kenneth Alfred Garrett/Brig. W. St.John Carpendale
HQ : Jitra
Brig W. St J. Carpendale / Lt. Col. W.R. Selby
HQ : Ipoh
  • 11th Division Command Troops
  • 3rd Cavalry (IA) – Lt. Col. Julian Gerald Barnes De Wilton
  • 100th Light Tank Squadron – Major Jack Alford (  12 Feb 1942)
  • 137th (2nd West Lancashire) Field Regiment RA – Lt. Col. Charles Holmes (  at Slim River)
  • 155th (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment RA – Lt. Col. Augustus Murdoch (  at Slim River)
  • 80th Anti-Tank Regiment RA – Lt. Col. William E.S. Napier
  • 85th Anti-Tank Regiment RA – Lt. Col. A.J. Lardner-Clarke
  • 1st Independent Company – Major Sheppard Percy Fearon
  • 23rd Field Company (Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners)
  • 43rd Field Park Company RE
Lt. Col. H.D. Moorhead
  • Line of Communications Brigade
Brig R.G. Moir
  • Fortress Penang
Brig C.A. Lyon
HQ : Penang
  • Support Units

Australian 8th Division[edit]

Maj Gen Gordon Bennett
HQ : Kluang
Brig Harold Burfield Taylor
HQ : MersingEndau
Brig Duncan Maxwell
HQ : Kluang

Fortress Singapore[edit]

Commanding Officer – Maj Gen Frank Keith Simmons HQ : Singapore

  • Fortress Singapore Division
Maj Gen F. K. Simmons
Brig G. C. R. Williams
Brig F. H. Fraser
  • Straits Settlements Volunteer Force Brigade
Col R G Grimwood
  • Royal Engineers Brigade
Brig I. Simson
  • Artillery Brigade
Brig Alec Warren Greenlaw Wildey
  • Support Units

Malaya Command Reserve[edit]

Commanding Officer : Brig.A.C.M. Paris / Lt. Col. I.M. Stewart HQ : Port Dickson

HQ : Port Dickson
  • 122nd (West Riding) Field Regiment, RA – Lt. Col. George St.John Armitage Dyson (  22 November 1942)

Sarawak Force (SARFOR)[edit]

Commanding Officer : Maj C. M. Lane HQ : Kuching

Maj C. M. Lane
HQ : Kuching

Christmas Island[edit]

Commanding Officer : Capt J. Williams HQ : Christmas Island


Arrived January – February 1942[edit]

  • 5th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment – Lt. Col. E.C. Prattley
  • 6th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment – Lt. Col. Ian C.G. Lywood (  at Alexandra Hospital Massacre)
  • 2nd Battalion The Cambridgeshire Regiment – Lt. Col. Gordon Calthrop Thorne (Died, Indian Ocean while attempting to escape)
  • 4th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment – Lt. Col. A.E.Knights
  • 4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment – Lt. Col. A.A.Johnson
  • 5th Battalion Suffolk Regiment – Lt. Col. Lionel John Baker
  • Divisional Troops
  • 88th (2nd West Lancashire) Field Regiment, RA (TA) – Lt. Col. S.C.D'Aubuz
  • 118th (8th London) Field Regiment, RA (TA) – Lt. Col. C.E.Mackellar
  • 135th (Hertfordshire Yeomanry)Field Regiment, RA – Lt. Col. Philip John Denton Toosey
  • 148th (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, RA – Lt. Col. S.W.Harris
  • 85th Anti-Tank Regiment, RA – Lt. Col. A.J.Lardner-Clarke
  • 125th (Northumbrian) Anti-Tank Regiment, RA – Lt. Col. J.Dean
  • 287th Field Company
  • 288th Field Company
  • 560th Field Company
  • 251st Field Park Company

Allied Air Force units in Malaya December 1941[edit]

There were 161 front line aircraft, including 3 Royal Netherlands Air Force Catalina flying boats, based in Malaya and on Singapore Island on 8 December 1941. These units came under the control of Far East Air Force (Royal Air Force) under the command of Air Vice Marshal C.W.H.Pulford until February 1942 when Air Vice Marshal P.C.Maltby[3] took command.

Based on Singapore Island[edit]

Brewster Buffalo Mark Is from No. 453 Squadron RAAF being inspected by RAF personnel at Sembawang Airfield, Singapore on 12 October 1941.

Based in Northern Malaya[edit]

  • Gong Kedak;
  • Detachment from No. 36 Squadron RAF[6] – 6x Vickers Videbeest


Commanders-in-Chief have included:[9][10][11]
GOC Troops in the Straits Settlements

GOC Malaya Command

Note from 1943 to 1945 Malaya was under Japanese control

GOC Malaya District

GOC Malaya

See also[edit]

Japanese Order of Battle, Malayan Campaign


  1. ^ George Ernest Morrison 'The correspondence of G.E. Morrison'
  2. ^ L, Klemen (1999–2000). "The Mystery of Christmas Island – March 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. 
  3. ^ L, Klemen (1999–2000). "Air Vice-Marshal Sir Paul (Copeland) Maltby". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. 
  4. ^ 453 Squadron RAAF, Australian War Memorial 
  5. ^ 21 Squadron RAAF, Australian War Memorial 
  6. ^ a b c Niehorster, Leo (2000). "Order of Battle-Royal Air Force-Far East Command-Norgroup". World War II Armed Forces. 
  7. ^ 1 Squadron RAAF, Australian War Memorial 
  8. ^ 8 Squadron RAAF, Australian War Memorial 
  9. ^ Whitaker's Almanacks 1924 – 1957
  10. ^ Malaya Command at
  11. ^ Army Commands
  12. ^ L, Klemen (1999–2000). "Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. 


Further reading[edit]