The Straits Settlements RNVR and Malayan Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve
The Straits Settlements Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve was formed in Singapore on the 27th April 1934. Its HQ ship from 1935 was the sloop HMS Laburnum which arrived from New Zealand with its Kiwi crest and was berthed in the Telok Ayer basin. In 1934 the Straits Settlements RNVR consisted of 25 officers and 150, mostly Malay, ratings. By 1939 it had expanded to100 officers and 300 ratings with a Penang section established under Commander Alexander RN.
Shore training/drill was initially held at SSVF HQ Beach Rd, Singapore with sea training aboard the Governor's Yacht 'Sea Belle 11' and later aboard HMS Penyengat. Annual 14 day sea training was aboard RN ships. Those who were mechanics and electricians in their civilian life were given more specialist training.
Two 75ft motor launches HMS Panglima and HMS Palawan were commissioned for sea patrols. In 1938 HMS Laburnum was 'hulked' and its funnels removed but it remained an HQ and training ship. HMS Laburnum was sunk by Japanese bombing on February 13th 1942 but was salvaged by the Japanese.
In September 1939 the Malay Section of the Royal Navy was formed. This was a regular RN unit of 1,430 men trained in seamanship, communications and gunnery on board the training and minesweeping ship HMS Pelandok. Enlistment was for 1 year renewable. The men of the Malay Section served in the Malayan Campaign and aboard ships elsewhere in the War.
By the outbreak of war in Malaya the SS RNVR Singapore had become part of a wider MRNVR though despite being used in FEPOW and Admiralty documents this title was not officially recognised until post war.
In December 1941 more than 100 Auxiliary vessels came under Royal Navy control. Many were involved in rescuing troops stranded behind enemy lines then the evacuation of civilians and military escape parties from Singapore.
The story of these ships and their MRNVR/RNVR/RVR crews may be read in Michael Pether's excellent documentations on individual ships - see Singapore Evacuation Ships | Malayan Volunteers Group - Malayan Volunteers
Also see Adrian Villanueva's book 'Naval Reservists in Action: World War 2 [Far East] & Confrontation [1963-1966]'.
Another interesting personal account, by MRNVR officer Cecil Gutteridge who served aboard HMS Giang Bee is in the digitised Cambridge University Collection and can be read at: Civilian Internment : Report on the Anglo-Japanese War, 7/8 Dec. 1941 to 12 Sept. 1945 (cam.ac.uk).
Many other personal accounts/reports by MRNVR officers can be found in the ADM [Admiralty] files at National Archives, Kew.
Only 9 of the 61 vessels that left Singapore in mid-February 1942 made it to safety.
POWs at Palembang, Sumatra, mostly men captured off Muntok included 40 MRNVR personnel, mostly officers. Others were POWs in Java and Singapore with some later sent in parties to Thailand and Japan.
160 men of the MRNVR and 153 men of the RN Malay Section lost their lives in World War 2.