Editor, The Victorian, 1948
he first School bell, which was installed when the
V.I. first opened in 1893, disappeared during the Japanese occupation
and could not be traced in spite of thorough and searching inquiries.
If it were still in the country, some Old Boy would have recognised it
and informed the Headmaster.
The original Watch Bell of H.M.S. Malaya was
allotted to Perak when Malaya was reconditioned and the bell hung
in the Council Chamber. It was felt that the leading School in the
Peninsula would provide a perfect setting for the second bell, and where
its daily use to mark the beginning of School would keep a great memory
The normal practice is to offer ships' bells for sale
to ships' officers, or other interested parties, but in view of the close
association between the people of Malaya and the ship of that name, the
First Lord of the Admiralty decided to make a gift of her bell to the V.
I. The School is very grateful to Mr. Ivor Thomas and Sir Geoffrey Cator
for their help in securing the bell for the V.I.
The presentation was made on behalf of the Lords
Commissioners of the Admiralty by the Flag Officer, Malayan Area, on
Malayan Victory Day, 12th of September, 1947, the second anniversary of
the signing of the Japanese surrender in the Hall of the Victoria Institution.
A short, but dignified and impressive ceremony took place at the V. I.,
where the Malayan Police mounted a Guard-of-Honour facing the Main Entrance,
with the Band of the 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, in rear.
Detachments from H.M.S. Black Swan, the Gurkha Rifles, and the Royal
Air Force were also on parade. H.E. the Governor of the Malayan Union, Sir
Edward Gent, and the Flag Officer, Malayan Area, inspected the Guard-of-Honour
and the troops of the three Services. They then accompanied the Headmaster,
Victoria Institution, to the Balcony over the Main Entrance where the
ceremony of handing over the Bell took place. The Bell was suspended from
a tripod mounting, and draped in the White Ensign.
Rear-Admiral H. J. Egerton spoke first and outlined the
gallant history and battle achievements of H.M.S. Malaya. He then
unveiled the Bell and rang eight bells to bid farewell to the good ship,
and eight bells more to mark the inception of a new era in the Bell's
H. E. the Governor received the Bell on behalf of the
people of Malaya and thanked the Admiral.
The Headmaster of the Victoria Institution then spoke
for the School, accepting custody of the Bell. He said in the course of
his speech, "It will always be one of the School's most treasured possessions.
Whenever we think of the British Navy, we think of its high tradition of duty.
This Bell will always remind the Victoria Institution of its duty to the
The Parade then marched past, H.E. the Governor and H.H.
the Sultan of Selangor taking the Salute. Senior Officers of the three
Services were also at the saluting base.
The ceremony was witnessed by a large gathering of all
communities and representatives of all schools, including H.H. the Raja
Muda of Perak, the Chief Justice, the Chief Secretary, Malayan Union,
the Resident Commissioner, Selangor, the Consuls of America and China,
and Senior Government and Military Officers. The ceremony was broadcast
in English with a translation of the Speeches in Malay, and filmed by the
Malayan Film Unit.
The Bell now hangs from the key-stone of the archway
at the base of the Clock Tower and each morning it rings out across the
School grounds, a change, no doubt, from its former more warlike function;
but ringing as it does across the Federal Capital of Malaya, its change in
function is not altogether inappropriate. It. is most fitting that the
final resting-place of a warship's bell should be one where it summons
young people to a peaceful forenoon watch.
NOTES ON H.M.S. MALAYA
H.M.S. Malaya was built by Armstrong-Whitworth's
in their Walker-on-Tyne Yard, and cost £2,945,709. She was launched on March
18, 1915, and commissioned on January 28, 1916.
Joining the Grand Fleet, she formed part of the Fifth
Battle Squadron at Jutland. Later, the present King (King George VI) served
for a short time in her. On November 21, 1918, she witnessed the surrender
of the German Fleet in the Firth of Forth. Shortly afterwards she refitted
Following several important missions, the ship visited
Malaya in the first months of 1921, calling at Port Swettenham, Singapore,
Malacca, Port Dickson and Penang. She saw, in the years that succeeded,
much service in the Mediterranean and in Home Waters.
Modernised at the cost of just under a million pounds
in 1937, she returned to the Mediterranean and remained there up to the
outbreak of the recent war. In July, 1940, in company of that other famous
ship, the hardhitting Warspite, she was engaged in a brisk action with
considerable units of the Italian Fleet - an action which the latter,
though in greatly superior strength, broke off.
In several bombardments offshore, the Malaya
proved again her outstanding worth as a unit of the British Fleet. Her war
service, too, included operations at the Normandy landings.
Some details of the ship may be of interest. She had a
displacement of 31,000 tons; she had a wartime complement of 1,100 officers
and men; she had a speed of 25 knots; and her armament was eight 15" guns,
with twelve 6" guns and antiaircraft weapons in support.
BY REAR-ADMIRAL EGERTON
"In 1913 there was the threat of Germany. The British Navy
was expanding and Malaya offered to provide a battleship which cost
$25,000,000. She was one of five of the "Queen Elizabeth"' Class, displacing
31,000 tons, mounting fifteen-inch guns and capable of 25 knots. The most
modern ships of their day, they formed the 5th Battle Squadron and fought
as such at Jutland in 1916. Malaya was hit and had 63 casualties.
"After the surrender of the German Fleet in 1918, she came
out here in 1921 when some of you will remember seeing her, a lovely ship and
one to be proud of. Proud of her in her spotless paint on a sunny day in
harbour, but when war started again in 1939, even prouder of her in the
smoke and thunder of battle or in the wintry storms of the North Atlantic.
"Malaya was in action again in 1940, when she and
Warspite engaged and drove off a superior force of Italian Warships,
one of which, Cesare, was hit at a range of 14 miles. She took part
in the bombardment of Genoa and later supported the landings and the advance
in N.W. Europe, which led to the final defeat of Germany.
"So your gift has been well worth while and now
Malaya is passing out of the Navy and we have here the ship's bell,
as a memento of a fine ship, left for keeping in the country of her
"There is a great deal of tradition about ships' bells
which are to mark each half hour of the watch, both by day and night. The
watches start at midnight, 4, 8, noon, and 1600 hours; then there are two
dog watches, 1600 to 1800 to 2000 and thence to midnight. One bell is
struck at the first half hour of the watch, two at the hour, three at the
next half hour and so to eight at the end of the watch.
"In the dog watches, you get 4 bells at 1800 and go back
to one at 1830, 2 at 1900, 3 at 1930 and 8 as usual at 2000.
"But bells have other uses. They are rung when at anchor
in a fog to warn moving ships of the presence of one at anchor, and they are
traditionally used at christenings on board when the bell is unshipped, turned
upside down and used as a font.
"I told you about striking the bell, but there is one
occasion annually, when more than 8 bells are struck, and that is at the
beginning of a New Year, when 8 bells are struck to see the Old Year out
and eight more to welcome the New Year in.
"So I will now ring 8 bells to say farewell to H.M.S.
Malaya and eight more to mark the inception of a new period, when I
hope this bell will be an inspiration to those who hear it struck and
perhaps ponder for a moment on its past history."
THE SPEECH BY THE GOVERNOR,
SIR EDWARD GENT
"This bell, unveiled here this morning on Victory Day,
has been struck with a sailor's firm but gentle touch and will serve for
all time to remind us in this centre of Malaya of the active and practical
comradeship which this seagirt land has long sought to maintain with the
Royal Navy. It is a particular pleasure that the Rear-Admiral himself
should come here to present this bell, and an additional pleasure that
H.M.S. Black Swan should be visiting one of our ports to-day and
that her Commander, Captain Dunford-Slater, with others of the ship's
company are present on this occasion, here at the Victoria Institution,
which was the scene of the signing of the Japanese surrender.
"Our great ship, whose fighting days have now come
to an end was built as a gift to the British Government by the Government
and people of the Federated Malay States of Perak, Selangor, Negri
Sembilan and Pahang, on a motion proposed in the Federal Council by His
late Highness the Sultan of Perak in 1913, supported by His late Highness
the Sultan of Selangor, and approved by all people in the Federated Malay
States. She was a first class battleship of her day and was rejuvenated
between the two wars so as to be still a formidable encounter for the
King's enemies in this last war.
"I hope that in due time her honoured name and her
fighting tradition will be carried by a successor in the Empire's line
of battle to preserve the freedom of the seas in which Malaya, with her
Empire links and her wealth of overseas trade, is no less concerned than
Britain and the Dominions.
"Through the last war when Britain's sea communications
with the East were for a time interrupted by the first onslaught of the
enemies and while Malaya herself was overrun by the Japanese, our ship was
battling to clear the Mediterranean of the enemy. We have heard from Admiral
Egerton what a tiger she was in action even after 30 years' service.
"At that time in 1912 when the Federated Malay States
conceived the resolution to make this gift to the Royal Navy, it was a mark
of foresight and confidence. Times and conditions are more rigorous now for
this country and for Britain. But foresight and confidence had never a more
practical value than now. A ship's fighting power depends upon the
discipline, morale and teamwork of her company. So it is too with the power
of any country. Those qualities must shine more clearly and more brightly
when times are difficult.
"Admiral, the Government and people of Malaya gratefully
accept the ship's bell as a perpetual reminder to us all of the good ship
Malaya and her loyal active service in His Majesty's Navy, and as a
perpetual reminder to ourselves here, and to succeeding generations in this
country, of our comradeship with the Royal Navy and the cause of Empire
THE SPEECH BY THE HEADMASTER,
MR. F. DANIEL
"To-day's ceremony is a great occasion in the history
of the Victoria Institution, and everyone associated with the School, the
Staff and the boys - present boys and Old boys - is intensely proud of
the honour that has fallen upon us in being given this great privilege
of providing a permanent home for the Watch Bell of this country's
warship. It will always be one of the School's most treasured possessions.
The Old School Bell, which did, duty for nearly fifty years, disappeared
during the Japanese occupation and has never been traced. If it had still
been in this country, I feel sure that, one of the thousands of V.I. Old
Boys would have recognised it. .
"To be given a bell with such a history and such
associations is a great privilege; but we fully realize that great
privileges imply great responsibilities, and the V.I. has always been
conscious of its responsibilities to this country. Bennett Shaw created
this School and left his mark on it for all time, and the V.I. has never
been just an educational factory for the mass production of School
Certificates. Like other English Schools in Malaya, one of the V.I.'s
most important functions is to teach the rising generation that most
neglected of all the arts - the art of living together.
"Here in this School, boys of different races and
different social status work and play together in friendship and harmony.
The son of a millionaire sits side by side with the son of a rubber tapper
and neither expects nor receives special privileges or advantages. When we
need a new School prefect or a Games Captain there is never a question of
race or social position, simply, "Who is the best position for the job?"
And in these troubled times, those of us who work in schools like the V.I.
have good reason to be optimistic about the political future of Malaya -
we know that there is nothing seriously wrong with the younger generation.
Boys who have worked and played together in a school like this, who have
shared its privileges and responsibilities, have learned the essentials
of the art of living together as Malayan Citizens.
"Whenever we think of the British Navy we think of
its high tradition of duty. This Bell hanging permanently from the
keystone from the archway at the base of the Clock Tower will always
remind the V.I. of its duty to the community.
FURTHER NOTES ON H.M.S. MALAYA
(contributed by Chong Siew Meng)
"For the last in the line, the Malaya, the German
gunners seemed to have reserved all their pent-up fury at their failure to
sink the others. For the five minutes occupied by the turn and for some fifty
minutes after as she shaped course due north again, the Malaya was
the target of the 12-inch guns of most of the crack ships of Behncke's 3rd
squadron. At one time, six salvoes a minute were falling around the
super-dreadnought. The battleship's strength and armour, together with
the skilful evasive tactics of her captain, Algernon Boyle, saved the
ship. By sudden changes of course, the Malaya made herself a difficult
target, and at one point, the chief gunnery officer ...ordered the
starboard battery of 6-inch guns to fire rapidly into the sea at close
range to provide a moving screen of waterspouts. But two heavy shells in
rapid succession at 5.30 knocked out this battery and caused a fire before
a single gun could be fired. Five hits were suffered between 5.20 and
5.35 pm. One heavy shell struck the roof of X-turret but failed to penetrate
the one-foot-thick hardened steel. Two more struck below the water-line,
and the water that came pouring in caused the Malaya to assume a 4-degree
list, which in turn restricted the elevation of her own big guns. In spite
of this handicap, the heavy odds against her (Hipper's battle-cruisers plus
four to seven battleships), a hundred casualties and the intermittent shudders
from hits, the Malaya kept up a steady and accurate return fire.
"If the Derfflinger was the best battle-cruiser present at
Jutland, credit for being the best battleship must go to the Barham,
Valiant, Warspite and Malaya."
Excerpts from the account of the Battle of Jutland in
Richard Hough's The Great War at Sea, 1914-1918
At the beginning of the battle of the battlecruiser
duel at Jutland, "Malaya broke out the ensign of the Federated Malay
States, which, in action, made her look like 'an enraged P. & O.' (due to
its similarity to the house flag of that shipping company)."
Excerpt from Andrew Gordon's
The Rules of the Game, Jutland and British Naval Command
"Some warships were presented with sets of silk
flags for use on ceremonial occasions, and an effort was usually made
to find a home for them when the ship was scrapped. The battleship HMS
Malaya which was paid for by the Council of the Federated States of
Malaya had a set of silk flags presented by the European Ladies of the
Federated States; a 30 foot White Ensign, a 15 foot Union Jack, a 15
foot Malayan Jack, and two miniature Malayan Jacks for the ship's chapel.
They were to be flown whenever His Majesty the King visited the ship,
and on 31st May, the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. The Malayan
Jack was flown at the foremasthead."
Excerpt from the Internet
EPILOGUE - 1
The H.M.S. Malaya Bell was used
to start the school day during Mr. Daniel's time. The School Captain
would sound the Bell to announce the start of lessons. It was also to
be used to raise the alarm in case of an emergency or to summon the
school for any special assembly. It was used at least once for an
extraordinary school assembly during which Mr Daniel expelled a boy for
gross misconduct. However the daily use of the Bell to start school ended
with Mr. Daniel's retirement in May, 1949. In the fifties, a tradition
after the Annual Athletic Meet was the entertainment of Old Boys and friends
in the staff room, during which Mr Harry Lau, an Old Boy and staff member,
would climb up to the Bell and ring it.
In 1983, the Royal Malaysian Navy tried
to claim the H.M.S. Malaya Bell for itself. They wrote letters
to the Selangor Education Department asking that the Bell be
transferred to their Navy Museum. They argued that it belonged to them
as it came from a Navy ship. When the School rebuffed the Department,
the Navy escalated its efforts and turned to the Ministry of Education
to apply pressure on the School. Fortunately, the V.I. Senior Assistant
at that time, Mr Dharam Prakash, an Old Boy, after researching the old
Victorian archives, was able to supply photocopies of all the
above articles to the authorities to prove that the Bell was indeed the
legitimate property of the V.I., a gift from the British Royal
Navy. The matter was dropped after that.
Today the Bell still hangs from the same keystone where
it was first affixed over fifty years ago, badly tarnished, silent and
EPILOGUE - 2
August 4, 2007
An e-mail received by the VI Web pagekeepers:
You won't know me. My name is Damien Lyle-Stirling and
I am writing to you because of a lifelong interest I have in naval history.
Being Irish and living so close to Great Britain I have a particular interest
in battleships of the Royal Navy. It was while looking for information on
HMS Malaya. that I found the excellent Victoria Institution web page
and read the article about the ship's bell.
It is obvious to me that yours is a wonderful school
with great traditions. You must be very proud of the Victoria Institution
and have fond memories of your time there. In my experience Malaysian schools
turn out beautifully educated young people. I have been fortunate in the
friendships I made with Malaysians who came to England to study at the
university where I was doing my Masters degree many years ago. Their education,
beautiful manners and friendliness made them perfect ambassadors for Malaysia
and very dear friends to me over the years. Which brings me back to HMS
Malaya and her bell, for this is the reason for my letter.
The article about the bell made fascinating but ultimately
sad reading. That your old school was chosen to safeguard the bell of HMS
Malaya on her decommissioning at the end of her long and glorious service
in two world wars was a very great honour indeed, for the bell is considered
the soul of the ship just as the crew who man her are her heart.
How pleased I was to read that the school had defeated
the attempts of the Royal Malaysian Navy to claim the bell for their museum
in 1983. But then I looked at the photo of the bell as it is now and my feeling
was that perhaps it would have been better had it been given to the keeping of
the navy. One can only imagine the hurt it would offer to surviving members of
her last crew were they to see it now.
That such a great gift to a fine school now hangs tarnished,
shamed and forgotten instead of cherished and honoured by the very school that
fought to keep it tarnishes the honour of the school itself.
Consider the reason the bell came to your school. Indeed the
article puts the case perfectly. "It was felt that the leading School in the
Peninsula would provide a perfect setting for the second bell, and where its
daily use to mark the beginning of School would keep a great memory green."
How very true and what a noble tradition was started on
Malayan Victory Day in 1947. I believe that traditions such as this instill in
boys a sense of what is right and honourable which they carry with them throughout
their lives. We all owe our schools a great debt for the education they gave us.
I am a teacher and in that way I give something back to the next generation.
I can think of no better way to mark the 60th anniversary of
the gifting of the bell on 12th September 2007 than for present and former pupils
of the Victoria Institution to join together in having the bell restored to its
former glory. Give it back its honour, its beauty and its voice so that it can
speak again to our youth as it once did. It would be such a pity if the very
school entrusted to keep a great memory green should allow it to fade from memory.
Gentlemen, that simply must not be permitted to happen.
EPILOGUE - 3
August 29 2007
Historic Bell and Flag Reunited
by Chuah Ek Lon
KUALA LUMPUR: Victoria Institution
handed a piece of history to the Royal Malaysian Navy yesterday,
in the form of the second watch bell from the HMS Malaya.
Commissioned in 1916, the 25-million-Straits-dollar
battleship was named in honour of Malaya because its construction was
financed by the Federated Malay States — Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan
and Pahang. The first bell was presented to the Perak Council after a
refit and was hung in the Council Chamber.
Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor found the
ship’s original ensign, the flag flown by a ship as the symbol of nationality,
in London on a stop during a solo sail around the world. He bought it and
presented it to the RMN.
He then set himself the task of discovering what had
happened to the second watch bell after the ship was decommissioned in 1944.
He found it in the VI clock tower.
In 1947, two years after the war ended, it was decided
that the prestigious school would be a suitable setting for the historic bell.
The school’s own bell had disappeared during the Japanese Occupation.
It was handed over on Malayan Victory Day, Sept 12, the
second anniversary of the signing of the Japanese surrender in the VI hall.
The Sultan of Selangor felt that the bell and the ensign
should be united, so he arranged for the bell to be handed to the RMN. He
has donated a replica to be hung in its place.
VI headmistress Azizah Othman said she was proud to hand
over the watch bell, but sad as well because it had been at the school for
60 years. Deputy Navy Chief Datuk Abdul Aziz Jaafar received the bell on
behalf of the RMN.
Photos by Haw Nick Kee, Upper 6 BF, Victorian Editorial Board
From the V.I. Archives
The grandfather of the present Sultan of Selangor, Sultan
Sir Hishamuddin Alam Shah, with his Consort at
the 1947 presentation.
The Royal Couple are seated with the Governor of the Malayan Union,
Sir Edward Gent,
and Rear-Admiral H. J. Egerton.