Royal Brunei Land Force
November 4, 1961 – a historic date for the Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF) as it celebrates its 59th anniversary this year. More than half a decade since its inception, the RBLF continues to grow and develop in line with time and the changing security environment.
What makes November 4 a momentous occasion and a significant date to be celebrated every year by the RBLF?
The history of RBLF began on March 23, 1954 when the Brunei Malay Constitutional Advisory Committee, better known as Tujuh Serangkai, suggested the need to form an army from the local indigenous as Askar Melayu Brunei or Brunei Malay Regiment (BMR).
The BMR was officially formed after Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam consented to its formation.
On May 10, 1961, a recruiting team from the Federation Malay Regiment, led by Major Mohamed Shariff bin Ahmad arrived in Brunei. In the early recruitment phase, citizens that fit the admission requirements were invited to join BMR. The selection and recruitment phase for the First Intake of BMR included interviews and medical check-ups that took 10 days. Only 60 out of 102 BMR candidates were selected to undergo military training at Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan.
On May 31, 1961, the first 25 recruits of BMR left Brunei for the Federation of Malaya via a Bristol freighter aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, while the other 35 recruits left Brunei via the Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) Hastings aircraft on June 1, 1961. Both delegations arrived safely at Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan and started military training for nearly five months from June 6, 1961.
Lieutenant Colonel Tengku Ahmad bin Tengku Besar Barhanuddin from the Royal Malay regiment of the Federation of Malaya government became the first commanding officer of BMR.
At Port Dickson, the BMR went through various basic military trainings such as drills, weapons handling, and basic war tactics. Upon completion of the training, a passing out parade for the first intake of 59 Bruneian recruits took place in Malaya Federation on November 4, 1961 with Brigadier Tengku Osman bin Tengku Mohammed Jewa as the parade inspection officer. Recruit Abu Bakar bin Tahir was named the Best Recruit, while Recruit Mohammad Shah bin Mohammad received the award for Best Shooter. One of the initial 60 BMR recruits got injured during the training and was returned to Brunei. He later rejoined BMR in the fifth intake.
November 4, 1961 marked a historic day as a group of 59 young Bruneians became fully trained soldiers and paved the way for November 4 to be officially celebrated as RBLF’s anniversary.
On November 8, 1961, the first intake of BMR returned to Brunei and was welcomed by the people of Brunei. On November 9, 1961, BMR held a parade at the Padang Besar, Pekan Brunei where Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien received a royal salute and inspected the parade.
Similar BMR parades were also carried out in Belait District on November 26, 1961, and in Tutong District on November 28, 1961. The first intake of BMR then returned to the Segenting Camp, Port Dickson to serve as fully trained soldiers before the establishment of a permanent military camp in Brunei. After their return to Brunei, 463 BMR personnel were moved to a new location at Berakas Camp on May 6, 1964.
It was there that the RBLF began a steadfast expansion with the planned establishments of the First Battalion in 1972 and Second Battalion in 1975. On September 17, 1991, the reorganisation of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces saw further expansion of RBLF with the establishment of the Third Battalion in 1994 and Support Battalion on March 24, 1995. RBLF development continued with the establishment of Combat Service Support Headquarters as well as the establishment of the RBLF Headquarters on November 4, 2013.
Today, RBLF continues to uphold its vision as a highly capable and adaptable land force and the mission to protect and defend the integrity of the country’s sovereignty.