The very first Malay Regiment was not the regiment that was formed in Malaya in 1932 (later to become the modern-day Royal Malay Regiment). The British recruited local Malays in their wars with the kings of Ceylon and in 1801, these troops were formally admitted into the service of King George III as a regular British regiment of infantry on the line and called the Malay Regiment. In 1803, the Malay Regiment was defending a British garrison against the forces of the King of Kandy. The garrison was surrounded and finally surrendered to the Ceylonese after a bloody siege. Below is an account from James Cordiner's "Description of Ceylon" (1807) of what happened after and the loyalty of the Regiment's Malay Captain.
Major Davie, unable effectually to resist the Kandyans, proposed an armistice, and a truce was agreed to, on condition that he should at once abandon Kandy, with all its military stores, to the Adigar, whilst the British troops, should march to Trincomalee. During this and the previous transactions, we cannot ascribe too much praise to the noble conduct of Captain Noordeen, the native commander of the troops of the Malay Regiment. Tempted with the most flattering offers by the native princes in the opposite army, he still maintained his integrity and declined them, and has left a noble instance of the faithfulness and fidelity of his nation.
Every thing was agreed to — Major Davie and his officers were separated from the troops. However,the latter were marched into a narrow defile, then taken out two by two, and, in cold blood, massacred by the Kandyans, each successive pair being led to a distance from the larger company, and then murdered. The entire body of helpless sick left in the garrison hospital soon after shared the same fate.
On the day the British soldiers were massacred by the Kandyan troops, Noordeen and his bother Karaeng Sapinine were ordered to be carried to the presence of the King of Kandy, and told that he wished to induce them to become the leaders of his Malay subjects and to fight for him. As they came into the royal presence, they refused to prostrate themselves on the ground to the King in the customary manner but instead saluted him respectfully. Their temerity did not anger the king and he repeated his offer to the brothers to become 'princes' over the Malays who resided in his kingdom.
Both brothers refused the offer, explaining that they had taken an oath to the King of England and that acceptance of this offer would be treachery, saying that they would live and die in their master's service.
The King imprisoned them but, three weeks later, again requested them to join him, and again they refused. Following this, the king became very angry and ordered them to be executed. Their bodies were denied decent burials thrown onto the jungle to be devoured by wild beasts - an act that horrified and greatly offended his Malay subjects.
Such were the fearful effects of the unnecessary surrender of Major Davie, misconduct fortunately rare in the annals of British warfare. The darkest shades, however, are seldom without some bright spot to relieve them; and it is grateful to turn from the pusillanimity of one officer, (although a Briton,) to the devotion and heroism of another, and a Malay. We have already noticed the decision and fidelity of Captain Noordeen, in his fight with the Kandyans, as an enemy ; and as a captive, we shall find the same consistency persevered in with admirable strength of mind.