Malcolm Bond Shelley born 8th July 1879 and educated at Dulwich College and then Cambridge became one of the thousands of able and competent civil servants in the British Empire. He was posted to the Federated Malay states in 1902. Here he became a District Officer, Acting Governor Straits Settlements 1931, Chief Secretary to the Governor of the Federated Malay States 1933-35. To this day there is a road named after him in Kuala Lumpur the capital of Malaysia. For his services, he was awarded The Order of St Michael and St George, (CMG) also known as Call Me God. Living the normal life of a colonial civil servant, he played cricket and joined the Malay States Volunteer Rifles (MSVR). He was with the regiment when he serving as a lieutenant in the MSVR. (1) and others in the MSVR were in Singapore for a months training in 1915.
His being in Singapore coincided with the mutiny by the Indian 5th Light Infantry Regiment. On the 5th March 1915, Malcolm and his party of theMSVR captured Abdul Razzak one of the mutineers. (1) This was not to be his only involvement in the events of the mutiny and its aftermath. After the first of the trials of the mutineers, it was announced in General Orders that the MSVR would carry out the first of the executions. Captain Smith, the officer in command turned to Malcolm and said, “That will be your job.” Malcolm had never convened a firing squad before, nor had most officers in the British Army. He hurriedly read the most appropriate manuals. Those on musketry and King’s Regulations but could find no mention of how to convene a firing squad. His RSM, who probably did not know either said you need ten men. Ten men were duly chosen and after breakfast, they were given som practice by the RSM. Malcolm rushed to the Europe Hotel where British officers often stayed to try and find out if anyone there knew how to organise a firing squad. No one there knew, but he was told that if the prisoners were not killed outright the officer in charge would have to deliver the coup de grace. A prospect that Malcolm determined was not going to happen. He decided on three things. The first was there would be no blanks. Secondly, each rifle was going to be loaded with a clip of five rounds. Lastly, the firing squad would be as close as possible, eight paces from the stakes.
That afternoon(23rd February 1915) Two upright wooden stakes were positioned close to the wall. Malcolm marked out eight paces and positioned the firing party. The Colonel of the Shropshire Battalion then based in Singapore who was the parade’s commander spoke to him and the firing squad was moved a further two paces away from the stakes. The two condemned men, Dunde Khan and Chiste Khan.(3) were then led out and positioned in front of the stakes, they were not blindfolded. The sentences were then read out. Instructed to carry out his duty Malcolm saluted the colonel with his sword and gave the order to load. One soldier was very nervous and dropped his clip. After the order to fire was given one of the condemned men slid to the ground. The other remained standing and staring at the firing squad. It must have seemed like an eternity, but Malcolm quickly gave the order, “Left hand firing party, aim, fire.” and the second Indian soldier fell to the ground. The Medical Officer examed the body. There were ten bullet holes in the chest where the heart was. The condemned man had died as a result of the first volley after all. There was another bullet would in the neck. One of the right-hand side of the firing party had fired wide.(4)
The Japanese newspaper, The Japan Times on the 19th March 1915,.carried a report on the executions under the headline, “How Singapore Mutineers Died. Two Publically Shot After Court Martial for Murder- A Grim Example.” The report and Malcolm’s memory are in broad agreement. Although the report states it was Scottish Troops who formed the firing party. In the early 1920s when the volunteer units were reorganised there was a Scottish Company. Not known if this company was just formed then or was a descendant of an earlier company in the MSVR
Malcolm Bond Shelley died 27th July 1968 in his home at Littlehampton in Sussex
Notes. Thanks due to Madelaine Kirk for background information about MB Shelley
1. p798 Secret Documents of the Singap[ore Mutiny 1915 Dr T Sareen. 2.p649Secret Documents of the Singap[ore Mutiny 1915 Dr T Sareen. 3.Note 25 p237 The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy. By Gajendra Singh 4.p798-817 Secret Documents of the Singap[ore Mutiny 1915 Dr T Sareen. 5. p844.