Major David Chow Yun Kai (Rtd)
Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association (MACVA) had its humble beginning back in 2016 during a Chinese New Year Gathering organised by the Ministry of Defence whereby Chinese Veterans were invited. An Army Whatsapp group was then formed to retain contact with those Veterans. A pro-tem Committee was held on 6 March 2016 at Taman Melawati towards initiating the formation of the Malaysian Army Chinese Veterans Association (MACVA) under the Veterans Act 2012. Further deliberation on MACVA was held at Harmony Valley, Bukit Janda Baik in June 2016 where the vision of "A Credible Voice" was conceived to signify its Values, Objectives and Dreams. A Vision Seminar at Flamingo Hotel, Kuala Lumpur two months later which brought together more than 100 Veterans from all over Malaysia for the first time understand how MACVA hoped to play its role for the Chinese Veterans.
On 31 August 2016; the 59th National Day of Malaysia; MACVA was approved by Jabatan Hal Ehwal Veteran (JHEV) as a Veterans Association and on 8 June 2017 as a Tri-Services Veterans Association. Many Veterans contributed their effort and time towards achieving the above; some taking the lead and some behind the scene. Maj David Chow Yun Kai (Rtd)(David Chow) was one of them and was well known as one of the Chat Group Administrator. Administering a Whatsapp Chat Group is never an easy task more so when majority of your members are Veterans in their late sixties to mid-eighties where most are much firmed with their own ideas.
At times, there will be a lot of repeat postings; members are so keen to share something they find interesting that they did not read that the post had already been shared earlier. Occasionally, an unwarranted nudity pops up and David Chow will post a reminder that everyone should observe the house etiquette as Lady Veterans are also present in the Chat group. It’s a rather unpleasant task but one that needs doing as one or two elderly Veterans were playful and needs reminding. In the Veterans Voice, it is tough to administer the members and their posting. It required moral courage to tell another fellow Veteran that he is not doing the right thing in gentleman decorum. There are also occasions where healthy discourse turns unruly and an “Agree to Disagree” reminder posting will soon appear to calm the situation. David Chow is strict but also a fair main.
Joining the Army
David Chow was born on 24 Aug 1949 in Kuala Lumpur and spent all his growing up years in the Chow Kit Road / Tiong Nam Settlement area. He had his primary schooling at La Salle Sentul and finished his secondary at High School Setapak.
His desire to join the Army saw him at a recruiting interview in December 1967 as soon as he finished his Form 5. However he was rejected by Lt Lee Mun Poh, the Education Corps Officer in charge of that recruiting session at Gurney Road. Lt Lee had asked him to apply for Cadet Training once the exam results were out in April 1968.
His exam results were not exactly excellent but were good enough according to the academic qualifications to join the Army. He applied for the Cadet Training, passed the tests and interviews and reported for the Short Service Commission Intake 14 (SSC 14) Pre Officer Cadet Training Unit (Pre-OCTU) in Port Dickson in September 1968.
Life as an Army Cadet was tough for David Chow as it was the first time he was away from home. There were so much new things to learn and curry was served in every meal which was a torture for him. The tough training in drills, weapons and field craft soon molded him together with other Cadets from young men into fighting machines.
By December 1968 those who qualified thus far made their way to Sungai Besi to continue their training at the prestigious Royal Military College (RMC) for the next four months.
Under the professional guidance of their instructors, the SSC 14 Cadets made further progress in their training. New subjects like Signals Voice Procedures and Map Reading were introduced into the syllabus. Those who did not make the grades were terminated. There was a case of one unfortunate Cadet having his right forehand blown off by a 'thunderflash' which was an explosive packed into a big firecracker.
The Commissioning Parade was held on 12 April 1969 where SSC 14 was commissioned together with Regular Intake 11. It was a grand and proud day for all graduating Cadets who would henceforth be known as Second Lieutenants (2nd Lt). All would be reporting to their new units by 28 April 1969.
Royal Signals Regiment
2nd Lt David Chow Yun Kai was commissioned into the Signals Regiment and he reported to Armed Forces Signals Regiment (AF Sig Regt) on 28 April 1969. No sooner had he settled into the unit the tragic May 13 1969 took place. It was a day of infamy in the history of our beloved country and never should this blood bath ever take place again.
Duty came first for him as a Troop Commander of the Communication Centre (COMCEN) which was to ensure all forms of communications (line, radio, telephony and cryptography) were maintained between Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and other COMCEN’s. Part of his duty during the immediate aftermath of May 13 was to escort telephone operators to and from the COMCEN. Four days after the incident; he was allowed home to check on his house in Tiong Nam Settlement which was in good order.
In September 1970, David Chow was posted out from AF Sig Regt to 1 Brigade Sig Squadron (1 Bde Sig Sqn). The Officer Commanding (OC) was then Maj Hew Kim Yew. During the interview he found out that David Chow was not Young Officer Qualifying (YOQ) trained. He picked up the phone and called Maj Tim Ong Choo Chuan, then OC Sig School, to put David Chow on the next Regiment Signal Officer (RSO) Course. Maj Hew wanted a YOQ-trained officer who could understand Infantry Battalion Radio Communications (Inf Bn Radio Comms) and associated problems of the Signals Platoon.
And so David Chow attended the RSO Course in October 1970 and was among the rare few Sig Officers to do so. He finished the RSO Course in December 1970. While anxiously waiting to report back to 1 Bde Sig Sqn; a message arrived to inform him to proceed to Taiping for the Military Transport Officer (MTO) Course at the Malaysian Service Corp (MSC) Training Centre. He made his way to Taiping on 3rd January 1971, missing the Kuala Lumpur Great Floods by a day.
He came back to 1 Bde Sig Sqn at the end of January 1971 and his new OC, was then Maj Hamdan Jais. In April 1971, while visiting Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Ariffin Muda who was admitted to Terendak Military Hospital; 2nd Lt David Chow was enquired if he was prepared to be posted back to Kuala Lumpur but his reply was in the negative. Perhaps because of this forthright reply, he found himself posted to Port Dickson Garrison & Recruit Training Center (PD Gar & RTC) in June 1971.
As a Young Subaltern on his first Extra Regimental Employment (ERE) appointment, it was an instinctive duty for David Chow to uphold the name of the Regt which he proudly carry out. In October 1971, he became the new 9mm Browning Pistol Champion, defeating the incumbent, Captain (Capt) Shaari. It was indeed a proud moment for him as he scored a personal best of 76 out of a maximum 90.
It was November 1971 and David Chow had been only in PD Gar & RTC since June. The distinction of being the first Signals Officer to be posted as a Recruit Instructor was indeed daunting. The recruits will be passing out and there was a lot of drill practices. Knowing that the Chief Signals Officer (CSO), Brigadier General (Brig Gen) Dato' Leong Siew Meng would be the Inspecting Officer added more pressure on him. He performed his task admirably and it was a proud moment as he was honoured to lead out the Best Platoon, past his own CSO at the Passing Out Parade.
David Chow was posted out from PD Gar & RTC in June 1972 to 7 Bde Sig Sqn with Maj Abdul Bakar Majid as OC. His posting appointment was OC Radio Tp but was told to take charge of the Sqn Hockey Team. The Bde Commander was Brig Gen Dato’ Zain Hashim and the Bde Major was Maj Andrew Boudeville.
The DAA & QMG (DQ) was Maj Long Seh Han and he was not happy to see this young Signals Officer playing hockey everyday but David Chow politely told him to speak to his OC instead. 7 Bde Sig Sqn went on to win the AF Minor Units Hockey Championship for 1972.
2nd Lt David Chow Yun Kai left on 30th July 1972 to attend his YO Signals Qualifying Course at the Pakistan Army School of Signals in Rawalpindi. The technical training Centre formed in 1947; trained officers and selected Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) of the Corps of Signals of Pakistan Army and was later raised to that of a college in 1977.
The course was 4 months duration, which was 2 months short of the normal 6 months course at other overseas Centres offering this course to Malaysians. The 6 months' course would have entitled him to claim the Tech B allowance of RM 40 per month.
2nd Lt Urip Arshad and 2nd Lt Wong Pak Chong came along one month later. Only six Signals Officers attended the YOQ in Pakistan; the other three were 2nd Lt Mohd Isa Hassan, 2nd Lt Benjamin Yahya and 2nd Lt Zakaria Hassan. Maj Gen Obaidul Rehman, Pakistan Corps of Signal CSO visited Rawalpindi Army School of Signals during the course and all Malaysian Signals Officers were introduced to him.
The Royal Miltary College (RMC) was established in 1952 by General Tun Sir Gerald Templer who was then the British High Commissioner to Malaya. It comprised two Wings: the Cadets Wing and the Boys Wing with its motto "Serve to Lead". Through the years RMC has produced leaders in both the Military and Civic sectors. Capt David Chow had the privilege to be posted as an Instructor at the Cadet Wing in 1977. He was promoted in April 1973.
Signals Officers at RMC were unique and were not assigned to any Company in the Cadet Wing. They administered a small Signals Cell and was answerable to the Commandant on all communications matters in the College. They were also CSO (College Signals Officers). He was the last Signals Officer of Chinese ethnicity to be posted to RMC. The earlier Signals Chinese Officers included Capt Martin Kam Yoon Sang, Capt Ho Chee Pong and Capt Oon Hoe Cheng.
In 1979 Capt David Chow took over as OC Radio Relay Sqn in 2 Div Sig Regt, Sg Besi from Maj Hng Hung Yeow who was going to Camp Wardieburn as OC KL Gar Sig Sqn. The Commanding Officer (CO) Lt Col Kassim Sudin called for a Radio Relay trial and named his predecessor as the Trial OC. The trial relay station was Gunong Telepak Burok, situated in the Main Range near Seremban and nearly 4,000 ft above sea-level.
Into the 3rd day of the trial, Maj Hung Yeow fell sick and requested for some medication and David Chow agreed to send them by the earliest Despatch. But that run had gone off and he decided to make the journey himself, using his trusty 1000 cc 2-door, non-aircond CBU Toyota PS4196 which he bought in Kuching as KC5037. An ever grateful Maj Hung Yeow! But for David Chow, he had to descend quickly as it was getting dark and he was not prepared for the night.
Another occasion when PS4196 was deployed was during Ops Gonzales 4 (Phase 2). It was 1980 and Maj David Chow was OC 4 Bde Sig Sqn. The Bde Commander was Brig Gen Chong Thein Bok. The whole brigade was deployed in Kelantan during Phase 1, which was a 3 Division Exercise commanded by the GOC Maj Gen N Selvarajah. The troops advanced up the coastal road on the East Coast to marry up with 8 Bde. For Phase 2, it would be a full scale Search and Destroy Ops on the 6 Assault Unit operating in West Pahang. Its leader was CCM Chong Chor, a sly and cunning survivor in the history of the CPM. The Brig Comd’s instructions was "No vehicles to move prior to D-Day".
Now this would affect the provision of VHF Comms and worst still David Chow was out there in Kelantan. He asked to speak to Brig Gen Chong and told him his concerns about the "No Vehicles" issue and how he could not guarantee VHF Comms in the first 24 hours of Ops Gonzales 4. Good sense prevailed and Brig Gen Chong allowed the suggestion to pre deploy the Radio Rebroadcast (Rebro) unit by use of a civilian vehicle. David Chow quickly gave instructions to his Yeoman in Kuantan to utilize PS4196 to set up the rebro at Fraser's Hill and subsequent events went according to plan.
From his young days David Chow has been a keen shooter. He did not like the 7.62mm SLR because it was slightly too heavy for him. So he took up the Browning Pistol 9mm and the 9mm SMG. He adapted very well to the M16 Armalite 5.56 mm when it was introduced. He had represented his units during the annual shooting competitions.
The Signals Regiment Shooting Competition started in 1982. The Sg Besi Range was the only open range for Kuala Lumpur based Army units. HQ 11 Bde was the coordinator in units' range allocations. The two Signals units located in Sg Besi itself would jointly bid for two days. They were 71 Corps Sigs Regt and 95 Sigs Base Workshop. On the first day, one unit would shoot and the other would be the butt party. The reverse would take place on the next day. Sometimes other Sigs units would join in and the Annual Classification for each soldier would be conducted.
Having seen the effectiveness of the shooting system, and with the blessings of the CSO, the first Sigs Shooting Competition was held in 1983 with the CO of 95 Base Workshop, Lt Col Ooi Ah Kiang being the Organizing Chairman. The Colonel himself was a good shot and so was Maj Cherian Abraham, acting CO of 71 Corps Regt..
Other non Sigs units were only invited for the inter unit Falling Plate event.Maj David Chow had the honour to lead the Sigs team. One year the finals were between the RMR and the Sigs. Chow's water bottle fell off in the run up to the firing point. He ran back to pick up the water bottle. By the time he came back to the firing point, the opponents had shot down all their plates. On closer inspection of the water bottle, its carrier strap was cut which was a sign of sabotage!
The Sigs Shooting Competition was designed into various grouping. David Chow had always been in the Senior Officers Group. Invariably he would end up as the Pistol or M16 Champion, giving the younger competitors a run in the open categories. When Royalties or VIPs were invited for the Novelty Event, he would be shooting for the guests. An honour to shoot down the last balloon (plate) when they have expanded their ammunitions. Unfortunately this healthy shooting competition between Sigs units was discontinued in the mid-1990s.
The year was 1986 and it was Staff College at Highgate Course Series 15/86. David Chow was placed on the Reserve List for 1985. True enough there was one Signals Officer who could not make it in 1985; but another Signals Officer, although not on the Reserve List, came in as replacement. In 1986 Course, three other Signals Officers attended the same course. They were Maj Mohd Akram Mohd Akbar, Maj Kamaludeen and Maj Cherian Abraham. All were strong and capable officers.
During the Command Post Exercise (CPX), David Chow had the honour to be Exercise Director (Higher Command) for the whole duration of the CPX which was successfully concluded. During the visits to Formation HQ, his group was given the Northern Sector which included a visit to the Joint Malaysia Thai Border Committee HQ at Hatyai. The first stop was Naval HQ Lumut. After the briefing and lunch, the group set sail for HQ 2 Div Penang in two Fast Strike Craft. The seas were choppy and an announcement was made in that the senior CO wanted to discuss matters with a student leader. This student leader would be jackstayed across without the ships stopping. What an experience for David Chow and the sailors even wanted to dip him into the sea.
Humour and Personal Thoughts:-
Humour in Uniform:
It was at PULADA and Lady Officers were to attend the AATC for the 1st time. During one TEWT Exercise held by the beach at Mersing, students were to present their ops plan. Along came a group of Caucasians strolling down the beach. The ladies were topless. It was sheer agony for the DS; having to listen to the student's ops plan, taking down notes and yet eyes flirting at the topless ladies on the beach. "Sir, look at mine, they are also big".
Why did you joing the Army?
High School Setapak had a Pioneering Club. A good number of these students joined the Army, including Brig Gen Dato Mazlan Baharuddin and LtC Kereshanan. Signals Officers included Brig Gen Dato Murshadin and LtC Abdul Rashid Zaid. These officers inspired me to seek a career in the Army.
Most unforgettable moment?
Posting to 4 Bde Sig Sqn as the Officer Commanding in 1980. Commanding a Field Sqn under Brig Gen Chong Thein Bok in a truly Operational Area (West Pahang). A very demanding and exacting Commander.
Maj David Chow Yun Kai (Rtd) Regt No: 200907 retired from the Malaysian Army on 1st May, 1991 after serving with pride and dedication for 23 years. From his humble beginning, his tour of duty had him posted to many parts of the country, included a 2-year sting in Kuching and he had attended the required career courses. The 1-year Staff College came in 1986 and it was the culminating point to determine future promotions.
Along the interesting career path, he was made a Regular Officer much earlier than some of his peers. He had commanded an Independent Troop in Penang and an Operational Squadron in Pahang. His last appointment was SO 2 Training at Army Corps HQ in Sg Besi. More so were his instructor appointments at:-
a. Recruiting Training Centre from June 1971 to June 1972.
b. RMC Cadet Instructor in 1977/1978.
c. AATC Directing Staff in PULADA in 1989 to July 1990.
David Chow is married to Leong Yut Sim and they are blessed with two children and are now further blessed with two grandchildren. He and his wife reside in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur and David Chow is an avid morning walker clocking up an average 8 Km daily.
MACVA is very proud of David Chow’s achievements and his sacrifices for King and Country. We wish this ‘Burung Camar’ good spirit and good health in enjoying his well-deserved retirement with his family and every success in his future undertakings.
Recorded for MACVA Archives.
Maj Wong Kwai Yinn (Rtd)
18 Aug 18