The history of Malaysian Army began with an effort to establish a defence force which consists of local Malay youths. The effort started in 1902. A lot of discussions by the Malay Rulers and British Advisers have been done to establish this team. In 1913 Almarhum DYMM Yang Dipertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan, Tunku Muhamad ibni Yam Tunku Antah, Almarhum DYMM Sultan Perak, Sultan Alang Iskandar Shah, Almarhum Raja Di Hilir Perak, Raja Sir Chulan and Allahyarham Undang Rembau, Datuk Abdullah bin Haji Damad expressed the intention to establish a Malay Regiment unit.
The intention of the Rulers later became a reality when in the Conference of Federation Council Meeting on 23 January 1933, the Malay Army Regiment Bill was passed and known as Act No. 11.
As respond to the call to defend the motherland, more than a thousand Malay youths who came from all over the country offered their services. However, only 25 of them were selected as the founder of Malay Regiment Experimental Company. They were instructed to report to the Haig Lines (now IPDA), Port Dickson to begin training on 1 March 1933.
The first squad trained wholeheartedly and with full of courage, and the British officers as the instructors were satisfied with the capabilities, competence and spirit of heroism shown. In mid-1934, the Trial Company has been declared as a success and capable of being a full battalion. Then for the first time, on 4 November 1936, four young soldiers of the First Squad were commissioned as officers with the rank of Second Lieutenant. They were Ariffin bin Haji Sulaiman No. 8, Ibrahim bin Sidek No. 12, Ismail bin Tahar No. 13 and Raja Lope Nor Rashid bin Raja Abdul Rahman No. 25.
When the war broke in Europe on 3 September 1939, the training of the soldiers was enhanced and its strength was expanded. On 1 December 1941, Second Malay Battalion was formed to face the Japanese forces attack. A Company of the Second Malay Battalion was the first unit to fight against the Japanese forces that landed on the Pantai Cinta Berahi (now known as Pantai Cahaya Bulan), Kelantan on 8 December 1941. The strength of the Japanese Army had forced the Company to retreat to Kuala Krai and later to Singapore. In Singapore, the First and Second Malay Battalion fought alongside British forces against the advancing enemy. Malay Regiment has opposed vigorously in the vicinity of Pasir Panjang, Buona Vista, Labrador and Alexander.
A terrible episode hard to be forgotten in history is events of action taken by the Japanese Army who captured Bukit Chandu, protected by the Platoon No. 7, Company C, First Battalion Malay Regiment led by Lt. Adnan bin Saidi. The enemy after they failed their first attack attempt, they reiterate with a double strength assault. In this fierce battle, the soldiers of Platoon No. 7 struggled with high spirit and never gave up. Lt Adnan, himself operated the Lewis machine gun and moved forward with courage. Although he was injured, he dared to keep fighting until the last drop of blood. Finally, the enemy troops had conquered Bukit Chandu and Lt. Adnan was stabbed with a bayonet, and his body was hung with head downwards on the tree.
Another tragic event that happened on 28 February 1942, when a total of 8 Malay Regiment officers, after becoming Prisoners of War were killed in Pasir Panjang when they refused to remove their military uniforms.
Apart from members of the Malay Regiment, many locals went and joined the Volunteer Forces troops against the enemy, and many were killed. Also, many of them who served the British Army such as Royal Army Service Corps (RASC), Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RACC), Royal Artillery (RA) and other teams were also struggling. Singapore fell to Japan on 15 February 1942, and members of the Malay Regiment who were still alive have become Prisoners of War. When they were ordered to return to their villages, many of them refused and continued their fight against the Japanese government through underground movement.