” The Sarawak Rangers were a para-military force founded in 1862 by the second Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Anthony Johnson Brooke. They evolved from the fort-men which were raised to defend Kuching in 1846. The Sarawak Rangers were first commanded by William Henry Rodway, briefly in 1862 and again from 1872 to his retirement in 1881, and were highly skilled in jungle warfare and general policing duties, being equipped with various western rifles, cannons and native weaponry.
They were based in a number of forts constructed at strategic locations in towns and at river mouths. Aside from protecting Sarawak’s borders, they were used to fight any rebels and were engaged in a number of campaigns during their history. In times of emergency or war, they could depend on the support of the local population and tribes-people.
The Sarawak Rangers were disbanded for a few years in the 1930s, only to be reformed and mobilised for the Second World War in which they attempted to defend Sarawak from Japanese invasion in 1942 at the start of the Pacific War. After the abdication of Charles Vyner Brooke in 1946, the Sarawak Rangers became a colonial unit under direct British control and saw action in both the Malayan Emergency and the Borneo Confrontation.
Eight weeks after the Malayan Emergency was declared on 16 June 1948, the first group of 49 Iban Trackers were sent to Malaya – to meet the request of the Malayan government. The Commonwealth forces need the tracking skills of the Ibans to track down the communist terrorists in the thick jungle of Malaya.
The Iban Trackers was an astounding success. As requested by the Iban leaders back home that their warriors be given full military responsibility, the para-military Iban Trackers were re-formed into the Sarawak Rangers – a full-fledged military unit with Lt Col C.J Baird as their first Commanding Officer on 1 January 1953. Organised into two platoons, Sarawak Rangers continued to perform the same task that they were doing when they were Iban Trackers.
Then on 31 March 1960, Sarawak Rangers (Malayan Unit) was disbanded and the next day, 1 April 1960, it became Sarawak Rangers (Far East Land Forces), to become a part of the British Army. They could now be deployed anywhere in the world.
However, on 15 September 1963, it was again disbanded and on 16 September 1963 it became the 1st Battalion, Malaysian Rangers. Only 100 members of the Sarawak Rangers (FELF) volunteered to continue their service while the rest opted to return to their long house. “