KUALA TERENGGANU: It was a fitting farewell for ‘Templer’s 12’ member Major Gen (Rtd) Datuk Lai Chung Wah, who was accorded a funeral with full military honours.
About 500 members of the Royal Armoured Corps and senior top military brass showed up in full force, along with family members, friends and former colleagues to pay tribute to Lai.
Lai died on Tuesday after a prolonged illness at the Tuanku Mizan Armed Forces Hospital in Section 2, Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur.
He leaves behind a daughter, retired legal secretary Christine Lai, 56; and wife Datin Lilian Chong Li Lian, 83, a former teacher, and god-daughter Lily Azumi.
Lai, 84, was one of the great dozen men who helped shaped the country’s army infantry regiments, at the height of the communist insurgency, and was part of the ‘Templer’s 12’ (or ‘Templer’s Superb Men’).
The ‘Templer’s 12’ was a group specially handpicked by retired Field Marshal and later British High Commissioner to Malaya, Gen Tun Sir Gerald Templer on July 27, 1952 to form the Federation Regiment’s multiracial pioneer officers.
Lai’s former army colleague, Col (Rtd) Tony Joseph, 79, read the eulogy.
Another of Lai’s former colleagues, Lt Col (Rtd) Raymond Goh, 75, from the Royal Engineers Regiment, Reg Askar Juretera Diraja, said the ceremony was well supported by the corps officers and men.
Goh said that the corps’ members accompanied Lai’s hearse from the Xiao En Centre in Jalan Kuari, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur to the nearby City Hall crematorium.
“The Last Post was sounded by buglers as uniformed pallbearer officers gave a salute to the Jalur Gemilang-draped coffin, before it was lowered to be cremated,” said Goh.
Lai is only the second Chinese officer to hold the two-star rank, the other being fellow ‘Templer’s 12’ member, the late Major-Gen (Rtd) Leong Siew Meng,
Lai, who hailed from Kampar, Perak had enjoyed a brilliant and colourful military career.
Lai was trained initially at Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan before attending an advanced course at the Officer Cadet School in Eaton Hall in Chester and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst , both in England.
He was commissioned as a second-lieutenant with the Federation of Malaya’s infantry regiment in 1955 upon his return from England, before moving to serve with the Royal Armoured Corps.
Lai was promoted to colonel in 1971 as the first commandant of the Army Combat Training Centre in Johor from 1972-76 and later as the Rejang Area Security Command (Rascom) commander in Sibu.
Lai was also the first commandant of the Defence College at Haigate, Kuala Lumpur with the rank of brigadier-general and was promoted to the ‘two star’ major-general as the Army’s Inspector-General prior to his retirement.