Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pay Day

         Regimental pay day was the most looked forward day. It was more so in Taiping and in the sixties, when pay was paid in cash. Every regiment had an officer Paymaster seconded from the GSC Corps, assisted by a pay sergeant and each Bty had a pay corporal. But soldiers in the gun Btys were paid directly by Bty officers, and for a good reason too. Monthly pay days were the best days for bonding young officers and ORs. As a young officer we knew every soldier by the way he spent his pay and more so what debts he had incurred. The regimental paymaster paid HQ Bty and all the wives on pay day. Pay for the wives was twice a month. Bty officers, except the BC and BK took turn to pay the men in the Bty. The pay corporal would prepare the monthly nominal pay roll for the Bty. The BK prepared the list for deductibles for Bty funds, PRI, canteen and other utangs.


Pay day, which usually took up the whole morning or the afternoon, would be held along the corridors of the Bty lines. Two desks would be placed, one for the Bty paying officer and one for the BK. The soldiers would be given their pay book by the pay corporal, checked against the nominal pay roll. The soldier would march up to the paying officer, smartly salute and with a wide grin stretch out both his hands to receive his pay.  He would count the money and put it into his pocket. He would salute again, would do a left turn, march a couple of steps to the BK desk. He would salute the BK who would tell him his of dues to be paid, which in most cases would be more than half he had just pocketed.


The nominal pay roll was prepared to the last Sen. And because we had to pay to every individual, the actual monies would have to be in the correct denominations of 50s, 10s, 5s and 1 Ringgit notes. And also a large amount of coins would be needed. The nominal pay roll must be balanced to the last Sen.


It was my turn to pay. I had checked through the nominal pay roll with our Bty pay corporal. Fully satisfied we set off to the bank in town to collect the pay roll. We returned to pay the soldiers. As some of the soldiers would not be able to collect their pay on the same day, special arrangements would be made to pay them separately. Officers would keep the balance of the money until all payments were made and the final amount verified. All should be fine and routine at the end of the pay session, carried over three days. But it was not to be.


I panicked. The pay corporal panicked. THE NOMINAL PAY ROLL DID NOT TALLY. We checked again and again over several times. We sweated over the pay books and nominal pay roll and ensured that all soldiers were paid in the exact amount. They were.  We even paraded the soldiers again, but nobody was paid short. AND we still had a surplus of RM20,000.00 in neat 50 Ringgit notes. My troubled mind was sure that somebody was not paid yet. But it could not be as everybody was paid. Do I see the BC? Do I see the BK ? or the regimental paymaster? No. I would have to sort it out myself.


As I had received the money directly from the bank officer, I went to the bank to see him, and was he glad to see me. He was short of EXACTLY RM20,000.00 and he had sweated more than me for the past three days. He had paid me extra in error. What an error and I had panicked and lost sleep over it. I had returned the money to the bank officer, in the presence of his manager, like a true officer and gentlemen.


The CO and all the other officers came to know of it later, and they were lost for words. I had always had thoughts about it throughout my career and had good feelings for it. I had often wished it to happened again. Would I have done otherwise? RM20,000.00 was a lot of money? Would you ?





  1. I won't, even if it happens to me more than once. In 1981, I returned the bank at Damansara Heights, KL branch (the now defunct BBMB) RM200,000.00 because I had RM208,700.00 in my current bank account during the days when card banking was first introduced. That was too big an amount to show in my current account bank balance and upon noticing it, I straightaway alerted the bank. However, there was no thank you at all from them because card banking isn't personal like the 1 - 2 - 1 banking system of the olden days. They did not even send me an acknowledgement letter after that but they did get my bank balance corrected and updated immediately.

    In the days when I was a 2Lt I was detailed to be the paying officer for 'B' Bty 3 Arty in Taiping several times; we had armed escorts equipped with Sterling sub-machine guns and SLRs and I myself was armed with a fully loaded Browning pistol. When we disembarked at Chartered Bank, Main Road, Taiping, two armed escorts would take up positions outside on each side of the main bank's front door fully alert with prancing eyes, one escort would move inside the bank and one accompanying me from the Land Rover to the bank's counter. The driver would remain in the truck with the ignition still on. At that time, Taiping did not have any traffic lights at all the road junctions and there were very few vehicles on the roads in town, so parking on the side of the road even during office hours did not bother anyone. After counting and collecting the money, normally more than RM300,000.00 each payday, my escort and I would return to the truck followed by the escort who was inside the bank and the the two escorts who waited outside the bank. We then proceeded straight back to camp. We did not have any training or set drill for this but I insisted that all precautions must be taken and what I just described was something that I conjured myself. The whole operations would take, at the most, 20 mins because most of the administrative stuff had been prepared and done a day earlier or at least an hour before we arrived at the bank. Our Payroll Officer, Capt Zainuddin, was that efficient. The rest of the proceedings were very similar to what Col. Allen Lai had related above, but in my case, after paying all the soldiers, the account balanced perfectly every time I carried out my assigments. However, I do not remember ever paying the soldiers' wives.

    I am not too sure if other officers conducted exactly the same operations as I did but I assume they would have their own versions because we never discussed this with our fellow officers.

    (With all the precautions taken, I wonder how the late Musty could run away with the payroll?)

    When I look back at those experiences, it was just like a Hollywood made for TV movie. How sweet!

  2. Gentlemen,

    The first line should read, 'I won't even if it were to happen to me more than once'.

    The last line should be, 'When I look back at those experiences, it was just like watching a scene from a Hollywood Made-for-TV movie'.

    Capt. (Rtd.) Hussaini Abdul Karim