Major Malan’s Diary

Excerpts from the Diary of Major Malan (1868-1870)

The following account combines excerpts from the diary of Major Malan, the first lay chaplain at St. George’s, and commentary from David Jones, a member of St. George’s congregation

The First Desire

“From the time that God in His mercy led me to believe His Word, my whole heart was set on trying to glorify Him in the army. My desires were all to this end; and when our desires are in accordance with His will, we may leave them to Him to fulfil according to His infinite power and wisdom.  Often when riding or walking alone, I had thought, ‘How I should like to be in command of a body of our men in some desolate island or solitary place, where there was nothing comfortable, and everything for the men’s comfort depended on me. How I should like to show them what a Christian commanding officer could do! I would let them see, by God’s grace, that a Christian can work as well as any other man.’ This desire had recurred again and again in my mind.

The island of Singapore was the place in which this desire was to be fulfilled. I found, on my arrival there, that the men of my regiment were in a state of the utmost discomfort. The barracks were only recently occupied, and had been built in the centre of a tropical jungle which swarmed with cobras, rats, frogs, and mosquitoes up to within a few feet of the very doors of their barrack-rooms. The rats ate the men’s things; the snakes came into the barracks; the frogs croaked all night; the mosquitoes gave them no sleep. This is no exaggeration. Add to this, the intense heat. There was no clear space for outdoor games; and a small parade ground, and the narrow earth roads with thick jungle on either side, were the only places for exercise. My brother major had done his best for the men, and had got such things as he could procure in Singapore, and had opened a recreation room. But this could not, of course, obviate the discomfort of the barracks; and the heat, and sleepless nights, and no out-door recreation caused a crowded canteen, and a great deal of drunkenness.

Such was the state of things when I was put in command of the barracks. I saw the need of some earnest and decisive measures, but the obstacles appeared insurmountable. There was one resource for me. And that was prayer. I felt that I was responsible, alike to God and to my country, for the lives of these men; and that, unless something was done, many of them would perish by drink, and others would commit fearful crimes. I remembered Solomon’s prayer for wisdom, and I opened my Bible, and earnestly did I pray it: ‘Now, O Lord God, let Thy promise be established; for Thou hast made me. Give me now wisdom and knowledge that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge?’ (2 Chronicles 1: 9,10)