Today is a very special remembrance day for some of the senior members of the elite submarine fraternity. It is the birthday of one of the first three Royal Malaysian Navy personnel pioneer group to be trained and certified as submariners and obtained their ‘dolphins’ in 1993 from the Royal Australian Navy.
Mustaffa Bin Dapat, an aeronautical engineering graduate who enrolled as Cadet Officer in Royal Malaysian Navy, volunteered and then selected to undergo submarine training in Australia. It is a very tough service for any seaman to specialize. It requires unsurpassed dedication, commitment and to certain extend, passion. The highly demanding job require them to work and live in conditions unlike other seamen.
The submarine Project Team was formed in 2003 and the 20 officers and men assumed their project team office in Arsenal, Cherboug, France later that year. In March 2005, the first batch of submariners arrived in Brest, France. In all, 156 officers and men received their extensive training and exposure with NAVFCO in Brest. The first Perdana Class Scorpene submarine KD Tunku Abdul Rahman arrived at Malaysian shores in September 2009. KD Tun Razak arrived ten months later.
It has gone a long way then. Today, the submarine fraternity grew to 120 members. The Royal Malaysian Navy incepted a Submarine Force HQ and it is based in TLDM Naval Base, Sepanggar Bay, Sabah. Two Perdana Class Scorpene submarines KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Razak are the pride of the RMN and Malaysian Armed Forces strategic assets.
Last weekend, the Chief of Navy Admiral Tan Sri Abd Aziz Ja’afar brought the media for a visit to the naval base and the highlight of the two day visit was to the Submarine Force HQ. Most of the senior officers in the submarine force were either Mustaffa’s contemporaries or immediate subordinates.
One of them wrote a tribute for Mustaffa, to remember him on his birthday:
A TRIBUTE TO MUSTAFFA BIN DAPAT- SENIOR, FRIEND AND FELLOW SUBMARINER
Mustaffa Dapat was born to a former British Army employee, Dapat b. Selamat on the 21st Oct 1964. He was initially intended to be named as ‘Ahmad Suhardi b. Dapat’. However, his aunt somehow managed to change his name to ‘Mustaffa’ instead. He grew up in Kampung Stulang Baru, Johor Bahru, Johor and attended Larkin School. His father by then became a Postman at Bukit Panjang Post Office, Bukit Panjang, Singapore while his mother ran a food stall in Larkin.
Mus attended MARA Junior Science College, Kuantan, Pahang (1977-1981). He went to Oklahoma to study engineering but was transferred to Ohio University in Columbus, Ohio where he earned a bachelor in aeronautical engineering in 1986.
Mus returned to Malaysia during the recession. After his mother passed away in 1987 to stomach ulcer, Mustaffa join in the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) as a Cadet Officer. Having consistently performed to the highest standard, he was commissioned in July 1989 and awarded with the Sword of Honour as best cadet.
Despite being commissioned as Seaman officer (Executive Branch of the navy) Mus secretly harbour a desire to be an aeronautical engineer of which he was trained for. Unfortunately at that time, the Navy did not yet have the bureaucratic flexibility to accommodate such need. In 1992, while still a Sub. Lt, Mus was sent to HMAS PEGUIN, the Royal Australian Navy submarine school located in Sydney. There he earned his ‘Dolphins’ in 1993, the first RMN officer to be qualified as submariner, along with Lt. Abdul Rahman Ayob and Petty Officer Suhaimi following a training stint in an RAN OBERON Class submarine.
While working as staff officers in Navy HR, Mus again express his interest in switching his specialization from Regular Commission General Duty – Executive Branch to Professional Duty Engineer. And again as bureaucracy would have it, this came to nought. Besides, he was doing very well as a seaman that the higher ups thought why not groom him as a seaman officer and in times he’ll be a flag officer. Indeed there are more than a few in the Admiralty who would attest to the fact that Mus is a CN material. Judging by the way things are today, I am confident that Mus will be well on his way to become a First Admiral had he stayed in the navy.
As fate would have it Mus decided with a heavy heart no doubt, to leave the navy. Well not completely though. While he did joined ATSC as Project Manager for maintenance of the RMAF MIG 29N fighter jets, and another stint at Rajawali Aerospace, he was still doing a soul searching, uncertain of his true calling. When he was offered to join Perimekar to help oversee the implementation of RMN Submarine projects from the commercial side, boy did he jump on the opportunity. For me the cycle is complete. Mus, you are a submariner after all! Alas, I wonder how different things would have been if you realised this part of yourself much earlier.
Mus went to Cherbourg, France to assume his new role in December 2002. While I’ve yet to be there, we did correspond with each other from time to time. And through this I was assured that the project is proceeding well and the RMN will have ‘One Hell of a Beast’.
In late July 2004, Mustaffa fell ill due to viral fever and was admitted to the Louis Pasteur Hospital, Cherbourg in early August. Five days later he was transferred to another hospital in Caen where he was warded for the next two and half weeks. Unfortunately, things turn from bad to worse, while undergoing his treatment, he was diagnosed with a rare allergy known in the medical circle as ‘Steven Johnson syndrome’. Mus went into coma and finally succumb to this illness just before six a.m. on Saturday, 28 August 2004. He was barely fourty. I guess there is truth in the saying ‘whom the god love dies young’.
During his lifetime, Mus was a person of surpassing integrity; his quiet demeanor belies a brilliant yet humble, determined man. His dedication to honour and duty was exemplary. Above all he was a patriot. This somewhat larger than life character won him many loyal friends and admirer. While he was my super senior in MRSM, he joined the navy just two years before I did. While still under training in the officer school, KD PELANDUK Mus mentored me on all those basic things that are necessary in the making of an officer and a gentleman. Back then, somehow I always felt really small and short of his expectation. Later on, being a drafting officer in the naval officer career planning department, he pulled me while on patrol in the ‘far flung’ corners of east Malaysia to be a staff officer in HQ alongside him. Here our desk is literally inches from each other. Fresh from his submarine training tour, he told me that he wanted me to join the submarine service. I duly complied. After a rigorous selection process, I was selected and sent to Australia in 1995, and here is where it all began for me.
When Mus left the service in 1997, I somewhat felt that he wanted to tell me something but refrained himself from doing so. Yet he asked me to assist him with his documentation process till the end. When he depart from the HQ, I was the last person to see him out and he got those well deserve final salute from me. Years later in one of our conversation Mus finally told me what he wanted to say before but he did not because he thought it was too early. He told me he is confident that I have what it takes and he wanted me to ensure that RMN submarine force will be a force to be reckoned with, one that though he no longer part of, but can still be proud of. Well, Mus, I’ve tried my best and rest assured that our submarine force is highly regarded amongst those that matter. As for that ‘Hell of a Beast’; today, together they stand as the mainstay of this country conventional deterrence capability – a sentinel of our sea for which we gladly give our live away.
Mus, I hope you are at peace while on eternal patrol.
They bear, in place of classic names,
No letters nor numbers on their skin.
They play their grisly blindfold games
In little boxes made of tin.
That is the custom of “The Trade.”
Few prize-courts sit upon their claims.
They never tow their targets in.
They follow certain secret aim.
Down under, far from strife or din.
When they are ready to begin,
No flag is flown, no fuss is made
No more than the shearing of a pin.
That is the custom of “The Trade.”
The Cruiser’s thunderous screw proclaims
Her coming out and going in
But for her, only whiffs of paraffin
Or creamy rings that fizz and fade
Show where the ‘one-eyed death’ has been.
That is the custom of “The Trade.”
Their feats, their fortunes and their fames
Hidden from their nearest kin,
No eager public backs or blames,
No journal prints the yarn they spin,
When they return from run or raid.
Unheard they work, unseen they win.
That is the custom of “The Trade.”
– Adapted from the original works of Rudyard Kipling
Cdr. Baharuddin Wan Mohd Nor, RMN
Former Commander, Perdana Class Submarine Sqdn and CO KD Tun Razak
21 Oct 2012
In commemorating the anniversary of the demise of our very dear friend/ brother Mustaffa Dapat.
After 8 years, our fond memories of him has not dwindled. Looking back at the time when we were onboard HMAS OVENS doing our Part III Training for Submarine Officer Training Qualification Course, I couldn’t have asked for a better colleague to go through the course with.
Indeed the course was not an easy one and having Arwah through high and low of the course made everything less painful and many times even enjoyable. His intelligence and dilligence in work and caring nature in friendship will forever be the way he stays in our minds and hearts.
First Adm. Abdul Rahman Ayob, RMN
Commnander, Submarine Force HQ, Royal Malaysian Navy
“Splice the mainbrace” is a naval term to celebrate after doing dangerous tasks, such as splicing the main brace (tying up the main mast after it broke, usually in a storm or during battle). By no means these submariners do dangerous work manning Malaysian Armed Forces’ most strategic assets.
We should all celebrate these extraordinary men. They have proven themselves able to undertake the process to be world class submariners and they are up to task for the most demanding job in the navy. They have made RMN a world class navy and proven that Malaysians could be qualified and do what men and women in superpower navies are qualified to do.
In short, they are the ‘soapbox’ that made Malaysians as tall as other people. Malaysians have now the submarine capability of navies of nations which once colonized this land.
Today, we remember Mustaffa Dapat. His contribution, even though was short, is immense. Mustaffa is one of those who helped in having the ‘soapbox’. May Allah bless him.