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PEBBBLES IN THE SAND

Recollections - (1954 – 1983)

Brigadier A. E. R. Abeyesinghe KSV

It is the beginning of the year 2011. The 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Sri Lanka Light
Infantry will be commemorating the 130th Anniversary of its raising in April this year. I have been
requested by its incumbent Commanding Officer to script reminiscences of my service with the
Unit to be included, with those of others before me, in a mini commemorative publication which
will be printed and published for circulation within the battalion. I feel privileged to accede to his
request. However, those Commanding officers of the period before me, from 1949 to 1979, have
passed away, and so have many senior officers of the time; consequently it will make my recital
long when I string the highlights from 1949 – 1980 together; and I sincerely hope I Keep the
readers interested and not bored!

My presentation is not a chronological narration, but a presentation of random


remembrances that come to mind, put together as a mosaic as it were. I have noted down most
of what I can remember, and gone into detail as most of the Officers and Men in service now with
the Battalion (those joining after 1983) have been on Active Service since they joined, and have
no experience or insight of peacetime volunteering.

JOINING THE BATTALION


I was commissioned into the Ceylon Volunteer Force in February 1954, and posted to the
nd
2 (Volunteer) Battalion the Ceylon Light Infantry. At the time there was no procedure of
centrally recruiting Officers and Men into the Volunteer Force. The Commanding Officer of the
Unit would select a sponsored candidate or one who has applied to join the Unit. I was sponsored
by a Warrant Officer Mr. Siriwardena who was known to our family. I was a planter and managed
with my father our family coconut plantations. Though I was not hot on joining a Military Unit at
the time, it was the persistence of my sponsor who pestered me with his request, coming from
Colombo to my home in Negombo at least once weekly which made me relent; more to get rid of
the nuisance, than say “Aye” to his request!

I was first interviewed by the Adjutant of the Unit at the Headquarters of the 2 nd
(Volunteer) Battalion the Ceylon Light Infantry at Lower Lake Road (now Baladaksha Mawatha) in
Colombo 3. It was a very incisive inquiry – a sort of probe into family background, leadership
quality, financial stability, willingness to endure rough and spartan living conditions, sacrifice time
for training and other Unit activity, and bearing out of pocket expenses. Satisfied, perhaps that I
may be suitable, I was given a printed Application Form to process it, sign it, and post it to the
Adjutant with Testimonials from two non related persons.

A week or so later I was instructed to report to the Battalion Headquarters to meet the
Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. R. Kumaranayagam ED . I was taken to the Commanding Officer in
the Officers’ Mess. The Second in Command Major D. N. Rockwood was also present; and over
savouries and tea served by a liveried butler, we had an informal conversation. I felt I was being
assessed all the time. I was thanked for calling to see them and the meeting ended.

A week or so later I was asked to report to the Battalion Headquarters to be taken before
the Commander of the Army. When I reported I found that there were two others waiting to be
taken before the Commander. One was Mr. Basil Seneviratne, a junior executive at Rowlands Ltd.

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sponsored by the Second-in-Command of the Unit. Basil’s father as an Other Rank in the Ceylon
Light Infantry had offered his services to the British Army during World War I and served the Royal
Fusiliers and the Queen’s Own Royal West Kents and had been the recipient of the Military Medal
for a notable performance. The other gentleman was Mr. Kingsley Wickramasinghe, sponsored by
Warrant Officer Siriwardene. I knew Kingsley who was then a practicing Lawyer in Kalutara. This
interview was short, and we were told by the Army Commander who we found bore the rank and
name of Brigadier F. S. Reid of the British Army, that he hoped we would be useful officers both to
our Unit and the Ceylon Army; and that there is going to be lot of training ahead in consequence
of the visit of the Her Majesty the Queen of England to Ceylon.

A couple of days later I was requested to report at the Battalion Headquarters for a
Medical Examination. I met Basil Seneviratne and Kingsley Wickramasinghe, and we were herded
to the Military Hospital next door for the examination. The three of us were found fit; but it was
the last day Kingsley Wickramasinghe was with us. Apparently he lost interest.

Soon after the Medical inspection occurred came another evening visit to the Battalion
Headquarters, when Basil and I were handed over to the Senior Subaltern to groom us during the
weeks ahead with knowledge of the Battalion’s history, its traditions, its regimental ways and
days, customs, offences, its rules, and etiquette. Then we were to be handed over to the
Permanent Staff Instructor, Warrant Officer C. H. Benn (either from a Welsh or Kent Regiment) to
train us in the elements of basic drills and handling of the pistol. For some time we had to attend
weekly parade days at Battalion Headquarters in Colombo for basic grooming.

At the time there were no free issues of Clothing or Equipment other than a Kakhi beret,
black boots, Web belt and gaiters, socks and putties. The rest of all the Uniforms and equipment
an Officer had to have, had to be purchased or made to order at our expense.

THE BATTALION AND THE HEADQUARTERS


The battalion as its designation explains was an infantry battalion located in Colombo 3.
Located at the Headquarters in Lower Lake Road were the Battalion Headquarters, the
Headquarter Company, the Support Company, ‘A’ Rifle Company and the Drum and the Fife Band.
‘B’ Rifle Company had its home in Galle, with a detachment in Matara (both with their buildings,
within the historic Forts of these two towns. The ‘C’ Rifle Company was in Kandy and was located
in a once British Detention Camp Complex. ‘D’ Rifle Company, to which I was attached, occupied
the Public Services Tennis Club House and its grounds in Selby Road by the sea in Negombo. The
Club House contained a small hall and two rooms. There were adequate grounds for drill and
training. As there was no armoury to hold rifles safely, weapons had to be kept at the Police
Station. On a training day an Officer of the Company who had a car had to draw the weapons from
the Police Station and bring them to the detachment in his car; and take them back after training.
If no officer turns up the Senior rank present has to hire a passenger bullock cart to bring the
weapons and return them; or, march the soldiers present for parade at the Detachment to the
Police Station, draw arms and march back to the Detachment carrying arms; and return the arms
the same way. A Warrant Officer, or a Colour Sergeant, and a Corporal from the Regular Force
Permanent Staff were attached to each company in Colombo or the outstations.

In 1956 or thereabouts the ‘B’ Company in Galle and the ‘C’ Company in Kandy broke away
from the mother Unit to have separate independent existences as the Ruhunu Regiment and the
Rajarata Rifles respectively. A few years later the battalion raised a ‘B’ Company in Kalutara and a

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‘C’ Company at Gampaha. Progressively infra structure development at outstation detachments
took place.

After an unsuccessful attempt by insurgents to break open the Armoury at the Negombo
Detachment during the J V P uprising in 1971, all outstation Detachments were closed down and
centralized in Colombo at Battalion Headquarters.

The Battalion Headquarters building was two storied and of British architectural structure,
and had been an Artillery Institution during World War II or earlier. Some say it was a hospital, for
the two floors are two large halls, the bottom floor was partitioned into the Commanding Officers
and Adjutant’s Office and the Canteen. The upper floor was the Officer’s Mess and an ante Room.
The upper floor was serviced with two toilets and a shower room. Until 1980 there were no rooms
for Officers; and mobilised living-in-Officers slept on the ground on ground sheets and in later
years on folding camp beds. Officers living in Colombo and not on duty at night were allowed to
go home for the night – that spared the Camp beds and did not over crowd the hall. On the Beira
lake side of the premises there were two old single storied wings forming a “U” with the rear of
the main building. These contained a Record Room and the Armoury on one wing; and on the
other, the “Q” Stores and Store Rooms. There were separate buildings of colonial vintage for the
Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants Mess, a long Other Ranks’ billet; and a Garage made out of
corrugated zinc sheets for the Bren Gun Carriers. At the time I joined, the Battalion Office on the
seaside of the premises had walls of wooden slats, and a corrugated zinc roof. However this was
soon replaced with a brick and cement building together with a Men’s Mess built in like manner at
the on the Beira lake side of the premises. It was only in the 1980s that the main building was
extended with two storied wings with officers’ quarters, Armoury, a vault to store the Silver,
Quarter Master Stores, Officers’ informal Dining Room and kitchen, a Unit Record Room, and a
conservatory with a grand view upstairs. Simultaneously new buildings came up for Warrant
Officers, Sergeants and Men by the Beira Lake at the rear of the premises.

When we were not called out on Active Service, or when we are not at a Weekend Camp;
only the Regular Permanent Staff of the Adjutant, Warrant Officers, Colour Sergeants. Sergeants,
junior Non Commissioned Officers and Men were on duty daily. At night time the Unit area was
vigilled by a civilian watcher.

TRAINING (Peacetime)
The Battalion training was done in accordance with a Training Cycle for the Volunteer
Force issued annually by Army Headquarters. Training consisted of:-

(a) Two one hour parades weekly held at Unit / Sub-unit locations, dressed in civil
clothing. The days and times were Tuesdays and Fridays from 1700-1800 hrs. each
day.
(b) A Weekend Camp (48 hours: commencing Friday evening to Sunday evening) OR a
Weekend Drill (36 hours: commencing Saturday noon to Sunday evening) held
monthly. Dress was Uniform. Whenever possible a Jeep or a 3 Tonner is sent to
outstation Detachments for logistical duties during weekend camps.
(c) A 14 day Annual Training Camp at the Ceylon Volunteer Force Camp at Diyatalawa
during which the Annual Weapon Training Course is also fired. A pass in firing the
Annual Weapon Training Course is one of the requisites for All Officers below the
rank of Major and All Other Ranks to be declared “Efficient” for the year.

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Since the middle of 1960 both daily parades and short term and long term training camps
were held sparsely as a ripple effect of the abortive attempted coup d’état of 1962. Until the mid
1960’s all Officer Cadets and Recruits enlisted into the Unit were trained at Unit Headquarters by
the unit permanent staff instructors. However in the aftermath of the abortive coup d’état in
1962, Officer Cadets and recruits were centrally recruited under Army Headquarter directions;
both these categories were trained at the Army Training Centre at Diyatalawa; and those
successful were posted to Volunteer Units according to the vacancies they carried.

Not as a routine, but on some occasions the Army Training Centre offered certain
vacancies for training courses to the Volunteer Force. I remember in 1965, two Subalterns and
two Sergeants followed a course in Counter Revolutionary Warfare at the Army Training Centre at
Diyatalawa; and later the offer of a Course in Administration at junior level was availed of. Those
of us who were commissioned into the Battalion in 1954 were sent to the Army Recruit Training
Depot late in 1955 which was a singular instance until the mid 1960s. They were Lieutenants Alan
Nugawela, Michael Samarasinghe, B. A. Perera, Kumar Rajakariar, Maxwell Sparkes and me. By
this time Basil Seneviratne for reasons best known to him had dropped out of Volunteer
soldiering. This was a rare course specially organised for us and a set of NCOs in Drill and Weapon
Training. Three of us got permission to take our own cars to Camp. We lived at the C. V. F. Camp
at Diyatalawa and travelled to the Training Depot in our own cars. The Commandant of the Depot
was Major A. R. Udugama, our Course Commander was Lt. A. P. R. David, and the Warrant Officer
was WOI Mathuranayagam. Others associated in training us were Capt. Fonseka, Sgt. Ratnapala,
Sgt, Assez, Corporal Pakshaweera and L/Cpl. Ranatunga. The course was a relentless grind. Every
morning WOI Mathuranayagam declares that this is the worst muster parade he had seen! Lt. B.
A. Perera was indifferent about his turn-out; and as a result we had extra parades in the evening!
So, each morning at the CVF Camp before we leave for the Depot for training, we ensure that
“B.A.” is properly dressed, his boots and brasses are polished and any missing accoutrement is
found for him!! In weapon training we were made to assemble and strip the Bren Light Machine
Gun blind folded! We were allowed to take two guns to the CVF Mess to practice in the evening
and into the night until we were adept at assembling and stripping the Bren machine gun
blindfolded. Two days after the course ended the rest of the Battalion came to the Ceylon
Volunteer Force Camp for annual training. The Battalion was assembled on the square opposite
the Canteen; and our squad of young officers and NCOs who followed the course was asked to
march before the battalion halt facing it, and perform a sequence of foot and weapon drill at the
halt and on the March! We did our best and over it a little more, and the Commanding Officer Lt.
Col. Kumaranayagam was pleased! Being the most senior I led this platoon. The CO, who hardly
smiles or who hardly speaks freely, quietly walked up to me gave a half smile, and patted me on
my back with his baton. That is our “Colonel Kum’s” gesture of appreciation! And whenever he
does that, to us, it is like receiving the greatest honour!!

Somewhere in 1959 I decided to leave for England on a holiday with my wife. It was a
requirement that if one is a member of the Armed Services, as described in the Army Act, one has
to obtain permission from the Ministry of Defence to leave the island. I processed the application
and put it up to our Commanding Officer. When I met him several weeks later as I had not
received approval to leave the island, he asked me whether I would be willing to follow a training
course in England if he is able to get authority and make arrangements. I told him that I am going
with my wife on a short holiday and would like to get about in England. He said that I would not
have to bear any expenses for the training, and that such an experience will stand good for me
and the Unit. I could not refuse him, and agreed. This saw me after three weeks of touring
England with my wife, leaving for the School of Infantry in Salisbury Wiltshire to follow a 03 week

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attachment to “A” Company of the 1st Green Jackets which was the Demonstration Company at
the School; and when the attachment was over to follow a Platoon Commander’s Course for the
Territorial Army for 4 weeks. My wife during this period stayed with her brother who was resident
in England at that time. I learnt a lot following this course and was able to witness a spectacular
Demonstration of “Why things are heard and seen at Night” performed by the “Alfa Company” of
the 1st Green Jackets. On my return to Ceylon, I found that the battalion was mobilized in
consequence of the assassination of the Prime Minister Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and was
located at a part of the Turf Club or Race Course in Colombo. I reported for duty and our CO, Lt.
Col. Kumaranayagam wanted me to conduct a lecture Demonstration of “A Platoon in Attack”
highlighting the mechanics of Fire and Movement, for all Volunteer Units located in Colombo on
Active Service – it was well received; and I received another tap on my back from the CO’s baton!!

THE QUEEN’S VISIT – 19TH APRIL 1954


We were called out on Active Service well in time, and as the Battalion Headquarters at
Lower lake Road could not accommodate about 20 Officers and nearly 500 Other Ranks, the
entire Battalion was located at Royal College at Reid Avenue, Colombo. The venue stirred
memories of the past, as I received the greater part of my education within the precincts of this
institution. Before that, since the year began an enthusiastic recruiting drive, and crash training at
Headquarters and Detachments had brought Company strengths to acceptable levels. At the time
there was accelerated recruitment going on at our Detachment in Negombo on Parade days; a
printed Application Form was given to candidates to fill in. The Form was in English, as many
young men at the time were conversant with a minimum level of English. The applicants after they
were successful at the physical tests for height and chest measurements, came to two junior
officers like me for a short interview and scrutiny of their of their Application Form before sending
them up to the Company Commander for final selection. On the Application Form there was in
print “Next of Kin” and a dotted line after it to insert the name and address. What the Candidate
who came to me had done was, added the letter “g” in his own hand to the word “Kin” on the
Application Form to make it “King”; and on the dotted line, written in his own hand “Queen”!!!
He was selected though as he had satisfactory soldier qualities; but throughout his long tenure of
service in the Unit, until he retired, he bore the nickname “Queen”!! If my memory has not failed
me, our food was cooked at Lower Lake Road, and brought to Royal College. Accommodation was
enough, but we had no beds, and slept on ground sheets. Toilet facilities were ample! The College
Sports Ground was the training area.

Apart from training in Marching and Weapons and sword drill, intensive training and rehearsals
were directed towards the following:-

* Street lining and paying compliments to the passing mobile Royal entourage in the
Alexandra Place, Lipton’s Circus, and Turret Road areas during its itinerary. This was the
area allocated to us.

* The Battalion Guard of Honour to Her Majesty at Kandy on 19 th April 1954

* The Presentation of a New King’s Colour and a Regimental Colour to the Battalion and the
Armed Services Review Parade on 21st April 1954 at Galle Face.

* The Drill for taking away the old Colours from the Armed Services Review Parade; and later
the consequent Drills for Laying Up the Old Colours at St. Peter’s Church, Colombo Fort.

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The Colours of 1922 and the New Colours of 1954 (not yet presented to us) were shown to
us, new Officers, and their significance and symbolization were explained to us by the 2 nd in
Command of the Unit and the Senior Subaltern.

On the 19th of April 1959 a Guard of Honour to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was
presented by the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Ceylon Light Infantry in Kandy. The Guard paraded
the King’s Colour of 1922 which was carried by Lt. Senaka Ranasinghe. The Guard was
Commanded by Major Clifford Nugawela.

This is an anecdote – a mischievous incident that occurred during the selection process to
comprise the Guard of Honour to Her Majesty the Queen in Kandy. The Officers for the Guard had
been nominated by the Commanding Officer, and they were being driven to sweat with the
relevant foot drills and sword drills. The colour party carrying dummy Colours was rehearsing
elsewhere the part they have to play over and over again. Warrant Officer Class I, C. H. Benn who
was licking the Guard into shape was aiming to find the smartest complement of Other Ranks to
comprise the Guard. Daily he had been warning some to improve and weeded out a few. On this
particular day he had announced that on the following day he is having a Dress Rehearsal at which
bearing and smartness in drill and turnout in uniform will be the basis for final selection of the
Guard.

The Dramatis Personae in this episode were Warrant Officer Siriwardene (the man who
sponsored me to join the Battalion) and Sergeant Collin Dias. Both have served the CLI Volunteers
during World War II, and opted for Volunteering in the 2 nd (Volunteer) Battalion the CLI when the
Ceylon Army was raised in 1949. Both were posted to Bravo Company of the Battalion. In civil
employment both were employed by the Ceylon Transport Board!

WO II Siriwardena had got permission from the Commanding Officer to do a tour of night
duty for the CTB. In the morning when he came to know of the Dress Rehearsal on the following
day he had told the Mess Attendant to iron a set of Uniforms, fix the badges of rank and polish
Buttons and fix his medals to it; polish his boots and whiten his web belt and anklets. He had
asked that his Tunic and slacks be laid on his vacant bed in the night. WO II Siriwardene had
arrived early in the morning at Royal College to find his bed bare with no sign of any part of his
Uniform or accoutrements! He is said to have ferreted out the Mess Attendant from his sleep and
questioned him, accusing him of forgetfulness and neglect; his voice breaking into a high pitch
tenor and variations of it commensurate with the mounting and ebbing of his levels of anger and
despair!! The mess attendant had kept vowing that he had ironed his uniforms and readied it for
wearing and had laid it on his bed. The whole Mess had then been awake looking for the missing
uniform. Members of the Mess had persuaded WOII Siriwardena to wear what was available, and
among them provided him with accoutrements he did not have. The missing uniform had become
the subject of conversation at Breakfast.

When the “Fall in” bugle call was sounded the prospective guard personal drew their
weapons and walked to fall in; many observed Sgt. Collin Dias who normally is carelessly dressed,
in well pressed Uniform with razor edged creases, shining boots and brasses walking to take his
place in the Squad. When the Squad was inspected for turn-out WO II Siriwardena was weeded
out because of poor turnout; and Sergeant Dias was selected. It was said that when the Dress
Rehearsal was over Sergeant Dias had confessed to WO II Siriwardena that driven by a great
desire to be a member of the Guard of Honour, he had spirited away WO II Siriwardene’s Uniform
and equipment while those in the Mess had sat to Dinner and had hid with his stolen Uniform and

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other equipment in an empty classroom throughout the night. At day break he had got dressed
and locked himself in a toilet until the “Fall in Call” was sounded; then drew his weapon and fell
in! Many Warrant Officers had requested WO I Benn to give WO II Siriwardena a chance; but had
not been able to move the instructor to change his mind. Sergeant Dias is said to have apoligised
and sought pardon from his Senior Rank and friend!

In the evening of the day before the Presentation of Colours on 21 st April 1954, owing to a
limitation of time in Her Majesty’s itinerary on the day of Presentation of Colours, the ceremony
of consecrating Colours was performed in Unit lines at Royal College where the Battalion was
accommodated; at a ecumenical service officiated by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim
Clergy in the solemn presence of all members of the Battalion.

The 21st April 1954 was the day of the Armed Services Parade at which the Colours were to
be presented to the 1st Battalion CLI; and the Old Colours of the CLI Volunteer Battalion presented
in 1922, renewed with new Colours. All troops had been marshalled on the Marine Drive in Galle
Face in the laid down Order of March to march down to Galle Face Green and take up their
positions. To those of us who joined in 1954, this was our first big Parade. Our Battalion arrived in
transport form Royal College to our Headquarters in Lower Lake Road and formed up there. Then,
I don’t know whether it was by design or not, we marched off to the Marine Drive with our Drum
and Fife Band leading and the Colours somewhat late. As we approached the Armed Services
Column already slotted into the positions in the Order of March in the Assembly area, and passed
them one by one to the end of the Column to wheel back and come back again to steer ourselves,
head first, into the position marked for us; each Unit already positioned, in their turn presented
Arms to our Colours as we passed them! In fact the entire Ceylon Army, Navy and the Ceylon
Cadet Corps did! A Final Salute to a set of Colours which had seen 32 years of Service, before it
retires from Service in a few hours to be laid up.

We took our positions on Galle Face Green with our backs to the sea. A Jeep with Lt.
Rajaesekera was behind the position where our Colours Party stood to take away the Old Colours
to Battalion Headquarters, after it is dipped in Salute to Her Majesty when she arrives, and she
makes Her inspection of the Parade.

Her Majesty arrived, and Her standard was broken at the dais; and the entire Parade
offered its Royal Salute in Presenting Arm. For the last time the King’s and Regimental Colours of
the 2nd Volunteer Battalion dipped in salutation to Royalty. The Queen made her inspection of the
Troops standing in a specially got up Land Rover accompanied by the Commander of the Army and
the Duke of Edinburgh. A persistent light drizzle kept falling, and an umbrella was held over Her
Majesty. As the review was taking place The Colours were withdrawn, cased, and taken away to
Battalion headquarters and the Drums were piled for the presentation of Colours to the 1 st
(Regular) and 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion. After the Queen had moved passed the two Battalions of
the Ceylon Light Infantry the COs, the Senior and Junior Majors, and the Colour Officers took up
their positions for the Presentation of Colours.

After the review of the Parade the Queen presented Her Colour and a Regimental Colour
to the 1st Battalion the Ceylon Light Infantry and then to the 2 nd Battalion. Major D. N. Rockwood
the Senior Major picked up the Queens Colour placed over the pile of Drums and handed it to Her
Majesty, 2/Lt. H B Wijekoon sinking on his right knee received it from Her Majesty. Likewise
Major C. Nugawela the Junior Major, handed over the Regimental Colour to Her Majesty which
2/Lt W. K. Wickramasekara going down on his right knee, received it from Her Majesty. Her

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Majesty addressed the two Battalions. The Senior Battalion Commander replied. The Colour
Parties faced their Battalions and received a General Salute from the entire parade, and thereafter
took up their positions in the Battalion facing the Dais. The March Past commenced led by the
mounted column and then followed by the dismounted troops. As the massed Bands struck up
“I’m Ninety Five”, the Marching tune of the Ceylon Light Infantry, both Battalions saluted the
Queen as they marched passed Her Majesty. If I remember right the escort to the Colours
comprised WO II G. D. S. Joseph, C/Sgt. Rassdeen, and C/Sgt. Meedin. Our Uniforms were khaki.
The men wore Blue Berets, khaki Tunic and Slacks, Black Boots, white web belts and gaiters. The
Officers were Blue Peak Cap, the khaki equivalent of the present No 4 Dress, Sam Browne belt and
brown boots.

On the 25th of April 1954 the Colours awarded in 1922 were laid up in St. Peter’s Church,
Colombo Fort at 6.00 O’clock at eventide. The Battalion dressed in Review Order, (Officers in
white tunic, black overalls and white Cross Belts) formed up at what was then known as Senate
Square (now known as Republic Square). The same Colour Party that carried Colours on 21 st April
1954 took part in this sad solemn ceremony. The Parade marched to the Church and the Colour
Party stood at the rear of the Church. The Commanding Officer took his place in the front pew.
After the first Hymn was sung the Commanding Officer walked forward to the chancel steps, and
while the Army Band played the Regimental March of the Ceylon Light Infantry in slow tempo, the
Colour Party marched to the Chancel steps in slow time and halted. The Colour Officers handed
the Colours to the Commanding Officer who received the King’s Colour in his right hand and the
Regimental Colour in his left; and declared he is keeping these Colours in the Church for its safe
keeping and placed them on the altar. A Service of prayer, hymn and Sermon concluded the
solemn ceremony.

These Colours were hanging in the Church over a long time, and they had started to
disintegrate. The Church authorities had then removed them from the pikes, and had the fabrics
framed and reposed them in the church, where it remained so until 1981. In 1981 when Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Ceylon, His Excellency President J R Jayewardene made a
request to the Unit to have these two Colours displayed at President’s House for Her Majesty to
view them when Her Majesty attends a Banquet hosted by the President. Perhaps His Excellency
wanted Her Majesty to see these Colours as they were presented on 1922 to the Unit by Her
Royal Uncle, Edward Prince of Wales who was also the Honorary Colonel of the Battalion; and the
Battalion was then Commanded by Lt. Col. T. G. W. Jayewardene, who was President
Jayewadene’s Uncle. After this episode was over, the Colours of 1922 were appropriately reposed
with its successors the Colours of 1954 at the Headquarters, the 2 nd Battalion the Sri Lanka Light
Infantry at Baladaksha Mawatha, Colombo 3.

EXERCISE TYRO – AT RANNA


In 1959 not long after I joined the Volunteer Force some Regular Force and Volunteer
Force Units participated in Exercise TYRO at Ranna in the South of the island. The Exercise was
devoted to the movement of a Battalion Group from Diyatalawa to meet and contain an alien
Force which had landed at Tissamaharama; and to conduct a withdrawal from Tissamaharama to
Diyatalawa. So, I understood!

I was at the time attached to “Delta” Company. On the day before the Exercise, the
Company Commander Major B. L. Seneviratne and his Second-in-Command Lt. Ranasinghe
intimated to Headquarters that they were not able to participate; and being the next senior, I, in
the rank of a Lieutenant inadvertently became Company Commander!! I was told this by the

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Commanding Officer, “may be you will be tucked in somewhere where much is not expected of
you; but enjoy the experience and benefit from it”. I was just a few years old in the Battalion, and
more than hopes of enjoying the experience, I was burdened with fears! I had come with a driver
to Colombo. I telephoned the Quartermaster of the Company in Negombo and found out the
strength that had reported, and asked him, in the absence of the Warrant Officer to get ready to
leave by train from Negombo to be at Battalion Headquarters by evening.

Quarter Masters of Colombo based Companies were drawing stores and equipment for
their Men for the move that night. I spoke to the Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant Warrant
Officer II K. J. R. Fernando of the Regular Force Permanent Staff and sought assistance in the
circumstances I was placed in. “K.J.R.” was a rotund, bald individual, habitually mean in issuing out
stores in his charge; but he was benign towards young Officers. “Aiyo Sir, only you are here no ? . .
. What to do ?” I told him that if he issues me the stores I will sign for them; and requested for a
place to keep them till my troops arrive in Colombo that evening. I said then I will be happy and I
will leave my personal civilian driver in charge until I drive myself to Negombo and come back to
the Headquarters with the troops. So, I signed for Picks, Axes, Mammoties, Steel Helmets, Packs,
Haversacks, Web harnesses, and ammunition pouches, ground sheets, First Aid Kits, whistles,
binoculars, Prismatic compasses, HF 156 A Signal Equipment, torches and host of other little
things. I wandered what would happen if all or some these disappear!, May be my parents would
have had to sell a part of their assets to pay for the losses!!

I put my driver in charge, warning him not to leave the stores unattended; and drove
home to Negombo. There I picked up clothes and toiletries for the Exercise, got into Uniform and
left for the Detachment. Some had not had lunch. I fed them on my account: and with the Quarter
Master who was the most Senior Other Rank left by train for Colombo. At Colombo Fort there was
no transport waiting to lift us to Battalion Headquarters. So we marched to Battalion
Headquarters!!

Four hired civilian Lorries arrived very late for our move, long after the time set for
departure. The troops already briefed and fed got into the first, second and fourth Lorries; the
third lorry carried the equipment. Our little company arrived at the Start Line on Galle Road at
Ratmalana at about 2100 hours. On the way the momentum of reaching the Exercise area was
delayed by tyre punctures and mechanical trouble developing in the stores truck. Dawn was not
very far away when we arrived at the Assembly area somewhere near Ranna! There was no time
to repair lost sleep, but only for a morning wash by a stream. While I was washing a Warrant
Officer doing the same nearby inquired “Sir, could I have a little toothpaste” I said “help yourself
Sergeant Major”. A couple of minutes later he exclaimed ‘Aiyo Sir may mokakda may ?” His face
and mouth was full of foam! He had inadvertently helped himself out of my tube of shaving
foam!! A packeted breakfast and we moved to get to our battle positions.

Our Company area of deployment was a jungle of thorny eraminia shrubs. I coordinated
my arcs of fire with our own “Charlie Company” on my left, and had to contact a Company of the
Regular Force Sinha Regiment to coordinate the RIGHT arc of fire. It was a long trek through the
thorny shrubs uphill and downhill until I met the Sinha Regiment Platoon Commander Lt. E. G.
Thevanayagam. My shirt was almost in tatters. It is strange that long years later when we both
had risen in rank, Brigadier E. G. Thevanayagam was Commandant of the Sri Lanka Army
Volunteer Force, and I was his Deputy Commandant!

46
Directing Staff of the Exercise visited our positions and were satisfied with our digging in
and trenches. My company was asked to send out a patrol into a certain area in the night, the
task being to capture a member of the “enemy” that had landed. We were given wooden rattles
to simulate the noise of firing; and books with tear-away leaves. of denominations of 10, 20, 30 50
etc. to tear away as estimates of ammunition that we would have fired in defence or offence!!
The forward companies were however given blank rounds.

My Subaltern and his patrol had not returned with or without the “Prisoner” it was
expected to capture and bring into our lines. The waiting directing staff had even brought the
prisoner from under cover into the open to invite easy capture! But there was no patrol until
daylight the following day! When it finally arrived, the excuse given was that while they were
stealthily moving towards the direction where the “enemy” was supposed to be, they had heard
noises made by wild animals; and not knowing whether they were elephants, bear or some other,
they all had climbed up a nearby tree for safety! As these noises were intermittent they had spent
the night on the tree and made their way back to Camp when light fell!

Two hilarious incidents occurred in our Battalion area that night while waiting for the
enemy. In one instance our Adjutant and a few members of the Regular Force Permanent Staff in
order to check the alertness and vigilance of the troops in their positions at night, had disguised
themselves in civilian clothes, and stealthily attempted to take away our radio equipment with
them. The troops having anticipated such incursions had pretended to be asleep, and when the
intruders had set their hands on the radio equipment, they set upon them and treated them really
rough! One of them had shouted “stop . . stop . . I’m your Adjutant”. A Soldier is said to have
retorted “Why don’t you say you are the CO”, still pretending that they had not identified the
intruders in the dark! In the other instance a certain Major late in the night had had an upset
stomach, and wanted to ease himself. He had had his water bottle full, and had brought another
water bottle with Arrack to have a swig before or after meals! On his way into the thicket to ease
himself he had told his batman to bring his water bottle to him to wash himself. The major eased
himself and washed himself out of the water bottle which had contained Arrack, and was stricken
with an over powering burning sensation in the tender areas of his posterior for hours!!

At the crack of dawn we heard rifle gun fire from blanks and the bang of gun cotton to
simulate mortars . . . . . . and also the sound of the wooden rattles simulating firing of rifles. I think
our “Alfa” Company was one of the forward Companies in contact with the “enemy”. The
Directing Staff was everywhere suggesting various situations to see how we react to them; and
judging us as to weather we reacted correctly or incorrectly, or whether we understood the
situation at all! Mine was a reserve Company and I think we coped satisfactorily in our responses
to the situations that were thrown at us.

The Hon. Prime Minister Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was present at the location on the
final morning and visited our Battalion Command Post.

By noon Exercise TYRO was over. Lunch was had, and we readied to move back. Our
Company had different vehicles to move back. Open trucks of the Government Unemployment
Relief Works! As we approached Ahungalla, rain began to fall and continued until we reached
Colombo!

47
THE BAND
At the time I joined the Battalion, the Unit had only a Drum and Fife Band of Volunteers.
The Ceylon Light Infantry Brass Band of the Ceylon Defence Force had become the Brass Band of
the 1st Battalion of the Ceylon Light Infantry of the Ceylon Army in the 1950s; and later became
the Ceylon Army Band. In addition to the Drums and Fifes they had their Bugles. The Unit was the
proud possessor of a set of Silver Bugles which are used on Ceremonial occasions. The Bugle
Major and the Bandsmen were all volunteers; and practice was conducted only on weekly Training
Parade days; weekend Camps and at the Annual 14 Day Camp. However it always remains an
integrant of that significant triad of the Battalion - The Badge, The Colours and the Band.

During the tenure of Command of Lt. Colonel R. Kumaranayagam he negotiated with the
Commander of the Army to have all members of the unit Drum and Fife Band to be on Active
Service, so that they can be trained progressively daily. During the same period the Commanding
Officer imported, I believe four Bagpipes from the United Kingdom, and had a number of
Volunteer bandsmen play them making the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion CLI Drum and Fife Band
having an adjunct of pipes – and also making it the first Unit in the Ceylon Armed Services to
possess Bagpipes. The Pipers were trained by a Scottish executive of one of the sterling mercantile
establishment in Colombo.

Sadly, when Volunteer activity almost ceased altogether in the aftermath of the abortive
coup d’état of 1962, the bags and woodwork of these instruments were attacked by white ants
and made unserviceable, while they lay stored without periodic attention and maintenance.

Every evening at 6.00 p.m. a Bugler of the battalion sounded the Retreat from our
Headquarters; and that was a signal for all military Units and institutions like Army Headquarters,
the Army Legal Branch, the Military Hospital, the Headquarters of the Volunteer Medical Corps,
and the Volunteer Force Headquarters etc. along Lower Lake Road (now at Baladaksha Mawatha)
to lower their Flags. And, further, on instructions from Army Headquarters, or Volunteer Force
Headquarters, Buglers from the Battalion have sounded the “Last Post” when many of the mortal
remains of members the military, whether they were members of our battalion or not, were
lowered into their graves; or when their funeral pyres were lit.

The Drum and Fife Band has been in attendance during most military ceremonials the
battalion has participated in; it has led the Battalion at Parades, Flag Marches and Route Marches.
It has awakened the soldiers with its Reveille, called them to be on parade, or to meals with its
respective calls. On the march the Battalion had kept step to the beat of its Drum. With the
sounding of the Retreat it has said that a peace time day is done. Its Fifers have fifed in the diners
at Officers’ Annual Regimental Diners; and two buglers always have had the task of uncasing and
casing Colours, whenever it has to be done. It has lulled tired men to sleep with its nightly lullaby,
the ‘Lights Out’ call.

Of the Bugle Majors of my time, I admired the Mace work of Bugle Major Munidasa and
later Bugle Major Thamel. There were two Buglers, one of them U G S Perera and name of the
other I cannot remember whose rendering of the “Retreat” and the “Last Post” on the Bugle was
most moving. This little comment does not make the proficiency of the other members of the
Band any less.
At the Annual Training Camp in Diyatalawa our Drum and Fife Band beat the Retreat in an
evening at the Rendezvous Ground; either by itself or in conjunction with the Ceylon Army Band

48
No 2 stationed at Diyatalawa ATC. It became a social event where visitors were invited to witness
the event; and afterward they were invited for refreshments to the Officers’ Mess.

I would like to add memories of two incidents that occurred. Once at an Annual Camp in
Diyatalawa a certain Commanding Officer of the Unit decided that two side drummers of the Unit
will walk along the maze of roads within the Camp, and through every hut occupied by the men
beating a non-stop tattoo on their drums to awaken everyone, instead of blowing the customary
Reveille; The first morning or two they were grudgingly tolerated by the men; thereafter they
were assailed with flying boots and likewise missiles while going through the huts!! Consequently
beating the tattoo on the Drums confined itself to the roads within the Camp at 6.00 a.m. It
occurred so in one or two successive Camps after the episode, and thereafter the Reveille and the
Bugle found its place once again in Camp life.

We had a Bugle Major who was forgetful and at times excitable. He was also at times
unable to maintain the correct distance of his Band from the Command Element of the Marching
Column. Having got permission from Army Headquarters, and the Traffic Police; on a Sunday
morning, during a Week-end Camp, we went out on a Route March, from Battalion Headquarters
to Galle Face, then Lotus Road (now between Galadari Hotel and the Secretariat) to the round
about opposite Lake House; then turning Right at the round about to Chittampalam Gardiner
Mawatha past the Regal Cinema to the Round about at Slave Island, and then along Justice Akbar
Mawatha to Lower Lake Road and return to Headquarters. The route was explained to the
Officers, Men and the Band. I was Adjutant of the Battalion then. We were doing well until we got
to the middle of Lotus Road; and then I saw the distance between the command element of CO,
Adjutant and the WOI and the Band increasing progressively. Shouting to the Bugle Major was of
no avail because in the din made by the Band he could not hear, and he never glanced back to
check his distance. So, while the marching troops turned right at the round-about opposite Lake
House into Chittampalam Gardiner Mawatha, the Band went straight along D. R. Wijewardena
Mawatha! The only alternative was to halt the Column by he road side, and send a runner to catch
up with the Band and bring back the Band. This exercise delayed the March by about 30 minutes.
Back at Headquarters the Bugle Major had it from Commanding Officer!

THE ANNUAL TRAINING CAMP – DIYATALAWA


The Annual Training Camp at Diyatalawa was a special event in the curriculum of peacetime
volunteer training. After the Block syllabus and the Time Table and the Camp period is approved
by Army Headquarters, the mechanics for the move starts moving.

The period of the Camp and date of moves to and back from Diyatalawa are notified to all
ranks, and those engaged in civil employment are requested to write into Battalion Headquarters
requesting Duty leave from their employers. Travel was by train. Battalion Headquarters makes
arrangements for a special night train to Diyatalawa with sleeping berths for Officers and Warrant
Officers and Sergeants; and a goods wagon to carry stores and equipment.

About five days before the main body of troops entrain for Diyatalawa, an Advance Party
consisting of the Adjutant, the Lt. Quartermaster, and a skeleton staff leave for the Ceylon
Volunteer Camp at Diyatalawa. Between them they arrange for training areas, training assistance
and stores from the Army Training Centre; book Firing Ranges, establish the Battalion office and
mount a Quarter Guard in the Camp: arrange for Barrack stores, rationing, allocate
accommodation for officers and Other Ranks; recruit local civilian staff and make arrangements to
receive the Main Body when it arrives at Diyatalawa on the appointed date and time.

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Before the Adjutant’s departure with the Advance Party required funds allocated for the
Camp is drawn from the Army Pay Master. The Adjutant’s duties in Colombo are handed over to
the Assistant Adjutant. The Commanding Officer appoints an Officer Commanding Train, an
Entraining and Detraining Officer, and a Baggage Officer for the move by train; and an
Administrative order for the move by train is issued by the Commanding Officer.

On the day of the move to Diyatalawa all personnel from Colombo companies and the
outstation Detachments keep reporting to Headquarters in Colombo. The Baggage Officer and his
squad keep lifting the baggage and Stores to be loaded into the Wagon. Among the hustle and
bustle and the din of conversation the Regimental Sergeant Major’s stentorian voice is heard
taking a count of the men. There is a special trip by the baggage truck to the Railway Yard with the
locked Boxes of the Unit Silver and the cased Colours laid in their locked long wooden boxes, all
accompanied by an armed guard. A static guard guards over the wagon and its contents until all is
loaded into it, and the wagon is closed and sealed in the presence of the Baggage Officer.

After an early dinner or a packeted dinner which will be distributed in the train, the Battalion
falls in; and the most Senior Major present marches it with the Drum and Fife Band leading to the
Fort Railway Station. The train has been drawn up at the platform and the compartments
allocated to each company has been chalk marked earlier by the Entraining and Detraining Officer.
Companies stand in Files of three before their allotted compartments. Regimental Police patrol
the platform. When all is ready the Entraining Officer with the permission of the Officer
Commanding Train blows a long blast on his whistle and troops entrain. Whatever the
instructions, there is a wild scramble for a window seat! Regimental Policemen report there are
none loitering around on the platform. A quick head count is done by companies to satisfy all are
onboard the train; and only then does the entraining officer reports to the OC train that all are
onboard, and informs so to the Guard of the train. At the due time the train leaves. Being a special
train it stops only at a few important stations; and when it does the Regimental Police patrol the
platform at each stop.

In the very early days of our service we had a pompous Lieutenant Quartermaster whose
task on a train move to Diyatalawa was to encash the Railway Warrant for the move to Diyatalawa
into a Block Ticket. This had to be produced to the Station Master who will then permit the train
carrying the troops to move; and thereafter the ticket is kept in the custody of the Entraining
Officer to be surrendered to the Diyatalawa Railway Station on arrival. Each time the Entraining
Officer asked for the Block Ticket from the Lt. Quarter Master be used to say “All in good time Sir,
all in good time”! The Station Master told the Commanding Officer who had come to see us off
that if he does not have the Block Ticket within the next seven minutes he will be reluctantly
compelled to cancel the departure of the train as leaving late it will, as a special through train,
upset the scheduled movement of other trains on the line. The Lieutenant Quartermaster was
nowhere within sight! The Commanding Officer had to give a personal guarantee and the Station
Master released the Train. The Commanding Officer had waited for the Quartermaster to arrive,
gave him a dressing down, had him encash the warrant and produce the Block Ticket to the
Station Master; and then told him he should hand over the Block Ticket to the Officer
Commanding the train before the train reaches Diyatalawa, He had also told him to find his own
means of transport. It is said that the Quartermaster had to hire a car to catch the train; he had
missed it at Rambukkana, and finally caught up with it at the Peradeniya Station! .

50
Soon after the train leaves there is chatter and laughing and singing among the men, with
some of the drummers of the Band joining. Some soldiers bring their thablas and mouth organs.
After two or two and half hours, the exertions of the day, the air that is getting cooler, and the
continuous rhythm of the turning wheels of the train lull the men into sleep.

I believe it is at Rambukkana that a second engine is coupled to the rear of the train to add
power to the train for the climb up the hills. A young soldier who’s father had been an Engine
Driver was heard telling his friends that the two engines coupled to upcountry trains when
climbing the hills shout to each other saying “Push you beggar”, “Pull the beggar …..” “Push you
beggar”, “Pull you beggar!!” There are times when some young officers leave their compartments
and walk along footboards of the carriages to the compartments where their men are, although
such adventures are prohibited. Often in the hill country the train plunges into a tunnel, and when
it emerges out of the tunnel these officers are all covered with soot!!

Soon after dawn we reach Nanu Oya. The Quarter Master and Party have driven up from
Diyatalawa by road to serve hot milk tea. Soon after this refreshment the train leaves Nanu Oya
for Diyatalawa which we reach sometime between 6.30 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. On a signal from the
Detraining Officer troops detrain and begin forming up outside the station. Company reps quickly
search the compartment they travelled in order to find any left baggage or personal belonging. A
head count is made to assure ourselves that none are missing!!

The column is brought to attention by the Regimental Sergeant Major and the Officers fall in
with their Companies. The Senior Major takes Command and we march off with the Drum and Fife
Band leading through Diyatalawa town into the Ceylon Volunteer Force Camp. We pass familiar
land marks like the Water Tower, the Post Office, the Camp Studio, Abraham Saibo’s Grocery, the
Army and Navy Stores, the Army bungalow “Steps”, and the Rendezvous Ground. Very often the
move by train from Colombo is on a Saturday night and we have Sunday to settle in and start
training on the Monday.

Meanwhile our goods wagon has been moved to a siding at the Diyatalawa Station, and the
empty train has moved out to Bandarawela. The Baggage Officer and his party in transport
allocated to us, commence bringing in the stores equipment, and personal baggage from the
wagon to the Camp. During the period of the Camp the Headquarters of the Battalion is located at
the Ceylon Volunteer Camp, Diyatalawa.

The Commanding Officer arrives by road in his Car or by train. In those early days the COs of
Volunteer Units were not given an official vehicle when a Volunteer Force Unit is on Parade or is in
Camp – on rare occasions they get a jeep during long periods of Active Service.

But some other thing happens during the wee hours of a morning long before we start
training. It’s the arrival of “Dharme”, Lt. C. A. Dharmasena of the ‘B’ Company located in Matara
and Galle! Dharme is a big made dark man with a closely cropped hair cut, who always wears a
naughty smile. A weakness in him is he can’t keep step correctly while marching. Dharme says it’s
in the family! Somehow he gets permission from the Commanding Officer to come by car. He
leaves Matara his hometown, after dinner in his big Humber Super Snipe limousine on the night
we entrain for Diyatalawa from Colombo. His personal valet Upasena accompanies him. On this
journey Dharme wears his sarong and a banyan and has three or four pillows on the back seat to
cosset him! En-route to Diyatalawa, through the night he stops at way side all night tea kiosks for
refreshments, to keep his driver and his Valet awake and alert. It is said that Dharme’s snoring

51
needed no supplements to keep his driver and Valet awake through the journey! The Valet
awakens Dharme on reaching Diyatalawa town. Dharme then wears his rain coat over his Sarong
and Banyan and wears his Peak cap; and in his big long limousine he looks like General! First light
yet has not broken through. It is still dark. At the Camp entrance the sentry orders the car to stop
and switch off the lights. Dharme’s Valet jumps out and says its Lt. Dharmasena. To make sure the
sentry peers inside and is taken aback and he wanders whether he heard the rank correctly; and
bewildered, swiftly comes to attention. Returning compliments to the sentry, Dharme enters the
Camp.

All in the Subaltern’s Quarters are awakened by Dharme. He gathers them around him
addressing them by their nick names and bullies benignly the newly joined subalterns. At each
Camp Dharme brings red unpolished rice for himself and good Matara Curd and treacle for the
mess to last as dessert for a number of days. On Sunday evening he picks up an Officer or two and
drives to Millers Ltd. in Bandarawela and buys, Jam, Cheese, Sauces, Ham, Bacon, Chutneys, and
Pickle for the Officers Mess table to last for a few days. My association with Dharme was sadly
short because the Company he belonged to, ‘B’ Company, broke away from our battalion around
1956, to have a separate existence as Ruhuna Rifles; and a few years later Dharme passed away
under tragic circumstances. Remembrances of him only kindle nostalgia for the days he was
among us.

We have been told by our senior ranks that in the early Colonial days several Units of the
Ceylon Defence Force had their Annual Camps simultaneously at the CVF Camp in Diyatalawa.
They had been the Ceylon Light Infantry; and Detachments of the Ceylon Mounted Rifles, the
Ceylon Planters’ Rifle Corps, and the Ceylon Artillery Volunteers. In addition Detachments from
the Navy and the British Regiment stationed in the Ceylon at the time, joined the troops in the
Camp to participate in combined exercises and “Sham battles” which were important exercises at
these training camps of long ago.

However in our time separate periods were allotted to each Volunteer Force Unit at the
Ceylon Volunteer Force Camp; and those joint “Exercises and sham battles found no place in
training programmes. I believe they were taken off the training cycle after the abortive coup
d’état of 1962.

The Commanding Officer stayed in the holiday bungalow VO1 within the Camp. It is
interesting that in those early years all the holiday bungalows within the CVF Camp and those
around it had been holiday bungalows for Volunteers – because they were numbered with a prefix
of VO (abbreviated for Volunteer Officers).

Our trade mark Brass Fire Gong always takes its place in the Guard Room. When actual
training starts the sound of the Bugle enters our daily lives. The early morning Reveille wakens us.
The Quarter call the Five Minute Call, and the Fall in Call in their turn take us through the stages to
fall in to commence training…. The ‘Cook House Call’; “Come to the kitchen door Boys Come to
the kitchen door” summons the men for meals. Then the nostalgic strains of the ‘Retreat’ at
evensong says a working day comes to an end. Finally the strains of the Last Post and the lullaby
of the “Lights Out” call puts tired men to sleep!

Training during the Annual Camp at Diyatalawa is generally divided into two segments. One
segment is for Officers and trained Soldiers, and the other for new recruits. Drill with and without
Weapons, Weapon handling and firing, Map Reading, Field Craft, the use of the Compass, Military

52
Law and the Ceylon Volunteer Force Regulations, Internal Security Duties, Patrols by day and
night, Conventional and Counter Revolutionary Welfare, Lectures on Administration and Logistical
aspects, were some of the subjects that were generally found slotted to the training programmes
of the two segments. Training in subjects of topical importance at any time, naturally took
precedence over routine training. Sometimes the Battalion Sports Meet is held on Muthukumaru
Grounds in Diyatalawa; and for many years there was the Route March of the Battalion, led by the
Commanding Officer with the Drum and Fife Band leading from Diyatalawa to Bandarawela and
return to Camp, after a bite of some refreshment and a cup of hot milk tea served at the
Bandarawala Park.

I like to relate an incident that occurred during one of those marches to Bandarawela when I
was a Subaltern posted to Delta Company. Instruction were given to all Quarter Masters of
Companies to move to Bandarawela by a vehicle with hot milk tea and refreshments for their
company personnel. There are two actors involved in this Drama. They were Quartermasters Dias
and Quartermaster Pieris. When the Truck was to leave the Camp at Diyatalawa with the
Quartermaster for Bandarawela, Dias had remembered that he had not had tea brewed for his
Bravo Company personnel nor purchased buns and Seni Sambol! The clever rascal that he was, he
just got into the truck, with the others, without buns or tea! The troops had just arrived at
Bandarawela Park and had fallen out, and were congregating in their Company groups when the
Tea Truck drove in. As the Truck came to a halt, Dias had taken the tea can, and the Box of buns
nearest to him and started distributing them among his Company personnel! Quartermaster Pieris
of the Delta Company who did bring his can of tea and buns was running all over now excitedly
muttering away “Someone has taken our buns and tea! Delta Company Officers, three in number
including me, pooled our resources and bought Milk Tea and Buns for our fifty odd Delta Company
personnel who came on the March!

The mentioning of Muthukumaru Grounds and the Battalion Sports Meet reminds me of
another incident that occurred. We were working off some events of the Sport Meet at the
Muthukumaru Grounds. I was at the time seconded to the Regular Force and appointed Adjutant
of our Battalion. A dispatch rider on a motorcycle arrived at the Grounds and had wanted to speak
to the Adjutant and he has led to me. He told me the Garrison Commander wants to see me
immediately and took leave from me and rode away. I now had to walk to the Garrison
Commander’s Office which was some distance away. I did so, and was informed that he had
waited for me and retired to his Quarters for lunch; and had left instructions that I was to see him
there. It was a long climb up a large number of steps to his Quarter. As I climbed the steps I saw
him standing at the top of the steps with his feet apart and his arms akimbo, his eyes focused on
me. He looked a colossal figure from the depths I was looking up at him! From the way he looked
upon others, and the way he wanted others to look up to him, he had in the Army, earned for
himself the sobriquet of “Ragguruwo” or “The King”!! I stopped a few steps before I came to him,
saluted and introduced myself to him.

The Garrison Commander asked me why I was late. I told him I had to walk all the way from
the Muthukumau Grounds to Garrison Headquarters and that when I arrived he had gone to his
Quarter. I was on my way of relaxing from an “attention position” I was standing, when he gave
me a piercing stare; and I jerked back into attention position immediately! The rest of the
dialogue is best presented as question and answer between the Garrison Commander (GC) and
(Me) as near as possible to how it occurred that day.

53
(GC) Now, turn round and tell me what you see.
(Me) Sir, I see your garden sloping down and there are trees at its edge by the road and
beyond it the Rendezvous Ground, and beyond I see sections of the CVF Camp.
(GC) No, No, No! What do you see on the Rendezvous Ground?
(Me) I see no one Sir,
(GC) I can see there are no people, what else do you see around it?
(Me) I can see the small pavilion by the Ground and the two Holiday Bungalows behind the
terrace.
[The long walk from the Muthukumaru Grounds at midday, the climb up the steps to the
GC’s Quarter, and rigidly standing at attention during the conversation was telling on
me].
(GC) What else do you see about the pavilion?
(Me) I can’t see inside it Sir, from this distance.
(GC) Don’t try to be too clever! What do you see outside it? Something you don’t see every
day?
(Me) There are three flags – The National Flag, The Army Flag and the Flag of the 2nd Battalion
The Ceylon Light Infantry.
This evening the Unit is having a Prize Distribution Ceremony on the RV Grounds for
winners of the Sports Meet, followed by beating the Retreat by the Unit Drum and Fife
Band. I believe you are our Chief Guest at the event Sir.
(GC) Never mind the frills. What is wrong with the flags?
(Me) I see nothing wrong Sir, and the flags have been issues from Ordnance.
(GC) No, No, No, What are their precedence over each other?
(Me) Sir, the National Flag, the Army Flag and the Unit Flag.
(GC) So that must be shown, All your three flags masts are at the same height. The National
Flag must fly from the highest mast. The Army flag should fly slightly lower than the
National Flag; and the Unit Flag has to be slightly shorter than the mast of the Army flag!
You may go now. Get it done immediately and confirm to my Staff Officer in my office.
What an audience with the ‘King’! When I related this episode to the Senior Officers of the Unit
they had a good laugh!

During the second half of our stay at Diyatalawa the Annual Weapon Training Course (AWTC)
is fired with the 303 Calibre Lee Enfield rifle on the 300 yard range. A qualification of a pass in this
Annual Course is a necessary prerequisite for an Officer or Soldier to be declared “Efficient” for a
particular year. The range courses for the .38 Pistol and 9 mm Sten Machine Carbine and, later its
successor the 7.62 mm Sterling Machine Gun, were fired on the 50 yard Range.

We had four or six Vickers Water Cooled belt fed Medium Machine Guns which were fired
by the Machine gunners of our Support Company annually at Diyatalawa. However sometime in
the early 1960s these, I believe, were transferred to the 1 st (Regular) Battalion of the Gemunu
Watch on Army Headquarters’ instructions.

During the period at Diyatalawa the Officers had to participate in at least three or four
Dinner Nights in Blues like at a Formal Dinner; there were the Colours on its stand positioned
behind the CO’s Seat, selected items of the Unit’s Silver stood along the center of the table.
Usually it was a three Course Dinner offering Toasts, and Coffee; but on special occasions we
indulged in a five or four Course Dinner. The candles burned and the Toasts were made.
Sometimes after coffee and liqueurs there are the rough games they play; at times, leaving a few

54
bruises among the young diners and a few items of damaged glassware crockery, and furniture in
the Mess!!

Various tales have come down from Senior retired Officers to the serving juniors down time.
It is said that during the sham fights of the Colonial days at Diyatalawa there is the story of how
Brigadier C P Jayawardena was awarded a tin medal when he captured Diyatalawa! There is the
story how Major E C de Fonseka and some others hid Sir John Kotalawala’s Jacket which carried in
one of its pockets Sir John’s brother’s Passport. It is said that Sir John who had to leave by the
night mail train that evening for Colombo was desperate for its return. The Jacket had however
been returned to Sir John minutes before the train arrived at Diyatalawa Station. To have his own
back, Sir John had gone to the stables, mounted Major de Fonseka’s horse, ridden to the station,
dismounted, and set the horse loose! Legend has it that Major E C de Fonseka took a number of
days looking for his horse!!

Major E C de Fonseka an Officer of the Unit in the Ceylon Defence Force days, who lived in
Diyatalawa in his home overlooking the Camp area, visits his own Unit when it is in Camp. And we
junior officers who had not met him were instructed by our President Mess Committee to call on
him. If he was not at home when we called, we were instructed to leave our Visiting Card. On
such a visit I remember Major de Fonseka telling us, over a sumptuous High-Tea how the CLI
insignia on “CLI hill” in Diyatalawa was constructed. He recalled that the personnel deployed on
this task were from the CLI Detachment under his Command, who were performing guard duties
at the Camp. The tracing of the outline on the hill was done by surveyors of the Survey Camp in
Diyatalawa, who signaled such instruction from a spot where the present name-board
“Diyatalawa” which stands on the Haputale – Diyatalawa road. Whenever the Battalion is in Camp
at Diyatalawa, a fatigue party in charge of an Officer and Sergeant climb up to the CLI hill on a
Sunday to clean up the area and do up any maintenance on the stone work tracing the outline.

Around 1978 – 1981 the Government started on a Pinus cultivation project over the rolling
patnas of Diyatalawa. The Battalion however with the gracious courtesy and assistance of the Sri
Lanka Air Force had an aerial photograph taken of the insignia before the advancing tide of Pinus
finally overran it. I believe this photographic record is preserved in the Unit Archives.

When the camp period is ending, there are extra activities that occur. After training time, or
during a recess from it, a cameraman from the Camp Studio in Diyatalawa is seen walking around,
with the permission of the Adjutant of course, taking photographs of the men carrying weapons
or without weapons; and in various poses, singly or in groups – as mementos to take away.

Then, on a day where traditionally training is confined to the morning, there is the
Commanding Officer’s drink to the Men, followed by a sumptuous All Ranks lunch. Sometimes
when spirits run high the CO and the Senior Officers are carried and thrown up with shouts of joy!
The same night the Men bring on boards their concert – about two hours of music, song,
burlesque, and satire!; and in the skits that they present usually they hint at the Quarter Master,
their instructors, some of the Officers, and a few among themselves! It is an event enjoyed by all,
where humour in Uniform is at its best!

If there had been a Sport Meet, worked after training, in the evenings, then the Prize
Distribution is conducted on the Rendezvous Grounds in an evening, invariably followed by
Beating the Retreat by the Battalion’s Drum and Fife Band; which, when opportunity is available
plays in conjunction with the Sri Lanka Army Band No. 2. Stationed at Diyatalawa. This becomes a

55
social event with invitations extended to personnel of Service Units stationed in Diyatalawa. At
the end of the Performance guests are entertained to cocktails at the Officers’ Mess. The same
evening the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess have their party.

The day before the Camp ends All Ranks are paid their Camp allowance. There is a
prescribed rate per day for each rank. All expenditure for feeding and engagement of civilians for
the duration have to be first met and balance equally divided among the Officers, Warrant
Officers, Sergeants, Junior NCOS and Men. The computation of expenditure and Allowances paid
to Officers and Men have to be separately computed by Ranks for each category..

Breaking up Camp and retuning to Battalion Headquarters is the reverse process of leaving
for Diyatalawa. The Adjutant and Men of the Advance Party that arrived first in Diyatalawa
becomes the Rear Party. It stays back to settle bills, return stores, pay civilians and hand back the
Camp. The main body leaves first by the special night train for Colombo.

Since the 1970s in consequence of certain numbers of the Unit being on Active Service and
other reasons, the move to Diyatalawa for the Annual Training Camp and return has been a day
move by road in hired busses of the Ceylon Transport Board.

Anyway as we leave Diyatalawa, one begins to miss those corrugated metal huts that
accommodated us and the spirit of togetherness and camaraderie that was all pervading. One
feels, one hears the echoes of the bark of an Instructor, the sound of marching feet, the chatter of
firing rifles on the range; and the sound of the Bugle Calls hanging in the bracing air scented by
the conifers. We carry away remembrances of the CLI hill and Fox hill; remembrances of the
Pepper Pots, Lone Tree Hill, The Engineer Ridge, the Gibralters (Big and Small) and Niddankanda –
all where generations of Volunteers have trod since 1903!

INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADES AND GUARDS OF HONOUR


The Independence Day Parade was an annual ceremonial parade the Unit participated in.
The participating strength, if I remember correctly, was about two companies and the Colour
Party led by the Command element of the Commanding Officer, the Adjutant and the WO I; with
the Unit Drum and Fife Band leading.

During my first six years in the Unit 3 or 4 tracked wheel Bren Gun Carriers organic to the
Unit Support Company used to lead our contingent; and up to about 1962 four Bagpipers were
part of our Drum and Fife Band. By mid 1960s the Bren Gun Carriers which were the Battalion’s
relicts from World War II were phased out; and the Bagpipes perished due to lack of care and
maintenance when Volunteer activity was at low ebb for a few years in the aftermath of the
abortive Coup d’etat of 1962.

We were either mobilised into Active Service or were summoned on Camp basis for training
and participating in the Independence Parade. Training was centralized at Battalion Headquarters
in Colombo; and when necessary additional permanent instructors were obtained by courtesy
from the Regular Force counter part of our Unit, the 1 st Battalion Ceylon Light Infantry. Training in
Marching and paying compliments on the March was practiced on the Promenade on the Galle
Face Green.

Usually up to the late 1970s the Independence Parade was held at Galle Face in Colombo.
However on a few occasions during the tenure of my service with the battalion I have participated

56
in one held in Kandy and another at Kurunegala. In the Order of March, we march behind the 1 st
(Regular) Battalion. The Ceylon Light Infantry; and our Colour Party has one Guard Company in
front of it and one Guard Company in its rear from our Battalion. Our Drum and Fife Bands leads
our contingent, but does not play, as the massed Armed Services Brass Bands provide the music at
the Parade.

The Independence Parade held at Kandy in 1969 was eventful and somewhat traumatic! All
troops participating in the Parade were to be accommodated in the Gymnasium of the Peradeniya
Campus. As the responses of the under graduates to this move had not been benign a circular in
regard to certain precautions to be taken by troops had been circulated by the Army long before
departure. When troops moved in the reception by the undergrads was not friendly nor peaceful
and trouble broke out by evening with series of clashes between undergrads and soldiers, when
even army vehicles came under attack. Tension broke out in the night, and it was with the
greatest difficulty that the troops were restrained from breaking out to confront the
undergraduates. On the following morning all troops were moved out of the Peradeniya Campus
premises and were encamped at the faculty of Agriculture at Gannoruwa where we resided till all
the rehearsals and the Parade was over.

Of the Guards of Honour presented by the Battalion to VIPs in my time, I could remember of
only four. One was, the Guard of Honour presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England
in Kandy in 1954 at which the Queen’s Colour was paraded, was commanded by Major Clifford
Nugawela. Two Guards of Honour which I commanded were presented to the Army Commander
Major General A R Urugama at the CVF Camp at Diyatalawa and one at the same location the
following year to the Hon. J. R. Jayewardene who was an Hon. Minister. The Hon. Minister’s son
Ravi Jayewardene who was an Officer in the Unit was the Second Officer in this Guard of Honour.
The last Guard of Honour that I could recall was the one accorded to Sir John Kotalawela on 11 th
October 1978 when he declared open the new Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force Headquarter
Building on Baladaksha Mawatha, Colombo. Major Anton Mathuranayagam commanded the
Guard. At the presentation of these Guards of Honour the Regimental Colour was paraded. This
last presentation of a Guard of Honour was a very significant one for the Colour for several
reasons. Firstly because it was the first time it was paraded, as it was presented to the Battalion
by his Excellency President, only the day before. Secondly it was paraded to honour and old
Officer of the battalion of the colonial era, who later was a Prime Minister of the Country. Thirdly,
it was paraded in connection with the opening of the new Headquarters of the Sri Lanka Army
Volunteer Force of which the battalion was an integrant since 1881.

DIFFICULT TIMES
I believe it was the morning of a Sunday or holiday in January 1962. We had been called out
on Active Service then, the majority of us were located at the Race Course and some were
deployed at the Ratnapura area under a Coordinating Officer from our own Unit in consequence
of disturbances in the plantations.

The adjutant arrived from his residence in the morning and when he met me, he said that
when he drove from his home in Ratmalana to the Race Course there were lots of armed police
personnel around; and at some places armed service personnel were at junctions and along the
roads. As I was not on duty; so, having informed the Duty Officer I joined the Adjutant to drive out
of the Camp and attempt to find out why this alertness and vigilance had been enforced. In one or
two places there seemed to be guards outside residences. We drove back to Camp not having
found out the reason for the sudden tightening of security. There was no official communication

57
too from Army Headquarters. As time passed by information filtered in that there had been an
attempted Coup d’etat to overthrow the elected government which had come to the notice of the
Government before it got underway; and the Government had swung into taking necessary
action. Though no instructions came from Army Headquarters, we doubled sentries, had an
Internal Security Platoon ready at immediate notice; and confined all Ranks to Camp. With the
passing of time we came to know that it was alleged that a group of Senior Army, Navy, Police
Officers with some Civilians had planned to stage the Coup d’etat and their arrests were being
made. In the aftermath of this abortive attempt to topple the Government, we learnt that some
other developments took place in that two regular Units of the Artillery and three Units of the
Volunteer Force; namely the Volunteer Artillery Regiment, the Plant Engineer Regiment and the
Squadron of Signals were disbanded. My father, who was alive then and lived in Negombo, was
concerned about me, and he came to the Race Course to see me, and find out whether all was
well with me! I reassured him that all was well with us, and he returned home pleased and
satisfied.

Many weeks later I was Duty Officer, when the sentry at the main gate to the Race Course
Camp telephoned to say that a gentleman from the Ministry of Defence wants to meet the
Commanding Officer. I went up to him and informed him that the CO has not yet arrived in Camp
and invited him to the office. He then gave me a list of names of four or five officers of the Unit
and said that they must be placed on Compulsory Leave without Pay immediately. I said that I
have no authority to do so, and as such action rests with the CO, I will convey his message to him
and obtained his telephone number. On the arrival of CO I conveyed to him what happened. On
calling the Ministry the instruction was confirmed. When this instruction was conveyed to the
officers concerned most of them wanted to know why they had been unjustly and without reason
subjected to this action. The Commanding Officer was both reluctant and apprehensive to insist
on asking for reasons! These Officers being temporarily out of Service made a dent in the Officer
Cadre of the Unit; and in a few weeks the Company Commander and two Subalterns of the
Support Company requested for Unit transfers to join a new Unit, that was raised. These Officers
after they applied for Unit transfers, and later after obtaining transfers, tried very hard, but
unsuccessfully though, to coerce Captains and Subalterns from our Unit to transfer to their new
Unit – even telling them our Unit is likely to be disbanded in due course.! There was no
questioning of the handful of officers who were compulsorily placed on leave, nor were any
charges framed against them. It all created a tense uncertain and unhappy atmosphere. However
after many months had passed succeeding Commanding Officers got these officers who were
compulsorily kept away back to participate in Unit activity? No one objected!

In 1970 there was a change of Government. After a few weeks a letter or a signal from Army
Headquarters was received at Battalion Headquarters requesting for a list of Officers and Men
under each electoral district. I was in the Adjutant’s Office at that time and I remarked jokingly
that something is going to happen soon!

I was living in Colombo during week-days with my aunt, as I was working for Associated
Motorways Ltd.. One evening when I returned from work, my aunt told me that two military men
had come in a jeep to meet me; and that she had told them that I usually return home from work
at about 6 p.m. and they could see me around that time. So they did. It was to tell me that
members in the Volunteer Force were being screened to ascertain their loyalty to the
Government; and the category that I have been placed by the Govt. Party Organizer in my home
town, is not favourable to me! The two persons who came to see me were a Regular Force
Sergeant who was the Chief Clerk of our Battalion and a Warrant Officer of the Intelligence

58
Section of Army Headquarters, who I knew. They said that they came because they held me in
high regard, and thought I should talk to someone who has influence over the Government; and
with his intervention get myself satisfactorily categorized!

Having thanked these two persons for the concern and faith they had in me, I told them, I
joined the Volunteer Force to serve this country; and if the Government does not need me, or feel
I am disloyal to it, it can very well dispense with my service with the Volunteer Force and I will go
away with no bitterness towards anyone. I said the Govt. Party Organizer for Negombo may have
downgraded me to a suspect category because my father who was M.P. for Negombo, sometime
around 1950s contested as a U.N.P. candidate. I said that I am neither an overt or covert political
activist belonging to any party; and I only make use of that democratic privilege available to a
citizen to exercise his vote on the day of the polls. I thanked them for all the genuine concern they
had for me and they left.

The newspapers a few weeks later started reporting a buildup of the JVP, their training and
classes in the jungles etc. Then there was news of the Regular Force of Army being alerted, and
the partial calling out of the Volunteer Force. When I went to Negombo during a weekend on a
Saturday, I had a few soldiers of our Battalion come to visit me. They said they have been called
out on Active Service; a Major, a Captain and a Lieutenant and about 50 odd Other Ranks; and
wanted to know why I have not reported. I said I was not called up and there was no General call-
up of Volunteers over the Radio or noticed so in the newspapers. Then they inquired why I was
not asked to report. Being a sensitive question, and in order not to cause any disaffection among
them towards the Authority; I said they may have wanted only a few soldiers and as the name of
three officers, they mention were Colombo residents, the authorities may have wanted officers
resident in Colombo. I had lunch prepared for them over which we recounted numerous incidents
we had experienced during Training Camps and on Active Service. The groups left sometime after
lunch. I do not know how correct this information was, but long after the episode I was told that
the strength that had successfully survived screening process in our Battalion which comprised of
about 20 officers and 200 – 300 on the effective strength, had been only two Officers (a Major and
Captain) and 60 odd other Ranks! It was said that to get an additional Subaltern special permission
had to be got from Army Headquarters.

After these incidents, those of us not on the selected list did not drop in at our Battalion
Headquarters, or even patronize the Officers’ Mess fearing that we may embarrass or make it
uneasy for colleagues who were already mobilised.

After working days at Associated Motorways in Colombo I was in the habit of walking a few
times up and down the promenade at Galle Face for exercise before I go home. Shortly after I met
some of the mobilised personnel at my home in Negombo, I bumped into some of them ambling
along the Galle Face promenade as Battalion Headquarters is only a few yards across the Galle
Face Center Road. After a chat for a few minutes during which I said that I do this for exercise not
daily but often; I continued to walk to see them follow me. This happened a couple of times
thereafter, and under the circumstances prevailing I was constrained to advise them not to be
seen with me, as some sleuth from the Army Headquarters Intelligence Section may spot us
together; and it is very likely that he may spin a web around us that I am clandestinely meeting
them to hatch a plot against the State! I avoided walking on Galle Face thereafter!

Not long after these incidents in April 1971 newspaper headlines screamed that that
Wellawaya Police Station and several others had been attacked by JVP insurgents. As the day

59
wore a Government declared a curfew over most parts of the island. On my return from my work
in the evening, my aunt in whose house I was residing on week-days, informed me that my Unit
Headquarters had been calling for me several times. I did not call back. The call did repeat itself
and first it was the Sergeant who took our list of names for screening that spoke! He seemed
happy and said that all Volunteers are being called up for Active Service and requested me to
report to Headquarters. I told him that he knows why we were not called earlier; and in the light
of these circumstances I will not report unless I get a written official note from someone in
authority. The Major already mobilised spoke to me and I told him the same thing I said to the
Sergeant. The Major for whom I had much respect and affection tried his best to persuade me
verbally, but most respectfully I stood my ground. A couple of hours later a motorcycle rider
brought me an official note, requesting me to report for Active Service to the Unit Headquarters –
I reported at once to Headquarters. As the night wore on many of those outside the earlier
selected list kept reporting according to the availability of transport. I must mention that there
was a soldier from distant Akuressa, one not in the selected list, who had taken two days and a
night to report for duty. In many areas where there was no public transport he had walked; and in
the one night on his journey he had slept on the verandah of an abandoned house. In the rural
area he had avoided the roaming JVP cadres as his uniforms and a few accoutrements were in his
bag! In a few days we had reported in strength; and we were deployed in platoon groups in the
Western, North Central, and Sabaragamuwa provinces principally.

I have not recounted these difficult days as a complaint, but to show that throughout the
trying and the traumatic circumstances the Unit experienced in the two episodes, the loyalty of
officers and Men towards each other, to the Battalion, and the State, was unshaken throughout;
and that the relations between Officers and Men, and between those who were favoured and
those who were allegedly considered persona non grata by the State, were only those of mutual
respect, and oneness with one another. A fact we were proud of and still are!

THE UNIT SILVER AND ITS HANDLER


Apart from the Colours, the collection of Unit Silver amounting approximately to 110 -115
pieces, is a proud possession of the Unit. They comprise trophies won at competitions, Challenge
Shields and Trophies presented by various donors, Candelabra and Candle Stands presented to
the Unit, and those purchased by the Unit. These, stored in large custom built wooden chests
when not in use, are held securely in the Unit premises.

Early during my tenure of service in the Unit, the then Commanding Officer made a
proposal that the care of the Silver be vested in a Trust. Though the proposal was unanimously
accepted and legal opinion was sought, the proposal did not proceed towards implementation. It
is prudent that this aspect be considered to include all Battalion private property.

Much later from about the 1970s the Silver was kept for safe keeping in the Vaults of the
National and Grindlay’s Bank in Colombo. It was removed from the Bank Vault for an occasion and
reposed in the vault again when the need was over.

Sometime during the early part of 1980s the Silver was removed from the bank Vaults for
an Officers’ Mess function; and for some reasons returning the Silver to the Bank vault was
delayed and the Silver lay stored securely at Battalion Headquarters. I was called out on Active
Service then and lived in at the Officers’ Mess, and the Commanding Officer too slept the night in
the Mess. Deep into one night we heard sirens wailing and saw the glow of a fire rising high into
the sky in the Colombo Fort area. We jumped into shirts and slacks and drove towards the Fort in

60
the Commanding Officer’s car. The National and Grindlay’s Building was on fire! We were shocked
at what we witnessed; yet happy that through some quirk of fate, our Silver was not in the Bank
vault that night – but safely lying at our Headquarters!

The Candelabras, the Silver Bowls and Trophies take their place at their permanent
appointed positions on the dining table at the Battalion Officers’ Annual Dinner; on Officers’
Dinner Nights, and at All Ranks Lunches.

Comments on the Silver during my tenure of service is incomplete without a few


comments on its handler, Aniff! Aniff is a big boned man, tall, with silver hair, and a pinkshish
hued face. He is a Malay. He had been a civilian employ of the army during the days of the Ceylon
Defence Force in Colonial times; and held a similar appointment as a storeman attached to our
Unit. Aniff lived in Slave Island not far from our Headquarters and he cycled to work. Aniff exerts
very little in his efforts to cycle. He pedals a few strokes and then goes free with the momentum
until he feels he is going to topple down; then he pedals a few more strokes to carry him further.
So he moves along, and his last stint of pedelling is done at a point on Baladaksha Mawatha know
to him, where upon the free movement will carry him to turn into Headquarters to make use of
the downward slope of the drive within it to ride free up to his room, where he dismounts! If
there is any obstruction to his free movement down the slope in the Headquarter premises it
annoys Aniff! He will stop, dismount from his cycle focus a withering stare at what obstructed
him, and go pushing his cycle up to his room.

Young Officers adore Aniff, and also fear him! He will help to have a Young Officer
correctly and well dressed before a big parade, like having a bride dressed! He will from
somewhere produce a replacement for a missing badge or button . . . polish his Brasses . . . tie his
anklets and see that the fall of his slacks over them are level. On the other hand, if he does see a
young officer violating the dress regulations or regimental customs, he comes down hard on them
in English which is peculiar to Aniff; because he makes nouns, adjectives and even verbs plural by
adding an “s” at the end of it and to add the word “the” before a proper noun! – at times even to
an adverb! – and he has his own pronunciation. Our silver bugles are always referred to by Aniff as
the silver “beagles”! If someone inquires from Aniff in English, “Where is Capt. Abeysinghe ?”,
Aniff will brusquely reply “Who ?, the Abeyesinghes ? he has not come”! There is so much to write
about Aniff! When we retire for the night when Aniff is around we wish him “Goodnights Aniffs”
and he reciprocates with “Goodnights”!

But now to confine myself to the togetherness of Aniff with the Unit Silver!, Aniff believes
that the Gods have bequeathed all this Silver to the Battalion and they have ordained that he be
their guardian angel!’

When the Silver is brought from the Bank vault for an Officers’ Annual Dinner, Aniff takes
over the Wooden chests that contain them at the Officers’ Mess. He examines the seals with
piercing microscopic looks and suspicion; and when he is satisfied that the seals have not been
raped, he breaks them theatrically with a flourish, and requests the Officer-in-Charge of
Regimental property to unlock the padlocks. Then, completely ignoring the presence of the
Officer-in-Charge of Regimental Property, he with a flourish throws open the lids of the boxes.
Then, standing erect, with his arms akimbo he surveys motionlessly and silently, the topmost
contents of the boxes, perhaps, to ascertain whether they are in the same position that he packed
them last! Satisfied, he locks all the boxes but one, and under the supervision of the Officer-in-
Charge he empties the opened box of its contents. Aniff wears chamois leather gloves or superior

61
quality cotton gloves when handling the Silver; and as each item is lifted out of the box he
examines them minutely for dents or scratches! Aniff does his polishing upstairs on the landside
verandah of the Officers’ Mess as he fears the salt spray from the sea will settle on the Silver. Aniff
is with the Silver daily in the mornings and afternoons and his area of operations is accepted by
all as a sterile area, out of bounds to all comers – so made to feel by Aniff’s reactions by word,
gesture or strong silence towards anyone attempting to see what he is doing or attempting to
engage him in conversation!!

The polishing goes on for about six days consuming many cans of Silvo and many polishing
cloths. Three times the Silver is polished during this period, and the last delicate finish, which Aniff
calls “the touch-ups”, is administered about 3 hours before the Silver is set on the dining table.
The large Candelabra which Aniff calls “the Chandybar” occupies centre place on the table; and
this item is given respectful and affectionate care by Aniff.

When the dinner is over Aniff has work to do; when each item is taken away from the
table, and is laid in their respective boxes and locked before the Officer-in-Charge of Regimental
Property. During the next two days the Silver is checked against Inventories, cleaned and placed in
their boxes, and locked and sealed. Thereafter, the Aniffs rests!!

When the new two storied wings were added to the old building in the 1980s, a secure
vault for the Silver was built; and the Silver continued to be held there when not in use.

SOME BATALION MEMORABILIA


The Unit had in its possession a collection of memorabilia dating from its very early
existence in the Colonial days up to the present. Some of them were items of Uniforms, badges of
rank and insignia, rifles, swords, documents, photographs, mementos – all these, including the
Silver being exclusive property of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion The Sri Lanka Light Infantry bought
out of contributions from serving members of the past and present, gifts presented to the Unit
from those within and well wishers who were non members of the Battalion; and those purchased
out of Unit funds. Just as our long dining table was a gift to the Battalion; so were the two
sculptures of two mounted Ceylon Planters’ Rifle Corps Officers.

There were also a series of caricatures in colour drawn by that legendary officer of the
Battalion of the Colonial era, Major Bevis Bawa – a series of caricatures depicting his peers, Unit
activity, and of himself! Sometime in the 1970s all but a few of those framed caricatures were
destroyed getting wet while they were stored in a room while repairs were being done to the roof
of the Officers’ Mess; when the Second-in-Command of the Unit, Major Wijekoon, transferred the
pictures to a place, he thought as safe. He however had been unaware that the particular room
had a leaking roof. Rains had fallen sometime later, and weeks after, when the Second-in-
Command went to remove the pictures to their original location, he discovered the rain had
caused irrepairable damage to almost all of them. A sense of guilt and sadness had gripped Major
Wijekoon, and he was seized with the idea that he was responsible for the destruction of the
valuable caricatures.

Major Wijekoon motored down to Major Bawa’s residence ‘Brief’ at Kalawila, related what
had happened to the caricatures and respectfully requested from Major Bawa that he draws the
caricatures all over again. He had written out a description of each caricature to refresh Major
Bawa’s recollections of each picture. At that time Major Bawa had been afflicted with the early
stages of arthritis; but, in spite of the pain and the inconvenience he undertook to redraw all the

62
caricatures to the extent that he remembers them; and when he finished the exercise, there was
hardly any difference! Everyone in the Battalion were overwhelmed by Major Bawa’s
magnanimous gesture and were effusively thankful to him.

When retired officers of the Unit from the Colonial days visited the Officers’ Mess for
Social Get Togethers, and during the award of the President’s Colour and a Regimental Colour to
the Unit in 1978; and during the Centenary Celebrations in 1981, they were so pleased to linger
around them and recount stories and incidents that surround these caricatures.

Quoted below is an ode to Major Bevis Bawa composed by James Broughton while
holidaying at Brief, Kalawila, in March 1980.

(1) (2)
“In the land where jaggery grows One lady was heard to remark
And the skies are racous with crows ‘With such a luxuriant park
Years ago on a pastoral Hill You’d think he’d turn a new leaf
Which was left to him in a will This unnatural Bawa of Brief!
A young man was heard to declare:
“I will build my own kingdom there The persons who made such attacks
And proclaim myself its chief Didn’t know that behind their backs
As the one and only Bawa of Brief!” He was turning them into jokes
He made sport of such prudish folk
So he fashioned a baronial scene By writing outrageous lampoons
Of vendurous Tropical green Embellished with artful cartoons
With thickets and Orchids and ponds Which he kept in a sizable sheaf
Among highly exotic fronds The mischievous Bawa of Brief.
Tiled follies of moss and fern
Odd statues at every turn So for many long years of our age
And even a bold bass relief He played the star role on the stage
By the talented Bawa of Brief Of his countryside monument
Where the audience came and went
His subjects were boys from nearby He rewarded with appropriate whim
Who had caught his fanciful eye All those who took care of him
And they usually served him well And who never asked for such relief
But whenever something went wrong From their beloved Bawa of Brief.
He struck a sepulchras gong
And uttered an awesome yell He had always been prone to ailing
That was almost beyond belief And one day this unfortunate failing
The hot-headed Bawa of Brief. Proved almost as fatal as death
When to friends’ and doctors’ dismay
Though they seldom covered their feet He bodily wafted away
His yeomen were generally neat Yelling down with his vanishing breath
He himself wore the garb of a Major Wave farewell to your wonderful Chief
With a towering plume of white You are still very clever, now and for ever
Which made him look twice his height Unforgettable Bawa of Brief!. ”
And made everyone else look minor
As they stared in disbelief
At the fabulous Bawa of Brief

Mrs. Saraswathie Rockwood the wife of one of our Commanding Officers presented to the
Unit a set of paintings of some of the uniforms worn by members of the Unit during the period
1881-1949. These have been reproduced in some of the Battalion publications.

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MILITARY FUNERALS
During the tenure of Service with the Battalion I participated in two military funeral
ceremonials which were accorded with full military Honours. One was the funeral of the late
Major General H. W. G. Wijekoon OBE, ED., who commanded the Ceylon Army and was at the
time of his tragic death, Ceylon’s Ambassador to Italy. Lt. Col. Wijekoon who joined the Ceylon
Light Infantry Voluinteers in 1935 commanded it during the period 1948-1949. Before the military
Ceremonial, the Battalion had the privilege of deploying troops on vigil duties over the coffin at
his residence. The battalion also placed a floral wreath designed like its regimental colour. Eight
officers including me and about hundred Other Ranks participated in the military procession with
the draped Regimental Colour and Drum and Fife Band. It rained throughout the march to the
Kanatta Cemetery and we were soaking wet.

The cremation of General Sir John Kotalawala’s remains took place in October 1980.
General Sir John had joined the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers in 1920; and after Ceylon gained
Independence was a Prime Minister of the country. General Sir John’s remains were cremated at
Independence Square, Colombo and the Funeral Procession assembled on Independence Avenue.
The Battalion carried its Regimental Colour draped in Black and the Drums of the Drum and Fife
Band were covered in black. I had the privilege of being the Insignia Bearer of General Sir John’s
medals in the military procession, and marched behind the gun carriage carrying his remains.

During my period of service with the Battalion there occurred the funeral of the Prime
Minister the late Hon. Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike in September 1959. I was abroad at the time,
and on my return I learnt that the Battalion was deployed on street lining.

In 1973 when Mr. Dudley Senanayake, who was a Prime Minister of the island passed
away, battalion personnel were deployed on security duties. I can recall I was in charge of a
mobile patrol which had to vigil the route from Galle Face Hotel down Justice Akbar Mawatha to
Slave Island and then onward along Union Place to Lipton’s Circus and back.

OF PAYMENTS
* Officers and Men attending peacetime Volunteer parades were entitled to claim traveling
expenses for travel by car, rail or road public transport, in accordance with laid down
procedures and rates.
* Officers and men attending the Annual Training Camp (14 days) a Week-End Camp (48 hour
Camp) or Week-End Drill (36 hrs Camp) were eligible to claim “Camp Batta” – an Allowance
on a per day rate for each rank. From the per day rate the cost of feeding was deducted.
* An Annual Payment of Rs. 50/- called “Bounty” was paid to all Ranks who qualify in the
Annual Weapon Training Course, and has undergone the following training :
x 10 days in Camp and 15 parades or,
x 05 days in Camp and 25 parades, or,
x 40 Parades
* When a Volunteer is mobilised or called out on Active Service, he is paid a salary as his
counterpart in the Regular Force for the period of Active Service he has rendered.

[The rates of payment for Bounty and attendance at Camps were what had been prevailing during
my tenure of service with the Battalion which was from 1954 – 1983. However I understand that
the Sri Lanka Army (Volunteer Force and Volunteer Reserve) Regulations 1985, have made
amendments vesting in the Army Commander the determination of provisions for qualifications
and rates of payments.]

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EFFICIENCY
According to regulations prevailing during 1954-1983 an Officer or Other Rank of the
Battalion must attend 09 Parades and qualify in the Annual Weapon Training Course to qualify for
“Efficiency” for a particular year. It is understood that determining these qualifications have been
vested with the Commander of the Army in the Sri Lanka Army (Volunteer Force and Volunteer
Reserve Regulations) 1985.

MEDALS FOR VOLUNTEERING


In accordance with the provisions of the Royal Warrants issued by the British Sovereign and
the Regulations for the award of the Decoration and the Medal, Officers and Men of the Ceylon
Volunteer Force who had the qualifying service were entitled to claim the Efficiency Decoration
and the Efficiency Medal respectively; and Officers so awarded with the Decoration were
permitted to have the letters E.D. after their names. This award however ceased to be made after
Sri Lanka declared itself a Republic in 1972.

CONSEQUENCES WHEN CEYLON DECLARED ITSELF THE REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA IN 1972
All Units had to submit indigenous designs for their Battalion Insignia, change their mottos in
English to those in Sinhalese, retire the British Sovereign’s Colours and have marching tunes and
lyrics of regimental marches in English, changed from Western tunes and lyrics to those that are
indigenous.

The Battalion however continued to retain its marching tune “I’m Ninety Five” and its lyrics
and drew no objections. Sadly the Queen’s and Regimental Colours of 1954 were retired from
service and appropriately reposed at Battalion Headquarters after a short and solemn ceremony.
The Battalion insignia in use during the Colonial and Dominion periods could be described as a
Bugle horn within its strings the cypher CLI, surmounted with the Prince of Wales Crest, all in
silver.

I was aware that changes had to be made to the Regimental badge; but was not aware that
action was being taken towards accomplishing it by the 1st Battalion or by us of the Second. If we
were proposing alternatives we would have heard of it, or it would have been a topic of discussion
when Officers or Men dropped in at Battalion Headquarters for training or otherwise. As for me, I
was not aware that any alternative were being prepared by the 1st Battalion or us.

However, on the 17th of June 1972 when I happened to be at Battalion Headquarters for
some reason or other, I walked into the Adjutant’s Office. The Commanding Officer was also in the
Adjutant’s Office. The Commanding Officer then told the Adjutant “get him to sign the letter!” I
read the letter addressed to Army Headquarters. It was about changes in Crests and Badges. It
said to the effect that the 2nd Battalion Sri Lanka Light Infantry endorses and recommends the
designs for the regimental insignia submitted by the 1st Battalion. As the letter was prepared for
the Commanding Officer’s signature, I inquired how I could place my signature. The Commanding
Officer then had the letter redone for me to sign for the Commanding Officer and ordered me to
sign. I do not still know why he did not sign the letter, or get the Adjutant to sign for him! It is still
a mystery to me! or, is it ?!!

Be it as it may, we had to accept the 1st Battalion’s symbolisation and design of the new
Insignia. They had made every effort to maintain an identical configuration as that of the badge
which had become irrelevant. The Prince of Wales coronet and three Ostrich plumes had been

65
omitted and its place taken by three sheaves of paddy. In one place in the “History of the 1st
Battalion (Regular Force)”, it says that these signify Prosperity and the Heritage of an agrarian
nation; elsewhere in the same publication it is said that the three sheaves of paddy symbolise the
three military Ideals of Duty, Patriotism and Self sacrifice.

The Bugle to represent the infantry in the old insignia has been retained, and the bugle
strings hold the three sheaves of paddy together; with two identical scrolls at the bow of the
bugle strings carrying a Sinhala translation of the Prince of Wales motto ICH DIEN as fiajh lrñ.
Between the bugle strings is the cypher Sri Lanka Light Infantry (or CLI) in Sinhala as ,mdy . The
new badge, like its predecessor was initially all silver, but sometime in later years, the three
sheaves of paddy appeared in gold with the rest of the insignia in silver.

AN ALLEGED REGIMENTAL INSIGNIA OF AN ELEPHANT AND A COCONUT TREE


I would like to comment on the aspect of an alleged Regimental Insignia! “ The Ceylon Light
Infantry. History of the 1st Battalion (Regular Force) 1949-1975” depicts an Insignia of an elephant
and a coconut tree as the Regimental badge in use from 13 March 1881 to 28 November 1881.

The Volunteers of the Ceylon Light Infantry were the sole heirs to the history of the Ceylon
Light Infantry since its raising in 1881 until 1950; where after it had to share it with others of the
Regular Force and Volunteer Force which adopted its appellation. Consequently, it refused to
recognise the stance taken by the 1st (Regular) Battalion that the insignia of an Elephant and a
Coconut tree was the insignia of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers at raising as there is no
authentic evidence vindicated by historical truths that such an insignia represented the Ceylon
Volunteers, the progenitor of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers at raising on 01 April 1881.

When this claim came to the notice of our battalion the Commanding Officer he directed
that the Research and Publications Unit of the Battalion to make an investigations. What it found
are noted in the following paragraphs.

The device of an Elephant and Coconut tree are found as the central device on a bronze
hued button with the words “CEYLON LIGHT INFANTRY” inscribed round it within two circlets. The
button is an exhibit in the museum of the 1st (Regular) Battalion The Sri Lanka Light Infantry; and
its published history records “The reproduction in this book of the first Regimental Insignia from
an antique CLI Button of 1881 was possible due to Lt. Col. A. A. de Alwis a former Commanding
Officer of 3 (V) SR who had earlier presented it to the Regimental Museum.”

* It is claimed that this insignia had been the insignia of the progenitor of the Ceylon
Light Infantry from 13 March 1881 to 28 November 1881. Authentic evidence indicates that
the first Commanding Officer of the Ceylon Volunteers Lt. Col. Armitage was appointed to
that position only on 06 May 1881,

* A Meeting of the Ceylon Volunteers was held only on 18 May 1881, pursuant to
notice in the local papers, at the Fort for the purpose of selecting the uniform, full dress etc.
for the Corps.

* Documentary evidence reveals that the Ceylon Volunteers were re-designated “The
Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers” only on 6th August 1881.

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* Commenting on the appointment of His Royal Highness Albert Edward Prince of
Wales as the first Honorary Colonel of Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers, Oscar M. Abey
‘Ratne in his History of The Ceylon Light Infantry says “To this fact is due the Prince of Wales’
plumes and the motto “Ich Dien” being permitted to be included in the Crest of the
Regiment”.

* Photographs of very early COs of the CLI Volunteers are seen wearing the stringed
bugle as a collar badge.

In the light of these investigations made in the mid 1970s, the Commanding Officer of the
2nd (Volunteer Battalion) Sri Lanka Light Infantry reserved acceptance of the badge in question
being the first insignia worn by its progenitor until there is acceptable and authentic evidence to
confirm it. The reasons that inhibited acceptance were :-

* It is claimed that the button with the device of an Elephant and a Coconut tree with
the words CEYLON LIGHT INFANTRY round it was the insignia of the Ceylon Light Infantry
Volunteers and was in use between 13 March 1881 and 28 November 1881.

The claim loses its integrity because the progenitor of the Ceylon Light Infantry
Volunteers, the Ceylon Volunteers was raised only on 01 April 1881, by a proclamation of
the Lieutenant Governor of Island; and it is absurd to claim the Ceylon Volunteers had a
designation and insignia before it was statutorily raised – and, a designation different to
what it was raised as, at that! The Ceylon Observer of 26 May 1881 carries a notice by the
Adjutant that the Headquarter of the Ceylon Volunteers has moved to the Seamens Hospital,
near Racket Court. Capt. G. L. Gwatkin, the Adjutant, signs the notice “for the Commanding
Officer C. V.” Furthermore the Ceylon Volunteers was designated as the “Ceylon Light
Infantry Volunteers” only in July 1881; and it should be noted that the word “Volunteers”
was then a part of its appellation; which the button should have borne on it, if it identified
itself with the progenitor of the present Sri Lanka Light Infantry. The Ceylon Light Infantry
Volunteers changed its designation to The Ceylon Light Infantry only in May 1888. (From
Oscar M Abey ‘Ratne: as ante).

With all due respect and malice towards none it could be surmised that the protagonists of
this claim, in the excitement and euphoria out of coming into possession of this Button, may have
rushed heedlessly, disregarding historical truths, to contrive a time frame during which they
purport this insignia was in use. In this endeavour it is evident that they had ferreted out certain
dates from Oscar M Abey ‘Ratne’s History of the Ceylon Light Infantry; which have no evidence of
a proven nexus or association between the button, and the time frame of its alleged use as
purported.

* The date of commencement of using the Insignia is given as 13 March 1881. This date
is the date of a Minute made and signed by the Lt. Governor on a Petition to form a
Volunteer Corps submitted to him by the Brigade Major. The Lieutenant Governor and
minuted on the letter “I am prepared to grant the Petition”, on 12 th March 1881. So, the
date of commencement of the use of the insignia has been fixed for the day after, as 13 th
March 1881! A Minute on a letter by the Governor is not a Raising Instruction! Ordinance
No. 3 of 1861 lays down that the Governor’s assent to form a Volunteer Corps has to be
conveyed by a proclamation published in the Government Gazette. The proclamation
appeared on Page 528 of the Government Gazette No. 4396 of 01 April 1881. How could an

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Insignia belong to a Unit that was not raised! And the proclamation does not lay down a
description of an insignia the new unit should carry!

The date the insignia ceased to be used has been given as 29 Nov. 1881, reference has again
been culled out of Oscar Abey ‘Ratene (as ante), and is the date of a communication from the War
Office in London to the Governor of the island that His Highness the Prince of Wales has
consented to accept the Honorary Colonelcy of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers. Oscar M
Abey ‘Ratne in his publication (as ante) adds “To this effect is due the Prince of Wales’ plumes and
motto “Ich Dien” being permitted to be included in the Crest of the Regiment” If this Insignia of a
Coconut Tree and an Elephant had been the Central device of this Insignia existing as at 27
November 1881; one is led to wander, why an Elephant or a Coconut tree is not an integrant
symbol of the insignia incorporating the crest and motto of the Prince of Wales!

The insignia of the battalion after it was privileged to incorporate the Prince of Wales Crest
was a bugle horn within its strings the cypher CLI, surmounted with the Prince of Wales crest all in
Silver. In very early photographs of our Commanding Officers we have seen some of them wearing
the stringed bugle as a collar badge.

Finally for the information of those who may be concerned. I recall that in the process of
investigations made by the Research and Publication Unit of the 2 nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Sri
Lanka Light Infantry in the 1970s; it found the following references to the existence of a “Ceylon
Light Infantry” in the publication “Kandyan Wars: British Army in Ceylon 1803 – 1818” : (Geoffrey
Powel : Navarang : 1984)

“A report received in Colombo on 13th March that 6000 Kandyans were marching on
the Fort resulted in Capt. Bullock of the 65th being sent with 50 Men of his Grenadier
Company and the same number of the Ceylon Light Infantry to reinforce the Fort …….” (P
180)

“The 1st Battalion (of the Ceylon Regiments) still Malay, had been recognised as a
Light Infantry Unit the previous July . . . . “ (P 209)

To establish to whom the button belonged needs research; no authentic and


acceptable evidence has yet been found to establish beyond reasonable doubt that though
the button carries the inscription CEYLON LIGHT INFANTRY’, that it is a button used by the
CEYLON VOLUNTEERS raised on 01 April 1881 and re-designated the “CEYLON LIGHT
INFANTRY VOLUNTEERS” on 6th August 1881; and finally re-designated “THE CEYLON LIGHT
INFANTRY in July in 1888! – and now, the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion The Sri Lanka Light
Infantry.

MOBILISATION INTO ACTIVE SERVICE

(a) Mobilisations are when we are called out on Active Service. Volunteers are called out on
Active Service when the Regular Force does not have sufficient manpower to execute a task that
has been assigned to it; and will be kept on Active Service until the need is over, whereupon they
are demobilised from Active Service. In the 1950s the decade in which I joined the Volunteer
Force, Volunteers in part or whole were mobilised into Active Service in consequence of a
proclamation published in the Ceylon Government Gazette by the Governor General. In this
Proclamation the number, rank and name of those who are mobilisesd are indicated. A similar

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Proclamation is published in the Ceylon Government Gazette to demobilise them from Active
Service. In the 1960s however when the incidences of strikes and disruption of the availability of
essential services were becoming too frequent; an alternative to circumvent bureaucratic delays
in calling out Volunteers for Active Service and placing them out of Active Service by placing them
on Compulsory Leave without Pay was introduced. This procedure enabled a future recall by
letter, telegram, Newspaper Notice or Radio Announcement – whichever modus operandi to
recall depended on the number of Volunteers required. This system was known in abbreviation as
CLWP. Surviving veteran Volunteers from the Colonial era have told us that in the Ceylon Defence
Force, during World War II a similar status existed when Volunteers on Active Service could obtain
“Indefinite Leave” without pay. They were not certain of a maximum period of such leave; but
said that such Volunteers on “Indefinite Leave” had to undergo a certain number of days of
training per month. With the initial system of mobilisation and demobilisation by Proclamation
the Volunteer employed in the Private or Public Sectors became entitled to the Army pay and his
salary from civilian employment for the period he was on Active Service. With employer resistance
to this followed by negotiations through Employers’ Federations, this privilege was restricted to
the first two months of continued Active Service per spell of Active Service; and it became extinct
with the introduction of Compulsory Leave Without Pay system since 1960s.

Since the mid 1950s the incidences of Volunteers been called out for Active Service
increased progressively. The calls for frequent Active Service between 1960s and 1980s could be
loosely classified under the following categories.

* Maintenance of law and order during Trade Union Strikes and demonstrations by
employees of the Public and Private Sector institutions.

* Maintenance of Essential Services in consequence of Trade Union strikes and other


contingencies.

* Taking over security duties otherwise performed by the Regular Force; such as long
term service with the Task Force Anti Illicit Immigration (TaFll) and guard duties in
Colombo.

* The armed insurrection of the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna to seize state power in
1971.

* Repeated unarmed ethnic clashes including the episode “Emergency 58” and
demonstrations from time to time by Tamil Political groups.

* Relief work during natural disasters and deployment on national development


projects.

* State ceremonial occasions.

In the above instances the Volunteers and Regular troops were deployed in aid to the civil
power. In this instance the civil power remains in complete control, but finds that the Civil Police
Force cannot by itself maintain law and order. The Army is then employed in aid of the Civil Power
and helps the Police. This intervention is under the provisions of the Ceylon Panel Code and the
Criminal Procedure Code. However when there is a state of public emergency and the Public
Security Ordinance is invoked and a ‘State of Emergency’ is declared, new offences are created
and additional powers are vested in the Armed Services.

Military action performed in aid to Civil Power (under provisions of the Ceylon Penal Code
and the Criminal Procedure Code) were Dispersal of Mobs and unlawful assemblies, Guarding of

69
Vulnerable or Critical Points, maintaining essential public services, Recce Patrols on foot or Motor
Transport, maintaining Cordons and road blocks, disarming and searching individuals, searching
vehicles and houses, and making arrests.

In the case of all the above incidences, other than during the armed JVP uprising in 1971 to
seize state power, troops are guided not so much by definite military orders as by a set of
principles governed by both political as well as military considerations. Further they have to
achieve their object with the use of minimum force. The main principles guiding troops in a
security operation, then, were the following:-

 The Principle of Necessity


You must be able to justify each separate act of force in each particular spot.

 The Principle of Minimum Force


You must use no more force than is necessary to achieve the immediate object.

 The Principle of Impartiality


This is particularly important in an internal security operation arising out of political
and communal disturbances.

 The Principle of Good Faith


Every act you do must be in good faith.

(b) During normal Trade Union strikes we have not encountered any confrontation with the
strikers and deployment consisted of guarding critical points, foot patrols and mobile patrols in
sensitive areas.
In situations where the availability of essential services were involved, the Unit had
provided escorts on trains and State run busses. During strikes in the Colombo Harbour the Unit
was fully committed to loading and loading operations; and at the end of that exercise had a good
number of Winch and Electric Crane Operators! There are two anecdotes to relate. When the Unit
was informed one day of the ship it had to unload the following day and the quay it was berthed
at, there was great enthusiasm among those rostered for duty that day as the ship was
romantically named “Shiela Margreat”!! On arrival at the quay our excited young men found that
it was hardly a ship, and its cargo was a load of dry fish which was smelling to high heaven! Never
had I seen, even a small boat as this, unloaded so fast! The other occurred during an afternoon to
late night turn of duty in the harbour. Our task was to unload a ship carrying rice berthed at the
Prince Vijaya Quay. I was the Duty Officer at Headquarters that night, and I logged the Delta
Company returning after duty. Around 8.00 O’ Clock the following morning the Duty Officer at
Armoured Corps called to inform that when they opened the hatches of the ship they were to
unload that morning (the same ship we unloaded the previous night!); they found a man fast
asleep! On questioning he had ashamedly informed he was Private “X” of 2 (V) CLI. He was
dressed in his PT kit, and he could not come by bus; so, we sent a vehicle and got him down! The
Officer and the Sergeant of the Party were admonished by their Company Commander, for
neglecting to ensure that all their men were off the ship and fallen in and checked before they left
the quay for the Camp.

70
During strikes at institutions that supply water and electricity and those that provide
Telecommunication and Broadcasting services; technical Units of the Armed Services maintained
those services; and our battalion when called upon, provided guard duties. When called out to
maintain law and order during Demonstrations made by Tamil political groups the military
presence deterred any confrontation between the two ethnic groups.

Once, sometime in 1960s I believe, in consequence of tension between the Tamil and
Sinhalese communities in Trincomalee our Commanding Officer was asked by Army Headquarters
to dispatch a Company strength to Trincomalee, and to report to the Government Agent who will
arrange for our accommodation, and brief the Company Commander as to what our task is.

The Company Commander of “Delta Company” with three of his platoons, three platoon
Commanders including me, and one Officer and a platoon from “Bravo” Company left by road for
Trincomalee. The Second in Command of Delta Company failed to turn up to leave for
Trincomalee! When we arrived late afternoon in Trincomalee, and our Company Commander met
the Government Agent, he was informed that the situation is rather tense and sensitive: but that
it is contained; and as the presence of troops in the town may upset both communities; it is best
that we remain somewhere close by in anonymity, unseen, by the townsfolk in Trincomalee; and
that the Government Agent will call for our help in the event of a necessity. Arrangements had
been made with the Royal Air Force base in China Bay to accommodate us.

We were well received and welcomed by the Royal Air Force personnel at China Bay. The
Officers, Warrant Officers, Sergeants, and the Men were given very comfortable quarters and
billets. The food was good; and the Base Commander was gracious to extend to us NAFFI facilities
which were a privilege to British troops serving in foreign lands where liquor and cigarettes were
made available at Duty Free rates. It was no surprise to see our soldiers walking out in the
evenings in mufti carrying a tin of “Woodbine” cigarettes in their hands! The Woodbine cigarette
we came to know was a low cost British manufactured cigarette which was popular among British
sailors, soldiers and airmen - perhaps akin to the “Peacock” cigarette available in Ceylon then.

As we cannot keep troops idle in Camp we organized Physical Training, Drill and Weapon
Training in the mornings; and in the afternoon, some competitions followed by recreational
activities in the evenings. A British Destroyer had put into Port at the Trincomalee Harbour, and
the Air Force suggested that we play a soccer match against the sailors one evening at China Bay.
We did, and the Sailors won 35-Nil! During the second half their goalie was lying down on the
ground under the cross bar of their goal post, for all the activity was only around our goal posts!!
Towards the end of our sojourn, virtually a holiday at China Bay; the Royal Air Force graciously
took, in turns, all the Officers and a selection of Other Ranks on their training Flights in their
Catalina flying Boats, each lasting about two to three hours in the air. After two and a half weeks
of our arrival, Trincomalee had returned to normal, and Army Headquarters in time got us back to
Colombo.

(c) The long and difficult episodes of Active Service the battalion was called upon to serve
during my service with the battalion were the communal clashes of 1958, also known as
“Emergency 58” of which Tarzie Vittachchi has published a book titled by that name and the
armed insurrection of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna to seize state power in 1971, of which
A.E.C. Alles has published a work.

71
In 1958 when the communal clashes broke out and harassment and arson were mounting
the battalion was called out on Active Service. Two platoons of the Delta Company of which I was
a member, was deployed in Panadura. Lt. Senaka Ranasinghe who is senior to me was the other
Officer. The situation in Panadura was tense as it was alleged that a member of the Hindu clergy
had been done to death by Sinhalese mobs, and the Kovil in the town set on Fire. We were
accommodated in a part of the Traffic Branch of the Panadura Police Station. We had to sleep on
our ground sheets and arrange with the Police assistance for a caterer to supply us with meals.
Intense patrolling and enforcing the “move-on” order and the arrest, with Police assistance, and
detention of a few suspicious individuals ensured no further violence; but the pulse of the
situation indicated that it was tense. Two days after our arrival in Panadura, I had instructions to
move to Kalutara with my platoon and establish myself there.

I moved with my Delta company platoon into Kalutara, and occupied the 2(V) CLI “B”
Company Detachment buildings in town as instructed. I took over duties in Kalutara from a
Detachment of the Ceylon Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (of the Regular Force). The Officer,
Lt. Andrew Fernando, was known to me, as we had played cricket together for the Negombo
Cricket Club. As transport I was given a private bus as a heavy vehicle, and a “Quickshaw” taxi cab
as a light vehicle! Both were vehicles requisitioned by the Army under Emergency Regulations.
We made arrangements for the supply of meals with a small hotel in town. Our area of
responsibility was primarily, the coastal towns form the Kalutara North to the Bentota Bridge in
the south.

There had been instances of arson in Kalutara town prior to our arrival. However there was
tension in the Beruwala area, where a Sinhalese, a David Silva held in Police custody, had died at
the Beruwala Police Station. His funeral ceremonies were to be held three days after our arrival in
Kalutara; and the local Police feared that they are under threat, and Army Headquarters too
expressed concern. No reinforcements were sent and we did the best we could with the 18 odd
men we could throw in; and breathed a sigh of relief when the event ended without incident. It
was a risk we had to take to move 19 men to Beruwala, leaving only 12 men to guard the
Detachment area, and respond to any incident in Kalutara town!

We kept Kalutara free of serious incidents with the assistance of the Police with frequent
mobile patrols and surprise foot patrols. The Commander of the Army visited our small
detachment and was pleased at the situation in Kalutara, our patrol plans, and the operations
Board we had devised.

Soon we were withdrawn to Battalion Headquarters in Colombo and another platoon of


the battalion relieved us at Kalutara; and we were deployed as standby Internal security platoons
in various part of the city, talking 24 hour turns. A reserve was held at Battalion Headquarters.
There were three platoons held on Reserve; one at immediate notice to move out, one at
one hours notice, and the other at two hours notice. Especially at night, when the situation was
returning to normal, some of the young officers of the Platoons at two hours notice and three
hours notice to move out played truant! It was discovered by the Commanding Officer himself,
that they scoot out and go home or to a friend’s home not too far away from Headquarters, and
call Headquarters to find out when the platoon at immediate notice has been moved out! If it has,
they come rushing back; if it is still at Headquarters at immediate notice, they know they have
about another hour or two to linger at their tryst! The Commanding Officer then laid down that all
Platoon Commanders would be at immediate notice to be deployed for one week!!

72
During the ethnic clashes our battalion troops were not compelled to open fire to maintain
law and order, nor did we suffer any casualties. In about eight to ten weeks after it broke out the
situation returned to normal.

In April 1971 the insurrection of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) broke out island-
wide other than in the North and parts of the East; when their armed young cadres made an
attempt to seize state power from an elected government bringing about an experience that the
Army of Independent Ceylon had not savoured since its inauguration in 1949. Elsewhere in my
recollections, I have mentioned the status that some of us Officers and Men of the Battalion were
held in by the state in 1970; but when the general call out for Active Service for the Volunteer
Force went out, an all island all day curfew was declared, there was an enthusiastic response,
without reservation, from those allegedly stigmatized as persona non grata reporting for duty
from their homes; some braving the long distances without public transport or the lurking
dangers from JVP cadres enroute; which left those who doubted our loyalty to the State, with egg
on their face!

The night of the evening I reported for duty, I was put in charge of a party that was to take
a stock of ammunition from Army Headquarters to the two Units of the Gamunu Watch at Galle
and Matara; and another Officer from our Battalion left for Diyatalawa with a stock of
ammunition. I experienced the disturbance when an excited policeman at a road block at Kosgoda
opened fire at us without warning to stop. In the leading jeep I heard the whine of the speeding
bullet very very wide of us. It was almost passed midnight, a curfew was alive; it transpired that
the Police Stations enroute had not been informed of our convoy movement! The Police had pre-
determined not to let any traffic move on the roads, as the JVP cadres were hijacking busses and
lorries under threat, and were making use of them to get about.

I returned to Battalion Headquarters the following day without incident. The curfew lived
on, and town after town on the journey back were looking like ghost towns. The following
morning on Army Headquarters instructions I was asked to report to the DAAQMG of the CVF
Branch at Army Headquarters to temporarily work as a Staff Officer at the Branch.

I reported to Col. Sally the DAAQMG CVF Branch at Army Headquarters. The CVF Branch
was located at Army Headquarters to replace the Headquarters Ceylon Volunteer Force
Headquarters which was suppressed in the aftermath of the abortive Coup d’etat of 1962 as both
the Commandant and the Deputy Commandant were allegedly involved in the abortive Coup d’
etat. The CVF Branch was not housed in the main building of the Army Headquarters which had
been the Ceylon Garrison Artillery Headquarters during World War II; but in a Colonial type small
building of earlier vintage in the rear, in the area where the World War II coastal guns and their
bunkers were sited. It was really a small structure. It has a hall of about 15’ x 30’ with about 1/3 rd
of partitioned for the Colonel, and the rest was occupied by the clerks. Off the hall, mercifully
with a window opening on to the sea side it had a small room where I worked, had my meals and
slept from April 71 to September 71!! Yes, there was no attached toilet, and I had to go about a 30
yards or so to another old structure with only a little lobby and toilet for my daily ablutions! This
was also the resting place of the officers of a troop of the Armoured Corps that came every
evening for the defence of Army Headquarters. In these circumstance I met and made friends with
Nimal Fernando, Jayantha Dias and Lalith Gunaratne.

I enjoyed working for Colonel Sally. Apart from keeping a tab on what is going on
operationally, and inspecting Volunteer Force Units deployed island-wide; the CVF Branch bore its

73
peacetime administrative functions over the Volunteer Force; and I gained much familiarisation
and experience in the routines and procedures of the main functions of the Branch.

Unfortunately I had no operational experiences during this episode. However, elsewhere


the Battalion was widely deployed by platoons in the Anuradhapura district, the Sabaragamuwa
Province, the Kalutara District and in Colombo. In the North Central Province it had serviced places
such as Horowpathana, Dutuwewa, Yakalla, Galenbindunuwewa, Kahatagasdigiliya, Kekirawa and
Anuradhapura town itself. In the Sabaragamuwa Province, platoons were deployed in Kegalle,
Moratota and Bulathkohupitiya; and the entirety of the Kalutara District etc.

During these deployments there had been instances of exchanges of fire and
confrontations between Unit personnel and the Insurgents, and in some instances prisoners taken
with no loss of life or casualties sustained by the Unit troops.

Humorous incidents do occur even during tense situations! This had occurred at a
Detachment deployed in or around Anuradhapura. The Officer in Charge of Detachment had
requested for leave for a few days from Unit Headquarters. At the Unit Headquarters in Colombo
the only Junior Officer available was one attached to us from another Unit. Headquarters
informed the Detachment of the arrival of a replacement officer by train on a particular day. The
Light vehicle at the Detachment was a Land Rover jeep with a civilian driver requisitioned from a
Government Department. On the appointed day the driver of the jeep was informed to go to the
Anuradhapura Railway Station and pick-up an Officer who is coming in the morning train from
Colombo and bring him to the Camp. It had been routine for all vehicles leaving and entering the
Camp to stop at the Guard Room and register their entry or departure.

The driver and an armed escort had left for the Anuradhapura railway station on the
appointed day. Sometime after the arrival of the train a person in civilian clothes with a suit case
had walked up to the escort and asked whether he was from the 2(V) CLI Camp. The escort had
come to attention and said “Yes”; then he had inquired whether he could come with them to
Camp, whereupon the escort has said that it was to take him to Camp that they had come. The
new arrival had asked whether the Officer Commanding the Detachment knew he was reporting;
and when the escort replied in the affirmative, the new arrival had looked rather disturbed and
apprehensive. The escort had coaxed the new arrival to sit in the front seat of the jeep and they
had driven to Camp. The Officer-in-Charge, the Sergeant of the platoon and a few soldiers were
gathered near the Guard Room area awaiting the arrival or the relieving officer from
Headquarters. The Jeep had stopped at the Guard Room to register its entry to Camp. The front
passenger door of the jeep had opened and the new arrival had stepped out, and the Sentry had
saluted! It was then that the Sergeant had recognized him – He was a soldier, well known to some
in the Battalion as a habitual absentee without leave. All those gathered had been aghast at the
comedy of errors that had occurred. The Sergeant had later taken, the escort and the newly
arrived soldier aside and given them a telling off in juicy barrack room language; to the escort for
not finding out the identity of the arrival, and the new arrival for not properly identifying himself!

In a few days, the circumstances that led to this fiasco came to light. The relieving officer
had not left Colombo for Anuradhapura as scheduled owing to some exigencies at Battalion
Headquarters. The telephone at the Detachment had been out of order that day and it could not
be informed. The soldier, who was mistaken for the Officer, was not a member of the Company to
which the platoon at Anuradhapura was organic to, so he was unknown to the escort who met
him at the Railway station. However the escort was failing in his duty in not ensuring the identity

74
of the arriving individual. It could have been a security risk if he was a pretender trying to enter
the Camp. The soldier had been sent to Anuradhapura after he had been found up to his tricks of
absenting himself without leave in Colombo. His arrival had been an independent movement
unconnected with the expected arrival of a relieving Officer.

Around September 1971, my employer, Associated Motorways, was pressing me for a


return to work. The Governing Director of the Group had successfully negotiated with the Ministry
of Defence for my release, and by end September 1971, I was placed on CLWP. Soon the back of
the Insurgency was broken and mopping up operations were taking place.

d) Those of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Ceylon Light Infantry were the first Volunteers
deployed for duties with the Task Force Anti Illicit Immigration (abbreviated TaFII). It occurred in
the second half of the year 1964. I was a Captain then, and I was sent leading a Recce Party to the
Iyakachchi TaFII Camp in Jaffna East to liaise with a Company of the 1st Ceylon Sinha Regiment
whom we were to relieve.

The origins of the Task Force Anti Illicit Immigration, “OPS MONTY”, first launched in 1952,
was a brain child of the late Major Monty Jayawickreme of the CLI Volunteers of the Ceylon
Defence Force era.

“OPS MONTY” was launched to apprehend immigrants from South India, who, to find
employment, better working and living conditions, ventured out in sea going country craft seeking
the shores of Mannar which was the shortest distance between the two countries by sea. The
right of arrest of an illegal immigrant accrued from Section 33 of the Criminal Procedure Code. At
the time “OPS MONTY” was launched Major Monty Jayawickreme was the Parliamentary
Secretary for Defence. Though as a raconteur I narrate in my recollections that the origin of TaFll,
“OPS MONTY” was a brain child of an Officer of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers of yester
years; I wonder whether this significance ever struck anyone of us when we first came to
participate in this Operation!!

At the time the battalion started participation in serving with the Force in 1964 it had
expanded and streamlined itself and was known by its new appellation, TAFII. By this time the
incidence of illicit immigration had dropped to minimal levels and the prevention of smuggling to
and from South India to the Jaffna Peninsula was one of its prime tasks. The Headquarters were
in Jaffna. The area of operation was divided into two sectors; namely the Jaffna Sector and the
Mannar Sector. Each sector was divided into several sub-sectors. Each Sub Sector had several
Coast Watching Points (CWPs) to maintain. It was an exercise where many Arms and services
participated. The infantry provided the bulk for Camp Security, and to man the Coast Watching
Points. The Artillery provided the searchlights to scan the seas. The Signal Corps maintained the
communication network from sub sector to sub sector, and onward to Sector Headquarter, and
then beyond to TaFII Headquarters and Army Headquarters. The Supply Corps provided the
transport, Rations and Barrack Stores. Engineer Elements looked after repairs and maintenance to
vehicles, generators and the supply of power, water and plumbing. The Medical Corps had a
Medical Aid post at each sub sector Base Camp.

On my recce of Iyakachchi Camp I met the Officers of the 1st Ceylon Sinha Regiment. The
Camp was sited on the land side of the Jaffna Road and was located close in proximity to the Salt
Corporation. The buildings were structured out of aluminium sheets fitted on to the wooden
superstructures. The floors were cement rendered; separate billets and quarters for Officers, WOs

75
and Sergeants, and Men for a Company strength were appropriately sited with toilets. Provision
had been made for buildings for the Detachment Office, Armoury and Signal Room; garage for
vehicles, Ration Stores, Petrol oil and Lubricant Stores etc. The Camp had its own generator for
the supply of electricity. All sub sector Base Camps and Coast Watching Points in the TaFII
operational area were more or less similar to those at the Sub sector Base Camp at Iyakachchi,
though, perhaps, differently sited.

Two weeks after the recce was done we arrived in Company strength at Iyakachchi; we
had a Major, a Captain, three Subalterns; and four platoons of Men, a Warrant Officer and three
Sergeants.

Our Sub Sector was identified as Jaffna East. If my memory has not failed me after 47
years, we serviced four Coast Watching Points, namely Nagarkovil, Ampan, Talaiady and
Kattaikadu along the eastern coast line of Jaffna. A Coast Watching Point is a shed by the beach,
constructed out of aluminium with a small verandah and a room for about to 5 people to occupy.
The room is furnished with requisite beds, chairs and tables and kitchen utensils. In close
proximity was a small kitchen, a toilet and a well for drinking water.

A turn of duty at a Coast Watching Point was four days or five at the most as I remember.
The members consisted of 1 NCO and three Privates. Tinned, fresh, and dry rations that will keep
for about 4 days was issued to those going on duty to CWPs. Personal weapons of rifles were
carried, the NCO being allowed in early days a Sten Machine Carbine, which was later replaced
with a Sterling Machine Gun. Those going on CWP Duty were issued with Torches, a pair of
binoculars, a First Aid Pack. Initially each CWP was issued with HF 156 radio equipment for
communication with other CWPs in the sub sector and the Base Camp; when these were phased
out, they were issued with the VHF hand sets – also colloquially known as “Walkie Talkie” sets!

Duty wise personnel at CWPs had to scan the horizon during the day for suspected craft,
and periodically send out foot patrols of 2 members to the left and right of the CWP, alternatively
during the day; and at night a CWP could, if there are suspicious lights off shore, or even beyond,
call on the assistance of the Search Light Point for assistance to illuminate the area. Each of the
Sub-sectors had at least one fiberglass boat and an outboard motor for off-shore patrolling or
responding to a call for assistance or support from a foot patrol or a Coast Watching Point.

At the time we commenced our presence with TaFII the incidence of illicit immigration had
dropped to minimal levels, but smuggling of soaps, spices and coconut oil to India, and smuggling
of Indian Textiles and other Indian consumer items to Ceylon existed. A few weeks after taking
over duties a special night patrol from the Base Camp, on information received, lay in ambush at
the beach in the Kattaikadu area and detected a smuggling attempt of a large number of bags of
nutmeg and arecanut to India. The Chief of the Staff of the Army had been on a visit to TaFII
Headquarters in Jaffna; and one hearing the news visited us at the Base Camp. A few days later
the Daily News commented on the episode with a headline which read something like “Volunteers
hit the Coastguard Trenches . . .”!

There were the lighter moments too while on TaFII duties. During our first spell at
Iyakachchi, I led a night foot patrol towards the beach at Talaiady. We had to proceed a good
three quarter mile from the Jaffna road to reach the beach, and there was a light rain falling.
Scenting our presence dogs starting barking here and there, so we were doubly careful that we
won’t be detected. We were not sure how long we had proceeded when we saw a light flickering

76
in the distance. We froze in our positions and kept observing it, and felt sure that it was some
light signal from the shore to the boat at sea. We fanned out and crawled towards the flickering
light, all wet from the rain, and smeared in mud. When we finally surrounded it what we saw was
this – A bare bodied industrious farmer, to make use of the rain, had tied a hurricane lantern to
his plough and he was ploughing his plot of land! The light signals had been our imagination; we
had seen a light as flickering when we saw it through the gaps in the surrounding vegetation as
the plough passed by. We looked so stupid and silly after the incorrect appreciation of the
situation we had made! A Senior Officer would call it “a two pipper’s misadventure”! We had a
Tamil speaking Corporal in our party and through him we apologised to the farmer for trespassing
on his land, which he accepted in good spirit. On our walk back to Camp, I heard our Sergeant,
well known for his sense of humour, and acrid comment, say in Sinhala to the Corporal, and
perhaps not meant for my ears; “Look how hard working these people are, making use of a rare
shower of rain to plough his plot near midnight; whereas one of our farmers in the cool of a rain
blessed night may either curl up in bed and sleep, or perhaps choose to indulge in a pleasurable
conjugal practice”!

At the start when Volunteer Units took turns of active service with the Task Force Anti
Illicit Immigration, each turn was about 3 months; though much later in the 1970s and 1980s turns
were more or less indefinite!! Some of the Officers asked for a release in November 1964; and
were relieved by other Officers from our Battalion. A Cyclone hit the North of the Island, I believe
in December or thereabout that year and many of the Coast Watching Points, including Artillery
Searchlight Points in our Sub-sector were destroyed. There had been, however, no casualties
among our Battalion personnel.

At the time we first started serving with TaFII in 1964, according to my recollections, the
Jaffna Sector had Jaffna (North), Jaffna (East), Pooneryn and Mullativu as its Sub-sectors; and the
Mannar Sector had Talladi (on the Mannar mainland), Thoddavelli (on Mannar island) and
Silavaturai as its Sub-sectors. Between 1964 when we first served with TaFII, up to 1982 when I
relinquished Command of the Unit; the Unit had at one time, or another served in all these Sub-
sectors – sometimes serving some Sub-sectors over and over again at different times. To my
knowledge detections of smuggling contraband had been made by Battalion personnel when
serving in the Jaffna (East) and the Thoddavelli Sub-sectors; and those personnel involved in the
detection had received their statutory rewards.

My experiences in serving TaFll were in the Jaffna East Sector both when the Sub-sector
Base Camp was first Iyakachchi in two instances, and later at Elephant Pass; and again in the Sub-
sectors of Silavaturai, Talladi, and Thoddavelli on Mannar Island, where we had to maintain in
addition to the CWPs a platoon base at Talaimannar which had a pier where the Indo-Ceylon Ferry
Boat, the “Ranmanujam”, used to berth. When deployed in Jaffna (East) Sub-sector at Iyakachchi
for the second time; with the approval of the TaFll Commander, Detachment personnel
constructed a spacious and well appointed Coast Watching Point, out of contributions of cash
from Officers and Men of the Detachment, at Chundikulum on the coast which was the southern
end of our area of operational responsibility. It was built out of Cadjan; and the Tafll Commander
arrived by helicopter to ceremonially inaugurate it.

In my service with the Battalion I have served the Task Force Anti Illicit Immigration three
times in the Jaffna (East) Sector, twice at Iyakachchi and once at Elephant Pass; then twice at each
Sub Sector in the Mannar Sector at Silavaturai, Talladi and Thoddavelli. After my first initiation
into Service with TaFII in 1960s at Iyakachchi as a Captain; my other spells of duty were as

77
Detachment Commander in the rank of Major. During these spells when one is Detachment
Commander, one is alone, there is no one to guide, or no one to lean on. This position, and the
situations one has to face both in administration and in operations are challenges to face and
overcome in order to acquire the rudiments of leadership; for one to act correctly in situations of
man management and crisis management, exercise judicious and meaningful decision making on
the field and at your desk. I benefited from these experiences – learning rewarding lessons from
my errors, and acquiring confidence from my successes.

Serving with TaFll took us to areas in the island where even if we did personally have the
opportunity and the means we would not have ventured into on our own initiatives. These
sojourns mixed with duties were rewarding – vistas with the harsh aridness and macabre
grandeur that nature had provided, and those with the simple scenic charms of nature . . . . . . .
the hum drum of the urban towns and the quiet serenity of remote villages; and the differing
mores of different communities. Then there are the relicts of history lying hidden in the
backwoods; sometimes trampled down by the advancing jungle tide, and those neglected
monuments of a long ago crumbling before the untamed vicissitudes of nature.

On the coast between Sillavaturai and Arippu there stood the redbricked remains of what
appears as the crumbling walls of a villa of a long ago, which the many who served with TafII in
this Sub Sector had been told by their predecessors that it had been a mini palace of sorts, which
had sheltered princess Dona Catherina. However, James Cordiner in his descriptions of Ceylon
mentions that this was a villa, or a holiday bungalow which had been built for Governor Fredrick
North, for him to reside when he visits Sillavaturai during the pearl fishing season and watch the
fishing fleet making its way to the shores of Sillavaturai and Marichchikatti. Cordiner provides a
sketch of what the villa looked like in his work, to which the remaining ruins are very similar. On
the eastern sea coast there was the wide beach at Chundikulam and an inviting benign sea; and
over the sand lay myriads of sea shells of every shape and colour. At Elephant Pass where our Sub
Sector Base Camp stood, the captivating, solacing peace of a moonlit night was like a muted
symphony presented by nature. A cool breeze keeps blowing from seaward and up above a
waxing moon like a ghostly galleon ploughs its way slowly among the stars; below the wind rushed
ripples of the lagoon play with the moon’s reflection that lies over them tossing it hither and
thither among them; and not far away like a silhouette of a lonely aged warrior, the Elephant Pass
Fort, now a Rest House, stands still looking on; holding within it, now stilled for over hundred
years their battle cries and fire from the weapons against their foes, the Vanniyars from whose
incursions they defended the Jaffna Peninsula. Sometimes the rapture this symphony presents is
disturbed by man made intervention or presence - may be a vehicle moving along the Elephant
Pass Causeway will stab through darkness with its headlights ablaze; or may be a vehicle in a hurry
will break this stillness of the night with its impatient horning urging a slow moving bullock cart to
make room for it to overtake; or, the meditation on this scene is broken by an exigency of duty.

e) On the subject of periods of Active Service I have a comment on a certain phenomenon.


Very often when the battalion is called out for Active Service in Aid to the Civil power and Army
Headquarters want the initial five or six platoons deployed; deployment of platoons companywise
is not possible For after the call-out Notice, a Volunteer Battalion will take between thirty six to
forty eight hours to build up to an acceptable strength. The initial build up of those reporting for
Active Service will always be a mix out of all Companies. This situation then disturbs deployment
of permanently organised platoons. However the ideal is possible only when instructions are given
to deploy the entire battalion in one specific area. In my tenure of service with the battalion since

78
1954 such situations occurred, of a few weeks of corporate training during each time; when the
battalion was presented with Colours in 1954 and in 1978. Further, in 1982, when I commanded
the Battalion, and we moved to Jaffna as a Battalion in our organised Companies and platoons to
provide security over the Jaffna East Sector during the first ever Presidential Election held in 1982;
and then soon after in the same year, the Referendum that followed.

In each of these last two occasions the Battalion was lifted by a Special Troop Train from
Colombo Fort to Mankulum where we detrained, and were then lifted by road in a Convoy of CTB
busses with adequate escorts to a Muslim school in Chavakachcheri where we were billeted for
the duration. During these two exercises our return journeys to Colombo were in CTB busses
requisitioned for this purposes.

I was in Command of the security of Jafna East Sector during the Presidential Election and
the Referendum. One company of our Battalion under the Command of my 2 nd- in -Command,
Major S. B. G. De Silva was attached to the Jaffna North Sector to supplement the security
resources of that Sector.

In Jaffna East Sector our duties were to ensure the safe escort of the election staff and
Ballot boxes from the Kachcheri to Polling Stations, and back again after polling was over back to
the Kachcheri. Provide tight security at the Kachcheri, Counting Centres, and at each Polling
Station and its precints; and prevent a breach of peace, law, and order, as best as we can, over the
entire sub sector.

We felt gratified at the end of each of these spells of Active Service where the entire
Battalion took over a responsibility given to it, the Battalion ensured that Jaffna East Sub Sector,
during the Presidential Election and Referendum of 1982, was incident free!This was also the last
time I was deployed out with the entire Battalion, because I relinquished Command at the end of
the Year.

One of the negatives arising out of frequent Active Service that effects the Volunteer Force
is that it inhibits both the employed Officer and Other Rank from joining the Force because of
employer disfavour towards it arising out of the fact of frequent employee absences on military
duty.
Our Seniors who have served during Colonial times with Ceylon Defence Force have said
that being a member of the Volunteer Force, then, was an advantage to be selected for
employment; and, both the Public and Private Sectors of employment encouraged Volunteer
Soldiering with certain mercantile establishments even closing early on certain days of the week,
to enable its employees who were Volunteer Officers and Men to attend evening training
sessions.

With the granting of Independence the trade Union Movement developed, and politically
leftist parties developed; and, trade Unions commenced aligning themselves to the left parties
and catered to their agendas. Consequently strikes commenced, and later became frequent.
About the same time the Tamil communities in the North and the East began making known their
aspirations and demands for devolution of governance and administration for what they called
their traditional homeland. These led to demonstrations and Satyagrahas and sometimes violence
broke out during these situations.

79
The Armed Forces had to be called out to maintain law and order and at times maintain
essential services in aid to the civil power. The Sri Lanka Army was small, and the Regular Force
had its routine functions to maintain. The Army Act had laid down that to handle a security
situation or one of maintaining essential services the Volunteer Force cannot be called until the
Regular Force, and Regular Reserve had been called out and deployed. There was no Regular
Reserve instituted until the security exigencies of 1984; and consequently since 1949 the onus fell
on the Volunteer Force to supplement the Regular Force at the first call for assistance.
Consequently the calls for Active on the Volunteer Force increased and became frequent as time
went on: and the quantum of Duty Leave required for Active Service annually for employed
Volunteers became much more than that requested for their peacetime training.

It will be observed from most Regulations that the maximum age limit for initially
recruiting an Officer to the Volunteer Force was higher than that laid down for those of the
Regular Force. This was to enable the recruitment of employed personnel; and, at the time we
joined, in 1954, an unwritten condition prevailed, in that a Candidate for commissioning into the
Volunteer Force as an Officer, if employed in the Public Sector, should at least, hold the
appointment of a Staff Officer, and a Candidate employed in the Private Sector should at least be
a Junior Executive. Those self employed (in circa 1954), had to have a personal monthly income of
Rs. 2000/- or more. The extended age limit for recruitment of Officers was to ensure that he has
the desired status in employment, and the availability of a personal income for affordable out of
pocket expenses a Volunteer Officer has to meet, on and off, during peacetime training. In regard
to the preference for employed gentlemen for commissioning as officers, it is suggestive that the
authorities perceived that this resource carries a premium; in that each is preconditioned with a
proficiency to manage subordinates, an ability to satisfy superiors, and motivate themselves
towards achieving corporate goals of the institution they served.

As time went on the calls for Active Service on the Volunteers increased; and it was
observed that the participation of the employed Volunteer on one or the other of Volunteer
activities, namely peacetime training and other Volunteer activity, and Active Service, was
declining. This phenomenon was in consequence of an employer resistance to releasing
Volunteers. Instances were many when even Government Departments, Corporations, and
institutes in Public Sector were inhibited against releasing their employees for Volunteer
peacetime activity or Active Service. At one time when being a member of the Volunteer Force
was an advantage to find employment, now became a disadvantage.

Long spells of Active Service, even prevented Volunteers so engaged in Active Service form
participating in peacetime Volunteer Activity like attending weekly parades, weekend camps, and
even the Annual Camp, where they have to fire and qualify in the Annual Weapon Training Course
to qualify for “Efficiency” for the year. Some employed Officers and Other Ranks for the sake of
security of employment and safeguarding future prospects kept away from time to time from
peacetime activity. Difficulties were encountered in finding Officers and Men to release those who
have been long on Active Service, and attendance at peacetime volunteer fell. Consequently the
market to find Officers and Men became the Unemployed; which to an extent affected the fabric
and texture of the Volunteer Force.

BATTALION DAYS AND WAYS


The fact that the Battalion is a Volunteer Unit, has not given it opportunity and facilities,
especially those which are logistical, to get together in numbers to celebrate the day of its
founding on 01st April each year. The rostered period of Annual Training Camps in Diyatalawa,

80
particular to the Battalion, invariably falls during the second half of the year. On rare occasions
however, a mobilisation or a training Camp coincides with the Battalion’s date of raising or in
close proximity to it.

These Battalion Get-Togethers are held separately by Officers, the Warrant Officers and
the Sergeants; however the Other Ranks’ get-togethers are patronised by both the Officers,
Warrant Officers and Sergeants.

a) When opportunity permits, this Annual Get-Together gets underway, taking the form of a
“Drink” and an All Ranks Lunch. The day is chosen, the Battalion Finance Committee provides the
Funds and the Men get together in the Canteen . . . . . the Warrant Officers and Sergeants join . . . .
then the Officers, for this pre lunch drink. The “punch” for the men had been brewed and the
mugs go round. The atmosphere is intimate and friendly like that of a family, yet with respect to
those who are Senior . . . . . there’s banter . . . . . there are the jokes . . . . . sometimes emotion,
slander (!) reminiscences of funny incidents . . . . and then the songs; sometimes lyrical,
sometimes in harmony . . . . sometimes a little off-key and out of tune! Clapping hands and
stamping feet add to the din . . . . often the Junior Officers join in the song and dance. The
Regimental Sergeant Major is there in the middle of the fun, yet his eyes are roving to catch the
one who has exceeded his limits . . . . sometimes the drummers of the Bugle Band join in to keep
the rhythm mounting . . . its time for lunch and the Cook House bugle call sounds, and all trek
towards the “Mens’ Mess”.

The talented have gone to town to decorate the Mens’ Mess . . . . there are balloons and
bunting . . . the deft-fingered artists have adorned the walls with artistic creations from tender
coconut palm leaves . . . the regimental insignia being the central device by instinct. White linen is
laid over the tables, unit silver and trophies stand at regular intervals along the table centre. . . . .
sometimes the tables take the position of a giant “T” or a “U” – determined by the number sitting
for lunch – a “T” for a smaller number, a “U” for a larger number. The Quartermaster goes to town
in preparing for this day . . . . he invariably manoeuvres drawing the ration of chicken for weeks,
for this day and he throws in his savings of dry rations; the Cooks somehow activate a latent
virtuosity in them and produce a meal to remember! The Battalion Finance Committee has lent a
liberal and benevolent hand.

Rows and rows of plated lunch, garnished, lie placed along the long tables as if standing on
parade . . . . chairs are marked for Officers, at regular intervals along these long tables, to let
them sit among the men.

The men trek in first into their Mess and into their seats . . . . seniority in seating is forgotten on
this day . . . . the stern Regimental Sergeant Major looks serene, and bears the countenance of
the milk of human kindness on this day . . . . he may even crack a joke at a habitual defaulter or
offender, so the other Warrant Officers! The men take their places, and remain seated. The
Drum, and Fife Band stay poised to play at the arrival of the Commanding Officer.

The arrival of The Commanding Officer at the Mess is heralded by the Regimental March
played by the band; and as he enters the Mess followed by the Second-in-Command and other
Officers, the Regimental Sergeant Major brings the gathering to attention . . . . the Commanding
Officer requests them to be seated. The Officers find their seats with the men . . . . so do the
Warrant Officers, the Colour Sergeants, the Sergeants and Junior NCOs . . . a mixture of ranks, side
by side. At the head table, on the short arm of the “T” or the base of the “U” the Commanding

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Officer sits with his Second-in-Command, the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Battalion, the
Regimental Sergeant Major of the Permanent Staff, the most senior and junior Privates, and if
there is room two or three Senior Majors.

The Band plays . . . . conversation starts in a low murmur . . . . and as the solemnity thaws
into a brotherhood, laughs and conversation become free . . . . . the parade ground and its
protocol and rigidness are forgotten; the intimacy of a family prevails. One could see a Warrant
Officer benevolently serving a private with a second helping, with persuasive encouragement to
eat a little more . . . .! A new recruit will look in amazement, and wonder whether the terror on
the field is ill or has suddenly grown old! It takes a little time for the new one to know that it’s a
family warmness which is not displayed on the parade square, but yet lies deep within – the
Battalion togetherness. Sergeants, Corporals walk around serving, ensuring that all are looked
after. Speeches are not part of our Battalion traditions at functions like these. So, when all have
lunched, the Commanding Officer rises, mingles with the men talking to them, and leaves. The
Other Ranks leave to get ready for the Variety Entertainment they stage in the evening, which
traditionally has now become a part of this aspect of the Celebrations. The weather being kind, its
in the open air, but if the dark clouds weep its staged in their Mess. It really is mixed bag of solo
song and duets in harmony and in parody . . . magic shows and impromptu verse off the cuff . . . .
. instrumental items and those skits of satire and mime in which are mirrored sometimes Officers,
Instructors, unfailingly the Quartermaster, and themselves – all in healthy robust fun which is
enjoyed by all. With the Regimental March, and then the National Anthem, the curtain falls on the
Other Ranks Celebrations. Even when a Detachment is deployed out, the traditional spirit and
routines are unfailingly carried out by the Detachment in a “mini” form as far as opportunity and
facilities permit.

b) The Warrant Officers and Sergeants have their Annual Celebrations. It may take the form
of a Dinner Party or a Drinks Party depending on circumstances at the time; and the Dress for such
events and the conduct of such events will accordingly depend on the degree of formality
associated with it. Dress could vary from Mess Dress or Working Dress to Shirt, slacks and tie.
Traditionally invitations go out to past Regimental Sergeant Majors, Honorary Members of the
Warrant Officers’ Mess, past Commanding Officers of the Battalion, and the serving Commanding
Officer and Senior Officers of the Battalion. However Past Commanding Officers and serving
Officers participate only at the Drink Parties for a short period.

The Guests arrive, and soon lost contact is made, faces missed are seen . . . . conversation
and reminiscing begin. The arrival of the serving Commanding Officer is heralded by the
Regimental March and he is met by the serving Regimental Sergeant Major, who is the President
of the Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess. The Chief Guest, very often a past Commanding
Officer, arrives and the Party Swings into motion. The history of this Volunteer Battalion dates
back to times before the professional Ceylon Army was raised in 1949. Up to some years ago,
among the gathering would be past Officers and Warrant Officers and Sergeants who had served
in the Second World War, and some before it; where some Warrant Officers had known these
Commanding Officers of the past and present as junior officers. So, as the drinks go round and the
savouries are munched, tales will be told, reminiscences made; of Diyatalawa, Colombo, Kandy
and Trincomaliee . . . . of Air Raids, trenches, shelters, sand bags and wire entanglements . . . . of
training, Battle School, the Depot and those long marches to Diyatalawa, Dambulla and
Trincomalee . . . . of the Machine Gunners and the track wheeled Bren Gun Carriers . . . . the
Ceremonial Parades, the days of putties and helmets . . . . . . the Exercises in the Jungles and over
the rolling patnas of Diyatalawa. They will talk of the days with the 1 st Battalion . . . . . with the

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Regimental Depot, with the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th and 5th Battalions – all of the Ceylon Light Infantry
Volunteers.

The new are introduced to the old; they have listened enraptured at the spirit of
comradeship recounted; how years later when these comrades meet that spirit is yet alive and the
togetherness is as afresh as ever; and how that strange unshakable indefinable Regimental Pride
surfaces again with much nostalgia and emotion.

Banter is exchanged. They talk of the truants, and the law-adding . . . . of the mischievous
and the quiet ones . . . . of crisis and moments still laughed at . . . . all seated in little
conversational groups, the past and the present, the Senior and the Junior . . . . the Officer and the
Warrant Officer, the Colour Sergeant, the Sergeant . . . . all mixed up but in the atmosphere and
environment of the Old Regiment . . . . to talk of the past and the present and into the future . . .
of Volunteering and most of all of the Battalion.

When the Chief Guest decides it’s time to go and rises, so do most of the guests, then
nostalgically the Drum and Fife Band breaks into Auld Lang Sygne. That family feeling of
togetherness grips the present . . . . of those departing, some will be faces one will see now and
then . . . . . some, one year hence at the next Get Together; in their presence has glowed the living
spirit and togetherness of the Regiment.

When the Chief Guest and other Officer Guests have gone, . . . . the serving WOs and
Sergeants let themselves go without inhibition. The song and revelry goes on . . . . the new are
initiated . . . . . fines are levied on those breaking Mess Conventions and the usual robust Mess
games get under way . . . . and go on into the wee hours of the following morning. It is fortunate if
the day after the Party is a holiday!

c) The Battalion Officers’ Annual Dinner to commemorate the Anniversary of its raising each
year is like planning a Campaign and executing it successfully to its desired end.

However, there are only a few occasions when holding the Annual Regimental Dinner has
been possible on the raising month and Day of the Battalion as the event has to be geared to the
availability of the Chief Guest. During the post World War II vintage, as far back as I can recall, the
Chief Guest has on most occasions been the Commander of the Army. Once, a Prime Minister was
Chief Guest; and since 1978 His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka who was also the
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. His Excellency President J. R. Jayewardene had certain
ties with the Sri Lanka Light Infantry Volunteers, in that several members of his family have from
time to time served in this Volunteer Battalion between 1894 and 1960. The date of the Dinner
therefore will fluctuate annually, depending as mentioned before, on a date suitable to the Chief
Guest. Traditionally, these Dinners continue to be Men Only, and all serving Officers are expected
to wear the Scarlet Mess Dress. The Civilian equivalent dress for guests and past Officers
attending the Dinner in the days of yore had been Tails; but had been later relaxed to Black Tie. In
consequence of the cultural renaissance in the country, and considering the accepted dress at
State Banquets and functions, the dress for past Officers and guests was later liberalised to Black
tie, Semi Dress (Tuxedo) lounge or National. Though many serving Officers have the Scarlet Mess
Dress, the non availability for purchase of Scarlet material in the Island, and their excessive cost if
imported, has made Commanding Officers of the not too distant past, to be liberal in their
attitude in this respect; and such Officers who do not possesses the Scarlet Mess Dress are
reluctantly permitted to wear the White Mess Dress. Battalion Officers wearing the white Mess

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Jacket had to wear a white waistcoat with miniature Silver CLI Buttons. Officers wearing Scarlet or
White Mess Jackets had to wear stiff fronted plain white Dress Shirts with an Opera Collar and
wear a hand-tied black bowtie. Black overalls accompanied the Scarlet and White Jacket; and all
Majors, Adjutant and those of the rank of Lt. Colonel wore Silver Spurs on the black ankle boots;
to symbolise that they, in the founding days were mounted on Parade.

The Annual Officers Dinner is considered a Parade and it is incumbent on every serving
Officer to attend; an Officer wishing to be excused from attending the Dinner has to satisfy the
Commanding Officer of the reasons for his inability to attend, and obtain his permission. No ladies
participate in these Officers’ Annual Ceremonial Dinners, and no speeches are made.

Through the years, there have been times when Diners are somewhat cramped at these Dinners . .
. . then a second Table has to be laid . . . . ; but the venue has not changed since we had moved
into this Old Royal Artillery Building after the Second World War in 1950. We like that long old
dining hall . . . . . the wooden floor boards that creak . . . . we like to sit round our long wooden
table that could seat all the Officers of the Unit in comfort and keep hearing the old ceiling fans
groan labouringly as they keep fanning us . . . . we like our past Commanding Officers from Lt. Col.
John Scott Armitage twenty eight of them (1881-1977) now looking down at us from their
photographs on the dining room walls . . . . in rows and rows according to their order of
succession – may be a new subaltern will feel uncomfortable that he is being studied. . . . may be
another will look up towards them for approval that he has picked up the right piece of cutlery! In
our Bar and Ante Room we like to be with those photographs, and Beer Mugs presented by
Officers when they were initially commissioned . . . . that have captured history and holds them . .
. ; the healthy slander, in the caricatures of Major Bawa . . . . among our Regimental Insignia and
our Souvenirs . . . . with the photographs of the stately Honorary Royal Colonels of the past, and
the Commanding Officers of the five wartime Battalions . . . . . we like our own Regimental
Waiters, dressed in their colourful livery coming down from the past, to ceremoniously lay the
decanters of Port to go round for the Toasts. The Venue has been unchanged; but in the
Centenary year in 1981, to cater for a large number of Invitees we were reluctantly compelled to
find a larger dining hall: It was “Acland House” in Staples Street, Colombo 2, now a state owned
mansion offered to us through the courtesy of the Government for the occasion.

Soon after the Chief Guest has confirmed a date and accepted the Official invitation of the
Commanding Officer and Officers of the Unit, all serving Officers and Honorary Members of the
Mess are circularised with information in regard to the Dinner. Only a guest each is allowed to a
Serving Officer; and the Honorary Members are not entitled to bring guests – these restrictions
are chiefly influenced by the restriction of space in the Dining Hall. Groups get working on Menu
for the Dinner and the Wines – usually a five Course Dinner; and the Sherry, the White Wine, the
Red Wine, the Port for the Toasts and the liqueurs with the Coffee and pralines or Cheese and
Biscuits. Orders are placed for twisted candles in the Battalion’s Colours for the Candelabra and
candle stands that will adorn the table. The Chief Guest’s preferences and inhibitions about food
are discreetly ascertained and these are catered for; so with the abstinence habits in Food and
Wines of Officers’ and official Guests.

An Officer starts working on the design and presentation of the Menu Card – in recent
years the cover design of the Menu Card is differently designed each year, and the Menu for the
Night and the Toasts to be drunk are always printed on the centre page on either side of the stem
of a sketch of the large Silver Candelabra which is the cynosure of all eyes at the table. The
Invitation Cards go for calygraphic printing; and each year the invitees name is handwritten by the

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same person in script writing and so are the place cards by the same scribe. The place cards bear
the Regimental Insignia of the Battalion embossed in scarlet on the top left hand corner of the
Card.

The Invitations go out to the Chief Guest and Official Guests of the Mess, and the Serving
Officers’ guest list is put up to the Commanding Officer by the President, Mess Committee for
approval. When the list is approved the Invitation Cards go out and the Mess Committee keeps
tracking their acceptance and regrets. The official battalion caterer is called in, the Menu is
discussed and approved and the expected numbers of dinners are conveyed to them . . . . the
appropriate Wines are purchased, the music for the Band is discussed with the Bandmaster and
decided on; and the designed Menu Card goes to the Printer.

Perhaps a week before the event preparation gathers momentum. The Battalion’s silver is
brought from the Bank Vaults and are held in secure vigilant custody while they are being
polished. The polishing of the Battalion Silver to be laid out at an Officers’ Annual Dinner is also
the story about its handler ‘Aniff’ which has been narrated elsewhere in my recollections.

The worries of the President of the Mess Committee start during the final week – the Table
Seating Plan . . . . some replies from guests that we have not received . . . . getting the table linen
and the table ware mustered – checking on the wine glasses . . . one for sherry, one for the white
wine, one for the red one for the liqueur and one for the Port; the rehearsals with the Band . . . .
rehearsals with the Caterer’s Staff . . . . ; perhaps a novice of a Subaltern being trained to propose
the toast earlier to “the Queen”, later to “Sri Lanka” but since 1977 to “His Excellency the
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka “ . . . . to take the correct pause after he
calls the Table with “Gentlemen” . . . . then the phrasing of the Toast he proposes . . . . then the
Band taking the cue from his last words to strike up the National Anthem . . . . These rehearsals
are repeated over and over again – sometimes early success pleases a harassed President of the
Mess Committee; . . . . sometimes little mistakes worry him, and drive him to despair.

Our seating at these Annual Regimental Dinners are different from many other Regiments.
The Commanding Officer sits at the Centre of one long side of our table . . . . behind him are the
uncased Colours. In front of the Commanding Officer, on the opposite side sits the Second-in-
Command who is also the President of the Mess. At one far end of the table sits the President of
the Table (usually a Senior Major) and at the opposite end Mr. Vice, a Subaltern (one of the most
junior ones) . The Ornate Candelabra stands at the Centre of the Table. There is a special Chair for
the Chief Guest – no one sits on it but he, and it is used only at Annual Regiment Dinners. The
Commanding Officer has a special chair and so the Second-in-Command. There is a special chair
for a “Guest of Humour” if we decide to invite one. Traditionally, the precedence at the Table is
worked off from the Right and Left of the Commanding Officer alternating to the Right and Left of
Second-in-Command, so working outwards to their respective Right and Left.

The frenzy starts on the evening before the day of the Annual Regimental Dinner – it
certainly looks like bedlam, a jungle . . . to one not in the know; viewing it – some Officers are
poring over the Table Plan making the final alterations . . . . the crimson window and door
hangings are being hung . . . a floor polisher is whinning away plaintively . . . . the shields are
taking their places over the doorway . . . . . the table linen is being ironed . . . some one is
checking the silver and the trophies . . . . an officer shouts across to another inquiring where he
has got the visitors book ready . . . the other, confirms, and throws back a rejoinder to inquire
whether the order had been placed for the Red, White and Yellow Roses – ordered each year from

85
the same florist, arranged by her in the same silver bowl from as far back as one can remember . .
. . the stacks of chairs . . . . the potted greenery . . . . weariness makes one call it a day . . . . ;
usually it’s the wee hours of the following morning!

By noon on the day of the Dinner, things are homing and falling into precise place, and the
final routine order nominating the Ushers has gone out . . . . by the time Retreat is sounded the
stage is set . . . . the gardens and drive way are spotlessly clean. Regimental Police strut around . . .
. the Red Carpets are laid from the Porch to the stairway and the Dining hall has worn its banquet
garb and a warm crimson formal pall hangs . . . ; running along the gleaming top of the table lies a
band of silk in the Regimental Colours of Royal Blue, Red, Silver and Gold . . .. and over and along it
are the gleaming silver candle-stands and the large Candelabra holding twisted candles in
Regimental Colours . . . . in between the candle stands are the silver trophies and baskets of fresh
fruit placed in between the trophies . . . . scarlet mats, black napkins (to match the facings of the
Scarlet Jackets) stand at each place set for dinner . . . . gleaming cutlery and glassware . . . . the
Colours have been ceremoniously brought in and uncased and have been placed on their stands.
Red Carpets cover the floor . . . crimson hangings drape over the doorways . . . . some of the
table wines lie buried in ice to be chilled, the civilian mess stewards have donned their
ceremonial attire . . . . the Mess NCOs stand by at the Bar. The President of the Table and Mr. Vice
check the place cards with the Table Plan. The Caterer, the food, and his staff, have arrived! They
have set up their food warmers, and they have laid crockery, cutlery, and glassware in position
over the dining table.

The invitation is 2000 hrs for 2030 hrs. Serving Officers have to be in the Mess by 1900 hrs.
Two ushers (from junior officers) wait downstairs, two more at the top of the stairs. As a guest
arrives the usher downstairs welcomes him and conducts him upstairs and hands him over to the
usher positioned at the landing upstairs. The guest is then conducted to the Visitors Book which
lies on an antique carved cupboard where stands the Bowl of Roses, an Officers’ Vintage Helmet
and Sword in a silver scabbard . . . . . the guest is then led to his host, or introduced to other
guests.

The Commanding Officer arrives and the Band strikes up the Regimental March. The
Second-in-Command greets the Commanding Officer and conducts him to the Mess. The
Commanding Officer meets the Chief Guest on arrival . . . . the Band strikes up the appropriate
Salute and the Chief Guest is conducted to the Mess by the Commanding Officer.

It’s drinks time before dinner . . . . there is soft music in the background . . . . a murmur of
conversation, greeting and introduction hang . . . . . the scarlet jackets mix with the white and with
the diversity of shades of National and Lounge suits of Civilian Guests. The Table Plan drawn out in
white on Scarlet Coloured paper by the Battalion’s Artist positioned on an easel stand at a place of
vantage. A photographer discreetly takes pictures to cover another Annual Battalion Dinner.

With a few minutes to 2030 hours the President of the Mess consults in sotto voice, the
Commanding Officer to obtain his assent to commence the Dinner proceedings. Simultaneously,
the President of the Table and Mr. Vice make their final check of the Table and check back the
procedure of serving with the Caterer’s stewards and the Battalion’s own wine stewards, and the
Bugle Major.

The assent is given . . . . within approximately five to seven minutes the Candles are lit, and
soon after four Buglers of the Battalion Drum and Fife Band sound, unseen by the diners, the

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Officers’ Dinner Call preceded by the Regimental Call on silver bugles from the top of the stairs in
the Mess. An element of the Drum and Fife Band, 2 side Drummers and three Fifers led by the
Bugle Major now come up and take up a position at the doorway leading into the Mess. The
glasses are emptied, stewards receive them . . . . guests make a final look at the table plan and
make towards the door leading Into the Dining Hall. After an exchange of looks between the
Commanding Officer and the Bugle Major, the Drummers and Fifers strike up “The Yellow Rose of
Texas” and march round the Dining Table in clockwise direction leading the Diners into Dinner.
The Diners with the Chief Guest and the Commanding Officer leading follow the band and find
their seats; the band leaves off through a side door out of the dining room, but continue to play
until the last diner has found his seat. The Chief Guest sits and the other diners follow.

The silver sparkles . . . . the Candles glitter . . . . the Colours hang proudly . . . . the red
backed chairs, the Scarlet Table mats, the Black napkins . . . . the red carpeted floor, the crimson
drapes. . . . the tableware . . . . light footed stewards . . . the Battalion’s own liveried civilian
stewards . . . . the Mess NCOs in their Ceremonials . . . . the distant music of the Band in Waltz
time, all lend themselves to concert a Ceremonial Battalion Banquet atmosphere.

Courses follow one another the Hors d’oeuvre, the Soup, the Fish, the Joint;... the Dessert,
Coffee and pralines or Cheese and Biscuits . . . . the Battalion’s liveried Mess Stewards keep filling
the glasses with appropriate wines, the bottles wrapped in scarlet coloured linen and snuggled
into cane wine baskets which carry the Battalion’s Insignia. Hard smokers find it difficult, as
smoking cigars and cigarettes can only commence with the coffee! From time to time the electric
lights are doused, and diners dine in candlelight . . .

After the dessert, swiftly the table is cleared less the glass for the Port. Two liveried Mess
Stewards appear holding a decanter of Port each; one takes up a position by the President of the
Table, the other by Mr. Vice at the opposite end of the Table . . . then, simultaneously they lift
each decanter head high at their height and place the Decanters ceremoniously on the table by
the two officers they stand by, and withdraw together. The President of the Table and Mr. Vice
remove the stoppers from their two decanters fill their respective glasses and pass them in
clockwise direction to the diner seated on his immediate left . . . and so each decanter finds its
way from one diner’s hand to the hand of another diner, each filling his glass for the toasts and
passing it to the diner next to him . . . the decanters moving in clockwise direction, until the
decanter that left Mr Vice has reached the President of the Table, and the one that left the
President of the Table has reached Mr Vice. The glasses of all are now filled and the decanters
rest. By tradition, we don’t use a gavel to attract attention, but for years, since a long ago, a little
silver bell is placed before the President of the table when the table is laid. He now rings this little
bell . . . resonant enough to attract the attention of Mr Vice and the diners. Seated nonchantly,
but with a ring of authority in his voice, the President of the Table, after the last vibrant echoes of
the Bell have died, says “Mr Vice . . . . The President!” Mr Vice, a few moments later, rises with his
glass in his hand and says “Gentlemen”, and then waits until all have arisen with their glasses.
Here an exercise of precision and coordination takes place unseen – one of the Officers’ Mess
Stewards, usually a veteran, has discretely taken a position where he can be seen by the Bugle
Major of the Drum and Fife Band outside, and as Mr Vice concludes his proposal for the toast a
flash of a signal from him is taken up immediately by the Bugle Major, and the Band strikes up the
National Anthem.

So, confident of the success of those pre arranged maneuvers, Mr. Vice having satisfied
himself that all have arisen, says “The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”

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just then the Band plays the National Anthem and when it ends the toast is taken. The diners
resume their seats. Soon after, by tradition, another Toast is taken. In like manner, the Chief
Guest proposes a Toast to the Battalion. All except the serving and past members of the Battalion
rise in the same manner as for the preceding toast, the Band plays the Regimental March of the
Battalion, “I am Ninety Five”, and the Toast is taken when it is over.

The clutter of crockery heralds the arrival of coffee; with it the cigars, cigarettes, liqueurs,
and pralines or cheese and biscuits. Our Annual Officers’ Dinners of the Battalion are sans
speeches . . . . so conversation become light hearted. While diners are over their Coffee and the
Band plays soft music, two liveried Mess Stewards bring two chairs and places them obliquely
behind the Commanding Officer. The Commanding Officer invites the Bugle Major and or the
Band Master and the Chef if available, to have a drink. After thanking them for the food and
music provided, offering them a drink of their choice, and a few minutes of conversation, the
invitees leave. The candles have burnt themselves low, and the dripping wax have settled into the
likeness of grotesque and eerie stalactites . . . . . a while later the Chief Guest rises to leave . . . .
Perhaps those men who led us in the past, whose photographs hang over the walls within which
we dined, may have secretly smiled a smile of satisfaction that the traditions that they built and
nurtured are still alive!

It was sad to hear from those presently serving, that, in consequence of deployment on
Active Service during the Eelam Wars in the North and East an Officers’ Annual Battalion Dinner
was held only once, in 2006, during the period 1986 to 2011!

THE COLOURS OF 1978


The last British Sovereign’s Colour and the Regimental Colour presented to the Battalion at
Galle Face in April 1954 by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II now lay retired and reposed at
Battalion Headquarters since Sri Lanka declared itself a Republic in 1972. Since then, a definite
policy regarding granting of President’s and Regimental Colours were not known. However in
1972 The Army Training Centre received a President’s Colour and a Regimental Colour at the
hands of His Excellency the President. Thereafter, it was only somewhere in August 1977 that
Army Order 13/77 was published, laying down Instructions for the award and keeping of a
President’s Colour and a Regimental Colour to Units of the Sri Lanka Army.

When the Commander of the Army made his Annual Inspection of our Unit in early 1978,
he indicated to the Commanding Officer that it is time that the Unit, then approaching the
Centenary of its raising, applies for the granting of Colours to have the honour and distinction of
carrying a President’s Colour and a Regimental Colour in its Centenary year. Consequently in
March 1978 the Commanding Officer of the Unit Lt. Col. H B Wijekoon E D made an application to
Army Head Quarters to obtain His Excellency the President’s pleasure and assent to award His
Colour and a Regimental Colour to the Unit; and further requested from the Commander of the
Army his sanction to fill the large number of vacancies for Officers and Other Ranks the battalion
carried, in order to have adequate numbers to stage a Presentation of Colours Parade.

There was no Inspector of Regimental Colours instituted in Sri Lanka with separate
Inspectorates for the Army, Navy and Air Force; and until such a situation is developed, units had
to work within the provisions of Army Order 13/77. The 1 st and 2nd (Volunteer) Battalions began
working towards the design of the Regimental Colour keeping each other informed. In 1972 a
President’s Colour had already been designed and awarded to the Army Training Centre; and no
fundamental changes were necessary for its adoption by the Sri Lanka Light Infantry. The

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dimensions of the Colours and the Pikes were to remain as those of the Colours of 1954. However
the pike heads needed redesigning to conform to indigenous art form. A team comprised of the
Commanding Officer, the Second-in-Command, a Captain, a Lieutenant and the Unit Warrant
Officer Class I was appointed to handle all matters in having the Colours ready for award. An
Advisory Committee out of available surviving past Commanding Officers was organised for
consultations and guidance. At the request of the Battalion, Army Headquarters obtained the
assistance of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Museums Department to assist and guide the
Battalion closely in regard to the symbolisation and design of the President’s Colour and the
Regimental Colour. The Unit gratefully remembers for all time the enthusiasm, perseverance, and
dedication thrown into this endeavour by Mr. Sunimal Lakdusinghe the then Assistant Ethnologist,
and Mr. Prabhath Wijesekera the Artist of the Museum Department to provide the two designs
for the President’s and Regimental Colour. After much research and many trial designs the final
designs were arrived at which were meaningful and culturally symbolic.

In May 1978 the final designs for the President’s Colour and the Regimental Colour were
shown to His Excellency the President at his residence. Those present were The Secretary Defence
Col. C. A. Dharmapala E.D., the Commander of the Army Major General J. E. D. Perera the two
Commanding Officers of the 1st and 2nd (Volunteer) Battalions Lt. Col. C. A. M. Silva and Lt. Col. H.
B. Wijekoon E.D., and their Seconds-in-Command. There were differences in the President’s
Colour of the two battalions, but were confined only to the nomenclature of the two Battalions.
Major differences existed between the Regimental Colours of the two battalions in the design and
symbolisation. Though we expected His Excellency the President to approve one of the two
designs, to represent the Regiment, with differences only in the numeral identification on each
Regimental Colour of each battalion; he deviated from British practice, and approved both which
meant the 1st Battalion will carry the Regimental Colour that it had designed; and the 2 nd
(Volunteer) Battalion the design it presented. The Volunteers were happy and proud that it
was able to carry the word “iafõÉpd” (meaning Volunteer) in addition to the Battalion numeral
2 on its President’s Colour and its Regimental Colour for the first time. In consequence of this
meeting with His Excellency the President and the decisions taken, the Commander of the Army
issued a Circular, A/2531/13 dated 11 August 1978. I quote below Paras 4, 5 and 6 of this
Circular:-

4. “As I announced earlier the 1st and 2nd (V) Bns of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry are to be
presented with the President’s Colour and Regimental Colours by H. E. The President on
Army Day 1978.

5. It will be noted that each country has a different approach to the award of Colours. In Sri
Lanka too we have been previously associated with the Commonwealth system of award
of Colours to Regiments, but within the Commonwealth itself there is deviation in the
manner of award of Colours etc. Therefore, whilst accepting the Commonwealth pattern
basically, slight local variations in the system are being adopted.

6. In the interim H.E. has already approved the designs submitted by the 1 st Bn and the 2nd
(V) Bn of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry for their Colours to be awarded on Army Day 1978.”

The President’s Colour of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Sri Lanka Light Infantry was the
National Flag of Sri Lanka. Over the stripes of Orange and Green on the Dexter side was the
Armorial Insignia of Sri Lanka, under it the Arabic figure “2” (to denote the Battalion numeral as
the 2nd Battalion), under it the word “iafõÉpd” (meaning Volunteer) and below it the regimental

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designation “Y%S ,xld mdn, yuqodj”. The fringes round the Colour were a mix of crimson and
gold thread.

The Colours used for the Regimental Colour were the battalion Colours of Scarlet, Blue, Gold
and Silver. The symbolic representation of the Regimental Colour of the 2nd (Volunteer) Batalion
The Sri Lanka Light Infantry could be briefly described as the following. Over a field of Blue, the
“Liyawela” motif in white over a border of red running round the Colour, is a reproduction of
ancient Sinhala traditional art. It has been used in a decorative sense, and also to symbolise
growth and binding or holding together. At the four corners within the Border in red, and
integrating with the liyawela are the four symbols of a Lion (Sinha), Elephant (Gaja), Horse (Asva)
and Bull (Vrasabha) which are the vehicles of the four guardian deities (Dhrtarastra, Virudha,
Virupaksha and Vaishravana) who protect the four directions (Satara Disa). This symbolisation
represents that all four directions of the country are held together in oneness; which is
synonymous with what is conceptually conveyed by the Union Wreath of the United Kingdom,
where the Union of England, Scotland and Ireland is symbolised by a wreath of Roses, Thistles,
and Shamrocks (which are the national flowers of England, Scotland and Ireland) on the same
stalk depicted on the Regimental Colours presented to the Battalion by the British Sovereign in
1922 and 1954.
From the four corners of the field of Blue there are four Murayudha (Spears), an ancient
infantry weapon in Sri Lanka which, here, primarily symbolises the infantry; and secondly
contributes to the general concept of the obligation of the infantry battalion to defend the
country in every direction, and hold it secure and intact. In the center of the field of blue is the
Regimental insignia and over it the Armorial Crest of Sri Lanka which symbolises the honour and
patronage extended to the battalion by the Head of the State. Below the Regimental insignia is
the designation of the Regiment in Sinhala “Y%S ,xld mdn, yuqodj” ; and under it is an upturned
white lotus flower to symbolise the spirit of offering his time and leisure to train himself to serve
his country by the Volunteer; and under the lotus flower is the arabic figure “2” which indicates
the battalion’s number in the Regiment. Under the figure “2” is the Sinhala word “iafõÉpd”
meaning Volunteer. The fringes were a mix of silver and white thread.

The pike heads were made out of brass. It was designed like an abstract form of a Punkalasa
(bowl of plenty), in five convex strips. The Pike head for the President’s Colour, bore embossed on
each convex strip, in descending order of placement, the Dharma Chakra, the heraldic national
lion, and the three sheaves of Paddy from the regimental insignia. The whole was surmounted
with the national armorial insignia. The Pike head for the Regimental Colour was similarly
constructed, and the five convex strips, bore as the top most and bottom most symbol the three
sheaves of Paddy from the regimental insignia and the upturned lotus flower respectively. The
Central Symbol in each, a strip carried one symbol from that of a Lion, Elephant, Horse or Bull. The
whole was surmounted by the insignia of the Sri Lanka Army. The pike heads were cast in Brass
and embossed and engraved by that ageing hill country master craftsman D. C. M. Patabendi of
Nugawela. I remember driving to Nugawela, many a time in my own private vehicle, leaving
Colombo at about 4.00 a.m. monitoring the progress made on the pike heads; and driving back
straight down to the 1st Battalion parade grounds in Panagoda, to take part in Colour Presentation
Parade rehearsals in the afternoon!

The Colours of 1922 and those of 1954 presented to the Battalion had been supplied by
Messers Hobsons of England. As the time factor and probable cost weighed against the foreign
source, it was decided to have the Colours made locally. After enquiries, making the Colours was
entrusted to St. Anthony’s Convent in Borella. We were advised by Rev. Sister Winifreeda in

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Charge of the Sewing Dept. of the Convent that the required qualities of silk, cotton, gold and
silver thread were not available in the island and we will have to obtain them from India. As most
Senior Officers were unable to go to India, I volunteered to go. I said the Unit can bear my Air fare
to Madras and back; and I will look after my accommodation, subsistence, traveling within India
and sundry expenses during my stay in India. Arising out of sharing news of progress the 1st
Battalion also entrusted making their Colours to St. Anthony’s Convent; and inquired from our
Commanding Officer whether our Officer going to India could bring their requirements of Silks,
thread and other items as well. Our Commanding Officer had agreed. Prior to my departure to
India through the auspices of a Sri Lankan tailoring establishment “Cindy’s”, I was able to meet in
Colombo a Visiting Sales Executive of Madura Coates Madras, Mr. Malayappan; who promised to
give us every assistance in obtaining Coates Cotton thread; and Army Headquarters, through the
Indian High Commission gave me contact numbers of the Ordnance Depot of the Indian Navy in
Madras to assist me in seeking out suppliers for our needs. St. Anthony’s Convent provided me
with separate lists of requirements for the two battalions. I took with me colour photographs of
the designs of the Colours of the two Battalions and samples of the fringes and cords and tassels
of the Battalion Colours of 1954.

I was in Madras, India. I parked myself at the modest New Victoria Hotel, a watering hole
patronised by the average Sri Lankans then visiting that city. I had the help of Mr. Malayappan of
Madura Coates to obtain the entire requirement of Coates Cotton thread in the spectrum of
colours we needed within three or four days; and with his assistance purchased the necessary
requirements of silk from a reputed supplier. The Ordnance Dept. of the Indian Navy put me on to
Mr. Ekanath of Ekanath Enterprises.

Ekanath Enterprises was an old institution I believed. So was its proprietor, Mr. Ekanath of
Ghandian dress and countenance, wearing metal rimmed spectacles. He was housed in an old
building which had garden space: while tall trees provided flowers and shade, lesser weeds ran
riot all over under them. It was a dimly lit office cum warehouse. Mr. Ekanath sat at one end at
his desk, by him sat a Lady of middle age; who was the Secretary, typist, peon, and everything else
other than being Mr. Ekanath himself!! Mr. Ekanath undertook to make the fringes for the Colours
of both battalions; but indicated however that we will have to explore Madras City to find a
supplier for the other items, and suggested we go out on an expedition the following day. This we
did with no success. I had brought the cord and tassels from the Colour Pikes of those awarded in
1954; and Mr. Ekanath suggested that he makes the long trip to Bangalore and have the cords and
tassels made there. That attitude and gesture of Mr. Ekanath endeared him to me; and with
approval from Headquarters in Colombo I offered to meet Mr. Ekanath’s expenses for his visit to
Bangalore and return. Mr. Ekanath had succeeded in finding a supplier, but he could only deliver it
to us in Bangalore only after a week to ten days. I was taking delivery of the fringes from Mr.
Ekanath in a couple of days and waiting another week in Madras kicking my heels was going to be
unproductive for us; so, I had discussions with the Sri Lanka Diplomatic Mission in Madras to
accept four sets of Cords and Tassels from Mr. Ekanath and send them in the Diplomatic Bag to
our Ministry of Defence in Colombo, to be collected therefrom by the Commander of the Army.
Two days thereafter I collected the fringes, excellently made by Mr. Ekanath Enterprises. On my
last day in India, Mr. Ekanath took me sightseeing in Madras and I hosted him for lunch; and the
sweet old gent he was, he collected me from the Hotel and took me to the Airport, and was with
me until I boarded the flight to Colombo!

The Air India flight to Colombo was through Trichy. At Trichy a lady boarded the plane
carrying a wind-screen of a small car. She sat on the seat behind me, and was resting the

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windscreen erect by keeping one end on her lap. From time to time she used to dip the
windscreen forward to let it rest on my head, and hold it so! Apart from the weight of the
windscreen on my head, each time the aircraft fell into an air pocket in flight the windscreen hit
me on my head! Twice I turned back and complained to her, but she only grinned! Later in
desperation I complained to a steward who gave me an alternate seat; and had a long argument
with the passenger!

We urged very strongly that the Presentation Parade be held at a venue in Colombo, as it
was central enough for the families of the Battalion’s members to conveniently converge to the
city to witness the Parade. However the Commander of the Army directed that the venue would
be the 1/SLLI Parade Ground at the Army Cantonment Panagoda, and that the Parade will take
place at 8.30 a.m. on 10th October 1978. In early September those Officers and Other Ranks
selected for the Parade and the Drum and Fife Band of the Unit moved into the Army Cantonment
at Panagoda to carry on training and receive the Colours. The Commanding Officer and I, with the
Permanent Staff and a few others of the Battalion who would not be on Parade lived in at
Battalion Headquarters, Colombo, as we had to monitor the progress made on sewing and
embroidering the Colours in Colombo; and occasionally make a trip to Nugawela to track the
progress made on the metal pike heads. Apart from them there were a host of other
arrangements to make in Colombo; and also travel to Panagoda and back for daily training and
rehearsals.

We had our training at first on the 1/SLLI Sports Ground with a grass surface, and later
training and rehearsals shifted to the 1/SLLI gravel parade ground.

Lt. Col. C. A. M. Silva the Commanding Officer of 1/SLLI was promoted to the rank of Colonel,
but he got special dispensation to officiate as CO of his Unit and Command it at the Presentation
of Colours Parade. The 1st Battalion surprised us when their Officers and Other Ranks deviated
from their Dress by wearing tall black boots instead of the normal black boot and white gaiters
that we wore! Of course there was another difference in that while the 1 st (Regular) Battalion
carried the 7.62 self loading Rifle, the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion carried the 303 Lee Enfield Rifle
which was a relict of World War II! A young wit in our Volunteer Battalion spun a yarn to say that
this is a cryptic message in admiting that though we have been designated as the 2 nd (Volunteer)
Battalion of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry; we really are older, and senior to the 1 st (Regular)
Battalion!!

10th October 1978 was “D” Day. The day of the Presentation of the Colours. The two
battalions formed up on the 1/SLLI Sports Ground; and commanded by their Seconds – in -
Command and their Drum and Fife Bands leading, all led by the Sri Lanka Army Brass Band
marched to the I/SLLI Parade Ground to the tunes of “Thin Red Line” and “Light Infantry”, and
formed a hollow square facing the dais.

Each battalion paraded four guards of 3 Officers and 70 Other Ranks in each guard and the
Colour Party. Officers of our battalion who were on parade were as under.

Command Element
Lt. Col. H. B. Wijekoon, Commanding Officer
Capt. N. Mallawaaratchchi, (Regular Force) Adjutant
Warrant Officer Class I J. K. R. Weerakoon, Regimental Sergeant Major
Guard No. 1
Major A. E. R. Abeyesinghe Commanding and Bn 2nd – in – Command

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Lt. G. K. Wickramasinghe
2/Lt. L. A. Cooray
Guard No. 2.
Major S. B. G. de Silva Commanding
Lt. D. C. de Livera
Lt. W. S. G. Dias

Colour Party
Lieut. M. A. D. F. D. Arsecularatne President’s Colour
2/Lt. A.U.C. Suraweera Regimental Colour
19133. WO II M. C. P. Wickramaratne
19345 Sgt. S. P. Fernando Escort to the Colours
19528 Sgt. W. W. S. Silva

Majors at Presentation
Senior Major and 2nd in Command Major A. E. R. Abeyesinghe
Junior Major Major A. P. D. Edirisooriya

Guard No. 3.
Major L. D. S. Kariyawasam Commanding
Lt. G. R. M. R. P. Jayawardena
2/Lt. L. H. N. Rajaratne

Guard No. 4 (Also Escort to the Colours during Trooping)


Major A. P. D. Edirisooriya
Capt. A. S. Mathuranayagam In Command of Guard during Trooping
Lt. J. D. R. Jayakody

Quarter Master (Officiating)


Lt. N. Senanayake

The hollow square made by the two battalions looked picturesque over the sand coloured
parade ground – the black boots, the white coloured gaiters . . . . the olive green uniforms braced
by the white waist belts . . . . their white cotton gloves . . . . . the red and white striped cravats that
cover their neck and . . . . their proud expectant faces, the blue berets that sit on their heads, and
the white hackle it carries to identify their Regiment. All standing so still, like a painting that
captivates the eye.

There were some personal connections that lay like veins in the volunteer battalion’s saga of
Colours on the 10th of October 1978. President J. R. Jayewardene as Head of State was presenting
his Colour and a Regimental Colour to a battalion which under the Command of his Uncle Lt. Col.
T. G. W. Jayewardene had first received a King’s and Regimental Colour at the hands of His Royal
Highness the Prince of Wales on 22nd March 1922 at Echelon Square in Colombo. At this same
presentation in March 1922 The King’s Colour was received from His Royal Highness the Prince by
Lt. E. J. Jayaweera whose grandson, Lt. D. C. de Livera was on 10 th October 1978, standing before
Guard No. 2 of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion The Sri Lanka Light Infantry paraded to receive
Colours from President Jayewardene. Finally, Lt. Col. H. B. Wijekoon E.D., the Commanding
Officer of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion Sri Lanka Light Infantry awaiting to receive a President’s
Colour and a Regimental Colour for his battalion that day; may have been recalling to memory
how he knelt before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 21st April 1954, Her birthday, to receive

93
from her hands the Queens Colour at Galle Face Colombo. There was another significant event on
this day; the Premawardena’s presence of father and son, one in each battalion at this Parade.
The father Sgt. H. D. T. Premawardhana a member of one of the Guards of the Volunteer
Battalion, and the son Pte. H. D. T. A. Premawardhana with the Drum and Fife Band of the 1 st
(Regular) Battalion!

The Drums were piled in the center of the hollow square and the Colour Parties and Senior
and Junior Majors marched up to their respective positions by the pile of Drums with
synchronised metronomic precision. Solemnly the Drummers uncased the Colours and unwrapped
them like a secret being unfolded. A hush hung everywhere. Fold by fold the Colours revealed
themselves like pages of a legacy colourfully written in embroidery over silk! The Quarter Master
took each Colour from the Colour Sergeant and placed them on the Drums, the President’s Colour
being on top; and marched away with the Cases.

The Parade awaited the arrival of His Excellency the President. On the East side of the
Parade Ground was the Saluting Dais flanked by the spectator stands for invitees, becoming fuller
and more colourful as invitees arrived and found their seats. Far beyond the Saluting Dais the
distant Sabaragamuwa hills provided a pleasing vista; and on the Western perimeter a stand of a
Kithul trees stood in line like silent sentinels lined up to witness an august Ceremonial. A mix of
perimeter guards from both battalions stood equidistant from one another on the North, South
and Western perimeter of the Parade Square, as keepers of the Ground.

From the time the Presentation Parade commenced, the two Battalions acted on the
commands given by the Senior Battalion Commander, Col. C. A. M. Silva.

On arrival His Excellency was conducted to the Saluting Dais by the Commander of the Army.
The Parade presented Arms – both Battalions acting as one in a concerted staccato of sound and
movement that followed – the precise punctuation between movements highlighted by the
metronomic movement of the white gloves; and the Band broke into the National Anthem.

The Senior Battalion Commander invited the Chaplains,


- Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayake Thereo,
- Srimath Swami Paremaatmanandaji,
- His Grace Archbishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando,
- Right Reverend Bishop Swithin Fernando and
- Katheeb Al Haj M. M. I. Abdul Hameed – Noori

to bless the Colours. His Excellency the President was conducted to a point in front of the
piled up drums. The two Battalions were brought to “attention”, and solemnly the Consecration
took place.

The Presentation of Colours followed. The Senior and Junior Majors returned their swords
and turned inwards and the Colour Officers went down on their right knees. The Senior Battalion
Commander invited His Excellency the President to present Colours to the two Battalions. The
presentation first took place to the 1st (Regular) Battalion. The Commander of the Army then
conducted His Excellency the President to the pile of Drums of the 2 nd Battalion and Lt. Colonel H.
B. Wijekoon E.D., received His Excellency. Major A. E. R. Abeyesinghe, the Senior Major picked the
President’s Colour from the pile of Drums and handed it to His Excellency. His Excellency moving
up presented it to Lt. M. A. D. F. D. Arsekularatne the Senior Colour Officer already knelt on his

94
right knee to receive it. The Junior Major A.P.D. Edirisooriya picked up the Regimental Colour and
handed it to His Excellency, who presented it to the Junior Colour Officer 2/Lt. A.U.C. Suraweera
who received it kneeling on his right knee. The President accompanied by the Commander of the
Army returned to the position at the center of the pile of Drums. The Senior and Junior Majors
drew their swords and saluted the Colours. The two battalion Commanders brought their
battalions to stand at ease.

His Excellency addressed the two battalions and the two Battalions Commanders replied. His
Excellency retired to the Saluting dais, the drummers removed the pile of drums with orderly
synchronised movement and the Chaplains departed. On a Command form the Senior Battalion
Commander, the Parade presented Arms to the two sets of Colours; and while the Band played
the National Anthem in slow time, the two Colour Parties joined their respective battalions.

The Senior Battalion Commander reported to His Excellency that the Parade is ready for his
inspection. The Volunteer Battalion stood at ease while the 1 st Regular Battalion was inspected
while the Band Played the melodies “Suwanda Rosa Mal Nela” and “My Bonnie lies over the
ocean”. As His Excellency approached the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Commanding Officer Lt.
Col. H. B Wijekoon brought his battalion to “attention” and conducted His Excellency to inspect his
Battalion while the Band played that haunting melody “Eternally” from Chaplin’s “Limelight”, also
known to the Battalion as one of His Excellency’s favourite melodies; and perhaps also symbolic of
the association His Excellency’s family has had with the Battalion; in which his Uncle, Father,
Cousin and only son had served at one time or another. After the inspection His Excellency
returned accompanied by the Senior Battalion Commander to the Saluting Dais.

The Senior Battalion Commander then ordered the two battalions to “Prepare to Troop”. For
the edification of the reader I am producing comments made by John King in his publication,
“Trooping the Colour” (London 1966) on Trooping the Colour. A popular military spectacles is that
of the ceremony of “Trooping the Colours”. Trooping the Colours is now a ceremonial event
adopted from what was known as “Lodging the Colours”, which dates back to the early period
around 1700. When it became necessary to carry the Colours down the ranks at the end of a
day’s march and to solemnly accompany them to the “billet” where they were kept for the night.
The billet represented the headquarters of the Unit, and the battalion’s assembly point in an
emergency. The aim of the ceremony was to familiarize each man with the coloured flags that
identified his Unit, and to guarantee that all ranks would recognise their assembly point,
especially when situated in an unfamiliar area. Each morning the Colours were escorted from the
billet back to their position in the Battalion ranks in the field. Consequently the Colours came to
express the regiment and were held in the highest regard and with veneration. The aspects of the
parade have changed very little since the age when it was known as “Lodging the Colours”. The
significant difference being that in present times only the Colour of the Sovereign or Head of State
is Trooped. In the modern ceremony, according to British practice, the guards are assembled in
two ranks being a reminder of Wellington’s tactics in the battle of Waterloo”. The Colour is now
Trooped by a Regiment or Battalion to commemorate a singularly significant and notable episode
in its history or to honour a Very Important Personage like the Sovereign or Head of State.

As time was short to go through all aspects of the Parade, Trooping the President’s Colour
was an abbreviated and innovated exercise which had been so ably choreographed and the
participants from the two battalions so well trained and rehearsed in it by the Drill Instructors of
the 1st (Regular) Battalion of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry, that the Ceremonial did not lack the
exposition of its founding concept nor the colourful spectacle that it usually presents.

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Next in the sequence was the March Past. The Massed Bands were positioned near the
saluting dais. At first the 1st Regular Battalion marched passed in Review Order in slow time led by
their mascot “Kandula” the elephant; dipping the Colours to His Excellency in Salute. The 2nd
(Volunteer) Battalion followed heading it the Command Element of the Commanding Officer Lt.
Colonel H. B. Wijekoon E.D., Captain N. Mallawaratchchi the Adjutant, and the Regimental
Sergeant Major W.O.I. J. K. R. Weerakoone follwed by the 1st Guard Commanded by Major A. E. R.
Abeyesinghe, the 2nd Guard Commanded by Major S. B. G. de Silva, . . . then, the Colour Party Lt.
M. A. D. F. D. Arsecularatne carrying the President’s Colour, 2/Lt. A.U.C. Suraweera carrying the
Regimental Colour with its escorts . . . followed by the 3rd Guard Commanded by Major L. D. S.
Kariyawasam and the 4th Guard Commanded by Major A.P.D. Edirisooriya marched in slow time,
to the tune of “Echelon”, following the 1st (Regular) Battalion; dipping the Colours in Salute to His
Excellency at the Saluting dais, the Officers Saluting him with their drawn swords and the Men
smartly turning their heads and eyes to the right. The Parade then broke into quick time to the
strain of its Regimental March “I’m Ninety Five” paying compliments to His Excellency at the
Saluting Dais, the Colours not dipped, but unfurled this time in Salute. The marching battalions
halted after forming a Hollow Square facing the Saluting dais. On the Command of the Senior
Battalion Commander, the two Battalions then forming a Hollow Square moved 14 paces forward
in Review Order and halted; and then offered the last Presidential Salute for the day to His
Excellency the President.

His Excellency accompanied by the Commander of the Army left the dais. All was over at the
Presentation Ceremonial. The Commanding Officers handed over their respective battalions to
their Seconds-in-Command; who, in return dispersed their Colour Parties the Bands, the Officers
and their Men.

The Parade ground was bare and silent. Only muted memories hung over it. Old Soldiers,
Volunteers, those who have served before World War II and during it and after; Past Commanding
Officers and Well-wishers of the Volunteer battalion gathered round those that paraded and
congratulated them and said they were second to none in their performance!

His Excellency the President sat for a group photograph with the Officers of the 2 nd
(Volunteer) Battalion and the Colours he presented before he departed. The new Colours of the
1st (Regular) Batalion were displayed in their Officers’ Mess; and after a month since they arrived
for training and the Presentation Parade, the 2 nd (Volunteer) Battalion left the Army Cantonment
Panagoda for its own home. However it had been pre-determined by the Battalion that it was
going to march its Colours home!

The Battalion debussed at Ananda Kumaraswamy Mawatha (earlier Green Path) in Colombo
and formed up. The Colours were ceremonially uncased and marched into position. The Battalion
now, under the Command of its own Commanding Officer commenced its march in Column of
Route with its own Drum and Fife Band leading ----- turning off Ananda Kumaraswamy Mawatha
into Sir. Marcus Fernando Mawatha (Cambridge Place), past the War Memorial to which it paid
compliments . . . . . into Dharmapala Mawatha (Turret Road) and along it, and turning Right into
Galle Road the Column marched. After a month of hard training, and exacting rehearsals during
the last ten days, and the great effort at the Ceremonial itself that very morning; this Route March
of approximately of 3 miles at high noon didn’t seem to bother anyone!

96
Up Galle Road the battalion came . . . . arms swinging together, feet moving together chins
proudly held high . . . . the Bugle Major expounding his virtuosity with the Mace. Somewhere
around Galle Face Hotel on Galle Road, those of us at the head of the marching Column saw the
Official Car of His Excellency led by its escort returning home, perhaps from the Presidential
Secretariat. Instantly as he was passing the Column, the Command Element at the Head of the
Column, all the Guards and the Colour Party paid our compliments to His Excellency – The Colours
being unfurled, and Officers and Men offering an ‘Eyes Right’ in Salute. His Excellency seemed
happy at this rare coincidence for we observed he had moved to the edge of his seat in the car
and reciprocated our salute with a broad smile and a dignified wave of his hand until he passed
the last file of the marching column.

The Column marched down Galle Face Centre Road, the breeze from the sea refreshed the
Men, and near the Statue of Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike we turned into Baladaksha Mawatha.
The Band changed into the Regimental March and the Unit Quarter Guard turned out and stood at
the Present and the Battalion wheeled into its home. There were a few hundreds waiting ____
old Soldiers, the present who could not be mobilised, parents wives and children of those on
Parade, well wishers and past Commanding Officers .. and other Officers .. . we were warmed,
comforted and enprided by their presence.

The Colours were ceremonially marched out of the Column to the Battalion Headquarter
building, where the Commanding Officer’s Office was specially dressed up, red carpetted from
floor to floor, and Kandyan “Reli Palan” decorative art, in the regimental colours, tastefully
adorned the walls and ceiling. There the Colours stood on the stand where it predecessors of 1922
and 1954 had stood between the two Rolls of Honour of the two World Wars. The Colours lay
there all night and into noon the following day for all to view and file past.

In the Officers’ Mess the Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess, and the Men’s Canteen the
old met the present; memories were recounted, laughs were had, and eyes moistened at
reminiscences among the old . . . . . . those no longer with us were missed and remembered. And
they shared among themselves the honour bestowed on the Battalion that day. Later nearly 700
comprised of visitors, well wishers, invitees, civilian employees of the battalion, Officers, Warrant
Officers, Sergeants and Men of the past and those in Service sat together for a Grand All Ranks
Lunch!!

It was a fitting tribute to the battalion, being the oldest. Unit of the Sri Lanka Army, and
longest with a heritage of carrying Colours when it had to parade a Guard of Honour to Colonel Sir
John Kotalawala, a past Officer of the Battalion and one time Prime Minister of Ceylon on the day
following that on which it received Colours; when Sir John arrived to ceremonially open the new
Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force Headquarters at Baladaksha Mawatha on 11 th October 1978. The
Guard of Honour was commanded by Major A. S. Mathuranayagam, and the new (one day old!)
Regimental Colour (which was paraded) was carried by 2/Lt. A.U.C. Suraweera. It is not irrelevant
to mention here that Colonel Sir John Kotalawela bequeathed his stately mansion and grounds at
Kandawala to the Sri Lanka Army after his demise; which, at present, is the home of the
“Kotalawela Defence University”.

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ELEVATION OF MY APPOINTMENT AND RANK AS
COMMANDING OFFICER OF THE BATTALION
Somewhere in mid 1977, the then Commanding Officer of the Battalion, Lt. Col. O.C. de
Alwis E.D., convened a Company Commanders’ Conference; and at it wanted all Company
Commanders to submit their individual proposals to commemorate and celebrate the Centenary
of the raising of the Battalion on 01st April 1981. He then informally commented on who may be in
Command of the Battalion at the Centenary of its raising. The Commanding Officer said that he is
relinquishing Command of the Battalion that year; and that the Officers next in line to succeed
him, in turn would be Major H. B. Wijeykoon E.D., and me. So, it may be one or the other of us
who will Command the Battalion in the Centenary year. I had not at any time bothered to find out
Major Wijekoon’s age. But I was conscious that I will be 55 years in age in April 1981.

I had never set goals for myself to be Commanding Officer of the Battalion sometime, but
only wished to serve the battalion in whatever capacity until I was posted to the Reserve. When I
was a Second Lieutenant I realised, then, that there were about eighteen or nineteen Officers,
holding ranks from Lieutenants to Majors in service, and senior to me: and if they continued to
serve the Battalion to the maximum of their age limits; those of my seniority would be junior
majors when we go on the Reserve. However, it so happened that some of those officers senior to
us left the Battalion for various reasons such as on inter-unit transfers, some due to personal
reasons, some on migration to other countries, a few to join the Regular Force, some on reaching
maximum age limits, and some were placed on the Reserve by the Commanding Officers.

In 1977 Lt. Col. O. C. de Alwis E.D., relinquished Command, and Major H. B. Wijekoon E.D,
was appointed Commanding Officer and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. I was
appointed Second-in-Command of the Unit. Through Lt. Col. Wijekoon’s efforts the Battalion was
awarded with a President’s and Regimental Colour in 1978; and plans for additional buildings for
the Unit were approved. The Sri Lanka Army Official Publication “Sri Lanka Army 50 Years On” has
erroneously indicated that at the Presentation of Colours to the 1st and 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion
of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry on 10th October 1978, that the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion was
commanded by me! This is incorrect, in that the Battalion was commanded by Lt. Colonel H. B.
Wijekoon E.D.

In 1978 after the Presentation of Colours Ceremony I was released from Active Service, and I
was at home. A few weeks afterwards I was recalled into Active Service to serve as Staff Officer to
Brigadier T. I. Weeratunga who had been appointed Competent Authority to administer the
International Airport at Katunayake. We had our offices and living quarters at the nearby Orient
Pearl Hotel.
Towards the end of 1979 Brigadier Weeratunga relinquished his appointment at the Airport
to serve in the North, and I had to continue holding my appointment under his successors. At the
end of 1979 Lt. Col. H. B. Wijekoon who was in Command of the Battalion, called me on the
telephone and informed that work in his place of civil employment, and the appointment that he
holds does not give him adequate time to attend to routine duties as Commanding Officer of the
Battalion, and also devote time to gear the Battalion to prepare itself to commemorate and
celebrate the Centenary of its raising in a manner that it deserves. He said that I would have to
take over Command of the Battalion soon. I was very close to Lt. Colonel Wijekoon, and I
prevailed on him to continue to carry on; and said that if I am released from my present
appointment, I would live in Colombo and assist him in every way with what the Centenary
Celebrations demand. Whether my offer was considered or not I do not know; for, on 01 st
January 1980 I was appointed Commanding Officer of the 2 nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Sri Lanka

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Light Infantry. I had not wished for this appointment; however I had inadvertently been able to
command the Battalion. To have got this opportunity in the Centenary Year was a singular good
fortune that fell on my lap. I accepted it with great humility and a sense of responsibility.

THE CENTENARY CELEBRATION – 1981


The Centenary in the life of the Battalion – its glory; and how best we should
commemorate it was what seized the minds of all ranks of the Battalion – it lived in the breath of
all of us since 1977.

The proposals that we made in 1977 to commemorate this event to run for a week was
accepted by a general consensus of the entire Battalion. We instituted a 2 (V) SLLI Centenary
Celebration Secretariat, an Executive Committee and several Sub Committees to undertake and
exercise the implementation of various aspects of the proposed celebratory events. A
Consultative Committee of available past Commanding Officers and Class I Warrant Officers was
appointed for consultations.

A Unit in the Army reaching the 100th Year of its existence was a unique event; and the fact
that its Service has been recognised and appreciated with the Presentation of Colours to it by
Sovereigns and a Head of State during three constitutional periods of its history – as a British
Colony in 1922, as a Dominion of the British Commonwealth in 1954; and finally as a Sovereign
Republic in 1978, elevates its prestige. I decided to present these facts to the Garter King of Arms
at the College of Arms in England; and inquire from him, whether, according to British practice, it
is justifiable for the battalion to request an Augmentation of Honour to be carried on its
Regimental Colour in appreciation of its 100 years of service to the nation. I sent a set of drawings
of indigenous symbols to the Garter King of Arms and requested him to be so gracious and kind
enough to suggest to me of an appropriate design for an Augmentation of Honour. My intention
was; that if the opinion I received from the Garter King of Arms was favourable, to address the
Commander of the Sri Lanka Army to obtain for us from His Excellency the President the privilege
of carrying an Augmentation of Honour in appreciation of the Battalion’s 100 years of service in
the country.

Augmentations of Honour on Military Colours presented by a Sovereign or Head of State to


commemorate battle honours, and significant and commendable deeds of the Unit, derive their
origin from Augmentations of Honour of Heraldry; just one word to denote a campaign, or a
battle, where the Unit has commendably participated; dates that symbolise an era of service that
rings of sacrifice, resolution and dedication and etc.

The reply from the Garter King of Arms, Sir, Arthur Colin Cole was most encouraging,
helpful and favourable. Sir Arthur had even sent us a draft design for the Augmentation of
Honour which is what His Excellency approved, and we carry on the Regimental Colour.

The Commander of the Army recommended our request and His Excellency the President
issued a Proclamation in the Sri Lanka Government Gazette of 17 March 1981 stating, “It is hereby
notified that His Excellency the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Force has been graciously pleased to permit the Second
Volunteer Battalion The Sri Lanka Light Infantry to carry an Augmentation of Honour to
commemorate one hundred years of volunteer service to the nation to be borne on the
Regimental Colour described hereunder :-

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‘A Sinhala sword with the scroll bearing dates 1881-1981 across the sword
to be placed on the lower Canton on the dexter side of the Regimental
Colour’.

Consequently the Regimental Colour of the Battalion paraded, since its Centenary, carrying
the Augmentation of Honour conferred on it by His Excellency the President.

It was our belief that the Centenary of the raising of the Battalion will be celebratorily
commemorated as a battalion event; however at a conference presided over by the Commander
of the Army in 1980, he directed that the Centenary Celebrations should take place as a
Regimental event. Lt. Colonel T. M. Rajudin was in Command of the 1 st Regular Battalion the Sri
Lanka Light Infantry. However the plan for Celebrations over one week which we had presented
was approved by the Commander of the Army. There were three categories of events that had
been planned. They were events where both Battalions jointly perform together and one event
performed by His Excellency; and events parochial to each Battalion where representatives of the
other battalion are invited and hosted. The Commander of the Army appointed Brigadier A P R
David, an Additional Director at Army H. Q., as the Coordinating Officer to the Centenary
Celebrations. Brigadier David had been a Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Sri Lanka Light
Infantry at one time; and I had an association with him when he was our Course Commander at
the Army Recruit Training Depot at Diyatalawa, when I, in my Subaltern adolescency, underwent a
Junior Drill and Weapon Course at that training institution!

Those selected for the Trooping the Colour Ceremonial on the Police Grounds at Havelock
Town Colombo, moved, around the beginning of March 1981 to Panagoda to reside at the Army
Cantonment for training and preliminary rehearsals with the 1st Battalion Sri Lanka Light Infantry.
The Officers found accommodation at the 1/SLLI Officers’ Mess. For the last few rehearsals both
battalions moved by transport to the Police Grounds in Colombo and returned to Panagoda after
the rehearsals. A designer with experience in designing postage stamps was retained to design the
Centenary postage stamp. Army Headquarters liaised with the Ministry of Post & Telegraphs in
regard to approval for the issue of the stamp and the approval of the design. The Ceylon Ceramics
Corporation was given an order to supply commemorative ceramic plaques. A set contained two
plaques. One depicting the changes in pattern of Uniform from founding to the present; and the
other depicting the changes in the battalion insignia from founding to the present, and the
Colours presented to the Unit in 1922, 1954 and 1978. Orders were placed for white Uniforms and
relevant accoutrements of the 1910 era to dress the Ceremonial Guard at President’s House. Our
Headquarters building was given a fresh coat of paint, the garden area cleaned and the lawns
mowed and trimmed. Arrangements were made to have our Headquarter building in Colombo
decorated with bunting, and flood lit at night during the Centenary Week. Throughout the week a
Ceremonial Guard took over guard duties during the day; and a tactical guard relieved it at
sundown.

The Entertainment Committee busied itself with having the Centenary Cake baked and
refreshments available for various events. It had to be prepared to arrange the All Ranks lunch,
cooperate to jointly host an Officers’ Cocktail Party with the 1 st Battalion, and our own Warrant
Officers and Sergeants Mess Party. We had to find a venue for the joint Cocktail Party hosted by
the two Units; and the State, in a very gracious gesture placed its Acland House , (now Visum
Paya) and its grounds in Staple Street, Colombo 2 at our disposal. Having mentioned of a gesture:
I have to mention that a serving Senior Major of our battalion, whose father and cousins have
served the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Sri Lanka Light Infantry at one time or another, donated a

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very handsome cash contribution towards the Regiment’s expenses in hosting the joint cocktail
party.

The Centenary Secretariat was preparing lists of invitees for each event, consulting the 1 st
Regular Battalion where necessary, and having invitation cards printed. It was also making
arrangements in conjunction with Army Headquarters for spectator stands at the Police Grounds
and seating plans for visitors. The Centenary Secretariat was also in touch with the CLI Association
regarding the Review and the March Past of 100 odd past officers and soldiers of the Ceylon Light
Infantry of World War II era, soon after the Trooping the Colour and the March Past.

The First Day : 01 April 1981


The 01st of April 1981 dawned. The Centenary Celebrations Week of the Sri Lanka Light
Infantry began with six buglers of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion sounding the Revellie on silver
bugles at 6.00 a.m. from the balcony of the Officers’ Mess in Colombo into the clear April air. At
6.30 a.m. members of the Unit at Battalion Headquarters attended pre - arranged religious
ceremonies at Temples, Churches, Kovils and Mosques close to Headquarters; while those
participating in Trooping the Colour, billeted at Panagoda, joined those ceremonies arranged by
the 1st Regular Battalion in Panagoda.

At 9.00 a.m. at our Battalion Headquarters in Baladaksha Mawatha, Colombo, the


cancellation of the commemorative postage stamp took place. The Post Master General Mr.
Asoka de Zoysa and his staff were present; and the Chief Guest on this occasion was Colonel C. A.
Dharmapala Secretary Defence who was an Officer of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers both
during the Colonial era and after reorganisation in 1949. The Commander of the Army Major
General J. E. D. Perera, the Commandant Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force Brigadier Justus Rodrigo,
Senior Officers of Army Headquarters and past officers of the Battalion were present. The
postage stamp of Rs. 2/- denomination was rectangular in shape, royal blue in colour with a
border in white. On the border in white there were the words CEYLON LIGHT INFANTRY
(VOLUNTEERS) printed in Sinhala, Tamil and English. On the center of the stamp over the royal
blue background was a scarlet patch and over it was the Regimental insignia in silver. A First Day
cover was also issued, which has a line drawing of a CLI (VOLUNTEERS) Officer and soldier dressed
in Uniform of circa 1885.

At 11.00 a.m. those at our Battalion Headquarters fell in Review Order to remember those
of the battalion who had laid down their lives in the course of duty, and our forebears who served
before us and are now no more. The Last Post was sounded and two minute silence observed.
The last event for the morning’s celebration was the cutting of the specially baked Centenary
Cake. It had the Insignia of the Battalion done over it, and its designation and the period of its
existence “1881 – 1981”. The Cake was cut by Major E. C de Fonseka the surviving oldest past
Officer of the Battalion with a period infantry Silver Ceremonial Sword handed over to him by the
oldest past Other Rank of the Battalion Bugle Major Joseph Clayton. Among the invitees present
were the Commander of the Army, the Commandant and Deputy Commandant of the Sri Lankan
Army Volunteer Force, the Post Master General, and the Director

Logistics Army Quarters, Brig. P. K. B. Perera Director AHQ,, Brigadier A. P. R. David, the
Commanding Officer and Second-in-Command of the Battalion and Battalion Officers, and other
Ranks living in at Battalion Headquarters in Colombo. There was enough cake to go round with
the congratulations and good wishes for the future!

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Apart from my Centenary Message to the Battalion as the Commanding Officer; Centenary
messages to the Battalion were received from His Excellency the President, The Secretary of
Defence, The Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, The Chief of the General Staff of the British
Army, The Commandant of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, the Deputy Commandant of the
Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, and past Commanding Officers of the Battalion.

The piece de resistance for the day, and really for the week was the spectacle of the
Trooping the Colour Ceremonial by both battalions of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry, on the Police
Grounds in Havelock Road in Colombo 5, before His Excellency the President in the evening.

The significance of Trooping the Colour has been commented on earlier in my


recollections. In present practice only the Colour of the Head of State is carried; and the Colour of
the Head of State and the Regimental Colour is trooped together only at a presentation of new
Colours.

Colours are not usually carried except by an Officer. This ritual or Ceremony however,
starts with them in Charge of a Sergeant and two Sentries guarding them from harm, a token of
confidence in the men. Later a Subaltern assumes Command of the Right Guard, a tribute to youth
and a Symbol of the responsibility which youth is expected to assume. The Regimental Sergeant
Major draws his sword during the Ceremony, the only occasion on which he does so. This is in
order that he may pay full honour when saluting the Colour before returning them to the custody
of an Officer.

There are five different stages, one leading into the other, in the Ceremonial of Trooping
the Colour. They are getting on Parade, Preliminaries under the Adjutant, Preliminaries under the
Commanding Officer, The Troop, and the March Past. To be kind to readers, I will be recalling my
remembrances of only the last two stages of the Ceremonial on the evening of the 1 st April 1981,
and it is likely I will have to refer to my documents in file to assist an ageing memory!

The Officers of the Battalion on Parade were the following :-

Commanding Officer - Lt. Col. A. E. R. Abeysinghe


Second-in-Command - Major S. B. G. de Silva
Adjutant - Capt. D. C. de Livera
No. 1 Guard - Major S. B. G. de Silva
2/Lt. L. C. Perera
Escort for the Colour - Lt. A. U. C. Suraweera
No. 2 Guard - Major L. D. S. Kariyawasan
A. S. Mathuranayagam
2/Lt. A. E. Edema
No. 3. Guard - Major A. P. D. Edirisuriya
Capt. J. D. R. Jayakody
2/Lt. L. A. Cooray
Ensign for the Colour - 2/lt. L. C. Perera
Keepers of the Ground - Capt. N. Senanayake
Lt. G. K. Wickramasinghe
2/Lt. B. S. de Silva
Regimental Sergeant Major - WOI J. K. R. Weerakoon
Colour Escorts - Pte. B. S. Fernando
Pte. Y. N. Sendanayake

The parade awaited the arrival of His Excellency. When His Excellency arrived he was met by
the Commander of the Army and was led to the Saluting Dais. The Parade presented Arms in

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Salute; and the Senior Parade Commander reported the Parade to His Excellency and sought his
permission to Troop the Colour. Both battalions trooped only the President’s Colour.

The Band and Drums with the Regimental Mascot commenced the Trooping by Saluting the
Colour, while a slow march was played on its way from right to left and a quick march on its way
from left to right. Immediately the Band and Drums ceased to play, a lone Drummer beat the
“Drummers Call”.

The Subalterns of the Escort for the Colour took charge of the Escort from the Major who
moved out to another position. The Regimental Sergeant Major then took a position at the rear of
the Escort and drew his Sword.

The Escorts moved out and formed up in front of their respective Battalions facing the
Captain. The Colour Party simultaneously stepped out and halted 20 paces in front their
respective Escorts.

Now occurred the most impressive part of the ceremony. Regimental Sergeant Majors of the
two Battalions; as representatives of Warrant Officers, Non Commissioned Officers and Men of
each Battalion, moved up to their respective Colour Parties, halted, and saluted the Colours with
their drawn swords. They then received the Colour from the Sergeant into their left hands and
turned about and took sufficient paces forward to enable them to hand the Colour to the
respective Ensigns. The respective Ensigns then Saluted the Colours with their Sword, and
received the Colour from the Regimental Sergeant Major, guided the Pike into his Colour Belt; and
turned to face the Escort. The Colour is received with full honour, with the Escort Presenting
Arms, and the Sergeants on the flanks of the Escort Presenting Arms, and the Sergeants on the
flanks of the Escort took a half turn outwards and bringing their Arms to the “port” position. The
significance of this movement being that; in the past Sergeants used to be armed with the Halbred
and the ‘port” was the first movement to bring the weapon down for attack or defence. The
Escort when “presenting arms” being defenceless, are protected by the Sergeants from the attack.

The Escorts of the Colours having shouldered arms, stepped out in a series of intricate
evolutions in slow time to the rhythm of the Regimental Slow March; and moved back to their
original position in the line by filing through the ranks of their respective Guards who Presented
Arms.

Back in their original positions the Escort Presented Arms to Honour the Colour. The Parade
got ready for the final phase of the Troop, the March Past, and the Bands moved into their
position in the Centre of the Parade Ground facing the Saluting Dais.

The March Past commenced on an order from the Senior Battalion Commander. The 1st
Battalion stepping out in slow time, followed by the 2 nd Battalion in similar rhythm to the tunes of
“Scipio” and “Echelon” . To digress a while, I had been told long years ago, when I was a Subaltern,
that the score of the music for the Slow March “Echelon” was composed by Band Master Perry of
the Ceylon Army Band in the 1950s, based on the Regimental Quick March of the Ceylon Light
Infantry “I’m Ninety Five”. I don’t know to what extent this information is correct!

The 1st Battalion dipped their Colours in salute to His Excellency and marched on, followed by
us of the 2nd. Sooner I had passed the Saluting Dais in salute to His Excellency, I had to disengage
myself from the marching column and join his Excellency on the Dais until the last in my column of

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Guards had passed. The Senior Commanding Officer kept his position on the Parade to give his
Command to break into quick time. So we came marching again with 1 st Battalion leading now in
quick time to the tune of “Light of Foot”, “I’m Ninety Five”, and “Great Little Army”; this time the
Colour not being dipped but unfurled on the quick march, the Officers saluting with their Swords
and the Men smartly turning their heads and eyes to the right. Having completed the March Past
in quick time the Parade halted and turned to face the Saluting Dais.

Then, on the Command of the Senior Battalion Commander both battalions of over 500
Officers and Men quick marched 14 steps forward in line without faulting a step, without getting
out of line, to the tune of the Regimental March “I’m Ninety Five” ; and at the 14 th step on the
right foot and then a short step with the left foot, in a flash, those 500 right knees went up, thigh
parallel to the ground, simultaneously the swinging arm froze against the side, and 500 booted
right feet crashed into the turf together in a halt that shook the Parade Ground, and the Band
ceased playing; and the Parade stood still as if hewn out of stone! Then at the Command of the
Senior Battalion Commander the Parade Presented Arms in Salute to His Excellency The President;
and that was the Finale to the military ‘Ballet’ of Trooping the Colour. The spectators responded
with loud and lingering applause.

The Senior Battalion Commander brought the Parade to ‘Stand-at-Ease’ and, after it His
Excellency the President addressed both Battalions. After the Address the two Battalions once
more Presented Arms in a final Salute to His Excellency. Then the dispersal procedure for the two
Battalions commenced.

A very touching event occurred soon after Trooping the Colour was over when members of
the CLI Association comprising those who have served the Regiment during the Colonial,
Dominion and Republican eras and have retired held a cameo parade before His Excellency the
President. About a 100 of them smartly dressed in civilian clothes and without carrying arms led
by the Veteran Brigadier C. P. Jayawardene got on Parade to the strains of “Old Soldiers Never
Die”. Brigadier Jayawardene reported the Parade to His Excellency; and His Excellency inspected
them while the Band played the “Anniversary Waltz”. After the inspection His Excellency returned
to the Saluting Dais; after which the CLI Veterans led by Brigadier C. P. Jayawardene performed a
spritely March Past, paying compliments to His Excellency while the Bands played the tunes, “It’s a
Long Way To Tipperary”, I’m Ninety Five”, and finally “Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag”.
The Veterans got a standing ovation from the spectators and those all over the Ground’.

After the March Past of the Veterans the Army Band led by Lt. (QM) S. Mohanasundaram and
the Drum and Fife Bands of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry led by Bugle
Major Colour Sergeant G. A. Albert offered the spectators and participants of the Parade a fiesta
of music and an exhibition of evolutions made while marching and counter marching in slow and
quick time in beating the Retreat. After the sounding of the Retreat the curtain fell over the day’s
proceedings. His Excellency the President departed.
We who participated in the Parade were satisfied that we gave our best; and our thanks went
to those instructors of the 1st Battalion who selflessly and tirelessly inducted us into the levels of
proficiency that we maintained. And so to the Bands who assisted us “every step’ of the way
through this ritual!
Congratulatory message on the day’s events, especially in regard to Trooping the Colour
were received by our Battalion – from past members of the Unit and invitees. I am quoting below
a letter, written in language above those of routine compliment by Captain Oscar M. Abey’Ratne,
who had served the Unit during the Colonial era, and authored the “History of the Ceylon Light

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Infantry”. Writing from his residence in Nawala Road, Rajagiriya on 20 April 1981, he wrote to me
personally (QUOTE) Having been privileged to see the Centennial Trooping the Colour by the 2 nd
(Vol) Bn, The Sri Lanka Light Infantry I would be failing in my duty if I do not convey to you my
impressions of the Parade on 1st April 1981.
I have a more than ordinary familiarity with the theory and practice of the ceremonial. The
Regiment was at its best in the slow March which was accomplished with a steadiness and
precision which was admirable. My remarks should not be interpreted to mean that something
was wanting in the other drill. In the movements involving the quick march the Battalion as a
whole exhibited a sense of direction and cohesion of a decidedly high standard.
I must confess that the gem of the whole ceremonial was the final advance in line which
would have done credit to any Guards Regiment whose drill I have seen on the screen and in
person. The halting had a magnificence of its own and the discipline and the bearing of the
Officers and Men in the execution of that movement and the subsequent drill were superb.
The entire ceremony showed that the strenuous training and dedication of the Officers
and Men had borne its fruit. Please accept and convey to your Officers and Men my warmest
congratulations on their part in the Parade.
As I watched the Trooping of the Colour by my old Regiment, to which I had the honour to
belong, my bosom swelled with pride at the thought that the toil and moil which we contributed
to the making of the Regiment had not been in vain and although my eyes will not see the next
century, the esprit d’ Corps and traditions of the Regiment are surely in safe keeping. (UNQUOTE)
Late in the evening after the Parade was over, we were resting our tired limbs in the
Officers’ Mess. Lt. Col. David Cox, Defence Attache to the British High Commission in Sri Lanka
who was very helpful to the Unit on several occasions and who was an official invitee to the
Trooping the Colour ceremonial; called me on the telephone and conveyed his congratulations on
the Trooping the Colour Ceremonial, and had a special comment to make in that the Advance in
Review Order of the two Battalions as the finale to Trooping the Colour, which in his words, was
“magnificent piece of drill”!

The first day of the Centenary Week was a very tiring and long Day – but, so satisfying!

02 April – The Second Day


A fair number of Officers and Men mobilised into Active Service for Trooping The Colour
Ceremony were released from Active Service and others intimately connected with events spread
throughout the Week remained on Camp Allowance basis. However those released from Active
Service assured the Unit their presence to participate on the Blood Donation on 3rd April, and on
4th April to participate in the Route March in Colombo and the Battalion All Ranks Lunch. Some
members agreeing to be released from Active Service relieved the accommodation situation at
Battalion Headquarters to some extent.
At 9.30 in the morning His Excellency the President planted a tree in Commemoration of
the Centenary of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry in the garden of President’s House. Those present at
the simple ceremony were the Commander of the Army Major General J. E. D. Perera, The
Secretary of Defence Colonel C. A. Dharmapala and the two Commanding Officers of the 1 st and
2nd (Volunteer) Battalion of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry namely Lieutenant Colonels T. M.
Rajudin and A. E. R. Abeyesinghe respectively.
At 10.00 a.m. the Ceremonial Guard at the entrances to the President’s House was taken
over by a mixed Guard comprised of members of both Battalions of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry.
The Guards were dressed in the Uniforms and accoutrements worn by the Ceylon Light Infantry
Volunteers in 1901, and carried the rifles used during that period. The Uniforms were all white
Tunic and Slacks and the guard was white helmeted. Information on design of Uniforms and the

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type of weapons used were supplied by the archives of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Sri Lanka
Light Infantry.

The new ceremonial guard at the gates of President’s House attracted many sightseers
congregating in little groups on the pavements around President’s House. The selected personal
of the President’s House Guard from both battalions were resident at the Headquarters of the
Volunteer Battalion in Baladaksha Mawatha, Colombo; and each morning at 7.30 a.m. a
Ceremonial Guard with a side Drummer to beat time left the Headquarters of the Volunteer
Battalion and marched down Baladaksha Mawatha, Galle Face Centre Road and up Queen Street
in their novel Uniforms and carrying period rifles to take over duties as Ceremonial Guards; and
returned to Battalion Headquarters at sun down after handing over duties to the President’s
House tactical guard for the night. This episode attracted spectators along the route during the
Centenary Week!

At 11.30 a. m. the Battalion Second-in-Command Major S. B. G. de Silva, and I jointly


planted a Commemorative Tree on the front lawn of our Headquarters at Baladaksha Mawatha,
Colombo.

The 1st Battalion Sri Lanka Light Infantry held their past and present members lunch at
their Battalion Headquarters in Panagoda, Homagama at which a cross section of All Ranks from
the 2nd (Volunteers) Battalion were hosted.

03 April - The Third Day


In the morning, by earlier engagement, a mobile Unit from the Blood Bank arrived at our
Battalion Headquarters at Baladaksha Mawatha and over 100 members out of Officers and Other
Ranks of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion donated blood.
In the evening the Joint Cocktail Party hosted by the 1 st and 2nd (Volunteer) Battalions was
held at the spacious Acland House in Staple Street, Colombo 2. This venue was offered by the
State, as our Officers’ Mess could not accommodate the complement of all invitees; and the
Officer’s Mess of the 1st (Regular) Battalion was miles away from Colombo in Panagoda.
The invitation to cocktails was extended by the Commanding Officer and Officers of the 1 st
nd
and 2 (Volunteer) Battalions of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry. The Chief Guest was His Excellency J.
R. Jayewardene, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Commander-in-
Chief of the Armed Forces; and among invitees were Diplomats, Legislators, Service Chiefs, Senior
Army Officers, and invitees of the two hosting Battalions. The supply of canapés, savouries, fruit
cocktails and the service was entrusted to FAB Caterers, who were the Caterers to the Volunteer
Battalion since the long standing Grosvenor Caterers from Colonial times wound up in the late
1970s. The serving of liquor was handled by the liveried Officers’ Mess Stewards of both
battalions. The Sri Lanka Army Band, and the Drum and Fife Band of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion
Sri Lanka Light Infantry were in attendance. A pleasant evening was had by all.

04th April – The Fourth Day


At 9.30 a.m. the Battalion carrying its Colours led by the Commanding Officer with its
Drum and Fife Band leading went on a Route March up Baladaksha Mawatha, Galle Face Centre
Road, along Lotus Road; then turning into Chittampalam Gardiner Mawatha and along it to Justice
Akbar Mawatha, then Baladaksha Mawatha and back home!

Later at noon there was the Grand Centenary All Ranks Lunch at the Volunteer Battalion’s
Headquarters with the Chief Guest being the Commander of the Army. A cross section of Officers

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and Other Ranks of the Regular Battalion of the Regiment, and past Commanding Officers,
Officers, Warrant Officers, Sergeants, Junior non Commissioned Officers, and Men of the
Volunteer Battalion were invited. Those making their presence were warmly received and hosted.

That night The 1st (Regular) Battalion The Sri Lanka Light Infantry held an Officer’s Dinner
Night at their Officer’s Mess at Panagoda and hosted the Commanding Officer and Officers of the
2nd (Volunteer) Battalion.

05 April – The Fifth Day


The Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess of the 1st Regular Battalion held its Mess Night at
their WOs and Sergeants Mess in Panagoda at which they hosted their Counterparts of the
Volunteer Battalion.

06 April – The Sixth Day


The Warrant Officers and Sergeants of the 1st (Regular) Battalion were the guests of their
counterparts of the Volunteer Battalion at the WOs and Sergeants Mess of the 2 nd (Volunteer)
Battalion Mess Night held at Baladaksha Mawatha in Colombo in the evening.

07 April – The Seventh and Final Day


Around 6.00 p.m. The Sri Lanka Army Cultural Troupe, under the auspices of the 2 nd
(Volunteer) Battalion staged a Cultural Show on Galle Face which was very well received by a large
and appreciative number of invitees. At the end of the Cultural Show there followed a colourful
Fireworks Display organized by the Volunteer Battalion. The Chief Guest at these two events was
Major Montague Jayawickrame the Honourable Minister for Public Administration, who, in the
Colonial era was an Officer of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers.

After the Firework Display, all serving Officers of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion and their
ladies hosted the serving Commanding Officer and Officers of the 1st (Regular) Battalion and their
ladies to an informal Dinner at the Officers’ Mess of the 2 nd Battalion at Baladaksha Mawatha –
which I believe was the first and only time that such a Get-Together took place! So ended a week
of Celebratory Commemoration of the Centenary to become an immortal memory among the
surviving past and serving members of The Sri Lanka Light Infantry.
Later
The following letter was received from the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army Major Gen.
J.E.D. Perera:-
(Quote) “I am commanded by His Excellency the President to convey to you and through
you to the Officers and Men of your Battalion his congratulations for the smart turnout and the
precision drill he reviewed on the occasion of the Trooping of Colour Parade to mark the
Centenary of the SLLI on 01 April 1981.

I wish to add my personal congratulations for the excellent Parade and all other
arrangements made by you to celebrate the Centenary of your Regiment.

I wish you and members of your Battalion continued success in the years to come”
(Unquote)
Though it was said that in keeping with the country’s defence needs His Excellency the
President had approved of the raising of another Volunteer Battalion of the Sri Lanka Light
Infantry in the Centenary year, this did not occur; but later in 1985, a Regular Battalion was raised
into the Regiment as the 3rd Battalion SLLI!

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THE QUEEN’S VISIT - 1981
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Head of the Commonwealth
accompanied by her husband His Royal Highness Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh visited Sri Lanka
for a few days in October 1981. Though the Volunteer Battalion hoped that it would get an
opportunity to pay compliments to the Queen; disappointingly it did not, with only the Regular 1st
Battalion getting an opportunity to parade a Guard of Honour to Her Majesty outside President’s
House.

A contingent of the Battalion was mobilised into Active Service and deployed on security
duties along a part of the railway route from Colombo to Kandy when the Royal party travelled by
the luxury “Viceroy Express” train to Kandy.

During this Royal Visit the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion at the request of His Excellency the
President had to make arrangements to display their King’s Colours and Regimental Colour of
1922 to be viewed by Her Majesty at President’s House during a Presidential Banquet to host Her
Majesty. The two large Silver Candelabra of the Battalion were also lent to adorn the Head Table
at the Banquet at President’s House.

MY RELINQUISHMENT OF COMMAND OF THE BATTALION


I relinquished Command of the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion the Sri Lanka Light Infantry at the
end of 1982. However I was on Active Service thereafter up to the end of 1988 with elevations in
rank and appointment during that period. However, above all, what I cherished most and missed
were the mores of volunteering and that esoteric joie de vivre of serving with the 2nd (Volunteer)
Battalion the Sri Lanka Light Infantry.

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