The Army Signals Association President and executive committee held a
felicitation ceremony for the Colonel Commandant, senior officers and
the Regimental Headquarters Sri Lanka Signal Corps staff on June 30 at
the Ex- Servicemen's Institute, Colombo.
Colonel Commandant Major General Piyal Abeysekera, Brigade Commander
Brigadier Nilantha Hettiarachchi of the Signal Corps and Major General C
J Abayaratna former President of the Signal Association were present.
Signals Association President Brigadier K A Gnanaweera welcoming the
guests thanked the Colonel Commandant and his staff for their support to
the association throughout.
Visit to Veterans' Home
Thirty members of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service 1974 batch
visited the SLESA Elders Home at Bolegala, Katana on July 1. The day
marked the SLAS 1974 batch 38th anniversary.
The members comprised recently retired public servants who held
senior posts including heads of ministries and who served throughout the
country including the North and East.
Senior civil servants were happy to have had the opportunity to
interact with the ex-servicemen, some of whom were World War II
The former SLAS officers toured the premises and enjoyed visiting the
inmates in their residential quarters as well as interacting with them,
and the camaraderie and fellowship that followed which ended with a
lunch together with the inmates.
In an address on behalf of the SLAS officers, they expressed their
sincere appreciation for the selfless services extended by these
veterans, reiterated their gratitude and wished them a well deserved
period of retirement.
They prayed for their continued good health and a contented life.
This visit was organised by former Veterans' Home chairman Colonel
Faiz-ur-rahman and SLAS 1974 batch member.
Executive Committee Meetings
Sri Lanka Army Medical Corp Association Executive Committee Meeting
will be held on July 7 at 9 am at the SLESA Secretariat.
Sri Lanka Ex-Army Women's Association Executive Committee Meeting
will be held on July 7 at 1.30pm at the SLESA Secretariat while the Sri
Lanka Ex-Naval Logisticians Association Executive Committee Meeting will
be held on July 8 at 11 am at the SLESA Secretariat.
Curtain making course
A course on curtain making ended on June 19 with a grand party held
on July 2 at the Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen's Association Headquarters. The
course was conducted by eminent fashion designer Deepthi Hettiarachchi
The participants were ex-service women from the Army, Navy and Air
Force, Jayanthi Seneviratne, Wasantha Malini Piyadigama, Jinadari
Karunasena, Anusha Perera, Shaam Jayatillake, Indrani Jayasinghe, Renuka
Edwin, Kumari Wickramasinghe, Chulani Sirimewan, Devika Wasanthi Kumari
Karunatillake and Shamali Damayanthi.
Sustainable Development Committee
Major General P Chandrawansa (Chairman), Cdr. D P Nandasiri, Col. H G
W Pathmasiri, Major H M S S K Godamune, Capt. S Djinadasa, B G Kularatne
and Hemantha Soyza
Ceylon during the 1939 - 1945 war
During the 1939 - 1945 war, Ceylon was of vital importance in
preserving communications between East and West and acting at base from
which operations were conducted. When Japan entered the war in 1941,
however, the existing defences of the island were dangerously weak and
the Japanese could have destroyed the naval bases at Colombo and
Trincomalee from the air, as they did Pearl Harbour. Early in 1942, from
the meagre forces then available, reinforcements were hurried to Ceylon.
There were already on the island two Indian brigades and two brigades of
local troops, two Australian brigades of the 6th Division were sent
(although these were later returned to Australia for political reasons)
and the 21st East African Brigade (subsequently sent to Burma) arrived.
Two new airfields were built- one at Ratmalana and one at China Bay near
Trincomalee, and a runway was quickly constructed on the golf course at
Hurricanes Mark 1 and Mark 11 belonging to No 30 and No 201 squadrons
R A F were sent from the Middle East by the aircraft carrier H M S
Indomitable, arriving on March 6 and 7 and were shortly joined by No 11
Squadron R A F and No 113 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. By
the end of the month, 50 Hurricanes, 14 Blenheims, six Catalina flying
boats and a small number of Fleet Air Arm Fulmara and Alhacores were
ready to go into action.
These preparations were completed only just in time. A Japanese naval
raid into Indian waters took place in early April. The bulk of the
Eastern Fleet, which made up to a strength of five battleships, three
aircraft carriers, seven cruisers, 15 destroyers and five submarines,
were refueling at Addu Atoll, the new secret naval base 400 miles in the
south west. Colombo was attacked by carrier borne aircraft on April 5
and Trincomalee on April 9.
Warning of the approach of the enemy, given by patrolling Catalina
flying boats, enabled the defenders to disperse shipping in these ports,
but two naval vessels in Colombo harbour were sunk and a merchant ship
set on tire, and the harbour workshops were badly damaged. Two eight
inch cruisers, H M S Dorsetshore and H M S Gorncall, were attacked and
sunk by Japanese aircraft a few hours after leaving the harbour, but
1,100 of the 1,500 aboard the two ships were picked up by the cruiser H
M S Enterprise and two destroyers, H M S Paladin and H M S Panther,
summoned by a recon aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm.
On April 9 the enemy concentrated on China Bay airfield and on the
Trincomalee dockyards, which suffered considerable damage. On both
occasions our fighters inflicted very considerable losses on the enemy
aircraft and suffered some losses themselves. Five of the Blenheim
bombers sent to attack the Japanese aircraft carriers were lost, but
four Zero fighters were shot down. While the attack on Trincomalee was
in progress the aircraft carrier H M S Hermes, the destroyer Vampire of
the Royal Australian Navy, which was with her, and a corvette, H M S
Hollyhock, were sunk in the waters around Ceylon.
Altogether during the five days (April 5 to 9 inclusive) 15 ships
sunk by enemy aircraft were lost to the guns of the Hurricanes and
Fulmars a month later, only two of the five Japanese aircraft carriers
could take part in the battle of the Coral Sea. The other three were
still in Japan renewing their complement of aircraft and pilots.
Ceylon was not attacked again and carried on unhindered her functions
as a naval and air force base and a training ground for jungle warfare
for troops destined to take part in the recovery of Burma. Among the
units trained on the island were the 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment
(at Kalutara) ; 2nd Battalion Border Regiment (at Horana, Kurunegala and
Peradeniya in succession); 21st (East Africa) Brigade ; 25th (East
Africa) Division. Colombo and Trincomalee were the main naval bases for
South-East Asia Command and in April 1944 the Supreme Allied Commander
in South East Asia transferred his Headquarters from Delhi to Kandy,
where they remained until moved to Singapore in late November 1945.
Ceylon was also a leave centre and hospital base. No. 35 British
General Hospital was established in January 1943 and was still there in
December 1945 and No. 15 British General Hospital was in Colombo from
January 1944 until February 1945.
Save for those killed during the enemy attacks in April 1942, the men
and women of the forces who gave their lives while serving in Ceylon
during the war years died of sickness or through accident. Those buried
or commemorated in eight different cemeteries in the country (two of
which also contain 1914-1918 War graves) were 2,044. Of the special
memorials mentioned in the footnotes to the classification type A, with
the superscription "known to be buried in this cemetery", commemorate
men known to have been buried in a particular cemetery whose graves
cannot be traced; type C, which have the superscription "Buried near
this spot", commemorate men known to have been buried in a particular
cemetery group of graves in a cemetery, but whose graves in other
cemeteries in Ceylon are lost. The special memorials E record the
original burial place and bear the quotation "Their glory shall not be
Trincomalee War Cemetery
Trincomalee, a seaport on the north-eastern coast of Ceylon easily
accessible by rail or road from Colombo, is a naval station. After the
fall of Singapore it became a naval base of importance to allied command
of shipping in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.
The war cemetery is in the jungle, about three miles outside the town
of Trincomalee in Kuchchaveli on the Nilavelli road. It was originally
the Combined Services Cemetery, but was taken over by the Admiralty from
the military authorities in April 1948 for use as a permanent naval
On the withdrawal of United Kingdom Forces from Ceylon it became the
property of the Ceylon government who granted the commission security of
tenure in perpetuity. Save for a few post-war and non-war graves it is
purely a war cemetery and service war graves were transferred to it from
Trincomalee (St. Mary's) Churchyard, Trincomalee (St. Stephen's)
Cemetery, Kottadi Cemetery, Jaffna and Vavuniya Combined Cemetery. The
total number of burials as special memorial commemorates a naval man
buried in Trincomalee (St. Stephen's) Cemetery whose grave could not be
The non-war graves are those of merchant Navy men whose deaths were
not due to war service and under the heading "Miscellaneous", are
civilian employees of the Admiralty (6), ex-servicemen whose death was
not due to their war service (3), a civilian member of Force (136) and
two other civilians, who were buried either in a war cemetery or a war
The post-war graves under the same heading at the graves were of
dependents of ex-servicemen (5), civilian employees of the Admiralty
(10) and dependents of such employees (6).