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The Ceylon Volunteer Force

The Ceylon Volunteer Force

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Published by Anton Edema
Raised in 1881 the territorial force with a very rich history
Raised in 1881 the territorial force with a very rich history

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Anton Edema on Jan 02, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Ceylon Army Journal Volume 1- 1952 -Number 11
The Volunteer Force
By Cyril van LangenbergVolunteering in Ceylon has an honourable history extending over a period of morethan Seventy years. On the first April, 1881, by proclamation in the Government
, the Lieutenant –Governor gave his assent to the formation of a VolunteerCorps. Active recruiting soon followed, over one thousand Volunteers having beenenrolled by the end of June, 1881, and the original body of Volunteers was organizedunder the name and title of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers.Originally administered as a single unit with the passing of the years various sectionsof the Volunteers grew large enough to have a separate existence of their own, awayfrom the parent unit, and so there came into existence the different Units of theVolunteer Force:-
The Ceylon Artillery Volunteers
later the Ceylon Garrison Artillery, and now theCeylon Artiller
The Ceylon Mounted Infantry
later the Ceylon Mounted Rifles and finally, in 1938,merged with the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps
The Ceylon Volunteer Medical Corps
later the Ceylon Medical Corps, now the Ceylon Army Medical Corps.
The Cadet Battalion,CLI
later the Ceylon Cadet Batalion,and now the CeylonCadet Corps.
The Ceylon Engineers
whose name, title functions were in 1927 taken over by the B Coy, Colombo Town Guard.
The Ceylon Supply and Transport Corps
later Ceylon Army Service Corps.
The Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps
raised as an independent unit, and finally disbanded in 1949.
Grate support was given to the Volunteer movement by the Mercantile communityand in theBusiness world-Gordon Frazer, Leech man, Bosanaques, Bois, John, Creasy, Mackwood, amongOthers.Living links with the past exist today in the persons of Dr. Andreas Nell whose nameappearsIn the original nominal roll of the C.L.I.V. with regimental No. 1339 Messer’s.S.St.G.Blacker,No. 2711 and Wm.C.de Sylva No. 2765, who enlisted in 1890, Col.T.Y.Wright,Regimental No.3And Mr. F.J. Holloway, who were original members of the C.M.I.In 1910 the name of the Force was changed, and it became the Ceylon DefenceForce. It is of interest to at least the older generation to know that the ordinancewhich effected this change also regulated the existence of that picturesque body of turbaned and bearded Lancers once to be seen on our streets – the Governor’sBodyguard.Under its new name the Volunteer movement continued to flourish. In spite of theever increasing complexities of training and the ever growing demands this made
The Ceylon Army Journal Volume 1- 1952 -Number 12
upon their spare time, a steady flow of recruits continued to come to the ranks of theDefence Force from the young men of Ceylon throughout the years between the twogreat wars, and the Ceylon Defence Force trained and went on training against theday when it would be called upon to fulfill its purpose.During the Boer War a contingent of the Ceylon mounted Infantry, in 1900, and acontingent of the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, in 1902, saw active service in SouthAfrica, and these services were recognized by the presentation, in 1902, of a Colour(now laid up in St. Paul’s Church, Kandy) to the C.M.I., and a presentation, in 1904, of a Banner (now laid up in St. Peter’s Church, Colombo) to the C.P.R.C.During the 1914-18 war, offers of a contingent for active service were made by morethan one Unit of the Defence Force, by these offers were not accepted. Undeterred bythis however, hundreds of Volunteers from the Defence Force found their way toEngland and joined Units of the British Army, and many of them gave their lives forthe cause. A typical example of the spirit which actuated these Volunteers is seen inthe record of No. 8861 Pte. H.R. Jacotine C.L.I. who enlisted in the Coldstream Guardsand was killed in action in the battle of Lys on 13
April 1918. Of this gallant soldierSri Arthur Conan-Doyle, in his Official History of the British Campaign in France andFlanders, says:-
“After severe mixed fighting the attack was driven back. At 9-15 it was renewed withGreater strength, but again it made no progress. It is typical of the truly desperate spirit Of the men, that when every man save one on an outpost had been killed or wounded,the survivor, Pte. Jacotine of the Coldstream, carried on the fight alone for twenty minutesbefore he was blown to pieces with a grenade.” 
In 1914 a new Unit was raised, The Colombo Town Guard, embodying horse, foot, andguns. Formed for the purpose of relieving pressure on other Units during war time,this Unit did valuable work.By 1918 the Town Guard Artillery was absorbed by the C.G.A., The Mounted TownGuard and A. and C. Coys had been disbanded, but B.Coy. Continued in existenceuntil 1927. In that year they took over the name and title of, and became, the
.In 1922, the Ceylon Defence Force was once again honoured by the presentation of the King’s and Regimental Colours to the Ceylon Light Infantry.In 1939 the C.D.F. was mobilized on the outbreak of war, and the events of that warand the enormous expansion of the C.D.F. which took place are too recent to needextensive recapitulation here. Several new Units of the C.D.F. were raised for war-time duties:-
The Colombo Town Guard
raised once again on the outbreak of war and disbanded In 1945
The Post and Telegraph Signals
Departmental Units raised in 1943 and weredisbanded after the war.
The Ceylon Army Journal Volume 1- 1952 -Number 13
The Ceylon Railway Engineers
Departmental Units raised in 1943 and weredisbanded 
after the war.
The Ceylon Electrical andMechanical Corps
Departmental Units raised in 1943 and weredisbanded  After the war.
The Auxiliary Territorial Service…
Formed in 1943 and disbanded in 1946, thiswas the only 
women’s Unit in the C.D.F.
The Ceylon Corps of Military
raised in 1944 for Provost duties and disbanded in 1946.
Police.The Ceylon Signal Corps.
Formed in 1943 to take over Signal duties of the C.D.F.This Unit is still in existence and a fully fledged member Of the Volunteer Force.
When the war was ended, the task of returning the enormously swollen wartimeC.D.F. to its normal proportions was begun and by 1948 this was well on the say tocompletion.In 1947 came Ceylon Independence, and in 1949 the Army Act was passed byParliament setting up Ceylon’s Army, composed of a Regular Fore and a VolunteerForce.And so the now wheel had turned for circle, and the Volunteers take once again theirold title – that grand old name of which they are so proud.Every unit of the old Volunteer Force still exists in the new Force, same one, whosepassing we all mourn – the C.P.R.C. In 1949 this gallant Corps was finally disbanded. This was it stem which was inevitable under the changed conditions of the times, butthat does not make it any the less sad. They will always be remembered withgratitude and affection for the high example of service and comradeship they stoodfor.Inherent in the very title of the Volunteer Force are those ideals of service and loyaltywhich have become its tradition, and today several Units of the Force have in theirranks the sons and grandsons of those Volunteers of long ago.But it is this very title of Volunteer which itself supplies the reason for our biggestproblem to-day-a lack of numbers. The backbone of our Volunteer Force is necessarily the middle class, this has alwaysbeen so. Volunteer training is, except for the annual training camp of two weeks, donein the Volunteer’s own time-two evenings a week and a few week-end camps; and it isonly the middle class who can provide insufficient numbers the young men with thenecessary Educational standards and the spare time, to do the training.Post war economic conditions have hit this class very hard, and the lack of recruitstoday for the Volunteer Force is a direct result of that economic hardship. The Army Authorities know this and every assistance in the say of amenities andother aids is now being given to reduce to the Volunteer the financial burden of beinga Volunteer.

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