Brief history of DIYATALAWA

(Literally ¥The Watered Plain¦)

Diyatalawa lies in a valley between Haputale & Bandarawela,1250m or 4101 feet above sea level.6.82°N 80.90°E. It was bare land patana & swamp before the end of the 18th century. Reverend Samuel Langdon & Mrs. Langdon two Wesleyan (Methodist) missionaries leased & set up an orphanage & an Industrial school on this barren land. The building complex consisted of an orphanage, Mission house, Hospital & a chapel. This Wesleyan Missionary settlement was named as ¥Happy Valley¦. Only other building in the vicinity was ¥Clubhouse¦ on Wilson¨s plains. Prettily situated Methodist Chapel was erected on a site off today¨s Polo Grounds. Reverend Samuel was a very hardworking person & he was the first principal of Richmond College Galle. He started the Kandy High School. Soon the tea plantations grew around this barren patana. Government land surrounding the Happy Valley was given on lease to open up Holiday bungalows. 

In 1900 Britain went to war with South African Dutch farmer settlers known as BOERS. Colonial government selected the Happy Valley as one of the places for the internment of the Boer POW. In April 1900 the Wesleyan mission was asked to move out of Diyatalawa. Prisoner of war camp was designed & then constructed by the Public works department under the supervision of District Engineer Kurunegala. 

It was in a 5 acre land & meant to hold 2500 POW.PWD completed the work within 3 months. The whole camp had been encircled with double barbed £ wire fencing & trenches.4735 POW were held in the camp.

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Arc & Flare lamps had been provided to light up the barriers in the night. Electric lights also had been provided to all the military & staff buildings. A firewood shoot had been provided & ran parallel with an aerial tramway raised on pylon like structures for conveying stores over a distance of a mile from rail head to QM¨s stores. 

A metalled road was also constructed from the railway station to the camp by the PWD. The first batch of Boer POW landed in Colombo on the 9th of August 1900 from the ship ¥Mohawk¦ The last batch arrived in June 1901.The total number interned in the island was 5089.Since the camp was not originally planned to afford accommodation for quite this large number of POW, additions had to be made. Some were sent to Urugasmanhandiya, Mount Lavinia, Hambanthota & Ragama. The

POW were not all Afrikaners or Boers. There were highly educated prisoners & Farmer families also held captivity in the POW camp. 

The lower road connecting Diyatalawa & Bandarawela was named BOER road. Many prisoners died here due various reasons & there was a well kept Boer cemetery with White crosses, but it is no more. 

The circling barrier of entanglements increased in course of time a circumference of nearly two miles. The camp was originally planned to accommodate 2500 POW, with 1000 to guard them, including Staff & labour. Water for the camp was obtained from streams on the hillside flowing through Roehampton & Kahagolla estates .Pressure break tank above the railway & 4 other service tanks were also constructed in close proximity to the camp. It is said that present Government ¥A¦ bungalow was a Methodist Missionary

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Institute with a Medical Dispensary & a dormitory.¦B¦ bungalow was later became the Hospital for the Boers. Present Post Office was earlier known as ¥Rose Cottage¥& was also a Holiday bungalow. 

After the Boer war the prisoners were sent back to South Africa in 1902.After the departure of Boer prisoners Diyatalawa became a Ghost town. Many proposals were made to the government but the Governor Sir West Ridgeway authorized the abandoned POW camp to be used as a Rest camp for the Military & Navy: an encampment for the Ceylon Volunteers £ Later Ceylon Defense force (CDF) & for the Ceylon survey Department. 









Urugasmanhandiya to Diyatalawa & the period of the camp extended from 8 to 15 days. Detachments from Ceylon Mounted Infantry, Ceylon Planters Rifles, Ceylon Light Infantry, Ceylon Artillery Volunteers, Royal Navy & a British Regiments (West Kent & 98th Infantry) which was stationed at that time participated in the first camp. 

With the establishment of the Military, Navy & Survey camps Diyatalawa developed into a Garrison town. Civilians who did business with the military sometimes named their institutions with military names. ¥Happy Valley¦ Stores, ¥Army & Navy Stores¦, ¥Emden¦ Saloon are few examples.

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After the Independence the Ceylon Army Recruit Training Depot which was located at Rathmalana was shifted to Diyatalawa & established as CARTD on 6th February 1950.First batch of recruits passed out of CARTD on the 2nd of June 1950.It was later named as Army Training Centre popularly known as ATC & Officer cadet training started in 1968. Metamorphosis of this tiny Ceylon Army Recruit Training Depot into the present day SriLanka Army Military Academy is another story. 

The Air Force Combat Training School was shifted to Diyatalawa in 1952 & First Wings parade was held in 1954. 

Diyatalawa had three Firing ranges. The artillery & mortar range, The boundaries were Bluff Hill, Needankanda New, Trig point Needankanda 4222, Trig point at Udutara Hill, Gibraltar, Range Hill, One Tree Hill, Black Rock, It was meant to fire Artillery & Mortars.

The field firing range. This was for small arms & mortar field firing. The range was situated at points between Black Rock, Trig point at Gibraltar, trig point at Flag Staff Hill & one tree hill.

300 yards firing range - used only for small arms firing. It was situated between the Range Hill, Trig point above the Boer Cemetery & the road junction at the Survey Camp.

1000yards firing range meant for small arms firing. It was also situated between Trig point at Gibraltar, Range Hill, and The road junction ou tside the Survey Camp.

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Volunteer training camps at Diyatalawa was an event looked forward to --- for training, fun & Regimental togetherness. It contained weapon training foot drills, Cross country marches, & Mock Battles. Friendly soccer matches & Rugby matches Sports meets etc.  Junior & Senior school Cadets it was like an annual pilgrimage. They sweated in their school grounds for long months to compete with the others in Drill on the Famous Rendezvous Grounds, Musketry, Physical endurance & Band Music. Everyone who had gone to Diyatalawa will never forget the departure to Diyatalawa by special train & then the march to the CVF camp. Those train journeys & annual training camps are no more.

Volunteers had to fire the Annual Weapon Training Course at Diyatalawa. AWTC success at which Officers & Soldiers entitled to his annual bounty. 

CLI Hill

The CLI crest assembled out of stone on a hill near the feature called ¥Pepper Pots¦ was the CLI Hill. The exact date of it is unknown but around the year 1940.Today the CLI Hill is covered with pines & no more. Then there was the Gona Kanda in which the Cadet Corps Insignia assembled with white rock on a hill feature. 

FOX Hill (Nariya Kanada) Up to 1913 it was known as black rock. Sailors from the ship HMS Fox were brought to Diyatalawa to rest. They with hundreds of white quartz rock stones outlined a fox as if on the run, with its tail, snout, & erected ears. The white fox

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can be seen from the miles away. To day it is very famous for the Fox Hill Motor races. 

18 Hole Golf Course. Diyatalawa had a 18 hole golf course around the famous Polo grounds. The present course has only a nine holes. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful golf courses in SriLanka.  Garrison church
Comment [A.E1]: Check

References y Rifle & artillery Ranges September 1,1911 y y y Gazette 7737 of October 4,1929 Gazette 10 260 of June 2,1951 The firing Ranges & Military Training Act no 24 of 1951. Ordinance(chapter 257) Gazette 6460 of

Major Anton Edema