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Brief History of the Ceylon Mounted Rifles. Compiled by Major Anton Edema ,SLLI
The Regiment was raised on the 12th of July 1892, by the late Colonel, Evelyn Gordon Reeves, VD who was in command until 1913, a period of 21 years. It was then known as the “Ceylon Mounted Infantry”, a mounted company attached to the “Ceylon Light Infantry” of which regiment His late Majesty King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) was Colonel in Chief. Shortly after formation, they became a separate unit of the Ceylon Defence Force known as the “CMI” or the Ceylon Mounted Infantry and it was not until 1906 that the designation of the Regiment was altered to The Ceylon Mounted Rifles. On the first day of enrollment, 62 members joined and with the exception of the period during and just immediately after the Great War, the regiment has always been up to strength. The reason no doubt for the apathy just immediately after great war due to many members who returned having had too much soldiering; but, in 1925, a considerable number of recruits were enrolled and with Colonel, AE Andrews( their old Adjutant) as commandant and Captain Sir Bekerly Pigott, Bart., 17th / 21st Lancers, as Adjutant, the regiment again went forward and for time there was a waiting list. Up till 1934, when the regiment was reorganized into one mounted and one mechanized squadron, a qualification was that any member joining had to possess his own or be able to borrow a suitable horse for drills and parades, and the regiment has always well-mounted. In 1897, the regiment was represented at the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, on June the 20th , and on this occasion turned out in full dress uniform, which consisted of white helmet, scarlet tunic, white breeches and jack boots. In the year 1900, a contingent under the command of Major Murray Menzies was sent to the Boer War and took part in the following engagements – Cape Colony Drifontein Johannesberg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen, earning the Queen’s and the King’s Medals with 7 clasps. The cost of equipping, arming and transporting this contingent was borne by the Government, but most members took their own horses with them. For service rendered in the Boer War, a banner was presented to the regiment by his late Majesty King George V (the Duke of York) on the occasion of his visit to Kandy, April 12th/15, 1901, and at the same time medals were presented to those members of the “CMI” contingent who had returned from South Africa.8 Members of this contingent were either killed or died of
Ceylon Mounted Rifles – Brief History –Compiled by Major Anton Edema, SLLI wounds, and on the 18th February, 1901,HE., Sir West Ridgeway, GCMG,KCB,KCSI (then Governor of Ceylon) unveiled a Memorial Window in St. Paul’s Church, Kandy to those who fallen in Battle, which window was subscribed for by their comrades in the regiment. In 1901, the regiment was represented at the Coronation of His late Majesty, King Edward VII, by a contingent under the command of Lieut.JN Campbell. Up till 1903, all volunteer training had been carried out at Urugasmanhandiya, but in this year Diyatalawa was used for the first time as a Volunteer camp, and the following year the Head quarters of the Regiment was transferred to Kandy. On the 17th of March 1907, the Inspector General of Forces, HRH Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, inspected the regiment at Kandy, and unveiled the equestrian stature ( of a trooper signaling : - “Enemy advancing in Large Numbers”) to the memory of those members of the Ceylon contingent who died in the Boer War. On this occasion, it is recorded that HRH made a noble speech. In, 1909, General Sir John French. GCMC., Inspector General of Forces ( later Field Marshall, the Earl of Ypres)inspected the regiment at Kandy, and as a result of his visit the regiment was reorganized on a two squadron basis. Captain GB de Mowbray and Sergeant Signaller, FJ Reiss who were in England at the time represented the regiment at the Coronation of His late Majesty King George V. and regiment attended in force the Coronation Parade held in Colombo. On the 9th of December, 1911, the regiment was again inspected by the Inspector General of Forces, General Sir Ian Hamilton, GCB.,DSO. On the outbreak of Great War in 1914,the regiment offered a squadron for service overseas, but this was refused on the ground of expense and a CPRC contingent was formed under the command of Major J.Hall Brown.2 Officers and 30 NCO’s and men of the CMR transferred and the contingent sailed for Egypt on the 27th of October, 1914.This contingent saw several months service in Egypt during which time the great number were given commissions in other regiments, and the remainder sailed for Gallipoli, where they acted as a body guard to General Birdwood (later Field Marshall, Sir William R Birdwood, GCMG.,KCB.,KCS., Commander in Chief of the Forces in India, ADC General to the King)and eventually all those men in turn accepted commissions in other regiments. Unfortunately, accurate figures of the number of CMR members who served in the Great War are not available, but the figure can be safely said to be over 200,of whom the names of 40 members appear on the Regiments Roll of Honour. The regiment paraded in Colombo on November the 18th, 1918, and took part in the Victory Parade to celebrate the cessation of hostilities. During camp 1928, HE, Sir Herbert Stanley, KCMG.,( Governor of Ceylon and Honorary Colonel of the regiment) inspected the regiment and at this camp the custom of holding an annual Regimental Dinner, at which all Officers, NCOs and men dined together was instituted.At this camp also,the CMR Polo Club was formed, and by the generosity of past and present members
Ceylon Mounted Rifles – Brief History –Compiled by Major Anton Edema, SLLI of the regiment, a sum was collected for the purchase of Polo Ponies, and the funds the regiment still have in hand will be handed over to the CPRC under whose aegis the polo club will continue. The 12th of July, 1930,( the same day and month the regiment was raised)marks the retirement of Major ,WS Blackett. OBE.,VD., after 38 years of continuous service. Major Blackett was the only serving member left of the original 62 members enrolled on this day in 1892, and is still hale and hearty. His retirement, severing as it did the last remaining link of the past, was received with the greatest regret by all ranks. HE had held the appointment of Quarter Master for several years, and the honour done to him by granting him the Order of the British Empire was well merited. On retirement, Major Blackett was promoted Lieutenant Colonel. With due ceremony on Armistice Day 1931, the old Regimental Banner was laid up for safe keeping in St. Paul’s Church, Kandy, and the ceremony of laying up the present will take place at later date. The year 1933 marks the date on which mechanization was first mooted, and at the camp held at Diyatalawa in 1934, the regiment paraded as one mounted and one mechanized squadron. This year is memorable one both for the regiment and for the island, as Ceylon honoured by a visit of HRH Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, for the purpose of restoring to the people of Ceylon the ancient regalia of the last King of Kandy, and this was the first occasion on which the regiment had the honour of providing both mounted and mechanized Escorts to a Royal Visitor. On the night the regalia was presented in Kandy, owing to the enthusiasm of the crowd, it was only with the greatest difficulty and with the aid of CMR Mounted Escort acting as Mounted Police that, His Royal Highness arrived at the Audience Hall. The regiment had the honour of providing escorts to Royal Visitors at various times, as also to Governors on all State occasions, during the past 46 years, and their smart, soldierly, well turned out and well mounted appearances will be missed at all future State functions. Since 1929, the regiment has been allied to the 17th/21st Lancers, and since 1931 the regiment has had the honour of having the Honorary Colonel of the 17th/21st Lancers as their Honorary Colonel, General the Hon’ble Sir Herbert Lawrence, GCB., DCL.,LLD. In spite of the fact that “The Horse” is to be no more, it is interesting here to record that the spirit of the regiment is still there, as, with the exception of a very few of the older members who have already done their bit of volunteering in the past and want to make room for the younger generation, almost all other Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men are transferring to the “Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps” with which the regiment has been amalgamated.
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