The Ceylon Volunteer Force | Corps | Military Forces

The Ceylon Army Journal Volume 1- 1952 -Number 1


The Volunteer Force
By Cyril van Langenberg Volunteering in Ceylon has an honourable history extending over a period of more than Seventy years. On the first April, 1881, by proclamation in the Government gazette, the Lieutenant –Governor gave his assent to the formation of a Volunteer Corps. Active recruiting soon followed, over one thousand Volunteers having been enrolled by the end of June, 1881, and the original body of Volunteers was organized under the name and title of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers. Originally administered as a single unit with the passing of the years various sections of the Volunteers grew large enough to have a separate existence of their own, away from the parent unit, and so there came into existence the different Units of the Volunteer Force:The Ceylon Artillery Volunteers … later the Ceylon Garrison Artillery, and now the Ceylon Artillery 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 Ceylon Cadet 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 community and in the Business world-Gordon Frazer, Leech man, Bosanaques, Bois, John, Creasy, Mack wood, among Others. Living links with the past exist today in the persons of Dr. Andreas Nell whose name appears In the original nominal roll of the C.L.I.V. with regimental No. 1339 Messer’s. S.St.G.Blacker, No. 2711 and Sylva No. 2765, who enlisted in 1890, Col.T.Y.Wright, Regimental No.3 And 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 Defence Force. It is of interest to at least the older generation to know that the ordinance which 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’s Bodyguard. Under its new name the Volunteer movement continued to flourish. In spite of the ever increasing complexities of training and the ever growing demands this made

The Ceylon Army Journal Volume 1- 1952 -Number 1


upon their spare time, a steady flow of recruits continued to come to the ranks of the Defence Force from the young men of Ceylon throughout the years between the two great wars, and the Ceylon Defence Force trained and went on training against the day when it would be called upon to fulfill its purpose. During the Boer War a contingent of the Ceylon mounted Infantry, in 1900, and a contingent of the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, in 1902, saw active service in South Africa, 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 more than one Unit of the Defence Force, by these offers were not accepted. Undeterred by this however, hundreds of Volunteers from the Defence Force found their way to England and joined Units of the British Army, and many of them gave their lives for the cause. A typical example of the spirit which actuated these Volunteers is seen in the record of No. 8861 Pte. H.R. Jacotine C.L.I. who enlisted in the Coldstream Guards and was killed in action in the battle of Lys on 13th April 1918. Of this gallant soldier Sri Arthur Conan-Doyle, in his Official History of the British Campaign in France and Flanders, says:“After severe mixed fighting the attack was driven back. At 9-15 it was renewed with Greater 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 minutes before he was blown to pieces with a grenade.” In 1914 a new Unit was raised, The Colombo Town Guard, embodying horse, foot, and guns. 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 Town Guard and A. and C. Coys had been disbanded, but B.Coy. Continued in existence until 1927. In that year they took over the name and title of, and became, the Ceylon Engineers. 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 war and the enormous expansion of the C.D.F. which took place are too recent to need extensive recapitulation here. Several new Units of the C.D.F. were raised for wartime 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 were disbanded after the war.

The Ceylon Army Journal Volume 1- 1952 -Number 1 The Ceylon Railway Engineers disbanded Corps The Ceylon Electrical and Mechanical Corps disbanded …


Departmental Units raised in 1943 and were after the war.

Departmental Units raised in 1943 and were

After the war. The Auxiliary Territorial Service… Formed in 1943 and disbanded in 1946, this was the only (Ceylon) 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 wartime C.D.F. to its normal proportions was begun and by 1948 this was well on the say to completion. In 1947 came Ceylon Independence, and in 1949 the Army Act was passed by Parliament setting up Ceylon’s Army, composed of a Regular Fore and a Volunteer Force. And so the now wheel had turned for circle, and the Volunteers take once again their old 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, whose passing 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, but that does not make it any the less sad. They will always be remembered with gratitude and affection for the high example of service and comradeship they stood for. Inherent in the very title of the Volunteer Force are those ideals of service and loyalty which have become its tradition, and today several Units of the Force have in their ranks 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 biggest problem to-day-a lack of numbers. The backbone of our Volunteer Force is necessarily the middle class, this has always been so. Volunteer training is, except for the annual training camp of two weeks, done in the Volunteer’s own time-two evenings a week and a few week-end camps; and it is only the middle class who can provide insufficient numbers the young men with the necessary Educational standards and the spare time, to do the training. Post war economic conditions have hit this class very hard, and the lack of recruits today 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 and other aids is now being given to reduce to the Volunteer the financial burden of being a Volunteer.

The Ceylon Army Journal Volume 1- 1952 -Number 1


Government is most helpful in the matter of leave to its employees for the performance of their military duties and training and the support of the mercantile community, upon which were have been so dependent in the past, it still most generously given. It would not be possible for Units to hold their Annual Camps without to help of the business houses large and small, often given at not inconsiderable inconvenience to themselves. But this is not enough; each individual citizen must realize that it is from within himself there must spring the spirit of service to his country, and it is only by a willing sacrifice of his leisure that the Volunteer can train to five his country the service she may on day need from him. Ceylon cannot afford to maintain a Regular Army large enough for all her needs and it is to her Volunteer Force that she must look to supplement her Regular Army when necessary. Our numbers in the Volunteer force are now below strength but the quality is good, and there are indications that the flow of recruits now a trickle, is increasing. So although we were building slowly, we are confident we are building well. The old volunteer spirit is there and the new recruits show that they are worthy inheritors of an old and honourable title.

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