Major Anton Edema, SLLI 1. PREAMBLE

Early in 1955, Sir John Kotalawela, the Prime Minister, recommended the raising of Government Departmental Units into the Volunteer Force of the Ceylon Army; and action was implemented to execute this policy with the Railway and Postal & Telegraph departmental units into the Volunteer Force. This policy was not without precedent; for, in 1882. The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers had a Breakwater Company, a Railway Company, a Public Works Department Company and a Law and Medical Company, “The Devil’s Own”! The rationale for raising these units in the 1950 was to mobilize their membership into Active Service during Trade Union action, to ensure the continued maintenance of their respective essential services – and, perhaps, to also infuse discipline in their respective services at all times. Departmental Units in the Volunteer Force, during early colonial times, where no recurrent trade Union action disturbed to normal life of the citizenry, would have been for administrative and training convenience to instill discipline and corps; and to, perhaps, reap the benefits of oneness in corporate life. At rising, in the late 1950s, the Railways Engineering Regiment was commanded by Lt. Col B.D. Rampala (the then, General Manager, Railways), and the Port and Telegraph Signals Regiment was commanded by Lt. Col. C.a. Nicholas (The then Post Master-General). The leadership qualities of the Commanding Officers, and the enthusiasm they infused among the Men were evident in the participation of these two Units in the Independence Day Parade of 1955. Although no compulsion was exercised on Government Servants to join these Departmental Units; the voluntary responses to join were very healthy. However the enterprise drew protests from the Trade Unions had the opposition in Parliament led by Mr. SWRD Bandaranaike; when it was alleged that constraints were thrown round Trade Unions, were during a strike, loyalties of a part of their membership would be with Armed Forces. The United National Party of Sri John Kotalawela was defeated at the Polls of 1956. Mr. SWRD Bandaranaike as the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister wanted all Volunteer Governmental Units, and, those Units with


territorial designations disbanded – the former for its ‘strike breaking role’; and the latter, for his view that one of them as known to be disloyal to him during the ; and the fact that regional designations cold lead to a precedent for the creation of other regional Units say, for instance, in the northern regions! Implementing the Prime Minister’s directive was going to invariable deplete the manpower resource available for mobilization in an emergency. 2. THE CEYLON ARMY NATIONAL DEFENCE CORPS. (CANDC) “When the Commander of the Army made representations on the consequent depletion of the deployable strength of the Army, the Prime Minister approved of the raising of an infantry battalion of Regulars (Which, on raising, became the ‘1st Battalion The Sinha Regiment’). A Volunteer Unit comprising technical personnel who could handle essential services in the event of strikes was also to be raised. This latter Unit was designated the Ceylon Army National Defence Corps (CANDC) , and (ironically) comprised volunteers from key departments such as the Railway, the Post & Telegraph, and others which were necessary to keep the essential services going in the event of strikes It was raised on 18 th June 1958, and disbanded on 01 June 1963. It was commanded by Lt. Col. F.J.G. Caspersz CE”. (Sri Lanka Army 50 years on: 1949-1999: A Sri Lanka Army Publication). 3. When the Ceylon Army National Defence Force was raised, apart from its specialized duties it was called upon to perform in maintaining essential services, it was deployed in normal Internal Security duties, in an infantry role, when the need arose. When the Ceylon Army National Defence Force was disbanded on 01 June 1963, most of its officers and Men were absorbed by two new Volunteer Units, the 1st Ceylon National Guard, and the 2nd Ceylon National Guard that were raised on the same day. The larger number was absorbed into the 2nd National Guard. In 1962 the Volunteer Artillery, Signals, and Engineer Units were disbanded in consequence of their respective Commanding officers being allegedly associated with the attempted abortive coup d’ etat of 1962. However selected loyalists of the Government parties from the membership of all the three disbanded Units were posted to the 1st Ceylon National Guard.


4. Redesingations The first redesignation occurred in 1979, when the 1st Ceylon National Guard was Redesignated 2nd (Volunteer) Sri Lanka Armoured Corps, responsible for only an infantry role in that Regiment. On 22 January 1980 the 2nd Ceylon National Guard was Redesignated the 5th Sri Lanka Artillery (Volunteers), limited to an infantry role in that Regiment. The last redesignation, upto date, occurred on 01 August 1997, when the 2nd (volunteer) Sri Lanka Armoured Corps was redesignated the 5th (Volunteer) Battalion the Sri Lanka Light Infantry. Brigadier AER Abeyesinghe, SLSI -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Note: Words and mark of exclamation parenthesized in para 2 of this Paper, are those by the writer. BIBLIOGRAPHY History of the Ceylon Light Infantry; Oscar M Abeyratne The Military History of Ceylon-An Outline: Maj.Gen.Anton Muttukumaru Sri Lanka Army, 50 years On-1949 to 1999: A Sri Lanka Army Publication Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force – 117th Anniversary publications. A SLAVF Publication Historical Records – 5(V) SLLI and 5 SLA (V)

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