Sri Lanka Army

Defender of the Nation



The Sri Lanka Army traces its origins with the founding of the Volunteer Corps in 1861 when the Governor of Ceylon wrote to the British war office seeking approval to raise defence establishment in Ceylon. The Volunteer Corps saw its birth as a civil rifle club and was subsequently expanded for infantry soldiering through a proclamation, issued by Lieutenant Governor Sir John Douglas KCMG in the Government’s Gazette of 01st April 1881 authorizing the founding of the ‘Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers’ (CLIV). Around the same period, several Infantry Companies were raised in major towns and districts, affiliated to the Volunteer Corps under the guidance of the CLIV. Subsequently, a Corps of Artillery Volunteers was raised in 1888 with additional batteries in Trincomalee and Galle. The first camp was established in September 1890 at Uragasmanhandiya that continued until 1902 and was shifted to Diyatalawa in 1903. Later, a several new Infantry Companies were raised and deployed in Batticaloa, Negombo, Matara and Hambantota. In the meantime, a Company of Mounted Infantry was raised on 12th July 1892 in Kandy by Colonel Gordon Reeves of Hoolankande Estate in Madolkele. After some time, this Company was renamed as the Ceylon Mounted Rifles (CMR) and became a separate unit of the Ceylon Defence Force (CDF).

Sri Lanka Army - ශ්‍රී ලංකා යුද්ධ හමුදාව

Active - 1 April 1881 – Present

Vision - A Victorious Army through Professionalism, Credibility and Respect

Headquarters - Army Headquarters, Sri Jayawardenepura, Colombo

Anniversary Day - October 10

During the period of the World War - I, the Volunteer Force was called out on active service. History records that those troops had been deployed in guarding Vulnerable Points (VPs) in Colombo as the war was on. At the request of the war office in Britain, several Officers and volunteers of the Volunteer Corps left for England and joined British units. In 1914, an overseas contingent consisted of 8 Officers and 221 Other Ranks of the Ceylon Planters’ Rifle Corps (CPRC) was deployed for service in the Suez Canal and Mesopotamia in Egypt during the World War - I. During a visit made by HRH Edward, Prince of Wales (later HM King Edward VII), King’s and Regimental Colours were awarded to the CLIV in Ceylon. Meanwhile, the Ceylon Medical Corps was formed in affiliation with the Royal Army Medical Corps, which was incorporated afterwards as the Army Medical Corps (Volunteer). For smooth conduct of affairs in the CLIV, the Supply and Transport Squadron was formed as the Ceylon Supply and Transport Corps in 1918 in affiliation with the Royal Army Service Corps in 1930, finally giving birth to the founding of the Ceylon Army Service Corps (1933) and the 2 (V) Ceylon Army Service Corps (1949). The Ceylon Artillery Volunteers was re-named as the 2 (V) Anti-Aircraft/Coast Artillery Regiment. The Engineering Company of the CLIV was re-named as the 2(V) Ceylon Army Engineers Corps in 1949.

During the initial phases of the World War - II, the CDF was deployed for active service. Troops in garrison in Colombo and Trincomalee were assisted by elements of a British Indian Division, the re-designated Ceylon Garrison Artillery as Coastal - Artillery and Anti-Aircraft Units. The entry of Japan into the World War - II brought a new dimension of war where the CDF also experienced at ground level. The CLIV was expanded to include five battalions with a Regimental Commander. The Engineer Unit was divided into Functional Field Engineering and Plant Engineering units with a training depot/wing. Signals, Medical and Logistics units were accordingly expanded to support units in forward and reserve areas.

The removal of Headquarters South East Asia Command (SEAC) from the Indian sub-continent and the re-location of its forward headquarters in Kandy by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten are milestones in the Ceylonese military history. The CDF was benefited greatly by being brigaded and trained with several British Regiments before being deployed to serve the Burma Front. Officers also had the opportunity of receiving training in India and in forward defence areas on the Burma Front. Members of the CPRC who had not volunteered themselves for active duty in Britain were posted to British Indian Regiments in the sub-continent and others remaining in Sri Lanka were utilized for Intelligence Sections of the SEAC.


When the World War - I ended, the task of squeezing the expanded wartime CDF to its normal proportions began, as the country was ready to be independent by the year 1948. In 1949, the Army Act was passed in Parliament raising the Ceylon Army, composed of Regular and Volunteer Forces. With a view to raising our own Regular Force for the country, the island nation was bestowed with the formation of the Regular Force under the Command of Brigadier Roderick Sinclair, the Earl of Caithness D.S.O. on 10th October 1949 under the Army Act No. 17 of 1949.

Sir Kanthiah Vaithianathan C.E.B. was the first Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs.

The Headquarters was formed initially with the basic minimum of Staff Officers required to set the machinery of the Army in motion. As time progressed and units began to multiply, the need for expansion of the Headquarters was felt as various branches were subsequently added to the HQ. The Ceylon Army, commanded by many able and eminent personnel has since then performed its duties not only in ceremonial form, but also in other areas of state requirement. Those requirements compelled the further expansion of the Army command strata island-wide which in turn resulted in the emergence of Area Headquarters under command to respective Area Commanders. Palaly, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Boossa, Diyatalawa and Panagoda enveloped the security of the whole of the island operating from those Military Command bases. The new government, headed by Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1971 ushered a new era in the Ceylon Army when the 25-year old existing Soulbury Constitution was replaced by the Republican Constitution, declaring the country as an Independent Republic on 22 May 1972. Ceylon Army was renamed as Sri Lanka Army and Regiments and Units followed the same.

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