Sri Lanka Army

Defender of the Nation

Published on - 10/10/2003

As Army marks its 54th Birth anniversary

The Sri Lanka Army born towards the end of the Second World War and the dawn of independence to this island-nation, celebrates its 54th anniversary today (October 10) after evolving itself from a ceremonial outfit to a fully-fledged Army, now not at all second to any of the battle-hardened professional armies in the world.

This year\'s anniversary celebrations, organized under the auspices of Army Commander Lt. Gen. L. P Balagalle kicked off on 01st October 2003 after all 214 flags representative of Army Headquarters, Volunteer Force Headquarters, Security Forces Headquarters, Divisions, Brigades, Regiments, Battalions and Army Training Schools were blessed at the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in a colourful ceremony.

Chief of Staff Major General L. C. R Goonewardene graced Hindu, Islamic and Christian religious services held at Captain Gardens Hindu Kovil, Davatagaha Mosque and St. Joseph School Chapel respectively on 6th, 7th and 8th October in the company of a host of Senior Officers and soldiers.

Celebrations, headed by Army Commander Lt. Gen. L. P Balagalle that befit Army\'s most hallowed and well-preserved traditions, reached its climax when the principal ceremony at Colombo's Army Headquarters on 10 October, heralded the arrival of the Army Commander to inspect the Guard Turnout. Hoisting of the Army flag to the tunes of the Army song got underway then followed by Guard of Honour accorded on his behalf by soldiers of the Engineer Regiment.

A two-minute silence to commemorate fallen heroes was then observed by all those who were present before brief religious services of major denominations (Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Islamic) took place at the entrance to the new main building of the Army Headquarters.

Army Commander\'s customary address to his men afterwards in which he paid a glittering tribute to all those serving, departed and the differently-able inspired all Army personnel who were present on the occasion. Dignified military ceremony culminated with the traditional tea party thrown by the Commander as a gesture of goodwill and it was filled with traditional sweetmeats as usual this year too.

As the second lap of the programme, Lt. Gen Balagalle in the company of Mrs. Balagalle, President Seva Vanitha Unit (SVU) and Senior Officers later on visited patients at Army hospital and delivered gift parcels as tokens of goodwill and exchanged views with them. His fatherly care no doubt would have brought enormous redress to sick Army personnel lying there. The All-night Pirith chanting ceremony at Panagoda Sri Bodhirajaramaya (Army temple) on Friday night was followed by alms-giving ceremony offered to hundreds of Buddhist monks.

Though Sri Lanka Army is 54 years of age today, its historical groundwork related to its founding records as back as to 1802 when first ever \'Lanka Regiment\' was established in then Ceylon under the command of a British Officer which, as time went on, turned to be Lanka Rifle Regiment. In 1848 consequent to developments emerged after Matale rebellion spearheaded by Weera Puran Appu saw the birth of Lanka Rifle Regiment in 1874 and then Lanka Infantry Volunteer Army in 1881.

Subsequent to Independence gained in 1948, the Ceylon Army was officially raised on 10 October 1949 to be followed by birth of the Navy and the Air Force. However, the Ceylon Army was gazetted and established accordingly appointing Brigadier, the Earl of Caithnes CBE DSO as first Commander of the Army and Lt Colonel A. Mutukumaru OBE ED as first Chief of Staff in the Ceylon Army.

Another milestone in the Army was the appointment of first ever Ceylonese as Army Commander in 1955 as then British Commanding Officer Brigadier Reid returned home after his tenure in the army.

Lt Colonel Mutukumaru, who remained as the most Senior Officer at that point of time, was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and appointed as the first Ceylonese Army Commander on 09 February 1955 while he was pursuing a course abroad. Until his return from overseas Colonel H. W. G Wijekoon overlooked Commander\'s duties. To his credit, Major General Mutukumaru, during his tenure of office established the Army\'s Artillery School and Engineer School for the Army.

On 4 June 1956 at the official inauguration ceremony of armed forces, 293 Officers and 1741 Other Ranks from Regular and Volunteer Forces received medals from then Prime Minister of Ceylon. The Army hitherto functioned as a ceremonial outfit since its inception was entrusted with the responsibility of assisting the Police to curb bout of communal violence that erupted in 1956


During this unrest, authority of all Government Agents was delegated to Senior Army Officers by the government after appointing them as Army\'s Coordinating Officers for trouble-hit areas.

The Army began to spread its wings to Sri Lanka\'s hinterland after 1958 and to it credit, the Army actively helped contain all civil and terrorist uprisings emerged in 1961, 1971, 1988-1989. In 1983 the Army was deployed in the north to help contain terrorist activities, spearheaded by sections of Tamils, posing a threat to country's territorial integrity.

The Sri Lanka Army, for practical and administrative purposes, is now functioning as Battalions, Brigades, Divisions and three Security Forces Headquarters.

Brig. The Earl of Caithnes (1949-1952), Brig. F. S Reid (1952-1955), Maj. Gen. A. M Mutukumaru (1955-1960), Maj. Gen. H. W. G Wijekoon (1960-1964), Maj. Gen. A. R Udugama (1964-1966), Maj. Gen. B. R Heyn (1966-1967), Gen. D. S Attygalle (1967-1977), Lt. Gen. J. E.D Perera (1977-1981), Gen. T. I. Weeratunga (1981-1985), Lt. Gen. G. D. G. N. Seneviratne (1985-1988), Gen. H. Wanasinghe (1988-1991), Gen. L. D. C. E. Waidyaratne (1991-1993), Gen. G. H De Silva (1994-1996), Gen. R de S. Daluwatte (1996-1998) and Lt Gen. C. S Weerasooriya (1998-2000) served as Commanders of the Army until Lt. Gen. L. P Balagalle was appointed the Commander in August 2000.