In Appreciation of ‘Raja’ Kadigawe, Ceylonese British Paratrooper

Ananda Pilimatalauvva, from Island, 16 August 2008

As a boy, the Disaway Adhikaram of Nikaweratiya from the Kadigawe Valavva in the Sath Korale was naughty and incorrigible. When his father related these characteristics of the boy to Lord Howe the Viceroy of India who accompanied the Governor of that era on one of his routine visits to the Disavanni, Lord Howe is reported to have taken a liking to the boy though naughty and boisterous and taken him along to India to subdue and educate him. On his return he was christened ‘Howe Bandara’ by the people. Many years later a great grandson born to the family too turned out to be naughty and domineering hence was christened ‘Raju’ (king) by the family. In time this name was transformed into Raja by friends and Kadee in the forces, although registered at birth as Kaanchana Senarath.

paras-landing Paratroops landing in France, 1944

Commandos of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, and troops of 6th Airborne Division in Bénouville after the link-up between the two forces, 6 June 1944. B 5058 Part of WAR OFFICE SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit Evans, J L (Capt)

Commandos of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, and troops of 6th Airborne Division in Bénouville after the link-up between the two forces, 6 June 1944.

Young Raja was educated at Ananda College in Colombo and grew up to be a restless young man. The on-going war in Europe attracted his adventurous instincts, hence he left our shores with the Royal Army Service Corps soon after his schooling in 1941, and was posted in the area now known as Israel. The duties there were boring and his restless spirit was looking for adventure, hence he volunteered for the paratroopers. After severe physical and psychological tests he was accommodated there, being the only Ceylonese and Asian in the paratroops. The criteria in favour of his selection was his reliability, capability of making quick decisions and working independently. After his training he was awarded the much coveted ‘Red Beret’ and posted to the Independent Parachute Brigade. The soldiers in this regiment were specially chosen, the criteria being to have seen active service, very fit physically, bore an exemplary character ‘as understood in the army’ and showed lively intelligence. Young Raja met this criteria and was parachuted into occupied Europe with this unit in June 1944.

Raja was attached to the ‘D’ Company of the Second Battalion Independent Parachute Brigade around 1943. This brigade saw action in Italy. Later after the liberation of France and Greece they were dropped in the South of France to prevent freed German troops moving to the coast to interfere with the build-up of the invading forces. Kadee was to be dropped some fifteen miles inland but unfortunately the drop did not go according to plan as they were dropped over an area scattered about twenty miles away from their destination with a few even drowning at sea, and Kadee lost radio contact with the others. He and his companions did a ‘long march’ to join their comrades and on the way found themselves holding a farm for an hour or so against the enemy equipped with machine guns.

Among the brave incidents of the ‘drop’ some were hilarious. Seeing a German Jeep coming along Kadee ran after it and opened fire not knowing it was an advance vehicle of a convoy. Very soon he came under fire from the machine guns of the German convoy and hit the deck. Luck was on his side as the Germans thinking he was dead stopped firing, giving him a chance to do a dash back into the farm house. Fortunately, a number of their comrades who had regrouped hearing the firing came to their rescue. This incident earned him mention in dispatches. As Kadee survived in this strange territory his fighting abilities earned him the appreciation of his commander, he was mentioned again in dispatches in November 1945 he was awarded a certificate for having won the full confidence of his superiors for acts of gallantry and distinguished services. These won him the prestigious ‘Oak Leaf’ to his campaign ribbons signifying excellence in combat operations. He was also awarded the Military Cross for his Acts of Gallantry and distinguished service, and is mentioned in Sir Winston Churchill’s Memoirs, to crown it all he received a gazette notification of appreciation by H. R. H King George VI of England.

There are two more interesting incidents worth mentioning here. One occurred in Greece where they were dropped close to Athens and were hiding in the jungle. There he was confronted by a Greek gentleman Mr. Constantinedes a secret agent of the Greek resistance assisting the allies and was invited to his flat at grave risk to himself. As a house-to-house search by the gendarmes was on, the Greek took him upstairs and hid him under his daughter’s bed. When the gendarmes came his young daughter was on her bed in her night dress with an array of medicines on her bedside table. The gendarmes who peeped in left the ‘sick’ child alone and left. Raja was saved. The other incident was in South Africa when the unit was on their way back. The white South African cook had refused to serve him lunch because of his dark tan. His mates who noticed this had manhandled the cook necessitating intervention by South African Officers. Besides this minor incident he had not encountered any race related incidents.

On his return to Sri Lanka he did a short spell with Tuckers Autodrome but soon was drawn to the Police Force under the first Sri Lankan Inspector General of Police. There he gained a reputation as a duty conscious and strict disciplinarian who always put duty before self and was not open to the influence of politicians. Such an exemplary officer/disciplinarian was handpicked by the Late Premier Mrs. Sirimavo, Bandaranaike to be in charge of her personal security. Later as a Superintendent of Police he served in many stations. Such an officer with his military record should have reached the highest position in the Police Service but this was not to be as he never bowed down to anyone other than his professional superiors.

He retired as a Senior Superintendant of Police and settled down in Kandy and spent some time in the private sector. For an active man with interests such as horse riding, sadly his final years were spent in bed due to the affliction dementia. Having lived an exemplary life he passed away peacefully on 10th July 2008 leaving his wife Manil and three daughters. According to his wishes he was cremated the same day. He came to this world without any trumpeting or fanfare and left the world too in the same way. May he attain Nibbana.


Kanchana Senerat Kadigawe
Nickname(s) Raja, Kadee
Born 1921
Wanni, Ceylon
Died 2008
Kandy, Sri Lanka
Allegiance Sri Lanka Ceylon
 United Kingdom
Service/branch (Scottish) 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade
Years of service 1941-46
Rank Private 267305
Unit 5th Battalion, C company
Battles/wars World War II, Greece, Italy, Southern France, Greek Civil War
Awards Mentioned in Dispatches



Filed under landscape wondrous, life stories, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, unusual people, war reportage, world affairs

2 responses to “In Appreciation of ‘Raja’ Kadigawe, Ceylonese British Paratrooper

  1. Eddie Wijesuriya

    We had quite a few Ceylonese in the British army during world war -2. There were paratroopers, dispatch riders , officers and others in different active and non-active positions. They all did us proud.

    Our present army is one that defeated the worst terrorist organization in the world and we should be very proud of the fact. With their reputation worldwide the UN is requesting their services as a peace keeping force in African countries and others. Meanwhile, the irony of it that they, mainly the US and UK are accusing them of war crimes. It is nothing but pure envy because they have not been successful in eliminating terrorism in their own countries, having the most advanced equipment and resources. They have been a failure. They still try to continue their “divide and rule” policies. They are responsible for most problems in the world. Bush and Blair should be tried for war crimes first. Bush, unfortunately, cannot be tried because the US is not a signatory to the treaty. However, Blair can be a should be. Why the delay ???

    On Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 3:55 PM, Thuppahi’s Blog wrote:

    > thuppahi posted: “Ananda Pilimatalauvva, from Island, 16 August 2008 As a > boy, the Disaway Adhikaram of Nikaweratiya from the Kadigawe Valavva in the > Sath Korale was naughty and incorrigible. When his father related these > characteristics of the boy to Lord Howe the Vice” >

  2. Pingback: Kanchana Senerat Kadigawe - Ceylonese Paratrooper • Ceylon Guide

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