Koggala in the Western Imperial Design in the 20th Century, 1931 onward

Michael Roberts

The recent political debate on SOFA, MCC etc (see Roberts 2019)  highlights the place of KOGGALA in the Western imperial map of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The British airfields at Katunayake Trinco and Koggala were part of the imperial defence system – a geo-political ensemble that became even more significant after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in WW Two marked vulnerabilities not envisaged till then.

As USA replaced Britain in the Western command of the world order and Britain lost access to Koggala and its other Ceylon assets, replacements became essential. Gan in the Maldives was quickly developed. The aboriginal peoples of the Chagos islands were evicted and dumped in other island colonies by the British in the early 1960s and the atoll isles handed over to USA for an air and sea base at Diego Garcia to be developed (see Ashley de Vos article in Thuppahi).

A FOOTNOTE: in the late 1950s our Galle gang (Audrey Roberts, Alastair & Trevor Roosmale-Cocq, Elmo de Alwis, Vidya and Lucky Wickremasinghe and myself) used to bike – a long haul this – to Koggala to (a) explore the deserted base and climb its control tower; and (b) swim in the seaside pool (which had been created by depth-charges blowing a space in the reef edging the shoreline). These were magical moments for young adventurers.


Ashley De Vos 2018  “Diego Garcia and the Fate of Its Its Indigenized Chagossian People,” 17 October 2018, https://thuppahis.com/…/diego-garcia-and-the-fate…/

Sean Carey 2009 “The UK’s role in Diego Garcia: green fingers or red faces?”, 7 September 2009, https://www.newstatesman.com/…/…/diego-garcia-chagos-british

Rajeewa Jayaweera 2018 “Britain not practising what it preaches,” Daily Mirror, 6 October 2018, http://www.dailymirror.lk/…/Britain-not-practising-what-it-…

Peter Sand 2009 United States and Britain in Diego Garcia. The Future of a Controversial Base, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9780230617094

Rob Stuart 2015 “The Japanese Raid on Colombo in April 1942, Leonard Birchall and the Catalina Squadron at Koggala,” 27 March 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/03/27/the-japanese-raid-on-colombo-april-1942-leonard-birchall-and-the-catalina-squadron-at koggala/?fbclid=IwAR0FolRrM0AzZHdnWWVkkbOgBQSLwSvCB8YuRGIKdnrU6Nr6cT5LXz7lVmM

Wikipedia “Diego Garcia,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diego_Garcia.


* https://www.pinterest.com.au/thearchivessl/ceylon-in-wwii/

* https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1CHZL_enAU745AU745&sxsrf=ACYBGNTUNNknItUqQeafKEbIGXleXo6Aqg:1573699488626&q=Koggal+air+base+in+the+1940s+and+1950s+pHOTOS&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiTw4K41-jlAhXafn0KHQ7QClIQ7Al6BAgJECQ&biw=1536&bih=722#imgdii=79YHx0pvGku5NM:&imgrc=GAKkukTNmetgnM:

* https://thuppahis.com/2015/03/27/the-japanese-raid-on-colombo-april-1942-leonard-birchall-and-the-catalina-squadron-at-koggala/


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3 responses to “Koggala in the Western Imperial Design in the 20th Century, 1931 onward

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  3. Sanath de Dilva

    What a wonderful article, Michael!
    One of my uncles was in charge of the Koggala Home for the Aged in 1950’s.
    We used to visit there often.
    Pleasant memories indeed!!

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