Ceylonese Elephants and Labour in Wartime Airfield Construction, 1941-45

Group Captain Kumar Kirinde (SLAF, Retd)

World War II, which began with the Germans invading and occupying most of the countries in Europe ,expanded to the Pacific in late 1941 with the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. As a result, the air defences in Sri Lanka were expanded by the British — starting with the RAF occupying the civil airfield at Ratmalana. The British command under Admiral Geoffrey Layton then proceeded to construct several temporary airstrips across the country for the RAF and Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the Royal Navy at Colombo Racecourse, Katukurunda, Negombo, Minneriya, Vavuniya, Kankesanthurai, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Mawatagama, Koggala, Kalametiya and Puttalam. Given below are some of the images depicting on how these airfields were built at that time.

All images, captions, and copy of paper cutting with courtesy of Mr. Rohan Fernando (UK).



Jayantha Somasundaram: “The Japanese Air Raid on Ceylon, Easter 1942,” 21 April 2019, https://thuppahis.com/2019/04/21/the-japanese-air-raid-on-ceylon-easter-1942/

Nalaka Gunawardene : ‘Battle of Ceylon’: Japanese Air Raid on 5 April 1942,” Colombo Telegraph, 4 April 2012, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/battle-of-ceylon-japanese-air-raid-on-5-april-1942/

Jay Hemmings:  “Britain’s Pearl Harbour ….,” 26 May 2019, …………….. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/battle-of-ceylon-japans-attempt.html

Wikipedia:The Easter Sunday Raid,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Sunday_Raid

ALSO  NOTE THAT elephants were deployed in clearing land for coffee estates in some places in the mid-19th century.

41=Clearing Lan

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Filed under architects & architecture, British colonialism, centre-periphery relations, landscape wondrous, life stories, military expenditure, military strategy, sri lankan society, transport and communications, war reportage, working class conditions, world events & processes, World War II

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