Fighting & Dying FOR Britain during the Two World Wars

A New Book on  The Ceylonese Volunteers in World War I and World War II




The reasons for printing the book on the Ceylonese Volunteers in WW 1 & 2 were as follows: to record for posterity the sacrifice, dedicated commitment and volunteerism of over 1500 Ceylonese Volunteers in WW 1 and over 6000 Ceylonese Volunteers in WW 2. Many fell in battle, some were injured and many others sacrificed their youth to serve in the British Forces. Their service and sacrifice needs to be recorded with gratitude which is the sole purpose of the book.

It was compiled by a team of retired Tri-Forces officers from available information in the public domain. The book also incorporated over 300 pages of our military history and the formation of the three Armed Forces. The Ceylon Defence Force was the precursor to the present-day Sri Lanka Army and similarly the Ceylon Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (CRNVR) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) units in Ceylon formed the initial force structure of the present-day Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Air Force.

Therefore, the team of officers who compiled the records in a chronological order and published the book requests the support and assistance of the public and well-wishers globally to contribute to this worthy cause enabling us to record the military history of Sri Lanka for posterity.

Our immediate aim is to print 2000 copies of the book and raise funds to meet the expenses of printing the book which has been completed with the assistance of the Naval Printing Unit on the directions of the Sri Lanka Navy Commander. Subsequently collect additional funds through contributions/donations to produce two plaques to be placed at the Cenotaph dedicated to all those Ceylonese Volunteers who fought in WW 1 and 2. Finally to educate our youth through the present-day school cadets of the four public schools (Royal, St. Thomas’. Kingswood and Trinity Colleges) who represented the Ceylon contingent that went to WW 1 and fought alongside the British Forces in Europe. Most were 18-year old schoolboys, some young old boys and a few Masters including a Principal of one of the Colleges. These inspirational Principals motivated and led their students to serve their motherland during a crisis situation. Let that spirit and commitment of serving the motherland be perpetuated and spread through the present-day schoolboy cadets as youth volunteers in the development of the Cenotaph. In turn we hope to request the SLESA to permit the laying of four wreaths at this year’s Remembrance Day parade in November.

We sincerely wish that the present-day President, Service Chiefs, the Armed Forces and retired veterans would rally round the call to Honour all Sri Lankans who have served the motherland during a crisis and pay them their due respect as a grateful nation.

We must always remember FREEDOM HAS A PRICE. LEST WE FORGET. 

ABSTRACT of the Book Ceylonese Volunteers in WW 1 & 2.



This abstract is a compilation of records in honour of all Ceylonese who served in the military during the two world wars, based on newspaper articles, historical records and material shared by relatives, military history enthusiasts, and web-based information.

Sri Lanka or Ceylon, as we were known then, played a comparatively important role in the First World War although we were a crown colony of the British Empire. In 1917 the Times of Ceylon estimated that 1,250 volunteers had enlisted for overseas service. At least 351 Ceylon volunteers signed up while in England and another 438 enlisted on their own account. In addition, the ‘Times Fund’ facilitated the expenses for 156 Ceylon volunteers to enlist overseas.

From the various available nominal rolls and rolls of honour it appears there were minor concentrations of Ceylon volunteers in the Royal Army Medical Corps (apart from Ceylon Sanitary Company), Kings Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC), Middlesex Regiment, Coldstream Guards, Royal Fusiliers, Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) and the Royal Engineers, Inland  Water Transport unit.

In terms of the 1,250 Ceylon Volunteers estimated, there were 105 fatalities, 84 were Killed in Action and 21 died of wounds. Of the 114 Wounded in Action, 18 were categorised as either missing or Prisoners of War. It goes on to say that of the 330 casualties from the four English medium schools (Royal, St Thomas, Kingswood and Trinity) approximately 28% were casualties. Some of the volunteers were either students, past students or staff. The nominal rolls and the state of casualties are recorded as follows.

Royal – 88 enlisted (15 British European / 73 Ceylonese) – 5 KIA, 13 WIA and 3 POWs.

St. Thomas’ – 86 enlisted (28 British European / 58 Ceylonese) – 14 KIA.

Kingswood – 84 enlisted (25 British European / 59 Ceylonese) – 13 KIA and 15 WIA.

Trinity – 72 enlisted (27 British European / 45 Ceylonese) – 13 KIA, 18 WIA and 2 POWs.

Total – 330 enlisted – 45 KIA, 46 WIA and 5 POWs.

KIA=Killed in Action, WIA=Wounded in Action, POW=Prisoner of War

These schoolboy enlistments were possible due to the dedication, patriotism and motivation of the British principals and cadet masters of the four schools. Let their example be emulated by the masters and schoolboy cadets of the present schools in Sri Lanka.

The outstanding events of the Second World War in Ceylon were the two Japanese air raids on Trincomalee and Colombo in 1942 which was successfully repelled with the downing of over 70 aircraft by the RAF and the Anti-aircraft batteries, most of whom were manned by Ceylonese volunteers. The experience of being under enemy fire and its successful defence provided a rare opportunity for the Ceylon Volunteers to show their capabilities in combat very competently.

The association with many British Army and other allied units enabled the Ceylon Defence Force (CDF) troops to gain much needed experience in jungle warfare training, in the performance of numerous duties including guard duties during war and learning valuable lessons from a professional Army that has stood in good stead for the future. However, at the end of the Second World War the CDF was demobilised in 1946 although a cross section of troops attended the Victory parade in London in 1946.

Then in 1947 when the trade union action caused civil disorder certain CDF personnel were mobilised and used to bring back order to the country.

The brief history of the CLIV [Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers] forms the history of the Infantry arm in Ceylon and the birth of many units of the Ceylon Volunteer Force which later became the Ceylon Defence Force and the Ceylon / Sri Lanka Army later. The above facts also indicate the lack of trust of the Sinhalese in the early part of British colonial rule which impacted very adversely on the local population, the formation of the Army with indigenous personnel and the administration of the country.

This situation changed due to the events that took place in the rest of the world and the need to provide the political, economic and social changes to enable the local population to emancipate themselves from abject poverty, whilst being recognized and provided basic needs thus far neglected. Hence the basic infrastructure for the local population was developed through the plantation economy, where the construction of roads, railways, the irrigation system and the commencement of primary education in the second half of the 19th century.

Since the administration suffered as a result of the rebellions, the British colonial power was forced to change its strategy of depending only on the European powers and their local elites in Colombo by incorporating the local leaders in the administration of the country over time. They began to understand the Ceylonese way of life and existence which was gradually allowed to be revived although they were always vary of their own security.

The lessons we learn are the importance of Security of a country. The priority of serving your motherland and doing all you can without asking what it can do for you instead. The collection of material was compiled by Group Captain Kumar Kirinde [retd] SLAF with the support of the team of tri-forces members to record it for posterity, honouring the Fallen and remembering those who volunteered to serve the motherland during the World Wars in its hour of need. Let it inspire the youth of the country in the future for FREEDOM has a PRICE.LEST WE FORGET –

Please contact the following for further details:

Anyone who wishes to make an online payment from abroad please email

From Sri Lanka: please make to the following account and email your postal address ………….

Name: A.F.Q.  Andradi; Bank: H.N.B.; Branch: Maharagama

Act.No.: 009020122822 ……………… Swift code: HBLILKLX

Address: 248/3, Arawwala Rd., Pannipitiya


Local delivery per book (1.2 kg) = Rs 1,350 (Rs.1,000 for book, Rs.150 for SL POST parcel post delivery service and Rs 200 for padded special envelope)

Overseas delivery per book (1.2 kg) = USA – USD 10 for book plus Rs.3,600 for SL POST delivery service plus Rs 200 for padded special envelope

UK – USD 10 for book plus Rs.3,600 for SL POST delivery service plus Rs 200 for padded special envelope

Canada – USD 10 for book plus Rs.3,600 for SL POST delivery service plus Rs 200 for padded special envelope

Australia – USD 10 for book plus Rs.2,500 for SL POST delivery service plus Rs 200 for padded special envelope           

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ADDENDUM, 19 October 2022: A Note from Retd Brig Hiran Halangode … arising from mail exchanges with James Blake whose grandfather was awarded medals during World War One:

“It has been a labour of love to record for posterity the deeds of our forefathers who served in WW 1 & 2. I have attached an abstract of the book which is a compilation of records of the Ceylonese Volunteers in WW 1 & 2. We are in the process of having two plaques erected at the present Cenotaph located at the Viharamahadevi park in Sri Lanka. Then, if authorised, we plan  invite the representatives of 4 schools (Royal, St.Thomas’, Kingswood and Trinity) to lay wreaths at this year’s Remembrance Day parade in November and hopefully ask the cadets of these 4 schools to join us to be friends of the Cenotaph in the future. These are ambitious plans in this part of the World because we are divided on petty issues from politics, socio-economics and religious beliefs. Obtaining permission and achieving our goals in life as retired servicemen in Sri Lanka is a herculean task sadly.

I appreciate your support and would request your help in spreading the word of remembrance and respect for our Ceylonese Volunteers who showed us the way in putting country before self during our colonial past. They must be REMEMBERED with GRATITUDE and deep RESPECT. Most in Sri Lanka are unaware of the heroic deeds of these gallant Ceylonese Volunteers who served under the British crown during the two World Wars.”


Filed under accountability, British imperialism, centre-periphery relations, charitable outreach, cultural transmission, economic processes, education, heritage, historical interpretation, landscape wondrous, life stories, martyrdom, patriotism, politIcal discourse, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, unusual people, war reportage, world events & processes, World War II and Ceylon, World War One

11 responses to “Fighting & Dying FOR Britain during the Two World Wars

  1. Sachi Sri Kantha

    Thanks for this interesting write up about this work of history. Ain’t that interesting? Do not misunderstand me here. In the blessed island, recruiting child soldiers for war did NOT start with Prabhakaran and Co. in 1980s? It did start with the British imperialists, during the First World War in the second half of 1910s. I had vaguely suspected this, and was searching for little bit of empirical evidence. Given this fact, isn’t Prabhakaran following the martial tradition set by the British? Lakshman Kadirgamar who crowed in so many platforms about LTTE’s child soldiers, is proved wrong now. He was indeed clueless about the history of his alma mater.

    What I like in this write up is the detailed statistics of schoolboy recruitments and casualties from Royal, St. Thomas, Kingswood and Trinity schools. I’m sure you have a copy of Prof. K.M. de Silva’s ‘A History of Sri Lanka’ (1981). He had covered the First World War events in the island skimpily, in ch.29 (pp. 402-416). I checked my copy. Though Prof. de Silva’s had described about ‘Education’ in the island in this chapter, NOTHING is mentioned about the contribution of what you had highlighted as ‘These schoolboy enlistments were possible due to the dedication, patriotism and motivation of the British principals and cadet masters of the four schools.’

    I also checked another source – ‘Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka’ (revised ed. 2006) by journalist C.A. Gunawardena, in my shelf. In this highly readable reference book, there is indeed an entry on ‘Child Soldiers’, completely referring to LTTE. But, Gunawardena had failed to do his homework about the recruitments done by ‘British principals and cadet masters’ during their tenure in the four recognized schools, almost 70 years before LTTE’s recruiters.

    I reiterate, this comment is NOT to be understood as a cynical remark on the quality of the compilation in ‘Volunteers from Ceylon’ book.

    • Maj Richard Hermon

      What a load of BOLLOCKS to compare Volunteers from schools to the FORCED conscription by Prabhakaran ? You surely live on another planet mate !!!

      • Janaka Perera

        I fully agree with Major Hermon. There was no forced coinscription of Ceylonese in either of the two world wars. My paternal uncle Percy G.B. Pererea was one of the volunteers in WW II. He was a Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) Staff Sergeant Major who served with the British Forces in the Middle East.

  2. I do not agree with the above. Prabakerans mathod of enforced enlistment of immature boys and girls from poor homes was quite different to the call for volunteers to serve their country in time of need.

  3. Sachi Sri Kantha

    It’s fine with me, that Ignatius Jayawardena disagrees with my expressed views. What I liked was the ending of his second sentence: ‘to serve their country in time of need’. I also appreciate the style of his rebuttal, because unlike other correspondents, he refrained from calling me ‘names’.

    First, Jayawardena should tell me two things: Was Ceylon a battleground during World War I? Certainly, it’s NOT. Which adversary attacked Ceylon then?

    Prabhakaran’s call to Tamil juveniles during 1980s and 1990s, was also the same, as what Jayawardena had stated. ‘to serve the country of his dream (Eelam) in time of need.’

    This format of reader’s response is inappropriate to debate with Jayawardena, about the reasons why Tamil adolescents joined LTTE. If he is interested, I’d suggest he better check two reports in the ‘New York Times’, by Celia Dugger. These are,
    (1) ‘Rebels without a childhood in Sri Lanka war’. New York Times, Sept 11, 2000.
    (2) ‘Graves of the missing haunt Sri Lanka’. New York Times, Aug. 29, 2001.

    The dirty little secret which had been hidden by the Colombo media, was that indiscriminate aerial bombing initiated by J.R. Jayewardena and Lalith Athulathmudali since 1985 was the main cause which drove Tamil youngsters to militant movements. The second one was, unnecessary and unwanted harassment and arrest (leading to disappearance and death) due to the deeds of SL armed forces in the North and East, which instilled morale for youth to ‘fight for their lives’. It is NOT ‘enforced enlistment’ as Jayewardena states in his rebuttal.

    Lets talk turkey now. One should also not forget that LTTE tackled two State armies, between 1983 and 2009. While World War I lasted for only 5 years (1914-1918) and World War II lasted for only 7 years (1939-1945), LTTE kept going for 26 years, with minimal money and materials. ‘Enforced enlistment’ of youngsters could NOT have sustained such a rag tag army. As Jayawardena states, it was the volunteer spirit of youngsters that sustained LTTE.

  4. Brigadier (Rtd) Ranjan de Silva

    WWI and WWII were wars between two groups of countries. Whereas the “war” that was fought in Sri Lanka was between two ethnic groups WITHIN a country. The conflict within Sri Lanka was a “low intensity” operation. It came to be described as “war” by Sinhala Buddhist fanatics. Plain hyperbole.Those who analyse objectively the causes for the country’s financial collapse will admit that this “war” was a major reason.
    A country needs an army to protect it from external enemies. To maintain law and order within the country, the police is there, supported by the STF.
    Sri Lanka does not have external enemies.In fact one of our Presidents said this when he addressed the UN General Assembly. It follows then Sri Lanka does not need an army. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be made capable of managing our foreign relations.
    The biggest budget allocation is for defence. This money can be allocated to Education and Health
    The presence of the army gives our politicians “Dutch Courage” to use race and religion as a tool to win elections.
    Removing the armed forces from the scene will encourage our politicians to think differently when wooing voters.Eg: To concentrate more on economics.
    The Sri Lankan nation can be rebuilt again.
    Yes I know… There will be howls of protests!!!!

  5. Sachi Sri Kantha

    Three cheers from me for the wonderful input by Brigadier (Rtd) Ranjan de Silva. But the ‘fly in the soup’ is that the Sri Lankan armed services had been converted into ’employment opportunities’ since 1962 for the Sinhala Buddhist population in the island (disregarding the current ethnic balance) by the wily politicians. Now the crux of the problem is ‘Who will come forward to fasten the bell on the cat (oops! – Sinhala lion)?

    If Ranjan de Silva’s idea is executed promptly, the chances of a Nobel peace prize for a strait Sri Lankan politician in power seems bright. Am I day dreaming too much? This will not happen in our life time.

  6. sachisrikantha

    Major Richard Hermon, here is my response to your quip. I really live in this planet, and I was born in Sri Lanka. I guess you have gobbled too much of anti-LTTE hype. For over 26 years, LTTE led by Prabhakaran did give a run for their money for Sri Lankan as well as Indian soldiers. Prabhakaran couldn’t have sustained his gang with ‘FORCED’ conscription. Count the number of soldiers lost by the Sri Lankan and Indian armies.

    • richardhermon

      I have not gobbled anything!!! I am spitting out the truth which people like you Twist to suit your point of view!! I could not care a fig for Prabhakaran or his doings. He will be judged by others and history!!

      My Father was one of the schoolboy volunteers who went to England at his own cost and served with one of the Elite British Regiments. He was one of the first coloured men to be accepted into such a unit. He was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery and I take exception at your drivel about the British conscripting schoolboys, which is a glaring example of how you pounce on the word schoolboy and misrepresent the truth and distort the facts to suit your point of view. No one under the age of 18 was sent by any School from Ceylon.

      • sachisrikantha

        Major Richard Hermon, thanks for your thoughts. You talk about your father, who had served in the WWI, as a schoolboy volunteer. I don’t have any qualms about it. But, how can you assert that, ‘No one under the age of 18 was sent from Ceylon’. Show us some positive evidence, for verification.
        By conventional standards, those who reach 18, enter the university or university college. Those who still remain in school, after reaching 18, might have loafed an year or two, to remain in school.

      • sachisrikantha

        Hello Richard, this is for your information. Even in 2021, the policy of recruiting under-18s to UK army continues. Please check this link:

        If this happens to be so, more than 100 years after the end of WWI, your assertion that ‘No one under the age of 18 was sent by any school from Ceylon’ has more holes than the number of your fingers!

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