Category Archives: World War II and Ceylon

Michael Roberts: A Partial Bibliography, 1965-1999

Michael Roberts

Pressed by a friend in Australia, I revisited my academic journey as recorded in my old CV listings and feel that it may possibly be beneficial to the numerous personnel venturing into Sri Lankan history and politics via the stimulation of social media to have these items marked as targts for criticism and, even possibly, inspiration. I commence by listing Articles — but not books – presented in the period 1965 to 1999.

 

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The Japanese Air Raids on Ceylon in April 1942

Nalaka Gunawardene, on 2nd April 2012 ….. https://nalakagunawardene.com/2012/04/02/battle-of-ceylon-70-years-on-still-waiting-for-its-place-in-the-movies/

While human memories fade and disappear, photographs and films help preserve moments of history – either as factual documentation, or as fictionalised stories. The Battle of Ceylon, or the Easter Sunday Japanese air raid of Ceylon took place 70 years ago this week [April 2012]. There can’t be too many people who have personal memories of that eventful day, 5 April 1942. The definitive feature film about this facet of WW2 remains to be made. This blog post explores what (little) that is available online.

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When Ceylon was under Attack by the Japanese Imperial Thrust, 1942

Jayantha Somasundaram, in The Island, 8 April 2022, where the title runs thus: “The Turn of the Tide”

Eighty years ago on Easter Sunday 5th April 1942, Ceylon came under attack by a Japanese armada. The Battle for Ceylon was going to be a duel of skill, nerves and grit between the pilots of the approaching Japanese Carrier Fleet and the RAF fighter pilots defending Ceylon.

On 26th March 1942 Vice-Admiral Chūichi Nagumo Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s main aircraft carrier force, sailed out of Kendari in the Celebes (now Sulawesi in Indonesia). It consisted of the First Air Fleet with the carriers the Akagi, the Hiryu, the Soryu, the Shokaku and the Zuikaka, along with the Third Battle Squadron made up of the battleships the Haruna, the Hiei, the Kirisbima and the Kongo, accompanied by two heavy cruisers and ten destroyers heading for Ceylon. “In striking power” says naval historian H. P Willmott of the US Naval Institute in Empires in the Balance, “virtually the same as the force used against Pearl Harbour.” Continue reading

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The Senanayakes at STC, at Cricket and in Politics in Ceylon

Michael Roberts

In seeking details relating to DS Senanayake’s career at S. Thomas’ College after I received a copy of his school-leaving character reference from Warden Stone,[1] I received a fascinating note from Mevan Pieris[2] about young DS Senanayake’s school career and his cricketing ‘achievements’ at the big match against Royal.

“Indeed, a valuable item [referring to Warden Stone’s certificate]. At least a certified photocopy of it should be maintained at the College Library and at the National Archives, especially since he was known as Kele John who could not pass any examinations and was in what was called the Commercial Class of STC. No doubt he was physically strong and tough and would have been an ideal dormitory prefect to keep the guys quiet. ”

 ‘By the sea’ at Mutwal looking at Colombo Harbour — scenic paintng from O’Brien the 1860s

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An Ostrich-Horseman as Robber ….Medindie, South Australia

Stephen Corby, in TRAVEL, 23 July 2021, where the title runs thus “Statue stands and delivers a curious tale”

Standing beside Lake Albert in Meningie, South Australia, is a statue of an emu wearing a saddle, with little footrests to encourage visitors to climb aboard. It’s a bizarre tribute to the wildest, bearded-boy bushranger you’ve never heard of, John Francis Peggotty. A man who allegedly never grew larger than a seven year old, Peggotty is said to have terrorised the Coorong in the late 1800s, robbing and occasionally murdering people while riding a getaway ostrich; he was often shirtless and draped in stolen jewellery.

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Force 136 in British Ceylon during World War II and the Film “Bridge on the River Kwai”

Tony Donaldson

I read the piece entitled “Travails in Filming “The Bridge on the River Kwai” … and The Locations” a few days ago and found it very interesting. I like this stuff about films in Ceylon in the 1950s and 60s so keep posting relevant material. It’s a topic worth exploring more.

William Holden & Chandran Rutnam during the shooting of the Film

Another location used in the Bridge on the River Kwai film was the Riverdale Bungalow. There is a scene in which “Shears” (played by William Holden) is walking through the Botanical Gardens during a Force 136 training operation and gets caught up in it when he is attacked and thrown to the ground. The training officer apologizes and leads him on to a path to meet his Force 136 contact, and this scene cuts to a path at the top of a ridge looking down to the Mahaweli River and we see Shears walking into the Riverdale Bungalow for a meeting, which of course is not in the Botanical Gardens. The bungalow is still there today in pretty much the same condition as it was in the film and when it was used by Force 136 during WW2. The scene in which Shears is with the girl on the beach was filmed at the Mt Lavinia Hotel which was also a Force 136 site in WW2.

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Anecdotal Tit Bits: Making “The Bridge on the River Kwai”

Michael Roberts

ONE: The Theme Tune and George Siegertsz

The mainline tale about the production process in Ceylon in the composition of the outstanding film The Bridge on the River Kwai – a film based on an actual wartime commando operation involving the destruction of a bridge being built with POW labour by the Japanese war machine in Thailand – can be read at https://thuppahis.com/2021/08/02/kitulgala-and-the-classic-movie-bridge-on-the-river-kwai/

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Lord Soulbury, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Peradeniya University

This striking and rare photograph from 20th April 1954 shows Lord Soulbury leading the young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their way to inaugurate the formal opening of the University of Peradeniya at its “Senate Building” — whereupon Prince Philip displayed acumen in deploying the original words –“more open than usual” when verbally administering the opening. What apt words!

This Pix has been sent to me by Gerald Peiris.

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Aimée  Jonklaas Williams: RAF Pilot in Wartime …. and a Remarkable Life

R.T. conveying a Vale from “City Dweller” …. [it is now revealed that “R.T.” is Roger Thiedeman of Melbourne

In July this year [2000], Aimée  Jonklaas Williams, a woman of Ceylonese birth, died in Spain, just short of her 81st birthday. Her ashes were interred in an English village on July 20. Early in August, in another Sri Lankan newspaper, a close friend using the pseudonym “City Dweller” wrote a moving tribute in celebration of the life of this remarkable woman.

 

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January 6, 2021 · 3:05 pm