WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

 
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Sri Lankan Experience of World Wars
 
Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was known in colonial times held a strategic position in the Indian Ocean astride the allied sea route linking Australia, India and the Middle East. Most of the military deaths on the island during World War I occurred in Colombo Military Hospital, to which were brought sick or injured troops who were either based on the island or evacuated from passing ships.

During World War II Ceylon was a naval and air force base, a training ground for jungle warfare and a hospital and leave centre. Having become the hub of maritime power in the Indian Ocean, it was the headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, Southeast Asia Command, from April 1944 to November 1945.

The WW II air raid on Colombo by Japanese took place on Easter Sunday the April 5, 1942 at 7.30 a.m. The Ceylon R.A.F. had only 20 planes as against that of 120 planes of Mitsuo Funchido. These 20 fighter planes got off from the Race Course grounds in Colombo and there was an air battle over the city. Ceylon Garrison Artillery and Boys of Royal Artillery managed to shoot down many of the Japanese planes. Ratmalana Airport and Colombo Harbour were bombed. As they returned to their fleet carriers, a large number of the Zero fighters that had provided the escort  had run out of fuel and crashed into the sea before reaching  the mother ship.

 
  • First Japanese air raid on Colombo ( The first air raid on Colombo took place on Easter Sunday the April 5, 1942 at 7.30 a.m. )
  • How tiny Ceylon became a target ( he Ceylon R.A.F. had only 20 planes as against that of 120 planes of Mitsuo Funchido. These 20 fighter planes got off from the Race Course grounds and there was an air battle over Colombo on the Easter Sunday morning 5/4/1942.)
  • April 5, 1942 the day Ceylon escaped Japanese occupation ( Ratmalana Airport and Colombo Harbour were bombed. However, as they returned to their fleet carriers, a large number of the Zero fighters that had provided the escort were unable to reach the mother ship. They had run out of fuel and crashed into the sea. )
  • Ceylon's saviour( The youthful Commander of the Catalina, Squadron Leader Leonard J. Birchall and his eight-member crew went beyond the call of duty in pursuing a 'black speck on the horizon' at the risk of their lives.)
  • War hero Birchall dies at 89( His legendary heroism was first documented in April 1942 when the then-leader of the Royal Canadian Air Force 413 Squadron was piloting a twin-engine Catalina, a flying boat used for patrolling coastlines in Ceylon. The aircraft was shot down by the Japanese, but not before the eight- member crew successfully alerted Allied Forces about an impending attack on Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka.)
  • Four Lankans die in secret 'independence' war ( Sri Lankans were members of the 'Hikari Kikan' the special Japanese agency )
  • Commonwealth war cemeteries in Sri Lanka (There are six Commonwealth war cemeteries in Sri Lanka, four in Colombo, one in the hill capital Kandy and one in Trincomalee. A total of 1,999 Commonwealth war dead are commemorated in the war cemeteries or plots in Sri Lanka. )
  • Royal Canadian Air Force in Action in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in WW II (My first impression of Ceylon occurred when the "York" crossed from the drab landscape of Western India to the verdant Island Pearl of the Indian Ocean. I fell in love with it right away - William (Bill) Cody - RCAF )
  • The Battle of Ceylon - 1942 - 30 Squadron and the air battle over Colombo (The decision to send 30 Squadron to Ceylon was made in early February 1942. Declared non-operational on the 16th February, they moved via Heliopolis to Port Tewfik on the Red Sea. The main party embarked on the Princes Kathleen on 22nd February and the air party including a 196 man servicing party, embarked on HMS Indomitable, sailing for Ceylon on the 26th February.)

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka