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 Post subject: Dumbara - Land that brought second world war victory
 Post Posted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 9:42 am 
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Dumbara - Land that brought second world war victory

by S. B. Karalliyadda
@ The Island / 06Dec2007


The Second World War commenced with Hitler attacking Poland on September 1st. By September 3rd both Germany and France declared war. Germany and Italy which remained neutral later supported by Japan joined the Germans in the war. British and French forces together faced the German forces. Japan bombed several ships that were sailing in the Chinese coastal waters and the Indian oceans and bombed Trincomalee and Colombo harbours. There are several people living today in Sri Lanka who witnessed these bombings. The mistake of the Japanese was bombing America which was a very powerful nation even at that time. America provided all the logistical support to Britain and joined them to fight the war. Winston Churchil who was the Prime Minister of Britain at the time united all political forces in the country and faced the war. He created the opinion in the United Kingdom that the war should be fought without any negotiation and Britain should win the war. This is a lesson to be learnt by our rulers in the context of the present day on going war in Sri Lanka. Churchil upheld the view that the Britisher should never be under German rule. By 1944, the Japanese began advancing towards Burma. The British forces together with the Indian forces were able to defeat this invasion. The strategic move by the British to re-locate their South East Asian Command Headquarters in Ceylon, was a far reaching and a correct decision taken at the most crucial time.


War plans of Winston Churchil

The then Prime Minister of Britain Winston Churchil appointed a Naval Officer Louis Mountbatten as the Commander of the SEAC Headquarters on 27-10.1941. Mountbatten was born in Viena Austria, and was then known as Battenberg. He was a grandson of Queen Victoria and a second cousin of King George V. After winning the war, the newly appointed Prime Minister of Britain Clement Atlee appointed him as Viceroy of India in 1947. He saw the birth of a new country - Pakistan on August 14th and 15th 1947. Mountbatten faced a tragic death when he was holidaying in Sligo Islands on 27.08.1979 due to an IRA bomb.


South East Asian Head Quarters

The SEAC Headquarters located in India had to be removed due to operational constraints. The British government had to search for a suitable site to relocate the SEAC Headquarters. The Roads Engineer Thomas Skinner - a Major in the Army who later became the first Road Commissioner in Ceylon played a crucial role in this site selection. Skinner who was keen to learn Sinhala had discussed this problem with E. J. Dyson who was then Government Agent Central Province and a friend of his. Dyson recommended the name of M. B. W. Mediwaka who was a teacher at Vidyartha College Kandy the only holder of a 1st class Trained Teachers Certificate at the time. Mr. Mediwaka later became a Member of Parliament, a Minister and a Senator who rendered yeoman service to Dumbara. He was the founder of the Kandyan Scholarship Fund for the poor and depressed in the area. The Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott informed Dyson about the desire of the British to remove the SEAC headquarters from New Delhi. Dyson in turn informed Major Skinner of the intention of the British government. By now Dyson, Skinner and Mediwaka had become friends. Skinner discussed with Mediwaka about a site and site inspections were carried out together by the trio. The Britishers also needed a Sinhala officer conversant in the language. Hence Mediwaka was appointed Chief Civilian Liason Officer.

The land from Tennekumbura, bridge up to Rajawella along the Teldeniya - Minipe road was selected. All lands belonging to European planters, Indian merchants and natives were acquired for the purpose. The South East Asian Command (SEAC) Headquarters was located in the Palace Square of the last Sinhala monarch. The only civilian Sri Lankans allowed to reside in the SEAC area was the Mediwaka family.

On the left bank of the Mahaweli river, on the present day site of the Open University Campus of Polgolla, was located the Royal Air Force Headquarters from which the air bases of Palali, Minneriya, Sigiriya etc: were controlled. The Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI) which was in-charge of all ordinary field operations was located in Haragama where the Haragama SPC and NLDB is situated today. The Signals Unit in Kundasale received and transmitted an average of two thousand messages day and night. The present day Agricultural students' hostel building, accommodated the printing machines that was used to print money and all maps etc: The entire area was full of soldiers from Britain, America, India, Africa and various other countries. There are people living in this area today who have seen soldiers parading the area with padlocked mouths. In fact the legacy left behind by the war could be seen in the off spring of African, British and Gurkha soldiers who now live among the natives after a process of social acculturation.


THE WAR

Lord Louis Mountbatten stayed in Kundasale Polgolla Peradeniya while overseeing operations. The Chief Commanding Officer was General William Slim who was also the Commanding Officer of the fourth Regiment. The Chief of Staff who assisted him was Major General Stirling. There were several other Field Commanders to assist them. By now heavy fighting was raging in the area to the South East of India, in Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Chitagong and in the Islands now known as Indonesia. Japan was on a winning wicket. We had our troops belonging to the various Regiments stationed in Galle, Katukurunda, Weerawila etc: in the South to face any situation. Colombo and Trincomalee were bombed in April. The British won the war and General william. Slim was promoted to Field Marshall and appointed Governor of Australia. Kundasale was made a detention camp to keep the Dutch captives from Indonesia. The British were able to maintain their status as the empire on which the sun, never set, because of the victory they achieved using the land of Dumbara as a base.


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