Sri Lanka Light Infantry

I Serve

History of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry


The birth of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry dates back to 1st April 1881, when the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers was formed. Lieutenant Colonel John Scot Armitage was appointed as the first Commanding Officer. Its origin smacks much of colonial ties for the incidental reason that the formative years coincided with the arrival of a Prince of the Royal family in England. ie. Prince Albert Edward or Prince of Wales who agreed to be the first honorary Colonel of the Regiment.

Not overburdened with the motto he lent, (“I Serve”) nor with his personal insignia lent to adorn the regimental crest, it soon galvanizes into action with the formation of the mounted Infantry Company and in 1900, this contingent was sent to South Africa for participation in the famous Boer War and its services were acknowledged by the British Royalty. During the British colonial time the Ceylon Light Infantry had extended services to the World Wars I & II and made its own proud contribution.

The Regimental and King’s Colors were awarded to the regiment on 22nd March 1922. When the first regular Battalion was formed, HM Queen Elizabeth II presented the new Colors to the battalion in 1949. In 1978, the HE the President JR Jayawardane awarded the President’s and Regimental Colors to the 1st Bn SLLI and 2nd Vol Bn SLLI.

When the Ceylon Army was formed on 10th October 1949, and with its formation, a Regular Infantry Battalion was raised as the Ceylon Infantry Regiment. The regimental mascot is an elephant named Kandula which happened to be the very name of the pachyderm that helped King Dutugemunu, our foremost warrior king to demolish the fortifications of the foe trespassing Lanka’s sovereignty. That was way back in pre-Christian times.


The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteer Force was formed on 1st April 1881 and proclamation was issued by the Governor of Ceylon. The first commanding officer of the force was Lt. Col. John Scott Armitage and the Colonel of the regiment was his Royal Highness Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales. The Corp assumed the title of "The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers" in August 1881. It is said that the Regimental March "I am Ninety Five" and the Regimental Bugle Call, in use up to now, was adopted soon after raising of the force. In the same year, the Unit had the distinction in that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales accepted the Honorary Colonelcy of The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers, by virtue of which fact the Unit adopted his Crest and motto as Its badge. ICH - DIEN ------ I SERVE

In 1890, Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon was appointed as the honorary Colonel of the Regiment. In 1892, a mounted infantry company was formed and later it became Ceylon mounted rifle. The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteer force troops were sent to South Africa in 1900, for the Boer war and after the distinguished service in South Africa the force obtained the Banner from his Royal Highness the Duke of Cornwall and York.

In 1902, CLI, proceeded for the coronation of King Edward VII and he became the Colonel of the regiment. In 1911, a contingent from the force participated in the coronation of King George V. During WW I from 1914 – 1918 CLI troops also made contribution to war effort along with allied troops. On 28 January 1922, his Royal Highness Edward the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cornwall became the Colonel of the regiment.

With outbreak of the WW II in 1939, few Volunteer Battalions of the CLI were raised to contribute to the war effort. During the period of deployment in foreign soil they were stationed in the Cocas Keeling Island and provided escort for Prisoners of war who were brought from Egypt and also deployed for defence of the South East Asia under HQ at the supreme, Lord Louis Mountbatten.

With the termination of the World War II demobilization commenced in 1946, and the island was given Independence in 1948. With the gaining of independence Prime Minister, the late Mr. D.S.Senanayake foresaw the requirement of independent for Ceylon and decided to function own Armed Services. Therefore, under the Def Act of 1947 the professional Armed Svcs were inaugurated in 1949 under the provisions of the Army Act No 17 of 1949. The Ceylon Army in Oct 1949 the Navy in 1950 & the Air Force in 1951.

This Army of Independent Ceylon contained the following Regular Regts & Vol Counter parts, separately.

a.The Ceylon Light Infantry 1st Bn (Regular) & 2nd Bn (Vol)
b.The Ceylon Artillery Regt &Vol Containing Heavy Arty, Light Arty & Coastal Arty.
c.The Ceylon Engrs (Regular) & (Vol) Regt.
d.The Ceylon Signals (Regular) & (Vol) Regt
e.The Ceylon Service Corp. (Regular) & (Vol) Regt
f.The Ceylon Ordinance Corp
g.The CEME - No Vol Units at commencement.
h.The Ceylon Corp of Military Police.
i.The Ceylon Army Medical Corp & Vol Units.

The Volunteer Force became a part of the Ceylon Army. An Infantry Battalion titled the Ceylon. Infantry Regiment was raised in to the Regular Force of the Ceylon Army and the pre War "The Ceylon Light Infantry" (Volunteers) became integral with the Volunteer Force of the Ceylon Army. A re-designation of nomenclature took place in 1950 when the Ceylon Infantry Regiment raised in 1949 was re-designated The 1st Battalion The Ceylon Light Infantry, and the Volunteer Battalion which hitherto held the title of "The Ceylon Light Infantry" was re-designated the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion The Ceylon Light Infantry.

In 1961, an elephant introduced as the mascot in the name of Kandula. In 1972, with the transformation to a Republic of Sri Lanka the name of the Regiment changed as Sri Lanka Light Infantry. Recognition of the Regiment service to the nation was confirmed and proved, after his Excellency, the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Hon. Mr. JR Jayawardhana awarded President Colours and Regimental Colours to 1st regular battalion and 2nd Volunteer Battalion of SLLI on 10th October 1978.

The Regimental concept was introduced in to the Sri Lanka Army in 1988 and with effect of that, the Regimental Centre of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry was established on 23rd October 1989 in the Army Cantonment at Panagoda Homagama.