INAUGURATION OF CEYLON ENGINEERS THROUGH ROYAL ENGINEERS
After formation of Ceylon Defence Force(CDF) its role was in two-fold, namely as a unit in the armed forces of the Empire, to assist in the defence of the Island against external aggression and to render assistance to the Civil Authority as required in the maintenance of Law and order. Service in the CDF was voluntary and there was no overseas liability. Ceylon Engineers was formed as a part of CDF and was formed in 1911, the date of the 1st enrolment being 23 February 1911. The Burgher Community of the Colombo Town Guard on 1st September 1914 and the total strength then were 3 Officers and 32 Other Ranks. Their duties consisted of manning Engines and Searchlights required for costal defence and signal work. It's interesting to note that the regimental rules of the Ceylon Engineers, as published in the Government Gazette at that time, stated that the Corps shall be composed of European and Dutch Burger British subjects of good character and respectability. The 1st Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel Henderson.
At the outbreak of World War I, 148 Sappers enlisted for Active Service and 50 of them won Commission and are recorded with pride that one of them, Second Lieutenant BA Horsfall, was posthumously awarded the "Victoria Cross". Among the other decorations for acts of bravery won by those Sappers were 02 Distinguished Service Orders, 3 Military Crosses and 1 Croix de Guere and 5 of them paid the supreme sacrifice. During this period the Corps was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel H French followed by Major EB Creasy.
In 1926, the Commandant of the Ceylon Defence Force, in consultation with the General Officer Commanding Troops of Ceylon, recommended to Government that the Burger Community of the Colombo Town Guard be transferred to the Ceylon Engineers Corps and that the Europeans, who were still members to the Corps on 31 December 1926, are to be disbanded. The Burger Community of the Colombo Town Guard accordingly transferred to the Ceylon Engineers Corps with the effect from 1 January 1927. The strength on that day was 11 Officers and 144 Other Ranks.
From then on the Ceylon Engineers Corps was opened to all Ceylonese and the 1st Sinhalese to obtain a Commission was Second Lieutenant DGE Wijewardena. During this period the Corps was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel WEV De Roy VD. On 3 Sep 1939 the Ceylon Engineers ware mobilized but at the end of the month they were made non-effective with the exception of 6 Officers and 78 other ranks. From June 1940 onwards they ware again gradually made of effective and were employed in their various roles and on training. In November 1941, another signal Coy was formed. In October 1943, the Signal Company broke away from the Ceylon Engineers and become the Ceylon Signal Corps. With the entry of Japan into World War II, the Filed Coy hurried through the final part of its training programme and was employed on defence works including the preparation of bridges for demolition in Colombo.
In April 1942, a company began forming in Colombo with a small staff of British personnel. In June the same year, the first batch of Ceylon Engineers was posted to the unit. It was necessary to engage a large civilian staff and at one stage as many as 1700 were employed. A vast amount of work of all kinds, including the construction of a caravan for the supreme Allied Commander, was carried out by this unit during the war. It was the responsible partly for the design and wholly for the construction of all improvised bridging equipment for use in Ceylon.
In January 1951, three selected Officers (Captain PD Ramanayaka, Lieutenant RL Perera and Lieutenant TP Withana) were sent for training at Chatham. At the same time, 8 Senior Non Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) were sent to Malaya for Field Engineer training. On the 1st October 1951, the 1st Field Engineer Squadron, Ceylon Engineers was raised with the above 3 Officers, 8 SNCOs and 12 Sappers from the old Ceylon Engineer Corps and 80 recruits from the Army Recruit Training Depot, Diyathalawa.
DEVELOPMENTS AFTER THE INDEPENDENCE
On the 1 October 1951, the 1 Field Engineer Squadron, Ceylon Engineers was raised with three Officers, eight Senior Non Commissioned Officers and twelve Sappers from the old Ceylon Engineer Corps and eighty recruits from the Army Recruit Training Depot, Diyathalawa which was commanded by Captain PD Ramanayeke, and so unfolds the history of the Corps of Sri Lanka Engineers. Subsequently on 6 May 1958, the Ceylon School of Military Engineering was formed and located at Ampara with its first Officer Commanding being Captain BGS De Silva. With the constant demand for Engineer troops in the Island, in July 1959, the 1 Field Engineer Squadron was raised to the statues of a Field Engineer Regiment and was redesignated 1st Field Engineer Regiment, Ceylon Engineers. The first Commanding Officer to this regiment was Lieutenant Colonel PD Ramanayake, who had been at the helm from its inception. Later Lieutenant Colonel PD Ramanayake, promoted to the rank of Brigadier and also passed away in 2006. In remembrance of his incomparable service rendered to the Corps as his name is ever fetched with the title of "Father of the Sri Lanka Engineers".
Capt PD Ramanayaka
First Officer Commanding
1 Field Engineer Squadren
Consequently, the 4 Engineer Regiment being the only Volunteer Regiment in the Corps of Engineers was raised on the 1 September 1964 and was commanded by Colonel R Karunanayagum. Later on the 1 April 1980, the 1 Plant Engineer Regiment was raised and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel NP Nagasinghe. On the 23 August 1989, the 1 Plant Engineer Regiment was renamed as the 5 Field Engineer Regiment and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel EH Samarathunge.
With the escalation of the war against the LTTE in 1983 recruitment of soldiers to the Sri Lanka Army increased in larger scale. To this end the posted strength of the field engineer units was not sufficient to meet the ever increasing demands of the sapper troops. Therefore, Corps of Engineers put together its order of battle to meet the rising necessity of the sapper troops of the war effort. As a result at present the Corps of Engineers consists with elevan regular units, two volunteer units and Sri Lanka School of Military Engineering.