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Sri Lanka Armoured Corps

Whither the Fates Call

HISTORY OF THE 5th RECONNAISSANCE REGIMENT SRI LANKA ARMOURED CORPS

5th Regiment Sri Lanka Armoured Corps was formed as a reinforcement battalion to be deployed initially on the Infantry role. The Regiment was officially raised on Thursday, 06 January 1994 at Rock House Camp by Lt Col N A Ranasinghe RSP psc. This was an unprecedented step in the history of the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps. It was the first time that SLAC was required to form and deploy a regiment on the infantry role. The total strength of the Regiment on its raising day was 18 x Officers and 227 x Other Ranks.

The first deployment of the new Regiment was in the Trincomalee District. The Regimental Headquarters and all four Sabre Squadrons were re-located at the Monkey Bridge camp on 25 January 1994, whilst the Headquarter Squadron established itself at Batalanda Army Camp in Makola South. By the end of January 1994, the entire Regiment was placed under command to 22 Brigade and deployed on operational duties as follows:

    • Tactical HQ             -        at Nilaveli.
    • A Squadron            -        in Gomarankadawala Sector.
    • B Squadron             -        in Thiriyaya – Kallarawa Sector.
    • C Squadron             -        in Irakkandi – Kumburupiddi Sector.
    • D Squadron             -        in Kuchchaveli – Salapearu Sector .

    In mid April 1994, the Unit was transferred to Batticaloa and placed under command to 4 Brigade. The Commanding Officer was appointed as the Sector Commander for Chenkaladi on 14 April  1994.

    By mid July the unit left Batticaloa to Monkey Bridge - Trincomalee, where classic role conversion training was undertaken. The 5th Regiment SLAC received its first fleet of AFVs from Ukraine in August. 16 x  BMP vehicles (04 x BMP MK 1, 04 x BMP MK 2, 07 x BMP (MVLT), 01 x BMP ARV) were flown to Sri Lanka on 02 and 10 August, on 2 x AN-124 Military Cargo aircrafts. Having transported them to Clappenberg Camp in Trincomalee by train, basic training commenced withthe help of local BMP instructors who were trained in Ukrain.

    B Squadron sailed to Kankasanturai on 07 June 1995. A Squadron 5th Regiment SLAC deployed at Mollipothana was subsequently relieved to join the C Squadron on VIP duties at Temple Trees on 11 April. Due to the threat existed at that time, anti aircraft weapons positions were established by SLAC troops. This was the first time in Sri Lanka that such weapons were deployed against a possible threat from the air.

    Withthe arrival of 30 x T 63-II APCs from China on 29 September by sea, 5 SLAC became a fullyfledged Armoured Regiment. After completion of successful training, A and D Squadrons left for Clappenberg by rail on 29 September, and then by LCMs to Kankasanturai on 06 October. According to the naval sources, it was the largest convoy they had undertaken to escort, up to that time. There were a total of 11 Naval vessels involved in the convoy.

    The aggressive and relentless offensive operation code name Rivirasa conducted by the Sri Lanka Army finally succeeded withthe capturing of the city of Jaffna on 05 December 1995. 5th Regiment SLAC with other Armour troops was amongst the first to enter the city to hoist the ‘Lion Flag’. At the dawn of 1996, the Tactical Headquarters along with A, B and D Squadrons were deployed at Vasavilan with C Squadron in Colombo and Headquarter Squadron at Batalanda Camp. The Unit celebrated its 2nd Anniversary on 06 January having its first ever mounted parade at Ideikadu. In early 1996 the unit was given a 50 acres block of land at Pangolla – Ibbagamuwa by the Army. This was as a result of the Commanding Officer’s effort who conducted a reconnaissance and forwarded a  feasibility report towards establishing a Military Camp suitable to accommodate a complete Regiment at Ibbagamuwa, been accepted.

    C Squadron, which was employed on President’s Security throughout the year, was finally detached out from 5 SLAC in order to form the Presidential Security Unit as a formal organization. All officers and men belonging to C Squadron were attached to the Presidential Security Unit with effect from 06 July 1996. D Squadron was re-named as the C Squadron. 5th Regiment SLAC became the 5th Reconnaissance Regiment with effect from 08 March by the Extraordinary Gazette No 939/24 of 04 September 1996.

    On 10 May 1997, Regimental Headquarters and Headquarter Squadron were shifted from Vasavillan and Batalanda respectively and taken to Kosgama-Salawa Military Complex and remained there till end of the year. Tactical Headquarter was re-deployed in Elephant Pass at the end of July 1997. The 50th Independence Anniversary celebration was held in a grand scale at the parliament esplanade on 04 February 1998. Commanding Officer Lt Col N Udawatta psc led the Armoured vehicle column of the parade.

    On 29 June 1999, Tactical Headquarters was shifted to ‘Ironside Camp’ at Iyyakachchi. Construction work of the Regiment Headquarter building at Pangolla also was completed by end of the year and was declared open at Pangolla on 23 March 2000 by Maj Gen N R Marambe RSP USP psc. Since then, the Pangolla Camp became the ‘home’ of 5 SLAC and Regiment Headquarters and Headquarter Squadron were shifted to Pangolla from Salawa – Kosgama.

    Regiment Headquarters was shifted to Kankasanturai on 11 March 2001. Withthe Memorandum of understanding signed on 22 February 2002 between the government  and the LTTE, the Regiment paid more attention towards training and muchdelayed construction works at Pangolla Camp.  Withthe deployment of all sabre squadrons under SF HQ – Wanni, Tactical Headquarter was shifted from Varani on 19 June 2002 and was deployed  at Tallady Camp - Mannar on 23 July 2002.

    25 January 2003 was a special day to 5th Regiment SLAC. Almost all former Commanding Officers were invited to Pangolla camp to join the officers get together. Withthe opening of the Regiment flag post, Pangolla Camp was re-named as the 'Ironside Camp'.

    At the beginning of the year 2004 deployment of 5ARMR SLAC is as fallow:

      • Regiment Headquarter        -        Iron Side Camp - Pangolla.
      • Tactical HQ                      -        Tallady – Mannar.
      • HQ Squadron                      -        Iron Side Camp - Pngolla.
      • A Squadron                         -        Vauniya.
      • B Squadron                         -        Tallady – Mannar.
      • C Squadron                         -        Mantai - Mannar, Maduru Oya.

      OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES

      By the end of January 1994, the entire  regiment was placed under command to 22 Brigade and deployed on operational duties. Troops were mainly involved in pacification operations in the East as it was the government military strategy at that time. The regiment  actively contributed to the success of Local Government Election held on 01 March 1994, in the Eastern Province by providing extensive security within sectors. It also provided the same security for General Elections on 16 August 1994 and Presidential Elections that followed on 09 November the same year. Receipt of AFVs by the Regiment initiated wider deployment. While B Squadron converted to the classic role, two squadrons were deployed to provide security to the Honourable Prime Minister, leaving only one squadron to continue in the reinforcement role. C Squadron was shifted to Colombo and entrusted withthe security of the “Temple Trees” with effect from 21 September thus becoming the pioneers of the Presidential Security Unit, which was officially established on 14 February 1996.

      B squadron was inducted into the battlefield withthe Operation LIGHTNING STRIKE in July 1995. This was a limited operation launched from Palaly. B Squadron emerged with high praise from infantry counterparts, for their splendid performance. It was attached to 9 Brigade at Vasavilan and on 27 April took part in Operation LEAP FORWARD. History was made when a mechanized column consisting of Armour and APC mounted infantry (6 SLLI) made a dash from Palaly to Arali independently. B Squadron took part in many limited operations, including Operation SHAKE HAND I and II, Operation HARD KNOCK, and also Operation THUNDER STRIKE in which the Army captured Achchuveli and expanded the Forward Defensive Line (FDL) Eastwards.

      On 17 October with all other armour and infantry counterparts, the A, B and D Squadrons of 5 SLAC took part in Operation RIVIRASA. The Commanding Officer of the Regiment Lt Col N A Ranasinghe psc was the Battle Group Commander. Operation RIVIRASA II started on 19 April 1996 and all sabre squadrons took part in it. This operation was aimed at wresting control of the Thenmarachchi sector of the Jaffna Peninsula. ‘Operaion RIVIRASA III’ started on 15 May and  terminated with capturing Vadamarachchi and Point Pedro by next day. 5th Regiment SLAC Battle Group created history by launching an offensive operation independently without marrying up with infantry and capturing Vadamarachchi and Point Pedro. Apart from these operations, squadrons participated in many limited operations such as ‘Operation HAND SHAKE’ and ‘Operation Royal Flush’. All three squadrons participated in ‘Operation LINK UP’ to link Kilaly and Elephant Pass.

      Sri Lanka Army captured Paranthan on 6 July by launching ‘Operation Sathjaya I’ and in that 4th Armoured Regiment and 5th Regiment SLAC conducted an envelopment attack from the left flank to take the city before the infantry. LTTE could not resist much and when infantry arrived later astride the A - 9 road, there was no fighting left. Armour consisted of two Battle Groups; commanded by Lt Col M P Peiris  - CO 5th Regiment SLAC and Maj B A Perera - CO 4th Armoured Regiment. ‘Operation SATHJAYA II’ was aimed at capturing Kilinochchi, it brought many casualties to botharmour and infantry. Sri Lanka Army finally was able to capture Kilinochchi on 29 September by launching ‘Operation SATHJAYA II’ and ‘Operation SATHJAYA III’. Armour unleashed a swift flanking attack to take the town on 29 September.

      B Squadron was shifted to Vavuniya on 14 April 1997, to take part in ‘Operation JAYASIKURU’. Troops of ‘Operation JAYASIKURU’ broke out from Kokeliya at 0600 hours on 13 May 1997. The regiment was involved in strengthening the defence structure, mainly in  Paranthan and Elephant Pass sectors by 1998. A and C Squadrons actively participated in limited operations in Paranthan, Elephant Pass, Iyakachchi and Sankatharavayal areas. B Squadron, which was located at Thandikulam and tasked to carry out search and clear operations and route picketing of A-9 road at the termination of ‘Operation JAYASIKURU’, was again involved in ‘Operation EDIBALA’ in capturing Oddusudan. It was launched on 03 December 1998. This operation is considered as a classic example of surprise and deception. Although the terrain factor delayed the link up of troops in certain areas, 53 Division achieved maximum surprise and 55 Division troops  advanced mounted on armour.

      A and C Squadrons took part in ‘Operation LAGOON THUNDER’ commenced in January 1999 and in ‘Operation WHIRL WIND’ and ‘Operation RALAPHARA’ in September 1999. Tactical Headquarter continued withthe task of convoy protection of Elephant Pass - Palaly. Meanwhile, HQ Squadron was instructed to man a road block at Kosgama, engaged in cordon and search operations and election security duties as directed by 112 Brigade.

      A and C squadrons braved the LTTE attack on the FDLs at Elephant Pass on 27 March 2000 and succeeded in supporting infantry to stop the operation Unceasing Waves launched by LTTE at Pallai on 10 April 2000.  Both Squadrons took part in the series of ‘Operation KINIHIRA’ to re-capture Sarasalai on 03 September and Chavakachcheri on 05 September 2000. A and C Squadrons have took part in ‘Operation KINIHIRA IX’ and ‘X’ and involved in expansion of the FDL 1n 2001. They participated in ‘Operation AGNIKEELA’ on 25 April 2001, aimed to capturing Pallai. Squadrons were deployed in close proximity to the FDLs and assisted infantry in thwarting many LTTE attacks.

      5th Regiment SLAC was instructed to shift from Jaffna to Wanni theatre to be deployed in Mannar. As a result, A Squadron was shifted to ATS – Maduru Oya in March and was involved in infantry battalion training, it was deployed at 212 Brigade complex as a reserve of SF HQ – Wanni on 12 June 2002. B Squadron shifted to Pangolla from Varani on 21 April and deployed in Manner on 18 July 2002. C Squadron reported to ATS – Maduru Oya on 11 August 2002.  I Troop remained at Maduruoya as there was involvement in battalion training and Squadron HQ withthe 2 Troop deployed at Mannar. The regiment is presently involved in defensive operations for the past 3 years in respective areas of responsibility.

      At the beginning of the year 2005 the RHQ was deployed in Pangolla and A, B and C squadrons were deployed in Vavuniya and Mannar respectively. The same deployment was continued in the year 2006 as well.

      Due to the volatile security situation that prevailed during the year 2006, troops of the regiment were employed in various tasks; escort duties for vehicle convoys, protection of Key Points and Vulnerable Points. Later in the year the troops of A squadron was deployed in Vakarai and Thoppigala as part of the Humanitarian Operation conducted in the Eastern Province. The regiment also took part in various training programs ranging from individual training to collective training.

      In 2007 the RHQ was redeployed in Mannar along with B and C Squadrons. A Squadron remained in Vavuniya under 211 Brigade. The Commanding officer; Lieutenant Colonel NP Samarakoon USP along with 2nd in command Major NDKB Niyangoda, commanded the regiment and rendered its valuable support to the Humanitarian operation conducted in the Eastern Province. 1 troop of A squadron 5 SLAC spearheaded the efforts of the infantry troops and valiantly supported the liberation of the Eastern Province from the clutches of the LTTE.

      In the years 2008 and 2009, the regiment was fully involved in the world’s largest humanitarian operation conducted in the Northern Province to liberate the people under the jackboot of the LTTE. The A squadron of the regiment spearheaded the operations under 59 Division whilst B and C squadrons rolled over the tiger strongholds in the Wanni under the dynamic 58 Division. The regiment was extensively involved in the humanitarian operation from the beginning until the historic defeat of the LTTE on 19 may 2009. The regiment as a part of 58 Division has covered a total of 237 km from Giant Tank Mannar to Mullivaikkal in Mullaitive and has given all its might in defeating the ruthless LTTE. In the process the regiment also lost a brave son of mother Lanka; Capt RAK Ranawaka, the officer commanding of the C squadron on 10th March 2008.

      The year 2010 was a year of great significance for the regiment as all the squadrons of the regiment along with RHQ was deployed in Iranamadu under Security Forces Headquarters Kilinochchi for the first time in its 16 year history.

      Subsequently, the RHQ was redeployed in Pangolla along with HQ squadron in 2011. The regiment taking advantage of the peaceful situation carried out its routine duties under the able guidance of the Commanding Officer. On 27 July 2012 a grand ceremony was held at the Iron Side camp Pangolla to award UTTAMA POOJA medal to 4500 soldiers. The secretary of Defence Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa graced the occasion as the Chief Guest.

      Presently the RHQ and HQ Squadron of the regiment is located at Pangalla whilst the three sabre squadrons are deployed in Kokavil under Security Forces Headquarters Kilinochchi.

COMMANDING OFFICERS

Name From To
Lieutenant Colonel N A Ranasinghe RSP psc 22.11.1993 15.02.1996
Lieutenant Colonel M P Peiris RWP RSP psc 14.02.1996 08.01.1997
Lieutenant Colonel N Udawatta psc 09.01.1997 18.08.1998
Lieutenant Colonel G J S Piyathunga RSP 19.08.1998 13.01.2000
Major R G U Rajapakshe RSP psc 14.01.2000 26.06.2002
Major A L P S Thilakarathne psc 27.06.2002 14.01.2005
Major S A U Nanayakkara 15.01.2005 31.01.2006
Lieutenant Colonel N P Samarakoon USP 31.01.2006 15.07.2010
Lieutenant Colonel S D Meepagala 15.07.2010 05.11.2012
Major T C Harasgama RSP 06.11.2012 10.12.2012
Lieutenant Colonel T C Harasgama RSP 10.12.2012 13.08.2015
Lieutenant Colonel T A M K De Silva RSP USP psc 13.08.2015 20.09.2017
Lieutenant Colonel W A I S Mendis RSP USP 22.09.2017 29.12.2019
Lieutenant Colonel D K S M Kariyawasam USP 30.12.2019 Up to Date

SECOND IN COMMAND

Name From To
Major U A B Medawala 06.01.1994 14.01.1995
Major S T D Liyanage RWP 15.01.1995 22.03.1996
Major H M R De Silva 23.03.1996 07.02.1997
Major A S Wijewickrama 08.02.1997 02.03.1998
Major A L P S Tillekarathna psc 03.03.1998 30.01.2000
Major N P Samarakoon USP 31.01.2000 19.03.2001
Major A M L De Zoysa RSP 20.03.2001 03.06.2001
Major N P Samarakoon USP 04.06.2001 19.02.2002
Major S A U Nanayakkara 20.02.2002 13.01.2003
Major M H A D Hettiarachchi 14.01.2003 06.04.2004
Major N P Samarakoon USP 07.04.2004 30.01.2006
Major N D K B Niyangoda RSP psc 31.01.2006 27.01.2008
Major M W A R C Wijesooriya 28.01.2008 27.01.2010
Major U K Wickramaarachchi 28.01.2010 21.05.2010
Major T C Harasgama RSP 22.05.2010 05.06.2011
Major Y H P Rangajeewa 06.06.2011 08.01.2012
Major K P U A Kodippili RSP 09.01.2012 04.08.2013
Major S J Samarasinghe psc 05.08.2013 16.04.2015
Major P A R Wijerathne RWP RSP 16.04.2015 27.03.2017
Major D P A S A Witharana psc 28.03.2017 15.11.2018
Major M G S D Wijesooriya RSP 15.11.2018 28.11.2019
Major R K K Paragahathanthree psc 28.11.2019 05.01.2021
Major W E M C Ekanayake psc 06.01.2021 Up to Date