As the origin of the Sri Lanka Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment is a concurrence of all segments of the former Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment, it is primarily important to understand the operational format carried out by the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment.
The Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment
In the past, weapons used by soldiers were bows & arrows, swords and axes. The maintenance and improvement of such weapons were exclusively entrusted to the soldiers themselves. In the year 1818 the concept of handling commonly used weapons by soldiers was acknowledged worldwide.
At the same time the auctioning, as well as sale and transfer of such equipment was exclusively prohibited. After the discovery of gun powder by the Chinese much more complex weapons and ammunitions came into usage. In the year 1896 or about that period the then Royal Army inaugurated the war equipment unit. This unit was entrusted with the task of regular maintenance of not only vehicles utilized in weapons transport, machinery, tankers but also carried out repairs of cordless communication equipment during World War I which took place within the period 1914 - 1918 the Army was confronted with problems regarding the repair and maintenance of vehicles and equipment. As a result of this shortcoming with the end of World War I, the repair and maintenance of armoured vehicles were undertaken by the Armored Corps. The Royal Engineering unit was established with the idea of effecting repairs to special war equipment. While the Royal Services Regiment was engaged in the repair of mechanical transport, the Royal Mechanical Regiment carried out repairs on weapons and other war equipment. Subsequently due to the operation of several establishments within the Army exclusively for repairs, numerous administrative problems such as wastage of manpower resources, the utilization of machinery resulting in capital wastage arose. In the year 1926 the storage section and the engineering section of the then Royal war equipment regiment began to function as separate units. The engineering section which was separated in this fashion was given the responsibility of commencing repairs of mechanical transport equipment and also armoured vehicles. However an opportunity was given to the Royal Engineering and Signals Regiment to carry out repairs to their own equipment. With the advent of World War II all equipment and the nature of weapons used in combat became sophisticated to a certain degree. As a result of this development repairs and maintenance of these vehicles, weapons, other equipment the demand for technicians in various fields of activity increased.
Due to this urgency, a cabinet subcommittee under the chairmanship of Sir William Baur was appointed in the year 1941. In response to the report submitted by the aforesaid subcommittee on 1st October 1942 the Royal Electrical, Mechanical Engineers Regiment was re-established, thereby entrusting the complete responsibility of the afore mentioned weapons, mechanical, transport and armoured vehicles to this regiment.
Due to this change, certain technicians who were performing various technical duties in the Royal Services Regiment and the Royal Engineering Regiment were enrolled into the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment. By the year 1942 the Director Board of the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineering Regiment was divided into 3 main segments, Work programming, operation, and development. Each separate section was managed by an officer of the grade of Brigadier. Almost at this time Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineering Regiment was established in India. The usefulness of the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment was realized more and more during the World War II period. The EME regiment while servicing break down vehicles also had the innovative capacity of modernizing numerous equipment by introducing new techniques and modifications. Almost during this time the Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment consisted of skilled technicians belonging to various nationalities in the world. There is credible evidence to confirm the fact that civilians were also enrolled for service as technicians.
By this time EME regiment had developed to the stature of a mega technical unit that could handle and repair special equipment and spare equipment. By the year 1943 the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment consisted of 8000 officers and almost 152,000 other ranks. While Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Regiment established in countries such as India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa enlarged its' vision almost 100,000 civilian employees were enrolled for technical duties.
The Establishment of the Royal EME unit in Sri Lanka.
During World War II period from 1939 - 1945 a work site belonging to the Royal EME unit had been set up and while the venue of this work place was situated within the army headquarters. World War II resulted in gaining freedom to Sri Lanka as well as a member of other countries in the eastern world. On the 10th of October 1949 the Ceylon Army was established. The work place belonging to the Royal EME unit prevalent at this time was officially handed over to the Ceylon Army on 12th December 1949. The first instructor and caretaker of this unit was Capt Roy Davis of the Royal Ceylon Electrical and Mechanical Engineers unit. They undertook only minor repairs to mechanical transport vehicles, weapons and equipment. On 01st of September 1950 the works site belonging to the Ceylon Electrical & Mechanical Engineers was shifted to a site at no 40 Kew Road close to slave Island. The machinery and all other equipment used at the Royal EME workshops were handed over to the EME workshops. Although at the time of shifting the workshop it was manage by an officer of the Royal EME Unit, there is evidence to indicate that two CEME(Ceylon Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Regiment) officers. As a result of priority been given to soldier training progress and 4 x NCOs and 14 other Civilians employees had served in various capacities The officers who were enrolled to SLEME Regiment at the beginning were soldier S/68001 Sgt Sinnaia, and 2/Lt RAJ Rathnam who joined in the capacity of first officer. These appointments have been recorded in SLEME’s historical manuscripts. At the beginning of this period Sgt M.C.David, Lance Cpl Q.R. De Silva and another Lance Cpl T.N. Baucn were sent to Singapore for training, while 2 other officers had gone to England for the same purpose. Past records confirm that these officers and soldiers of the SLEME unit were the first ever to undergo training in a foreign country. Eventually Capt N.V. Mathisz of the SLEME unit had been appointment as Staff Sgt of the EME section. On the 10th of December 1950 Lt Col NV Mathisz had been appointed as the first Commanding Officer of the SLEME Regiment. These sections; such as the EME coordinating platoon at Army Headquarters, Trade School and CEME platoon of the 1st Anti Air Craft Artillery Regiment were amalgamated on 01/10/1951. The reason for the establishment of the EME coordinating platoon at Army Headquarters was on account of the advice tendered by Maj WS Abraham at that time. He firmly insisted that the services of a EME officer at the Army HQ was of paramount important in order to meet the problems relating to Electrical and mechanical services. As a result of priority been given to soldiers training programmes and examination the urgency to establish the EME Training faculty was to become a reality. In addition there is past evidence to confirm the fact that senior non-commissioned officers of the Royal EME Regiment as well as SLEME staff served as instructors at this training institute. Private Perera G.J. has been adjudged the best marksman and was placed first at the rifle shorting contest which was held in the year 1951.