Military Wiki
Ceylon Defence Force
Active 1881-11 April 1949
Disbanded 11 April 1949
Country 1881 to 1948 British Ceylon
1948 to 1949 Dominion of Ceylon
Type Army

Ceylon Defence Force (CDF) was established in 1910 by the Ceylonese legislation Ceylon Defence Force Ordinance, which reformed the Ceylon Volunteer Force (CVF) that existed previously as the military reserve in the British Crown colony of Ceylon. At the time of forming it was only a reserve force but soon developed into a regular force responsible for the defence of Ceylon. The CDF was under the command of the General Officer Commanding, Ceylon of the British Army in Ceylon if mobilized. However mobilization could be carried out only under orders from the Governor.


The origins of the CDF can be traced back to the formation of the Ceylon Volunteers (CV) in 1881, whereby the rifle section was designated the 1st battalion Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI). The CV soon became the Ceylon Volunteer Force (CVF) and finally was renamed the Ceylon Defence Force in 1910. Units of the Ceylon Volunteer Force in 1910.

Second Boer War

In 1900 Ceylon Mounted Infantry saw action and in 1902 a contingent of Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, took part in the Second Boer War in South Africa. Their services were recognized by presentation, in 1902, of a colour to the CMI, and a presentation in 1904, of a Banner to the CPRC. Although there were Ceylonese officers much of the officer corps was made up of British officers and the other ranks where mostly Ceylonese with the exception of the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps which was completely made up of Europeans.

World war I

In 1914 with the out break of World War I the CDF was mobilized and expanded. Many volunteers from the Defence Force traveled to England and joined the British Army, and many of them were killed in action. One of them mentioned by Arthur Conan Doyle was Private Jacotine of the CLI, who was the last man left alive in his unit at the Battle of Lys, and who continued to fight for 20 minutes before he was killed. The CPRC sent a force of 8 officers and 229 other ranks commanded by Major J. Hall Brown to the great war. The unit sailed for Egypt on October 1914, and was deployed in defence of the Suez Canal. This unit was officially attached to the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and was in 1915 dispatched to Anzac Cove (‘Z’ Beach) on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The CPRC performed operational duties as guards to ANZAC headquarter staff, including the General Officer Commanding ANZAC, Lieutenant General William Birdwood, who remarked, “I have an excellent guard of Ceylon Planters who are such a nice lot of fellows.” According to its onetime Commanding Officer (CO), Colonel T.Y. Wright (1904–1912), the CPRC had sustained overall losses of 80 killed and 99 wounded in the Great War. Soon after the war the last regular military unit to be stationed in Ceylon on garrison duties 80th Carnatics left. This resulted in the CDF becoming a regular military unit with some units like Mobilized Detachment of Ceylon Light Infantry (Mob. Det., CLI) having its volunteer troops mobilized on a fixed basis

World war II

In 1939 with the Second World War CDF was mobilized and expanded to fortify Ceylon to meet a possible threat posed by the Japanese. CDF came direct command of the South East Asia Command (SEAC) and formed part of the British 11th Army Group. It was sometimes referred to as the British Army in Ceylon during this time. South East Asia Command under Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten had its headquarters located at Kandy, Ceylon Troops from the CDF, mainly the Ceylon Light Infantry and the Ceylon Garrison Artillery were placed outside Ceylon undertaking garrison duties on the Seychelles and the Cocos Islands. In Cocos Islands Mutiny took place (encouraged by Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party) by a few members of the Ceylon Garrison Artillery but was immediately put down by the Ceylon Light Infantry. CLI troops in 1941 escorted Italian POWs from the Middle East to Ceylon, and later in 1946 Japanese POWs from Ceylon to India. In 1945 reached its wartime peak at 645 officers and 14,247 other ranks. At the center of the expansion was the CLI which grew by 1946 from one to five battalions.

Post war

In 1947 the CDF was again mobilised in its last major internal security operation to suppress a left wing Hartal, or mass stoppage of work. The CDF was given additional support by an armed detachment of British Royal Marines from HMS Glasgow, who were utilized to deter strikers in Colombo.

The CDF was officially disbanded on 11 April 1949 and reconstituted by Army Act No. 17 of 1949 which revoked the Ceylon Defence Force Ordinance of 1910 as the Ceylon Volunteer Force (CVF), itself becoming the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force (SLAVF) in 1972. Soldiers who had experience in the CDF were actively recruited into the newly constructed regular, and reconstituted volunteer Ceylon Army. In its first few years, and with few exceptions, the only new recruits enlisted were officer cadets and soldiers below the rank of Warrant Officer. Ex-CDF veterans featured prominently in the post-independence regular Ceylon Army until General D. S. Attygalle (1967–1977) finished his term as Commander. The last ex-CDF veteran to leave the Army was Brigadier T.S.B. Sally of the SLAVF, who ended his service tenure in 1979.

Units of the Ceylon Defence Force


Ceylon Volunteers

  • Lt.Col Francis Conninsby Hannan Clarke CMG,psc,FRGS,FRCI,CLIV(late Colonel RA) 20.04.1888 – 27.08.1893[2]
  • Lt.Col Henry Byrde (late 57th Regiment)CLIV 28.08.1893 – 13.05.1896

Ceylon Volunteers Force

  • Colonel AFC Vincent (late Scottish Rifles) CMG 13.05.1896 – 31.05.1913
  • Major HG Morris(Duke of Cornwalls’ Light Infantry) Acting Commandant 1902
  • Lt.Col. Gorden Fraser VD,CLI (Acting) 14.03.1913 – 13.05.1913

Ceylon Defense Force

  • Brigadier General RB Fell(late CameronianScottish Rifles) CB, 01.06.1913 – 31.12.1919
  • Lt.Col. WGB Dickson CMR(Acting) 06.03.1914
  • Lt.Col .EG Hayward VD,CAV(Acting) 07.10.1914
  • Lt.Col. TH Chapman OBE,VD(Acting) 01.01.1920 - 21.07.1920
  • Brigadier General FMG Rowley CB,CMG,DSO 22.07.1920 – 08.02.1927
  • Colonel Albion Earnest Andrews(Late Hampshire Regiment)OBE 09.02.1927 – 14.12.1928
  • Lt.Col. GB Stevens VD,CPRC(Acting) 14.12.1928 – 28.04.1929
  • Colonel Edward Bromfield Ferrers (Black Watch)DSO 29.04.1929 – 03.03.1935
  • Colonel Robert Burton Lesley (The Lincolnshire Regiment)MC 03.03.1935 - 12.05.1937
  • Colonel Gorden Calthrop Throne (The Royal Norfolk Regiment) 13.05.1937 – 05.02.1939
  • Colonel Reginald Strelley Moresby White(The Leicestershire Regiment)OBE 06.02.1939 – 01.01.1942
  • Colonel TG Watson(8th Hussars) 01.01.1942 – 1945
  • Colonel RA McGeorge (The Rifle Brigade) 1945 – 1946
  • Colonel Randolph Jewell Francis Mendis OBE, ED, BA, (acting) 06.04.1946 – 07.08.1949

Former decorations & medals

From its formation the Ceylon Defence Force used British military decorations.

Notable members

See also


  1. Army, Sri Lanka (October 1999). "Chapter 1". Sri Lanka Army, "50 YEARS ON" - 1949-1999 (1st Edition ed.). Colombo: Sri Lanka Army. pp. 1–3. ISBN 955-8089-02-8. 
  2. "Commandants". International Ceylon Database. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).