In parallel to its 125th anniversary celebrations, the Sri Lanka Artillery Regiment was honoured with the President’s and Regimental Colours by Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 23 April at a special ceremony held at the Regimental Headquarters premises in Panagoda.
Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Secretary Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa were also present at the occasion.
The President was accorded a guard of honour upon his arrival at the venue in keeping with set traditions and customs and thence religious observances were also performed. The President took the salute of the parade which consisted of 30 officers and 370 men drawn from the Artillery Regiment.
Speaking at the ceremony the President said: “This distinguished honour is awarded to the Sri Lanka Artillery regiment in recognition of its steadfast and heroic service and valued contribution towards the safeguarding of the interests of the nation and that they must make a pledge to preserve and uphold the honour thus bestowed.”
The President in his speech paid tribute to the 43 officers and 529 other ranks of the Regiment who had paid the ultimate sacrifice during the war and also 18 officers and 300 other ranks who were disabled.
The President said: “Even before the Portuguese arrival we had made our own cannons and also used them at war. Ceylon’s first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake had been a member of the artillery when he was a town guard in his youth.”
The President stated that during the three-decade long war the role of the Sri Lanka Artillery Regiment was a decisive factor, which is why the ruthless LTTE also strove to acquire the same advantage.
The President pointed out that Sri Lanka had silenced the guns of terrorists in 2009, but now terrorist remnants residing in other countries were resorting to divide the country. He emphasised the need to eradicate terrorism from wherever it exists.
Presidential Colours are held in high esteem as the highest accolade a regiment could receive in its lifespan as a tribute to the invaluable services and numerous sacrifices it had so far made for the defence of the country.
One of the oldest regiments in the Army, the Sri Lanka Artillery goes back to 1888 when on 12 April 1888 Ceylon Artillery Volunteers was formed as a gun battery under the command of Capt. C.E.H. Seimons of the Royal Artillery.
During World War I and World War II, the Ceylon Artillery was mobilised and played a key role to support the Allied and Commonwealth forces in the Indian Ocean. Equipped with six-inch guns, the Ceylon Garrison Artillery was deployed in the defence of Seychelles and the Cocos Islands.
In 1949, with the formation of the Ceylon Army under Army Act No. 17 of 1949, the Ceylon Garrison Artillery became Ceylon Artillery. That year the 1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (HAA) and 2nd Volunteer Coastal Artillery/Anti Aircraft Regiment of the Ceylon Artillery were formed. Subsequently in 1953 the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment was formed.
In 1963 all three regiments were amalgamated and the 4th Regiment Ceylon Artillery was formed, thus restructuring Ceylon Artillery as a single regiment. The Ceylon Artillery was renamed in 1972 as Sri Lanka Artillery when Ceylon became a republic. In 1980 a volunteer regiment, the 5th (V) Artillery Regiment, was formed.
The significant role played by the Regiment of Artillery in safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the motherland throughout the terrorist conflict, and particularly during the recently-concluded humanitarian operations, is praiseworthy. The Artillery Regiment as a fully-fledged professional outfit up to this date has produced three Commanders of the Army.
During the occasion mementoes were presented to the President and Defence Secretary by Colonel Commandant Major General J.C. Rambukpotha. Two Ironwood saplings were also planted by the guests in the HQ premises.
A large number of distinguished guests including the Commander of the Army and senior military officers were present at the occasion.