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Sri Lanka Navy - History

Sri Lanka, situated in the middle of the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean, was always a magnet for sea farers. Invasion of this island by sea and Naval ambitions of Kings who ruled goes back as far as second century BC. Our Kings used to send expeditionary forces oversees to assist friendly Kings to overcome internal power struggles in their own Kingdoms as far back as ninth to tenth century.

In the twelfth century King Parakramabahu formed first Navy of this nation and utilized ships for battle against local opponents. He sent a purpose built fleet in a punitive raid to Myanmar. He with his appreciation of naval capability ventured to many shores across the the sea and even had troops don armour on board and effect a landing in hundreds of small boats with shields fitted and techniques of Amphibious warfare were mastered.

Rajasinghe II of Kandy, using mixed fleet of locally built and captured ships, harassed the Portuguese shipping between India and Ceylon. The control of Maritime Provinces by the Dutch and British finally denied the Kings access to the sea and Sri Lankan Sea power ended.

Naval activity in Ceylon, as this country was known till 1972, re-commenced only under British colonial rule, and in pursuance of the British Empire's global strategy and concerns. During the first of this century's two World Wars, German raiders had infiltrated the Indian Ocean and inflicted heavy losses on allied shipping. Hence, when it was apparent that a resurgent Germany would be a major threat, an Imperial Defence Conference in London, in 1932, promulgated a principle that each part of the Empire, whether Dominion, Colony or Protectorate, irrespective of whether it had been represented at the conference or not, had to assume a responsibility for and make its own contribution towards the defence of its territory and the Empire. In 1937 the Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force (CNVF) was established. After the World War II CNVF was absorbed into the Royal Navy as Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (CRNVR).

After independence from British rule, a nucleus of 100 Officers and Men prepared to form the Regular Navy gradually. On 9th December 1950 the Navy Act was enacted and Royal Ceylon Navy was formed.

With the end of the war, de-mobilization commenced. The CRNVR reverted to Ceylonese control and the wartime CO/CRNVR, Capt. W.G. Beauchamp VRD, CBE, stepped down. There was, however, a need to keep a number of persons under mobilization: from the British point of view, the Admiralty envisaged "the retention of small permanent forces in peacetime" and, from the Ceylonese point of view, the end of colonial status was near and a "Navy-in-waiting" was desirable. So was born the "Nucleus of the Navy", comprising 9 Officers and 91 Sailors, with Cdr. G.R.M. de Mel as CO/CRNVR.

A role had now to be fashioned for the Navy. Already, it had accepted the role of "Aid to Civil Power", the security of the Port of Colombo, Anti-smuggling and Anti-illicit Immigration Patrols.

Armed with a Blue Water capability, a cruise of two ships to the Far East was considered. Government agreed and Mahasena and Parakrama sailed on a goodwill mission, calling at Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Port Swettenham (presently Port Klang), Penang and Tokyo.

The damage caused by Cyclone "Emly" was put right quicker by the Navy than anyone else. Assistance was given to Hospitals, Security Services, off-shore islands, merchant vessels carrying emergency supplies in unfamiliar waters, transport of medical supplies and fuel on Gajabahu, salvage of government ships run aground and ferrying administrative service officers to flood ravaged areas were some of them. In both routine and emergency situations, the Navy was the force of choice, but this was not enough.

In 1972, with the introduction of new constitution Royal Ceylon Navy was renamed as the Sri Lanka Navy.

Sri Lanka experienced the effects of irregular warfare in the maritime domain and learned bitter lessons. The Sri Lanka Navy evolved with the threat, to overtake and overwhelm it, by a radical change in its inventory, attitude, the way it trained and the way it fought. This experience brought to light the ?Achilles heel? of maritime forces when forced to fight in the littorals and the loopholes in maritime law, when faced with the threat posed by non state actors operating in the high seas as well. Sri Lanka Navy personnel gallantly performed their duty towards the nation during insurgency and to eradicate terrorism within shores of Sri Lanka in 2009. The significant contribution being the destruction of ten of Terrorist ships laden with warlike materials apart of many battles fought at sea, which paved ultimate success of Security forces of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Navy celebrated its 60th Anniversary on 09 December 2010 with a wide array of religious and social functions conducted to mark the historical occasion. Navy Commanders and representatives of 21 navies arrived in Sri Lanka to participate in the historic occasion. Eight war ships from China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Thailand and Russia [neither the UK nor the US sent ships] arrived in the island to take part in the celebrations. With their gracious presence they extended their solidarity to His Excellency?s concept in restoring the Sri Lanka?s former glory on the Silk Route, which was once a coveted sea route of exponential commercial value for trading nations.

In view of Sri Lanka Navy's 60th Anniversary, religious ceremonies were held at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy 14 December 2010 with the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, senior Naval Officers, sailors and their family members in attendance. Arriving at the sacred city of Kandy, Commander of the Navy called on the Mahanayakas of the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters. Thereafter, he proceeded to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic to attend to the religious ceremonies.

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Page last modified: 05-05-2012 19:19:05 ZULU