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Sri Lankan veterans march with Anzacs in solemn turnout at Brookfield

Posted April 25, 2021

Sixteen Sri Lankan ex-servicemen marched alongside their Anzac mates at the RSL Kenmore/Moggill branch’s Anzac Day ceremony at Brookfield showgrounds on Sunday.

According to organisers, more than 8000 people attended the service. Admiral Travis Sinniah (Retired), the 21st Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, laid a wreath at the war memorial on behalf of the Sri Lankan military personnel.

The day included a T20 cricket match and food stalls.

Sri Lanka has historical ties with the Anzacs, as 105 years ago a contingent of Ceylonese soldiers stood shoulder to soldier with the Allies at Gallipoli.

In the publication 100 years since Gallipoli: Ceylon’s role remembered , it is noted that the first Sri Lankan contingent to head overseas during World War I was the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, a volunteer regiment from Kandy made up of tea and rubber planters. In the autumn of 1914, eight officers and 221 soldiers sailed to Egypt.

In April 1915, between 80 and 130 troops from the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps were attached to the 1st ANZAC Corps as a bodyguard and escort to the Corps commander, Lieutenant General William Birdwood. The Planters landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula between April 25-May 1, 1915, at the Ari Burnu beachhead, later known as Anzac Cove. They stayed there throughout the near ninth-month campaign, which cost more than 100,000 Allied dead and a further 100,000 wounded – until the beachhead was evacuated in November 1915.

The Ceylonese Planters famously became known as the Tea Leaves. Of the 71 assisting the general only 10 remained. The contingent sustained heavy losses, with 80 believed to have been killed and 99 wounded. In total, around 2000 volunteers from the Ceylon Defence Force are estimated to have served with the Imperial and Allied forces. The names of the 442 who died are recorded on the war memorial outside the public library in Colombo.

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