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History of the Sri Lanka Signal Corps

INTRODUCTION

The Ceylon Signal Corps was inaugurated on that memorable day 19 October 1943 as part of the Ceylon Defense Force (CDF). It would be interesting to note that prior to the formation of the Ceylon Signal Corps, communication tasks were carried out by a Signal Company,which was formed as a part of the Field Engineer Regiment.This evolution is very similar to that our British counterpart, to whom we were affiliated. The Royal Corps of Signals was originally a Company of the Royal Engineers, it become a separate Corps in 1920, after the First World War.

HISTORY OF PRE WORLD WAR II ERA

Although the Corps of Signal was inaugurated on 19 October 1943, but its history dates back to the era of the First World War. During the time of the British rulers, and before World War II the first Signal Company was formed under the Ceylon Engineers. Most of the officers and ORs were foreigners. Therefore it is very interesting to explore the evolution of Signals from the inception to date. At the early stages the only means of communication were flags, lamps, heliographs and dispatch riders. (As a matter of interest about how Signal Company was functioned and the equipment available during the early stage, a dispatch rider had to own his own motorcycle, the heliograph was an instrument used during the Boer War. Wireless communication was not existed then and only flags and lamps were used).

At the outbreak of hostilities of World War II, the entire Signal Company was mobilized and sent to Trincomalee keeping very small detachment in Colombo to provide a wireless link. In the next two years the Signal Company expanded rapidly to meet the growing communication demands. An additional Signal Company was formed in 1941 and the first ever Other Ranks Sergent C R De Silva from Ceylon Signal Company was elevated to commissioned status. In March 1942 three more Sergents were received their commission as Second Lieutenant one of them is the Father of Signals, late Colonel D V Brohier.

During the World War II and after the falls of Singapore, Sri Lanka became a place of vital strategic importance. The allied forces had established the Army Command at Colombo and Signal Corps HQ at Campbell Park. British and other allied troops began pouring in to the Island. The vital importance of Signals had by now become evident and in a short time a notification in the government gazette announced the formation of the Ceylon Signal Corps as form 19th October 1943. Form the inception the Ceylon Signal Corps during the Colonial era, two Signal companies were formed; Major C R De Silva commanded No 1 Company and Major W M Fernando commanded No 3 Company and the first even adjutant of the Corps was Capt D V Brohier. Towards the end of 1944 two more additional companies were formed. During this stage Ceylon Signal Corps troops had the opportunity to work in close co-operation with the Royal Corps of Signals in providing communication over the whole of the Island. After the cessation of hostilities in Europe in May 1945, a gradual repatriation of British officers and men commenced and by August 1945 most of the British personnel had gone back to their country. At the end of August 1946 Corps HQ, which was stationed at Campbell Park, was also closed down.

During early 1947 under reorganization of the Ceylon Defence Force, the Ceylon Signal Corps (Vol) was inaugurated and Major V C Kelcurt was appointed as CO. When the Sri Lanka Army was formed in 1949. Lt Col C R De Silva commanded the volunteer Signal Unit. But this was disbanded in 1962 and a new Volunteer Squadron was raised in 1980.

FORMATION OF THE SIGNAL REGIMENT AND VOLUNTEER SIGNAL SQUADRONS

With the growth of the Army the need for more elaborate communication systems become very obvious. The meagerL resources of No.1 squadron could not cope with these communication requirements. Consequently in 1958 the 1st Signal Regiment C.S.C. was formed and late Lt Col D V Brohier was appointed as first Commanding Officer. The Regiment consisted of two squadrons. No 1 Squadron; being the operational squadron was geared to provide communications and HQ Squadron provide administrative support to the operational squadron. The Regiment found its home in the newly built Army Cantonment at Panagoda. Since its formation the Signal Regiment grew from strength to strength to cater to the ever-increasing requirements in communication. In the early stages, radio communication took precedence over line communication and the old wartime sets were replaced by the C II and specialized communication vehicles such as the Thames Martin Harper fitted for radio, were used extensively. In keeping with this trend, more flexible radio communication systems using radio sets with greater technical efficiency such as the SSB Transceivers were used.

The organization of the Regiment faced another change in 1964 with the addition of a Training Wing. The Training Wing was responsible for carrying out research into various aspects in communication and for conducting Signal Trade training of Unit personnel and Signal Training of all Arms in the Army.

This organization provides adequate and in fact formed the foundation on which the present organization of the Regiment stands today. However, certain factors necessitated changes. There were two basic factors. The first was the growth of the Army and the resultant demand on communication. The second was the provision of communication for special operations. The 1971 insurrection highlighted the need for a change in the organization of the Regiment. During this period our resources were stretched to near breaking point. Consequently, in 1972 the Army's entire communication systems were reorganized and reoriented to suit as many operational requirements as possible. More and more sophisticated communication equipment was needed and obtained to fulfill as many contingencies. This resulted in a change in the organization of the Regiment with the formation of No.1 Squadron, No. 2 Squadron, HQ Squadron and Training Squadron. The training Squadron was subsequently elevated to the status of School of Signals on 01 Jan 1992. In February 1980 two volunteer Signal Squadrons were raised which were organic to the parent Regiment. The volunteer Signal personnel served well to assist in numerous communication commitments given to the regular Regiment. This organization proved very effective until the time of commencement of the offensive action against the security forces by the Northern terrorists in 1983. Having ascertained the communication capability of the Northern terrorists, it was necessary to protect our own communication systems. This resulted in the purchase of varied quantities of communication security equipment. Communications commitments, increased rapidly from 1983 due to the buildup of the Army. Prior to the increased operations in the North many teeth arm units in the Army received for the first time, communication equipment, which has organic to them.

FORMATION OF THE SIGNAL BRIGADE AND AFFILIATED ORGANIZATIONS

On the successful completion of the Northern operations and subsequent signing of the peace accord in 1987, the Army went through another change in its organization. The Army in general was organized into two divisions with the requisite number of Brigades under command to them. To conform to these changes the Signal Organization was also changed with the approval to raise two Div Signal Regimentals together with the respective Brigade Signal Squadrons, as independent School of Signals, a signal workshop Squadron and an independent Squadron for Army HQ.

After raising of 3 SLSC on 09 Mar 1988 to cater to communication requirements in the Northern sector, approval was granted to establish the Directorate of Signal and Signal Brigade on 04 Apr 1988. Subsequently to meet growing communication requirements of the Sri Lanka Army another classic regular regiment, 4 SLSC was raised on 05 June, 1991 in Kandy to cater to communication requirements in the Eastern sector. During the same year the Corps of Signals were further developed and expanded by raising the much - needed Electronic Data Processing Unit to fulfill the Army office automation and IT requirements under the Signal Brigade on 23 Aug 1991. Apart from these technical units the Corps of Signals had the privilege to from 02 x Reinforcement Unit (RFT) to support Infantry duties in the Sri Lanka Army on 02 Jan 1994 5 SLSC and 10 Jan 1997 6 SLSC respectively. To further strengthen and organized the Signal Regiment for better service for repairs and maintenance of communication equipments Work Shop Squadron was elevated as Unit on 13 Aug 2000. In addition, Electronic Warfare Squadron (EW) has been proposed to be elevated to an Unit.