The Boys from Ceylon

Suren Ratwatte
2 min readAug 4, 2023

The story of the boys (and one young woman) from the small island of Ceylon (called Sri Lanka today) who left a tropical paradise to fight for King and Empire during the Great War.

Join me, Suren Ratwatte, and my friend Alexandra McKinnon, as we talk about their adventures, sacrifices and try to discern why they made this perilous journey.

My motivation is very personal; my grandfather and three of his friends were among the first non-British residents of Ceylon to volunteer. The contingents that preceded them were almost exclusively British, including the Ceylon Planter’s Rifle Corps (CPRC) who had served during the Boer war as well.

Alex, who is a historian herself (M.Phil from ANU), spent sometime with the Canadian war memorials in France. Her interest also stems from the fact that ancestors served with both the ANZACs and Canadian forces.

We both visited the Somme earlier this year with a raucous group of friends and family. It was an enjoyable though poignant visit, which we hope to repeat soon.

Thiepval memorial where so many of the Ceylonese are remembered. Pic by SR

The video above shows a group of young Ceylonese whose ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean and they were journeying to ‘join up’. Despite many being drowned, the survivors continued to London.

Do join us as we discuss the many peculiarities of Ceylon’s involvement and try to understand why it is almost forgotten in present day Sri Lanka.

We will be live on Sunday August 13th 10am Melbourne time; which is 8pm Saturday 5th August on the east coast of the USA, 5pm on the west coast and Sunday 13th 1am (yuck!) in the UK.

#Medium Day #Somme #WW1



Suren Ratwatte

I love airplanes and history. Trying to combine both interests in this blog, with stories of the old aircraft and the recollections of those who flew them.