First Ceylonese Commander of the Army
One hundredth birth anniversary of the late Maj. General Anton
Maj. General Anton Marian Muttukumaru’s one hundredth birth
anniversary fell on July 6. He passed away on January 15, 2001 at the
age of 92 in Canberra, Australia, leaving his wife Peggy and his three
sons. He was the second son of the late Dr. Philip Muttukumaru and Mrs.
He was educated at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and Jesus College,
Oxford where he received his graduation in Philosophy, Politics and
Economics. Subsequently he read for his Barrister at Law degree at
Gray’s Inn UK and was called to the English Bar. On his return to Ceylon
(Sri Lanka) he practised as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon.
Major General A. M. Muttukumaru OBE ED ADC idc DLITT
In 1934 he joined the Ceylon Defence Force as a Volunteer Officer and
was commissioned in the Ceylon Light infantry on September 11, 1934. He
was mobilised during the Second World War (1939 - 1945). He was promoted
Captain on 29 November 1940 and Major in 1942.
On 1st November 1943 he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and appointed
Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion CLI in which appointment he continued
to serve until the general demobilisation which took place after the
His battalion was carrying out garrison duty in Trincomalee and was
also assigned guard duty at headquarters South East Asia Command (HQ
SEAC), during the time that Lord Louis Mountbatten had his Head Quarters
in Kandy. After the war he reverted to the Bar where he appeared for the
Attorney General, in a variety of cases.
He commanded the Ceylon contingent, which was sent to take part in
the Victory parade in London in 1946.
In 1948 he gave up the Bar, in order to function as Officer in Charge
of Administration in the Ceylon Defence Force HQ where he assisted in
the initial plans for the formation of the Ceylon Army and his being
awarded the most excellent order of the British Empire is believed to be
in this connection.
With the raising of the Ceylon Army on 10 October 1949 he was
commissioned into the Regular Force in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel
and appointed the Army’s first chief of staff, in which capacity he
served until 1, January 1954.
In 1952 and 1953 Lieutenant Colonel Muttukumaru commanded the Ceylon
contingents which officiated, respectively, at the funeral of the late
King George VI and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second.
On 1 January 1954 Lieutenant Colonel Muttukumaru was promoted to the
rank of Colonel and appointed Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion
Ceylon Light Infantry and OC Troops, Panagoda.
On 19 July 1954 he was appointed military Aide-de-Camp to her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth the Second who was Queen of Ceylon and Head of the
Commonwealth. Colonel A. M. Muttukumaru, OBE, ED, ADC,idc relinquished
Command of 1 CLI on 8 February 1955.
He was promoted to the rank of Brigadier on 9th February 1955 and
appointed the first Ceylonese Commander of the Army. When the Government
decided to elevate service Commanders to two Star rank Brigadier
Muttukumaru was the first Army Officer to be promoted to the rank of
Major General on 1 January 1958.
Major General A.M. Muttukumaru relinquished command of the Army on 31
December 1959. Before his retirement the then Prime Minister, the late
Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike requested him to continue in service as he
was only 51 years of age, but he declined to continue in service as he
thought his colleague and contemporary Brigadier Wijeyekoon was fit to
take over command. On retirement he was appointed Ambassador for Ceylon
He also served as High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand and
later Ambassador to Egypt and had concurrent accreditation as Ambassador
to Yugoslavia, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Jordan and Lebanon totalling nine
years in diplomatic service.
After retirement from Government service in 1969 he was involved in
Public Affairs, International Relations, Ex Servicemen’s affairs on
documenting the military history of Ceylon. He had the honour of being
the first person to author a book on the Military history of Ceylon.
This book “The Military History of Ceylon - an Outline” was published
in the year 1987 had its foreword written by the then President of the
Republic of Sri Lanka, J. R. Jayawardene.
At the age of 88 years he was awarded an ‘Honourable Doctorate of
Letters’ by the General Sir John Kotelawela Defence Academy at its
convocation in 1996 for his contributions to the build up of the Army
and for being the first to publish a short history of the Army.
When the drafts of the history of the Sri Lanka Army pertaining to
his period was sent to him, at the age of 90 he went through it and even
made amendments and was touched for being consulted. In the year 1999 he
arrived in Sri Lanka on the invitation of the Commander of the Army to
witness the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Army.
When the Ceylon Army was raised in 1949 he was one of the first three
Lieutenant Colonels to be commissioned into the fledgling organisation
and had the privilege of holding the first number assigned to officers -
O/50001. After the arrival of the first Commander of the Ceylon Army,
the Earl of Caithness, Brigadier Roderick Sinclair, DSO, he was
appointed Chief of Staff at Army Headquarters.
At the outset Lieutenant Colonel Muttukumaru had two major
responsibilities in hand; firstly, the drafting of the Army Act with the
assistance of the Legal Draughtsman, a job assigned solely because of
his legal background; and secondly, making arrangements to provide the
required accommodation for the new Army.
He was one of the pioneers who was involved in the construction of
the Army cantonment at Panagoda. During his tenure as Chief of Staff of
Army Headquarters, he was sent overseas for training and followed a
course in the Senior Officers School, and was subsequently attached to
British Army units and formations in West Germany with the culmination
of an attachment to the Headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).
During his attachment he met with senior Generals of the BAOR and
discussed his plans to have an Armoured Corps in the Ceylon Army. During
Colonel Muttukumaru’s tenure of command two important events in the
history of the CLI took place namely the presentation of Queen’s and
Regimental Colours to 1st Regular and 2nd Volunteer Battalions, and the
trooping of colours of the 1st Battalion CLI at a very impressive
ceremony on 6th October 1954 at the Police Park, Bambalapitiya.
In 1954 the first ever field exercise in the Ceylon Army, ‘Ex TYRO’
was conducted in the deep south at Ranna and the entire Battalion took
part under Colonel Muttukumaru’s command. During his tenure of office as
Chief of Staff of Army Headquarters he always had the concept of having
an Army with all arms, but the raising of the Armoured Corps did not
become a reality in the first five years.
However, as Commanding Officer of 1 CLI he was able to persuade the
then Army Commander Brigadier Sir Francis Reid CBE to initiate the
raising of the Armoured Corps in 1955.
In the same year Colonel Muttukumaru was selected to follow the
prestigious “Imperial Defence College” course in the United Kingdom.
(This is the equivalent of the present Royal College of Defence Studies
course.) Whilst he was following the course, Brigadier Reid relinquished
the post of Army Commander and Colonel Wijeyekoon the Chief of Staff at
Army Headquarters was appointed Acting Commander of the Army.
Colonel Muttukumaru was promoted Brigadier and permitted to continue
in the course. In January 1956 he arrived in Ceylon and took over
command of the Ceylon Army at the age of 47 years.
On assuming command he issued a statement setting out his vision for
the Sri Lanka Army under his command where he stated thus “I am fully
alive to the magnitude of the responsibilities that accompany this take
over. I am confident, however, that the burden of these responsibilities
will be made so much lighter as a result of the loyalty and co-operation
of all ranks.”
Raising of training schools for the armoured, artillery and engineer
units; Elevating the status of the Army Recruit Training Depot at
Diyatalawa to the level of the Army Training Centre.
Raising of a new Infantry Battalion, the 1st Battalion the Ceylon
Sinha Regiment and elevating all regular units to regimental strength
and all commanding officers were promoted Lieutenant Colonels;
Introduced the appointment of Commandant Ceylon Volunteer Force and
appointed Colonel Wijeyekoon as its Commandant which was a step forward
in building up the Volunteer Force as envisaged in the Army Act;
Delegation of command through regional commands was his brainchild,
however the approval of the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs was
received much later, after he relinquished command were some of the
achievements during his tenure of command.
In recognition of the valuable services rendered by him he was
awarded with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the
Efficiency Decoration, the War Medal (1939-1945), the Defence Medal, the
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal - 1953, the Ceylon Armed Services
St. Josephs’s Chapel, the Chapel of his Alma Mater, surrounded by the
beauty of stained glass and flowers, which he so loved and a wreath
depicting the insignia of his regiment,the 1st Battalion CLI which he
once commanded, taking pride of place at the altar set the backdrop
against which the magnificence of the service, which epitomized the very
essence of the man himself was conducted, presided over by his grace the
Archbishop of Colombo the Most Rev. Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando.
The Chapel was packed to capacity with Army personnel, splendidly
turned out in silent homage to a beloved Commander, attended by the
Commander and almost all the surviving past Army Commanders, the right
Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando, Bishop of Chilaw, members of the
diplomatic corps headed by H. E. Linda Duffield, the High Commissioner
for Great Britain, priests and students of St. Joseph’s College, priests
from other communities and a host of other who had called him ‘friend’,
members of his family and last but by no mens least, a host of grateful
domestics who had served him well.
In addition to all his decorations in the Army and the diplomatic
corps Maj. Gen. Muttukumaru also had an innate love for music - that was
beautifully reflected in the ‘Ave Maria’ composed by him and dedicated
to His Holiness Pope Paul VI, sung by Tharanga Gunathilleke in his “Ode
to Anzac” played by the Army band was indeed a fitting finale to a true
This great Solider, Lawyer, Diplomat, Historian and Composer passed
away January 15, 2001 at the age of 92 in Canberra leaving his beloved
wife Mrs. Peggy Muttukumaru. His character and career is a fitting
example of a true military leader from which any serving officer in the
Sri Lanka Army should endeavour to emulate.