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DateLine Sunday, 27 July 2008

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Tribute:

First Ceylonese Commander of the Army

One hundredth birth anniversary of the late Maj. General Anton Muttukumaru:

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. Muttukumaru.

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 War.

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 in Pakistan.

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 Inauguration Medal.

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 patriot!

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.

 

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