Royal's first Western Band RSM | Sunday Observer

Royal's first Western Band RSM

Viran Gunawardana joined the Western Cadet Band of Royal College when he was in grade 8, inspired by senior cadets who visited his classroom to recruit new members. Viran who had no idea of joining a cadet platoon found the inspiration from his father.

“My father is in the Navy. Therefore I had exposure to a military background” he said.

He was first chosen to play the trumpet though he never liked it. Two months later he started playing what he liked, Side Drums. “We practiced every Tuesday and Friday after school and every school holiday including Poya days” he said.

Back then there was no division between junior cadets and senior cadets and as a result Viran played with some super seniors. “When I started playing Side Drums I was first given pads to practise. I received a Side Drum to play only after six months” said Viran.

“Eventhough there are 200 odd Western Cadet bands in the island, only 70 to 80 bands are selected to Rantambe camps as most of the other bands fail to fulfil the requirements.” said Viran. Forming a cadet band and keeping it is the most difficult thing in cadeting. “It is really tough maintaining the standards.” As Cadet Band members, we have to play an instrument, other than following the general cadet curriculum. We go through weapon training, PT drills and all other activities just like other cadets. But we have to concentrate and master an instrument at the same time. It is a difficult task for the cadet and as well as the school to keep a cadet band” he added.

Rantambe is always a pleasant and proud experience in a cadet’s life. The Rantambe experience is instrumental to climb the ladder in cadeting. A cadet with one time experience in Rantambe is called as a ‘First year cadet’ and after completion of the second year; the cadet is recognised as a ‘Most senior cadet’. After that annually he or she will receive promotions as, Lance Corporal, First Lance Corporal and finally Sergeant after successful completion of Rantambe camp training each year.

A day at Rantambe is a mixed bag full of joy and discipline, one could say. Viran explained the difficulty he faced in waking up at 4 am at the camp in the early days. “We had to wake up by 4 am. It was really difficult in the beginning. But it was compulsory. As all of us targeted the trophy, we would do all what was expected from us. We all had to wake up at the same time, with no difference such as Senior or Junior. We go to wash in rounds, from the very juniors to seniors accordingly. Then, the whole day we have to participate in two or three activities, such as PT test, map reading” he said.

Viran is a remarkable cadet as he was the very first Regiment Sergeant Major (RSM), Royal College produced in the 40 year long history of its Western Cadet Band. “I became the Sergeant of our cadet band in 2016. That year we won all island first place in Rantambe too.”

Then Viran got an opportunity to represent Sri Lanka in 2017 at the Republic day of India in New Delhi. He and 11 other cadets participated there, where they all took part in a parade honouring Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Other than Sri Lanka, cadets from 14 other countries including Singapore, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Russia, Kazakasthan, Maldives joined this parade. “It was an unforgettable memory. I think it paved the way for me to get the RSM recognition” said Viran.

He also has created college history by becoming the first RSM from Royal College who won College colours in its 137 years of cadeting history.