Full Name 80 Crown Colony of Ceylon
Alliance Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Possessing Power United Kingdom
Entry into WW2 3 Sep 1939
Population in 1939 5,500,000


ww2dbaseIn 1505, Portuguese explorer Lourenço de Almeida discovered the island of Sri Lanka and named it Ceilão. Portuguese forces soon arrived to conquer and colonize the seven kingdoms on the island. In 1517, the city of Colombo was founded as the capital of the Portuguese colony, and the city was used in the same capacity by the Dutch and the British, the latter of which arrived in 1815. British Ceylon, the name having directly translated phonetically from the Portuguese Ceilão, was eventually made a Crown Colony. It was a major source of rubber for Britain. When Britain initially joined in the European War, Ceylon hosted a colonial force (the Ceylon Defence Force on land and the Ceylon Navy Volunteer Reserve at sea), British Royal Navy facilities at Trincomalee, and British Royal Air Force (RAF) airfield also at Trincomalee. In terms of fixed defensive weapons, Colombo had four coastal batteries and Trincomalee had five. In 1941, the RAF took over the civilian airfield at Ratmalana near Colombo to house additional fighter aircraft, while construction was started for new permanent and temporary airfields at various locations. In early 1942, when Japanese forces threatened Singapore, the Royal Navy East Indies Station's home base was moved to Colombo and later Trincomalee. The Ceylon Defence Force was expanded during the war to bolster defense; by the end of the war, it was at the size of 10 infantry battalions and 3 artillery battalions. Some Ceylonese joined the British Army, Royal Navy, and RAF and some of them saw service in Burma, Malaya, North Africa, and Italy, but they were recalled from the front lines after Ceylonese troops attempted a defection to the Japanese at the Cocos Islands between Ceylon and Australia. The Australian 7th Division and units of the 1st (African) Division would also be deployed to Ceylon. The only attack on the island took place in Apr 1942 during the Japanese carrier raid into the Indian Ocean during which shore facilities at Colombo and Trincomalee were damaged by carrier aircraft while a light carrier, two heavy cruisers, and other warships were sunk out to sea. The campaign created a minor panic among the Ceylonese civilians, many of whom fled to Indian by boat.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Ceylon was given Dominion status in 1948. In 1972, it gained independence from the United Kingdom, establishing the "Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic of Sri Lanka", which marked a return to the island's name as known in ancient Sanskrit texts.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia

Last Major Update: Jan 2013

Amerasekera, Rohan

Events Taken Place in Ceylon
Raids into the Indian Ocean31 Mar 1942 - 9 Apr 1942


Canadian-built CMP Field Artillery Tractor being unloaded from a troop ship in Colombo harbor, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Feb 1942.HMS Hermes sinking off Batticaloa, Ceylon, 9 Apr 1942HMS Hermes sinking off Ceylon, 9 Apr 1942; photo taken from a Japanese aircraftCaptain M. M. Denny welcoming Louis Mountbatten aboard HMS Victorious, Trincomalee, Ceylon, 1940s
See all 7 photographs of Ceylon in World War II

Ceylon in World War II Interactive Map

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Visitor Submitted Comments

17 Sep 2017 01:51:16 AM

one of my uncle have saved for British 2 W War time. how can I get his name from UK foreign Army saved for Uk list.
please help me to find it.
thank you
2. mohamed rafeek says:
28 Oct 2017 09:23:40 AM

Hi ,
My grandfather served uk military in the Second World War . Where can I find more information about him.
3. Jean Briggs says:
24 Jan 2018 08:04:22 PM

Looking for information about my Dad who served in the British Royal Navy in WW11. I think he was land based and was a Morse Code signaller. His name was Reginald (sometimes known as Reg or Reggie) John Wood, born November 9th 1923.
Thank you
4. Tricia Manktelow says:
24 Apr 2018 01:32:52 AM

My recently late father told me a story about a secret unit based in Trincomalee. They were taken by ship to a few miles from the Burmese / Malay coast then kayaked in to the land, I think it was information gathering. Can anyone shed anymore light on this action please?
5. Mike Jack says:
31 Jul 2018 06:42:16 AM

My late father Arthur Jack was based in Colombo Ceylon ww2. He was actively involved in the sailing club there. I think he was training on the Blenheim. Any info appreciated. Thanks
6. Beverley Hyslop says:
28 Oct 2018 11:36:31 AM

My Mum Ann Docherty was a Wren nurse with the Royal Navy. She was based in Ceylon at the end of the war and stayed on to nurse the wounded until they could be repatriated. She spoke of Trincomalee, Colombo and Kandy. Could anyone tell me where the navel hospital was based. Thank you.
7. Lakshika Roo says:
17 Nov 2018 11:45:39 PM

My birthplace is Kandy and I'd love to talk/interview people who worked there during the WWII. Please contact me with any details.
8. Sampath says:
22 Apr 2020 09:49:11 PM

Dear author
Lorenceo De Almeida would have discovered the island for him self but this island has a great civilizations for thousands of years. Almeida was a visitor to the Island
Thank you.
I am an Air Force Fighter pilot and serving as a Base Commander at present. So if anyone who has connection to RAF is interested please contact me.
9. Dickson says:
27 Sep 2020 12:01:22 PM

Has anyone heard of Mr & Mrs Simcox who was stationed in Kefala Ceylon Navy base around 1952
They may know Raymond & Beatrice Dickson...please contact by email.
10. Daphne Grinberg says:
21 Oct 2020 12:26:13 AM

My uncle, Eric Kildahl MUNROE sailed from London to Colombo on the SS Mooltan on 24 June 1938, age 25. I would like to know what happened to him after he reached Ceylon; I am led to believe he was attached to a U.S. unit during the Second World War.
11. Teresa Keegal says:
27 Jul 2021 10:09:46 AM

I am looking for information regarding Burgher volunteers who were sent to Burma. I believe my father in law was an engineer in Ceylon Defence Force - Richard Moire Isidore Keegel
12. Hugh says:
25 Jul 2022 05:46:47 PM

Would someone be able to tell me approximately how many British servicemen were stationed in Ceylon between 1941-45?
13. Anonymous says:
18 Sep 2022 06:05:31 AM

Is there a database for those soldiers from Ceylon who served in Kenya during the WW2 between 1943 and 1951? Trying to trace my grandfather who left after the war.
14. Paul says:
6 Oct 2022 01:02:28 PM

I do know my dad who was in the royal marine engineers was based in Ceylon in 1943.
15. jon wallsgrove says:
24 Nov 2023 12:06:50 PM

My father, Ted Wallsgrove, was based in Trincomalee from September 1946 to January 1947 on HMS Flying Fish. I believe he was clearing mines from around British and Japanese naval bases in the Indian Ocean - Addu Attol and the Andaman Islands. Does anyone have further information?

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Ceylon in World War II Photo Gallery
Canadian-built CMP Field Artillery Tractor being unloaded from a troop ship in Colombo harbor, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Feb 1942.
See all 7 photographs of Ceylon in World War II

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