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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 863

The Golden Jubilee Celebrations Of The First Battalion The Gemunu Watch

By Brigadier [retd] Hiran N. Halangode RWP RSP USP USACGSC

The 50th anniversary of the First Battalion the Gemunu Watch will be commemorated on Brigadier_Hiran.jpg7th December 2012 at Diyatalawa. This article is published in order that a record of the history of the battalion is preserved for posterity, mainly for those who served are presently serving and for those who are to serve.

They will have a record of our proud, glorious and eventful past of generous and unforgettable comradeship, loyal and faithful service to the nation, unquestioning sacrifice and enduring struggle, eventual victory and the joy and happiness that has returned to our beloved country.

"Take pride in to-day’s accomplishments, for they lead to tomorrow’s success."

Gemunu_Watch.jpgThis record may not include every detail of events that took place in the past 50 years but is mainly a summarized account of the operations, training, ceremonials, sports, religious and miscellaneous events that took place during what became tumultuous 50 years of sacrifice, honour and dedicated service to the country.

The Battalion has a unique and unenviable record of setting a high standard of professionalism and patriotic service unparalleled in the history of the Ceylon and later Army of Sri Lanka. The Battalion true to its motto “Tarry not Forward” set the highest standards and traditions of military professionalism in the Gemunu Watch which at one time had had a total of 27 battalions. It stands steadfast, sure, proud and tall amongst all the Regiments and Corps of the Army of Sri Lanka.

The Gemunu Watch was the first Regiment of the Army to be named after a king of Lanka, the most famous and heroic Dutu Gemunu. The Regimental flag bears the lineage to our ancient past. It also was the first to wear a red hackle on its beret and wear regimental numerals in Sinhala.

The Battalion began its operational deployments in Mannar on TaFII duties just over one year after it’s raising in 1962 and at the commencement of the ’71 JVP uprising it was the first into the fray to be deployed in Wellawaya. It began its deployment on COIN Operations in the North in 1980 and continued to serve in the North and East till the conflict ended in 2009[a total of 30 years]. During the hiatus of the IPKF involvement it was deployed in Hambantota, Moneragala and Ampara during the second JVP uprising in 1987 – 1989.

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The battalion provided 2 officers for UNIPOM [United Nations India/Pakistan Observer Mission] duties from October 1965 to March 1966.The Battalion contributed 92 all ranks to the 800 strong Gemunu Watch UN peacekeeping contingent of the Army of Sri Lanka, sent to Haiti in 2002 and has continued with that practice till the present.

In training it had the honour of being the first and only Regiment to have marched through jungle from Haputale to Ridiyagama[71 miles]in 1964. Between 1964 and 1965 all companies of the Battalion marched through the South Zone jungles from Haputale to Ridiyagama, a feat unequalled to date by any other Regiment of the army. The march took 5 days. The Battalion provided the demonstration and training platoons to the ATC, SLMA and the NRTS in Diyatalawa on a regular basis and instructors for officer cadet and Capt to Major courses and umpires for COIN and Other Rank commissioning exercises on an ad hoc basis from its inception.

The Battalion together with its two volunteer battalions was conferred with President’s and Regimental Colours at Galle in 1980 and was re-awarded Colours in at Kuruwita in 2012 by HE the President of Sri Lanka in recognition of their sacrifice and distinguished service to the motherland.

The Battalion records with great sorrow the sad loss of 20 officers and 317 other ranks killed in action and 10 officers and 193 other ranks amongst a total of 1174 wounded in action partially or permanently disabled during the period under review, who sacrificed their lives on operational duty to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

Finally we record with deep gratitude and treasured memory our founding father late
Brigadier [retd] J.F.Halangode VSV and the pioneering batch of officers and men who set the highest professional standards for the First Battalion the Gemunu Watch to achieve an excellent record of service in all its endeavours during the past 50 years. The First Battalion the Gemunu Watch is confident that the heroic sacrifices and the brave, honorable and selfless deeds will set the standards and inspire the serving and future generations of the men of Gemunu to attain even greater heights in the highest traditions of the profession of arms.

- Asian Tribune -

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