The same year as Mr. D. G. Welikala became the Principal of Richmond in 1962, junior Cadetting was reintroduced and a hurriedly formed cadet Platoon under Mr. Lawrence Benedict Peiris as the Master-in-Charge was sent to the Herman Loos (All Island) Competetion Camp at Diyatalawa in 1963 as a probationary platoon more as a familiarising exercise. It was because of Mr. Welikala’s influence that Richmond managed to form a platoon within short period of time. Although hurriedly formed it is to the credit of Capt. E. ‘Eshin’ C. Fernando, the Adjutant of the 1st Battalion at the time and Sgt. Hewawissa of the Singha Regiment, that the platoon did well at Diyatalawa although the platoon was not considered a regular platoon for that years competition and we were led by cadet Sgt. Moonesinghe a protégé of Mr. Welikala and who had done Cadetting at Malaiyadewa College, Kurunegala and now a Richmondite. Richmond had to wait another year before a regular platoon could participate in the Annual Camp at Diyatalawa.
Capt. Fernando was the adjutant of the CCC 1st Battalion to which Richmond cadetts belonged during that period. He was a sportsman and helped in introducing Rugby for the first time in 1965 and also helped in Cricket for a while. His father was a teacher many years ago at Richmond and also the cadet master. Some of his sibling studied at Richmond then at Trinity. These nostalgic connections may have driven Capt. Fernando to go out of his way for Richmond’s sake.
Mr. Peiris managed to keep the boys in check with his imposing figure although he had a permanent smile on his face. Unfortunately due to a directive from the then government which directed the Principal to remove him from being in charge of Cadetting for the simple ‘sin’ that he was not a Buddhist. This was the time that Politics was creeping into the education sector and schools, in the guise of Nationalism .
Mr. S. H. Mathusena took over the Junior Platoon from Mr. Peiris. The following year a regular platoon went to Diyatalawa under his care and they did extremely well missing the Championship to Mahinda by just one point. The food contractor Mr. Kodagoda, who supplied food to Diyatalawa was an old Richmondite and he was so elated by the performance of the Richmondites, he arranged a sumptuous dinner on his own account for the junior platoon to partake during their long journey to Galle. This act of his for his Alma mater was not taken in good spirit by some schools and by their teacher/officers because others had to supply their own meals.
The Richmond cadets joined the cadet contingent during the 1965 Independence Celebrations held in Galle sandwiched between the Ceylon Army contingent and the Police contingent, Richmond got the honour of leading the cadet Corps. After the 1971 insurgency Cadetting was scaled down from strict military training to more of a Police corps. The training camp is no more held in Diyatalawa and now has been moved to Rantambe.
Senior Cadetting re-started in 1965 with Capt. M. F. E. Samaranayake joining the Richmond staff and senior Cadetting got a boost. Richmond was proud to have Capt. Samaranayake as Mahinda the rival school had a Captain on her staff – Capt. Jayatilake (later became a Colonel) a long-standing cadet master of repute. Capt. M. F. E. Samaranayake was mobilised during the insurgency of 1971.
Lt. H. A. S. Nanayakkara, an old boy of Mahinda College and a Junior Cadet did a yeomen service to Cadetting and during his time Richmond won the Junior Battalion Championship and came second in the All Island Championship missing the first place by a very small margin. The others who contributed to the cadet platoon were Lt. Col. O. P. Nanayakkara an old boy, Lt. Col. Shanthasiri an old boy who joined the staff and was the Acting Principal, Mr. Malalgoda, Mr. S. R. de Silva and Mr. Piyasena Kariyawasam and during their time Richmond carried away the Senior Platoon Championship.
There were several Army Officers who helped Richmond Cadetting when it was revived in the sixties although they were not part and parcel of the College except they occupied a building provided by the college for the use of the CCC – 1st Battalion. Yet they gave their time, energy and valuable advice that helped the revival of Cadetting at Richmond. It will be a failure of duty if they are not remembered today.
It is to the credit of Capt. Eshin Chandraguptha Fernando popularly known in the military circles as Capt. Eshin Fernando, the Adjutant of the 1st Battalion at the time and Sgt. Hewawissa of the Ceylon Army, that the platoon did well at Diyatalawa although the platoon was not considered a regular platoon for that year’s competition and Richmond was led by cadet Sgt. Moonesinghe a protégé of Mr. Welikala and who had done Cadetting at Malaiyadewa College, Kurunegala and by then a Richmondite. Richmond had to wait another year before a regular platoon could participate in the Annual Camp at Diyatalawa. Capt. Fernando saw to it that Richmond cadets were given some extra training by getting down RSM’s, Sergeants and the like who were good at squad drill and commanding to train the platoon. If not for that training and efforts Richmond would not have come second on the very first outing at Diyatalawa.
During his time with the 1st Battalion Capt. Fernando had to face an unfortunate incident that was to affect his military career in later years. In 1965 when he was going home/boarding in his Humber “Hawk” car, seeing Mr. Ariyadasa de Silva going down the hill, offered a lift to Galle Town. Although Mr. Ariyadasa was on his way to attend a political meeting of the LSSP (he was an active member of the LSSP) at the YMBA which he never disclosed to Capt. Fernando. Seeing Capt. Fernando dropping Mr. Silva off at the YMBA, someone ‘blew the whistle’ and Capt. Fernando was penalised by being sent on compulsory leave although he was an innocent man. This unfortunate incident disrupted Cadetting, Rugby and Hockey at Richmond for a while. However he was cleared of any wrong doings and was reinstated later on and left the Army as a Major.
Capt. Fernando’s father the late District Judge T. C. P. Fernando was first educated at Richmond. Before becoming a Judge he was on the staff and was the Cadet Master holding the rank of Lieutenant in 1920’s. He was a scout master as well in 1918. This could be the reason that he paid Richmond, extra attention and helped the college going out of his way in Cricket, Hockey and Cadetting. Major. Fernando’s younger brother Maj. Gen. Lalin Fernando (rtd) was also at Richmond in mid 1940’s and then moved on to Trinity.
Capt. Fernando later Major, was the Adjutant of the 1st Battalion to which Richmond cadets belonged. He was a sportsman and helped in introducing Rugby and Hockey for the first time in 1963 and also helped in Cricket for a while. He was a person ever ready to help anyone and at times went out of his way to lend a hand but never gave a quarter or took a quarter from anyone. In 1988 he died of a massive heart attack. Major Fernando will be remembered by all.
Capt. Gerald H. de Silva better known as General Gerry de Silva RWP VSV USP (rtd) the former Commander of Sri Lanka Army took over the 1st Battalion with Capt. Fernando’s departure. One of the last Sandhurst Hill trained officers, he was a strongly built, smart and a pleasant officer, and helped the cadet platoon immensely as well as the Rugby team as its Coach and in Swimming too. He too would be remembered with much gratitude for all what he did for Richmond. All the Adjutants of the 1st Battalion had their office at Richmond premises as it was the 1st Battalion Headquarters until it was moved out after the 1971 insurgency.
When Gen. Gerry de Silva went on transfer, the next Adjutant to take over was Capt. Sarath Wijesinghe, an old Mahindian, who brought some feminine touch to the cadet Office although at a personal level. He passed away some years back in Australia where he took up residency in early 70’s.
Mr. Welikala constructed an armoury next to the Library and it had office space as well which was used by the army personnel from the regular army. After the 1971 JVP insurgency the 1st Battalion headquarters was moved out of the college as well as the armoury, as a precautionary measure.
Mr. Rajapakse the father of an old boy Michael who is today a Seventh Day Adventist Minister in Maldives, too would come to the College and helped the boys with their Cadetting. He was serving the regular Army then.