History

4

It is not exactly known as to when Diyatalawa became a training station for troops, but available records show that it was selected around 1885, when the British Army first established a garrison at Diyatalawa. At that time training was conducted at the Imperial Camp which is presently occupied by the Gemunu Watch troops. In 1900, the British War Office constructed a concentration camp in Diyatalawa to house Boer prisoners captured in the Second Boer War. Initially constructed to house 2500 prisoners and 1000 guards and staff, the number of prisoners increased to 5000. During World War I an internment camp for enemy aliens was set up.

Early in World War II the camp was reopened and German nationals resident in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as many sailors, like those removed from the Asama Maru in violation of international law, were housed here. Also imprisoned were Buddhist monks of German extraction like Nyanaponika and Govinda Anagarika who had acquired British citizenship. In June 1941 most of the sailors were transferred to Canada. The section for Germans was sensibly divided in a pro- and anti-Nazi wing. There was also a section set up to house Italian POWs. After the Japanese started bombing the island, inmates were on 23 February 1942 transferred to camps on the mainland. Males usually went to Dehradun.Officer training was also carried out here during the war.

The Royal Navy had a holiday station; HMS Uva was situated at Diyatalawa with recreational facilities; this was later taken over by the Royal Ceylon Navy in 1956, commissioning it as HMCYS Rangalla and established its training center there. The had to move out in 1962 and it was taken over by the Gemunu Watch.

After Sri Lanka gained its independence in 1948, all military facilities were taken over by the Sri Lanka army and navy. In 1952 the Royal Ceylon Air Force established SLAF Diyatalawa.