20 MARCH 1942, Page 6



THE appointment of Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton as Com- mander-in-Chief, Ceylon, with full power over the civil authorities, is significant evidence of the seriousness of the threat to this self-governing Crown Colony. Should the threat materialise, and the " last of the islands " have to meet the

invader, it will be a fight in which Dutch, Portuguese, and British blood and tradition, epitomising four hundred years of European enterprise and effort, will stand as one force. This force will be in full and warm accord with the Sinhalese nation, the settled Ceylon Tamils, the Indians, the Moors and the Malays who, together, not only represent the island's own long and heroic story, but form a token of tomorrow to India and the peoples who dwell on the outer shores of the surrounding ocean. For, of all islands in the East, Ceylon is, I think, the most remarkable for what she is, and for what she symbolises. A small country, yes—no larger than Ireland, and with only five million people ; but the people are not South Sea Islanders, and the island is, in a strange way, a crystal held to the whole of Southern Asia.

Ceylon has rubber, and we know what that means today after the eclipse of Malaya and the Dutch eastern empire. Hers is obviously a vital strategic position in the Indian Ocean. She is now the last stepping-stone between the Middle East and the Antipodes. For the enemy, the island would be an ideal platform for an attack on India. Trincomalee, our naval base in Ceylon, a beautifully sheltered double harbour looking across to Burma, was the western leg in our eastern tripod of defence: Trin- comalee—Singapore—Hong Kong. Now that Singapore and Hong Kong are lost, Trincomalee becomes the most southerly rampart in the defence of the Middle East and India. With Colombo, it forms the headquarters of the East Indies Squadron of the Royal Navy. Ceylon must be held not only because of the great importance of its present defensive role, but because, when the time comes, it may well be the spearhead of our sea attack eastward.

To what extent is Ceylon prepared? A force of Indian troops was given a great welcome when it arrived there recently, and there have been other British reinforcements. But Ceylon has for years been fully alive to the responsibilities of her position. She has endeavoured, even though the means at hand were small, to train and expand a defence force composed of all her nationali- ties, and to create in all minds an awareness of things which might happen, and of what all men and women might some day be called upon to do. As a member of the Volunteer Defence Force, I was fighting imaginary Japanese landings four years ago. We might call the enemy Sabronians or Illubullians, but we knew who they were. Our exercises were among tea and rubber plantations, and in jungle ways, as in Malaya and Java ; making full use both of the excellent roads and railways and of the bullock-cart tracks. Sometimes we made these battles more real by joining with the Navy and the Fleet Air Arm. The wardrooms of both H.M. cruisers ` Norfolk ' and ' Emerald ' have, I think, silver mementos of our joint " invasion "-repelling efforts around " Trinco."

Ceylon, of course, did not even then depend entirely on volunteer defence. There was an Imperial garrison of artillery.

But the responsibility shown by the best Ceylonese leaders, the growing self-reliance, and the general zeal for defensive activity, was a noteworthy thing. The various defence units were arranged on a broad racial basis. For Britons there were two rifle corps—foot and mechanised—and an army service corps. The Burgher population (Dutch and Portuguese) were able to be among their like, as were the Sinhalese people and other races, in one or other of the units—artillery, light infantry, medical, naval. There has been much progress since, and the fact that the present Governor, Sir Andrew Caldecott, was formerly Governor of Hong Kong, can have done no harm to realism in Ceylon. Some Ceylon contingents have already gone to serve in various theatres of war.

There is unfortunately a habit of belittling the ,vitality and capacity of the Sinhalese (" the lion race "), of interpreting their very civilised attitude of " live and let live " as a sign of racial tiredness and decay. This, I am sure, is a misconception. The Sinhalese are saddened and depressed more by prowling Asiatic moneylenders than by anything else. Within themselves they know that they are an old and noble nation of surpassing cultural achievement. They remember that they were independent—with a martial tradition—for 2,357 years, and that their King, who surrendered to General Brownrigg at Kandy on March 6th, 1815, was the last of a line of 165 'monarchs. When the Duke of Gloucester went to Ceylon in 1934 to present to the people the throne and insignia of the Kings of Kandy—they had been lying at Windsor—the people were deeply touched, and there were endless pilgrimages of rich and poor to the centres where they were shown.

As guerilla fighters, the Sinhalese, particularly the Kandyans, showed great talent and tenacity. They wrought havoc by hang- ing on the flanks of the Portuguese, Dutch and British armies of invasion. They occupied heights commanding the passes, they broke communications between divisions, they cut off sup- plies, they blocked defiles with great trees, they guarded the fords and laid ambushes, and they scattered snipers everywhere. Each soldier carried a musket, is-days' rations and a cooking utensil, and they used talipot leaves as field-tents. House-breaking thieves armed with sharp antelope horns undermined enemy en- trenchments at dead of night. They raised money for their wars


(and can still do so) by the easy export of the island's precious stones—rubies, moonstones, alexandrites, opals, star-sapphires and aPI What man or woman who has been to Kandy in the August Got moon, and seen the fantastic Perahera procession—the caparisoned Ap elephants in scores, the temple dignitaries, territorial chieftains, ut dancers and torch-bearers, the thundering tomtoms and clashing to cymbals, and the national gathering of folk—could doubt that here is a royal progress without its monarch, a victory march any without the victor: a pageant, sacred in essence, in which a dta people re-enacts its racial story? Yes, the Sinhalese have the offil power to awaken to war and, by linking with the other races, to find in the comradeship of common conflict a sure way to redeemed national manhood.

In Ceylon there has been formed a unique pattern of East and West. And where could such a thing happen to better effect than in a " tight little island" on the great Empire highway, where diverse races live cheek-by-jowl? The Latins (the Portuguese) are still there, in the Catholic faith which is now a 400-years-old flourishing banyan-tree serving all races, in the Portuguese names which thousands bear, and the language which many speak, and in the quick Peninsular blood which is ever present. The Dutchman's law is there, and his forts and churches and bungalows, large and lasting, as are old families who are made proud by such names as Krikenbeek, Vanderstraaten, and Stork. The British period has given not only profit, protection and probity, but has also brought schools of quality, bestowed democratic self-government, and enabled the Christian churches to number 4372, and to be of moral influence far beyond the confines. Around all this is the Buddhist way of life, calm and iindly, which three and a half million Sinhalese follow ; then he million Hindus, and the 400,000 men of different races joined n the brotherhood of Islam. Over all has dwelt the British 'eace, and Ceylon, in all her diversity, has responded by becom- ng the most English of dependencies ; English in the sense hat the educated have become such imbibers of English culture hat they produce worthy representatives of our best in law, thilosophy, science, scholarship and sport, and literary men who ire masters of the finest nuances of the English tongue. Sinhalese and Jaffna Tamils, men and women who have never set eyes on England, have composed English prose and poetry of a high rder.

Here, then, we discern something of the shape of the synthesis to come: an image of the East-West comity of nations. No notion of furthering such an aim is to be found in Rosenberg, and to Japanese thought it is completely alien. Mankind, threatened with the loss of the British Empire, and with nothing to replace it, sees it with new eyes—understands that if his many-tongued, many-blooded Commonwealth does not remain as a great power and moderating influence, there can be nothing ahead, but race-hatred and finally race-war.