10th June 2001
Sports| Mirror Magazine
‘Natural Sri Lanka’ an exhibition focusing on
The wise crack - Food and fitness
By Hiranthi FernandoA fighting army needs arms and ammunition. The very survival of the troops depends on the smooth supply of their hardware requirements. Fulfilling this awesome responsibility falls on the Sri Lanka Army Ordnance Corps who true to its motto, "Avoidance of delay prevents death", must ensure the safe distribution of arms, ammunition, vehicles and a host of other requirements to the army.
"We are responsible for supplying items from pins to armoured vehicles," said Brigadier Bandula Ranasinghe, Colonel Commandant of the Ordnance Corps. All supplies except food, fuel, lubricants and construction items such as sand, cement and bricks, are handled by them.
Formed in 1949 on the same lines as the British Army Ordnance Corps, the unit's crest is also adapted from the British symbol. The SLAOC is mainly responsible for the provision, receipt, maintenance, storage and issue of all ordnance stores required by the Sri Lanka Army. "However, being a services organisation, the unit has always contributed its share of troops,"Brig. Ranasinghe said. "We join as infantrymen, deployed in various internal security duties and combat operational duties when ordered by Army Headquarters."
The 1st Regiment of the SLAOC is based at Panagoda and is the centre for recruitment, training and administration. Each regiment handles the forward delivery of ordnance requirements to the various divisions. The 1st Regiment caters to the needs of Forward Ordnance Depots at Diyatalawa, Kandy, Boossa, Udawalawe and the Ordnance Stores Section (OSS) located at Panagoda.
"The concept is forward delivery," Brig. Ranasinghe said. "We know the annual requirement. When there is an operation, the field headquarters send forecasts of the additional requirements to Army Headquarters. The Master General Ordnance, the principal officer dealing with ordnance, sends these requirements to the Director of Ordnance Services (DOS), to be dispatched by the relevant regiments or depots."
The clearing section receives the goods at the port and arranges for delivery to the stores. Arms and ammunition, the most important part of the supplies are transported direct to be stored under high security in various locations in addition to the Central Arms and Ammo Depot.
A vast organisation, the SLAOC comprises many sections such as the Directorate of Ordnance Services, Ordnance Procurement Services, Regimental Centre, Base Ordnance Depot, Central Arms and Ammo Depot, four Regiments, School of Ordnance, Ordnance Factory, Forward Ordnance Depots and Ordnance Stores Sections as well as workshops for armour, artillery, etc. While the administration of the Forward Ordnance Depots comes under the Centre Commandant, Col. Hemal Mendis, all technical aspects are handled by Director Ordnance Services, Brig. Lal Fernando. The Central Arms Depot comes directly under the control of Army Headquarters.
Each regiment has ancillary services such as tailoring, equipment repairs, boot repairs and ammo technicians. They also have a regimental band. Although all are infantry soldiers, they are trained in different trades to undertake these services.
"When the need arises, we form platoons and send our men for operation services as well," Brigadier Ranasinghe said. Every fighting brigade has one officer and ten men from SLAOC. They face the same risks as the soldiers at the front while transporting weapons and ammunition. So far we have lost 54 men, killed in action while on duty in the operation areas."
Believe it or not, the Ordnance Services inventory contains over 500,000 separate items. "When a new vehicle is introduced for instance, so many spare parts have to be stocked," Brigadier Ranasinghe says. The wide range of stores that come under the SLAOC are categorised into groups for effective functioning. In the Technical Stores, are gun spares, radio and electronic equipment, outboard motors, night vision equipment, body armour as well as spare parts. The clothing stores stock bolts of cloth for army uniforms, and other items of clothing issued to troops, water bottles and mess tins used on the field. A separate clothing depot at Kadawatha has the full range of items that forms the uniform.
A barrack store holds all accommodation and camping stores such as furniture, bedding, linen, kitchen and garden equipment, while the general stores stock nuts, bolts, nails, paints, polish, tools, ropes, flags, target paper for shooting ranges etc.
In the equipment repair shop, 5000 helmets are awaiting repair as are sleeping bags, vehicle canopies and gun covers for artillery guns. In the tailor shop, a course was being conducted for disabled soldiers. "In the early 1980s this was the largest tailoring shop we had,"Centre Commandant, Col. Hemal Mendis said. "Now due to the operations, tailors and repairers are deployed at Forward Defence Lines in defensive holding roles so the shop has reduced in size and output."
The issue of arms and ammunition is handled by Army Headquarters, Col.
Mendis explained, although their transport falls to the SLAOC. Artillery,
armour, small arms, ammunition and explosives such as mines, mortar bombs,
grenades, detonators, fuses, thunder flashes, crackers are stored in ammunition
stores, under high security.
By Laila NasryRounding up the clan or tracing one's family tree can be an exhilarating process as Mrs. Edith Fernando discovered. "It is absurd to think that life begins for us, at birth. The pattern is set far back; we merely step into the process," she says. Aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren...long lost relatives all surfaced as the pages of the past were flipped backwards. And in her walk through time, she discovered an unexpected find-nine sets of twins within the family.
'Twin Happiness' by Deshabandu Edith M.G.Fernando is a celebration of these twins. Ms. Fernando embarks on a scientific study of the multiples (gemellology), their characteristics, twin bonding, general facts and related statistics. Spanning the years 1924 to 2001, the book records all the twins born into the Vidanalage Jacob de Mel family.
The book is dedicated to her great-grandchildren, the fifth generation of Jacob de Mel who are her inspiration. She explains, "In 1993 my grand-daughter Dayanthi gave birth to twins, followed by another set in 1995." The 'double' joy she says, prompted her to look within her family only to discover seven other pairs.
The Jacob de Mel family is a large one. "My grandmother Helena had 14 children. All her life she must have spent in bed," she says earnestly and then chuckles, "anyway those days there was no attending meetings at the Women's International Club or playing tennis." But most of her ancestors died young, making her journey of discovery all the more arduous.
" I went to the Archives alone a hundred times," she recalls. "I would take a box of chocolates for the officials and after chatting to them for a short while I'd say "Ara kadadasi kelle genath denna," she says smiling. Her main source were the 'tambos', a sort of journal cum register kept by the Dutch in which the names of those who attended the parish schools were recorded. Interestingly, Clinton de Mel, the father of present BOI Chairman Lalith de Mel and Seelani, the wife of Ray Wijewardene form part of the 'doubles' discovery.
The need for photographs led to a vast hunting ground. "I travelled all over looking for them. I'd go to relatives' houses and look around. Most of the portraits hung on the wall and I'd ask to borrow them and they'd let me," she says. Her search was facilitated as "one person led to another" and her book contains 24 of those pictures.
Part of the proceeds of the book will be donated to the millennium triplets Rushmi Sahasvika, Eranga Sahasvika and Pubasari Sahasvika, born to 16-year-old Eresha Dilrukshi.
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