Nearly six months have passed since the untimely demise of Major Raja L. de Silva in Britain. This fine gentleman, outstanding school teacher and dedicated cadet master came to our lives during the early 1960’s when we were members of St. Sylvester’s College Cadet Contingent.
His sudden passing away is, undoubtedly, a painful loss to the family. But, to a generation of men whom he moulded, in his capacity as a school teacher and cadet contingent commander, his life and times would remain a legacy forever.
We consider it an honour and privilege to have come under the guiding influence of Major de Silva. The light is now gone but the flame he ignited will continue to illuminate our lives.
Major de Silva did yeoman service to the country as an inspiring school teacher. His greatest contribution was to the second battalion -- Ceylon Cadet Corps, as it was then known. Being the master in charge of cadeting, he brought a new insight to school cadeting. Instilling discipline through example and guiding young students to be future leaders of the armed forces was his personal ambition.
He achieved these objectives through a rigid code of conduct, motivation, and inculcating a sense of patriotism in the minds of schoolboys. He guided them not only to win trophies at the gruelling annual training camps in Diyatalawa, but also to make them disciplined and responsible citizens.
I remember Major de Silva coming to our barracks during the chilly evenings in Diyatalawa, immaculately attired in a blazer and sporting a well-groomed moustache. His personality was awe-inspiring. After he inquired about preparations for the following day’s training and military competitions, he inspected the uniforms, boots, rifles and equipment to make sure they were upto expected military standards. He inspected the barracks for cleanliness and order. He had a bizarre habit of wiping windowsills, bed frames and floor edges with his snow-white handkerchief to see whether there was dust.
Despite rigorous discipline, he never failed to inquire about our wellbeing. He checked our food and often tasted it too. At the end of a day’s rigorous training and bashing on the rolling Diyatalawa mountains, it was a great relief to see this man of little smiles and steely nerves come and say a few words of encouragement. That was his style of grooming school cadets to be future military officers.
Inside that tough personality, there was a great heart of kindness and caring. We recognized and appreciated that outstanding humane quality of Major de Silva.
Through his inspiration and encouragement some of us joined the armed forces and served the nation with honour and distinction. Our careers in the military bore indelible signatures of Major Raja L. de Silva’s remarkable personality, dedication, patriotism and professionalism. A great man is no more, but the legacy he left behind will remain forever.
We salute our departed mentor, teacher, and cadet master.
Brigadier (Retd.) Chandraguptha S.
(On behalf of St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy, Cadet contingent 1964- 1969)