• JP Jayasekara,
    Kandy, Sri LankaMORE...

    My name is JP Jayasekara; I was born on the 21st of April in 1921 in Teldeniya, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka back then was known as Ceylon, and we were a colony under the British Empire. After the outbreak of the Second World War so many British troops came and established their camps here. I joined the Civil Defense in 1941 once I finished school. At that time the purpose of the Civil Defense was to aid as a service for casualties, attending to victims of the war. And from there I joined the army - the Ceylon Signal Corps.

    When Hitler attacked Poland and the Japanese sunk two of Great Britain's most powerful battleships, the HMS Repulse and the HMS Prince of Wales near Singapore, Great Britain was quite shaken up. They appealed to all of the Commonwealth countries for help.

    Ceylon was a poor country with no money to give, but we were able to provide the men power. Forty thousand youth were recruited from Ceylon; some of them were sent to the Middle East, some to Singapore, some served in Burma, and others joined Ceylon's Naval reserve. Most of the men were still schoolboys at the time.

    On Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942, at 7am, we heard cricket noises. Or at least we thought they were crickets. They turned out to be gunshots. We all ran out of our barracks and saw Japanese planes coming at us. They were coming in groups of four, bombing and shooting at us. First people panicked, but then our artillery started working and we all scrambled into action. That was the day they attacked the Harbour of Colombo. The fighting went on for a couple of hours, and a lot of people died on both ends. It was a tragic day for Colombo and all of Ceylon. After that the capital became a dead city. All of the schools closed, and colleges moved inland. There was not even a place to have a cup of tea.

    After that I was reassigned to Trincomalee where I was still a part of the Ceylon Signal Corps. My job involved operating wireless radios and being responsible for communications between the navy and army bases. That was in 1943. During that time more and more British soldiers were coming and putting up bases all over the island and digging trenches - from Colombo to Trincomalee, from Trincomalee to Kandy; they were laying down underground cables for communication.

    At the same time the British established the South-East Asian command unit, and Lord Louis Mountbatten had arrived in Colombo. He was a member of the Royal family and was made the Supreme Elite Commander of South-East Asia. Recruitment centers were opening all over the place. Their advertisements said, 'Join the Army and see the World' to attract the youth.

    In March 1942 Sir Geoffrey Layton was summoned to overlook the Defense of the Civilians. There were a lot of things done to defend the civilians in case of any air raids. Underground shelters were built, fire brigades were organized, and many people were recruited for first aid purposes. Every time the Coast Guard would sight Japanese planes they would inform the Central Command and activate alarms. The marketing department was reorganized; food items were rationed and coupon books were issued to the people. Co-operative stores were also opened throughout the island where people drew their rations without any difficulty.

    'Looting is punishable by death'
    'Black marketers will be jailed'
    'Grow more food'
    'Growers are winners'

    These were some of the slogans written on parapet walls; they were better than the election posters of today.

    The British did a lot of things at that time and they looked after the affairs of civilians well. I was fulfilling my duties with the Signal Corps where we had a phone, radio, wireless, and pigeons. A lot of messages between stations were coded.

    For us, the remainder of the war went by quietly. There were a lot of foreign units brought from all over - American, British, Indian, South African, and Australian - that set up their camps on the island. There was one particularly interesting set of people, African Negroes, who had their mouths padlocked. They were man-eaters and the British would put locks on their mouths.

    The war ended with Japan unconditionally surrendering. When we heard the news we were of course all very happy. But details from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki all shocked us. It shocked the entire world.

    After the war ended, we had a lot of rolling stones. My family had a business, a bakery and a hotel, so I was lucky to have a job. Then I became interested in agriculture. I was always active in sports and still to this day take part in competitions in my age group. Look at all the medals. I was also involved in social services and in prevention of cruelty to animals. I also took part in some politics and was a village counselor for a while.

    I got married and had one daughter. My wife has passed away already. Now I have grandchildren so I stay active. I also wrote a book about the graves of the perished servicemen in Ceylon. I got the idea to do this because so many tourists come here to search for graves of their relatives but can't find any information. I did it for their benefit.