WW1 Mines and Minesweeping off Ceylon

This appeared on MARHST-L in December 1999 and January 2000, and is reproduced here courtesy of the respective authors.
From Glen Robert-Grant Hodgins (grhicomm@SRI.LANKA.NET)

As part of my ongoing research into Sri Lanka's naval history, I came across the following reference in a local (provincial) government report for 1918. I thought other Marhsters might find it of some interest. [A "Kachcheri", by the way, is the local term for a district/local government office/HQ.]

Section II: Report of the Kalutara District
by C.V. Brayne, Assist Govt Agent, Kalutara Kachcheri, 17 March 1919

The Year Under Review

An unpleasant reminder that the Empire was still at war came in the shape of floating mines which drifted up on to the coast. One at Wadduwa, and one at Kalutara, [about 30-40 km south of Colombo], were, happily, harmless; but a second one, which struck the coast near Wadduwa in September, exploded, with disastrous results. In spite warnings, the villagers crowded around to see it. Ten were killed on the spot, and five succumbed afterwards to their injuries. About 150 people all together were injured, some of them severely. Excellent work was done by a number of local doctors at the Panadure Hospital, wither the wounded were taken. Relief was immediately given to the families of the killed and injured men, and this was facilitated by a generous donation of Rs500, given by Mr E.C. de Fonseka, as soon as he heard of the catastrophe. ..............

Three Europeans and eight Ceylonese left for war service during the year. Considerable sums were raised by local subscriptions for the Red Cross, the Red Triangle, and other War Funds. Two local branches of the Queen Mary's Needlework Guild did useful work.

From Fred Rowe (fredgr@ENGINEER.COM)

In reply to your comments Ceylon/Sri Lanka(M/S) the following vessels were in that area mid 1917 onwards,

All designated Patrol Vessels with Minesweeping capabilities.All of them were Auxiliaries and 'taken up' from Indian Ocean area local sources. They operated out of Colombo.

From Glen Robert-Grant Hodgins (grhicomm@SRI.LANKA.NET)

I have discovered that 6 trawlers were purchased from Japan by the Ceylonese government, (in 1917) to act as the mainstay of the island's minesweeping efforts. Upon arrival, these vessels were re-named: KUMARHAMI; LANKDYS; LAKSHMI; PARVATI; RANMENIKA; AND SARASVATI. I don't think they would be formal HMS's, since they were operated by the Colombo Harbour Master. The information I've pieced together thus far indicates that this flotilla was employed until the end of the war to maintain a swept channel from the harbour entrance, at Colombo, out to the 100 fathom line; and then sold to a Bombay firm at the cessation of hostilities.

Last Updated: 16 January, 2000.

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