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Sri Lanka Military Flags

Last modified: 2016-06-29 by ian macdonald
Keywords: sri lanka | war flag | shield | elephant (white) |
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War Flag

~3:5   image by Željko Heimer

Smith (1982) describes this flag as blue over red over blue triband with a black and white badge in the middle. The badge consists of a circular shield in front of a two spears topped with an elephant and with a ribbon below inscribed PRO PATRIA. This is presumably obsolete today.
Željko Heimer, 26 January 2003

Summary of Ceylon/Sri Lanka Naval and Maritime Flags since 1802

Government vessels.
1870 - 1955. Blue Ensign, British canton, Ceylon badge.
1955 - ? Blue Ensign, Ceylon canton, crossed anchors.

Lighthouses and Tenders.
The Daily Mirror of 1 April 1976 reported that the Sri Lanka Navy Ensign had replaced the White Ensign at Dondra Lighthouse. The details seem unlikely. The replaced flag was probably the British Blue Ensign of the Board of Trade, which at that time was operating the lights installed by the Ceylon and Minicoy Imperial Lighthouse Service. I don't know when the Board of Trade took over the Lighthouse Service in Ceylon (before 1916), nor whether there is a special flag for Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force.
1937- 1946. Blue Ensign, British canton, Ceylon badge.
Jack. Same, one size smaller.

Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
1943 - 1946. British White Ensign.
Jack. Blue Ensign, British canton, Ceylon badge.

Royal Ceylon Navy.
1950 - 1953. British White Ensign.
Jack. Kandyan Lion (without green and saffron bands). 1953 - 1956. British White Ensign.
Jack. National Flag with green and saffron bands. 1956 - 1972. Ceylon Naval Ensign with St George's cross.
Jack. National Flag.

Sri Lanka Navy.
1972 - Sri Lanka Naval Ensign (without St George's cross).
Jack. National Flag.

David Prothero, 1 February 2003

President's Colour

image located by Esteban Rivera, 12 July 2009

Looking at this List of Sri Lankan flags, on the subtopic of Military Flags, one can see that there's a flag called President's Colour in use since 1972, "A defaced national flag of Sri Lanka with Coat of arms of Sri Lanka".
"When Sri Lanka declared itself a republic in 1972 the units that had a Queen's Colour retired them. These were replaced by the new President's Colour, which was first awarded in 1972. The following colours have been awarded:

- Sri Lanka Light Infantry in 1978
- Gemunu Watch in 1980
- Gajaba Regiment in 2007

- Army Training Centre in 1972, laid up 20 August 1992
- Sri Lanka Military Academy in 1997

Air Force
- Sri Lanka Air Force in 1976
- SLAF Regiment in 2009
- No. 1 Flying Training Wing in 2001
- No. 2 Heavy Transport Squadron in 2009
- No. 4 (VIP) Helicopter Squadron in 2009
- No. 9 Attack Helicopter Squadron in 2009
- No. 10 Fighter Squadron in 2009
- SLAF Katunayake in 2001

- Naval and Maritime Academy in 2000


Esteban Rivera, 12 July 2009

The significance of this Colour is very important as noticed here:
"The colour is basically an emblazoned flag and its origin can be traced back to the days when monarchies were the order of the day. The King in those ancient days, would have his colour carried to battle. The colour served as the rallying point around which the battle raged fiercest. It followed therefore that the colour became a trophy for which men would gladly die, to defend. Consequently, the colour aroused deep feelings of patriotism and pride and an almost religious aura was built around it. As the range of modern weapons lengthened the Colour no longer served as a useful rallying point and no longer was the carrying of the Colour conducive to the modern concept of war. Consequently, Colours were not taken to battle but were used only in ceremonies to lend greater dignity to such occasions.

The Colour and the awarding of the Colour are ancient customs that are etched firmly in our heritage; customs which were established long before the advent of the foreign invaders from the West. The three lions on the gateway of Sanchi (Circa 3rd Century B.C) have been identified as the Royal Arms of Sri Lanka (seen here: The peacock on it signifies the banner of the Mayura. The arch contains representation of the dispatch of the Bo-tree to Sri Lanka and the symbols on either side of the panel depict the standard of Asoka and the Sinhalese monarch Devanampiya Tissa. This is the first representation we have of the Sinhalese Royal Standard.

A 16th Century fresco at Dambulla depicting King Dutugamunu's victory over Elara shows King Dutugamunu’s Colour being borne by his Colour bearer, during the combat. The emblems on the flag are the sun and the moon, the stars and the lion with a sword in its paw. In the book titled "Sinhalease banners and standards" by Mr Edward W. Perera it is stated that the Royal flag flown in the Kotte Palace in the 18th Century was flown on a staff surmounted by the golden tassel wrought in a gold thread. At the four corners of the banner four bo leaves were worked in gold thread while the centre displayed a royal lion (Sinha Raja) holding a sword.

In Sri Lanka from the earliest times flags were carried not only in religious processions but also in war. Thus in these festival as well as in war there is little doubt, according to the historian Mr. Perera, that the addition to the standards of the kings, the banners of the princes, provinces and departments of the realm were also carried. The armies or Parakramabahu the Great marched to the conquest of South India and Pegu under the Lion Banner of Sri Lanka.

The Maha Dissawe of the four Korales of the Kandyan Kingdom who was privileged to lead the way in war as well as in the Annual Dalada Perahara, had borne before him five insignia as marks of special honour. One of the insignia is the "Ira Handa Maha Kodiya" or translated the great sun and moon flag. Elsewhere it is stated that the "Dissawas" also had the privilege of bearing the ‘Golden Tassel’ on the banner of the provinces. This is normally confined to the Royal flag but was granted as a distinction by the king to be used by the recipient.

In the Uggalboda Sannas, it is recorded that a royal grant in the period of King Sri Parakramabahu the VIth invested a chief with the privilege of bearing the king’s flag along with some other royal insignia. Thus, the Sannas state, was conferred on chiefs whom the king specially delighted to honour.

Thus, it is seen that the awarding of colours is indeed a very old Sri Lankan tradition. In the chronicles it is stated that when the King’s Colour was borne, it was borne by five people; one man carried the tall pole fixed in the middle of his waist band for additional support and four other people held the ends of the cords attached to the four corners of the standard to keep it in position as it was borne along. In front of the flag, the chronicle status, went a ‘Maha-Bamba’ (a tall man) mean to avert the evil eye from the Colour to the tall fantastic figure that preceded it!"

The President's Colour awarded to an Air Force Base/Unit is the Sri Lankan Air Force flag, displaying the coat of arms of the Base/Unit on the lower right part of the flag, and in the middle is some sort of a streamer in the middle of the flag, with the current President's flag. An example is the SLAF Regiment which was awarded the President's Colour in 2009, shown here in the Victory Parade in April 2009:

The President's Colour awarded to the SLAF Regiment is located here: (notice the
Sri Lanka flag ( as background and the coat of arms ( is displayed in the lower right part, and the current President's flag is displayed in the middle.

The Air Force Units/Bases awarded the President's Colours are:
- Sri Lanka Air Force
- SLAF Regiment
- No. 2 Heavy Transport Squadron
- No. 4 (VIP) Helicopter Squadron
- No. 9 Attack Helicopter Squadron
- No. 10 Fighter Squadron
- SLAF Katunayake
- SLAF Base Anuradhapura


Esteban Rivera, 22 March 2010