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SRI LANKA AIR FORCE
GUARDIANS OF THE SKIES
footer_roundelSLAF History : Early Management & Structure
In the early days, Air Force Headquarters had four Principal Staff Officers who were assigned to carry out specific duties. They were the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) who was responsible for air matters, the Senior Technical Staff Officer (STSO) who was responsible for all technical matters, the Senior Officer-in-Charge of Administration (SOA) who was responsible for administration, and the Senior Equipment Staff Officer (SESO) who was responsible for equipment and supplies
     
The early Medical and Work Services sub branches came under the purview of the SOA, whilst Signals came under the STSO. All operational and training matters were under the purview of the SASO. By December 1951, the RCyAF had acquired an old Dutch building at No. 34, Queens Street, Colombo Fort to house the Equipment Section. In October 1953, the Equipment Section was upgraded to a Unit, and named No.1 Maintenance Unit (RCyAF). Flt Lt Ken Nagarajah became its first Commanding Officer. At the time, the Senior Equipment Officer was a seconded RAF officer, Sqn Ldr R.G. Prosho, who was succeeded, in time, by Flt Lt Nagarajah, who was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader. Other milestones for the No.1 MU was the shift from Colombo to Katunayake in 1956, and two renaming exercises, to Supply and Maintenance Base and again to Supply and Maintenance Depot in 1957 and 1970, respectively. All these changes spawned a new pun in Air Force jargon; the unit was jocularly referred to as the Shifting and Moving Department!

In 1952, an Air Force HQ Unit was formed, and was located at McCallum Road (now D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha) to provide administrative back-up for personnel at Air Force HQ. This unit was later moved to the HQ itself. A Medical Branch was formed in 1952 in Colombo, to provide medical facilities to the Force, and also to control hygiene and sanitation in all Stations and Units. The first Medical Officer was Flt Lt Samad Ismail who joined up on 6th February 1952. He soon put the branch on a sound footing, establishing a Medical Centre at Parsons Road, which was later to move to Guwanpura. When the Katunayake RAF base was taken over by the RCyAF, the RAF Base Hospital was also brought under the RCyAF. Flt Lt Ismail was also an excellent hockey player. He also became the Command Officer for Wrestling, a hitherto non-command sport, which by the mighty efforts of people like Cpl Thaw Khalid in the early days, gained due place in the Command Sport arena! In 1952, an Education unit was formed, to direct and overlook training and education of Air Force tradesmen.

Flt Lt P.G. Walpita was the first officer appointed to the unit. This unit was later absorbed within the Secretarial Branch. In the same year, the Works Services element was formed. Manned by civilian tradesmen and service personnel specially trained for the purpose, the unit was first headed by Flt Lt Maharoof, himself a civilian engineer. Again, the take over of the RAF facilities at Katunayake, heralded expansion and growth for this unit, which began to undertake major construction jobs and the maintenance of airfields and airstrips in all parts of Ceylon.

An airfield fire-fighting service was established in Katunayake, to provide fire cover for the RCyAF's aircraft. The section operated Firefly and Salamander Fire Crash Tenders. Likewise, an air-sea rescue service was established in Katunayake, initially with the assistance of seconded RAF personnel, to carry out rescue operations in the event of an air crash. On the technical side, Flt Lt Hindell was the first STSO in the RCyAF. Seconded RAF personnel continued to occupy the position up to 1962, even though Ceylonese Technical Officers were recruited in 1951, 1952 and 1953 the grooming process had begun!

In the early days, as the fledgling Air Force's flying operations were carried out from Katunayake alone, a single Technical Wing handled all engineering duties. One of the earliest Ceylonese Senior Technical Officers, was Sqn Ldr D. Wickramasinghe. In the period 1955/56, another three Principal Staff Officers were added to the management structure, viz: Principal Medical Officer, Chief Works Officer and Chief Signals Officer. Thus the Medical and Works functions ceased to remain under the SOA, whilst Signals also came away from the purview of STSO. The new appointees were directly responsible to the Commander for their respective fields. This management structure served the RCyAF until the early 1970s.
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