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When we were in the middle school one of the attractions was to join the junior cadet corps. Cadet practice was held always after school. Since getting a Raleigh Sports new bicycle, I requested my mother not to send my lunch to the college at 12 noon, which had been the practice, as Banda had to travel all the way from Koralawella by bus to be on time for the lunch break. That was an excuse actually to ride the new bike home about 2 miles, despite being in the hot sun and sweating until the shirt got glued to the body with sweat.
Every time there was Cadet practice we had to be in full cadet uniform. Going home for lunch helped me in a way to change into Cadet uniform rather than wearing it in the morning and coming to college as other boys did. It also gave me a feeling of some kind of a pride, like a cock on a brick wall, to ‘ show off’ my new bicycle as well.
There’s a certain amount of truth in the saying that the personality of anyone in a uniform changes, be it a security guard or a top ranking official. This I experienced when I rode the bike pompously to College wearing my cadet uniform for cadet practice in the sweltering heat.
PWC had a large ground in front of the college buildings adjacent to the public Moratuwa road. Cadet practice took place at one end of the turf close to the main road, which was separated from a long wall. Whenever there were cricket matches many used to queue up at the wall and watch matches. Since our cadet practice took place after 15 hours, some of the students from Moratu Vidyalaya while walking home used to watch us marching rigidly. Commands were given by the sergeant of the platoon, while the teacher in charge of the junior cadet platoon watched with an eagle eye, while the commands were given in English. We did not have unlike Senior Cadets to handle any rifles as such, but we had to ensure that we did not miss the step and followed the commands correctly.
We were not supposed to laugh or make any noise while marching or while standing at attention position. So, the Sergeant would say – Attain…….tion ( in a drag form) to which we had to become rigid and stand straight waiting for the next command. In the meanwhile, some cheeky boys from Moratu Vidyalaya, while watching us used to mock us by repeating the sergeant’s command by saying it loud thus: “Ate……….hung”. Everyone wanted to burst out with laughter but we had to bite our lips and stand rigid.
At the end of the year we had to travel to Boosa camp for a drill display and a competition with other colleges. We were given a strict lecture on discipline, how to look smart in uniform, polish one’s shoes to look like a mirror, and very especially how to behave while in the camp. We were strictly advised to salute any officer during the day or night when we came face to face.
One evening three of us were walking up to the canteen when Tissa suddenly got excited having spotted someone in uniform. He immediately assumed an ‘attention’ position and saluted to the official in uniform to realise later that he had mistakenly greeted the Bugler! The poor fellow got a belly full of honking by the rest of us including a good supply of toothpaste all over his body while he was fast asleep and snoring away.
During the final day at the official drill ceremony all college platoons paraded to be adjudged on a competitive scale, one after the other, from physical training skills to marching modes. It was a moment that made everyone anxious and nervous, as the winning of the Cup depended on the absolute performance of the platoon.
I can never forget how Mr. Perera, our Contingent Master shrieked, under his breath, while grinding his teeth, having noticed one of my white socks had disappeared into tennis shoes during physical training inspection.
Mr. Perera had a shattering voice which suited to command a platoon. In an attempt to may be to boast about his commanding cadence, he decided to stand quite a few yards away from the platoon while a Senior Judge observed our performance to allocate marks.
The most embarrassing incident took place at this annual competition when we marched perfectly to a rhythm until Mr. Perera attempted to show off his dominant tenor and stood yards behind the platoon and commanded, ‘Squad……. Right Form’……….!
It was a disaster indeed! Two lines of the platoon turned to the right and the other two lines to the left turning the whole operation into such a muddle. Naturally we lost to St. Sebastian’s College that year.
On our way home by train we lost all the cheer and singing when we had, while going to Boosa Camp, as everyone looked glum and depressed.