Denzil was born in Kandy on 27th July, 1940 to Loku Bandara & Iona Ratwatte Kobbekaduwa as their second child. He grew up in Kandy at Deldeniya Walauwa (Paternal Residence) of Deldeniya village in Menikdiwela, Kadugannawa and Amunugama Walauwa (Maternal Residence) of Amunugama village close to Kandy. These areas were close to the Kadugannawa Hills & the Dumbara Valley surrounded by the Mahaweli River with unspoilt environment close to nature where he was brought up by his parents.
Denzil had his nursery education at Hillwood College, Kandy which happens to be the sister School of Trinity College. In 1948 he was admitted to Trinity College Kandy and started his educational activities. It is on record that Denzil excelled in his studies and sports from his early days at Trinity College. As a student he was able to make steady progress in his studies and also develop his leadership qualities and was a role model to many others in School, the society in Kandy and among his close family associates. As a person who had the privilege to associate with him from my childhood days, we, the close cousins of General Denzil Kobbekaduwa always looked upon him as a hero and a role model to all of us. He was our savior at times when we were in trouble among our closely knit families in Kandy.
When it came to his peak schooling days at Trinity College he was able to successfully complete the G.C.E. (O.L.) examination and the H.S.C examination (University Entrance examination). His performance in the field of sports was excellent as he represented Trinity College at Rugby, Hockey & Cricket. He captained the Trinity Rugby 1st XV Team in 1959 and was awarded the Trinity Lion award. He was the vice captain of the Trinity Hockey team in 1959 and was awarded College Colours in Hockey.
He also represented the Trinity 1st XI cricket team. Additionally, he was an athlete and a basketball player too. With this excellent school career record Denzil was also a School Prefect of Lemuel House in 1960 and later appointed Senior Prefect of Trinity College Kandy in the same year. However this appointment lasted only for a week since he opted to pursue a career with the Sri Lanka Army (Formerly Ceylon Army) and was enlisted as an officer cadet and posted to Diyathalawa for his initial three months training before leaving for a two year officer training program at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom. These circumstances prevented him from qualifying for the coveted Ryde Gold Medal for the best all-round student of Trinity College in 1960. Thus, an academic career with the University of Peradeniya to which he had gained entry also had to be abandoned.
During early 1960s, Denzil’s admires were all at sea, since he was to leave for the United Kingdom for a two year stint. I can still remember that day when all his close family associates came down to Colombo and met in the Colombo harbor to say ‘bon voyage’ since it was a three weeks journey by ship to U.K. at that time. Some few of us were privileged to accompany him onboard the ship “CARTHAGE”.
Having successfully completed his assignment Denzil returned to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in mid 1962 and assumed duties as a Lieutenant in the Armored Crops Regiment of the Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Army. He had a very successful period with the regiment and also represented the Army sports club at rugby for the Clifford Cup tournament. The supportive role played by him towards his fellow soldiers helped the Army sports club to gradually develop their performance and to be a leading side in the Clifford Cup Tournament..
In 1964, Denzil was awarded his second overseas training course to Bovington Military Academy in the United Kingdom and left for U.K. However this was a six month program and he was able to complete it with great success and then returned to Sri Lanka to be once again back with his Regiment Armoured Crops. Since then Denzil was able to perform as a true solider/officer and commanded the respect of his superiors, peers as well as the subordinates.
He then was sent home on leave due to many issues. During this period he spent his entire time in Kandy with his close family associates acting as a trouble shooter and helped Kandy Sports Club to produce a formidable rugby outfit to challenge all A division clubs in Colombo, Tri Services Sports Clubs, Police Sports Club & Up-Country Planters’ Rugby Clubs. As a result of his efforts, he was given the captaincy of the Kandy Sports Club in 1969 and ended up as Runners-Up to C.R.& F.C. at the Clifford Cup ‘A’ division tournament. He also captained the upcountry combined clubs team and also represented the All Ceylon Team (Sri Lanka) against French & British top division clubs. During this period Denzil did not forget his alma mater Trinity College and was also involved in coaching the Trinity 1st XV outfits in 1968, 1969 and in 1970 to help Trinity produce Bradby Shield-winning and league-champion teams. Due to his honest efforts he was able to command the respect of all communities living in Kandy and surrounding areas, including the rugby circles in Colombo and the Up-Country.
Also during this period whilst playing Rugby for Kandy Sports Club he met Lalini Ratwatte, the younger daughter of Kenneth and Merle Ratwatte as it blossomed into healthy love affair and eventually they got married in December 1970. Lalini was a tower of strength to Denzil and was a very understanding and accommodative person, and supported Denzil to a great extent in developing his career in the army as well as building a healthy relationship with his family, friends and relations.
In 1970, he was reinstated in his substantive post in the rank of Captain, and later Major. With the respect & confidence he had gained he was made in charge of the security of the then head of state Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranayake. He was then promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel. While playing an active role in the Sri Lanka Army he continued to coach as well as play Rugby for the Sri Lanka Army and the Defense Services. In 1973/74 Denzil was appointed as the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union. This year the first ever Rugby Asiad was held in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka ended up as Runners-Up to Japan.
During the latter part of 1974, Denzil was selected to attend the prestigious British Army Staff College Military Academy, Camberly Surrey in the United Kingdom for a period of one year. On his return to Sri Lanka after successfully completing his overseas assignment he was once again back at his old regiment Armoured Crops for some time and was posted to the Officer Cadet Training School at the military academy in Diyathalawa. His extended family and friends were regular visitors in his bungalow. With the completion of the stint in Diyathalawa he moved to Army Headquarters Colombo and served in the operations desk until such time a posting was given to him in Jaffna to serve in the Task Force Anti Illicit Immigration (TaFAII). During this period he was able to successfully study the terrain in the Jaffna Peninsula.
Having completed his Stint at the TaFAII head quarters in Jaffna he was once again back at the operations desk of the Sri Lanka Army head quarter for some time and later moved to his Regiment Armoured Corps as the commanding officer. In 1989 he once again left overseas to the United Kingdom on another Military training assignment at the prestigious Royal College Of Defense Studies (RCDS) which is the highest institution for military training. However he was asked to return prematurely to the Island. But due to pressure applied by the sponsors and the U.K. Government he was permitted to go back to continuing his training in the U.K. Having successfully completed his training, Denzil was appointed the Commander of the Western Command stationed at the Panagoda cantonment in the rank of Major General.
When the Eelam war started in the Eastern Province, Denzil was sent as the overall operations commander. During his short stay in the Eastern Province he was able to contain the L.T.T.E. offensive to a greater extent but as a result of the Northern Province also coming under heavy attack he was moved to the Northern Province as the overall operations commander based at the Palaly Cantonment in the Jaffna peninsula. He lead his troops effectively from the front, as he fought many battles bravely. The Vadamarachchi Operation, “Operation Balavegaya,“Beach Landing to save the Elephant Pass Security forces camp (Minipe Kularatne’s heroic acts)”, evacuation of the Security forces from the Jaffna fort are a few of the many operations he led.
His last Security council meeting as the Northern Commander was in Colombo in early August 1992 which was presided by the head of state. Denzil expressed his frank views with regards to the security situation in the North, and wanted to continue the L.T.T.E neutralizing operation. Denzil and a set of elite officers laid their lives for the nation on the 8th of August 1992 at Aralai point Jaffna. The whole nation mourned the deaths of these elite officers.
His demise was a great loss to his beloved immediate family, other close relatives, to the Sri Lanka Army and other Security forces and to the whole nation; Sri Lanka. As a civilian, I had the opportunity to closely associate with Denzil for over 40+ years and the loss to me was unimaginable. If so, what about the immediate family, his relatives, friends and fellow soldiers?
Well Denzil, 27th July 2012 happens to be your 72nd birth anniversary and today, 8th of August 2012 will be your 20th death anniversary. Your family continues to bestow the blessings of the noble triple gem by holding various religious ceremonies continuously for the last 20 years and this year too it will be carried out. The Religious ceremonies will continue in the years to come since all your followers appreciate the services rendered by you to your family, relatives, friends, and the Sri Lankan society as a whole. We will continue to remember you and your name, and it will be written in the history books in Sri Lanka and the entire globe so that the future generations will know that you were a born soldier, a true leader loved by all.
Also may I add that through Denzil’s leadership, his contribution to the Sri Lankan society was immense? To his family; he was a devoted husband and a father, to his parents; an obedient son, to his sister and brothers; a trusted friend, to his other relations; he was a role model accepted by all, to his fellow soldiers; he was a commander with a genuine heart, to his friends; he was a person always willing to play a supportive role and guide them, to his alma mater; his contribution was immeasurable, and finally to the sporting bodies in Sri Lankan Schools & Clubs (specially Rugby); his support was enormous, to the religious institutions of all faiths; his contribution was accepted by all, to the Sri Lankan civil society & specially in the people in the North and East / Border villages; the services rendered by him are appreciated till this day.
We true Sri Lankans today salute you Denzil and accept you as a true General and a person with a golden heart. In appreciation of your services to the nation, various medals & gallantry awards were given to you by the S.L Army, Politicians, Heads of State, but the greatest award you received from the people of Sri Lanka is that they accepted you as their hero and a genuine leader with honesty and integrity.
At this stage I must pay a compliment to Denzil’s wife Lalini for singlehandedly bringing up the three children, Roshani, Shanilka, & Dilshan and enabling them to move on in life as true Sri Lankan citizens with established professions for themselves. This was Denzil’s wish and Lalini, you will be rewarded by your children in the years to come.
Finally may I take this opportunity to Thank You Denzil, for the guidance provided and the supportive role you played in my life for almost forty plus years which helped me to move forward in life with success as one of your close associates and a true “Trinitian”.
“Respice Finem”- “Look to the End”
May You Attain Nirvana
Article Written By Sunil Keppetipola (Class of 1970)
(Contact Email: [email protected])
Below are photographs from the life of Denzil Kobbekaduwa. Click on each photograph below to maximize them and view descriptions.
Published 5 years ago by Sunil Keppetipola