Overlooking the quadrangle stands a priceless monument that recounts a great era of the College’s history, the German machine gun. This is considered to be one of the first notable war trophies presented by the British Emperor to Ceylon after the First World War, and the first school outside England to be honoured this way.
For almost a hundred years it has been a proud testament to the contribution Trinity made towards the Great War. A tally of 65 men from Trinity (including Principal A.G. Frazer) had fought in the war. 13 sacrificed their lives, 18 were wounded, two were taken prisoner and three were awarded commissions.
Amongst the gallant warriors the names of Richard Aluwihare, Albert Halangoda, Frank Drieberg, Ajit (Jik) Rudra, Aelian Pereira, H.E. Garvin, John Andrew and J.W.S. Bartholomeusz stand out. Aelian Perera was awarded a commission with the Durham Light Infantry and J.W.S. Bartholomeusz received the Croix de Guerre of the first class for his valour. It was because of their bravery and sacrifice that the school proudly embraces its war trophy.
The machine gun is a Maschinengewehr 08, or MG 08. It was a standard German machine gun during WWI. The MG 08 had been captured from an enemy camp during a victory march. It was on the 16th of October 1919 that Sir William Henry Manning unveiled this hefty memorial on behalf of King George V.
In his speech the Governor lionized the College, “To me Trinity College has a record and a Roll of Honour of which it may be justly proud. I find that 65 masters, men and boys gave their services overseas during the war and of these 65, there were no fewer than 33 casualties – 13 killed, 18 wounded, and two taken prisoner by the Germans. Now that is 50% of the number that proceeded to the battle front. It is a record, I repeat again of which Trinity College may well be proud of – a record, I am sure you will agree with me, which any battalion, any regiment, any unit of His Majesty’s service would be proud of.” A platform was made for the machine gun with blocks of rock from Asgiriya, on the bank beside Alison House.
The glory days of this gun are long gone. Now it rests upon its rock cradle, reminding us of bold men such as General Rudra and Richard Aluvihare. The Maschinengewehr 08 has witnessed the school twist and turn from the days Ceylon liberated from England to its dark hours during the civil war.
The gun keeps in our minds that Trinitians rise up to the situation no matter how hazardous it may be. Engraved upon its brass plate are the words: “Captured German Machine Gun, Presented to Trinity College by Majesty the King at the Conclusion of the Great War (1914-1919), in which 65 Members of this College served and 13 gave their lives.”
Article by Parinda Ratnayake