The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) previously operated an unknown number of Daimler Mk.II Armoured Cars. However there is very little information available about their service with the SLA.
Daimler Armoured Cars were designed and produced in the United Kingdom during WWII with a total of 2,694 (Mk.I&II) being built. They were exported to a handful of countries, with some staying on in British service into the 1960s.
It is unclear when the SLA first received its Daimler Armoured Cars or in what numbers. They may have been handed to Ceylon Defence Force (the colonial precursor to the SLA until 1949) during British rule or possibly exported later following independence. It is equally unclear exactly when these WWII era vehicle were withdrawn from active service, although it would appear some examples were operational into the 1990s and possibly early into the next century. The SLA may also retain one or more examples in workable condition for ceremonial duties.
The Curious Case of AY4277
By far the most common and often only photographed SLA example is the remains of “AY4277” at Elephants Pass in Northern Sri Lanka. There are a large number of photographs of this particular vehicle available online, many more than I have displayed in this article. Although it might appear that there may be more than one example, closer inspection indicates it to be the same vehicle.
The registration AY4277 can be seen on the front of the vehicle. The front of the vehicle is facing the camera however the turret is facing the rear although the gun barrel is not present.
Elephants Pass is a strategically important military base connecting the Jaffna Peninsula to the rest of the island. Consequently it has been the scene of much fighting between the SLA and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) also known as the Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan Civil War.
It is not known quite how or when AY277 was damaged and immobilised in this position. Reports that the vehicle struck a mine are often cited but I am not convinced the damage is consitent with this. The vehicle was probably damaged in the first battle of Elephant Pass (1991) which was an unsuccessful attempt to capture the base by the LTTE or the Second battle of Elephant Pass (2000) in which the LTTE succeeded and not only captured the base but also a number of SLA equipment.
This less common side view indicates that a significant amount of the rear engine compartment has been removed or destroyed.
LTTE relocation and refurbishment of AY4277
Whilst the area was under LTTE control and some point between 2006 and 2009 AY4277 was relocated next to the main road near to the road sign for Elephant Pass. It was also refurbished to some degree, however it appears such efforts were purely cosmetic and that the vehicle was not repaired to a workable operational standard.
The purpose of such efforts would likely either be for LTTE propaganda and/or to act as a decoy against Sri Lankan government forces.
Study of the available photographs indicates the following modifications were made:
- New wheels/tyres. These appear to be smaller than the originals although also apparent is the damage to the suspension.
- Chassis repair work. Previously damaged areas reworked using sheet metal or spare parts from other vehicles. The most obvious areas this is visible are the rear engine compartment and front, neither of which match the original design.
- Repainted to a four tone green, brown, tan and black disruptive camouflage scheme. This scheme closely matches those applied to other LTTE vehicles and equipment.
- Replacement gun barrel. This appear to be a fake barrel possibly a drain pipe or similar. This is not present in all photos indicating it was either later addition or was at some stage removed.
This vehicle is still assessed to be AY4277, primarily due to the reworked rear engine section, which was destroyed and the rearwards facing turret.
The only other example of an SLA Daimler Armoured Car I have been able to identify is a preserved example at a SLA base.