Admiral Wannakuwatte Waduge Erwin Clancy Fernando
VSV, psc, ndc, MRIN (Lond). MNI (Lond). MBIM (Lond). Master Mariner, SLN Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy
Admiral WWEC Fernando was born on 10th October 1938. He had his early education at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa where he proved to be one of its brilliant products. He joined the Regular Force of the Sri Lanka Navy as an Officer Cadet on 17th December 1957 and on completion of 5 months basic training in Sri Lanka he proceeded to the United Kingdom to undergo Naval Training at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. He was promoted to Midshipman in 1959. He completed his cadets and midshipman's training successfully and returned to Sri Lanka on 26th August 1960. He was commissioned in the rank of Acting Sub Lieutenant on 01st September 1960. He was promoted to the rank of Sub Lieutenant on 01st March 1962.
During his exemplary service record he has successfully completed a number of training courses abroad including an attachment to the Pakistan Naval Flotilla for sea training from 15th February 1963 to 12th August 1963. He was promoted to the rank Lieutenant on 01st April 1963.
Most of his early days in the Navy were at Trincomalee, Tangalle & Karainagar in Jaffna in addition to long spells spent afloat almost all the Navy ships & patrol craft of that era. This included time on HMCyS Aliya, HMCyS Diyakawa, HMCyS Gajabahu a Frigate which was the then flag ship, SLNS Ranakamee a Fast Gun Boat, SLNS Samudra Devi a converted Fast Missile Boat the flag ship in a later era.
He specialized in Communication undergoing a course at INS Venduruthy India, from 01st September 1966 to 16th March 1967. On his return he contributed greatly towards efficient and secure communication by devising the first ever cryptographic system "SINHALE" for the Sri Lanka Navy. This replaced the Royal Navy's system "Britex" which had been in use since the inception of the Royal Ceylon Navy.
He was elevated to the rank of Lieutenant Commander on 01st April 1971.
During this period he was Commanding Officer of SLNS Ruhuna & Commanding Officer of SLNS Gemunu.
He attended the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India from 01st January 1977 to 01st December 1977.
In appreciation of his valuable contribution and unblemished record of service, he was promoted to the rank of Commander on 01st March 1978.As an Officer in the rank of Commander he had held important appointments of Commanding Officer of SLNS Tissa in Eastern Naval Area, Commanding Officer SLNS Elara in Northern Naval Area and Master of the Ceylon Shipping Corporation Vessel M/V Lanka Kanthi. On 30th June 1983 he was appointed Director of Naval Operations at the Naval Head Quarters, With his promotion to the rank of Captain on 01st January 1984 he was transferred to Trincomalee and appointed Commandant of the Naval and Maritime Academy where he took a keen interest in imparting training to produce Officers and Sailors of high standard.
He held memberships of the British Institute of Management, The Nautical Institute of UK and Royal Naval Institute of Navigation, UK. He had a Masters degree in Defence Studies and has been conferred with the Master Mariner Certificate by the Board of Trade in UK. He had the distinction of being elected the first President of the Sri Lanka branch of the Nautical Institute, UK. He took a keen interest in Naval History and displayed his scholastic aptitude by writing and publishing several articles on the Naval History of Trincomalee. He was also the brainchild behind the designing of the Navy Presidents Colours and Staff. His book on "Customs and Etiquettes of the Services" which is being referred to at present depicts his vast experience and knowledge of the subject.
The awards and medals bestowed on this valiant son of Sri Lanka in recognition of his efficiency, dedication, honesty, courage and loyalty to the motherland includes Ceylon Armed Services Long Service Medal and Clasp, Sri Lanka Navy 25th Anniversary Medal, Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal and Clasp, Republic of Sri Lanka Armed Services Medal, President's Inauguration Medal and Purna Bhumi Medal. He was posthumously awarded the Vishishta Seva Vibushanaya medal by President D.B.Wijetunga.
In recognition of his dedicated, loyal and outstanding service he was promoted to the rank of Commodore on 01st July 1986. As a Commodore he held key appointments of Commander Western Naval Area and Commander Eastern Naval Area where he proved himself to be a competent and efficient administrator.
During the period he was Commander Eastern Naval Area he also functioned as Security Forces Commander for the Trincomalee District.
He attended the prestigious National Defense College New Delhi from 3rd January 1987 to 28th November 1987.
On completion of his tenure of office as Commander Eastern Naval Area he took over duties as Chief of Staff at Naval Headquarters on 04th April 1990.During this period he chaired the Electronic Warfare Committee under the direction of Gen. Cyril Ranatunga where the entire Electronic Warfare System of the Sri Lankan Defence establishment was revamped.
In appreciation of 34 years of dedicated and loyal service to the Nation His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka promoted him to the rank of Rear Admiral and appointed him as the Actg. Commander of Sri Lanka Navy on 01st August 1991. During this period he played an active role in all Military operations especially Operation 'Balavegaya' along with Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa to land troops at Vettilakeni and Operation 'Chandamaruthaya'. The highly successful Operation Balavegaya which was launched to break the LTTE siege on the Elephant Pass Base, was the single largest amphibious operation ever undertaken by the Sri Lanka Navy. Three months later on 01st November 1991 he was elevated to the rank of Vice Admiral where he held high office until he was assassinated on 16th November 1992.
Having portrayed charismatic leadership of a gentleman and exemplary character that are essential attributes of a Naval Officer, he was able to win the hearts and admiration of his subordinates effortlessly. During his tenure of office as Commander of the Navy he spearheaded the brown water capability of the Navy. This was successfully established with limited funds using less expensive locally made Inshore Patrol Craft / Water jets to operate in shallow water that mostly surrounds the Jaffna peninsular. He also established the Pooneryn /Nagativanthurai Navy bases to successfully launch attacks and cut off the Main Supply Route of the LTTE which was across the Kilali Lagoon. This was the precursor to the recently launched Rapid Action Boat Squadron.
Admiral Fernando played the role of a diplomat in addition to being a strong and effective naval commander in the war against the LTTE during 1991 to 1992. He used some of his many personal contacts in the Indian Defense establishment for the benefit of his motherland. He initially established joint patrolling by the Indian & Sri Lankan Navies of the Palk Strait in
1991 to prevent the LTTE from moving arms/men/material across it.
Thereafter, on a visit arranged by him with the concurrence of the two Governments in February 1992 he met the Indian Military & Political Leaders on the issue of Indian Fishing trawlers. The Indian Government made available an Indian Air Force aircraft for the visit which was undertaken under very tight security. This possibly was a first by a Service Chief on such a mission. Among those he met were the Indian Army, Navy & Air Force Chiefs. He also met key Naval Officers of the various Naval Commands in India many who were his friends and batch mates at various training courses.
There were meetings with the External Affairs Ministry including one with Mr Dixit and other key officials of the Indian Defense Ministry. The highlight was the very successful meeting with Ms Jayalalitha the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Even today she is a strong supporter of the Center and opposed to the LTTE. In the Struggle to save Sri Lanka from separatist terrorists he executed his responsibilities with fervent dedication and sacrificed his life for the preservation of territorial integrity and sovereignty.
He was targeted by LTTE for intensifying the war to cut their MSR both across the Palk Strait and the Kilali lagoon and assassinated in Colombo by a suicide bomber on 16th November 1992; and was posthumously promoted to the rank of Admiral. He remains to be the highest ranking active military officer to be killed in Sri Lanka