When T.B. Jayah assumed duties as Principal of Zahira College in 1921, he lost no time in applying for a Cadet Contingent. The Senior and Junior Platoons were formed in 1927, when Lt. T. Suhayb took command of the Contingent. The foundation of cadetting at Zahira was well and truly laid by his predecessors in office.

In 1931, there was a proposal to abolish Cadet Battalions.  This move was defeated by strenuous efforts of leading Principals T.B. Jayah, P. de S. Kularatne, Father M.J. Le Goc and H.L. Reed of the Conference of Principals of Schools.

In 1936, a 100-yds. rifle range was opened at Zahira College. The standard of shooting rose up by leaps and bounds and the cadets took part in C.R.A competitions.  In 1937, the Senior Platoon won the Herman Loos Cup for all round performance and the Millers Inter-Platoon Shooting Cup at Diyatalawa.

In 1939, after 12 years of services as O.C. Contingent at Zahira.  Lt. Suhayb was promoted Captain and Lt. S.J.A. Doray assumed command of the contingent.  When Lt. Doray was promoted Captain in 1944 Lt. Noor Hamith took command of the Contingent. The College experienced some difficulty in getting a suitable officer for the Junior Platoon, until Mr. A.M.O. Muhlar, an old Zahira cadet with war time experience offered his services to the College a few months before the retirement of T.B. Jayah. Lt. Muhlar took the Rifle Club under his wing and the range was soon humming with activity. He threw himself into the training of the Junior Cadets whole heartedly.

A few months later, in August 1948, A.M.A. Azeez succeeded T.B. Jayah as Principal of Zahira College. With his encouragement, he gave a free hand to Lt. Muhlar and entrusted him with the .22 rifle range. The Junior Cadet Platoons won the C.L.I. Challenge Cup in 1949 and 1950 for all round performance. In 1950 Lt. Noor Hamith was promoted Captain and Lt. Muhlar succeeded him. Lt. M.R.A. Carim took charge of the Junior Cadets. In 1951 The Senior Platoon won the Herman Loos Cup for all round performance. With these achievements the Zahira cadets never looked back and continued their success in rifle shooting as well.

In 1955, the Senior Cadets won the Herman Loos Cup and winning all events. There were no camps in 1953 (Hartal), 1954 (Queen’s visit) and 1958 (communal riots). In the other years they lost the Herman Loos Cup by narrow margins.

In 1954, the Junior Platoon won the C.L.I. Challenge Cup.  In 1956 Lt. Carim left and Lt. M.M. Mansoor took charge of the Junior Cadets. In 1959 the camp was cancelled due to strikes. In the other years they did not fare well. The camps were held in Boosa and in 1957 it was held for the first time in Diyatalawa.

With the dedicated interest taken by Lt. Muhlar, in the 1950s and early 1960s in the Miniature Rifle Club, Zahira undoubtedly had the Best Rifle Unit, in both the .22 (small bore) and .303 (big bore), at rifle shooting competitions, and was the most respected rifle club in the country.

The members were all schoolboys of Zahira and only Major General C.P. Jayawardana, ADC to the Governor-General, was given membership specially by the Principal A.M.A. Azeez.

Zahira won the monthly .22 (small bore) Lord De War Shield, which subsequently became a permanent fixture in the Principal’s office. Lt. Muhlar took the Zahirians to the Army Rifle Meet as 3/CCC Zahira College, where they won the trophy for the Best Rifle Unit in the Army in 1953 and 1955. They won many events at the National Rifle Meets in Diyatalawa and Panaluwa. They swept the Board at the Galle Gymkhana shooting competitions held on the Galle Ramparts in 1955, 1956 and 1957.

In 1958 and 1959, due to Government security measures and the difficulties in obtaining small arms and ammunition, there was very little activity in rifle shooting.

The Zahirians broke all records in both Cadetting and Rifle Shooting whilst the Army took serious notice. Here, briefly is the Record.

  • 1949 –  Junior Cadets- Won the CLI Challenge Cup for All Round Performance.
  • 1950 – Junior Cadets- Won the C.L.I. Challenge Cup for All Round Performance. Won De Soysa Cup for Squad Drill and Whiteway Shield for Physical Training.
  • 1950 – Senior Cadets won The Rifle Shooting, Hut and Line Inspection and Soccer
  • 1950 – National Rifle Meet (.22 ) Won the Lord De War Shield Team Event
  • 1951 – Senior Cadets – Won Herman Loos Cup for All Round Performance and won Rifle Shooting and Squad Drill
  • 1951 – National Rifle Meet (.22 ) Won the Lord De War Shield Team Event.
  • 1952 – National Rifle Meet (.22 ) Won the Lord De War Shield Team Event.
  • 1953 – Army Rifle Meet (.303)–Diyatlawa- 3/CCC Zahira-won Best Rifle Unit in the Army.
  • 1953 –  National Rifle Meet (.22 ) Won the Lord De War Shield Team Event.
  • 1953/54 – NRA Meet.(.303) Won Team Events and the Ben S. Hamer Trophy for the Championship Grand Aggregate total by M.M. Khalid.
  • 1954 – Junior Cadets – Won the C.L.I. Challenge Shield for All Round Performance and won Squad Drill and Physical Training
  • 1954 – National Rifle Meet (.22 ) Won the Lord De War Shield Team Event.
  • 1955-  Senior Cadets –Won Herman Loos for All Round Performance. Won Rifle Shooting Trophy, Squad Drill, Arms Drill, – Thereby winning all competitions.
  • 1955-  National Rifle Meet (.22 ) Won the Lord De War Shield Team Event.
  • 1955 – Army Rifle Meet Panagoda (.303) 3/CCC Zahira adjudged Best Rifle Unit of the Army. Won two team events, where Zahira “B” Team beat both CLI and Zahira “A” Team

At the annual B S A International and De War International Meets between 1950 and 1956, six Zahira College boys were among the fifteen member National Team.

Mulaffer Khalid remembers that, Lt. Muhlar’s training was such, that getting up from the prone position, after pumping ten shots from the .22 rifle scoring a possible 100, he would make us feel a little inadequate by showing us that the 100 could have been better if all ten shots could be in the dead centre of the bullseye. Lt. Muhlar was well known and respected in school cadet circles.

In 1954, A.G.A. Barrie beat Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor Ben of the CLI (seconded from UK) in both .22 and .303 Snap Target Shooting. They were amusing moments to be recorded.

(a) In the .22 rifle shooting competition at the Zahira Rifle Range, Ben scored 34 points out of 35 and was celebrating by sipping a glass of beer. When Barrie scored 35 points out of 35 Ben threw away the   glass of beer.

(b) In the .303 competition at the Army Rifle Range, Ben scored 34 points out of 35.He did not celebrate, but inquired “Has the small brat finished?” To his surprise Barrie scored 35 out of 35 points beating him again

The most prestigious Queens Cup of the Ceylon Rifle Association (.303 ) was won by Zahirians M.H.M. Ameen in 1957 and by A.K.M. Mohideen in 1960, both as schoolboys competing with the Defence Services, all leading Rifle Clubs and others. Colonel C.P. Jayawardana, President of the C.R.A., in his personal letter to Ameen dated 25.4.1957 conveyed Her Majesty’s warm congratulations.

There were Zahira cadets and marksmen who joined the Defence Services, namely Col. B. Johar H. Bahar, Major General T.S.B. Sally, Col. T.M. Rajudin, Major General  A. Ariyappperuma (killed by the LTTE), Capt. M.S.M. Nalim, Capt. A.G.A. Barrie (Volunteer Engineers) Rear Admiral K.R. Leslie Perera, Air Commodore M.S. Sally, Squadron Leader M.M. Khalid, SSPs T.A. Packeer, M.A. Majeed, M. Ibrahim Hamid and Inspector S. Thangiah. M.S. Amit joined the Army Armoured Corps and was in the Shooting Team at the Asian Games in 1966.

Zahira’s achievements in Cadeting and Rifle Shooting were due to the untiring efforts of the Perfectionist Capt. A.M. Omar Muhlar, who produced both the best cadets and best marksmen in our country during the years 1948 to 1961, when A.M.A. Azeez was the Principal, a period referred to as the GOLDEN ERA OF ZAHIRA.

 (Dr. M. Mulaffer Khalid was an old Zahirian and a distinguished cadet and marksman. He joined the Air Force in 1960 and was selected for training with the RAF UK in 1960. Subsequently he  was its Senior Air Movements Officer and Chief Supply Officer of the SLAF. He was appointed Head of Air Movements for the Non Alignments Conference of 1976, providing logistics for 146 Non Scheduled Aircraft.  He also won the  International  Prize for “Procurement Techniques and Economics”  at the UK Institute for Purchasing in the late 1970’s. He was appointed Chairman of Sri Lanka Land Reclamation & Development Corpn. and later Chairman Building Materials Corporation and Project Director and Coordinator of the newly formed National Equipment & Machinery Organization.


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