Lord Louis Mountbatten moved the RADIO SEAC operations from New Delhi first to Kandy and then to Colombo during World War II. This was Ceylon’s first ever wartime radio station and it played a vital role from 1944 – 1946. During this time Vernon and Ernest were teenagers, living at the Vicarage of St.Luke’s Church in Borella. Like many Ceylonese families and many listeners all over the world they tuned into on their wireless sets to the BBC. One day that young teenager in Borella, listening with his family to the BBC, would be the Corporation’s Ethnic Minorities Adviser and BBC Local Radio’s first ever Asian Programmes Officer.
Radio SEAC played a vital role during World War II broadcasting for 18-20 hours on the 19 meter band at 15.120 mhz. A poweful shortwave transmitter was set up in Ekala, the announcers operated from the studios in Colombo.
Radio programs and important announcements including the speeches of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Lord Louis Mountbatten were beamed from Ceylon right across India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore. It went a long way in boosting morale of the troops stationed in these countries. David Jacobs and Desmond Carrington (who later fronted programs on BBC Radio 2 in London) were the popular English announcers of Radio SEAC operating from Ceylon – they introduced request programs and programs for loved ones back in the United Kingdom. The songs of Bing Crosby were very popular with the forces at the time – they sent in so many requests to Radio SEAC.
Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten was the favourite Uncle of His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales who has himself visited the island of Sri Lanka. Vernon Corea met Prince Charles in the 1980s when he was the BBC’S Ethnic Minorities Adviser.
Here is a rare film of Independence Day in Ceylon in 1967 at Galle Face Green in Colombo with the Prime Minister of Ceylon Dudley Senanayake and the Governor-General of Ceylon William Gopallawa – on the side of the platform is Lord Louis Mountbatten with former Governor-General of Ceylon Sir Oliver Goonetilleke watching the proceedings:
Newspaper article from 17th April 1944 stating that Admiral Moutbatten had moved his headquarters to Ceylon:
Lord Mountbatten addresses the personnel on board the USS Saratoga in Trincomalee Ceylon in 1944: