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Capture of Fort Trincomalee by surprise

Unit/ Formation: His Majesty's Marine Forces


Location: Sri Lanka


Period/ Conflict: Fourth Anglo Dutch War


Year: 1782


Date/s: 5 January 1782


On January 5, 1782 British troops landed at Back Bay and captured Fort Trincomalee by surprise.


After the capture of Negapatam, the tempestuous state of the weather retarded the intended departure of the 1782. squadron of sir Edward Hughes to attack the Dutch settlement of Trincomalé, in the island Of Ceylon; but the squadron having embarked 30 artillery men, and 500 volunteer sepoys, put to sea on the 3rd of January from the roads of Negapatam, and arrived in the bay of Trincomalé on the 4th.



Early in the morning the marines, with 2 six-pounders, were landed, and soon afterwards 800 seamen were disembarked, followed by the sepoys; and before it became dark, the whole force pushed forward towards Trincomalé fort.


On the same night the grenadier company of the marines, led by lieutenant Orr, made themselves masters of the fort, by forcing an entry through the gateway at the moment the governor was preparing terms of capitulation. The garrison consisted of only 3 Officers and 40men ; but the possession of the fort was important to the future operations of the enterprise, as it commanded the only safe landing for stores and provisions from the ships. On the 8th the seamen and marines carried a post situated on the top of a high hill commanding Fort Ostenburg, which fortress was also on the summit of a neighbouring eminence (hill) that commanded the harbour.



Sir Edward Hughes, after sending a second summons to the governor without success, ordered the immediate preparation for an assault on the morning of the 11th. Accordingly the storming party, consisting of 450 seamen and marines, having on their flanks a party of pioneers, with 20 seamen carrying scaling ladders, and a reserve of three companies of seamen and three of marines, supported by two field-pieces and the Company’ s troops, advanced at daylight towards the fort.


A serjeant’ s party of marines led the attack, and getting through the embrasures, the Dutch were soon driven from their works and the on our part of lieutenant George Long fort gained, with the loss of the navy, and 20 sailors and marines killed ; and lieutenant Samuel Wolseley of the navy, lieutenant Samuel Orr of the marines, Officiating as brigade-major, and 40men wounded.


The fort mounted above 50 guns, and contained a garrison of 400 men.


In the harbour there were two valuable East- Indiamen, and 30 smaller vessels.


Sir Edward Hughes, in his Official report, thus expresses himself on the conduct of the marines


The whole of the Officers who have been landed from the squadron for the attack of Negapatam and Trincomalé, have on all occasions manifested much honour, courage, and good conduct; and the private seamen and marines have acted with great steadiness and bravery. ” [1]


[1] HISTORICAL RECORD of THE ROYAL MARINE FORCES VOL. I. By PAUL HARRIS NICOLAS, Lieut. Royal Marines (Open here)

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