Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Battle of Ceylon.

101st European Foot and to the right the 2nd Bengal Sepoy Foot (East Indian Company Regiments) engage the Dutch VOC line seen in the distance.
(Summer, 1786) Captain Noel Boone sat on his horse among the Peshawar Lancers, an East India Company cavalry unit. To the left of the Lancers was deployed 'John Company's' Army. Five regiments of infantry, a battery of cannon and four other cavalry regiments.

In front of the British army Boone watched  Dutch VOC Regiments march up. Just as the Brits, the Dutch had their own private army in the India theatre. Dutch and British both opened fire with their batteries of cannon. The booming of the guns firing, the whistle of shells and then explosions. From time to time a shell misfired and the crackle of powder could be heard as the shell slow fired as it arced through the sky. It did not bother Boone, he did not fear combat.

East India Company Infantry and Dutch VOC infantry regiments lined up, closed in and opened fire upon each other, but the Captain and his troopers remained stationary out of the action. The Lancers were on a ridge on the outskirts of a village. A good view of the action when not obscured by smoke opened in front of them. A large Dutch foot regiment pulled off the line and moved back to redeploy. Right there a quarter of a mile in front of the cavalry lay a battery of Dutch guns.

The Colonel of the Peshawar Lancers suddenly yelled for the troops to form up and move forward. "Charge!" yelled the Colonel and the bugler sounded his horn. At a slow trot the Lancers moved towards the Battery.  Boone watched the cannon being moved to aim at his unit. Cannon fire opened, horses and men fell screaming to the ground. Blood from a decapitated trooper splashed on his uniform.  Onward the lancers trotted then broke out in a gallop upon the Colonels order.
Into the battery rode the Lancers. Boone spotted a Dutch artillery trooper trying to use his cannon rammer as a weapon. Into the Dutchman's throat  Boone plunged his lance. Around him screams of death and also of victory rang out. Within seconds the Dutch battery and its crews were destroyed.

The Lancers formed up once again after being scattered during the short but brutal action. Again they were on the flank of the main action. To their left the regiments of infantry held in lines firing their muskets in mass volleys. With the Dutch artillery knocked out the British now had mastery of the field with their guns. Shells ripped into Dutch formations.

The Dutch infantry had held well, but soon started giving way, other British cavalry regiments charged and the rout was on. Boone was startled from watching the other units by the urgent shouting of his Colonel. "The enemy general and his bodyguard are retreating, Charge!" The Lancers flew into action. Out of a copse of trees the Dutch General and his men were galloping up a rise, but the Lancers had a better angle and no slope to navigate. Into the Dutch yet again the Peshawar Lancer crashed.

In melee the Lancers took a heavy toll on the first charge, but mixed in close from that point the swords of the Dutch took their toll. A dutch cavalryman stabbed one of Boone's enlisted men. Boone turned his horse right into the foes horse. At too short of range to spear the Dutchman, Captain Boone used his lance as a club striking the foe across the face, the blow caused the Dutchman to fall off his horse to the ground, Boone then easily stabbed the helpless foe with the tip of his lance.

More Brit light cavalry charged in at this point, the Dutch General fell and his escort ran or died. Except for pursuing routing Dutch the Battle had been won. The island of Ceylon fell to the Brits.

The Peshawar Lancers charging a Dutch VOC cannon battery during the Battle of Ceylon. The VOC is the Dutch competitor of the East India Company.

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