Invasion of Java (1811)

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Invasion of Java
Part of the Napoleonic Wars
Java Locator.svg
Java, in Southeast Asia
DateAugust - September 1811
Result British victory
Java captured by Britain

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom

Flag of France.svg First French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Robert Stopford
Samuel Auchmuty
Robert Rollo Gillespie
Jan Willem Janssens
12,000 soldiers
25 warships
Casualties and losses
1,000 2,000

The invasion of Java in 1811 was a successful British amphibious operation against the Dutch East Indian island of Java that took place between August and September 1811 during the Napoleonic Wars. Originally established as a colony of the Dutch Republic, Java remained in Dutch hands throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, during which time the French invaded the Republic and established the Batavian Republic in 1795, and the Kingdom of Holland in 1806. The Kingdom of Holland was annexed to the First French Empire in 1810, and Java became a titular French colony, though it continued to be administered and defended primarily by Dutch personnel.


After the fall of French colonies in the West Indies in 1809 and 1810, and a successful campaign against French possessions in Mauritius in 1810 and 1811, attention turned to the Dutch East Indies. An expedition was dispatched from India in April 1811, while a small squadron of frigates was ordered to patrol off the island, raiding shipping and launching amphibious assaults against targets of opportunity. Troops were landed on 4 August, and by 8 August the undefended city of Batavia capitulated. The defenders withdrew to a previously prepared fortified position, Fort Cornelis, which the British besieged, capturing it early in the morning of 26 August. The remaining defenders, a mixture of Dutch and French regulars and native militiamen, withdrew, pursued by the British. A series of amphibious and land assaults captured most of the remaining strongholds, and the city of Salatiga surrendered on 16 September, followed by the official capitulation of the island to the British on 18 September. The island remained in British hands for the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars, and was restored to the Dutch in the Convention of London in 1814.


Batavia, capital of Dutch East Indies, with citadel in the background. COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Olieverfschilderij voorstellende het Kasteel Batavia gezien van Kali Besar west met op de voorgrond de vismarkt TMnr 118-167.jpg
Batavia, capital of Dutch East Indies, with citadel in the background.

The Netherlands had been controlled by France for several years and was already at war with Britain. The strongly pro-French Herman Willem Daendels was appointed Governor General of the Dutch East Indies in 1807. He arrived in Java aboard the French privateer Virginie in 1808, and began fortifying the island against the threat of a British siege. [1] In particular, Daendels established an entrenched camp named Fort Cornelis a few miles south of Batavia. He also improved the island's defences by building new hospitals, barracks, arms factories and a new military college.

In 1810, the Netherlands were formally annexed by France. As part of the resulting changes, Jan Willem Janssens was appointed personally by Napoleon Bonaparte to replace Daendels as Governor General. Janssens had previously served as Governor General of the Cape Colony, and had been forced to capitulate after being defeated by British forces at the Battle of Blaauwberg in 1806. Janssens accompanied a French frigate division under Joseph-François Raoul, consisting of the Méduse and Nymphe and the corvette Sappho tasked to support Java. This force was accompanied by several hundred French troops (light infantry) and some senior French officers. [1] They arrived in Java in April 1811 without mishap. On 2 September, the frigates arrived at Surabaya, tailed by the 32-gun frigate HMS Bucephalus. Two days later, another British ship, HMS Barracouta, joined the chase, but lost contact on 8 September. Four days later, Méduse and Nymphe chased the Bucephalus, which escaped and broke contact the next day. The squadron was back in Brest on 22 December 1811.

The British had already occupied the Dutch East Indian possessions of Ambon and the Molucca Islands. They had also recently captured the French islands of Réunion and Mauritius in the Mauritius campaign of 1809–1811. Stamford Raffles, an official of the British East India Company who had been forced to leave the Dutch settlement at Malacca when the Netherlands were annexed, suggested to Lord Minto, the Governor-General of India, that Java and the other Dutch possessions should be captured. With the large forces which had been made available to him for the Mauritius campaign, Minto enthusiastically adopted the suggestion, and even proposed to accompany the expedition himself. [1]

The Navy was active off the Javanese coastline before and during the expedition. On 23 May 1811 a party from HMS Sir Francis Drake attacked a flotilla of fourteen Dutch gun vessels off Surabaya, capturing nine of them. [2] Merak, in north-western Java, was attacked and the fort defending the town largely demolished by a party from HMS Minden and HMS Leda on 30 July. On the same day HMS Procris attacked a squadron of six Dutch gunboats flying French colours, capturing five and destroying the sixth. [3] [4]


The British force, initially under the command of Vice-Admiral William O'Bryen Drury, and then after his death in March 1811, under Commodore William Robert Broughton, assembled at bases in India in early 1811. [5] The first division of troops, under the command of Colonel Rollo Gillespie, left Madras on 18 April, escorted by a squadron under Captain Christopher Cole aboard the 36-gun HMS Caroline. They arrived at Penang on 18 May, and on 21 May the second division, led by Major-General Frederick Augustus Wetherall, which had left Calcutta on 21 April, escorted by a squadron under Captain Fleetwood Pellew, aboard the 38-gun HMS Phaeton joined them. [5] The two squadrons sailed together, arriving at Malacca on 1 June, where they made contact with a division of troops from Bengal under Lieutenant-General Sir Samuel Auchmuty, escorted by Commodore Broughton aboard the 74-gun HMS Illustrious. Auchmuty and Broughton became the military and naval commanders in chief respectively of the expedition. [5] With the force now assembled Auchmuty had roughly 11,960 men under his command, the previous strength having been reduced by approximately 1,200 by sickness. Those too ill to travel on were landed at Malacca, and on 11 June the fleet sailed onwards. After calling at various points en route, the force arrived off Indramayu on 30 June. [2]

There the fleet waited for a time for intelligence concerning the Dutch strength. Colonel Mackenzie, an officer who had been dispatched to reconnoitre the coast, suggested a landing site at Cilincing, an undefended fishing village 12 miles (19 km) east of Batavia. [6] The fleet anchored off the Marandi River on 4 August, and began landing troops at 14:00. [4] The defenders were taken by surprise, and nearly six hours passed before Franco-Dutch troops arrived to oppose the landing, by which time 8,000 British troops had been landed. [4] [7] A brief skirmish took place between the advance guards, and the Franco-Dutch forces were repulsed. [7]

Fall of Batavia

On learning of the successful British landing, Janssens withdrew from Batavia with his army, which amounted to between 8,000 and 10,090 men, and garrisoned themselves in Fort Cornelis. [7] The British advanced on Batavia, reaching it on 8 August and finding it undefended. The city surrendered to the forces under Colonel Gillespie, after Broughton and Auchmuty had offered promises to respect private property. [7] [8] The British were disappointed to find that part of the town had been set on fire, and many warehouses full of goods such as coffee and sugar had been looted or flooded, depriving them of prize money. [9] On 9 August 1811 Rear-Admiral Robert Stopford arrived and superseded Commodore Broughton, who was judged to be too cautious. [9] [10] Stopford had orders to supersede Rear-Admiral Albemarle Bertie as commander in chief at the Cape, but on his arrival he learnt of Vice-Admiral Drury's death, and the planned expedition to Java, and so travelled on. [8]

British advances

General Janssens had always intended to rely on the tropical climate and disease to weaken the British army rather than oppose a landing. [9] The British now advanced on Janssens's stronghold, reducing enemy positions as they went. The Dutch military and naval station at Weltevreeden fell to the British after an attack on 10 August. British losses did not exceed 100 while the defenders lost over 300. [11] In one skirmish, one of Janssens's French subordinates, General Alberti, was killed when he mistook some British troops in green uniforms for Dutch troops. Weltevreeden was six miles from Fort Cornelis and on 20 August the British began preparing fortifications of their own, some 600 yards from the Franco-Dutch positions. [10]

Siege of Fort Cornelis

Diagram of Fort Cornelis, Batavia. Post Meester Cornelis Batavia 1744.jpg
Diagram of Fort Cornelis, Batavia.

Fort Cornelis measured 1 mile (1,600 m) in length by between 600 yards (550 m) and 800 yards (730 m) in breadth. Two hundred and eighty cannon were mounted on its walls and bastions. Its defenders were a mixed bag of Dutch, French and East Indies troops. Most of the locally raised East Indian troops were of doubtful loyalty and effectiveness, although there were some determined artillerymen from Celebes. The captured station at Weltevreeden proved an ideal base from which the British could lay siege to Fort Cornelis. On 14 August the British completed a trail through the forests and pepper plantations to allow them to bring up heavy guns and munitions, and opened siege works on the north side of the Fort. For several days, there were exchanges of fire between the fort and the British batteries, manned mainly by Royal Marines and sailors from HMS Nisus. [12]

A sortie from the fort early on the morning of 22 August briefly seized three of the British batteries, until they were driven back by some of the Bengal Sepoys and the 69th Foot. [11] The two sides then exchanged heavy fire, faltering on 23 August, but resuming on 24 August. [8] [13] The Franco-Dutch position worsened when a deserter helped General Rollo Gillespie to capture two of the redoubts by surprise. Gillespie, who was suffering from fever, collapsed, but recovered to storm a third redoubt. The French General Jauffret was taken prisoner. Two Dutch officers, Major Holsman and Major Muller, sacrificed themselves to blow up the redoubt's magazine. [14]

The three redoubts were nevertheless the key to the defence, and their loss demoralised most of Janssens's East Indian troops. Many Dutch troops also defected, repudiating their allegiance to the French. The British stormed the fort at midnight on 25 August, capturing it after a bitter fight. [8] [13] The siege cost the British 630 casualties. The defenders' casualties were heavier, but only those among officers were fully recorded. Forty of them were killed, sixty-three wounded and 230 captured, including two French generals. [14] Nearly 5,000 men were captured, including three general officers, 34 field officers, 70 captains and 150 subaltern officers. [13] 1,000 men were found dead in the fort, with more being killed in the subsequent pursuit. [13] Janssens escaped to Buitenzorg with a few survivors from his army, but was forced to abandon the town when the British approached. [13]

Total British losses in the campaign after the fall of Fort Cornelis amounted to 141 killed, 733 wounded and 13 missing from the Army, and 15 killed, 45 wounded and three missing from the Navy; a total of 156 killed, 788 wounded and 16 missing by 27 August. [13]

Later actions

Royal Navy ships continued to patrol off the coast, occasionally making raids on targets of opportunity. On 4 September two French 40-gun frigates, the Méduse and the Nymphe attempted to escape from Surabaya. They were pursued by the 36-gun HMS Bucephalus and the 18-gun HMS Barracouta, until Barracouta lost contact. [15] [16] Bucephalus pursued them alone until 12 September, when the French frigates came about and attempted to overhaul her. Bucephalus's commander, Captain Charles Pelly, turned about and tried to lead the pursuing French over shoals, but seeing the danger, they hauled off and abandoned the chase, returning to Europe. [17] [18]

On 31 August a force from the frigates HMS Hussar, HMS Phaeton and HMS Sir Francis Drake, and the sloop HMS Dasher captured the fort and town of Sumenep, on Madura Island in the face of a large Dutch defending force. [18] The rest of Madura and several surrounding islands placed themselves under the British soon afterwards. [19] Suspecting Janssen to be in Cirebon, a force was landed there from HMS Lion, HMS Nisus, HMS President, HMS Phoebe and HMS Hesper on 4 September, causing the defenders to promptly surrender. General Jamelle, a member of Janssens's staff, was captured in the fall of the town. [18] [19] The town and fort of Taggal surrendered on 12 September after HMS Nisus and HMS Phoebe arrived offshore. [20]

While the navy took control of coastal towns, the army pushed on into the interior of the island. Janssens had been reinforced on 3 September by 1,200 mounted irregulars under Prince Prang Wedono and other Javanese militia. On 16 September Salatiga fell to the British. [20] Janssen attacked a British force under Colonel Samuel Gibbs that day, but was repulsed. Many of the native militia killed their Dutch officers in the ensuing rout. [21] With his effective force reduced to a handful of men, Janssens surrendered two days later, on 18 September. [18] [20]


The Dutch-held islands of Amboyna, Harouka, Saparua, Nasso-Laut, Buru, Manipa, Manado, Copang, Amenang, Kemar, Twangwoo and Ternate had surrendered to a force led by Captain Edward Tucker in 1810, while Captain Christopher Cole captured the Banda Islands, completing the conquest of Dutch possessions in the Maluku Islands. [22] Java became the last major colonial possession in the East not under British control, and its fall marked the effective end of the war in these waters. [18] [22] Stamford Raffles was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Java. [23] [24] He ended Dutch administrative methods, liberalized the system of land tenure, and extended trade. Britain returned Java and other East Indian possessions to the newly independent United Kingdom of the Netherlands under the terms of the Convention of London in 1814. One enduring legacy of the British occupation was the road rules, as the British had decreed that traffic should drive on the left, and this has endured in Indonesia to this day.

British order of battle

Stopford's fleet on his arrival on 9 August to assume command of the expedition, consisted of the following ships, dispersed around the Javanese coast: [10]

Rear-Admiral Stopford's fleet
Ship Rate Guns Navy Commander Notes
HMS Scipion Third rate 74 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Stopford
Captain James Johnson
HMS Illustrious Third rate 74 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commodore William Robert Broughton
Captain Robert Festing
HMS Minden Third rate 74 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Edward Wallis Hoare
HMS Lion Third rate 64 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Henry Heathcote
HMS Akbar Fifth rate 44 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Henry Drury
HMS Nisus Fifth rate 38 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Philip Beaver
HMS President Fifth rate 38 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Samuel Warren
HMS Hussar Fifth rate 38 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain James Coutts Crawford
HMS Phaeton Fifth rate 38 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Fleetwood Pellew
HMS Leda Fifth rate 36 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain George Sayer
HMS Caroline Fifth rate 36 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Christopher Cole
HMS Modeste Fifth rate 36 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Hon. George Elliot
HMS Phoebe Fifth rate 36 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain James Hillyar
HMS Bucephalus Fifth rate 36 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Charles Pelly
HMS Doris Fifth rate 36 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain William Jones Lye
HMS Cornelia Fifth rate 32 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain Henry Folkes Edgell
HMS Psyche Fifth rate 32 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain John Edgcumbe
HMS Sir Francis Drake Fifth rate 32 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Captain George Harris
HMS Procris Brig-sloop 18 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commander Robert Maunsell
HMS Barracouta Brig-sloop 18 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commander William Fitzwilliam Owen
HMS Hesper Ship-sloop 18 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commander Barrington Reynolds
HMS Harpy Sloop 18 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commander Henderson Bain
HMS Hecate Brig-sloop 18 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commander Henry John Peachey
HMS Dasher Sloop 18 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commander Benedictus Marwood Kelly
HMS Samarang Sloop 18 Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commander Joseph Drury
In addition to the vessels of the Royal Navy, the East India Company provided the services of several of their ships, led by Malabar under Commodore John Hayes. The EIC vessels included Ariel, Aurora, Mornington, Nautilus, Psyche, Thetis, and Vestal.
When one adds in the transport vessels, and several gunboats captured as the campaign progressed, Stopford commanded nearly a hundred ships. [10]
The British Army troops attached to the force included 12,000 soldiers from the 22nd Light Dragoons, 14th Foot, 59th Foot, 69th Foot, 78th Foot; 89th Foot, and 102nd Foot. The Navy provided contingents of the Royal Marines. The EIC contributed several regiments of Madras Native Infantry and Bengal Native Infantry, with half of the overall troop strength consisting of EIC Indian troops. General Samuel Auchmuty was the overall commander, but he delegated the field command to Major General Rollo Gillespie. [9]


  1. 1 2 3 Fregosi. Dreams of Empire. p. 320.
  2. 1 2 James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 27.
  3. James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 30.
  4. 1 2 3 Woodman. The Victory of Seapower. p. 107.
  5. 1 2 3 James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 26.
  6. James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 31.
  7. 1 2 3 4 James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 32.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Woodman. The Victory of Seapower. p. 108.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Fregosi. Dreams of Empire. p. 321.
  10. 1 2 3 4 James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 33.
  11. 1 2 nationalarchives site
  12. Fregosi. Dreams of Empire. p. 322.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 34.
  14. 1 2 Fregosi. Dreams of Empire. p. 323.
  15. James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 35.
  16. Woodman. The Victory of Seapower. p. 109.
  17. James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 36.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 Woodman. The Victory of Seapower. p. 110.
  19. 1 2 James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 38.
  20. 1 2 3 James. The Naval History of Great Britain. 6. p. 39.
  21. Fregosi. Dreams of Empire. p. 324.
  22. 1 2 Woodman. The Victory of Seapower. pp. 104–6.
  23. Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor By Keat Gin Ooi Contributor Keat Gin Ooi Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004; ISBN   1-57607-770-5, ISBN   978-1-57607-770-2; p. 937
  24. British India - From Queen Elizabeth To Lord Reading. By An Indian Mahomedan Contributed by Theodore Morison, 1926 republished by READ BOOKS, 2007; ISBN   1-4067-5148-0, ISBN   978-1-4067-5148-2; pp. 81, 82, 83, 84

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The Invasion of Ceylon was a military campaign fought as a series of amphibious operations between the summer of 1795 and spring of 1796 between the garrison of the Batavian colonies on the Indian Ocean island of Ceylon and a British invasion force sent from British India. The Dutch Republic had been a British ally during the French Revolutionary Wars, but was overrun by the French Republic in the winter of 1794 and reformed into the client state of the Batavian Republic. The British government, working with the exiled Stadtholder William of Orange, ordered the seizure of Batavian assets including colonies of the former Dutch Empire. Among the first territories to be attacked were those on the coast of the island of Ceylon, with operations initially focused on the trading port at Trincomalee.

East Indies theatre of the French Revolutionary Wars

The East Indies theatre of the French Revolutionary Wars was a series of campaigns related to the major European conflict known as the French Revolutionary Wars, fought between 1793 and 1801 between the new French Republic and its allies and a shifting alliance of rival powers. Although the Indian Ocean was separated by vast distance from the principal theatre of the conflict in Western Europe, it played a significant role due to the economic importance of the region to Great Britain, France's most constant opponent, of its colonies in India and the Far Eastern trade.

Macau Incident (1799)

The Macau Incident was an inconclusive encounter between a powerful squadron of French and Spanish warships and a British Royal Navy escort squadron in the Wanshan Archipelago off Macau on 27 January 1799. The incident took place in the context of the East Indies campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars, the allied squadron attempting to disrupt a valuable British merchant convoy due to sail from Qing Dynasty China. This was the second such attempt in three years; at the Bali Strait Incident of 1797 a French frigate squadron had declined to engage six East Indiamen on their way to China. By early 1799 the French squadron had dispersed, with two remaining ships deployed to the Spanish Philippines. There the frigates had united with the Spanish Manila squadron and sailed to attack the British China convoy gathering at Macau.

Invasion of the Spice Islands

The Invasion of the Spice Islands was a military invasion by British forces that took place between February to August 1810 on and around the Dutch owned Maluku Islands also known as the Spice Islands in the Dutch East Indies during the Napoleonic wars.


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