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 (or Moluccas) also known as the Spice Islands in the Dutch East Indies during the Napoleonic wars.
By 1810 the Kingdom of Holland was a vassal of Napoleonic France and Great Britain along with the East India Company sought to control the rich Dutch spice islands in the East Indies. Two British forces were allocated; one to the island of Ambon and Ternate, then another force would capture the more heavily defended islands of Banda Neira, following which any other island that was defended.
In a campaign that lasted seven months British forces took all of the islands in the region; Ambon was captured in February, Banda Neira in August and Ternate and all other islands in the region later that same month.
The British held on to the islands until the end of the war. After the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 the islands were handed back to the Dutch, but in the meantime the East India Company had uprooted a lot of the spice trees for transplantation throughout the British Empire.
The Moluccas were known as the Spice Islands because of the nutmeg, mace and cloves that were exclusively found there. The presence of these sparked European colonial interest in the sixteenth century, starting with Portugal who virtually held a monopoly on the spice trade. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) arrived in the islands in 1599 and eventually ousted the Portuguese.
The English East India Company arrived soon after who in turn competed with the Dutch and had claimed the island of Ambon and the small island of Run. The competition soon came to a head with the Amboyna massacre in 1623 which influenced Anglo-Dutch relations for decades. After 1667 under the Treaty of Breda, both agreed to maintain the colonial status quo and relinquish their respective claims, which continued well in the 18th century.
After the financially disastrous Fourth Anglo-Dutch War the Dutch Republic became the Batavian Republic and allied with Revolutionary France. The VOC was then nationalised in 1796. During the war that followed Prince William V of Orange ordered the Dutch East India Company to hand over their colonies to the British to stop trade falling into French hands. The VOC was officially dissolved in 1799; the overseas possessions then became Dutch government colonies (the Moluccas became part of the Dutch East Indies). The islands were captured by Vice Admiral Peter Rainier – Ternate was later viciously contested by the Dutch.These were subsequently returned as a result of the Treaty of Amiens seven years later. Peace however did not last long and thus began the Napoleonic Wars. By 1808, most of the Dutch colonies had been neutralised in a series of brief but successful campaigns; the Cape was invaded and captured by Sir Home Riggs Popham in January 1806 and the island of Java by Sir Edward Pellew in a campaign that ended in December 1807. The French and British were nevertheless each seeking to control the lucrative Indian Ocean trade routes. The British had started by invading the French Indian Ocean islands of Ile de France and Île Bonaparte in 1809. The Dutch East Indies had to be taken by the British for a number of reasons; firstly it was necessary to subvert French power there before it entrenched itself too firmly to be dislodged easily by the British. This was the primary concern of the East India Company who felt that their China trade would be threatened.
|Maluku Island spices|
In 1806 Herman Willem Daendels became Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies and sought to defend the region against the British. Using forced labour Daendels reinforced the garrisons, improved defences and built the Great Post Road in Java to counter a potential British threat.
In the middle of 1809 the Colonial Governor of India, 1st Earl of Minto wanted to set up two squadrons to conquer the Moluccas. This fell under Rear Admiral William O'Brien Drury who was resolved to seize the Dutch settlements. Cornwallis under Captain William Augustus Montagu and the sloop HMS Samarang. They carried two companies of troops numbering around 400 men of the Madras European Regiment and the Madras Artillery. Their main objective were the islands of Amboyna and Ternate.The first was set up in February 1810 – Captain Edward Tucker commanded a small squadron comprising HMS Dover, the frigate HMS
The second force intended to capture the Banda Islands, the heart of the Spice trade – notably the strongly defended island of Banda Neira. The force comprised the 36-gun frigate Caroline , the former French frigate HMS Piedmontaise , the 18-gun sloop HMS Barracouta, and a 12-gun transport, the captured Dutch vessel Mandarin, which was serving as a tender to Caroline. The frigates and sloop carried a hundred officers and men of the Madras European Regiment, as well as sailors and Royal Marines, and twenty men and two guns from the Madras Artillery. The squadron was commanded by Captain Christopher Cole, with Captain Charles Foote on Piedmontaise and Captain Richard Kenah aboard Barracouta. They departed from Madras and sailed via Singapore, where Captain Richard Spencer informed Cole that over 700 regular Dutch troops may be located in the Bandas.
A number of East India Company agents were in tow partially to look at the idea of uprooting all of the spice trees namely nutmeg and clove which they had done on a small scale during the islands previous occupation in the 1790s. The primary consideration was the commercial advantage – the occupation of the Spice Islands meant not only a curtailment of the Dutch trade and power in the East Indies but also an equivalent gain to the company of the rich trade in spice.
By 1810 the Kingdom of Holland was a vassal of Napoleonic France after being annexed under orders from Napoleon Bonaparte.
The British force allocated to take Ambon left Madras on 9 October 1809. By the middle of the following February they arrived off the island the most considerable of the Dutch Spice islands and seat of government. On 6 February Dover captured the Dutch brig-of-war Rambang. Both Dover and Cornwallis anchored off the town of Ambon situated at the bottom of a small bay beneath a line of low hills.These were defended by batteries along the beach as well as on some of the neighbouring heights and by Fort Victoria the main fort mounting a number of heavy guns. As the elevations on the left and in the rear of the town commanded its defences, the British intended to assault them.
The British launched their attack on 16 February – the squadron at the same time occupied the attention of the Dutch by a vigorous cannonade. The troops aided by seamen and marines led by a Captain Court were landed on the right of the bay unnoticed by the Dutch, capturing two batteries that overlooked the port and Fort Victoria. During the night, Samarang landed forty men, who were joined by two field pieces from Dover. These joined in the bombardment of Fort Victoria as well as from the two captured batteries.
British cannon fire from the ships and shore guns proved effective at showing considerable force – three ships were sunk in the harbour. A summons was then given to the Dutch Governor Colonel Filz for the surrender of the island, and after a few hours the articles of capitulation were agreed upon.On 18 February the town capitulated; British casualties were extremely light, with only three dead, one of whom was a marine from Samarang. The entire island defended by 250 Europeans and around 1,000 Javanese and Madurese people laid down their arms.
During the campaign the British captured several Dutch vessels. One was the Dutch brig Mandurese which had twelve guns. She was one of three vessels sunk in the inner harbour of Amboyna. However, the British raised her after the island surrendered. They took her into service as Mandarin.From Amboyna, the squadron went on to capture the islands of Saparua, Harouka, Nasso-Laut, Buru, and Manipa.
After the attack on Amboyna, Spencer sailed Samarang to the island of Pulo Ay (or Pulo Ai), in the Banda Islands. There he conducted a successful and bloodless attack on Fort Revenge.Spencer disguised Samarang to look like a Dutch merchant vessel, which fooled the fort's commander, enabling Spencer to take the fort by surprise. The Dutch commander committed suicide by taking poison after he realised that he had surrendered to what was a relatively weak British force.
Next, Samarang captured the Dutch brig Recruiter on 28 March, when she arrived off the island of Pulau Ai. She was armed with twelve guns and had a crew of fifty men under the command of Captain Hegenheard. She had on board 10,000 dollars, the payroll of which were for the Dutch garrison at Banda Neira as well as provisions, a doctor, nurse, and twenty infants, on their way to conduct a vaccination campaign.Samarang shared the prize money by agreement with Dover and Cornwallis. Between 29 April and 18 May, Dover, Cornwallis, and Samarang captured the Dutch ships Engelina and Koukiko. Both Pulau Ai and Run were captured without a fight.
After sending all the Dutch officers and troops from Amboyna to Java, Captain Tucker sailed for the Dutch port of Gorontello, in the Bay of Tommine, on the north-east part of the island of Celebes in June 1810. Although the Dutch flag was flying over Fort Nassau, the settlement was governed by a Sultan and his two sons on behalf of the Dutch. He persuaded the Sultan to allow the British to replace the Dutch – which he agreed to.
Finally on 26 June Dover captured the island of Manado, where Fort Amsterdam was protected by two heavy batteries. The fort surrendered without opposition when Captain Tucker pointed out to the Dutch Governor that an English frigate, with guns ready to fire and volunteers waiting in her boats, was waiting to storm the Dutch position. Manado had a garrison of 113, including officers, and the fort and the batteries mounted fifty guns.
The British force destined for the Banda Islands appeared at Banda Neira on 9 August. The main defence on the islands was Fort Belgica which is a fairly significant position built in the stereotypical Vauban pentagon and surrounded by a ditch.The older Fort Nassau lay further down to Belgica. The defences had been strengthened since the British had left the islands. In addition there were ten batteries (exclusive of the two forts) and as Spencer had predicted, there were 700 regular Dutch troops and 800 native militia.
The operational concept was to approach Banda Neira after dark on 8 August and disembark the landing force of about 400 sailors, marines, and European infantry in small boats. These boats would run into harbour before dawn and take Fort Belgica and other strongpoints by surprise.
In the event, not much went according to plan. They were taken under fire from a battery during the night from the small island of Rosensgan as the Dutch were on alert, then the weather worsened dispersing the fleet of small boats. About 100 yards from the shore and directly opposite a Dutch battery consisting of ten 18-pounders the boats grounded on a coral reef. The men leapt into the water, then after an hour and a half before daylight the force were able to land in a sandy cove.When Captain Cole reached the assembly area for the attack there were less than 200 seaman, marines and soldiers remaining. He made the decision to press ahead with the attack. Commander Richard Kenah of Barracouta attacked the Dutch battery in front of them from the rear. Using boarding pikes they killed one sentry and captured the remainder of the garrison, some sixty men, without firing a shot.
Leaving a small guard in the battery – twenty minutes later they attempted to storm Fort Belgica. As dawn was breaking they were helped by a native guide to the outer ramparts of the fort. Despite the British being spotted and the alarm called, the heavy rain worked to the advantage of the attackers.The defenders visibility was reduced and their firearms rendered useless. Having erected scaling ladders the attackers stormed over the outer walls and despite coming under desultory musket fire this part of the fort was stormed and taken. The inner walls were then attempted but the ladders were too short. However, the main gate had been opened to admit the commandant who lived outside. The British took the opportunity, made a rush, and by 5:30am the fort was in their possession. The Dutch side the fort commandant and ten men were killed, two officers and thirty men were taken prisoner, along with fifty two cannon. The British loss was trifling with only a few men wounded.
Captain Cole sent Commander Kenah to demand the surrender of the Dutch governor.As negotiations were taking place the Caroline, Piedmontaise, and Barracouda attempted to enter the harbour but were fired on by Dutch batteries. The British used the guns of Fort Belgica to return fire and threatened to destroy the nearby town if the governor did not surrender but he complied.
The final part of the campaign involved the capture of the island of Ternate, the last remaining Dutch possession of any consequence in the Moluccas; after capturing Manado, Tucker and 174 men from HMS Dover arrived there on 21 August. The plan was to capture Fort Kalamata a small fortress which lies near the main town which was made up Fort Oranje; a bigger fort – this contained 92 heavy calibre guns and a garrison of 500 men of which 150 were Dutch. Many of the natives soldiers however had been in near mutiny over their pay.
After having found an amphibious landing difficult at night Tucker and his men resorted in daylight and succeeded at Sasa, a village screened by a point of land from the fort by 7am. They managed to ascend a hill, occupied it to place a field gun to command the position. The area on top was covered in thick forest and so Tucker attempted a night march. They were met by a roadblock, so a detour along a stream led to a sharp firefight against a strong Dutch detachment.After driving the Dutch away with a bayonet charge, they came across a beach which was only within a hundred yards of Fort Kalamata. The Dutch opened fire, but even so the attackers decided to make an assault. After crossing a ditch, the British stormed the fort using scaling ladders on the flank of the bastion, and carried it after some sharp fighting. Owing to the darkness and rapidity of the advance the casualties were moderate with three killed and fourteen wounded.
Tucker attempted to demand the Dutch governor Colonel Jon van Mithman to surrender but in response guns were fired at the British ships from Fort Kota Baro a small fort which lay in between Kalamata and Oranje. Dover having placed her herself in front of it then used hers guns to silence the battery, following which a small detachment took possession of after a surprise attack. Dover then faced off against Fort Oranje pounding it with considerable effect. The Dutch fought back for a few hours, but after experiencing severe damage to the fort and rising losses it was then assaulted by a surprise attack from the rear by a Royal Marine detachment from Kalamata led by Lieutenant Cursham. The British then turned both fort guns on the town itself, and with Dover then pounded the town.By 5am the Dutch had had enough and the town finally surrendered.
Mithman then surrendered the island soon after.The British then took possession of the island, and this ended the campaign in the Moluccas.
After the Dutch surrender, Captain Charles Foote (of Piedmontaise) was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Banda Islands. This action was a prelude to Britain's invasion of Java in 1811 which Cole also took a leading role in planning and executing. This was successfully completed under Rear-Admiral Robert Stopford.For his services, Cole was knighted in May 1812, awarded a specially minted medal, and given an honorary doctorate by the University of Oxford.
Before the Dutch regained control of the islands, the East India Company used their occupation of the Spice Islands to gather spice seedlings. Thus began a transplantation on an almost industrial scale – most were sent to Bencoolen and Penang, as well as Ceylon and other British colonies.In the previous occupation in the 1790s the EIC had established spice gardens in Penang; by 1805 these contained 5,100 nutmeg trees and 15,000 clove trees. After the occupation in 1815 that number had jumped to 13,000 nutmeg trees and as many as 20,000 clove trees. From these locations the trees were then transplanted to other British colonies elsewhere, notably Grenada and later Zanzibar. As a result, this competition largely destroyed the value of the Banda Islands to the Dutch.
The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 restored the islands as well as Java to the Dutch. The islands then remained part of the Dutch East Indies, a colony of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, until Indonesia's independence in 1949.
The Banda Islands are a volcanic group of ten small volcanic islands in the Banda Sea, about 140 km (87 mi) south of Seram Island and about 2,000 km (1,243 mi) east of Java, and constitute an administrative district (kecamatan) within the Central Maluku Regency in the Indonesian province of Maluku. The main town and administrative centre is Bandanaira, located on the island of the same name. They rise out of 4-to-6-kilometre deep ocean and have a total land area of approximately 172 square kilometres (66 sq mi). They had a population of 18,934 at the 2015 Census. Until the mid-19th century the Banda Islands were the world's only source of the spices nutmeg and mace, produced from the nutmeg tree. The islands are also popular destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling.
The Maluku Islands or the Moluccas are an archipelago in eastern Indonesia. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north and east of Timor.
Jan Pieterszoon Coen was an officer of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the early 17th century, holding two terms as Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. He was the founder of Batavia, capital of the Dutch East Indies.Renowned for providing the impulse that set the VOC on the path to dominance in the Dutch East Indies, he was long considered a national hero in the Netherlands.
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.
Tidore is a city, island, and archipelago in the Maluku Islands of eastern Indonesia, west of the larger island of Halmahera. In the pre-colonial era, the Sultanate of Tidore was a major regional political and economic power, and a fierce rival of nearby Ternate, just to the north.
Run is one of the smallest islands of the Banda Islands, which are a part of the Moluccas, Indonesia. It is about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long and less than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) wide. According to historian John Keay, Run is comparable in its significance in the history of the English overseas possessions as Runnymede is to British constitutional history.
HMS Suffolk was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 22 February 1765 at Rotherhithe. She was designed by William Bateley, based on the principles of his earlier HMS Fame, and was the only ship built to her draught.
Fort Belgica is a 17th-century fort in Banda Neira, Banda Islands, Maluku Islands, Indonesia. The fort acted as a fortification system for the islands of Banda where during the period, the only place in the world where nutmeg was produced.
Captain Sir Christopher Cole KCB was a prominent officer of the British Royal Navy who served in the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Although he saw distinguished service in all three conflicts, he is best known for his exploits in the Dutch East Indies in 1810 and 1811, in which he was instrumental in the capture of the islands of Amboyna and Java. Cole's early career involved extensive service in the Caribbean Sea, operating against the French during the last years of the American Revolutionary Wars and serving in several large battles. During the peace that followed, Cole remained in the Navy and forged a working relationship with Captain Edward Pellew that would last two decades.
HMS Hobart was an 18-gun sloop of the Royal Navy. She was formerly the French privateer Revanche, which Captain Edward Pakenham and Resistance captured in the Sunda Strait, East Indies, on 21 October 1794. The Navy sold her in 1803.
HMS Mandarin was a Dutch gun-brig of 178 tons burthen (bm) and 12 guns that the British had captured at Amboyna in February 1810. She served as part of a four-vessel flotilla that captured Banda Neira. She was wrecked in November 1810.
Fort Tolukko is a small fortification on the east coast of Ternate facing Halmahera. It was one of the colonial forts built to control the trade in clove spices, which prior to the eighteenth century were only found in the Maluku Islands. It has been variously occupied by the Portuguese, the native Terate Sultanate, the Dutch, the British and the Spanish. It was abandoned as a fort in 1864, renovated in 1996, and is now a tourist attraction.
HMS Amboyna was the Dutch brig Harlingen, which the British captured in the East Indies in 1796. They renamed her Amboyna after their recent capture of Ambon Island. She then served briefly in the Royal Navy before she was broken up in 1802.
The Dutch corvette Scipio was launched in 1784. She convoyed Dutch East Indiamen between the cape of Good Hope and Europe until HMS Psyche captured her at Samarang in 1807. The British Royal Navy initially referred to her as HMS Scipio, but then renamed her to HMS Samarang in 1808. (She was not commissioned in the Royal Navy. She was instrumental in the capture of Amboyna and especially Pulo Ay, and participated in the invasion of Java. She was sold at Bombay in 1814. She then entered mercantile service, sailing between Liverpool and India until 1827. She became an opium trader sailing between India and Canton, and was broken up near Hong Kong in August 1833.
Sir Henry Middleton was a sea captain and adventurer. He negotiated with the sultan of Ternate and the sultan of Tidore, competed against Dutch and Portuguese interests in the East Indies but still managed to buy cloves.
Ambon was a governorate of the Dutch East India Company, consisting of Ambon Island and ten neighbouring islands. Steven van der Hagen captured Fort Victoria on 22 February 1605 from the Portuguese in the name of the Dutch East India Company. Until 1619, Ambon served as the capital of the Dutch possessions in East Asia. In that year Batavia was founded to function as the staple port for the Dutch East India Company in Asia. The island was the world center of clove production until the 19th century. The Dutch prohibited the rearing of the clove-tree in all the other islands subject to their rule, in order to secure the monopoly to Ambon.
The Banda Islands were a governorate of the Dutch East India Company. The governorate comprised Banda Neira, Banda Besar, Pulau Ai, Run, Banda Api, and some smaller islands.
Fort Nassau was the first Dutch fort built on Banda Island, the main island of the Banda Islands, part of Maluku in Indonesia, completed in 1609. Its purpose was to control the trade in nutmeg, which at that time was only grown in the Banda Islands.
Fort Kastela is a ruined fortress located at the southwest coast of Ternate. It is famous for being the first colonial fortification constructed in the Spice Islands (Maluku) of Indonesia. Built by the Portuguese in 1522, it is also referred to in different languages as São João Baptista de Ternate or Fortaleza de Ternate (Portuguese), Ciudad del Rosario (Spanish) or Gammalamma. Today it is locally known as Kastella/Kastela.
Carron was launched at Bombay Dockyard in July 1792. She was a country ship that made several voyages for the British East India Company (EIC) before the Royal Navy purchased her in 1804 to use as a fifth-rate frigate, and renamed Duncan. In 1807 the Navy renamed her Dover. She was wrecked off Madras on 2 May 1811.
But the economic importance of the Bandas was only fleeting. With the Napoleonic wars raging across Europe, the British returned to the Bandas in the early 19th century, temporarily taking over control from the Dutch. The English uprooted hundreds of valuable nutmeg seedlings and transport them to their own colonies in Ceylon and Singapore, breaking forever the Dutch monopoly and consigning the Bandas to economic decline and irrelevance.