The last battle of Kandyans against the British
About two hundred and nine years ago from to-day on June 26, 1803 the
last battle of the Kandyans to free the Senkadagala kingdom from British
infiltration was fought at Watapuluwa, Mawilmada, Nittawela and
Sihambalagastenna areas. The British troops retreated to Lewella and
were confined to Wagolla for the final assault. The Garrisan cemetery
could be seen here up to date.
On June 23 the Sinhalese attacked a British base stationed at Kandy
and took to their possession a three-pounder from their hill guard. At
the same time a Muslim from Mawilmada attacked the Eastern gate to take
a gun installed there into his possession. In this operation Lt.
Blakensi who was in-charge of this camp along with his soldiers were
massacred by the natives.
Those British fighters who lost their lives in this battle were Lt.
Bayan Maclain, Ensign Smith, Quarter Master Brown, Asst. Surgeon Hope of
the 19th regiment and Sgt. Major Steuart, Lts. Mercer Robert Berry,
Janthome and gulpil of the Malay Regiment plus Henry Holloway and
Garrisan Sgt. of the East Indian platoon. The lamp lit in the
battlefield continued to light till 2 pm the following day.
When the Sinhalese troops attempted to enter the British camp from
the rear entrance Major Davie hoisted a white flag for a truce and
indicated his desire to retreat with his troops to proceed to
Trincomalee. Davy with his soldiers marched up to Watapuluwa to cross
Mahaweli from Paranagantota ferry to proceed to Fort Mac Dowell in
Matale and from there to Trincomalee.
Unfortunately they could not cross Mahaweli as the river was flooded
due to rains in the upper catchment area. They were forced to stay
overnight under the shade of trees in the jungles surrounding the area.
On the following day morning the king sent for Chiefs with a message to
It conveyed that if Davy could surrender Muthusamy (Buddasamy) who
was with them and send him back to Kandy the king would get the
assistance of the Sinhalese to find them boats and rafts to cross the
river. In the meantime the English troops also prepared to make rafts
using the bamboo trees which were in abundance on either sides of the
river. Through they could make the rafts they could not get a strong
rope to across the river.
When the troops were stranded in Watapuluwa Davy received another
message from the King sent through a Chief. It was that the king's Adiga
will meet Davy half way and king desired to talk to the Officer ranks of
After some time the Commanding Officer of the Bengali troops Capt.
Humphry informed the troops that he has already sent a strong rope
across the river. The king wanted Muttusamy who was declared the king of
Kandy by Governor North to be sent to Kandy. Muttusamy asked the British
troops "should you such a powerful English Army oblige a few Kandyan
Chiefs who wants me back".
One British officer asked "should we the English men who captured
such a large country as India, give into these Kandyans". By now the
Lascareens of the Malay troops started to retreat one by one. Major Davy
ordered them to follow him in a formation of two by two. However they
could proceed only a distance of about 200 yards when the Sinhalese
fighters intervened and separated the officers in one queue and the
soldiers in another queue.
After another half and hour the officers were shot down while the
other ranks were made to kneel down and assaulted with the butt end of
their weapons. Their brains were cut to pieces and thrown on the road.
This incident was recorded by Corporal Barnsly of the 19th regiment
who pretended to be killed in this incident and at the day break crept
into a shrub and later crossed the river and escaped to Fort Macdowell
in Matale. About 12 officers, 20 soldiers lost their lives in the
battlefield of Mawilmada Rev Cordinor a British Parish priest in his
publication in 1807 under 'Description of Ceylon' gives a detailed
account of this massacre.
According to him about fourteen British officers, 24 soldiers, 250
from Malay troops, 140 from Lascarin gun troops, Muttusamy and his
entourage came towards Paranaganthota ferry on June 24,1803 to cross the
river to go to Trincomalee though the king promised to send them across
Gannoruwa ferry the haughty English had their own way. They did not send
back Muttusamy as Davy maintained that he should seek permission from
the Governor to release him.
These troops were massacred by the Sinhalese in Lewella and Wagolla.
The garrison cemetery in Wagolla could be seen even today. The Kandyan
Chiefs who led this operation were Madugalle Gajanayaka Nilame, Millawa
Disawa and Mullegama Disawa.
Two Kandyan Chiefs who were seated under a tree when the battle was
on were beheaded on the orders of the king. They were Leuke Disawa and
Palipana Disewa. The war drums used in this battle were hung in the
Dalada Maligawa. At the time of Matale Rebellion in 1848 Col. Drought of
the 15th Regiment removed these drums from the Maligawa and handed them
over to the 19th regiment. It is recorded that one out of these drums
remained in Lankathilaka Temple. It is the duty of relevant authorities
to trace these drums and place them in the Kandy Museum.