Artillery fortifications in Burma

The secretive and xenophobic kingdom of Burma fought three wars with the British

in the 19th century losing large tracts of land at each encounter until, on the conclusion of the Third Burmese War in 1885, Upper Burma, the sole remaining independent element of the original Kingdom of Burma, was finally incorporated as an integral part of British India under the rule of the Viceroy.

The First Burmese War of 1824 had been a bloody affair and it resulted in the Burmese losing the Arakan in northwest Burma and the southern portion of the country, the Tenasserim Peninsula, from Moulmein to Mergui. The Burmese troops frequently fought from behind strong teak stockades which usually consisted of double rows of teak logs up to 20 ft (c6m) long and a foot (30cm) or more in width each driven vertically into the ground and protected in front by sharpened bamboo stakes. The stockades were usually sited to block paths and tracks and to prevent entry into villages. although primitive in design and simple to construct these stockades were immensely strong and unless outflanked by the assaulting troops it required a lengthy bombardment by heavy guns to breach them. The Second Burmese War was less bloody and on its conclusion in 1852 the province of Pegu, which included Rangoon, Prome and Bassein, came under British rule and was added to Tenasserim and the Arakan. Only Upper Burma, that portion of the country north of Thayetmyo on the Irrawaddy, including the capital at Mandalay, was left in Burmese hands.

In 1852 the remaining portion of the old Kingdom of Burma was ruled by King Mindon Min, perhaps the most far-sighted and outward looking of all the Burmese kings. Mindon was fully aware that his country, land-locked and surrounded by territory lost to the British in the wars of 1824 and 1852, needed to modernise its infrastructure and improve its relations with foreign powers, particularly Great Britain. While King Mindon relied upon diplomacy as the primary method of keeping his country independent and his throne safe he appreciated that diplomacy is much more effective when backed by a credible show of force or ability to conduct a successful defence. Mindon, therefore, recruited a number of foreign advisors to assist in the modernisation of his country's institutions, including the army and the navy.

For the latter task he recruited a number of French and Italian mercenary officers who were given the task of training his forces and amongst these officers were three Italians, Captains Camotto, Barbieri and Molinari. Few details are known about the backgrounds of these three men but it would appear that Camotto was a naval officer and Barbieri and Molinari engineer officers.

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Author: Bill Clements

Article and Image Source: http://www.fsgfort.com

Keywords: Burma, Fortifications, Artillery


Bill Clements

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