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William Appleby, a soldier who took part in the Second Burma War.

Small Collections Box 2

Typed transcript of two letters sent by Appleby to his brother from Camp Prome, Burma dated 29 January 1853.

Given by Dr Collins through the good offices of Professor C.A. Bayly.

This eye-witness account covers most of the active phase of the Second Burma War. It begins with Appleby’s embarkation at Madras on 31 March 1852 and his journey to the mouth of the Rangoon River which took eight days. On arrival Appleby was told that Martaban had already fallen to the British and it had been decided to proceed up to Rangoon. At that point Burmese shore batteries opened fire and Appleby witnessed them silenced after the use of considerable shot and shell by the British ships. It was Easter Sunday; the British had not intended to attack until the Monday. Appleby proceeds to describe the occupation of Rangoon. The action took a number of days during which time there were British losses, in some cases from the severe heat. As there were no tents, the troops, from the General down, were forced to sleep in the open air. Appleby recalls the scenes once Rangoon was taken. The city was ransacked for food and some British troops put on Burmese clothing. Appleby was able to have his first change of dress since leaving India.

After a month in Rangoon, Appleby’s Company (with others) was ordered to Bassein which was quickly taken despite there being a force of Burmese troops estimated at around 8,000. Appleby was then moved to the defence of Martaban. He stayed there for two months during which time the Burmese were repulsed six times. He then returned to Rangoon for six months before being conveyed up the Irrawaddy for the projected attack on Prome and Ava. Appleby recounts the conditions both on the journey and on the battlefield. At one overnight halt on the river they were plagued by mosquitos. Outside Prome there were outbreaks of cholera. Appleby concludes on a hopeful note. The troops had heard that the War was likely to end in a short while as the Burmese ruler had recalled his troops from the strongholds. He also reproduces the text of the British Proclamation of 20 December 1852 annexing Pegu. 9ff.