History of War

SIEGE OF SERINGAPATAM

“HIS ARTILLERY INCLUDED NOT ONLY FIELD GUNS, BUT ALSO LARGE NUMBERS OF ROCKETS. THESE WERE SMALL, INACCURATE, BUT TERRIFYING TO THE UNINITIATED AT THEY CAME SCREAMING TOWARDS THEM IN BATTLE”

In the mid-1790s, Great Britain’s colonies in India were largely limited to widely separated coastal enclaves, where the East India Company (EIC) conducted trade while protected by its own armed forces. These were mainly composed of ‘native’ battalions, locally recruited officers and men with a smattering of white European officers in command. A small number of EIC battalions were made up of white European soldiers, many of them central European mercenaries. To reflect the growing importance to the Crown of the commercial opportunities afforded by the Indian sub-continent, greater numbers of regular British troops had begun to be sent to the various enclaves in the 1780s. Because of their status as the king’s men, their officers were automatically given seniority over those of the EIC, much to resentment of the latter.

The main British enclaves were the three ‘Presidencies’ in Madras, Bombay, and Bengal. Each had their own governor and was largely independent of the others, although all came under the higher direction of the Governor General. With commercial profit their main aim, the EIC’s troops were subject to various cost-cutting policies, such as officers often holding relatively low ranks for their actual command duties (battalions being run by majors rather than lieutenant colonels, for example), and a ban on training with live ammunition. Training in large bodies was also limited, with units being split over small garrisons to act as police forces.

Although Britain’s footprint in India was small, it was slowly growing, and there had been a series of wars against the other major powers in the south of the sub-continent,

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