Saturday, 2 April 2011
Penang's role in Napoleon's downfall
And the victorious Duke of Wellington is always painted as the handsome dude on horseback charging and leading his men into glorious battle. That's how history wants us to remember this battle.
The Penang Adventure. When still known as Arthur Wesley, the 28-year-old Colonel with the 33rd Regiment of the British Army stayed briefly at Northam Road, Prince of Wales Island from April 1797 while awaiting orders to proceed to the Philippines to fight the Frogs.
As it was several months before the orders arrived from India, Arthur Wesley occupied himself by studying how to fortify the island against hostile pirate attacks from across the mainland. His eldest brother Richard Wesley (or Richard Wellesley as he now preferred to be known, being a typical aristocratic snob and having reverted his surname to what he considered as more ancient and proper) who was by then the Governor-General in India agreed that in order to "guard the Prince of Wales Island's back door", it would be necessary to negotiate with the Sultan in Kedah as soon as possible to grant a strip of the latter's coastal land on the mainland from Sungai Muda in the north to Sungai Krian in the south with enough hinterland to give the island the necessary protection.
So there we have it, the Penang connection with Napoleon Bonaparte, courtesy of Raymond Flower's book, The Penang Adventure, which by the way I find to be very light reading. Nothing heavy, read like a novel. The book's just fine with me.
Note: The title of this story is sort of an inspiration from Spike Milligan's war memoirs - both a hilarious and at the same time, sad collection of personal reflections - called "Adolf Hitler: My Role In His Downfall", which I had read in the late 1970s.