16 June 1818:
deaths of Private James Sutherland and Private William Chandler (73rd Regt).
"...From Badulla accounts have been received down to the 23d. Inst. and
we are sorry to learn that some more casualties have occurred in that
neighbourhood. On the 16th Instant, while the H.C. 18th NI were halting at
Passera for refreshment, Lieut. Wilkinson sent into Badulla a small party to
announce their arrival. This Party consisted of 6 Europeans, 6 Malays and 6
Caffrees. They had not been used to go quite to Badulla, but to meet escorts
halfway, and so were not aware of there being within two miles of Badulla a patch
of jungle which was a favourite lurking place of the Rebels; when they approached
this spot a heavy fire was opened upon them by the Kandyans from their ambuscade
close by and two fine soldiers of the 73rd Regiment, James Sutherland and William
Chandler, were unfortunately killed upon the spot. The gallant conduct of the
rest of the party well deserves public notice & approbation. They were resolved
not to abandon their Comrades even in death, nor to suffer their bodies to be
insulted by a barbarous enemy; Lance Corporal McLaughlan with another European &
4 Native Soldiers volunteered to fight their way to Badulla where they might
procure assistance. The remaining 2 Europeans & 8 Natives formed themselves into
a circle round the dead bodies which they had previously removed to a spot of
open ground while the Corporal and his companions made their way good to
Badulla followed and constantly fired at by numerous Rebels; the determined band
posted round the bodies was assailed for upwards of two hours by strong parties
of Kandians who, urged on by their Chiefs from the Hills, for they always keep at
a distance themselves, advanced within 150 or 200 yards & poured in vollies of
Musketry. The cool intrepidity of the Soldiers was shewn in the judicious reserve
of their fire, for they never returned more than two shots at a time, which were
sufficient to keep off the dastardly enemy until Lieut. Burns with a Detachment
from Badulla drove them all into the jungle & the bodies were brought off and
interred in Badulla."
Ceylon Government Gazette 4 July 1818 [No. 876] pp. 4c-4d.
To mark this action a medal was struck for the survivors by the
Ceylon Government. At the time this was a rare honour; unfortunately all four men from the 73rd Regiment died of fever before they could receive their medals:
Lance Corporal Richard McLaughlan
Private John Wilson
Private Christopher Sheppard
Private William Connor
The original medals do not appear to have survived but a facsimile is on display in the Black Watch Museum in Perth, Scotland. This was the only gallantry medal struck during the Kandyan Wars.
Transcript prepared by Robin Walsh
Macquarie University Library, Sydney, Australia.