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The first British forces to arrive in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] were under the command of Colonel James Stuart. The force consisted of European and Indian [Sepoy] troops who were transported in six ships from Madras and landed on the east coast of the island about four miles north of Trincomalee on 3 August 1795.

There were approximately 2,700 men: 1,100 of the 71st, 72nd and 73rd Regiments; 42 of the Royal Artillery; two companies of the Madras Artillery; 675 of the 1st Battalion Native Infantry, including 14 Europeans and the remainder Sepoys; the 23rd Battalion consisted of similar proportions; as well as six companies of Gun Lascars.

Within two weeks of the landing near Trincomalee the Dutch fortifications at Fort Frederick and Fort Ostenberg had been captured. By mid-November the Dutch coastal installations at Jaffna, Hammenhiel (Kayts), Mannar and Kalpitiya had also capitulated. Chilaw and Negombo were abandoned by the Dutch in early February 1796 and after some minor skirmishing and resistance Colombo eventually surrendered on 15 February 1796. The remaining Dutch forces at Kalutara, Galle and Matara followed soon afterwards. The British forces had managed within a few brief months to replace the Dutch occupation of the Maritime Provinces of Ceylon.

The only troops in the Dutch service who opposed the British in this period were Malay soldiers who had been recruited by the Dutch East India Company. The regiment of Swiss mercenaries which had been raised in 1782 by Count Charles De Meuron for the Dutch East India Company transferred its allegiance to the British in 1795. The secrecy and subterfuge of this action caught the Dutch governor Van Angelbeek completely by surprise. Van Angelbeek permitted the regiment to leave for India in November on condition that it took no part in the siege of Colombo. On arrival at Madras almost all of its complement of 860 men enlisted in the British Army and served with distinction as a separate regiment in India and Canada until its final disbandment in September 1816. The defection of the De Meuron Regiment was one of the most singular and essential circumstances contributing to a relatively bloodless transfer of power to the British.

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73rd Regiment

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