Boy T Harjanto
The points where British troops stormed the Yogyakarta Palace are still visible more than two centuries later.
On the night of June 13, 1812, around 1,000 British troops, half of them sepoys (Indian soldiers serving under British officers), attacked the Vrederburg Fort.
Thomas Stamford Raffles – who had been heavily involved in the conquest of Java from Dutch and French military forces during the Napoleonic Wars – arrived in Yogyakarta on June 17, 1812.
The next morning at 5 a.m., Prince Natakusuma – the brother of Yogyakarta ruler Sultan Hamengkubuwono II – and his family took refuge in the fort.
“The palace, the residence of Mataram [the older name of Yogyakarta] Sultan was surrounded with a wide ditch and thick walls with bastions in corners equipped with a total of 100 cannons,” wrote William Thorn in his book Memoir of the Conquest of Java on the situation in Yogyakarta Palace on June 19 and 20, 1812.
British officer Col. James Watson had been appointed commander of the first battalion of his regiment in 1807 and served in India and Batavia (now Jakarta).
The British troops under Watson’s command moved forward to the northeast bastion where they blew up the arsenal. The attack caused great damage to the fort and left only three bastions standing: the East, West and North bastions.
The Tarunasura/Pancasura Arch, the main gate, now known as Wijilan, was attacked by Lt. Col. Alexander MacLeod and his sepoy troops. Thorn wrote that MacLeod ordered his troops to climb the wall and blow up the gate.
The British troops finally entered the Nirbaya and Jagabaya Arches whereupon the sultan’s family took refuge in a mosque outside the Baluwarti – the eastern wall of the Palace – which according to Thorn was the Kauman Grand Mosque.
On June 20, 1812, Sultan Hamengkubuwono II surrendered while dressed entirely in white. [yan]