The Battle of Severndroog
(Right) The taking of Severndroog by Sir William James. Etching by Dominic Serres.
The island fortress of Suvarnadurg - the ‘Golden Fort’ – was known to the British as Severndroog. With walls 15 metres high and armed with 50 guns, it lay a mile off the coast, 80 miles south of Mumbai. Opposite the fortress on the mainland were another three forts, with a combined total of 64 guns.
The fortress was one of the principal strongholds of the independent prince, Tulaji Angre, who had for many years harassed both East India Company and local shipping. Eventually the Company came to an agreement with the local Maratha rulers to move against him.
Events of the battle:
• Commodore William James in the Protector led the expedition, with three other vessels of the Bombay Marine and the Maratha fleet.
• Arriving at Suvarnadurg on 2nd April, James put the Protector between the island and one of the forts on the shore.
• He used his ships to bombard all the forts, putting sharpshooters in the rigging to fire at soldiers manning the guns in the forts, so they were unable to shoot back.
• The bombardment stopped overnight and started again the next day. About midday a magazine exploded, and the fortress surrendered. The mainland forts surrendered the following day.
• It was a remarkable achievement. With just a few ships and little support from the Maratha fleet, James had captured four forts without losing a single man.