When Britain Conquered Manila

The Thirteen-Day Battle: The British Invasion of Manila (Part 2)

The British conquerors attacking the walled city of Manila.

During the long period of imperial conquests and colonisations it seemed common for two nations or kingdoms to have their first engagement in the battlefield. This is what it looks like whenever Filipinos have a close encounter with any western power, particularly if they arrive in fleets. Our first significant encounters were usually epic in scale and unfriendly too. In this day and age, we look at this as morally objectionable. Too bad we were trapped between two hostile powers. History tells us that the Battle of Manila in 1762 was our first significant and momentous encounter with Great Britain.

The Arrival of the British

On September 13, after much delay due to stormy weather, the British fleet that left India loomed near Corregidor. Manila had a wrong suspicion of its presence. The fleet was thought to be for trading purposes. It was likely the reason since the news about the war in Europe and the renewed conflict between Britain and Spain had not yet reached Manila.

On September 23, the fleet anchored in Manila Bay near the coast of the province of Cavite. The expeditionary force was composed of 12 war ships and 2 store ships with the combined number of almost 7,000 men. The men were consisted of regiment foot soldiers, royal regiment of artillery, Madras artillery, pioneers, sepoys, free black Africans, French deserters, and Portuguese half-castes. It was time for the Spaniards to prepare for battle or maybe surrender.

The Battle of Manila, 1762

On September 24, Britain sent a letter of summons to Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra, the acting Governor-General at that time inviting him to surrender Manila. The provisional Governor refused. And in the evening, some British troops landed near the south city walls just about 2.4 kilometres away. The strong waves were the only obstacles they encountered since the ships provided a barrage to repel the Spanish soldiers waiting on shore. Manila’s garrison consisted only of 1,385 defenders, 800 of which were Spanish soldiers.

John Fawkes’s Map of the Siege and Capture of Manila, 24th September to 6th October 1762

On September 25, Draper brought his remaining troops together with the Royal Marines on land unopposed despite the strong waves. Then Draper seized an abandoned fortress called Pulverista and used it for covering and signalling. Then they began setting-up batteries. On the same day British troops occupied two more positions, the churches of Hermita and St. Jago. More batteries were now being set-up to fortify these newly acquired positions.

It was reported that from the time the British made their first landing, a group of Pampangos, locals loyal to the Spanish crown and its faith caused constant skirmishes around the British camps. It was also said that they even managed to capture the general but was immediately retrieved by his men.

On September 26, more troops arrived while the batteries at Pulverista which were erected overnight are now ready for engagement. A Spanish troop attempted to take control of St. Jago but was driven back to the capital. The British commanders sent another letter of summons to the Archbishop inviting him again to surrender the capital. Rojo refused again. However, this time he responded arrogantly. The remaining days of the month were spent in various skirmishes, bombardments, and further preparations for the full assault.

Related Story: When Britain Sailed to Manila

On October 1, a gale started to hit Manila. The British expeditionary force endured the bad weather which caused heavy rains and strong waves for many days since their arrival. In fact, they had been struggling against consecutive incidences of bad weathers since they left India.

On October 4, Draper’s camps and Cornish’s ships bombarded the Spanish stronghold. Both sides were now intensely engaged in continuous bombing. Then Manila fell silent after a four-hour barrage. The series of heavy bombings caused a breach in the fortified walls of Intramuros.

On October 5, an attack by 1,000 Pampangos was carried out against Pulverista. The local loyalists were only armed with bows, lances, and bravery. They were eventually repelled leaving 300 dead. After this failure, the Pampangos abandoned the capital, except for the 1,500 who remained.

Related Story: When Britain Ruled Manila

The Conquest of Manila, 1762

On October 6, at dawn, the British advanced through the breached wall and conquered Manila with little resistance. No further bloodbath took place due to the ‘discretionary’ act of surrender made by the Archbishop. He ceded both Manila and Cavite to the commanders of the British fleet. Thus the Philippine capital fell to the British Crown under terms of agreed condition. Manila agreed to pay the ransom of 4 million Spanish dollars to spare itself from further pillage. The payment is now popularly known as the Ransom of Manila.

Related Story: When Britain Left Manila
The British Conquest of Manila 1762, From the PRESIDENTIAL MUSEUM AND LIBRARY

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  • Fish, Shirley, When Britain Ruled the Philippines 1762-1764
  • Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, The British Conquest of Manila
  • BritishBattles.com,
    Capture of Manilla: The capture of Manila by the British in the Seven Years War in 1762:
    Possibly Britain’s most successful amphibious operation
  • Tracy, Nicholas, Manila Ransomed. University of Exeter Press. (1995) pp. 17, 22–23. ISBN 0859894266
  • Lenman, Bruce, Britain’s Colonial Wars, 1688-1783 Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2014 p. 172

Public Domain:

  • Clowes, Wm. Laird, The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 239-242
  • Corbett, Julian S.; England in the Seven Years’ War – A Study in Combined Strategy, Vol II; New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907; p. 254
  • Fortescue, J. W., A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 544-545.

Header Image:

  • A photograph of Diorama 23. The British Occupation, The Diorama Experience section at the THE AYALA MUSEUM

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