Nominal surrender of the Burmese army at Ava on 27th November, 1885
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the surrender of the Bumese army at Ava (Inwa) in Burma (Myanmar) on 27 November 1885, taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. On 22 October 1885 Britain had issued an ultimatum to Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), the last of the Burmese kings, and by 9 November an effective refusal of the terms had been received. The Burma Expeditionary Force of 10,000 troops, commanded by General Sir Harry Prendergast (1834-1912) and accompanied by the Political Officer Colonel Sir Edward Bosc Sladen (1827-1890) left Madras for Rangoon on 3 November and arrived at Rangoon, the capital of British Burma, on 8 November. From there the British advanced swiftly up the Irrawaddy River towards Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, in craft requisitioned from the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. On 26 November envoys from King Thibaw met General Prendergast with offers of a Burmese surrender when the flotilla was approaching Ava. This view records the ceremonial laying down of arms by the Burmese. A caption by Hooper accompanying the print gives an account of the events: “On the previous day the Expedition was met by a deputation from the King, which came down from Mandalay in a war canoe, requesting an armistice as His Majesty was not quite prepared to receive visitors. General Prendergast’s reply was that no terms could be listened to but the unconditional surrender of the King and his army, and that unless he received that by a certain hour on the following morning he should advance on Ava and bombard it. Next morning the deputation returned, and informed the General that the King had agreed to these terms, and that his army would deliver up their arms at Ava. The fleet then moved on to that place; some of the men landed, and the Woon or Minister went through the form (for it was little more) of delivering over the arms to Col. Sladen. A motly collection of arms was certainly produced, consisting of rifles, muskets, dhars, i.e., swords and spears, Col. Sladen, and the Woon with his golden umbrella, standing in the midst, as shewn in the picture, but the number handed over was but a fraction of those really in possession of the Burmese, as we have since found to our cost.” The war culminated in the exile of King Thibaw to India with his queen Supayalat and the annexation of Upper Burma, announced by the British on 1 January 1886. Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the Burma war are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. It was published in 1887 as ‘Burmah: a series of one hundred photographs illustrating incidents connected with the British Expeditionary Force to that country, from the embarkation at Madras, 1st Nov, 1885, to the capture of King Theebaw, with many views of Mandalay and surrounding country, native life and industries’. There were two editions, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and a set of lantern slides was also issued. The series is also notable for the political scandal which arose following allegations by a journalist that Hooper had acted sadistically in the process of photographing the execution by firing squad of Burmese rebels. The subsequent court of inquiry concluded that he had behaved in a “callous and indecorous” way and the affair raised issues of the ethical role of the photographer in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war.