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The Indian Troopships "Clive" and "Tenasserim" in Madras Harbour

The Indian Troopships

Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1885

Shelfmark: Photo 312/(1)

Item number: 3121

Length: 10.3

Width: 14.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the Indian Troopships S.S.Clive and S.S. Tenasserim in the harbour at Madras (Chennai), Tamil Nadu, taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1885. The photograph is one of a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. Hooper's caption for this image continues: “In the former of these General Prendergast left Madras for Rangoon on the 3rd November, 1885, in command of the Burmah Expeditionary Force. The "Clive" is in the centre of the picture, the "Tenasserim" to the left. This photograph was not taken till past 5pm, too late in the day for successful instantaneous photography.” General Sir Harry North Dalrymple Prendergast (1834-1912) commanded the Burma Expeditionary Force of 10,000 troops during the war, which culminated in the exile to India of King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), the last of the Burmese kings, and his queen Supayalat, and the annexation of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886 by the British. Hooper left Madras on board the Tenasserim on 3 November and arrived in Rangoon on 8 November. He was a dedicated amateur photographer who also worked in collaboration with an army veterinary surgeon, George Western, and his subjects in India had included ethnographical studies, the life of the British in India, and the Madras famines of 1876-78. The Burma war series of photographs is considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. They were 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 series of lantern slides was also issued. A political scandal was caused when claims were made 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 role of the photograph in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war.

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