1762 - British expedition against Manila

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1762 - British expedition against Manila

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The campaign lasted from September to October 1762

Description of Events

Preparation of the expedition

At the end of 1761, Rear-admiral Cornish continued to command in the East Indies; but, as the French had neither settlement nor trade there, he had little to do against them. Therefore, British troops stationed in India were lying idle since the fall of Pondicherry. When war broke out with Spain, they were readily available to be employed against the Spanish possessions in Asia.

Colonel Draper, afterwards Sir William Draper, an officer who had distinguished himself at the siege of Madras in 1759, had devoted part of a period of sick leave to inquiring into the condition of the Spanish settlements in the Philippine Islands; and he had discovered that the defences had been much neglected, and that the Spaniards there trusted rather to their remoteness than to their strength for their protection.

At the beginning of 1762, upon the commencement of hostilities, Colonel Draper laid his information before the Ministry. Before January was out the necessary orders had been signed to arrange a joint expedition with the King's and the East India Company's officers for the capture of Manila. The idea was still commerce destruction. The Ministers' aim apparently was to paralyse Spanish trade at both its main sources, and thus induce the new enemy to see the wisdom of abandoning her ally. Permanent conquest was certainly not in contemplation; for the instructions, after taking Manila, were to establish a settlement in the independent island of Mindanao, at the opposite extremity of the Philippine group; "which could be kept after the peace." Draper was at once sent to India in the Argo (28), Captain Richard King, with instructions for fitting out an expedition against Manila, and with an appointment as commander-in-chief of the troops to be employed.

In June 1762, Admiral Cornish received these secret orders for an expedition, which he communicated to the authorities at Calcutta.

The Seahorse (24), Captain Charles Cathcart Grant, was sent in advance to intercept any vessels that might be bound for Manila.

On July 29, a division Cornish's fleet sailed to eastward, under Commodore Richard Tiddeman.

On August 1, the rest of Cornish's fleet, with the exception of the Falmouth (50) which was left to convoy an Indiaman, followed under the commander-in-chief. The fleet consisted of:

The fleet transported a force of 1,000 Europeans and 2,000 Sepoys. The commander of the expedition was Brigadier-general William Draper. He was assisted by Colonel Monson as Second in Command, Major Scott as Adjutant-General and Captain Fletcher as Brigade-Major of the East India Company. The expeditionary force consisted of:

  • 79th Draper's Regiment of Foot (567 men)
  • Composite battalions of sepoys (600 men drawn from all Madras Sepoy regiments) under Captain DesPlans
  • French "volunteers" (200 deserters) under Lieutenant Martin
  • Caffres (54 men) freed African slaves
  • Topasses (1 coy of 80 men) native Christian Indians of Portuguese descent
  • Nawab's European infantry (1 coy of 42 men)
  • Artillery contingent under Major Barker of the East India Company
  • Engineers (2 officers: Captain Stevenson and Captain-Lieutenant Cotsford)
  • European Pioneers (60 men) recruited in Madras.

Additional land forces were available from Cornish's squadron:

  • Marines (338 men)
  • Seamen (679 men)

On August 19, Cornish's fleet reached Malacca, and there watered and took on board various supplies.

On August 27, Cornish's fleet sailed from Malacca.

Arrival of the British fleet

On September 23, after much delay owing to stormy weather and the extremely defective condition of Admiral Cornish's ships, the expedition entered the bay of Manila and anchored off Fort Cavita. This came as a great surprise for the Spaniards who had not heard of the outbreak of war.

Contextual map of the campaign - Copyright: Kronoskaf

On September 24, Manila was summoned but without result and, in the afternoon, under cover of the Argo (28), Seahorse (24), and Seaford (22), some troops were landed about 2,5 km from the walls of the city, in spite of a heavy surf which caused much loss of, and damage to, material. The boats on this occasion were under the direction of captains Hyde Parker, Richard Kempenfelt and William Brereton. There was but slight opposition.

The Regimiento del Rey
This regiment is a colonial unit mentioned as present in Manila during several periods. It consisted of Filipinos, Latino Americans and Spaniards. The 20 companies of the regiment had a theoretical strength of 100 men each, but were far from being at full strength. Mortality, desertion and various detachments had reduced this regiment to some 565 soldiers.

Their uniform had some similarities with the one of the Cuerpo de Batallones de Marina but also presented some differences: a blue coat with red collar and cuffs; white metal buttons; blue waistcoat; and blue breeches.

On September 25, Draper landed the rest of his troops unopposed through a heavy surf. A substantial numbers of Royal Marines were then detached from the fleet. The garrison of Manila consisted of: Regimiento del Rey (20 coys but only 565 men), volunteers dej Commercio (240 men), artillery (80 men) and 500 loyal Indians. The artillerymen were native Indians and probably wore the following uniform: a blue coat with red collar and cuffs; narrow yellow buttonholes and yellow buttons; red waistcoat; and blue breeches.

On September 26, a brigade of seamen, under captains Collins, Pitchford and Gurry, reinforced the British troops already landed. The same day, Draper seized a detached fort which had been abandoned by the Spaniards within 200 meters of the glacis, and began to construct a battery, while the ships sailed up to draw the fire of the town upon themselves.

On September 27, batteries were erected.

On September 29, the Elizabeth (64) and Falmouth (50) were ordered to co-operate as best they could with the army, by enfilading the Spanish front.

On September 30, a British storeship arrived with entrenching tools, but was driven ashore on the very same evening by a gale, and there lay hard and fast. By singular good fortune, however, she had taken the ground at a point where she served exactly to screen the rear of Draper's camp from the Spanish cannon, while her stores were landed with greater speed and safety than would have been possible had she remained afloat; for the gale continued for several days and forbade the passage of boats through the surf.

During the operations against Manila, Cornish obtained news that a galleon from Acapulco was on her way to the town.

Capture of Manila

On October 4, the battery and the ships opened a furious fire, which in 4 hours silenced the guns of Manila. The same day, Cornish despatched the Panther (60) and Argo (28) to intercept the Spanish galleon but they failed to do so.

By October 5, the British cannonade had made a practicable breach in the fortifications of Manila.

During the night of October 5 to 6, the Spaniards made a sally upon the British position with 1,000 Indians who were driven back with heavy loss.

At dawn of October 6, the 79th Draper's Foot and a party of sailors attacked the breach and carried the fortifications with little difficulty. The governor and officers were driven to the citadel, which they presently surrendered at discretion. Thus fell Manila within 10 days of the arrival of the British.

Thereupon Manila, with the island of Luzon and its dependencies, surrendered to the British and were handed over by the terms of the capitulation. It was arranged that Manila should be ransomed for 4 million dollars to save it from pillage. Owing, however, to the bad faith of the Spaniards, only half of this amount was ever paid. The conquest, together with most of the prize money, was handed over to the East India Company.


The operations before Manila were less costly than might have been expected. The army lost but 115 killed, drowned and wounded, and the Navy but 35. The only naval officer who was killed was Lieutenant Porter, of the Norfolk (74), but, unfortunately, Commodore Tiddeman was accidentally drowned on the day of the surrender. Captain Richard Kempenfelt was sent home with the naval dispatches. As a reward for the service, Cornish was made a baronet, and Draper a K.B., and each received the thanks of both Houses. The colours taken at Manilla were hung in the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, of which Draper had been a member.

On October 31, the Panther (60) and Argo (28) succeeded in taking the Santisima Trinidad which had left Manila for Acapulco on August 1, having on board treasure worth about three million dollars. In the meantime, the galleon from Acapulco had arrived at Palapag, in Samar. It was agreed that, subject to certain conditions, she was to be surrendered to the British; but the arrangement was never carried out, and it is probable that much of her rich cargo eventually passed into the hands of private persons, who had no right to it.


This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the 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.

Other sources

Rojo, Journal

Royal Historical Society: Documents Illustrating the British Conquest of Manila - 1762-1763, 1971

Yahoo SYW Group Message No. 2701, 2707


Jean-Pierre Loriot for the information on the Spanish forces defending Manila