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Willoughby Wallace Hooper
The Redoubt at Mindhla on the right bank of the Irrawaddy, captured on the afternoon of the 17th Nov
13.7 x 19 cm
Shelfmark: Photo 312/(9), Item number: 3129
Curatorial description (Accessed: 27 February 2017)
Photograph of the fort captured by the British on 17 November 1885 at Minhla in Burma (Myanmar), 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. In early November 1885 British forces advanced swiftly up the Irrawaddy River from Rangoon, the capital of British Burma, towards Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, in craft requisitioned from the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. At Minhla the British encountered resistance from the Burmese, who held the redoubt (fort) on the right bank of the Irrawaddy River. A caption by Hooper accompanying the print describes the scenario: “This Redoubt is a strongly constructed square stone building with two gates, one facing the river, the other facing inland, above which is a sloping ascent or ramp leading to an opening in the parapet. On the opposite, or left bank of the river, is the fort of Kooey-joung, an important work constructed for the King by Italian Engineers. Both these forts completely command the river, and, it being known that the enemy intended to dispute our passage at this point, a force was landed on either bank a short distance below for the purpose of dislodging them. The resistance expected on the Kooey-joung side was not met with, but the force which was marching on the Mindhla redoubt…encountered a large body of the enemy strongly posted in a village, surrounded by jungle, about a mile inland.” After a fierce engagement, the British took the redoubt by ascending the ramp, with losses on both sides and a large number of Burmese taken prisoner. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886 by the British and the exile of King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), the last of the Burmese kings, and his queen Supayalat, to India. Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his Burma war series is 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 series of lantern slides was also issued. However 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.