Lessons learnt from the defeat of British Forces in 1803

The British forces which forcibly accupied Mahanuwara from February 1803 were defeated and the British forces under Major Davy surrendered on 24.06.1803.
Our forces fought against the British army by a successful guerrilla campaign(or what is now called a peoples war), and was culminated by an offensive by regular forces on 23.06.1803.They tried to stage a counter-attack on 26.06.1803,at a locality near the Mahaveli Ganga in Watapuluwa.
It is seen that this war was mainly waged by our irregular forces who were formed in to small groups against the British who occupied the Mahanuwara and Kadawath-satara for four months in 1803.
The victory of our forces was the result of a successful and long-drawn strategy drawn up by Pilimatalawe Adikaram and his deputy, Ahelepola Disawa.This successful campaign has taught me some very valuable lessons which are as follows.
1. Know your enemy well. Know the strengths, weaknesses, behavior and the way the enemy operates.

2. Know yourself well and know the strengths and weaknesses and work in accordance with them.

3. Attacking an enemy directly is always not the best option.

4. Draw up a long-term strategy that is not discernible to the enemy.

5. Never let your intentions to be revealed to others.

6. Secrecy and deception are your strengths to be used against enemies.

7. Entice the enemy deep in to your territory by feigning weaknesses.Let him to occupy something which is of symbolic value to deceive him.

8. Do not permit the enemy to feed off your terrain. Adopt a “Scorched-earth Tactic” if necessary.

9. Make the enemy become relaxed and complacent by cleaver use of ruses and deceptive moves.

10. Let the enemy to become over-confident and arrogant to prime them for an ambush.

11. Make nature (terrain, geography, soil conditions, weather and light conditions) your ally and hence rely on them for your strength and to exploit the enemy.

12. Wait patiently for the best time to strike.

13. Trade space for time. It is not a disgrace or a weakness but a cleaver use of strength

14. Harass the enemy only when it is opportune and do so in a manner to sap the morale and confuse them.

15. Escalate your activities to soften, demoralize and frighten the enemy.

16. Make the best time and opportunity to strike. The moment is right when you are strong and the enemy is weak.

17. The sudden offensive is best to be a sudden blow. However it needs much planning and quick execution.

18. Sow discord and confusion in the minds of the enemy.

19. Wage the decisive battle in a place, day and timing decided by you and not by the enemy.

20. A multi-pronged offensive is much effective than a strong one-point offensive.

21. Be relentless in the offensive, and do not give the enemy a chance to regroup and reform.

22. Let the offensive built up to a crescendo, as you see the enemy weakening.

23. Do not let the offensive to drag on, but ensure that it ends in a quick, decisive victory.

24. Be magnanimous in victory.

25. Treat the captives well and with humanity and honor.

26. Never under-estimate a weakened and surrendered enemy as long as they are within your territory.

27. A defeated enemy will often strike back with vigor and vengeance, like a wounded but still deadly snake.

28. Be prepared for any eventuality.

29. No victory is final, and the enemy will often change their mode of offensive actions.

30. Victory is dangerous to those who make it happen. Those who bring about a victory are subjected to jealousies, fears and insecurities in the minds of your own colleagues, who will be tempted to destroy you.

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Jagath Gunawardana Attorney-at-law
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