Thursday, April 13, 2006

Penang - Minden, USM - Battle of Minden 1759

I was at USM Minden Campus this morning. As I was walking along its pleasant tree lined roads, I wondered how many of its students know the origin of the name of its campus, "Minden". I did a quick survey and asked the students I met. Sadly yet predictably, like most people in malaysia, none of the students was able tell me. They know almost nothing about local history, nor the significance of names and name places in Malaysia.

In its previous "incarnation", many many years before USM (or Penang University as it was first called) established, the campus was a British military base, called Minden Barracks. It was home to a group of British Sodiers known by King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).

25th Light Infantry in the Battle of Minden 1759

Their base in Penang was named "Minden" in honour of the regiment's heroic role they played with other light infantry in defeating the French in the Battle of Minden in 1759 (Minden is a town near Hanover, Germany).

The foot soldiers marched and fought against the French Calvary, based on a misinterpretation of its orders. There now occurred one of the incidents beloved of British military history. It is said that an order was sent that the infantry were to “advance on the beat of drum” and that this was misinterpreted as an order to “advance to the beat of drum”.

51st Infantry (KOYLI) attacking the French Calvary at the Battle of Minden

The French Commander, Marshal Contades is reputed to have said bitterly after the battle: “I never thought to see a single line of infantry break through three lines of cavalry ranked in order of battle and tumble them to ruin.”


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