The Fall of Melaka
On May 2nd, 1511, Alphonso d'Albuquerque sailed from Cochin, India, for Malacca with nineteen ships, 8oo Portuguese and 6oo Malabaris. After sinking Muslim shipping en route and raiding Pasai and Pedir, he reached the harbour of Melaka on the evening of July 1, to the sound of trumpets, cannons and bedeckked with flags. Sultan Mahmud sent a messenger to enquire whether it was to be peace or war. d'Albuquerque, demanded the surrender of the captive Portuguese from de Sequeira's fleet and compensation. The Sultan erected stockades decked with war flags and made a show of his fleet of river-boats.
The defections already began. The Chinese merchants offered the services of their crews and their five junks. d'Albuquerque learned from them that the Sultan had more than 20,000 fighting men in the town - most of them Javanese, Persians and Turkish mercenaries. There were also twenty war-elephants and at least 3,000 artillery pieces - though almost all of them were small-calibre guns with little range and firepower.
But the Portuguese attack was spent. They had many killed and wounded, they were suffering greatly from the heat and they were exhaused building stockades and fighting off counter-attacks. At dusk d'Albuquerque withdrew in boats, under the fire from Malay guns, matchlocks, spears, arrows and blowpipes. He took away with him at least fifty large bombards captured from the Malay stockades, and seventy of his wounded Of those struck by poisoned arrows, only one survived. The Malays now repaired the stockades on and around the bridge and redeployed most of their artillery there. The bridge was divided into sections with stout palisades and two more palisades were constructed on the river banks mounted with guns to command the approaches to the bridge from city and mosque. The leader of the Javanese mercenaries, Utimutira, had by now decided to throw in his lot with the attackers and sent presents to d'Albuquerque, promising him secret support.
d'Albuquerque now heavily armed a very tall junk that would overlook the bridge and ran it aground on on a sand-bank, where, like a seige tower, it rained artillery fire, crossbow arrows, darts, fireballs and stones onto the the Malays on the bridge for nine days. The Malays sent down barges of firewood, pitch and oil on the falling tide to set the junk on fire, but these attempts failed to destroy it.
Two hours before dawn on Friday August 8th, the day of the martyr St. Lawrence, the Portuguese again set out for the city on the high spring tide. While the junk was being grappled and secured to the bridge, two Portuguese boats with heavy guns took up positions on both sides of the bay, to protect with their fire the flanks of the Portuguese attacks. d'Albuquerque with all his remaining force landed on the north or city side of the river in the Javanese quarter of Upeh. Having secured a bridgehead there, he ordered a force of his soldiers to seize the mosque while another was ordered to capture the Malay barricade that blocked the main street in the south. The Portuguese stormed the bridge, the Malays withdrawing to the stockades between it and the mosque. These stockades were soon engulfed by gunfire from the boats, and the defenders retreated to the mosque, where was the Sultan and 3000 shieldsmen were entrenched.
With too few forces to pursue the Sultan, d'Albuquerque was content to hold the bridge and not advanced beyond the mosque. He furiously fortified with bridge with barrels of sand and mounted cannon, with gunboats patrolling under the bridge and posted at both bridgeheads. Malay artillery then started firing on the bridge from the housetops of the northern part of the city. The Portuguese started to clear the streets there, with orders not to give mercy to anyone - man, woman or child - and thousands were butchered
All through the night the gun-boats and warships in the bay bombarded the city. But it was needless. Sultan mahmud had by then gathered all the treasures in his Palace and fled with his family and followers. Melaka had fallen. The next morning, the Portuguese advanced towards the Sultan's Palace, only to find it deserted and emptied of the loot they had been promised. Enraged, they put the palace to the torch and, for the next few days, looted the city. The mosque was demolished stone by stone - the material being used for the new Portuguese fortress that was to be built upon the site of where the Sultan's Palace had originally been. The fortress - A Famosa - preserved Portuguese power in Melaka for the next 130 years.
It had taken exactly 40 days for the Portuguese to put an end to the Melaka Empire.
Write to the author: email@example.com