Mauritius lies in the Indian Ocean about 560 miles east of Madagascar. Since it’s stuck in the middle of an ocean, you are probably already by now thinking that it’s unlikely we never invaded it. And, of course, we have.
It was famously home to the Dodo. But an invasion of hungry European sailors soon saw to that.
Mauritius is named after Maurice. Not any Maurice, but one Maurice in particular, Prince Maurice of Nassau, stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, at the time that a Dutch admiral arrived on the island in 1598. English pirates seem to have taken an early interest in Mauritius. And the Dutch attempted to settle the island, but eventually gave up, allowing the French to move in and rename Mauritius Île de France, Island of France, a fairly clear message to the world who was boss here.
Not surprisingly, bearing in mind our long series of wars with the French, we didn’t take the hint.
In 1747–48, Rear Admiral Edward Boscawen attempted an invasion that turned into what must be one of our least successful long-distance military ventures. He set off from Britain in 1747 with six warships and a landing force. He attempted to invade Mauritius, only to be deterred by heavy surf, so he diverted to attack Pondicherry in India, only to run into trouble with the monsoon there and then peace was declared anyway.
As the Napoleonic Wars ground on, French naval forces based in Mauritius were increasingly making themselves a nuisance for Britain by preying on our trade routes to India, so in August 1810, a squadron of four British frigates arrived to blockade Grand Port. Once there we duly sent a landing party to capture the small, strategic, fortified island of Île de la Passe, and when a French squadron turned up shortly after we got ready for battle. Unfortunately for us, it didn’t quite go to plan. The French knew the waters rather better than us and we ended up with two ships captured and two others grounded and burnt to avoid French capture. It was the worst naval defeat we had suffered for a time and our hopes of capturing Mauritius seemed dead as, well, as a dodo. Later in 1810, when we had recovered our strength, we returned to Mauritius. This time we were determined to end French control of Mauritius once and for all.
On 29 November the landing started at Grand Baie. By the evening the vanguard and naval brigades were ashore and by mid-day on 30 November the entire force had landed as the advance guard pushed rapidly forward pursuing the retreating enemy. On 1 December the French forces made a stand outside Port Napoleon, but were overwhelmed by the British assault. By 2 December it was all over.
We dumped the name Île de France and, not surprisingly under the circumstances, we dumped the name Port Napoleon as well.
Mauritius eventually became independent from Britain in 1968.