Curious Cannonball Incident Solved

Mar. 4, 2016
The cannonball at Galle Face Hotel's museum

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - In 1845 an errant cannonball hit a Dutch villa that is today the Galle Face Hotel. Earlier this year the heritage hotel finally found out who fired the 30-pound ball that inspired an annual cannonball run, a 100 meter dash set for March 18th this year.

“There was a famous story in our family about an ancestor who fired a cannonball into a hotel in Ceylon, and the hotel still keeps it on display,” said Steve Bennett from the UK, who first visited the hotel in 2015. “It wasn't until I researched my family history recently that I was able to put names and dates to this story.”

The man behind the incident was Colonel Francis Seymour Douglas-Hamilton, who was a Captain in the Royal Artillery stationed in Colombo from the 1840s on, and happens to be a distant relation of Bennett’s great-grandmother. Until now the man behind the cannon had been a mystery to the hotel.

This year it will be 171 years since Douglas-Hamilton’s cannonball made its way from the southern ramparts of Colombo’s Fort, through the roof of what is now the Galle Face Hotel, and came to rest under a chair in the drawing room.

In commemoration, members of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic community will follow the path the cannonball originally did, at a slightly slower pace. They’ll set off near where the original cannon was at the fort running along the Galle Face Green, a five-hectare park flanking the Indian Ocean, and make their way to the cannonball at the hotel. Normally kept in the hotel’s on-site museum, the cannonball will be out of its glass enclosure and on display for the special event.