"Historical and Naval Museum of Mahebourg"

 

At Pointe des Regattes is a monument to the French and English who died in the 1810 Battle of Grand Port. The battle lasted several days and was a great attempt by the British to conquer the island. It ended in defeat for the British and both sides suffered heavy casualties. The French victory is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. 

The fascinating aspects of this battle can be seen in the Historical and Naval Museum of Mahebourg, a dilapidated colonial residence built in around 1771 that belonged to the Commandant of the District of Grand Port, Jean de Robillard. His initials are inscribed on the wrought iron balustrade of the house. After the Battle of Grand Port, De Robillard turned the house into a hospital and the commanders of the French and British forces, Rear Admiral Victor Duperre and Admiral Sir Nesbit Willloughby, convalesced alongside each other and no doubt sobered by the appalling loss of men and ships, shook hands symbolising the beginning of an entente cordiale.

The house was bought by the government in 1950 and turned into a museum under the direction of the Mauritius Institute. It is at the southern outskirts of the village on the Mahebourg-Curepipe road.

The museum occupies three floors, tow of which are accessible to the public. On the ground floor wreckage of sailing ships that took part in the Grand Port battle, original cannon, cannonball, paintings and swords and weaponry of Robert Surcouf, the eighteenth-century corsair, popularly known as the king of the Corsairs. A large relief map shows the complicated reefs of Vieux Grand Port where the great battle took place. The bell, recovered from the wreckage of the St Geran which sunk off the east coast in 1744, is also on display. There is an interesting newspaper cutting of Charles Seabourne, who with survivors from the ship Trevessa, landed at Bel Ombre in the south in 1923 after spending 25 days at sea. On display are the ship's biscuits, a razor and the lid of a cigarette tin which they used to measure water rations. In a separate showcase is a Roll of Honour dedicated to Mauritians who died in World War II.

On the first floor are Labourdonnais' four-poster bed, two palanquins or wooden sedan-type chairs, which were borne by slaves to convey their masters through the country and a collection of coins, curios, model sailing ships and early maps, labelled in French and English.