The Royal Navy
West Africa Squadron
) at substantial expense in 1808 after Parliament
passed the Slave Trade Act of
. The squadron's task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade
by patrolling the
coast of West Africa
. With a home base at
Portsmouth, it began with two small ships, the 32-gun fifth rate frigate
HMS Solebay and the
Cruizer class brig-sloop HMS
At the height of its operations, the
Squadron employed a sixth of the Royal Navy fleet and Marines
Commodore Sir George Ralph Collier
, with the
36-gun as his flagship, was the first Commodore of the West Africa
Squadron. On September 19, 1818, the Navy sent him to
the Gulf of
Guinea with the orders, “You are to use every means in
your power to prevent a continuance of the traffic in slaves.”
However, he had only six ships with which to patrol over 3000 miles
He served from 1818 to 1821.
the Royal Navy created a naval station in West Africa at a captured
slaving port that the British renamed Freetown.
become the capital of the first British colony in Africa, Sierra Leone.
Most of the slaves the squadron freed would
choose to settle in Sierra Leone as they would not have to fear
being re-enslaved, a danger in any other part of Africa.
the squadron also used Ascension Island as a supply depot, before this moved to Cape Town in 1832.
As the Royal Navy began interdicting
slavers, the slavers responded by abandoning their merchant ships
in favour of faster ships, particularly Baltimore Clippers
. At first, the Royal
Navy was often unable to catch these ships, however with the
capture of slaver clippers and new faster ships from Britain the
Royal Navy regained the upper hand. One of the most successful
ships of the West Africa Squadron was one such captured ship,
renamed HMS Black
. She successfully caught 11 slavers in one
Until 1835, the Royal Navy was only allowed to take slavers that
actually had slaves aboard. This meant the Squadron could not
interfere with vessels clearly equipped for the trade but without a
cargo. It also gave slavers being pursued an incentive to throw
their slaves overboard before capture to avoid the seizure of the
By the 1840s, the West African Squadron had begun receiving
, which proved
superior in many ways to the sailing ships they replaced. The
steamers were independent of the wind and their shallow draught
meant they could go patrol the shallow
shores and up rivers.
The Royal Navy considered the West Africa Station one of the worst
postings due to the high levels of tropical disease
, however this did provide
the Royal Navy surgeon
they would use to effectively fight such diseases.
19th Century wore on, the Royal Navy also began interdicting
slavery in North Africa, the Middle
East, and the Indian
The United States Navy
the West Africa Squadron, starting in 1820 with the USS Cyane
. Initially the US
contribution consisted of a few ships, but eventually the Webster-Ashburton Treaty
formalized the US contribution into the Africa Squadron
Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron captured 1,600 slave
ships and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard these ships. The
United States Navy captured a further 24 ships.