Royal Naval Museum


Chasing Freedom Image Archive

HMS Sphinx Images - Ocotber, 1907

Captured slaver on HMS Sphinx, East Coast of Africa 1907 Ship's carpenter sawing off leg irons of a liberated African, HMS Sphinx 1907

Images from HMS Sphinx, East Indies Station between 10 February 1907 when commissioned at Bombay, and 26th March 1909. 

The Africans featured in the photos escaped in a canoe from a slave-trading village on the coast on hearing that the RN ship was in the area.  In his report dated 15th October 1907, Commander Litchfield wrote that the ship received ‘six fugitives’ on a cruise off the Batineh Coast, Oman between 10th and 14th October. 

The first 3 men came off the canoe at 10.45pm on October 10th when the ship anchored off Masna. Aged 17, 20 and 22, all three had been slaves at Bu Abali. Two complained of being badly treated and the third, although fairly well looked after, had escaped when he was threatened with being sold. 

Two more Africans came in off a canoe at 12.15pm on 12th October, followed by one other at 5am the next day. One of the fugitives had been manacled for three years and had escaped with his leg irons still on. Cdr Litchfield had these removed (see above image).  

It seems that the images were taken by Cdr Litchfield to strengthen his report but he instead circulated copies amongst the crew, one of whom was Able Seaman Joseph Chidwick, the watchman on the first night that HMS Sphinx received its escapees! Joseph's son, Samuel Chidwick, donated these images to the Museum in March 2007.

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