Royal Naval Museum


Capture of a slave ship off the Congo River

Illustrated London News 1845, vol.6, p.301

Letter from Captain R. Yorke, an Officer on HMS Albatross, published in the Illustrated London News.

1st March 1845 off the Congo River

‘The brig was of 250 tons and had already embarked 300 negroes, had we been a day later in the field she would have had her whole cargo of 743 slaves on board and have been on her way Rio Janeiro.  A supply of water and provisions as well as slave irons, was also on its way, but our arrival induced the canoes conveying it to put back.’

The crew of Royal Navy ships on anti-slave trade duties would often receive prize money for capturing slave vessels. This extract from the Illustrated London News 1857 (vol.12, p.393) describes how money played an important part in motivating crews on the West Coast of Africa Station.

‘A young Officer of HMS Antelope, little Po-Po, Bight of Benin, 4th September 1857, has favoured us with the accompanying sketch and details:

Since writing my last letter from Lagos we have captured another prize.  We had to chase her for about 5 hours, when we caught her about 20 miles windward of this.  She had on board 200 slaves and was of 130 tons. Her crew consisted of five Americans (3 pure Irish) and 18 Spaniards, in all 23 men. She had just shipped her slaves and was bound for Havannah when we nabbed her.  One of the Irishmen of the crew had been a marine but deserted the English service and went over to the States. The prize will yield me about £35 and the two prizes together will produce £65 or £70.  I may add that the Teaser has lately taken a prize and the Firefly two, one of which is a barque worth £8000.’

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