Royal Naval Museum

Cheesman Henry Binstead

Heroes of the Squadron

Cheesman Henry Binstead

NAME

Cheesman Henry Binstead

LIVED

1797 – 1876

POSITION

Initially Binstead served as an Admiralty Midshipman and later as an acting Lieutenant on HMS Owen Glendower.

WHEN DID HE JOIN THE SQUADRON?

He served on the West Africa station between 1823 and 1824.

TELL ME MORE ABOUT HIM:

The Royal Naval Museum holds the original manuscripts of Binstead’s diaries from his time in the West Africa Squadron. You can learn more about his diaries in the ‘Chasing Freedom’ exhibition, where you can listen to Binstead describing his experiences on the squadron.

The diaries follow Binstead and HMS Owen Glendower from their departure at Spithead, to active service off the coast of West Africa.  Binstead describes the squadron’s work as they patrol as far as 190 miles up the Casamanza, the Calabar and the Bonny Rivers in the ship's boats. He describes firsthand the experience of life on the squadron: the slave ships chased and captured by the Owen Glendower, the fears of attack and imprisonment, his impressions of the indigenous African people encountered by the crew, and the effects of ill-health and fever on the ship’s men.

To read extracts from Binstead's diaries click here.

WHAT IS HE BEST REMEMBERED FOR?

Binstead is best remembered through his diaries, which provide us with a picture of what daily life was really like for the men serving on the West African squadron.  He also describes what it was like for men on the squadron to witness the suffering of the enslaved Africans:

“I never witnessed a more horrid description than my messmates gave me of the wretched state they were in onboard actually dying 10-12 a day owing to the confinement below all the men are in irons and women under them by a small partition.”

Binstead shows us how frustrating service on the squadron could be, as the actions of the British Navy to detain and search foreign ships were constrained by the different treaties with other nations involved in the slave trade.  Moreover, service on the squadron was often dull and the unfamiliar climate took a heavy toll on the sailors, as they caught many diseases unknown at the time.  Whilst serving on shore at Cape Coast Castle, Binstead witnessed the death of several servicemen on the squadron, including that of Sir Robert Mends, who died of a fever on board the Owen Glendower in 1823.  By the time the Owen Glendower returned to England, Binstead was one of the few surviving original crewmembers.

Binstead retired from active duty in the Navy in 1841, but as a reward for his service, he continued to be promoted as though he were still in active service.  At the time of his death in 1876, Binstead had risen to the rank of Vice-Admiral.

Binstead's diary has been showcased as Curator's Choice

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