Skip to content


Remember, remember the 25th of November…

Technical Drawing of HMS Penelope (Leda class frigate, 5th rate), the flag ship of Commodore H.W. Bruce, after it was converted to paddle propulsion in 1842-1843.

On 25 November 1851 Her Majesty’s Consul for the Bights of Biafra and Benin, John Beecroft, sailed into Lagos Harbour at the head of four warships firing cannon. After fire was returned from shore, the Royal Navy bombarded and assaulted the Lagosian capital of Odin with a force of 180 men. Unable to take the city the British withdrew confident that they taught the “usurper Kosoko that the British flag was not to be fired upon with impunity.”[1] On 26 December Commodore H.W. Bruce, Commander of the West Africa Squadron, arrived to “punish this refractory chief” and fulfilled his duty “by the expulsion of the slave-dealing Chief, Kosoko, and his people; the utter destruction of his town; and the establishment of the friendly Chief, Akitoye, with his followers, in the seat of power at Lagos.”[2] Less than one week later, on 1 January 1852 aboard HMS Penelope Oba Akitoye signed a treaty ending the foreign slave trade and welcoming British commerce to Lagos.

Modern Map of the Waterways Surrounding Lagos.

Modern Map of the Waterways Surrounding Lagos.


 Introduction | Debate (God | Gold | Gezo – Kosoko Pivot) | Alternatives to Suppression | Palmerston’s Position | John Beecroft | Lagos and Dahomey | Toward Conflict | casus belli | Appendices 

[1] United Kingdom, “Consul Beecroft to Viscount Palmerston,” 26 November 1851, Papers Relative to the Reduction of Lagos by Her Majesty’s Forces on the West Coast of Africa. (London : Printed by Harrison and Son, 1852) Command Paper no. 1445, microfilm, no. 55 (hereafter cited as U.K., PRRL); U.K., “Commander Heath to the Secretary of the Admiralty,” 17 December 1851, PRRL, no. 56 en. 1; U.K., “Return of Force employed at the Expedition up Lagos River, on the 25th November, 1851,” PRRL, no.56 en 2; U.K., “Commander T.G. Forbes to Commodore Bruce,” 26 November 1851, PRRL, no. 65 en. 2; For maps of the West African coast and the Bight of Benin see Appendix A.

[2] U.K., “Commodore Bruce to the Secretary of the Admiralty,” 2 January 1852, PRRL, no. 70 en 1.


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: