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Removing the Shackles - HMS Sphinx in 1907.

The six rescued slaves. (RNM)
The six rescued slaves. (RNM)

In 1907 HMS Sphinx took six escaped enslaved Africans aboard whilst cruising off the coast of Oman.

Although outlawed in Europe, the trade in African slaves was still acceptable in many of the Arab states. The East Indies station covered areas surrounding the Indian Ocean such as the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, Aden, Ceylon, India and part of the East Coast of Africa.

HMS Sphinx was serving on the East Indies Station between 10 February 1907 and 26 March 1909. The Africans had escaped in a canoe from a slave-trading village on the coast on hearing that a Royal Navy ship was in the area.

In his report (15 October 1907) Commander Litchfield of HMS Sphinx wrote that ‘six fugitives’ came aboard whilst the ship was on a cruise off the Batineh Coast between 10 and 14 October.

The first three came off the canoe at 2245 on 10 October. They were men aged 17, 20 and 22. Two complained of being badly treated and the third had been fairly well looked after and had only escaped when he was threatened with being sold.

Off the coast of Khadara village, two of the men came in off a canoe at 1200 on 12 October and then a further one the next day at 0500. The master of one slave had kept him in manacles for three years. The enslaved man had escaped with his leg irons still on. Commander Litchfield had these removed.

Carpenter on HMS Sphinx sawing off the shackles of a slave. (RNM)
Carpenter on HMS Sphinx sawing off the shackles of a slave. (RNM)



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