Bombardment of Algiers
The 27th of August 1816 AD
The slave trade had been abolished in the British Empire in 1807; but the legal holding of slaves continued until 1834. Similarly, we had at times been happy to collaborate with the Barbary Pirates who operated from Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. But in 1816 it was determined that the taking of European slaves by those pirates would be endured no longer.
That trade was far from new. The British Isles were plagued by it in the 17th and 18th centuries. Not only were ships captured by the raiders – fishermen off the South and South West coasts particularly at risk, though traders were tempting prizes too – but settlements plundered: Looe in 1632 lost 80 of its inhabitants to slavers; Penzance was targeted more than once; and the village of Baltimore near Cork was emptied by the corsairs. Some of the pirate captains were renegade Britons, most famous of these Captain Jack Ward, born in Faversham .
Veteran of the American Wars of Independence and the Napoleonic conflict Admiral Lord Exmouth was tasked with negotiating with the Dey of Algiers, then when that failed with scaring him into compliance. On August 27 1816 10 British warships supported by five Dutch vessels bombarded the city for eight hours, then withdrew with ammunition depleted. Their losses were considerable – over 800 men – as Exmouth’s plan to fire from a blind spot of the Algerian guns was not kept to by some of the force. The pirates had 33 boats and ships sunk attempting to reach the naval ships, or moored in the port, and an estimated 7000 lost their lives in Algiers.
Exmouth bluffed the Dey by threatening a repeat dose the next day; the Dey folded, freeing more than 1000 Christian slaves and the British consul who was being held hostage.
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From Anthony Webb on 8th November 2013
My ancestor Charles Webb served aboard HMS Lion in this action. we have a picture of the action presented to friends to commemorate the eminent services of Admiral Lord Viscount Exmouth. On the back of this black and white picture it says that Charles Webb served aboard HMS LION in this action. Can you help with any other information relating to Charles. Many Thanks
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