H.M.S. Fantome


From Geoff Hunt’s Speed Under Sail Series. H.M.S. Fantome in pursuit of a Slaver, 30th April 1841. As politicians debate the merits of apologizing for Britain’s role in the slave trade, the Royal Navy’s heroic work in its suppression is sometimes forgotten.

200 years ago Britain was the first major nation to outlaw slavery. A Royal Navy squadron was established that would patrol the seas of West Africa for the next 60 years: searching and detaining slave ships, liberating some 150,000 enslaved Africans, playing a pivotal role in the suppression of this barbaric practice.

British Navy crew were in despair as they boarded overcrowded, disease-ridden slave ships, and suffered terribly from tropical diseases including yellow fever and malaria…

Geoff Hunt’s dramatic print illustrates the one of the most desperate actions of the campaign:

AM… observed a strange Sail bearing ENE. Made Sail in Chase of a Brigantine…” so begins the logbook account of a memorable pursuit by the brig Fantome, Captain Butterfield, on anti-slavery patrol. After a 24-hour chase Fantome caught the runaway and discovered her to be the fast Portuguese slaver Josephina, which had already outrun four other Men of War, and was carrying 290 slaves. A lieutenant and eight men were put on board to conduct the prize to Sierra Leone, where the slaves could be freed.

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