Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


This is coolbert:

In his television series on naval warfare, the host Admiral Lord Hill-Norton did an entire episode devoted to the gunboat.

The term gunboat in modern parlance is considered to have a perjorative connotation, as in "gunboat diplomacy".

"A country negotiating with a European power usually over issues of trade would notice that a warship or fleet of ships had appeared off its coast. The mere sight of such power almost always had a considerable effect, and it was rarely necessary for such boats to use other measures, such as demonstrations of cannon fire."

The threat of course was that if you do not accede to the demands of the "Europeans", something bad will happen to you.

And on many occasions, it DID!!

Gunboats, however, also have a history that is far more positive.

Lord Hill-Norton points out that the gunboat DID play an absolutely essential and pivotal role in ENDING the African slave trade.

Gunboats can be defined as:

Naval vessels having an ability to operate in shallow coastal waters, or in navigable rivers of size, such as would be the Congo, Nile, Amazon, Yangste, etc. Vessels having considerable organic firepower for a craft their size.

Naval vessels ideal for patrolling and holding position for a long time if necessary.

Vessels that were not only for coastal patrol. Had a shallow draft and could go "up-river" if necessary, pursuing miscreants. Sailors on the such war craft did have to able at a moments notice be ready to take up arms and fight as what was called naval infantry [as distinct from Marines]. This type of behavior is seen in the excellent movie "Sand Peebles".

Gunboats of the British Royal Navy, of which Hill-Norton is speaking about, DID play an instrumental role in putting a stop to the slave trade.

Slavery in the British Empire was outlawed in 1807 [slaves not actually set free until 1838]. In the French Empire in 1848.

Slavery, however, did not end at that point.

Slavery, and the exportation of black Africans to various parts of the world did continue for sometime thereafter.

English slave abolitionists [such as of the type of person exemplified by Dr. Livingston] urged the Victorian Era government to take strong measures to prevent further removal of African slaves to places such as Brazil [slavery did not end until 1888!].

"Brazil, however, did not agree to stop trading in slaves until Britain took military action against its coastal areas and threatened a permanent blockade of the nation's ports in 1852."

Gunboats, patrolling off the coast of west Africa and Brazil, would have been a major part of such an anti-slave trade action.

The gunboat has an undeservedly bad reputation. Gunboats accomplished a lot more good than bad. Without doubt.

The gunboat does have a noble past. Perhaps it will again too. In the suppression of the ever growing world piracy epidemic. Ships of the Israeli "Reshef" class, modern gunboats, being ideally suited for the task.




Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home