By : Mohammed BOKRETA-
*Exclusive to IENA
History not only tells us about the past, it does influence our present, and surely it will shape our future, as such knowledge of history is often said to encompass both knowledge of past events and Historical thinking skills.
Also criticism of history as a field has been that it has too narrowly focused on political events or on individuals, deeper more significant changes in terms of ideas, technology, family life and culture have received too little attention, but fortunately it seems that recent developments in history have sought to redress this.
The great late Malcolm X had this to say about History: “History is people’s memory and without memory, Man is demoted to the lower of animals” true are the visions of this insightful man that had left an incomparable legacy to Humanity.
In our today’s diary , the siege or rather the bombardment of Algiers took place on the 27th of August 1816 , it was an attempt by Britain and the Netherlands to end the slavery practices of Omar Agha, the Dey of Algiers , an Anglo-Dutch fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Exmouth bombarded ships and the harbour defenses of Algiers.
There was a continuing campaign by various European navies and the American navy to suppress the piracy against Europeans by the North African Barbary states , the specific aim of this expedition, however, was to free Christian slaves and to stop the practice of enslaving Europeans , to this end, it was partially successful, as the Dey of Algiers freed around 3,000 slaves following the bombardment and signed a treaty against the slavery of Europeans. However, this practice did not end completely until the French conquest of Algeria.
It would be important to stress that following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the Royal Navy no longer needed the Barbary states as a source of supplies for Gibraltar and their fleet in the Mediterranean Sea , such issue freed Britain to exert considerable political pressure to force the Barbary states to end their piracy and practice of enslaving European Christians.
Lord Exmouth in Queen Charlotte anchored approximately 80 yd (73 m) off the mole, facing the Algerian guns, however, a number of the other ships anchored out of position, notably Admiral Milne aboard HMS Impregnable, who was 400 yards from where he should have been, this error reduced the effectiveness of these ships and exposed them to fiercer Algerian fire, moreover some of the other ships sailed past Impregnable and anchored in positions closer to the plan.
*Painting by George Chambers Sr.
No wonder in their earlier negotiations, both Exmouth and the Dey of Algiers had stated that they would not fire the first shot, the Dey’s plan was to allow the fleet to anchor and then to sortie from the harbour and board the ships with large numbers of men in small boats, but Algerian discipline was less effective and one Algerian gun fired a shot at 15:15. Exmouth immediately began the bombardment.
Despite this, the Algerian batteries could not maintain fire and, by 22:15, Exmouth gave the order for the fleet to weigh anchor and sail out of range, leaving HMS Minden to keep firing to suppress any further resistance , the wind had changed and was blowing from the shore, which helped the fleets depart.
By 01:30 the next morning, the fleet was anchored out of range, the wounded were treated, and the crew cleared the damage caused by the Algerian guns, it was reported that casualties on the British side were 128 killed and 690 wounded, (16 percent killed or wounded) as a comparison, the British casualties at the Battle of Trafalgar had been only 9 percent.
The allied squadron had fired over 50,000 round shot using 118 tons of gunpowder, and the bomb vessels had fired 960 explosive mortar shells, while the Algerian forces had had 308 guns and 7 mortars, as a result of this war encounter, Exmouth sent the following letter to the Dey:
“Sir, for your atrocities at Bona on defenseless Christians, and your unbecoming disregard of the demands I made yesterday in the name of the Prince Regent of England, the fleet under my orders has given you a signal chastisement, by the total destruction of your navy, storehouse, and arsenal, with half your batteries. As England does not war for the destruction of cities, I am unwilling to visit your personal cruelties upon the unoffending inhabitants of the country, and I therefore offer you the same terms of peace which I conveyed to you yesterday in my Sovereign’s name. Without the acceptance of these terms, you can have no peace with England.”
He warned that if they were not accepted, then he would continue the action, the Dey accepted the terms, not realising that they were a bluff, as the fleet had already fired off almost all of its ammunition, as such a treaty was signed on September 24, 1816, and the room it was signed in had been hit by nine round shot and was a perfect ruin, the Dey freed 1,083 Christian slaves and the British Consul and repaid the ransom money taken in 1816, about £80,000.
Edwin John Brett, Brett’s Illustrated Naval History of Great Britain, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time: A Reliable Record of the Maritime Rise and Progress of England (1871), Publishing Office, London.
C. Northcote Parkinson, Britannia Rules: The Classic Age of Naval History 1793–1815 (1977), Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
William Osler, The Life of Admiral Viscount Exmouth (1841)
C. Northcote Parkinson, Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth (1934)
Mariner’s Mirror (1941)