By Christopher Miskimon
During the mid-19th century, the English Royal Navy waged a successful campaign against African piracy. On the West African coast, they killed Bartholomew Roberts, known as ‘The King of the Pirates,” captured his fleet, and sent many of his men to the gallows. On the North African coast, the Barbary Pirates terrorized the region for centuries preying upon shipping and coastal towns. Where many great powers had failed to end their threat, the Royal Navy; once it chose to do so, defeated them decisively and brought decades of predation to a halt.
This is one of most unfamiliar and neglected anti-piracy campaigns in history, but also one of the most remarkable. The author reveals the broad brushstrokes of the operation, as well as several of its most notable clashes, such as the rescue of the British merchant ship The Three Sisters by the torpedo ram HMS Polyphemus in 1848 and the clash between the sloop HMS Prometheus and the Rif pirates in 1854. The book is well documented and contains extensive and detailed appendices.
Pirate Killers: The Royal Navy and the African Pirates (Graham A. Thomas, Pen and Sword Books, South Yorkshire UK, 2022, 200 pp., maps, photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, index, $29.95, softcover)