The British Admiralty orders a punitive expedition against Benin. It is to be led by Admiral Rawson.
At 9 a.m. in Malta 8,000 miles from the Benin River coast, the British war ships Theseus and Forte receive signals to prepare for sea.
The ship Malacca on the River Thames in London, England is recalled and her cargo discharged. She is coaled and fitted as a hospital ship, with ice-rooms and every appliance which medical and surgical science could suggest. She leaves today for the Benin River coast.
'To understand the position of affairs on the 15th of January, the first thing to consider is the geographical situation of the ships. H.M.S. St. George at Simons Town (South Africa near Cape Town), with a small dockyard under her lee.
Theseus and Forte at Malta, 8000 miles off, and practically out of range of any but the most meagre telegraphic orders, and technically not under the Commander-in-Chief of the African station till after leaving Gibraltar. Philomel and Phoebe under orders from their cruising positions to Brass, and therefore having only the ordinary stores on board.
Alecto up the Gambia, and out of telegraphic communication. Widgeon at Brass. Malacca promised from England.
All details as to nature of ground, exact positions of places, water supply, and local resources were absolutely unknown.' (Bacon, 1897, p.20 - 21).
1) Bacon, R. H. Benin City of Blood, 1897, p20 – 21
2) THE DISASTER TO THE BENIN EXPEDITION – SAFETY OF TWO OFFICERS- CONSUL GENERAL MOOR ON THE SITUATION – PRESS ASSOCIATION TELEGRAM, FRIDAY EVENING, 15 January 1897, LONDON, Publication: Guardian 1821 - 2000; Date: Jan 16, 1897, Section: None; Page 8
3) THE BENIN EXPEDITION. ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE ADVANCE. DEFIANT MESSAGE FROM THE KING. (REUTER’S SPECIAL SERVICE) SAPELE, BENIN RIVER, Publication: Guardian 1821 – 2000; Date: Feb 9, 1897; Section: None; Page 8