The Benin Massacre Route Day 6
The yacht Ivy arrives at Sapele today New year’s day with Acting Consul – General Phillips, Captain Boisragon, Mr Powis, Captain Maling and Dr. D’Arcy.
They find that Mr. Kenneth Campbell a District Commissioner at Sapele with the help of Mr. Lyon another District Commissioner for Sapele have made excellent arrangements for the expedition to Benin. Mr. Campbell has paid attention to the finest details of the expedition requirements including enough provision for the number of people going which will last the expected number of days stay in Benin.
He has secured:
a) For each Whiteman going:
1. three carriers; two to carry baggage, and one for camp bed,
2. and the extra food wanted for their maintenance
3. the necessity of having to carry water for everyone
b) rations for carriers themselves,
c) rations for the drum and fife band of the Niger Coast Protectorate Force¹
The total number of carriers is over two hundred and forty (Boisragon, pg 60).
This is made up of:
- One hundred and eighty of these were Jakris (Itesekiri), supplied by the different chiefs in the Benin and Warri Districts,
- about sixty Kroo boys, supplied, some from the Government Consulate at Sapele and Warri,
- the rest kindly lent from the different factories at both places. ²
As Consul General Phillips is taking this action as a result of complaints by the trading companies namely that the king of Benin has stopped all trade, he invites some members from each of the big trading firms to go with them. Mr. Gordon of the African Association, and Mr. Swainson of Mr. Pinnock's firm, are the only ones to accept this invitation. Regrettably, Mr. Swainson is very unwell with rheumatism and is unable to accompany them. ³
Mr.Campbell who is in charge of the Jakri (Itsekiri) carriers, sends them to Gwatto with all the expedition stores. They travel in their own canoes and are one day ahead of the expedition party. They will meet up with them tomorrow in Gwatto.⁴
¹ which Phillips intends taking with him to make some sort of show (Boisragon, 1897, page 60).
² Mr Boisragon does not provide figure on this additional group. We can however take an estimated guess on this from the numbers supplied by others. Since his figures do not add up, this author believes at least a further two hundred and forty others were supplied by other factories who would have been wanting to please the new Consul General and would have wanted to be seen to be supportive of any action to open up the Benin Country as this action was being taken as a result of their complaints that the king of Benin had stopped all trade.
There are also additional personnel like the photographers accompanying the expedition. There are at least six – seven of them (Boisragon, 1897, pages 77 – 78) and this number is not included in Mr. Boisragon’s figures. The true number of people going on the expedition is most likely to be over 500 including the Whitemen.
³ This reluctance by members of the big trading firms to accompany him to Benin should have sounded as a warning to Consul General Phillips, he is however oblivious. In his letter to London in October 1896 for permission to invade Benin, he had included letters from four companies. Now only one person from one company has agreed to accompany him on this mission.
⁴ The news that Jakri (itsekiri) carriers have arrived with so many stores would have been passed to the Benin Council of Chiefs who have instructed Omaregboma the border guard at Gwatto: “Ohebo told me that the chiefs sent him to say that they had heard that plenty white men were coming, and I must send to tell the king what they brought.” This evidence proves their intelligence to be factual. This is an invasion expedition. One whiteman on a visit does not require so much stores.
1) Boisragon A, The Benin Massacre, 1897, pages 60 – 61, page 65, pages 77 - 78
2) Phillips, J.R. , 17 Nov 1896. Dispatches to Foreign Office from Consul-General, Catalogue of the Correspondence and Papers of the Niger Coast Protectorate, 268 3/3/3, p. 240. National Archives of Nigeria Enugu.
3) THE BENIN MASSACRE ITS PROBABLE CAUSE. Hobart Newspaper (3rd March 1897), page 3. Retrieved from http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/9392982
4) THE BENIN MASSACRE - WHY THE EXPEDITION WENT TO BENIN;
Publication: Guardian 1821 - 2000; Date: Jan 18, 1897, Section: None; Page 5.
5) Roth, H. L, Great Benin, 1903, app xiv – xv
6) Roth H.L.,Transcript of the Trial of the king, (appendix 11); 1903
7) Roth H. L Transcript of the Trial of Ologbosheri; 27 June 1899, (appendix xviii); 1903