Designing a lasting memorial to recognise Britain’s contribution to ending the global slave trade

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The History

The role of the West Africa Squadron in ending the slave trade

The Royal Navy was the only force in the world that had the drive, willingness and firepower to curtail the slave trade.

After the end of the Napoleonic War, Britain, who had the largest navy in the world, negotiated with its allies for British ships to board all foreign vessels to check if they were “engaged in slavery”.

If they found slaves, the ship was seized and the slaves released, many on the island of St. Helena or on the coast of Africa.

The financial cost was huge. At its peak, the West Africa Squadron was using half the total budget for the Royal Navy, or the equivalent of 2% of the UK’s GDP. Moreover, between 1830 and 1865, almost 1,600 Royal Navy sailors from this squadron died either in action or from tropical diseases.

Royal Navy Warship
West Africa Squadron Memorial Fund
Slavery in Africa
West Africa Squadron Memorial Fund

The Timeline

The Royal Navy in West Africa


The West Africa Squadron was formed in 1808 after the Slave Trade Act of 1807, to patrol the coast of West Africa and disrupt the slave trade.

Initially the force was very small, comprising of only two ships.

Royal Navy Ship of The Line


After the end of the Napoleonic war in 1815, the West Africa Squadron was strengthened with more ships.

It also used the captured slave ships, which were generally faster, as part of the squadron and by 1850, there were 25 ships and 2,000 naval officers engaged in the squadron.

Royal Navy Warship


The Squadron operated until 1867, and over the course of its operation it seized 1,600 ships and freed around 150,000 Africans destined for slavery.

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.

William Wilberforce
West Africa Squadron Memorial - Maquette
Portsmouth, Hampshire
West Africa Squadron Memorial Fund
The Proposal

Our campaign to design and produce a lasting memorial

As yet there is no specific monument to this squadron or indeed to the role Britain took in the abolishment of slavery and the work of the Royal Navy in implementing the law banning slavery.

To bring about the building this important memorial, we’re asking you to consider making a gift that will help us meet our goal.

In addition, your generous financial donations help us achieve very specific goals; these are detailed on the donations page where you can make your financial gift online.

The Memorial

In Summary

Although Britain was one of the major slaving nations it was the first country to ban slavery.

It used the power of the Royal Navy in the shape of the West Africa Squadron to enforce that ban.

So Britain used its own men, own ships and money and its diplomatic power to end the evil trade of slavery.

Why build a memorial?

The vision of the West Africa Squadron Memorial Fund team is for a monument to achieve two things.

Firstly, it’s purpose is to celebrate the work of the West Africa Squadron and secondly to move the narrative from the negative implications of Britain’s past with slavery to the positive that this country stood alone in banning this evil trade, a full 48 years before the USA banned slavery

The Action Plan

The West Africa Squadron Memorial fund (WASMF) has commissioned Vincent Gray, who designed the sculpture to Nelson and Murray in Chichester, to produce a maquette for the ultimate sculpture.

WASMF is seeking to raise funds for the production of the actual monument/statue by crowdfunding and donations from sponsors and other interested parties.

Progress so far


Funds Raised



Please note that the above figures are updated once every 48 hours

The Artist

Vincent Gray - Sculptor
As well as an acute awareness of balance, articulation and anatomy, I am also sensitive to the human condition, hopes, fears, vulnerabilities and aspirations.

Vincent Gray

The Artist – Vincent Gray

Vincent Gray is a figurative sculptor specialising in historical figures.

Represented in England, Scotland and Sweden, it is his contribution to the street scene of his home city that, in 2021, earned him a Civic Medal.

The WAS Memorial design comprises of three figures set on a Portland stone plinth. The slave (a shackled female) before abolition, the standing Naval Officer representing the West Africa Squadron and the freed slave.

The officer makes a compassioned gesture for a new life, shackles broken the slave rises up and is free.

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