HMS Black Joke (1827)

HMS Black Joke (1827)

The third HMS "Black Joke" was previously the slave ship "Henriquetta", captured by the Royal Navy in 1827 and purchased into the service. Designed to be fast, she was employed in the West Africa Squadron (or 'Preventative Squadron') chasing down slave ships, and over the course of a five-year career freed many hundreds of slaves. On orders from higher authority she was deliberately burnt in May 1832.


The Barque "Henriquetta" was built in Baltimore and operated as a slave ship until she was captured by HMS "Sybille". Her crew consisted of an assistant surgeon, three midshipmen, thirty seamen and five marines, apart from a number of Kroomen for use on detached boat service.

On 1 May 1828 "Black Joke" fought the large and well-armed pirate "Presidenta". After two hours of action, and following the death of their captain, the crew of the "Presidenta" sought a truce. Three men were killed and several wounded in the pirate, and "Black Joke" sustained one killed and a number wounded. The crew of "Presidenta" underwent an examination before being committed for trial on charges of piracy. Many of her crew appeared to be British or have anglicised names, and they were sent back to England for trial. In November of the same year "Black Joke" was forced to leave the coast of Fernando Po due to fever onboard.

with "Medina".

On 21 February 1831 she captured a slaver with 300 slaves on board, and in September, in company with HMS "Fair Rosamond" (another former slaver) she chased two Spanish slavers into the Bonny River. "Black Joke's" captain, Lieutenant Ramsey, reported that "during the chase they were seen to throw their slaves overboard, by twos shackled together by the ankles, and left in this manner to sink or swim." The Spanish vessels, "Regulus" and "Rapido" were captured on 10 September and taken to Sierra Leone, where they were condemned by the Admiralty Court. "Black Joke" freed 39 slaves, for which a half bounty was paid to the captain and crew. A further bounty was paid for the 29 slaves who died between the capture and the condemnation of the "Regulo".

Between November 1830 and March 1832, 11 out of 13 slavers taken by the squadron had been captured by "Black Joke" and "Fair Rosamond". A survey held on the "Black Joke" in 1832 stated that her timbers were rotten, and that "she is not, in our opinion, a vessel calculated fit for H.M. Service." She was burnt in May 1832 and her stores sold. The surveyors attached examples of her timber, and all that now remains of the famous slave-chaser is an envelope filled with brown dust in the Public Record Office.

Peter Leonard, surgeon of HMS "Dryad" wrote, when "Black Joke" was ordered to be burnt, that she was the ship cquote|which has done more towards putting an end to the vile traffic in slaves than all the ships of the station put together [ The Navy and the Slave Trade: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century, by Christopher Lloyd, Routledge, 1968, ISBN 0714618942]

Commanding Officers


* [ Royal Naval Museum]
* [ Index of naval vessels]
* [ The Suppression of Slavery- Royal Navy website]

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