Benin Expedition of 1897: Know how this great kingdom was looted by the British

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British soldiers in Benin during the expedition

The British razed and looted the Benin Kingdom as revenge.

The expedition of the Benin Kingdom happened in 1897 by a British military group led by  Admiral Sir Harry Rawson.

The group was 1,200 strong and the expedition was a response to the ambush of the Acting Consul General James Phillips led group. The ambush was deadly and only two people survived.

In November 1896, Phillips wrote a letter to his superiors in England for permission to invade the kingdom of Benin. When he didn't get a response he decided to invade Benin on his own in December of that year.

 

Acting Consul General James Philips travelled to Benin with  250 African soldiers, two Niger Coast Protectorate Force officers, a medical officer, and two trading agents. The African soldiers posed as porters and members of a musical band.

Philips believed he would get rid of the Oba of Benin and replace him with a Native Council. He also believed that the ivory at the Oba's palace would pay for his military expedition.

Philips and his party would get a rude shock. Trading chiefs in Itsekiri had alerted the Benin Kingdom that Philips and his men were on there way. A strike force led by  Ologbosere, a senior army commander in Benin ambushed Philips and his men on January 4, 1897. It was a bloodbath as only two men came out alive.

This piece of bad news swiftly got to London.  On 12 January 1897, the British Admiralty instructed Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson to lead an expedition to Benin and level the city.

 

Rawson took 1,200 Royal Marines on this mission. The British got their revenge as they burnt houses and palaces and looted the kingdom. Monuments and artifacts were taken from palaces and the homes of high ranking chiefs and transported to Britain.

 

Many of these artifacts are still in Britain.



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