West African Actions
HMS Active spent 6 years around the coasts of West Africa and the Cape Colony during two commissions.
Ashanti War 1873
Men from HMS Active were part of the Naval Brigade that joined General Garnet Wolseley and his troops including several thousand West Indian and African troops. Commodore William Hewett VC of HMS Active became the commander of the Naval Brigade which fought in three battles between 29th January and 1st February 1874. These were at Bormassie on the 29th, Amoaful on the 31st and Becquah on the 1st of February. One seaman from Active was killed at Becquah, and nine others from Active were wounded.
HMS Active was involved in anti-piracy operations on the East coast of africa. In August 1875 the schooner Geraldine ran aground in the Congo. Local pirates attacked the ship as it lay there and killed four of the crew. HMS Active together with HMS Encounter, HMS Spiteful, HMS Merlin, HMS Foam, HMS Ariel were sent to make sure that the locals realised that this was not a good idea. Marines were landed on August 31st and destroyed three villages. Then on the 2nd of September they bombarded several more villages, and again landed marines who found from the Geraldine. They continued to bombard villages until the 17th of September when Commodore Hewett of the Active met with local chiefs to settle the matter.
Active was able to sail 73 miles up river on the Congo, but when she was called on to perform an operation on the Niger in July 1876 Commodore Hewett had to transfer his flag to a merchantman called the Sultan of Sokoto because HMS Active was too large to navigate the river. He took four guns and thirty marines with him. More men for Active followed in the ship's steam launch along with the gunboats HMS Ariel and HMS Cygnet.
The small flotilla sailed up the river reaching the town of Sabogrega on the 31st of July. They tried to talk with the locals, but were fired upon. This was not a good idea as the following day the British bombarded the town after which Commander Bruce of HMS Active led a landing party. They were greeted by heavy fire from the shore, but managed to blew up the town's powder magazine, threw its heavy guns into the river, and then burned down the lower part of the town. During the fight once marine was killed, and an officer and nine sailors were wounded. They then continued up stream until Commodore Hewett could meet the local king and sorted out the problem.
On the way back downstream, the British force stopped to burn Akado town where the channel had first been blocked by the locals. On the 11th August, the British left.
9th Kaffir War 1878
Sailors from Active also took part in the 9th Kaffir War. 196 officers, seamen and marines landed at East London in the Cape Colony on 14th January 1878 under the command of Commander Henry Wright. This Naval Brigade took part in the action at Quintana on 7th February where the rocket battery, led by Lt. Hamilton, provided support.