Lot 44
  • 44

Benin 'Punitive' Expedition, 1897

1,500 - 2,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Archive of Private Albert Charles Lucy, Marine Light Infantry, comprising:
  • paper
i. Manuscript "logbook", approximately 60pp., including 16pp. relating to the Benin expedition and with a printed map "shewing the line of advance on Benin", original green cloth (stained), small 4to, c.1896-1898; ii. Military medals, five in all, comprising East and West Africa with Benin 1897 Bar, World War I trio, Imperial Service; iii. Photograph of Lucy, half length wearing the Benin medal, framed and glazed; iv. Birth certificate and other documents, some relating to the First World War

Catalogue Note

AN EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE KINGDOM OF BENIN, recording the events of 9-26 February 1897, by a British soldier, Private Albert Lucy.

The logbook describes the conditions and skirmishes en route to Benin and the intensified fighting as they approached the city. Once "the City of Blood" was captured, the details of events are graphic: "The smell of blood and dead bodies was something awful... The sights on the way [to collect water] were something fearful. The Crucifixion Tree with bodies stretched on it to dry and rot in the heat of the sun..." He then describes the looting and sacking: "strolled around the city getting curios... next day we went out to burn down the Queens Palace and our bluejackets went out and burned down the Kings Palace". The account concludes with the observation that "perhaps if he [the Illustrated London News reporter] had been there and seen for himself perhaps the London papers would not have been so full of lies as I am sure he saw nothing of Benin as he arrived after the fire at dark and left next morning".

The Benin expedition of 1897 was undertaken by British forces commanded by Sir Harry Rawson, in retaliation for the ambush and massacre of an earlier expedition led by Lieutenant James Philips the previous year. The culmination was the capture and burning of Benin City, and the looting of the country's art, most notably the Benin bronzes.