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James Gray MP backs campaign to honour Royal Navy Fleet that helped to end slavery

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James Gray MP has backed a new campaign to honour the Royal Navy fleet which helped to bring about the end of slavery and freed 150,000 men, women and children.

The West Africa Squadron, which operated 1808 – 1867, policed the seas between West Africa and America, boarding and seizing vessels suspected of being involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Mr Gray’s wife, Philippa, is by coincidence a direct descendant of Captain William Tucker, who commanded the Squadron (Separate Op Ed attached).

So seriously did the UK embrace the quest to end slavery, following the passage of William Wilberforce’s Slave Trade Abolition Bill in 1807, that at its peak the fleet 36 of Royal Navy ships, crewed by 4,000 men, consumed 50 per cent of the entire Royal Navy’s budget, or two per cent of Great Britain’s entire GDP, equivalent to around £50 billion today.

Yet despite this proud record there is no memorial to the thousands of sailors (including Captain Tucker) who lost their lives, or the pivotal role played by the Royal Navy which waged the 60-year campaign to end the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The model, by award winning sculpture, Vincent Gray was unveiled this week by the Leader of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP. It features three figures, a shackled woman, symbolising slavery, a naval officer of the time, making a compassioned gesture and a final figure, a man with broken shackles, reaching upward, symbolising a freed slave.