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I am trying to do some research for a book I am planning to write, and I would like to know how long it would take for a troop transport ship to travel from England to the Gold Coast region of Africa. More specifically, the final destination is the Ashanti tribal region, and the date would be around 1895 or 1896. If anyone could identify any ports of call that might be visited along the way, that would be helpful as well.

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

Ok, first we need to find the destination port. Wikipedia notes that Ada and Prampram were important ports in addition to Accra. Good, can we find logs from any ships that traveled from England to these destinations?

I searched but couldn't find anything for either Ada or Prampram (maybe these ports already lost their importance in the 19th century). For Accra I finally found two travel descriptions: HMS Amphitrite in 1848 and MV Apapa in 1930. It seems that HMS Amphitrite only lived until 1875 whereas MV Apapa wasn't built before 1927. So none of them could have been used in 1895.

Looking through the list of British ships that could have been used in 1895 I found SS Fazilka, a steam cargo ship that was also used to carry migrants and troops at some points. With a top speed of 12.5 knots it wasn't much slower than MV Apapa (14.5 knots). It took MV Apapa 9 days to go from Liverpool to Freetown (Sierra Leone), SS Fazilka should have been able to make the same journey in 11 days. The trip from Freetown to Accra took another 4 days, SS Fazilka would have been able to do it in 5 days.

Now you have to consider the stops of course. The logs of HMS Amphitrite aren't very representative, the paddle steamer HMS Hydra in 1852 is probably a better example:

  • 7 Feb - 10 Feb: Plymouth to Barnpool
  • 10 Feb - 17 Feb: Barnpool to Funchal Bay, Madeira
  • 20 Feb - 28 Feb: Madeira to Sierra Leone

So essentially it took HMS Hydra 15 days to travel from England to Sierra Leone, the jorney that MV Apapa did in 9 days. It seems that 11 days for the same journey in 1895 aren't an unreasonable assumption. And the stops are pretty typical (have a look at the logs of the other ships on the same server): Madeira, then Sierra Leone. The next stop would be Accra already. 2-3 days spent in a port seem typical for 19th century, so we would get a total travel time of 16 days plus 4-6 days for the stops meaning 20-22 days.

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+1 Very nice answer indeed. Answers such as these are the stuff that makes this site worthwhile. – Sardathrion Oct 21 '11 at 8:11
Nicely done! I appreciate you finding this for me! Interestingly enough, Prampram is most likely the final destination in my book! – Steven Drennon Oct 21 '11 at 11:55
+1 Wish I could upvote this answer twice. – Wilhelm Oct 26 '11 at 3:44
Wow. Great answer! – Owen Blacker Feb 23 '12 at 1:07

FWIW, London to Cairo took six days during that period (source: http://archive.org/details/jewsinmanylands00adleiala).

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