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Part ofBarbadoes and Leeward Islands Station

Barbados was naval base and command of the British Royal Navy first established in 1744.


During the 18th century the shift in the area of operations to the British Barbados and Leeward Islands Station caused Antigua to become a northerly island in the central area of operations. Barbados, one hundred miles to the windward side of the Windward Island chain claimed Antigua’s previous role as the forward operating base for the Royal Navy in the region. The naval infrastructure, that had been built to accommodate fleet vessels at English Harbour, could not accommodate the larger British warships being constructed thereby limiting the usefulness of the facility to large fleet units.

Barbados became the hub for fleet action and amphibious campaigns in the region. The importance of Barbados was due to three major factors; the island’s geographical location 100 miles to the windward of the island chain a large reasonably sheltered anchorage in Carlisle Bay and a steady supply of freshwater from Beckles spring with which to refill their casks after a transatlantic voyage. Fleet units and transport ships that often got separated during the Atlantic crossing, could easily locate to Barbados.

n. Due to Barbados’s geographical location, ships could easily sail to any of the Caribbean islands with the prevailing winds behind them. Although Barbados was ideally located to be a major British base, the geology of the island did not suit such an installation and there was also no safe haven for ships during a hurricane; Carlisle Bay being vulnerable to violent storms with south and west swells. As with Antigua, Barbados was too far removed from the main French islands to provide a primary fleet anchorage. It was difficult for ships, engaged in scouting and antiscouting patrols around French-held islands, to return to Barbados in a reasonable amount of time. For these reasons, the British made Gros Islet, in northern St. Lucia, its main fleet base throughout the period.