Barbados Fleet

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Barbados Fleet
Flag of the Commonwealth of England and General at Sea 1649 to 1651.png
Flag of the Commonwealth Navy 1649 to 1651
AllegianceCommonwealth of England
BranchCommonwealth Navy
TypeNaval Fleet
RoleExpeditionary Force
Commander, Barbados FleetRear-Admiral: Sir George Ayscue

The Barbados Fleet also known as the Fleet sent to Barbados and the Barbados Squadron, was naval formation of the Commonwealth Navy formed in 1650 for specific expeditionary duties sent from England to Barbados in the Caribbean Sea, and on completion of its mission was disestablished in 1651.[1]

The fleet was placed under the Command of Rear-Admiral Sir George Ayscue.[2]


The Caribbean island of Barbados was discovered by the Portuguese and taken over by Spain in 1492. The Spaniards enslaved and wiped out the native Carib indians but then abandoned Barbados in favour of the larger Caribbean islands. The island was claimed for King James I of England in May 1625 by Captain John Powell. On 17 February 1627, a party of eighty English settlers and ten slaves founded a colony at Holetown (formerly known as Jamestown). The colonists established the Barbadian House of Assembly in 1639. Land was allocated to speculators and within a few years, much of the island had been deforested to make way for tobacco and cotton plantations. During the 1630s, sugar cane was introduced. Sugar became the island's principal industry and Barbados dominated sugar production in the Caribbean until the 18th Century.[3]

During the civil wars, the colony remained neutral and quietly continued trading with the Netherlands and New England. With the collapse of the King's cause in the British Isles, however, Royalist refugees fled to Barbados. In 1650, Charles II confirmed the appointment of Lord Willoughby of Parham as governor of the island. When Willoughby's appointment was eventually accepted by the Barbadian House of Assembly, the Westminster Parliament passed an act to stop all trade between Barbados and England. Furthermore, the Navigation Act of 1651 attempted to prevent the Dutch from trading with the island.[4]

In 1651, a Commonwealth expeditionary force under the command of General-at-Sea Sir George Ayscue was sent to take control of the island. The squadron comprised seven ships: Ayscue's flagship the Rainbow, the frigate Amity and five armed merchant vessels carrying about 860 men in all. After a diversion to assist Robert Blake in recapturing the Scilly Isles and a fruitless search for Prince Rupert's squadron off the coast of Portugal, Ayscue's expedition arrived off Carlisle Bay in Barbados on 15 October 1651.[5]

Despite the success of the raids, Ayscue lacked the resources for a full-scale invasion of the island, which was defended by around 6,000 militiamen. Ayscue tried to undermine Lord Willoughby's position by treating his Royalist prisoners well then releasing them after giving them an account of the true situation in England.Ayscue landed Commonwealth forces near Oistin on the south coast of the island to support Modyford but after some initial skirmishing, a week of heavy rain put a stop to military operations.[6]

During the hiatus, Lord Willoughby realised that he had no hope of winning against the Commonwealth in the long run. He surrendered to Ayscue on 11 January 1652 under generous terms. In exchange for surrendering Barbados and acknowledging the sovereignty of the Commonwealth, Willoughby's estates in England were restored to him and he was allowed to keep his property on Barbados. He returned to England in August 1652.The surrender of Barbados was quickly followed by the submission of the remaining Royalist-held colonies in the Americas. Virginia submitted on 12 March 1652, Maryland and the Bermudas around the end of March.[7]

When Cromwell launched the Western Design against Spanish possessions in the West Indies in 1654, Barbados was regarded as an important staging post for the expedition. It was expected that fresh supplies could be taken on and additional troops levied for the attack on Hispaniola. In the event, Barbadian employers were reluctant to allow their men to join the expedition. Although some 4,000 additional troops were levied, the planter Colonel Harris who was appointed their commander, refused to leave Barbados and the governor Daniel Searle, whom the Council of State had nominated as one of the leaders of the expedition, also refused to go.After the Restoration, Lord Willoughby was reappointed to the governorship of Barbados.[8]

In Command

Commander, Barbados Fleet

Commander, Barbados Fleet
Rank Flag Name Term
1 Rear-Admiral Flag for Flag Officers of the Commonwealth of England and the Protectorate 1650 to 1660.gif Sir George Ayscue 1650 – 1651. [9]


  1. Plant, David (21 January 2010). "Barbados, 1651-2". British Civil War Project. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  2. Plant, David. (2010).
  3. Plant, David. (2010).
  4. Plant, David. (2010).
  5. Plant, David. (2010).
  6. Plant, David. (2010).
  7. Plant, David. (2010).
  8. Plant, David. (2010).
  9. Plant, David. (2010).


  1. Plant, David (21 January 2010). "Barbados, 1651-2". British Civil War Project. Retrieved 6 October 2019.


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