ME707 - Arabian Coast showing Harbours attacked by the British
The full title of this hand-drawn sketch is 'A sketch of that part of the Arabian Coast of the Gulf showing the creeks, Ports and Harbours taken or Destroyed by the Military and Naval Forces Commanded by Major Gen. Sir William Gt Keir. MT and Captain F.A. Collier C.B.'
- Febuary 1820 & 8th June 1820
- Lieut. Thomas Rimor & William Brooks
- h29" x w13.7"
This previously unpublished manuscript sketch depicts the coastline of the Arabian Peninsular stretching south west down from Ras Al-Khaimah as far as Dubai. It was drawn as much as a political reference and commemoration, as anything else as it depicts the British campaign to eliminate what they saw as 'piratical' interference from Arabian vessels to their shipping and trade in the Arabian Gulf.
Not unreasoably, it has been argued by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the present Ruler of Sharjah, that what the British saw as 'piracy' was in fact basic rivalry between the British and Qawasim over control of the important shipping route through the mouth of the Gulf. As far back as 1811, the challenge to the British trade routes to and from India had been significant and the British had responded to the threat with military action.
By 1819, the threat to British shipping had once again risen to the point where the British felt compelled to take naval and military action to protect their trade lines. An expeditionary force, led by Major Gen. Keir, arrived in the region in December 1819 and targeted the main stronghold at Ras Al-Khaimah 'Rasul Kymar' first. On the morning of the 7th day of the ensuing siege, Keir reported that the whole of the ordnance opened fire on the fort and fired with 'scarcely any intermission till sunset'. When in the evening the British moved into the town they did so without firing a shot, finding less than twenty men and a few women remaining in their houses. The British then moved against Rumps to the north where the engagement turned-out to be short but arduous. With the subjugation of these major bastions, other ports targeted by the British fell in line quickly enough and sent in tokens of submission.
Like a few of the major settlements along the coast Dubai ('Debbay') was never seen as a pirate port, but one which was receptive to trading pirated goods and therefore to be discouraged. A treaty, effectively eliminating the 'pirate' threat from this coast was signed on the 8th January 1820.
The 'sketch' is dedicated to Major General Sir William Grant Keir and Captain F. A. Collier. Grant Keir was in overall command of the operation with specific charge for all land forces. Collier was in command of the naval force. Please note that all references to 'piracy' are based on the perspective drawn from historical documents of this time.
- Arabian Coast showing Harbours attacked by the British