James Pinson Labulo Davies was born on August 14, 1828 to James and Charlotte Davies in the village of Bathurst, Sierra Leone.
Davies’ parents, James and Charlotte, had their origins in Abeokuta and Ogbomoso respectively. Bathurst, which was also a British colony, became home for these two who were rescued slaves after the Trans-Atlantic slave trade had been abolished.
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In Sierra Leone, Davies entered the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Grammar School, (now known as Sierra Leone Grammar School), in Freetown. As the curriculum of the old schools comprised subjects such as Mathematics, Biblical and English history, Greek, Music, Latin and Geography, Davies had sufficient aptitude and training to begin as a teacher with the CMS in Freetown upon completing his secondary education. After some time teaching, Davies proceeded to enlist as a cadet with the West African Squadron of the British Royal Navy.
This fleet of the British Royal Navy plying the Atlantic served as a deterrent to rogue vessels and merchants which defied the ban on slave trade. The HMS Volcano under the command of Commander Robert Coote was where Davies was trained in navigation, seamanship and other skills worthy of a naval officer. Davies would later progress from an ordinary cadet in the force to midshipman and eventually as lieutenant in the Navy.
As a lieutenant, Labulo Davies was part of the squad on board of another warship (the HMS Bloodhound) which participated actively in the bombardment of Lagos in 1851. The HMS Bloodhound fought fiercely with the local forces and bombarded the coastal city of Lagos being ruled by Oba Kosoko. Kosoko, an usurper of the throne which originally favoured Oba Akitoye, had to flee to exile in Epe. It was after this event that Britain was able to establish its roots as an empire in the Nigeria of old.
With the final attack on December 26, 1851 by the British forces attacking Lagos, three lives were on the side of the British forces were lost while Davies alongside ten others got wounded in the battle.
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Why Labulo Davies, a Nigerian by blood, decided to fight on the side of the British forces in the bombardment of Lagos remains debated and a mystery. His injuries caused him to leave the British Naval Forces, however.
Davies would later become a revered 19th-century African merchant-sailor and ex-naval officer who now had influence in trading of commodities and merchandise. He was also well as a pioneer industrialist, farmer, philanthropist and statesman in Lagos and of the entire British colony in early Nigeria.
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