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British History/Sea Route from London to Bombay


QUESTION: Which were the major ports where India Man ships normally docked on their way from England to Bombay via Cape of Good Hope and for what purpose? Were the passangers allowed to land? Which part of journey was likely to rough?

ANSWER: Hello Sharad.
It all depends on what date your looking at. Amazingly there were no stopovers before 1795 and only one after that date at the Cape Colony until 1814 when GB acquired Mauritius from the French. This all changed of course with the Suez Canal route from 1869.
Passengers were unlikely to have gone ashore as the stopovers were simply to discharge and take on cargo and supplies.
Any part of the journey could be rough, but generally speaking the further north or south you are the rougher it could be. And of course there were tropical storms to contend with during storm season.

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QUESTION: Since a voyage from England to Bombay via Cape of Good Hope would take about 4 to 6 months do we to understand that India Man ship would carry water and food supply enough to last for such long period for all the crew and passangers? Were the supplies got replenished on way and if so in which ports/places. Was water and food rationed during the voyage?

Hello Sharad.
In most cases yes. Simply because GB had no convenient colonies at which to stop en route to India. Ships would sometimes stop over in Brazil, but that was only if they were blown far off course to the west, their aim was to sail down the coast of Africa. The island of St Helena too was a possible stop off point, but again it was considered too far west from the intended sailing route. The Cape of Good Hope was a Dutch possession up to 1795, but English ships would sometimes stop there if relations with the Dutch were good. From there onwards to India it was a non-stop voyage. In an emergency the west African trading posts were also possible.
On the return journey St Helena was a regular stop as the prevailing winds took them closer than on the way out.
Food and water wasn't rationed as such, but of course they had to conserve it for a voyage that might be several months without stopping.


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Mark Smith


I have a good basic knowledge of British political history, but my speciality is the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland from 927 AD. Please no social history questions, it's not my strong point and I'm unlikely to answer them.


No professional experience, but a lifelong interest and access to a variety of sources of information.

"A" level in History.

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