Honduras is the bit on the Central American isthmus where it makes a sharp 90-degree angle on the Caribbean side, just above Nicaragua.
If you’re reading this alphabetically, you’ll have already come across the name Honduras, because Belize used to be called British Honduras. This region used to be called Spanish Honduras, but not unreasonably the Spanish bit was dropped after the locals got rid of Spanish control.
Spanish-controlled for a bit and handy for the Caribbean, plus a long coastline: with that combination you would expect pirates from Britain to be active here, and indeed they were. They attacked the port of Trujillo on a number of occasions.
Over the decades we began to become involved on a more serious, official basis in the territory of present-day Honduras. As we’ll explore in more detail in the Nicaragua section, we formed an alliance with the Miskito kingdom, which stretched along the coast of Nicaragua and a bit of Honduras. And we also had settlements there. We took an interest in the Honduras Bay Islands, particularly Roatán, and in the 1730s the Black River settlement started.
Relations between us and the Spanish colonial authorities in the area were, inevitably bearing in mind the number of wars we fought with the Spanish, often tense, and when the Spanish joined the American side during the American War of Independence we mounted an invasion of their territory in Honduras.
In October 1779, with twelve ships and 1,200 men, we attacked the fortifications at San Fernando de Omoa. Eventually, some of our men climbed into the fort and opened a gate, and the Spanish subsequently were forced to surrender. Rather fortunately for us, in the harbour there were two Spanish ships holding more than 3 million Spanish dollars of silver. Handy.
Less fortunate for us was that the Spanish counter-attacked, a lot of our men fell ill and by the end of November we withdrew.
Also less fortunate for us was that during the war the Black River settlement was overrun by the Spanish, and though we got it back for a time, we handed it over to them permanently in 1787.
We hung on for longer in Roatán and even declared the Honduras Bay Islands a colony in the 1850s. However, within a decade Britain was handing them over to Honduras, something in itself which led to one last attempt to invade Honduras, with Britons this time involved on both sides.
William Walker is one of those figures from history that when you read about him, you wonder why you have never heard of him before. He is more a part of American and Central American history than British history, so I won’t go into big detail here except to say that from 1853 he roamed the region on filibustering or freebooting missions, basically moving into areas with a bunch of like-minded freebooters, including the English adventurer Charles Frederick Henningsen, and taking over. At one stage he even set himself up as President of Nicaragua.
Finally, in 1860, British colonists in Roatán decided that they didn’t want to become Honduran and prompted Walker to head for Honduras. But Walker was in big trouble this time. He landed at Trujillo, only to fall into the hands of Captain Nowell Salmon of the British Navy. Salmon then handed him over to the local authorities, who shot him. End of invasion.