On February 15th the Commander-in-Chief learnt from the Success, 32, Captain Shuldham Peard, which had been cruising off the south-west of Sicily, that a small French squadron was about to attempt to throw troops and stores into Malta. This squadron, which had quitted Toulon on February 7th, 2 consisted, as it afterwards appeared, of the Genereux, 74, flagship of Rear-Admiral Perree, Badine, 28, Fauvette, 20, Sans Pareille, 20, and two or three transports, among which was the Ville de Marseilles. To prevent this little force from carrying out its mission, Keith, in the Queen Charlotte, kept close off the entrance to Valetta harbour, and ordered the Foudroyant, Audacious, and Northumberland to chase to wind-ward, the wind being south-east, and the Lion to watch the channel between Malta and Gozo. The Alexander was at the time on the south-east side of the island.
At dawn on February 18th, the Alexander sighted and chased Rear-Admiral Perree and was observed by Nelson's division. At 8 A.M., Harrington forced the Ville de Marseilles to bring to. At 1.30 P.M., the Badine and the two corvettes tacked, but the Genereux, not having it in her power to do so without getting to close quarters with the Alexander, bore up. At that time, the Success, 32, which was to leeward, greatly annoyed the Frenchman by lying athwart his hawse and raking him repeatedly; but she could not avoid presently receiving a broadside, which killed one, and wounded nine of her people. By 4.30 P.M., the Foudroyant and Northumberland coming up, the Genereux, after a couple of guns had been discharged at her, fired a broadside and struck her colours. That the enemy did not make a more determined defence is probably due to the fact that, early in the action, Perree was badly injured in the left eye, and that a little later he was mortally wounded by a shot which carried away his right thigh. He was a gallant and capable man, whose loss was much regretted by the many British officers who had met him either as friend or as foe.