Battle of Toulon

Battle of Cape Sicie

10th February 1742/43 - 11th February 1742/43
Part of : War of the Austrian Succession (1740/12/16 - 1748/10/18)
Previous action : Action of 4th June 1742 4.6.1742
Next action : Action of 1744-05-08 8.5.1744


Great Britain (Royal Navy) - Thomas Mathews (1676-1750)

Van Division, William Rowley (1690-1768)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Stirling Castle (70) William Cleland (d.1744)
Warwick (60) John Toller (d.1747)
Nassau (70) James Lloyd (d.1761)
Barfleur (90) William Rowley (1690-1768)Squadron Flagship
Princess Caroline (80) Henry Osborne (1694-1771)
Berwick (70)  
Chichester (80)  
Boyne (80) Thomas Watson (d.1744)
Kingston (60)  
Center Division, Thomas Mathews (1676-1750)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Dragon (60) Charles Watson (1714-1757)
Bedford (70) James Cornewall (1698-1743/44)
Somerset (80) George Sclater (d.1750)
Princess (70) Robert Pett (d.c.1775)
Norfolk (80) John Forbes (1714-1796)
Namur (90) John Russell (d.1743/44)Fleet Flagship 8 killed, 12 wounded CO Killed
Marlborough (90) Thomas Graves (d.1755)25 killed, 20 wounded CO Killed
Dorsetshire (80) George Burrish (d.1770)
Essex (70) Richard Norris
Rupert (60) John Ambrose (d.1771)
Royal Oak (70) Philip Vincent (d.1746)
Rear Division, Richard Lestock (1678/79-1748)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Dunkirk (60) Thomas Cooper (d.1760)
Cambridge (80) Charles Drummond (d.1771)
Torbay (80) John Gascoigne (d.1753)
Neptune (90) John Lovett (d.1758)Squadron Flagship
Russell (80) Robert Long (d.1771)
Buckingham (70) John Towry (d.1757)
Elizabeth (70) Joseph Lingen (d.1752)
Revenge (70) George Berkeley (d.1746/47)
Not in the line
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Oxford (50) Harry Powlett (1720-1794) Van Division
Faversham (44) Richard Hughes (1708-1779) Van Division
Winchelsea (20) Essex Holcombe (c.1708-1770), Merrick de l'Angle (d.1753) Van Division
Guernsey (50) Samuel Cornish (1715-1770) Center Division
Salisbury (50) Peter Osborn (d.1753) Center Division
Dursley Galley (20) Merrick de l'Angle (d.1753) Center Division
Anne Galley (8) James Macky (d.1743/44) Exploded Center Division
Nonsuch (50) Edmund Strange (d.1756) Rear Division
Romney (50) Thomas Grenville (1719-1747) Rear Division
Diamond (44) Charles Wager Purvis (c.1714-1772) Rear Division
Mercury (8) John Davies Rear Division
Spence (8) Thomas Mogg (d.1756)
Sutherland (54) John Opie (d.1758) Hospital ship

Allied (Spain & Royaume de France) - Claude Élisée de Court de La Bruyère (1666-1752)

Spanish Squadron
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Borée (66)  
Le Toulouse (62)  
Le Duc d'Orléans (74)  
L'Espérance (74)  Squadron Flagship
Le Trident (64)  
L'Alcyon (50)  
L'Aquilon (42)  
L'Éole (64)  
Center Division
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Heureux (60)  
Le Sérieux (64)  
Le Ferme (74)  
Le Tigre (50)  
Le Terrible (78)  Fleet Flagship
Le Saint Esprit (74)  
Le Diamant (50)  
Le Solide (64)  
Rear Division, Juan Jose Navarro
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Oriente (64)  
America (62)  
Neptuno (66)  † CO Killed
Poder (66)   Captured Co captured , the 12th recaptured by the French
Constante (60)  † CO Killed
Real Felipe (114)  †Squadron Flagship CO Killed
Hercules (60)  
Retiro (50)  
Brillante (66)  
San Fernando (60)  
Soberbio (66)  
Santa Isabel (80)  
Not in the line
Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Atalante (32)   Van Division
La Flore (26)  Center Division
Le Zéphyr (28)  Center Division
Le Volage (24)  Rear Division

Notes on Action

Description of the actionTRN3

After having, at 11.30 A.M., hoisted the signal to engage, Mathews stood on, but overhauled the enemy only very gradually. At 1 P.M., the Namur was abreast of the Real Felipe, and the Barfleur, of the Terrible. Half-an-hour later, the Namur bore down within pistol-shot of the Real Felipe, and began to engage her furiously, and the Barfleur presently did the same with the Terrible. Lestock's division was still far astern, and to windward, and, according to the evidence at the court-martial, could not have then been up with the centre, unless Mathews had shortened sail and waited for it.

The Namur was well supported by the Marlborough, which attacked the Isabela, and by the Norfolk, which attacked the Constitute. The Princess, Bedford, Dragon, and Kingston fired into the Poder, and the Neptuno, America, and Orient, after exchanging rather distant broadsides with the same British ships, passed on with the rear of the French part of the allied fleet. The remaining Spanish ships were, at first, considerably astern of their station, but, as the breeze freshened, they came up, and, towards the mid of the action, assisted the Real Felipe. Lestock made some effort to prevent this, but the wind was still very light with him, and he was also impeded by the swell, so that, although he had all sail set, his efforts were vain.

The Barfleur got to close quarters with the Terrible, and was much assisted by the Princess Caroline and the Berwick. The Chichester and Boyne also threw in their fire, but they were not close enough to the enemy to do much execution. As for the leading ships of the van the Stirling Castle, Warwick and Nassau they did not bear down to the enemy at all, although the signal for them to do so was flying. They chose to disregard it, and to keep their wind, in order, as was afterwards explained or suggested, to prevent the French from doubling upon the head of the British column.

The hottest part of the action was, in the meantime, being waged by the ships immediately about Mathews. The Norfolk drove the Constante out of the line, a shattered wreck, but was herself too much damaged to pursue her. The Namur and Marlborough were, at one moment, so close to one another that Mathews, to avoid being fallen on board of by his eager second, was obliged to fill his sails, and draw a little ahead. The Namur was then scarcely under control, owing to the rough handling which she had received , and could give little help to the Marlborough, which, fought by her captain, and afterwards by his nephew, Lieutenant Frederick Cornwall, in the most magnificent manner, was very sorely pressed. None of the vessels immediately astern of her volunteered to assist her in the least, but, keeping their wind, fired fruitlessly at an enemy who was beyond the reach of their shot; and, in spite of the fact that the Spaniards betrayed every desire to meet them in the most handsome manner, few British captains properly took up the challenge. The most brilliant exception was Captain Edward Hawke, of the Berwick, who, noticing how the Poder had vainly endeavoured to draw on some of his reluctant colleagues, quitted his station, and bore down upon her. His first broadside did her an immense amount of damage, and, in twenty minutes, when she had lost all her masts, she was glad to strike.

The Real Felipe was disabled, but the Spanish ships of the rear were crowding up to her assistance, and Lestock remained afar off, so that it looked as if the British strength about the Spanish admiral would not suffice to compel her to haul down her colours. In these circumstances, Mathews ordered the Ann Galley, fireship, to go down and burn the Real Felipe, and, seeing that the Marlborough was in no condition to help herself, he further signalled for the boats of the British centre to tow her out of the line.

The Ann Galley was handled with great ability and gallantry. As she bore down on the Real Felipe she was received with a well-directed fire from such guns as that crippled ship could bring to bear, and with a more distant cannonade from the Spanish vessels astern of the flagship. Commander Mackie, match in hand, stood alone upon the deck of his little craft, ready to fire her at the proper moment. Most of his crew were alongside in a boat, which was waiting to take him on board. The rest, by his orders, had taken shelter from the storm of shot that hurtled across the fireship. But the Anine Galley, struck repeatedly between wind and water, was already sinking. Moreover, a Spanish launch, crowded with men, was approaching to board her, and tow her clear. Mackie felt that, at all hazards, he must endeavour to destroy the launch, and, in spite of the fact that his decks were littered with loose powder, that his hatches and scuttles were open, and that his funnels were uncapped, he fired his waist guns at the boat. This was fatal. The blast from the guns set fire to the loose powder; and, while the Ann Galley was still too far from the Real Felipe to seriously damage her, she prematurely blew up, and then sank, carrying down Commander Mackie, a lieutenant, a mate, a gunner, and two quartermasters.

In the meantime, M. de Court, who, owing to the confusion and smoke, seems to have supposed that the Spaniards were much more closely pressed than was actually the case, tacked to their assistance. Rear-Admiral Rowley tacked too, and followed the allied centre. Very soon afterwards, Mathews, to quote the words of Beatson

" hauled down the signal to engage the enemy, and also the signal for the line of battle; making the signal to give over chase; but, at half-past five o'clock, he made the signal for the fleet to draw into a line of battle ahead. There was then but little wind, and so great a swell that the ships could only wear. The Admiral wore, and formed the line of battle on the larboard tack. This last manoeuvre of the Admiral's appears to have been made with a design to collect his fleet, draw them out of the confusion they were in, and arrange them in a proper order for battle, which he had every reason to think woidd be speedily renewed; the French squadron being now at hand, and in an extremely well-formed line. They crowded, however, to the assistance of the Spaniards. The Poder, prize, being dismasted, and being unable to follow the British fleet when they wore, was retaken by the French squadron, she having on board a lieutenant and twenty-three men belonging to the Berwick. The Dorsetshire, Essex, Rupert, and Royal Oak, wearing at the time the Admiral did, brought them nearer to the sternmost ships of the Spanish squadron, which had by this time joined their admiral in a close line. In passing each other, being on contrary tacks, a short action took place, in which the Namur, Dunkirk, and Cambridge joined, but with little execution on either side. Daylight was almost gone, and the British fleet passed on, leaving the confederate fleet astern."'

Owing to the condition of the Namur's masts, Mathews, at about 8 P.M., shifted his flag from her to the Russell, and intimated the fact of the change to Lestock and Rowley. On the morning of the 12th, when the wind was E.N.E., the enemy was seen about twelve miles to the S.W. At about 7 A.M., the Somerset, which had become separated from her consorts in the night, fell in with, and for half-an-hour engaged, the Hercules, which had likewise straggled from her friends; but, the Hercules being assisted by some French ships, the Somerset had to draw off and rejoin her division. At 9 A.M. Lestock ordered his squadron to chase to the S.W., and crowded sail ahead of the fleet. At 11 P.M., Mathews signalled for the fleet to draw into line of battle abreast, and then brought to on the starboard tack in order to collect his command. In the afternoon, the British fleet, in admirable order, was going down on the enemy, which was retreating in some confusion before the wind, the Spaniards being ahead of, and to leeward of the French, and the Real Felipe still bearing Navarro's flag, although she was in tow of another vessel. As for the Poder, she fell so far astern that the enemy fired her to prevent her from again falling into British hands; and, in the course of the following night, she blew up. But, in the meantime, Mathews, at about 5.30 P.M. on the 12th, had ordered his fleet to bring to, there being no more than a light wind from the N.E., and by 10 P.M. that night the enemy was out of sight.

Previous comments on this page

Posted by Albert Parker on Thursday 4th of February 2016 05:02

William Cleland was not the captain of the Stirling Castle on February 11/22 1744. The actual captain, extensively documented in contemporary and later literature, was Thomas Cooper.

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