1st Battle of Cape Finisterre

Combat du Cap Ortégal

3rd May 1747
Part of : War of the Austrian Succession (1740/12/16 - 1748/10/18)
Previous action : Action of March 25 1747 25.3.1747
Next action : Action of June 20 1747 20.6.1747


Royaume de France (Marine Royale) - Chevalier Pierre Jacques de Taffanel de La Jonquière (1685-1752)

French Fleet
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Diamant (50)  2/3 of the crew killed and wounded Captured
Le Philibert (40) Jacques Lars de Lescouet Captured East Indiaman
Le Vigilant (20) Pierre Bourau de Vaumulon Captured
La Chimère (36)   Captured
Le Rubis (54)  Armed en-flute (26) Captured 40 killed, 30 wounded
Le Sérieux (64) Charles-Alexandre de Morell d'Aubigny d'Assy (Comte d'Aubigny) (1699-1781)Fleet Flagship Captured
L'Invincible (74) Chevalier Jacques-François Grout (Seigneur de Saint-Georges) (1704-1763)153 killed, 127 wounded Captured
La Thétis (22)   Captured
La Modeste (18)   Captured
La Gloire (46)  75 killed, 100 wounded Captured Armed en-flute?
Ships not in the Line
Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Emeraude (28)   Armed en-flute (26)
Le Dartmouth (18)   Captured
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Jason (24)  

Great Britain

British Fleet, George Anson (1697-1762)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Devonshire (80) Temple West (1713-1757)Squadron Flagship
Namur (74) Francis Geary (1709-1796), The Hon. Edward Boscawen (1711-1761)
Yarmouth (64) Piercy Brett (c.1710-1781)
Pembroke (60) Thomas Fincher (c.1717-1749)
Windsor (60) Thomas Hanway (c.1715-1772)
Centurion (50) Peter Denis (c.1713-1778)
Bristol (50) The Hon. William Montague (1720-1757)
Ships not engaged
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Prince George (90)  Fleet Flagship
Monmouth (70) Henry Harrison (d.1759)
Prince Frederick (70) Harry Norris (d.1764)
Princess Louisa (60) Charles Watson (1714-1757)
Nottingham (60) Philip Saumarez (1710-1747)
Falkland (50) Blumfield Barradall (d.1749)
Ambuscade (40) John Montagu (1719-1795)
Falcon (10) Richard Gwynn (d.1766)
Vulcan (8) William Pettigrew (d.1756)
Kent (64) Thomas Fox (d.1763)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Defiance (60) Thomas Grenville (1719-1747)

Notes on Action

Prelude to the actionRN
The projects of the French were known in England; and a squadron, under Vice-Admiral George Anson and Rear-Admiral Peter Warren, was specially fitted out to checkmate them. The French had with them a convoy, which brought the total number of their sail up to thirty-eight. M. de St. Georges left Groix in March, but, after suffering some losses from British cruisers and from very bad weather, had to put into the road of Isle d'Aix. La Jonquiere there joined him. and the two finally sailed on April 29th. Anson and Warren had left England on April 9th and had proceeded off Cape Finisterre, where, on May 3rd, the Cape bearing S.E., distant twenty-four leagues, they sighted the French. La Jonquiere thereupon caused twelve of his best ships to shorten sail and form a line of battle ahead, while the rest stretched to the westward and crowded every possible stitch of canvas. Anson also made signal for a line of battle, believing apparently that he was in the presence of a more formidable squadron than was really before him; but, at Warren's insistance, he substituted the signal for a general chase.
Description of the ActionRN

La Jonquiere was but ill-supported. Several of the French East India ships, especially the Vigilant and Modeste, and later the Thetis and Apollon, looked to nothing but the idea of saving themselves. It is useless to examine the tactical details of an action of this kind. Suffice to say, that, after a running fight lasting from 4 to 7 P.M., in which several of the French captains behaved with great courage and others conducted themselves with equal cowardice, all the ships which had remained in the French line struck. At 7 P.M. Anson brought to, and detached the Monmouth, Yarmouth and Nottingham in pursuit of the convoy, which then bore W. by S.W., distant about five leagues, and which had been followed and observed during the action by the Falcon. These ships captured the Vigilant, the Modeste and the Dartmouth, once a British privateer, together with six of the convoy. Night saved the rest.

The battle, considering its nature, was a costly one. The French lost about 700 killed and wounded, and the British, 520. Among the French officers killed was Captain de Saliez, and among those wounded were La Jonquiere himself and d'Aubigny, his flag captain. On the British side Captain Thomas Grenville, of the Defiance, was killed, and Captain Boscawen, of the Namur, wounded. The victors found specie to the value of 300,000 on board the prizes. For this service Anson was created a peer, and Warren, a K.B. All the men-of-war taken, and also the East Indiaman Thetis, were purchased into the Royal Navy. The name of the Serieux was changed to Intrepid, and that of the Diamant to Isis.


RNThe Royal Navy (Official Site)The Royal Navy, Web Site

Previous comments on this page

Posted by Albert Parker on Tuesday 13th of August 2013 03:54

British sources seem to assign definite articles (le, la, l' in French) to French and Spanish warships more or less at random. French sources and accounts often prefix an article to every ship. Usually, ships of the line are masculine and thus "le <Shipname>," and frigates and smaller vessels are feminine and thus "la <Shipname>." There was nothing special about Jason, Diamant, Vigilant, Invincible, or Thétis that would merit and article while the other ships did not.
The British navy did not use French articles with the names of its own warships, such as Monmouth and Prince Frederick.

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