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|French squadron, Anne Antoine d'Aché (Comte d'Aché de Serquiny)|
|Name : Le Bien Aimé (68)||68||Jacques Lars de Lescouet|
|Name : Vengeur (64)||64||Jean Anne Christy de la Pallière|
|Name : Conde (50)||50||Jacques Kerlero de Rosbo|
|Name : Le Duc d'Orleans (54)||54||Jean-François de Surville|
|Name : Le Zodiaque (74)||74||Jacques-Antoine de Gotho||Fleet Flagship|
|Name : Le Saint Louis (54)||54||Louis de Joannis|
|Name : Le Moras (60)||60||Louis-Toussaint de Becdelièvre-Du Bouexié|
|Name : Sylphide (30)||30||Étienne Mahy|
|Name : Le Duc de Bourgogne (54)||54||Jean-Baptiste d’Après de Mannevillette|
|British squadron, George Pocock|
|Name : Tiger (60)||60||Thomas Latham|
|Name : Salisbury (50)||50||John Stukley Somerset|
|Name : Elizabeth (70)||64||Richard Kempenfelt||Squadron Flagship|
|Name : Yarmouth (64)||64||John Harrison||Fleet Flagship|
|Name : Cumberland (66)||66||William Brereton|
|Name : Newcastle (50)||50||George Legge|
|Name : Weymouth (60)||60||Nicholas Vincent|
|Name : Queenborough (24)||24||Richard Kempenfelt||Not in the line|
|Name : Protector (44)||44||Storeship, not in the line|
On the 29th, at 9 A.M., ere the detachment had disappeared, Pocock sighted the French squadron which then consisted of eight ships fit for the line, whereas the British consisted of only seven. Pocock signalled for a general chase; upon which the French weighed and stood out to sea E. by N., with the wind from the S.E. At 12.30 P.M. Pocock got within three miles of the enemy, who waited for him in line of battle ahead. He then hauled down the signal for a general chase and made that for line of battle ahead, with the ships at a distance of half a cable apart. The Cumberland and Tiger, sailing badly, did not get into their positions until 2.15, when Pocock bore down on the Zodiaque, d'Ache's flagship, which occupied the centre of the French line. The captains of the Newcastle and Weymouth unfortunately mistook the signal for the line, and did not close up to the ships ahead of them; and, when the Vice- Admiral signalled for closer action, these ships did not obey. The enemy opened fire as the British approached. The Cumberland was so long in getting up that the Vice-Admiral, and the three ships ahead of him, had, for some time, had to sustain the whole fire of the French. Yet, Pocock did not return a shot until his ship had hauled up exactly abreast of the Zodiaque, and then, at 3.55 P.M., he made the signal to engage.
Commodore Stevens, with the ships ahead of the Vice-Admiral, behaved magnificently, but the three ships astern did not properly support the van. This might have been serious, and even fatal, if there had not been corresponding mistakes and derelictions of duty on the French side. The captain of the Duc dc Bourgogne took up a post behind the French line, and, in the most cowardly manner, fired across it at the British; and the Sylphide, 30, a weak ship, which seems to have improperly found a place in the line, was driven out of it at the first broadside The Conde lost her rudder, and was also obliged to fall out. In the van and centre, however, the action was for the most part fought with the greatest determination on both sides. In her somewhat belated attempts to get into action, the Cumberland nearly fouled the Yarmouth, and forced her to back her topsails, thus obliging the Newcastle and the Weymouth to back theirs likewise. But when the Cumberland had at length gained her station, the Newcastle held back, in spite of signals from the Vice-Admiral, and in spite of the Weymouth's hailing her to close up; whereupon the Weymouth hauled her wind and, passing to windward of the Newcastle, got into line ahead of her and quickly obliged the Moras to bear away. The Cumberland in the meanwhile engaged the St. Louis, so materially relieving the Yarmouth.
In the height of the engagement explosions of powder on board both the Zodiaque and the Bien Aime caused some confusion. D'Ache signalled for those of his ships which had withdrawn to return to the action; but they paid no attention. Still the fight was hot, and the Tiger was very hard pressed until she was assisted by the Salisbury and Elizabeth. As the battle neared its termination, the ship, ''Comte de Provence (74)'' and frigate ''Diligent (24)'', which had been detached by d'Ache to Pondicherry, and which M. de Lally had refused to allow to return at once, although d'Ache had signalled for them, were coming up; but, the British rear then closing somewhat, and the fugitive French vessels not rejoining, d'Ache at about 6 P.M. bore down to his friends, and then, hauling his wind, made for Pondicherry. His final movement, which seems to be thus rightly interpreted, appeared to Pocock to have a different significance; for he wrote:
''"At half-past four P.M. the rear of the French line had drawn pretty close up to their flagship. Our three rear ships were signalled to engage closer. Soon after, d'Ache broke the line and put before the wind. His second astern, who had kept on the Yarmouth's quarter most part of the action, then came up alongside, gave his fire, and then bore away; and a few minutes after the enemy's van bore away also."''
From this, as Captain Mahan points out, it would appear that the French deliberately, before leaving the scene of the action, effected upon the principal English ship a movement of concentration, defiling past her.
Pocock hauled down the signal to engage, and rehoisted that for a general chase; but such of his ships as had fought well were too disabled to come up with the enemy, and, night approaching, he stood to the southward with a view of keeping to the windward of the enemy, and of being able to engage him in the morning, if the French did not weather the British. With this object he ordered the Queenborough, 24, ahead to observe the enemy; and he continued to endeavour to work up after the French until 6 A.M. on May 1st, when, as he lost ground and pursuit appeared to be useless, he anchored three miles south of Sadras.
In this battle, which was fought about twenty-one miles from Lampraavy, the British had lost '29 killed and 89 wounded. At 10 P.M. on the day of the action, the French anchored off Lampraavy. There, owing to the loss of her anchors and to damage to her cables, the Bien Aime drove ashore and was wrecked; all her crew, however, being saved. In the engagement the French had suffered far more severely than the British, having lost 162 killed, and 360 wounded; for the ships had been full of troops and the English fire had been directed, as usual, against the hulls rather than against the rigging. d'Aché afterwards proceeded to Pondicherry, where he landed 1200 sick, and superseded M. d'Apret, captain of the Duc de Bourgogne, by M. Bouvet. It seems to have been chiefly owing to the backwardness of the captains in the British rear that the French were not completely defeated.
|TRN3||The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol III||William Laid Clowes||Digital Book|