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Battle of Quiberon Bay

Bataille des Cardinaux

20th November 1759
Fought at : Quiberon Bay - Bay of Biscay
Part of : Seven Years' War (1756/05/17 - 1763/02/10)
Previous action : Fortune vs Hebe 19.11.1759
Next action : Action of February 28 1760 28.2.1760

With the hope of being able to effect something against Commodore Duff, de Conflans put to sea on November 14th. Hawke on the same day got under way from Torbay, and on the 15th was informed by Captain William M'Cleverty, of the Gibraltar (the same who three months earlier had warned Boscawen of the approach of M. de La Clue), that the Brest fleet had sailed, and that it had been seen twenty-four leagues N.W. of Belle Isle, steering S.E. Hawke, with strategical intuition, made for Quiberon Bay with all possible sail, rightly judging that the French would take advantage of their brief liberty in order to make for that neighbourhood, so as to free the transports which were blockaded by Duff in the Morbihan. But he was unable to proceed with the speed he desired. Wind from the S. by E. and S. drove him considerably to the westward and delayed him. On the 19th, however, the wind became fair; and, on that day, Hawke ordered the frigates Maidstone and Coventry ahead of the fleet, one on the starboard and the other 011 the larboard bow. Early in the morning of the 20th he also ordered the Magnanime ahead to make the land.

The contrary wind which had baffled Hawke also retarded de Conflans, and was instrumental in saving Duff, who received his first news that the Brest fleet had put to sea by Captain Gamaliel Nightingale, of the Vengeance, on the morning of the 20th. Nightingale on entering the bay had fired guns to alarm the Commodore. Duff realised at once the danger that was upon him, and immediately made the signal for his ships to cut their cables. In a few minutes they were all under way. He attempted to take them out to sea round the north end of Belle Isle, but, the wind shifting, the Belliqueux, 64, Captain Thomas Saumarez, was the only one which escaped by that passage. She was not able to rejoin until three days after the battle. Duff then tried to escape by the south end of the island and, in doing so, he was observed by de Conflans, who made the signal to chase. The Chatham, 50, which sailed very badly, was almost within gunshot of a French seventy-four, when a man on the main-top-gallant yard of the Eochester hailed that he saw a sail, and, presently, that he saw a fleet. The Commodore quickly made out what the fleet was, and at once ordered his little squadron to tack and chase the enemy. At first the French were puzzled by this change of policy; but, as soon as de Conflans discovered the cause, he recalled his chasers ; and Duff's squadron was thus enabled in the course of the day to join Sir Edward Hawke.

At about 8.30 A.M. the Maidstone signalled that she had sighted a fleet; and at 9.45 the Magnanime announced that the strangers were enemies. The French were at that time relinquishing the chase of the Commodore's squadron, and Belle Isle bore E. by N. 1/4 N. Hawke instantly made the signal for a line of battle abreast, in order to draw up his ships ; and he followed it soon afterwards with the signal for the seven ships which were nearest the enemy to chase, draw into line of battle ahead of him, and endeavour to arrest the French until the remainder of the fleet could get up and bring about a general engagement.

 

Royaume de France -
Chevalier Hubert de Brienne (Comte de Conflans)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1706-1759

 
French Vanguard,
Chevalier Joseph de Bauffremont-CourtenayFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1723-1777
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Tonnant (80) 1743-1780
French 80 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Antoine de Marges de Saint-VictoretFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1732-1769
Squadron Flagship
L'Intrépide (74) 1747-1781
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Le Thésée (74) 1759-1759
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Sunk
Le Northumberland (64) 1744-1781
French 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Vincent-Jean de Bellingant (Comte de Bellingant)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1718-1775
Le Superbe (74) 1738-1759
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Jean-Pierre-René-Séraphin du Tertre de MontalaisFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1713-1759
Sunk
L'Éveillé (64) 1752-1772
French 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Pierre-Bernardin Thierry (Marquis de La Prévalaye)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1729-1786
Le Brillant (64) 1758-1773
French 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Louis-Jean de Kerémar (Seigneur de Boischâteau)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1716-1767
 
French Main Body,
Joseph-Marie Budes de Guébriant (Seigneur de Guébriant)French
Naval Sailor
Administrator
Service 1716-1760
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Soleil Royal (80) 1749-1759
French 80 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Paul Osée Bidé (Seigneur de Chezac)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1721-1764
Fleet Flagship Sunk
L'Orient (80) 1759-1782
French 80 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Alain Nogérée de la FilièreFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1759
Squadron Flagship
Le Glorieux (74) 1756-1782
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
René Villars de la Brosse-RaquinFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1718-1756
Le Robuste (74) 1758-1784
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Fragnier de VienneFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1759
Le Dauphin Royal (74) 1738-1783
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
André d’Urtubie (Chevalier d’Urtubie Fagosse)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1708-1767
Le Dragon (64) 1747-1762
French 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Louis-Charles Levassor (Comte de la Touche)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1747
Le Solitaire (64) 1758-1771
French 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Louis-Vincent de LangleFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1746-1764
 
French Rearguard,
Chevalier Louis de Saint-André du VergerFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1715-1757
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Formidable (80) 1751-1759
French 80 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Chevalier Marc-Antoine de Saint-AndréFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1713-1746
Squadron Flagship Captured
Le Magnifique (74) 1749-1782
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Sébastien-François Bigot (Vicomte de Morogues)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1724-1771
Le Héros (74) 1752-1759
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
de SansayFrench
Naval Sailor
Sunk
Le Juste (70) 1725-1759
French 70 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Sunk
L'Inflexible (64) 1752-1763
French 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Alexandre Tancrède de Caumont d'AddeFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1724-1764
Le Sphinx (64) 1755-1775
French 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
de GouyonFrench
Naval Sailor
Le Bizarre (64) 1751-1782
French 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Louis-Armand-Constantin de RohanFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1762-1784
 
French Frigates
Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Hébé (34) 1757-1763
French 34 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
La Vestale (30) 1756-1761
French 30 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
de MontfiquetFrench
Naval Sailor
L'Aigrette (30) 1756-1789
French 30 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
de LonguevilleFrench
Naval Sailor
La Calypso (16) 1756-1772
French 16 Gun
Unrated Corvette
Prince Noir (6) 1759-1762
French 6 Gun
Unrated Ship
 

Great Britain -
Edward HawkeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1720-1776

 
Van Division,
Sir Charles HardyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1731-1762
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Warspite (74) 1758-1801
British 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
1780 Renamed "Arundel"
Sir John BentleyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1718-1770
Kingston (60) 1740-1762
British 60 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
William ParryBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1728-1778
Swiftsure (68) 1750-1773
British 68 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Sir Thomas StanhopeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1733-1745
Duke (90) 1739-1769
British 90 Gun
2nd Rate Ship of the Line
Samuel GravesBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1732-1783
Union (90) 1756-1816
British 90 Gun
2nd Rate Ship of the Line
1802 Renamed "Sussex"
Thomas EvansBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1743-1775
Squadron Flagship
Hercules (74) 1759-1784
British 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Jervis Henry PorterBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1732-1763
Intrepid (60) 1747-1765
British 60 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Jervis MaplesdenBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1721-1727
Montagu (60) 1757-1774
British 60 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
 
 
Main Division,
Edward HawkeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1720-1776
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Revenge (64) 1742-1787
British 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
John StorrBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1726-1780
Dorsetshire (68) 1757-1775
British 68 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Peter DenisBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1732-1778
Torbay (74) 1749-1784
British 74 Gun
2nd Rate Ship of the Line
1750 Renamed "Torbay"
 
Royal George (100) 1756-1782
British 100 Gun
1st Rate Ship of the Line
John CampbellBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1737-1790
Fleet Flagship
Magnanime (74) 1748-1775
British 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
 
Burford (68) 1757-1785
British 68 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
James GambierBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1743-1800
Chichester (68) 1753-1803
British 68 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
William Saltern WillettBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1741-1770
 
Rear Division
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Dunkirk (60) 1754-1792
British 60 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Robert DigbyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1752-1805
Temple (68) 1758-1762
British 68 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Washington ShirleyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1735-1778
Namur (90) 1756-1804
British 90 Gun
2nd Rate Ship of the Line
Mathew BuckleBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1731-1780
Mars (74) 1759-1784
British 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
James YoungBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1737-1778
Resolution (74) 1758-1759
British 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Richard NorburyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1732-1763
Sunk Wrecked on Le Four shoal
Essex (64) 1741-1759
British 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Lucius O'BrienBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1738-1770
Sunk Wrecked on Le Four shoal
Defiance (60) 1744-1766
British 60 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Patrick BairdBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1738-1761
Hero (74) 1759-1810
British 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
1800 Renamed "Rochester"
George EdgcumbeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1732-1782
 
Independant Squadron,
Robert DuffBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1739-1780
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Portland (50) 1744-1763
British 50 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Marriot ArbuthnotBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1731-1793
Rochester (50) 1749-1770
British 50 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Robert DuffBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1739-1780
Falkland (50) 1744-1768
British 50 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Francis Samuel DrakeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1749-1780
Chatham (50) 1758-1814
British 50 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
1810 Renamed "Tilbury"
John LockhartBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1735-1787
 
British Frigates
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Venus (36) 1758-1828
British 36 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
1807 Renamed "Heroine"
Thomas HarrisonBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1740-1766
Minerva (32) 1759-1778
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Alexander Arthur HoodBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1741-1805
Sapphire (32) 1758-1784
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
John StrachanBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1747-1772
Aeolus (32) 1758-1801
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
1800 Renamed "Guernsey"
John ElliotBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1746-1808
Vengeance (28) 1758-1766
British 28 Gun
6th Rate Frigate
Gamaliel NightingaleBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1744-1763
Coventry (28) 1757-1783
British 28 Gun
6th Rate Frigate
Francis BurslemBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1735-1760
Maidstone (28) 1758-1794
British 28 Gun
6th Rate Frigate
Dudley DiggesBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1739-1763
Thunder (8) 1759-1774
British 8 Gun
Unrated Bomb Vessel
Archibald MillarBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1746-1763
Pluto (8) 1756-1762
British 8 Gun
Unrated Fireship
James JohnstonBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1727-1783
Proserpine (8) 1757-1763
British 8 Gun
Unrated Fireship
Robert KeelerBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1749-1790
 

Notes on Action


The ActionTRN3

Upon realising that they were in the presence of the British, the enemy fell into some confusion, but, in the course of a short time, seemed to arrive at a determination to fight, and endeavoured to form a line. While they were executing this manoeuvre, the British approached very rapidly, the wind being then nearly  west. De Conflans then suddenly altered his mind, and, instead of waiting to engage, made off. He was near his own coasts, with the difficulties and dangers of which he was fully acquainted and presumably knew well how to avoid, while the British were on a lee shore, with which they were unfamiliar. The weather was tempestuous and was rapidly growing worse; and the November day would soon end. De Conflans therefore endeavoured to keep his fleet together, and steered right before the wind for the land, which was not more than about twelve miles distant.

The wind, as the short afternoon drew to its close, was variable between N.W. and W.N.W., and blew in heavy squalls. Yet both fleets crowded sail, the French to escape, and the British to overtake them. At 2 P.M. the enemy began to fire at the leading ships of the British fleet ; and, half-an-hour later, when the Warspite and Dorsetshire were close up with the enemy's rear, Hawke made the signal to engage. The British fleet was then to the south of Belle Île. A little later the Revenge, Magnanime, Torbay, Montagu, Resolution, Swiftsure and Defiance got into action, and hotly engaged the French rear. Yet this fact did not prevent the French admiral, who was in the van, from leading round the Cardinals. The Formidable, carrying the flag of Rear-Admiral du Verger, was attacked by the Resolution, and, in addition, received a broadside or two from every other British ship that passed her; and, having been severely treated, she struck about 4 o'clock. The loss on board of her was terrible, M. du Verger and upwards of two hundred others being killed. The Formidable was taken possession of by the Resolution. In the meantime, the ships of the British rear were straining to get into action. The Thésée, Captain de Kersaint was hotly engaged by the Magnanime, but was relieved by the disablement of the British ship, which,being fouled by one of her consorts, fell astern. Very soon afterwards the Thésée as tackled by the Torbay; and, in the contest which resulted, she capsized and foundered, chiefly owing to the fact that her captain, from motives of self-pride, persisted in fighting his lower deck guns, regardless of the stormy state of the weather. All her crew of about eight hundred men, except twenty, were lost. The Torbay, owing to similar causes, was at one time in danger of a
like fate; but Captain Keppel closed his ports in time, and saved her. Another French ship, the Superbe, foundered at about the same time.

Owing to the gale, the lee shore, and the gathering darkness, there was at that time great confusion ; and it is almost impossible to tell exactly what happened. But it would appear that after having engaged the Thésée, and having been fouled first by the Warspite and then by the Montagu, Lord Howe, in the Magnanime, observed the French Héros somewhat disabled to leeward, and, bearing down and ranging alongside, quickly obliged her to strike. The Héros anchored, but, owing to the  weather, no boat could be sent to take possession of her and, later, her captain ran her ashore and landed his crew. As night fell, the enemy's fleet divided part, under M. de Bauffremont, the vice-admiral, making to the southward within the Four Bank, and probably designing to attract the British into danger.

But Hawke would not be tempted to pursue them. Night was come; islands, rocks, and shoals were all around; no pilots were on board; the charts were indifferent, and the weather was terrible. Hawke, therefore, made the signal to anchor, and came to in fifteen fathoms of water, the Isle de Dumet bearing E. by N. two or three miles distant, the Cardinals W. 1/2 S., and the steeples of Le Croisie S.E., as was discovered in the morning. Unfortunately, the signal was not taken in, and, consequently, was not obeyed, by many ships of the British fleet. According to the code then in use, the signal to anchor by night was made by firing two guns from the flagship, without using lights or any other indications to distinguish the particular purpose for which the guns were fired. At a moment when there was still a certain amount of firing going on on all sides, the discharge of two guns from the flagship could of course not be recognised as a signal except hy the few vessels which chanced to be so near the Admiral as to be aware that he had anchored. The others either stood out to sea or anchored, as prudence suggested. Had the French only known the dangerous position in which the unsatisfactory nature of the signal book had left their enemy during that stormy night, they might, in the  morning of the 21st, have attacked the small body remaining at anchor near Hawke, and perhaps have won a decided and complete victory by the mere strength of superior forces.

The night was dark, and even more boisterous than the evening had been ; but, though guns of distress were heard from all sides, it was not possible to send assistance to anyone. On the morning of the 21st the Resolution was seen to be ashore, and the French Héros was on the Four Bank. De Conflans flagship, the Soleil Royal, in the obscurity overnight, had come to anchor in the very midst of the British; and, when at daylight she perceived her situation, she slipped her cable and tried to get away, but presently went ashore near the town of Le Croisie. No sooner was she observed to be in motion than Hawke signalled the Essex to slip and pursue her; but in the ardour of the chase the Essex unfortunately got on the Four Bank and was also wrecked. It was seen that, while the French vice-admiral had gone to the southward with part of the fleet, the remainder had stood to the N. and was engaged in the mouth of the river Vilaine in getting out guns, stores, etc., and endeavouring to find a haven up the river. On the 21st and 22nd, by taking advantage of the flood tide and of what wind there was under the land, all of them got into the river, whence several of them could never be brought out again. On the 22nd Hawke ordered the Soleil Royal and Héros to be set on fire. The French, however, anticipated him by themselves burning the former.

 




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