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Actif v Nonsuch

14th May 1781
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Santa Leocadia vs Canada 2.5.1781
Next action : Action of 1781-05-28 22.5.1781


Great Britain

British ship
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Nonsuch (64) 1774-1802
British 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Sir James WallaceBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1746-1799
20 killed, 64 wounded
Unknown Division
Ship NameCommanderNotes

Royaume de France

French ship
Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Actif (74) 1757-1784
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
  15 killed, 38 wounded
Unknown Division
Ship NameCommanderNotes

Notes on Action

Description of the actionTRN3
On May 14th, the Nonsuch, 64, Captain Sir James Wallace, was scouting with Admiral Darby's fleet in the Bay of Biscay when she saw and chased a sail, looking like a French line-of-battle ship. Soon after ten in the evening she was close enough to open on the strange vessel, which was the Actif, 74, Captain de Boades. The two interchanged broadsides and then the Nonsuch wore and raked her opponent. The fight lasted for an hour, during part of which time the ships were on board of one another, as the Nonsuch's anchor hooked the Actif 's quarter. Getting free, the Actif made sail and stood away, and the Nonsuch, owing to injuries to her mizenmast yards and rigging, could not again overtake her for some hours. The British ship, however, having repaired her injuries, pursued and came up a second time about daylight on the 15th. A second and still hotter action of ninety minutes' duration followed, in which the Nonsuch sustained much damage. Her fore-yard fell, and her masts, yards, and rigging were badly cut up. She, therefore, hauled off and left the Actif free to retire to Brest. The latter ship made no attempt to pursue, as there was some risk of falling in with Admiral Darby's fleet. The Nonsuch's lighter metal and weaker hull were probably the cause of her comparatively heavy loss.

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