Lion v L'Elizabeth

9th July 1745
Part of : War of the Austrian Succession (1740/12/16 - 1748/10/18)
Previous action : Action of 1745-07-03 3.7.1745
Next action : Jersey v St Esprit 26.7.1745

On the 9th of July, the 58-gun ship Lion, Captain Piercy Brett, fought a desperate action with the French 64-gun ship Elizabeth. The Elizabeth sailed from France with the intention of escorting the expedition of Charles Edward to the coast of Scotland; but on the day above named, being in lat. 47° 57' EAST., she was discovered by the Lion, which ship immediately pursued. The chase contiuned for some time, but at 5h. p.m., having got within pistol-shot of the Elizabeth, the Lion opened her fire, and the action commenced with fury, and lasted five hours. The French ship having suffered very severely in hull — having had several of her ports beaten into one — endeavoured to make off, and a smaller vessel, belonging to the expedition, commenced an attack upon the Lion, but was soon compelled to discontinue it. The Lion was in no condition to pursue the enemy, having had her mizen-mast, main, main-topsail, and fore-topsail yards shot away, and her fore and main masts badly wounded, and had lost fifty-five men in killed, and 107 wounded, seven mortally.
Captain Brett, all three lieutenants (Samuel Scott, John Campbell, and Archibald Seaton), and the master (John Tory), were wounded, but with much gallantry these officers refused to quit their stations. The loss on board the Elizabeth was afterwards ascertained to have been sixty-four men killed, and 140 wounded.


Great Britain

British Ship
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Lion (58) Piercy Brett (c.1710-1781)52 Killed, 107 Wounded

Royaume de France

French Ships
Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Elisabeth Pierre Dehau (d.1745), Pierre Jean Bart (1712-1759)57 Killed, 176 Wounded CO Killed
Le Du Teillay (18) Antoine Walsh (1703-?)



Previous comments on this page

Posted by Albert Parker on Sunday 10th of November 2019 04:03

The "64 men killed, 136 dangerously wounded, and a greater number slightly," is from /Gentleman's Magazine/, vol. 15 (August 1745), p. 441, reporting news "From the Hague, July 30." If there were "a greater number" than 136 slightly wounded, the total wounded would have been something over 272, say 300, = 64 wounded ~360 out a crew reported at the time of 590–600 but actually probably closer to 543. That would be a 66% casualty rate, virtually unequalled in the age of sail. British "historians" picked up this number immediately after the war and, as we have seen, so did Allen. The same dispatch from the Hague reported that /Élisabeth/ had £400,000 on board, not a lot of money in 2019 but an enormous sum in 1745, equal to the entire annual subsidy provided by the British government to Maria Theresa of Austria to keep her regime's armies in the field. Prince Charles Edward Stuart could not even dream about having that kind of money to finance his rebellion.

Posted by Albert Parker on Wednesday 6th of November 2019 18:49

The main entry is verbatim from Joseph Allen, /Battles of the British Navy/ (1854; there might be other editions), vol. I, p. 154. I'm not sure when Admiralty records were first made available to the public; Allen probably depended on English newspapers and news magazines contemporary with the events he was describing. Mr. Stephens' account is from a "Biographical Memoir of Sir Piercy Brett" which appeared in the monthly /Gentleman's Magazine/, Nov. 1781, p. 517, but might have been reprinted elsewhere without attribution, such as in /The Naval Chronicle/. During the War of the Austrian Succession, /Gentleman's Magazine/ frequently printed anonmymous letters purporting to be first-hand accounts of naval actions, as well as the official dispatches from /London Gazette/. Such sources were published in good faith, but it was impossible for those on board one warship to know what was happening on enemy warships. Therefore, any description of an action based only on one side's account(s) is likely to have some errors. This is as true of French histories as it is of British.

Posted by Cy on Wednesday 6th of November 2019 18:39

The header intor is from "Battles of the British Navy Vol 1", Joseph Allen published 1852.
It's in the database but the page display hasn't yet been updted to show it.

Posted by Albert Parker on Wednesday 6th of November 2019 18:23

Mr. Stephens' unsourced contribution sounds like an entry for Piercy Brett from John Charnock, Biographia Navalis, but it is not; neither is the unsourced main entry, which also sounds contemporary. In any case, neither set of casualty figures for Élisabeth are to be found in any French source. In a report printed in /Mercure de France/ (Paris), Aug. 1745, pp. 197-201, Second Captain Bart reported 55 killed, 121 wounded, breaking the totals down by crew categories such as officers, petty officers, sailors, boys, etc. S[tephane] de la Nicollière-Teijeiro, /La course et les corsairs de port de Nantes/ (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1896), p. 173, reported 57 killed, 117 wounded; his description of the action with Lion was probably based on a first-hand account that has since been lost, titled "Relation du combat de l'Elisabeth de 60 canons, 590 hommes ..." Two contemporary news periodicals, /Suite de la Clef/ (Paris), vol. 58 (Oct. 1745), p. 315, and /Nouvelles extraordinaires de divers endroits/ (Leiden, outside French government censorship), No. 65 (Aug. 13, 1745), p. 315, both reported 57 killed, 116 wounded. Later French authors, writing in the 19th and earlier 20th centuries, gave other figures; none of them gave a source. One who described Élisabeth's "role d'équipage" (crew list, equivalent to a British muster book) said only said "over 50" killed and "over 100" wounded. Throughout the war, figures for "enemy" casualties are unreliable, although the two from obviously English sources given here are not nearly as exaggerated as the claims made in other actions.

Posted by Brian Stephens on Wednesday 30th of April 2014 01:08

Soon after he was appointed command of a sloop, and in April 1745 to that of the Lion, of 58 guns, in which, on July 9, he had the memorable engagement with the Elizabeth of 64 guns which was convoying the young Pretender in a small ship to Scotland, but was obliged to return to Brest totally disabled. Capt. Brett had 45 men killed, and 107 wounded, himself among them. The Elizabeth had her Captain and 64 men killed and 136 dangerously wounded.

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