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Action in Cancale Bay

13th May 1779
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Providence vs Diligent 7.5.1779
Next action : Ruby v La Prudente 2.6.1779

 

Great Britain

 
British Squadron,
Sir James WallaceBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1746-1799
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Experiment (50) 1774-1779
British 50 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Sir James WallaceBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1746-1799
Fleet Flagship 2 killed, 13 wounded
Pallas (36) 1757-1783
British 36 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Thomas SpryBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1760-1814
Richmond (32) 1757-1781
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
John Lewis GidoinBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1742-1795
Raleigh (32) 1778-1783
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
James GambierBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1767-1830
Convert (32) 1778-1782
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Henry HarveyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1751-1805
Unicorn (20) 1776-1780
British 20 Gun
6th Rate Ship
John FordBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1753-1795
Cabot (14) 1777-1783
British 14 Gun
Unrated Sloop
Edmund DoddBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1760-1810
3 wounded
Fortune (14) 1778-1780
British 14 Gun
Unrated Sloop
Charles Powell HamiltonBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1769-1819
 
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Beaver (14) 1761-1783
British 14 Gun
Unrated Sloop
Joseph PeytonBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1772-1807
Cygnet (14) 1776-1802
British 14 Gun
Unrated Sloop
Thomas DruryBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1773-1814
 

Royaume de France

 
French Squadron
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Danae (32) 1763-1779
French 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
  Captured
La Diane (32) 1779-1780
French 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
 
L'Ecluse (20) 1764-1788
French 20 Gun
Unrated Gabarre
  Burnt
La Valeur (14) 1778-1779
French 14 Gun
Unrated Corvette
  Sunk
La Guèpe 1779-1781
French Unrated Lugger
 
 

Notes on Action


Brief description of the action (Allen)B103
A French expedition having been fitted out against the Channel islands, intelligence thereof was conveyed to Portsmouth. Captains J. L. Gidoui, in the 32-gun ship Richmond, and Sir James Wallace, in the 50-gun sliip Experiment, having with them four frigates and seven smaller vessels, were instantly sent to Jersey. The squadron separated and took different courses, and on the 13th of May the Experiment and squadron drove on shore in Cancale Bay, a division of the French force, all of which were destroyed except the 34-gun frigate Danae, which was brought off. The British were, for a time, exposed to a severe fire from the batteries, but which the Experiment silenced, after which the French ships were destroyed without difficulty. Two men were killed, and thirteen wounded on board the Experiment, and the 14-gun sloop Cabot, Commander Edward Dodd, had her purser and two men wounded.
Brief description of the action (Clowes)TRN4
Towards the close of April a flotilla of fishing boats, carrying fifteen hundred men, and escorted by the French warships Danae, 26, Diane, 26, Ecluse, 8, Valeur, 6, and Guepe, 6, left St. Malo with the intention of effecting a descent on Jersey. The wind, however, was so unfavourable that the flotilla was forced to return, and could not again put to sea till May 1st, when it suddenly appeared in St. Ouen's Bay, and attempted a debarkation. The Jersey militia at once stood to arms, and, with the soldiers of the Seaforth Highlanders, arrived in time to repulse the French. A fast ship was despatched to Portsmouth for help, and by good luck fell in with Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot, who was in charge of a convoy, with a considerable force of ships. The French fell back to St. Malo, but on the 10th moved out and anchored off Coutances. Thence the British senior officer, Captain Sir James Wallace, of the Experiment, 50, resolved to cut them off. With his own ship, the Pallas, 36, Unicorn, 20, Cabot, 14, Fortune, 14, and another, he sailed round the west of Jersey, whilst the Richmond, 32, and seven others steered straight for the French. On May 13th the British squadrons had the enemy between them. Only one French frigate escaped by running past Sir J. Wallace; the rest made for the shore in Cancale Bay under the shelter of a small battery, and drove aground. Wallace followed them, silenced the battery, boarded the stranded ships, and, as the enemy's land forces were mustering fast, set three, the Valeur, Ecluse, and Guepe on fire, and carried off the Danae, a brig, and a sloop. The Guepe was saved by the French after the British had retired. Troude complains of the cowardice of the Danae's crew, who, when attacked, fled ashore in a panic.


Previous comments on this page

Posted by Philip Stevens on Saturday 15th of June 2019 17:50

The action in Cancale Bay is also described in The Naval Chronicle 1779, p. 268

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