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 Wallace (c.1732-1803)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Experiment (50) Sir James Wallace (c.1732-1803)Fleet Flagship 2 killed, 13 wounded
Pallas (36) Thomas Spry (1754-1828)
Richmond (32) John Lewis Gidoin (c.1727-1796)
Raleigh (32) James Gambier (1756-1833)
Convert (32) Henry Harvey (1737-1810)
Unicorn (20) John Ford (c.1738-1796)
Cabot (14) Edmund Dodd (1734-1815)3 wounded
Fortune (14) Charles Powell Hamilton (d.1825)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Beaver (14) Joseph Peyton
Cygnet (14) Thomas Drury

Royaume de France

French Squadron
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Danae (32)   Captured
La Diane (32)  
L'Ecluse (20)   Burnt
La Valeur (14)   Sunk

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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