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Battle of Bantry Bay

1st May 1689
Part of : War of the Grand Alliance (1688 - 1697)
Next action : Capture of the Portsmouth 9.8.1689

On April 29th he sighted a considerable fleet, which, however, he soon lost again. On the 30th he looked into Baltimore, and, seeing nothing there of the enemy, came to the conclusion that the French must be to the westward of him. He therefore bore away with an east wind for Cape Clear. In the evening he had the satisfaction of sighting the fleet of which he was in search. It was standing into Bantry Bay. Herbert lay in the offing for the night, and in the morning stood in after the foe.

This French fleet, consisting of twenty-four ships of the line, two "frigates" and ten fireships, had left Brest to carry to Ireland a quantity of stores and ammunition, and was under the orders of François-Louis de Rousselet, Comte de Chateaurenault, as Lieutenant-General, in the Ardent, 66, with the chefs d'escadre Jean Gabaret, in the Saint-Michel, 56, and Forant, in the Courageux, 56, as second and third in command. In addition to the force which had come directly from Brest, there were in the Bay three "frigates" under Captain Duquesne-Mosnier, who had been left behind by the previous expedition in order to serve the interests of James on the Irish coast. One of them was commanded by an English officer who had adhered to the late king in his misfortunes. The whole French force upon which Herbert descended consequently amounted to twenty-four ships of the line, few of which apparently mounted more than sixty guns, five " frigates," and ten fireships.

 

Kingdom of England

 
The British Line-of-Battle,
Arthur HerbertBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1666-1690
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Defiance (64) 1676-1695
British 64 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
John AshbyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1665-1688
Portsmouth (34) 1649-1689
British 34 Gun
4th Rate Frigate
George St LoeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1678-1689
Plymouth (52) 1653-1703
British 52 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Richard CarterBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1672-1691
Ruby (46) 1652-1708
British 46 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Frederick FroudeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1671-1690
Diamond (46) 1652-1693
British 46 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Christopher MaundBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1682-1692
,
Benjamin WaltersBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1672-1693
Advice (42) 1650-1698
British 42 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
 
Mary (60) 1688-1703
British 60 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Mathew AylmerBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1677-1690
Saint Albans (50) 1687-1693
British 50 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
John LatonBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1688-1691
Edgar (72) 1668-1702
British 72 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Cloudisley ShovellBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1672-1707
Elizabeth (70) 1679-1704
British 70 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
John NevilleBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1673-1696
,
David MitchellBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1678-1702
Fleet Flagship
Pendennis (70) 1679-1689
British 70 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Sir William BoothBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1673-1689
,
George ChurchillBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1666-1702
Portland (40) 1652-1692
British 40 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
George AylmerBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1677-1684
CO Killed
Woolwich (54) 1675-1702
British 54 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Ralph SaundersonBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1666-1690
Deptford (50) 1687-1700
British 50 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
George RookeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1672-1705
Dartmouth (28) 1655-1690
British 28 Gun
5th Rate Ship
Thomas LeggeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1688-1705
Greenwich (54) 1666-1699
British 54 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Ralph WrennBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1672-1688
,
Christopher BillopBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1671-1693
Cambridge (70) 1666-1694
British 70 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
John ClementsBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1667-1693
Antelope (52) 1653-1693
British 52 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
1660 Renamed "Antelope"
Hugh RidleyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1667-1689
York (58) 1653-1703
British 58 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
1660 Renamed "York"
Ralph DelavallBritish
Naval Sailor
Soldier
Service 1666-1698
Firedrake (12) 1688-1689
British 12 Gun
Unrated Bomb Vessel
John LeakeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1688-1712
Saudadoes (16) 1673-1696
British 16 Gun
6th Rate Ship
Francis WyvellBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1682-1716
Salamander (10) 1687-1703
British 10 Gun
Unrated Bomb Vessel
Thomas CrawleyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1688-1699
 

Royaume de France

 
Vanguard,
Jean Gabaret (Seigneur d'Angoulins)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1653-1692
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Français (50) 1687-1736
French 50 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
François Panetié (Seigneur de la Croix)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1670-1692
Le Vermandois (60) 1684-1721
French 60 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Charles-François de Machault de BelmontFrench
Naval Sailor
Administrator
Marine
Service 1676-1692
Duc (48) 1669-1691
French 48 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
1671 Renamed "Duc"
François de Colbert de Saint-MarsFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1672-1702
Le Fendant (54) 1672-1702
French 54 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Charles de Boscal de Mornac (Chevalier de Réals)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1668-1692
Le Saint Michel (58) 1686-1704
French 58 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Jean Gabaret (Seigneur d'Angoulins)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1653-1692
Squadron Flagship
Fort (56) 1678-1692
French 56 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
1678 Renamed "Fort"
Marc-Hyacinthe Rosmadec (Marquis de Rosmadec)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1666-1690
 
Le Precieux (54) 1679-1694
French 54 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
 
 
Center,
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Capable (44) 1667-1691
French 44 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
1671 Renamed "Mignon"
1678 Renamed "Capable"
Jacques-Auguste Maynard (Sieur de Bellefontaine de la Malmaison)French
Naval Sailor
Administrator
Marine
Service 1665-1714
L'Arrogant (58) 1682-1705
French 58 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
François-René de Betz (Comte de La Harteloire)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1671-1695
Le Diamant (58) 1687-1721
French 58 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
CO wounded
L'Ardent (66) 1680-1705
French 66 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Fleet Flagship
Le Furieux (60) 1684-1721
French 60 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Charles des Nos (Comte des Nos de Forbonest)French
Naval Sailor
Administrator
Marine
Service 1669-1701
Le Faucon (40) 1674-1708
French 40 Gun
4th Rate Frigate (Frégate-Vaisseau de 1er Ordre)
1694 Renamed "Faucon Francais"
1703 Renamed "Faucon"
HervaultFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1689
Le Modéré (52) 1685-1702
French 52 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
Hélie de Sainte-HermineFrench
Naval Sailor
Marine
Service 1673-1700
Entreprenant (58) 1678-1722
French 58 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
1680 Renamed "Entreprenant"
de BeaujeuFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1689-1692
 
Rearguard,
Job ForantFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1646-1686
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Courageux (56) 1679-1704
French 56 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Job ForantFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1646-1686
Squadron Flagship
Neptune (44) 1678-1702
French 44 Gun
4th Rate Ship of the Line
1679 Renamed "Neptune"
Barthélemy-Alexandre d'Aralle (Chevalier de Perrinet)French
Naval Sailor
Administrator
Marine
Service 1670-1689
L'Excellent (60) 1678-1710
French 60 Gun
2nd Rate Ship of the Line
Théophile du Vigier (Sieur de La Vigerie-Treillebois)French
Naval Sailor
Administrator
Marine
Service 1666-1690
Sage (52) 1669-1692
French 52 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
1670 Renamed "Sage"
VaudricourtFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1675-1690
Oiseau (44) 1670-1693
French 44 Gun
4th Rate Frigate (Frégate-Vaisseau de 1er Ordre)
1671 Renamed "Oiseau"
Abraham Duquesne-GuitonFrench
Naval Sailor
Administrator
Marine
Service 1668-1717
 
L'Apollon (56) 1683-1720
French 56 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
 
 
Frigates Squadron
Ship NameCommanderNotes
 

Notes on Action


Account of the BattleTRN2

As Herbert went into the Bay on the morning of May 1st, Chateaurenault, who, according to French accounts, would have attacked earlier had he not desired to first land as many troops and stores as possible, weighed to meet the English. The latter, being to leeward, experienced some difficulty in working up towards the French, who, bore down in excellent order and began the engagement at about 10.30 A.M. When the English commander-in-chief saw the force of the enemy, and realised how disadvantageous for his own fleet would be an action to windward in waters so narrow, he put about and went out of the Bay under easy sail, so as to be able to manoeuvre, with a view, if possible, to gain the wind, and so as to bring his very indifferent line into something like order. The line was improved; but, owing to the caution of the French, the wind could not be gained. . The action continued, however, until about 5 P.M., and, in the course of it, the French ship Diamant, 54, commanded by the Marquis de Coetlogon, was most seriously damaged by an explosion of ammunition which had been accumulated in her captain's cabin.

Towards the end of the battle the English had been so worsted that, but for two facts which told accidentally in their favour, Chateaurenault would, in all probability, have decisively defeated them. One was the absence of the French fireships, which were still landing stores in the Bay. The other was the jealousy with which the chefs d'escadre Gabaret and Forant regarded Chateaurenault, who was much their junior in point of service. These officers tacitly refused to press the advantage; and at length the French commander-in-chief found it prudent to tack and stand again towards the shore. Having completed his mission he returned to Brest on May 8th. In consequence of the battle, war between England and France was immediately declared.Admiral Herbert, who thus narrowly escaped a crippling disaster, made for Portsmouth. His fleet had lost one captain, George Aylmer, one lieutenant, and ninety-four men killed, and about three hundred officers and men wounded.

The English had not been so inferior as to render their action a brilliant one: the French success had scarcely been so pronounced as to be entitled to the name of victory; yet apparently both nations were satisfied. When King William visited Portsmouth a few days later he created Herbert Baron Herbert of Torbay and Earl of Torrington, knighted Captains Ashby and Shovell, presented each seaman with a gratuity of ten shillings, and made special provision for the widows of Captain Aylmer and others who had fallen. These royal attentions from the new monarch, to servants of the fidelity of many of whom he was still in much doubt, were, perhaps, politic; but it can hardly be said that they were all fully deserved.




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