Action off Madagascar

20th May 1811 - 26th May 1811
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : President vs Little Belt 16.5.1811
Next action : Alacrity vs Abeille 26.5.1811


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Astraea (36) Sir Charles Marsh Schomberg (d.1835) 2 killed, 16 wounded
Galatea (36) Woodley Losack 16 killed, 46 wounded
Phoebe (36) James Hillyer (1769-1843) 7 killed, 24 wounded
Racehorse (16) James de Rippe no casualties

Empire Français

Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Renommée (44)  † Captured 145 casualties
La Néréide (44) Jean François Lemaresquier (1767-1811) Captured 130 casualties
La Clorinde (44)  

Notes on Action


On February 2nd, 1811, the three 40-gun frigates Renommee, Commodore Francois Roquebert, Clorinde, Captain Jacques St. Crieq, and Nereide, Captain Francois Lemaresquier, quitted Brest. Their destination was Mauritius. On May 6th they made Isle de la Passe, at the entrance to Grand Port; and on the following morning they not only found that the island was in British occupation, but also sighted and were chased by the Phoebe, 36, Captain James Hillyar, Galatea, 36, Captain Woodley Losack, and Racehorse, 18, Commander James de Eippe, which, with other vessels, had been specially detached to intercept them. Previous to going in chase, the Galatea sent her gig, with the intelligence of the presence of the French, to Captain Charles Marsh Schomberg, who, in the Astreea, 36, was lying at Port Louis; and, when their quarry temporarily escaped them, the British ships also went thither.

Commodore Roquebert eventually stood for Madagascar, in order to obtain provisions; and, on May 19th, he surprised the small British force at Tamatave, which post had been captured from the French, on the previous February 12th, by a little expedition sent from Mauritius in the Eclipse, 18, Commander William Jones Lye.

Schomberg, fearing for the safety of Tamatave, had left Port Louis on the 14th; and at dawn on the 20th he discovered Roquebert off Foul Point, and brought him to action. After the squadrons had nearly passed one another on opposite tacks at long range, and had exchanged fire, the breeze failed, and the leading ship, the Astreea, in endeavouring to wear and renew the fight, missed stays, the consequence being that the Clorinde and Renommee, which, owing to their weatherly position, kept the wind longest, were able to take up station nearly astern of the Phoebe and Galatea, and to inflict considerable damage. The Nereide also was able to annoy those frigates, while the Astraea was for the time practically out of the action. But at about 6.30 P.M. a light wind from S.E. altered the complexion of affairs. The Galatea had by that time been so terribly mauled that she was powerless to greatly help her consorts; but the Phoebe so disabled the Nereide as to oblige that ship to make for the land; and, when she had refitted, joined her consorts for the final attack. At 9.50 the Renommee was brought to close action, and, within half an hour, surrendered. The Clorinde, which had disgracefully held aloof, managed to escape. Schomberg and Hillyar returned to cover the captured ship and the disabled Galatea; but, ere they got up, Losack had deemed it wise to make for Port Louis. The little prize party in the Renommee had not been permitted by its numerous prisoners to hoist the British over the French ensign; and Losack, seeing other ships approaching in the distance, feared to fall into the hands of enemies.

Not until Schomberg had removed the prisoners from the Renommee did he learn of what had happened at Tamatave. He then sent the Racehorse to that place. She returned on the 24th, with news that the Nereide lay there prepared to defend herself. On the following day the three British ships appeared off the settlement, and summoned Lieutenant Ponee, who had succeeded to the command on the death of Lemaresquier. Ponee obtained advantageous terms, and, on the 26th, gave up his frigate and the town. The Clorinde managed to reach Brest on September 16th. In March, 1812, St. Cricq was tried for his misconduct, and was deservedly sentenced to be dismissed the service, degraded from the Legion of Honour, and imprisoned for three years. The Nereide was added to the Navy as the Madagascar, and the Renommee as the Java.

In this action, the Astraea had 2 killed, and 16, including Lieutenant John Baldwin, wounded. She received little material damage. The Phoebe, which was very badly cut about, had 7 killed, and 24, including Midshipman John Wilkie, wounded. The Galatea, which was terribly battered, had 16 killed, including Lieutenant Hugh Peregrine, R.M., and 46 wounded, including Lieutenant Thomas Bevis, Lieutenant Henry Lewis, R.M., and Midshipmen Henry Williams and Alexander Henning. The Racehorse had a topmast carried away, but no one hurt. As for the French ships, the Renommee had 145, and the Nereide 130 people put out of action. Roquebert was among the killed. Lieutenants John Baldwin, of the Astrcea, and George Scott, of the Phoebe, were promoted for their services; but, owing to the tone, wholly unmerited, of Schomberg's dispatch, in so far as it concerned the Galatea, Lieutenant Thomas Bevis, of that frigate, remained a Lieutenant until the year 1829.

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