Battle of Barfleur

19th May 1691/92
Part of : War of the Grand Alliance (1688 - 1697)
Previous action : Action of 1692-02-22 22nd February 1692
Next action : Action at Cherbourg 1st June 1692 - 2nd June 1692

Having sent ahead some "frigates" the lighter and faster part of his fleet to reconnoitre the French coast and watch the motions of the enemy, Russell sailed from St Helens on May 18th. At 3 A.M. on the morning of Thursday, the 19th, when he was off Cape Barfleur, the Chester and Charles Galley, which were then scouting to the westward, fired guns, and made the best of their way towards the flag. Upon arriving within signalling distance, they reported that the enemy was in sight. The wind was S.W. and, the French being to the south-west of the Allies, Tourville had the option whether he would or would not engage. He had not received the order to avoid an action; he believed that he was expected to fight; and mortification at the manner in which his previous proceedings had been criticised inclined him to the combat. Moreover, he seems to have been at first quite ignorant as to the overwhelming strength of the Allies, and to have supposed that not more than five and forty ships were opposed to him. He therefore ordered his whole fleet to keep away together for the enemy, who, heading S.S.W., awaited him on the starboard tack in the natural order, the Dutch, that is, being in the van, and Ashby, with the Blue squadron, occupying the rear. Supposing for a short time that the French might stand to the northward, Russell had signalled his own rear to tack; but when, soon after 4 A.M., he saw the enemy standing to the southward and preparing to form line on the same tack as the Allies, he annulled the order ere Ashby had gone far towards obeying it. Tourville indeed accepted the challenge in the handsomest manner, when he might have discovered a dozen excellent reasons for declining it.


Royaume de France

Blue & White Van Squadron , André de Nesmond
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Le Bourbon (64) 64 Barthélemy-Alexandre d'Aralle (Chevalier de Perrinet)
Le Monarque (80) 80André de NesmondSquadron Flagship
L'Aimable (70) 70 Charles de Boscal de Mornac (Chevalier de Réals)
Saint Louis (58) 58Jean de La Roque-Persin
Le Diamant (58) 58 Feuqières, Simon de Pas (Chevalier de Feuquières)CO mortal wounded
Blue & White Main Squadron , Charles-François Davy (Marquis d'Amfreville)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Le Gaillard (66) 66 Jacques Davy (Chevalier d'Amfreville)
Le Terrible (80) 80 Bernard Jean-François Jacques Kadot
Merveilleux (92) 92Joseph de MonsSquadron Flagship Admiral mortal wounded
Le Tonnant (76) 76 Jean-Baptiste d'Augustine de Septèmes (Chevalier de Septèmes)
Le Saint Michel (58) 58 de Villars (Comte de Villars)
Le Vermandois (60) 60Louis de Lévy
Blue & White Rear Squadron , Ferdinand de Relingues (Comte de Relingue)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Sérieux (58) 58 Charles de Courbon-Blénac (1st Comte de Blénac)
Foudroyant (84) 84 Ferdinand de Relingues (Comte de Relingue)Squadron Flagship
Le Brillant (64) 64 de Combes
White Van Squadron, Phillippe Le Valois (Marquis de Villette-Mursay)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Fort (56) 56 La Rongère
L'Henri (64) 64Gaspard Goussé
L'Ambitieux (80) 80 SaujonSquadron Flagship
La Couronne (80) 80 de Montbron (Chevalier )
Le Maure (50) 50 Jean Baptiste Achard (Chevalier des Augiers)
Le Courageux (56) 56 François de Bricqueville (Comte de la Luzerne)
White Main Squadron, Anne Hilarion de Costentin (Chevalier de Tourville)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
La Perle (50) 50Claude de Forbin
Le Glorieux (64) 64Joseph-Charles Joubert de La Bastide
Le Conquérant (84) 84 Pierre Guérusseau (Seigneur du Magnou)
Le Soleil Royal (110) 104 Charles des Nos (Comte des Nos de Forbonest)Fleet Flagship
Le Saint Philippe (82) 82 Louis Le Roux d'Infreville-Saint-Aubin (Chevalier d'Infreville-Saint-Aubin)
L'Admirable (94) 94 de Beaujeu
White Rear Squadron , Joseph Andrault (2nd Comte de Langeron)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Le Content (66) 66Chevalier Charles de Sainte-Maure
Souverain (80) 80 Joseph Andrault (2nd Comte de Langeron)Squadron Flagship
Illustre (64) 64 de Combes
Le Modéré (52) 52 d'Évry
Blue Van Squadron , Allain Emmanuel de Coëtlogon (Marquis de Coëtlogon)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
L'Excellent (60) 60Amatheur du Rivau-Huet
Le Prince (56) 56Pierre de Bagneux
Le Magnifique (84) 84 Allain Emmanuel de Coëtlogon (Marquis de Coëtlogon)Squadron Flagship
Le Laurier (64) 64 Hervault
Blue Main Squadron , Jean Gabaret (Seigneur d'Angoulins)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Le Brave (58) 58 Jean-François-Florent de Laigle (Chevalier de Chalais)
L'Entendu (60) 60 Charles-Daniel Ricoux (Chevalier de Ricoux)
Triomphant (76) 76Charles-François de Machault de Belmont
L'Orgueilleux (90) 90 Courbon-BlénacSquadron Flagship
Le Fier (76) 76 François-René de Betz (Comte de La Harteloire)
Le Fleuron (56) 56 de Montgon (Marquis de Montgon)
Blue Rear Squadron , François Panetié (Seigneur de la Croix)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Le Courtisan (64) 64François de Colbert de Saint-Mars
Le Grand (86) 86 François Panetié (Seigneur de la Croix)Squadron Flagship
Saint Esprit (80) 80 Rolland Barrin (Marquis de la Galissonnière)
La Sirène (64) 64Abraham Duquesne-Guiton

Allied (Dutch Republic & Kingdom of England) - Edward Russell

Van - White Squadron
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Noord Holland (46) 46 
Zeelandia (90) 90 
Goes (54) 54 
Gelderland (72) 72 
Veere (60) 60 
Prins Willem (92) 92 Squadron Flagship
Eerste Edele (74) 74 
Stad Medemblik (64) 64 
Main - White Squadron, Philips van Almonde
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Keurvorst van Brandenburg (92) 92 
Westfriesland (90) 90 
Zeeland (64) 64Philip Schriver
Ripperda (52) 52 
Slot van Muiden (74) 74 
Elswoud (74) 74 
Schattershoef (52) 52 
Leiden (64) 64 
Rear - White Squadron, Jan Snellen
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Prinses Maria (92) 92 
Amsterdam (64) 64 
Stad en Lande (50) 50 
Veluwe (66) 66 
Kasteel van Medemblik (90) 90 
Ridderschap (72) 72Johan van Convent
Admiraal Generaal (84) 84 
Maagd van Dordrecht (68) 68 
De Zeven Provinciën (86) 72 Squadron Flagship
Van - Red Squadron, Sir Ralph Delavall
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Plymouth (52) 52John Maine
Ruby (42) 48George Mees
Cambridge (68) 70Richard Lestock
Oxford (54) 54James Wishart
Sandwich (90) 90Anthony Hastings, Wolfran Cornewall
Royal William (100) 100Thomas JenningsSquadron Flagship
Bredah (70) 70David Lambert
Kent (70) 70Edward Good, John Neville
Elizabeth (70) 70Stafford Fairborne
Saint Albans (50) 50Richard Fitzpatrick
Hampton Court (70) 70John Graydon
Swiftsure (70) 66Richard Clarke
Main - Red Squadron, Edward Russell
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Grafton (70) 70Benjamin Hoskins
Restoration (70) 70James Gother
Greenwich (58) 60Sir Richard Edwards, Andrew Pedder
London (96) 96Mathew Aylmer
Britannia (100) 100John FletcherFleet Flagship
Saint Andrew (100) 100George Churchill
Chester (50) 50Thomas Gillam
Eagle (70) 70John Leake
Rupert (64) 64Mathew Aylmer
Rear - Red Squadron, Sir Cloudisley Shovell
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Burford (70) 70Thomas Harlow
Centurion (54) 54Francis Wyvell, John Bridges
Captain (70) 70Daniel Jones
Devonshire (80) 80Henry Haughton
Royal Sovereign (100) 100Humphrey SaundersSquadron Flagship
Royal Katherine (84) 84Wolfran Cornewall, James Gother
Bonaventure (52) 52John Hubbard
York (52) 60Robert Deane
Lennox (70) 70Sir John Munden
Saint Michael (90) 90Thomas Hopson
Van - Blue Squadron, George Rooke
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Albemarle (90) 90 
Resolution (70) 68Edward Good
Monck (52) 58Benjamin Hoskins
Expedition (70) 70Edward Dover
Chatham (54) 54John Leader
Windsor Castle (90) 90Lord Peregrine Osborne (2nd Earl of Danby)
Neptune (94) 94Thomas GardnerSquadron Flagship
Royal Oak (70) 70George Byng Joined after the action
Advice (34) 40Edward Boys
Northumberland (70) 70Andrew Cotten
Lion (52) 60Robert Wiseman
Main - Blue Squadron, Sir John Ashby
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Berwick (70) 70Henry Martin
Defiance (64) 64Edward Gurney
Montagu (62) 58Simon Fowkes
Warspite (64) 64Caleb Grantham
Adventure (42) 42Sir Thomas Dilkes
Vanguard (90) 90Christopher Mason
Victory (100) 100Edward StanleySquadron Flagship
Duchess (90) 90John Clements
Monmouth (64) 64Thomas Raines, Sir Robert Robinson
Edgar (70) 74John Torpley
Rear - Blue Squadron, Richard Carter
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Stirling Castle (70) 70Benjamin Walters
Dreadnought (66) 66Basil Beaumont
Crown (50) 50Thomas Warren
Suffolk (70) 70Christopher Billop
Woolwich (54) 54Christopher Myngs
Ossory (90) 90John Tyrrel
Duke (90) 90William Wright, Thomas Jennings
Cornwall (80) 80Edward Boys
Essex (70) 70John Bridges
Deptford (50) 50William Kerr
Hope (70) 70Sir Henry Robinson
Red Squadron Fireships
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Vulcan (28) 28Joseph Soanes
Fox (28) 28Thomas Killingworth
Hound (28) 28Thomas Fowlis
Vulture (28) 28Thomas Symonds, Thomas Kercher, Hovenden Walker
Wolf (28) 8James Greenway
Strombolo (28) 28Thomas Urry
Phaeton (28) 28Robert Hancock
Spy (28) 28Sir John Norris
Roebuck (28) 28Francis Manley
Flame (28) 28James Stewart
Extravagant (10) 10Fleetwood Emes
Hopewell (8) 8William Jumper
Blue Squadron Fireships
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Half Moon (32) 32John Knapp Fireship
Charles Galley (32) 32Joseph Waters
Hunter (28) 28Gerard Ellwes, Thomas Rooke
Blaze (28) 28Richard Short, Thomas Heath
Aetna (28) 28Richard Carverth
Lightning (28) 28Lawrence Keck
Vesuvius (28) 28Charles Guy
Speedwell (28) 28Thomas Symonds
Griffin (28) 28William Cross, Robert Partridge
Cadiz Merchant (12) 12Robert Wynn
Thomas and Elizabeth (10) 10Edward Littleton
Owner's Love (10) 10John Perry
Other vessels present

These vessel's joined the fleet before the battle, but are not included in the offical order of battle

Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Reserve (34) 48Thomas Crawley
Portsmouth (32) 32John Bridges
Hawk (28) 28William Harman Fireship
Greyhound (16) 16John Fletcher, William Kiggings
Saudadoes (16) 16William Prowther

Notes on Action

Description of the actionTRN2

"When," says Mahan, "they were within easy range, the French hauled their wind on the same tack, keeping the weathergauge. Tourville, being so inferior in numbers, could not wholly avoid the enemy's line extending to the rear of his own, which was also necessarily weak from its extreme length; but he avoided Torrington's error at Beachy Head, keeping his van refused, with long intervals between the ships, to check the enemy's van, and engaging closely with his centre and rear." Thus formed, the two lines headed from N.N.E. towards S.S.W. Russell was not entirely satisfied with his own line, which was completed at about 8 A.M. He calls it an "indifferent" one. Tourville's line was also ragged, but the resolute manner in which his ships bore down was remarked by all.

Russell's last order, ere the action began, took the shape of directions to Admiral van Almonde to endeavour to weather the enemy as soon as possible. It was about 10.30 A.M. when the French centre hauled its wind and opened fire on the Red squadron at three-quarter musket shot; and, it falling calm almost immediately afterwards, the Dutch could not, for the time, do much towards carrying out the desires of the commander-in-chief. Nevertheless several of their ships succeeded in getting into close action, and the Zeven Provincien, De Ruijter's famous flagship, had that day nineteen killed and fourteen badly wounded, while the Admiraal Generaal lost nine killed and thirty wounded, among the latter being Rear-Admiral van der Goes.

The hottest fighting, however, was in the centre; and at 1 P.M. Tourville, in the Soleil Royal, was observed to be towing off to windward with his sails and rigging badly damaged. At about 2 P.M. the wind, such as there was of it, shifted to N.W. by N., and five fresh and almost untouched French ships of D'Amfreville's squadron thereupon ranged themselves three ahead and two astern of the Soleil Royal, and, in the most devoted manner, endeavoured to relieve her. The chief opponents of the group thus formed were the Britannia, London, and St. Andrew; and, for an hour, these ships, and others near them in the line, were very hotly engaged. All day it had been misty, and, soon after three, a fog began to gather very thickly over the scene of action. This caused much confusion on both sides, and it was doubtless in consequence of it that the Sandwich drove through the remnants of the French line, and, in the heavy fire which was turned upon her from all sides, lost her captain, Anthony Hastings. Before the fog became so thick as to oblige all ships to cease firing, Shovell's division had doubled upon the Soleil Royal and her immediate supporters; and it is not, therefore, astonishing that when Tourville's ship next became visible she still was towing out of action to the northward. The Britannia and other vessels attempted to tow after her, the wind having again dropped; but soon the fog once more shrouded everything.

At about 5 P.M. a light breeze sprang up from the eastward, and the weather became a little less thick. The French were then discovered heading west; and as much of the allied fleet as could be communicated with was ordered in chase. There was a partial renewal of the battle until about 8 P.M., when the fog, denser than ever, put an end for the night to all combined action.

It was when this fog was at its worst that Rear-Admiral Carter's division of the allied Blue squadron by hazard fell in with the main body of the flying enemy, and, for half an hour, engaged it in the ever-growing darkness. Carter was the officer whose loyalty and good faith had been most peculiarly suspected. Other officers had been believed to be disaffected; but rumour had charged Carter with being corrupt and treacherous as well. That night he silenced for ever those who would have impeached his honour. A shot struck him, and, as he realised that death had come to him, he said to Wright, his flag-captain: " Fight the ship as long as she will swim." Later, both fleets anchored.


TRN2 The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol IIWilliam Laid ClowesDigital Book

Previous comments on this page

Posted by regis on Monday 30th of May 2016 11:16

Brillant captain chevalier de Combes

Foudroyand captain de Relingue perdu le 2 juin

44 ships of line and 11 fireships

"mes campagnes en mer sous loius 14" de Philippe de Villette-Mursay colection In-Texte Tallandier

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