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Action of 1806-05-14

14th May 1806
Fought at : Île-d'Aix - North Atlantic Ocean
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Tremendous vs Canonniere 21.4.1806
Next action : Guerriere vs Blanche 19.7.1806


Empire Français

Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Infatigable (42) 1799-1806
French 42 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Joseph Marie GirardaisFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1770-1832
La Gloire (40) 1803-1806
French 40 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Éléonor Jean Nicolas SoleilFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1798-1808
L'Armide (40) 1804-1806
French 40 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Jean Jacques Jude LangloisFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1756-1856
La Minerve (36) 1805-1806
French 36 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Joseph ColletFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1738-1828
La Sylphe (16) 1804-1808
French 16 Gun
Unrated Brig-Corvette
Le Palinure (16) 1804-1808
French 16 Gun
Unrated Sloop
Le Lynx (16) 1806-1806
French 16 Gun
Unrated Corvette

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Pallas (32) 1804-1810
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Thomas CochraneBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1795-1857
1 killed, 5 wounded
Kingfisher (16) 1804-1816
British 16 Gun
Unrated Sloop
Sir George Francis SeymourBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1804-1866

Notes on Action


On May 14th 1806, the Pallas stood in to the Isle of Aix to reconnoitre Allemand's squadron, and anchored just within range of the French batteries. The Kingfisher, 16, Commander George Francis Seymour, was in the offing, but had been given strict orders by Vice-Admiral Thornbrough not to pass Chassiron Lighthouse, as Seymour was thought to be prone to run great risks. As soon as the French admiral realised Cochrane's audacious intentions, he directed the frigate Minerve, 40, Captain J. Collet, and Lynx, Sylphe, and Palinure, of 16 guns each, to get under way to attack the Englishman, whilst the Armide, 40, and Infatigable, 40, were to hold themselves ready to assist at a signal.

Cochrane weighed and waited for his four enemies under topsails. The French came up with every inch of canvas studding-sails and royals spread. A broadside, as soon as the French vessels were within range, brought down the main topsail yard of one of the brigs, and put her out of action. The Minerve and the second brig then engaged the Pallas closely; but the action was not continuous, as each side had frequently to tack to avoid the shoals. At about 1 P.M., or almost two hours after the action had begun, Cochrane succeeded in getting to windward of the Minerve, and between her and the French batteries on the Isle of Aix, which had constantly fired at him. He then gave her two or three broadsides in quick succession. Her fire slackened, and, as there were signs that she meditated making off, he ran the Pallas on board her. Unfortunately, the Minerve had grounded on a shoal just before the Pallas struck her, so that the force of the concussion was very great indeed. The guns on board the British ship were driven back into the ports, and the fore topmast, fore-sail, jib-boom, sprit-sail yard, top-sail yards, fore-rigging, cat-head, and bower anchor were torn away. With the bower anchor, Cochrane had intended to grapple the Minerve; and he was unable to hold the two ships together. In the Minerve, the fore-yard came down, and much damage was done to the rigging. Three pistol shots were the only reply she made to a broadside from the Pallas; and the French crew fled below, Collet alone gallantly keeping his place on deck. The British were setting to work to clear away the wreckage from the Pallas' s deck, preparatory to boarding, when it was seen that the Armide and Infatigable were getting under way and coming to the Minerve' s help. There was nothing for it but to withdraw. Meantime Seymour, in the Kingfisher, observing that the Pallas had lost her fore-sail, came up with all possible speed, passed inside Chassiron light in defiance of orders and sent a cable to the Pallas. The three French frigates, presently reinforced by the Gloire, 40, positively allowed those two vessels to retire unmolested, though any one of them was a match in guns for the Pallas and Kingfisher together.

Cochrane's whole career is so wonderful his judgment was so excellent, his resourcefulness so capable of surmounting any emergency that one hesitates to accuse him of rashness in thus assailing an enemy of enormously superior force in full sight of a strong French squadron. But a lesser genius would probably have sacrificed his ship by such an act.

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