Action off Calais

17th July 1805 - 18th July 1805
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Attack near St Valery-en-Caux 23.6.1805
Next action : Capture of the Blanche 19.7.1805


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

British Flotilla
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Trusty (28) George Argles (d.1831)
Immortalite (42) Edward William Campbell Rich Owen (1771-1849)
Hebe (16)  
Renommee (22) Sir Thomas Livingston
Hebe (32) Micajah Malbon
Vestal (16) Stephen Thomas Digby
Arab (22) Keith Maxwell (d.1822)
Ariadne (24) Charles Fullerton Elphinstone (1784-1807), Edward King (d.1807)
Fleche (18)  
Calypso (16)  

Allied (Empire Français & Batavian Republic)

Franco-Dutch Flotilla, Charles Henri Verhuell (1764-1845)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Bantam  Fleet Flagship
Le Ville d'Aix (12)  
Le Ville d'Anvers (12)  
La Ville de Geneve (12)  
La Ville de Mayence (12)  

Notes on Action


Nearly all that part of the Ostend division of the invasion flotilla which had not previously passed further to the westward was assembled by the end of May at Dunquerque under Vice-Admiral Ver Huell, who anxiously awaited an opportunity to carry it on to Ambleteuse. The division was, however, prevented, chiefly by adverse winds, from putting to sea until July 17th, when most of it, with a N.E. breeze, went out at 6 P.M., and began to make its way down the coast. Certain small craft remained behind, with instructions to follow if it should be seen that Ver Huell was interfered with by the British. Ver Huell had with him the four French prames, Ville d'Aix, Ville d'Anvers, Ville de Geneve, and Ville de Mayence, and thirty-two ' Batavian schooner-rigged gun-vessels of large size; and he formed his vessels into two lines, so disposed that the openings in the outermost column were covered by the ships of the innermost one. At about 6.30 P.M., the movements of the enemy were observed by a British squadron which lay off Gravelines, and which consisted of the Ariadne, 20, Captain the Hon. Edward King, three or four sloops and bombs, and less than half-a-dozen gun-brigs. As soon as King perceived how the enemy was heading, he cut his cables, made sail to meet Ver Huell, and, at about 9.15 P.M., opened fire upon him, eventually driving ashore or disabling eleven of the gun-vessels, and damaging the Ville de Geneve, in spite of the very heavy fire kept up both by the flotilla and by the batteries. Between 11 P.M. and midnight, the rest of the division succeeded in anchoring off Calais. The noise of the firing brought from the Downs the Trusty, 50, Captain George Argles, Vestal, 28, Captain Stephen Thomas Digby, and three sloops. The Vestal, outsailing her consorts, and joining King at 4 A.M. on the 18th, subsequently recommenced action with the flotilla. But the Dutch were too well protected by the forts; and, after a two hours' cannonade, the British drew off, and bore away to participate in another engagement which was by that time in progress to the westward, and towards which the Trusty and her consorts were already making their way.

Rear-Admiral Lacrosse, at Boulogne, knowing of Ver Huell's movements, had organised a diversion in favour of his colleague, and had ordered several divisions of gun-vessels to get under way as if to attack the British squadron off the port. This squadron, which included the Immortalite, 36, Captain Edward William Campbell Rich Owen, the Hebe, 32, Captain Macajah Malbon, and the Arab, 20, Captain Keith Maxwell, weighed to meet the enemy's craft, one hundred and thirteen in number, and ultimately drove them, at about 4.30 A.M., under the batteries north-west of Vimereux.

Ver Huell weighed from Calais road at 3 P.M. on July 18th, taking with him in his schooner, the Bantam, Marshal Davout, and accompanied by three out of his four prames, and twenty-one out of his thirty-two gun-vessels, and made for Cape Blanc-Nez, off which lay the Trusty, Vestal, Ariadne, and about a dozen smaller craft. At 4 P.M., the French batteries on the heights opened in order to drive off the British vessels; and they worked to such good effect that Ver Huell was able to proceed, without serious annoyance, until he was off the village of Wissant. There, the shore batteries being able to afford less protection, the attack was renewed, the Arab, 20, Captain Keith Maxwell, Calypso, 18, Commander Matthew Forster, Fleche, 18, Commander Thomas White, and some of the gun-brigs, succeeding, by 7 P.M., in driving six of the gun-vessels ashore, but being obliged to desist when off Cape Gris-Nez. The Arab had seven men wounded, and was considerably damaged; Commander Forster received a wound in the shoulder; and the Fleche had five men hurt. The Immortalite and Hebe, drawing too much water to get within effective range of the smaller Batavian vessels, confined their attention chiefly to the prames; and, though they were ultimately joined by the Renommee, 36, Captain Sir Thomas Livingstone, Bart., they managed only to drive ashore two schooner gun-vessels. Soon after 7 P.M., the rest of the flotilla anchored in safety under the forts of Ambleteuse and Andresselles. The Immortalite lost four killed and twelve wounded; and the Hebe three (one mortally) wounded; and both vessels suffered rather severely in rigging and hull. They were obliged to retire to repair damages; and, while they were away, the whole of the Franco-Batavian flotilla from Dunquerque seems to have found its way towards Boulogne, in the neighbourhood of which place, a few days later, no fewer than 1104 craft were assembled.

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