Action off Brighthelmstone

1st May 1707
Part of : War of Spanish Succession (1701 - 1714)
Previous action : Action of 1706/11/20 20.11.1706
Next action : Battle of Toulon 29.7.1707 - 22.8.1707


Great Britain

Convoy Escort, Baron Wylde (d.1735)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Royal Oak (70) Baron Wylde (d.1735)Fleet Flagship
Grafton (70) Edward Acton (d.1707) Captured
Hampton Court (70) George Clements (d.1707) Captured

Royaume de France

French Squadron, Claude de Forbin (Comte de Forbin-Gardanne) (1656-1733)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Mars (54)  Fleet Flagship
Le Blakoual (52) Jean Alexandre de Tourouvre (d.1716)
Le Salisbury (50) Kerlo de l' Isle, Louis-Isidore Andigné (Chevalier de Vezins) (d.1707)
Protée (48) Henri Illiers (Comte d'Illiers) (1663-1727)
Le Gerze (42) François Cornil Bart (1677-1755)
Le Griffon (48) Chevalier Pierre-Cesar de Brichanteau (Comte de Nangis) (1683-1728)
La Dauphine (60) Jacques Aymar de Roquefeuil (Comte de Roquefeuil) (1665-1744), Jean de Gouyon-Beaufort (Chevalier de Gouyon) (1671-1734)
Le Fidèle (58) Hennequin

Notes on Action

In the spring of 1707, Forbin cruised in the North Sea with the Mars, 54, his own flagship Blackwall, 54, Salisbury, 52, Protee, 48, Jersey, 46, Griffon, 44, Dauphine, 44, Fidele, 44, and another man-of-war, besides four corvettes or " barques longues," and several small privateers. On May 1st, the Royal Oak, 70, Captain Baron Wyld, Hampton Court, 70, Captain George Clements, and Grafton, 70, Captain Edward Acton, left the Downs with a convoy of about forty merchantmen bound to the westward. On the same day, off Brighthelmstone, Forbin, who had doubtless had his eye for some time upon the convoy, came up with and attacked it.
Description of the action taken from Clowe The Royal Navy Vol IITRN2
Says the official English account:

"the Grafton was boarded by three men-of-war of fifty-six guns, who carried her after a warm dispute of half an hour. The Hampton Court was attacked by one of the men-of-war, and afterwards boarded by two others; from which, with great difficulty, she disengaged herself; but, as she was bearing away, fell in with two fresh ships which shot away her mainmast and foretop-mast. The Royal Oak, Captain Baron Wyld, commander, came up to her assistance, but, finding her ensign struck, made the best of her way to save herself, having eleven feet water in the hold, and being very much shattered. In the engagement he had received several shots under water from two French men-of-war, of fifty and fifty-six guns, that were on board him above half a quarter of an hour; but he plied them so warmly that they were forced to sheer off, not without being much disabled."

The Royal Oak made her way back as far as Dungeness, where she beached herself. She was ultimately saved; but both the Hampton Court and the Grafton were carried into Dunquerque. Captain Clements, mortally wounded by a shot in the belly, had continued to fight his ship until he had fallen senseless on her deck, and until she had lost two hundred of her people killed and wounded. Soon after the vessel was taken possession of, a young midshipman, " taking an opportunity of the confusion which prevailed at that time, and the greater attention of the enemy to the plunder than the care of their prisoners, caused his poor dying commander to be conveyed through a porthole into the longboat, which happened to be astern. He himself followed with seven others of the crew. They concealed themselves under the thwarts as well as they could, till the Hampton Court and the enemy's squadron had drifted so far with the flood as to render it safe for them to take to their oars, when, by a very happy but almost incredible exertion, they reached Rye on the 3rd of May."

Captain Clements died in the boat. Captain Acton also perished, fighting with the utmost gallantry. According to Forbin, the privateers took twenty-two of the merchantmen. The French losses were very heavy, and among the dead was Captain de Vezins, of the Salisbury.

This affair caused great excitement in England, it being generally assumed that the disaster might have been avoided if the Admiralty had caused itself to be properly informed of the movements of the enemy, and if it had provided adequate convoy. But Captain Wyld was not blamed; and he was, indeed, as soon as his ship had been refitted, again employed on similar service.

Other VesselsTRN2
Also present were an unidentified French Man of War, (possibly the Dryade 40), 4 Barque-Longue of 8 Guns & Crew 60 and several privateers

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