Honour - Quiberon Bay 1759

Date -  20-November
Type - Fleet or Squadron Actions
Conflict - Seven Years War; 1756-63  

Description The action took place in Quiberon Bay, on the French Bay of Biscay coast.

The British force of 23 ships-of-the-line under Admiral Sir Edward Hawke was augmented by a squadron of 10 ships under Commodore Duff. The French Fleet under Admiral Conflans comprised 21 ships-of-the-line plus 3 frigates.

The French were planning an invasion of Ireland and Conflans evaded the Royal Navy blockade of Brest to take his squadron to reinforce the invasion fleet. In a rising westerly gale he sought shelter in Quiberon Bay and hove to west of Belle Isle. The Bay comprised shallow, rock strewn, shoals. The French believed themselves safe in the confined and dangerous waters and deteriorating weather.

(The previous year the Royal Navy's Admiral Byng had been executed for neglect of duty in losing Minorca and this may have been in mind of the British commanders. The navy had encouraged an attacking frame of mind in it's commanders at all levels.)

Hawke having found out about the French escape, pursued and located them.

The master of Hawke's flagship (Royal George), warned Hawke of the dangers and received the famous reply " You have done your duty in pointing out to me the danger. Now lay me alongside the enemy's flagship".

The French were mauled and severely the French rear and when darkness fell anchored in the Bay. However some French broke out of the Bay and fled south. Others broke their backs attempting to shelter in the Vilaine Estuary or were trapped after lightening their ship by jettisoning cannons.

Conflans lost seven ships and 2,500 men killed. Only eight ships escaped to Rochelle, and several were unfit for further service.

The British lost two ships, Resolution (74) and Essex (64). Both of which ran aground early in the battle and were wrecked in the continuing storm.

The threat of French invasion was relieved and the Royal Navy was able to give more emphasis to conducting operations around the globe against the French.


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This page last edited - 24 May, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.