Naval history of Great Britain by William James - Description of Brest


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I


Description of Brest


the admiral to carry them to Brest; alleging, as a pretext for going thither, that the inhabitants were disposed to deliver up the port to the British, after the recent example of the Toulonese. To show that they were serious in their wish to repair to Brest, the crews of eight of the ships hoisted the topsails preparatory to weighing. In this emergency, after a council of officers had been holden, and delegates heard from the disaffected crews, the admiral found himself obliged to yield. Accordingly, on the 21st the French fleet got under way from Belle-Isle, and on the 29th anchored in the road of Brest.

The port of Brest will be so frequently alluded to in these pages, that a slight description of it may not be unacceptable. Brest lies a little to the southward of the most westerly point of France, and is in latitude 48 22' north, and longitude from Paris 6 48' west. It is considered to be one of the finest harbours in France, and perhaps in Europe. It possesses a safe roadsted, in which 500 ships of war may ride, in 8, 10, and 15 fathoms, at low water. The entrance, called le goulet, is narrow and difficult, with two dangerous rocks, les Fillettes and le Mingan, nearly in mid-channel.

The coast is well fortified on both sides ; and outside the entrance, or goulet, are two anchorages, where the men-of-war frequently lie: one to the northward, named Bertheaume Bay, sheltered from the north, north-east, and north-west winds; the other to the southward, named Camaret Bay, sheltered from the east-south-east, south, and south-west winds. There are three passages into these bays, and into Brest harbour, from the sea: one named, Passage du Four, between the main land and the island of Ushant ; and which the British have since called the St. Vincent Channel; the second, Passage de l'Iroise, between Ushant and the Isle des Saints ; and the third, Passage du Raz, between the last-named isle and the Bec du Raz. The first and third passages are by far the most dangerous ; and the Iroise, which is the centre or west passage, and of considerable width, is that off which the British fleet usually cruises. It is scarcely possible, however, to blockade the port of Brest, if the enemy inside is as vigilant as he ought to be. Brest contains the chief naval magazine of France, and is justly esteemed the key and bulwark of the country.

On the 23d of August the Channel fleet again weighed from Torbay, and sailed to the westward, to escort the Newfoundland trade clear of danger, and afford protection to the homeward-bound West India convoy on its arrival in soundings. Having effected both objects, and cruised ten or twelve days to the north-west of Scilly, Lord Howe, on the 4th of September, re-anchored in Torbay. On the 27th of October, after detaching Commodore Pasley, with the Bellerophon and Suffolk 74s, and Hebe, Latona, and Venus frigates, to look after five French frigates that, two days before, had chased the Circe frigate into

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