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


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I


British and French Fleets


Falmouth, the British admiral once more put to sea, with his fleet augmented to 22 sail of the line, upon a cruise in the Bay of Biscay. On the 7th of November, when the fleet was close off Scilly, Commodore Pasley rejoined, without having seen any thing of the squadron in pursuit of which he had been detached. On the 17th the Gibraltar of 80, and Suffolk of 74 guns, parted company; thus leaving still with Lord Howe 22 sail of the line, composed of all the ships (except the Suffolk and the four 64s) named at p. 81, with the following ten ships in addition:

98 Prince Rear-adm. (w.) George Bowyer *
Captain Cuthbert Collingwood


Bellerophon Captain Thomas Pasley
Tremendous Captain James Pigott
Alfred Captain John Bazely
Defence Captain James Gambier
Vanguard Captain John Stanhope
Bellona Captain George Wilson
Invincible Captain Hon. Thomas Pakenham
Russel Captain John Willet Payne
Marlborough Captain Hon. George Cranfield Berkeley.

On the 18th, at 9 a.m., latitude 48 32' north, longitude 1 48' west, the 38-gun frigate Latona, Captain Edward Thornborough, descried from her masthead, at a great distance to windward, a strange squadron, which proved to be French, and consisted of the 74-gun ships, Tigre, Jean-Bart, Aquilon, Tourville, Impétueux, and Révolution, and frigates Insurgente and Sémillante, Espiègle brig, and Ballon schooner, under the command of chef-de-division Vanstabel, from Brest on the 13th. upon a cruise in Cancale Bay.

The French ships, mistaking, probably, Lord Howe's fleet for a merchant-convoy, bore down until their hulls were distinctly seen from the decks of the British ships. By signal from the commander-in-chief, the Russel, Audacious, Defence, Bellerophon, and Ganges, as the most advanced line-of-battle ships, went in chase. The French squadron had by this time hove to; but, perceiving that they were pursued by a superior force, the ships now filled, and made sail to get off, carrying, in a very fresh wind from south by east, accompanied by a heavy sea, whole topsails, with topgallantsails occasionally; while double-reeefed topsails, with topgallantsails upon them, were all the sail which the British ships would bear. The Russel soon sprang her foretopmast; and at 11 a.m. the Defence, the weathermost line-of-battle ship, carried away her fore and main topmasts. The frigates were now ordered, by signal, to keep sight of the enemy and lead the fleet.

* Lord Howe, instead of the white, now carried the union-flag at the main ; and Rear-admiral (w.) Benjamin Caldwell had succeeded Rear-admiral Macbride in the command of the Cumberland.

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