1809 - Lord Gambier at Basque Roads


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1809 Lord Gambier at Basque Roads 105

stretching along its southern extremity. The latter was named Palles, and was in several parts hard and rocky. The former was a bank or bar of mud, thrown up at the mouth of the river Charente.

The arrival of the 12 fire-ships, on the afternoon of the 10th, leaving no doubt in the mind of M. Allemand as to the nature of the attack in contemplation, he directed the armed launches and boats of the fleet, 73 in number, to be assembled in five divisions, in order to be ready, at the close of day, to take their stations near the boom, for the purpose of boarding and towing away the fire-ships, and of engaging any British boats that might be sent down to assist the latter in their operations. Some very excellent regulations were drawn up for the guidance of these boats, as appears by a copy of them which afterwards fell into the hands of the British. The French admiral also ordered the ships of each line to strike their topmasts and get their topgallant-masts on deck, and to unbend all useless sails : the advanced frigates, however, were to keep their topmasts an-end, and to be in readiness to get under way, the instant the signal to that effect should be made. The line-of-battle ships were also directed to be prepared to land the few troops they had on board, in case any attempt should be made by the British to possess themselves of Isle d'Aix.

On the 11th, early in the afternoon, the British admiral having completed his arrangements, the different frigates and smaller vessels moved to the stations assigned them. The Impérieuse ran down towards the inner end of the Boyart [Boyard], and came to, in nine fathoms, close to the shoal ; having the north point of Isle d'Aix bearing east, the south point south-east by east, and the centre of the French fleet south-east by south ; the latter at the distance of about two and a half miles. The bearing of the Impérieuse, as taken from the French frigate Indienne, was nearly north-west, distant about a gun-shot and a half from the boom. The Aigle, Unicorn, and Pallas, anchored a short distance above or to the north-west of the Impérieuse ; in order to receive the crews of the fire-ships on their return, to support the boats of the fleet which were to accompany the fire-ships, and to render assistance, if required, to the Impérieuse herself. The Whiting schooner, Lieutenant Henry Wildey, and the King-George and Nimrod cutters, master's mates Thomas Mekeek and Edward Tapley, which had been fitted for throwing rockets, also took their stations near the Boyart [Boyard] shoal. The Ćtna, the only bomb-vessel present, although four others (Fury, Hound, Thunder, and Vesuvius) had been promised, and eight would not have been one too many, placed herself to the north-west of Isle d'Aix, as near to the fort as possible in that direction, and was covered by the Indefatigable and Foxhound. The Emerald, Beagle, Dotterel, Conflict and Growler, were stationed, to make a diversion, at the east end of the island ; and the Redpole and Lyra, with

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