Military Review

Anglo-French naval rivalry. Battle at Barfleur 29 May - 4 June 1692

Anglo-French naval rivalry. Battle at Barfleur 29 May - 4 June 1692

A. V. Gorbunov. Sea battle at Cape La Hogue 22 May 1692

French victory fleet in the battle of Beachy Head was, of course, an excellent tactical result, which, however, did not develop into a strategic success. The troops of Jacob II in Ireland were defeated, he returned under the wing of his powerful patron Louis XIV. All persistent requests to re-allocate troops and provide assistance in the fight for the crown were in vain - the sun king only dismissed. The main front of the confrontation with the troops of the countries participating in the Augsburg League took place in Germany, and France did not have much desire to spend resources on expensive sea expeditions. Left to the mercy of fate in Ireland itself, the remnants of the Jacobite troops surrendered little by little. The power of William III in England was strengthened. During the summer-autumn, the Allies regained the strength and strength of their fleet, the benefit of well-established trade brought them significant profits. By the campaign of 1691, the combined Anglo-Dutch fleet already numbered about 100 battleships (including 40 Dutch). In addition to these forces, there were still a large number of frigates for hunting numerous privateers. The ships were well equipped and equipped with everything necessary. The command over the allied armada was initially to be taken over by the honored Dutch Admiral Tromp, but after his death on May 29, 1691, this position was reassigned to the admiral - already English - Edward Russell.

New Minister of Maritime Economy

Louis Ponshartren

The French fleet against this armada was still very strong. The Brest ship group, assembled by Turville’s works by the summer of 1691, consisted of almost 120 ships (of which more than 70 battleships and many heavy frigates). Another 12 of the battleships were at this time on the Mediterranean. These were very significant forces, but by this time other forces and circumstances interfered with the naval policy of the kingdom. In November 1690, the maritime minister, the son of Colbert, the Marquis de Seigneille, unexpectedly passed away. After himself, the Marquis left two children in need of care, and 4 a million livres of debt, which is very complicated. Louis, who highly valued the Colbert family, who had done a lot for him personally and for France, instructed the deceased head of the marine department to settle the affairs of the most appropriate person for such worries - Finance Minister Louis Ponshartren. Paying off the debts of de Seignele, while largely out of his very deep pocket, Pontchartren modestly asked his king in gratitude to appoint his 16-year-old son Jerome as minister of the sea. Since it was very cool even for the French-soaked absolutism, Louis allowed him to take up the position of this offspring when he reached 25 years. Up to this point, that is, before the 1699 of the year, Ponchartren himself should have been the navy minister. Moreover, he was instructed to combine this position with the troublesome work of the head of finance. Since Mr. Pontchartren was a little less versed in naval strategy than the cartoon character of Captain Vrungel, the Fuchs gambler in navigation, the consequences of a new assignment in the fleet were immediately felt. Costs in the maritime industry began to grow suspiciously: while 1690 required millions of livres in 17, then 1691 million were needed in the next 24. At the same time, there was no massive laying of new ships and expansion of staff, but the cost of purchasing equipment, building materials and supplies. increased significantly. Why from all possible options and contracts were elected the most expensive and not always reliable? Probably, with the help of such economic combinations, Mr. Pontchartrain was able to take care of his fatherly care for other children who were left in deep debt. However, not only strangers.

After thinking a bit, the newly-minted naval minister sent the king a memorandum in which ... he proposed to abandon the fleet altogether and replace it with an economist: the coast guard corps numbering 25 – 30 thousand people. Puzzled by such a bold flight of thought, Louis handed over this document for studying to experienced and reasonable people, such as, for example, the general intendant of the fleet Bonrepo. He explained to the monarch that, abandoning the fleet, France automatically loses colonies, all maritime trade and income from them. Even far from the maritime theme, Louis realized that there was something wrong, and banned such dubious transformations. Failing to succeed in “reforming” the naval forces, Pontchartren decided to direct the efforts of the ministry and fleet entrusted to him to a cruising war focused on undermining enemy maritime trade as the basis of the wealth of England and Holland. The seizure and subsequent sale of prizes, the issuance of letters of marque for the appropriate amount - all this, in the opinion of enterprising Ponshartren, would give additional income to the treasury that was exhausted during the war years. In addition, he believed that a fleet that avoided battles and concentrated solely on robbery of caravans, requires less expense - ships are much less likely to sink or damage, not taking part in full-fledged battles. Louis, to whom such a “business plan” of using the naval forces turned out to be quite to his liking, endorsed the ideas of Ponchartren. Tourville received a new introduction: instead of a general battle with the enemy and the subsequent conquest of supremacy at sea, he was instructed to hunt large trading caravans with the desired seizure of numerous prizes. That is, it was an order to engage in raider operations on a general fleet scale. Tourville did not like the plans of his superior, in which a pronounced commercial interest was visible. He protested vigorously against such use of naval power. In the end, irritated by the admiral’s stubbornness, the minister hinted very transparently that a more compliant commander could also be appointed to replace Turville.

25 June 1691 of the French fleet in the number of 55 battleships came out of Brest with highly contradictory orders: he was ordered to simultaneously protect the shores of France, attack a large convoy following Smyrna, while not avoiding battles with the main forces of the enemy. Initially, Tourville cruised at the entrance to the English Channel, having previously sent reconnaissance frigates in different directions. Upon learning of the French withdrawal, Admiral Russell left his bases. Unlike his opponent, he was not bound by orders and was looking for a meeting. The convoy, which carried goods worth almost 30 million livres, went to England by another route, but Tourville was not much upset about this. The vice admiral rightly believed that the fleet, burdened with numerous prizes, would be less mobile and therefore lose its combat capability. Skillfully playing hide-and-seek with Russell, unsuccessfully looking for him, Turville managed to pull the main forces of the British into the ocean, leaving the waters around England defenseless. The French privateers immediately took advantage of this, making a real pogrom for the allied trade. Actions Tourville during the nearly seven-week hike became a textbook. By the very fact of their presence at sea, the French fleet made it difficult for the superior forces of the enemy (Russell had 86 ships), allowed to disrupt enemy communications, causing significant damage to merchant shipping. Skillfully maneuvering and changing areas of operations, Turville attacked and scattered several small caravans from the West Indies. On August 14, having exhausted much of Russell's nerves and even more London merchants, the French fleet returned to Brest. Although he did not fulfill the task set (interception of the Smirn convoy), the ocean raiding that held down the main enemy forces was carried out masterfully.

Perseverance runaway king. Regular preparations for the landing in England

While Tourville was plowing the ocean, his king’s designs again underwent some transformation. In July 1691, the Minister of War Louwua died - a consistent and persistent opponent of any landings on the British Isles. Distant, like Pontchartrain, from the maritime strategy, Louvois constantly argued to the king about the need to concentrate forces exclusively on the land theater of military operations. Now, with the death of the main opponent, the runaway Jacob II was finally able to convince his royal colleague to try his luck again and organize a landing in England. The self-confidence of the English king was based primarily on his numerous secret correspondence with his supporters in England. In an effort to please (or insure), the "activists" of the Jacobite underground presented the internal situation in the kingdom in such a way as if everyone was just waiting for the return of his ousted king. In the end, Louis agreed. Why this was not done after the victory at Beachy Head - will remain on the conscience of the Sun King.

In the spring of 1692, preparations for a landing operation begin. Around 25 thousands of troops were stationed on the Cotentan peninsula. Some of them were the Jacobite Irish who fled from Ireland, the other - the actual French troops. About 400 transport ships were also concentrated there. In principle, Jacob had chances - his opponent William III was at that moment in the Netherlands, preparing the army for the 1692 campaign of the year. In England itself, there was restlessness - to the internal problems added more and more growing war. The success of the operation was primarily dependent on the state of the fleet, its ability to ensure unimpeded landing. And it was here that the consequences of the leadership of the “effective manager” Mr. Pontchartrin began to manifest themselves in full growth. At the appropriate time, that is, by April 1692, the fleet did not have time to reach full readiness. Despite the increase in the budget, the shortage was felt in everything: from suitable vehicles for transporting troops to the cores, gunpowder and uncorrupted provisions. Tourville planned to have at least 80 battleships at his disposal in order to get to the English Channel earlier than the British and the Dutch would arm their ships for the 1692 campaign of the year. The Brest grouping was supposed to reinforce the squadron d'Estre, which was sent to the compound from Toulon. (The idea of ​​Napoleon I in general repeated this plan). Due to the high degree of intrigue in the upcoming operation, the fleet was subordinate to the ground command. The energetic Pontchartrain, reproaching Turville at every corner for self-indulgence and self-will, added fuel to the fire. Understanding perfectly well that the army party at court was very strong, the minister assiduously supported Jacob’s plan to go to sea as quickly as possible. Fleet and would be ready at the appointed time, if it were freely equipped. Finally, 25 April 1692, Tourville receives from Louis a categorical order to go to sea by the forces that were at that time. It is prescribed to give a battle to the transports with a landing force in case of a threat, despite the numerical advantage of the enemy, and, if necessary, to even sacrifice the ships entrusted to him.

The order is an order, and 12 May 1692, Tourville, goes to sea with 39 battleships. On the French ships there was a shortage of personnel. Not all of them were provided with powder and nuclei in the right quantity. Ponshartren, who very soon received information about the readiness of much superior Allied forces to resist the landing, writes a sly letter to the commander of the expeditionary force, Marshal Belfon. In it, the minister suggests, tactfully referring to the king, that all decisions regarding the use of the fleet should be made by the marshal, the actual commander of Turville. A skilled courtier insured against failure. Louis, busy at this time with the siege of Namur, in a roundabout way, through the head of his minister, receives information that the Anglo-Dutch fleet far exceeds the forces of Tourville, that the crews of the British battleships had given a special oath of allegiance to Wilhelm. The king writes a new order in which he prohibits his admiral from engaging in battle and orders to wait for reinforcements. But Tourville was already out to sea - the frigate sent as a messenger was not found by the French fleet.

The allies had by this time concentrated impressive forces: 88 battleships (of which 27 were three-deck), 7 frigates, 30 firefighters, and 23 smaller ships. This fleet had 6750 implements and 38 thousands of crew members. Traditionally dominated by the British. Of the above, only 26 battleships and 26 small ships were Dutch. After receiving information about the French, Russell 27 May 1692, ordered to be removed from the anchor. First, the allied armada stayed at the Isle of Wight, then, waiting for the wind, moved on. On the same day, Tourville entered the English Channel. There, Willet’s squadron joined him, bringing his force strength to 44 battleships and 11 firefighters. Both fleets were moving towards each other. Russell was sure of his superiority, Turville - obeyed the order, frankly holding down his hands. The battle was inevitable.

Meeting at Barfleur

Early in the morning of May 29, 1692, the visibility was very poor, a light north-west wind was blowing. Around the morning at 8, near Barfleur, located in Normandy, the forward-looking Allied fleet, marching in columns, saw numerous ships moving on an opposite course. It was Tourville.

Edward Russell

Russell's vanguard made up the Dutch battleships 26, 8 frigates and 6 firefighters under the command of Lieutenant-Admiral Almond (92-gun "Prince"). In the center were the 27 battleships and Edward Russell himself on his flagship, the 100-cannon Britain. The rearguard, which included 29 battleships, was headed by Admiral Ashby on the Victoria's 100-gun. All in all, the Anglo-Dutch forces numbered the 82 battleship, 13 frigates and 27 firefighters.

Tourville was inferior to his opponent, and quite significantly. He led the battle of 44 battleships and 11 firewalls. The French avant-garde consisted of 14 ships. He commanded Amfreville on the 90-gun "Merviyo". In the Cordebatalie, including the 16 battleships, Tourville was walking on his famous Soleil Royal. The French rearguard under the command of Lieutenant-General Gabare (90-gun Orgeyo) from 14 battleships closed the French column. The French column lies in the drift, convened military council. There is a version that at this meeting all the French flagships and divisional commanders unanimously spoke out against the battle - the allies exceeded them almost twice in the number of ships and the number of guns. For example, Turville’s 100 cannon had only its flagship. The enemy had six such ships. The presentation of a protest against the entry into battle, set out in writing, was assigned to Gabare, as the oldest commander (he was 72 of the year at that time). In response to the grumbling of his officers, Turville showed them the king’s order, which should not be discussed. Those present shook hands with their naval commanders and returned to the ships. True or not, it remains unclear. Mention of this event is only in the family archive of the Gabare family.

In any case, at 10 in the morning, Turville energetically begins a rapprochement with the enemy, who has not yet finished rebuilding from a traveling position to a combat one. Even rivals noted the exemplary order in which the French moved. By 11 in the morning, the distance between the opposing fleets was reduced to 300 yards, but both sides remained silent. Finally, someone from the gunners of the battleship "Saint-Louis", walking in the forefront, ran out of patience, and he fired a shot. Almost immediately, the batteries of the ships of both squadrons "were painted with smoke", and the battle began. The Dutch were soon disorganized by strong and accurate fire, all their attempts to reach the head of the French column did not lead to success. In the center, Tourville attacks the enemy flagship immediately, hoping to disable it. Soleil Royal fights with Britain and two more 100-gun battleships. As a result of the wrong actions of the helmsman, the English flagship turns its nose towards the “Soleil Royal”, and he brings down powerful longitudinal volleys on him. The damage to the "Britain" is growing rapidly: the mast is broken, the bowsprit is damaged, Admiral Andrew Russell himself is forced to leave the shchans because of the fragments and bullets of shooters hitting Mars from the French flagship. To the aid of "Britain" came 100-gun "St. Andrew", however, and it turns his nose to the enemy. Batteries "Soleil Royal" moved the fire to successfully substitute the enemy, and the English battleship received even more damage than the "Britain". From the plight of his commander and St. Andrew, he brought out the 70-gun "Eagle" under the command of Captain Lick, who with his side closed both battleships tormented by the French. This courageous act cost dearly to the brave ship. Soon he lost his mizzen-mast and grotto-stengi. The bowsprit and foremast were damaged. More than 200 people from the crew were killed and injured.

The battle in other parts of the battle was no less fierce. The French, of course, suffered from superior fire, but kept the line. Participants in the battle recalled the short distance at which it was conducted. Shooting was carried out almost in the focus, at a pistol distance, where it was impossible to miss.

By 16 hours, the fog fell on the sea, and there was a pause in action. "St. Andrew", badly damaged, fell out of the hands of the Allies and was difficult to manage. Flagship "Britain" with punched sides and barely extinguished fires did not look better. According to the testimony of her officers, Russell locked himself in his cabin and did not go out on the deck, being not in the most awake. For a time, the allied fleet had no centralized leadership at all. Towards evening, the east wind rose, and the battle resumed. By 19, the watch of the Allied rearguard was still able to take the French center in two lights. Now “Soleil Royal” was in a very difficult situation: its mast was damaged, the rigging was torn. Two battleships approached their flagship and, after anchoring beside him, covered his side. In the fire duel 94-gun English "Duke" was badly damaged, being on it the commander of the fourth division of the main forces, rear-admiral Carter was fatally wounded.

Started tide did not allow the Allies to approach the French again. In 19.30, the fog again fell to the sea. The next phase of the battle took place already in the light of the moon, after about two hours. Not having achieved success in an artillery duel, the British allowed five firefighters on the “Salt Royal”. The first and second were taken away from the stem of the flagship of Turville with boats, the next forced him to chop off the anchor ropes. Having escaped the French in the afternoon, the rearguard of Ashby decided to return to the main forces of his fleet after the unsuccessful use of firefighters. Passing through the orders of the French, the British got for dessert powerful longitudinal shots that added damage to already exhausted ships. Fully the battle at Barfleur ended around 10 in the evening. The 44 of the French battleship withstood a battle with a significantly superior enemy. Tourville did not lose a single ship of his own - many British and Dutch ships were damaged. The Allies did not act consistently, largely due to Russell’s withdrawal from battle management. It was precisely because of the lack of a simultaneous attack by all the forces that the British and the Dutch could not achieve victory in a position advantageous for themselves. It should be noted that the forces of Tourville were also worn to a large extent, for example, its flagship Soleil Royal, who had difficulty moving.

Turville Retreat. The Battle of La Hogue

Benjamin West. Battle of La Hogue

30, at about 1 am, blew the northeast wind, and Tourville ordered the fleet to anchor. But due to foggy weather and large distances between ships, not all commanders could parse the flagship signals. In the morning, Tourville gathered only 35 ships around him. The 6 battleships from the avant-garde and 3 from the rearguard, having lost contact with the main forces, moved to Brest on their own.

Only on 8 in the morning, when the weather cleared, did Russell again see the French retreating and raised the signal to “chase the enemy, not observing the order”. The Allies set more sails and began to catch up with the enemy, since the damaged Soleil Royal limited the overall speed of the French squadron. In the afternoon, complete calm came, and Turville anchored west of Cape La Hogue. Taking advantage of the pause, the admiral transferred his flag to Ambisio. The Allies also anchored. In the evening, the south-east breeze rose, and in 11 hours both fleets continued to move. Tourville planned to pass between Cape La Hogue and Origny Island, in order to later take refuge in Saint-Malo. There it was possible to carry out at least a partial repair of the damaged ships and, first of all, to bring the “Salts Royal” barely lugging in relative order. The main base, Brest, was far away, and a number of ships could not withstand the transition.

The strait between La Hogue and Origni is 4,5 miles wide, but there are reefs on both sides. The flow rate reaches five knots. 20 French battleships can easily pass the strait, the remaining 15, mostly with severe damage, in the morning 31 may anchor in front of the strait. But because of the strong current and bottom of the ground, not holding anchors, the ships began to drift in the direction of continuing pursuit of the enemy. In fact, from this moment on, the French fleet ceases to exist as an organized united force. The fight in such conditions was clearly suicidal, so the “Soleil Royal”, along with two battleships, sends Turville to Cherbourg, and with the remaining ships goes to La Hog with 12. Meanwhile, on board the flagship of the allies of Britain, staff officers led by flagship navigator Kepten Benbow (who later became the same admiral, whose name flaunted on the sign of a famous tavern), persuaded Russell to start the pursuit and finish off at least those ships took refuge in La Hogh. The English admiral was already tired of fighting, and he resisted, speaking out against the continuation of the battle. The matter ended with Vice-Admiral Delaval, known for his very violent temperament, without order taking the battleships 19, moved to Cherbourg, where 2 June was attacked by the former flagship of Turville and two battleships accompanying him. All three French ships were sunk by firefighters, only the Soleil Royal was able to sink one of them before death. In the end, Russell was able to persuade (perhaps Delaval’s departure had a strong effect on him), and the English commander gave the order to go to La Hog.

La Hogue was the location of the main part of the ground forces, intended for the future landing in England. Immediately was the headquarters of James II and the commander of the troops Marshal Belfort. At a meeting held between them and Tourville, it was decided to land the ships on the coastal shoals - six near Fort d'Ilé and six near La Hogue, near the fishing village. On the shore between the ships were installed batteries, right there were boats and small vessels with rowers and crews. These "mosquito" flotillas were supposed to prevent the capture of fixed ships on board the ship. It should be noted that the French crews were heavily exhausted by the battle and long pursuit. The ammunition — gunpowder and cores — was largely consumed. The army command in the person of Marshal Belfort, who for some reason considered that the naval affairs did not concern him at all, remained a passive observer, not selecting sufficient forces from an almost 17-thousand army to help Turville.

Russell ordered the brave captain Hand to command an attack on the French ships. The insignificant depth and far-reaching shallow bank did not allow the Allied fleet to reach the effective range of fire. Therefore, it was decided to seize the fixed battleships with the help of the boat landing. 2 June at 6 o'clock in the afternoon The hands on the 200 longboats launched an attack. The teams on them mainly consisted of volunteers. It began a fierce battle, where both sides were held bravely and courageously. Having spent their cores, the French loaded their guns with nails and metal scrap. On the decks of ships, desperate melee fought. Tourville himself with officers was in the thick of battle, inspiring his people. But numerical superiority was on the side of the British. The Franco-Jacobite army was almost a passive spectator of what was happening. Initially, after a brutal battle, the ships were captured and burned at d'Ilé. The next day, June 3 in the morning, the same sad fate befell the rest of the ships of the Ocean Fleet.

Thus, in Cherbourg and La Hogue, France lost 15 of their battleships, including the flagship Soleil Royal. Two allied battleships sank from damage received after the battle at Barfleur. It was a hard blow. Louis XIV, with his thoughtless orders, forced the brave and ambitious Turville, who was literally plagued by hints of Ponchartren’s doubts and the king himself about his performance, talent and even courage, to go to battle in an extremely unfavorable situation. And although, weighing all the pros and cons, the king then canceled his order - it was already too late.

The war of the Augsburg League against France continued for another four years and ended with the signing of the Rijsway Peace Treaty, which, by and large, kept the status quo. The main problems on the continent and in the colonies have not been resolved. As before, the Habsburgs and the Bourbons confronted each other in Europe, still the British and French challenged the primacy in colonial trade. A new fight was waiting for old rivals, a peace treaty was nothing more than a document declaring an intermission before the next war. And she was not long in coming. Fields and waves of battles of the War of Spanish Succession were prepared for old and new opponents.
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  1. PSih2097
    PSih2097 12 February 2016 07: 40
    Compared to what was happening between the countries of the old world in the new world (in the Caribbean) at that time, all continental warriors fade ...
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 12 February 2016 08: 05
    The creak of a match, the whistling of cores ... the smell of a salty wind mixed with a powder burnout ... Thank you, Denis ..!
  3. Trapperxnumx
    Trapperxnumx 12 February 2016 10: 25
    Thanks to the author! I look forward to continuing !!!
  4. King, just king
    King, just king 12 February 2016 12: 18
    "And although, having weighed all the pros and cons, the king later canceled his order - it was already too late."

    The eternal problem of the Mega Chief Commander. Our Alexander also hit Austerlitz. After that, I decided not to command again.
    1. xan
      xan 12 February 2016 13: 32
      Quote: King, just king
      The eternal problem of the Mega Chief Commander. Our Alexander also hit Austerlitz. After that, I decided not to command again.

      And monarchs often believed that they were commanders from the diapers. Kutuzov certainly would not have lost in the battle of Austerlitz. The best monarchs simply became administrators who did not lose common sense.
      The French are excellent sailors.
      1. King, just king
        King, just king 12 February 2016 15: 54
        So here's how. Possessing almost unlimited power and having OWN PERSONAL soldiers in the count from a couple of thousand to hundreds of thousands, one will inevitably want to "wave a sword".
        Again, glory, too, alone.

        Kutuzov? probably, probably, you are right - you wouldn’t lose. But I won’t win, for sure. Still, the commander and strategic genius of Napoleon was several times higher (my personal opinion).
  5. Robert Nevsky
    Robert Nevsky 12 February 2016 19: 58
    King - the sun could take over England, it is a pity that he did not do it in a timely manner.
  6. Jääkorppi
    Jääkorppi 14 February 2016 12: 10
    Fine! The period of 16-18 centuries is very interesting, especially sea battles! And in the organization of the supply of the French Army and Navy, many acquaintances are recognized!