Military Review

Anglo-French naval rivalry. The siege of Toulon and the death of the Levant fleet

The confrontation on the old and for some already cramped inn under the magnificent name "Europe" was traditionally accompanied by incendiary enthusiasm and enthusiastic enthusiasm. The owners of large rooms threw heavy objects at each other with deadly courtesy, paying tribute to the era. The lodgers of smaller quarters were, willy-nilly, also involved in the general course of the struggle - some were dragged into the corridor by force, others, winking, promised a more convenient place in the large hall. France, represented by the elderly and stubborn King Louis XIV, fought off the poker from neighbors who were pressing in from all sides, shouting indignantly at the illegal occupation of living space in ruined Spain. Still majestic, but also a pretty crowded king, the sun was overcome by fatigue, the poker bent, but he still had enough agility and anger to fight back his offenders.

In the ring

Anglo-French naval rivalry. The siege of Toulon and the death of the Levant fleet
Admiral Claudisley Shovel

The 1706 campaign of the year ended very modestly for the Bourbon house — the troops of the Duke of Orleans were forced to leave Italy. Opposing him, Evgeny of Savoy, led one of his most brilliant companies. Spain was actually in the grip of a civil war. A part of its provinces was on the side of the Archduke Charles and the Anglo-Dutch-Portuguese army legitimizing his legitimacy (Pedro II, king of Portugal, tried to help his partners in a zealous way, with a twinkle). However, a large part of the country, negatively related to the claimant, approved on Protestant bayonets, supported Philip of Anjou. The guerrilla movement spread against the foreign troops invading Spain, despite the Archduke Charles’s convincing proclamations that, they say, everything will remain as before.

Encouraged by their consolidated position in Portugal and the capture of Gibraltar, the British continued to send sea expeditions to the Iberian Peninsula. In September 1706, after a massive bombardment, the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona, ​​capitulated and was occupied by the British landing. Now english fleet commanded by Admiral Claudisley Chauvel. George Rook, who, despite the capture of Gibraltar, was reminded of something and primarily membership in the Tory party (most of the government at that time were Whigs), was removed from his post as commander.

This apparent success strengthened the position of the Archduke Charles, created an additional threat to the French communications and southern frontiers of France. In Flanders, the Anglo-Dutch army of the Duke of Marlborough was a success - the enemy was squeezed out of there, but then there was a whole system of powerful fortresses and Marshal Duke Vendome with a battered, but still strong army. It was clear that simply putting pressure on Louis from all sides, though a correct one, was extremely costly - coordination between the troops of the allies, who were fighting on several fronts, was unsatisfactory. Each acted according to his own approved plan, notifying the ally as necessary. There was simply no central authority coordinating the general course of hostilities. In conditions when their resources no longer seemed so impressive, the allies who had loosened recalled the plan of the Duke of Marlborough, proposed as early as 1701, of attacking directly into France through Provence in the south and through Flanders in the north. In Flanders, while a dead-end wall towered a strategic impasse, and it was necessary to save up strength. But the seizure of Toulon and the development of the offensive to the north, relying on the already taken control of the north of Italy, looked quite attractive. The Marlborough plan was not adopted at the beginning of the war, since the British and Austrians considered the forced accession of the Archduke Charles as the primary task. But the archduke skidded heavily.

Real heroes always go around

Prince Eugene of Savoy

The landing operation directly against Toulon was quite risky, but its successful implementation could bring benefits that are difficult to overestimate. The capture of Toulon, a powerful fortress, which, however, has a relatively weak ground defense, gave a chance for the destruction of the Levant fleet, of which it was the main base. Having deprived Louis of his naval forces in the Mediterranean, it was quite possible to freely deliver reinforcements to Spain. Since in the summer of 1706, Eugene of Savoy forced the enemy to lift the siege from Turin and leave Piedmont and Savoy, successful prerequisites were created for the invasion of southern France. To tie the Bourbon troops in Spain, it was planned to conduct an offensive, the purpose of which would be the capture of Madrid. This would make it impossible to transfer reinforcements under Toulon or, in the case of the withdrawal of French troops, to achieve the assigned tasks of taking the capital of Spain with little blood. Coordination of armies in various theaters of war under conditions of communication at that time and difficulties in reconciliation caused great doubts, but the decision about the landing in Toulon was made at the highest English top. Vienna did not object either - the war with Louis was much more bloody, difficult and, most importantly, costly, and the prospect of finally ending it pleased many.

The preparation of the operation began - the secretaries and the scribes began to creak with feathers, the orderlies rushed off, giving horses to the shchenkels, the commissaries and suppliers knocked their knuckles with the scores. Queen Anna, standing in Lisbon for Shovel, ordered to prepare for the march not less than 40 battleships and to find a sufficient number of transport ships to transport the 15-thousandth army. The admiral was instructed to coordinate his actions with Eugene of Savoy, who was to command the troops, and agree with him on the start of the operation. And without that, rather shaky due to the lack of consistency, the plan floated at the very beginning. While Shovel, shaking all the Portuguese coast, as a porcelain piggy bank, was collecting any suitable transport vessels, the Austrian command suddenly announced that it considered the seizure of Naples in southern Italy to be the most important task. And therefore, originally intended for landing troops will be necessary there. Queen Anna, who was indignant at such sudden changes, wrote an imposing letter to Emperor Joseph - the British were ready to fully supply the troops with gunpowder and ammunition, to help with food supplies. And, most importantly, to allocate to the Austrians a “tranche” in the amount of 100 thousand pounds for recruiting soldiers in the Piedmont and Savoy who had just been cleared of the French. Both sides actively used mercenaries, and this was a normal practice for that time. Joseph, who, not without regret, studied the very financially curious proposals, unsubscribed that for Austria the occupation of Naples was more important than the landing in Provence, however, due to the loyalty of the local population to Vienna, this venture did not take much time.

While the high monarchs had an intensive correspondence where, in the most exquisite expressions, they exchanged barbs, disguised as friendly hairpins, the English fleet was concentrated in Spanish waters. By May 1707, Shovel was able to assemble 31 English and 15 Dutch battleships, 20 frigates and more 200 transports. However, part of this armada was engaged in the transfer of reinforcements to Barcelona. The fact is that in Spain the allies were far from smooth: the Spanish-French army of Count Berwick (a runaway supporter of Jacob II and the bastard son of the Duke of Marlborough himself) defeated the English army of Count Galway. The son turned out to be a worthy successor to the talent of his parent, and without that, by no means the strong throne of the Archduke Charles, behind the inaccessibility of Madrid, seated in Barcelona, ​​became in general almost crystal. Nevertheless, the landing in Provence was not abandoned - in such conditions it was even more in demand.

It is worth noting that in the spring and summer of 1707, the War of the Spanish Succession had some chance to merge with the Great Northern War. The fact is that at this time the Swedish army of Charles XII arrived in Saxony. Elector Augustus II was forced to abandon the Polish throne. Diplomats of both opposing coalitions hurried to the camp of the Swedish king. Those and others had chances - the Austrian emperor Joseph I provided support to the Saxon elector, on the other hand, Charles XII was a Lutheran. However, busy preparing a big march to the East, the monarch did not want to get involved in an uninteresting conflict. He disliked Louis for persecuting the Huguenots, signed a peace treaty with the Austrians, and the Swedish battalions moved to Russia.

10 May the main forces of the British under the command of Shovel finally left Lisbon and headed for the shores of Italy. On the way, the news came that the poor Austrians in Italy needed gunpowder and nuclei. Shovel ordered several ships to enter Gibraltar and take 1 thousand gunpowder and 12 thousand cores from XNUMX local stocks. In a word, the British were ready to go to the maximum (but certainly feasible) material sacrifices in order to encourage the Austrians to land at Toulon. And when everything seemed to be agreed, new circumstances intervened. After the victory of Berwick, the Archduke Charles, feeling that he was beginning to smell fried, distinctly sent a dramatic letter to Eugene of Savoy and to Emperor Joseph himself with an urgent request to send part of the troops from Italy to Spain. When the Duke of Marlborough, the main developer of the long-suffering landing plan near Toulon, learned about this, he became enraged. The operation was constantly postponed! That the Austrians urgently needed to seize Naples, now also Karl with his requests to send reinforcements. The duke, in very harsh terms, stated that in the campaign of this year the fleet will be used only for operations in Provence, and no large-scale transportation is planned for other fronts. This was simply expressed by the words: “Cope with your own strength.”

The archduke did not stop there. He duplicated his request for reinforcements to Queen Anne. Her Majesty, wanting to get out of a delicate situation diplomatically, entrusted Admiral Shovel, who was cruising off the coast of Italy, awaiting a decision to start the operation, to go to Barcelona and tactfully conduct an explanatory conversation with the Archduke. Reluctantly, the Englishman fulfilled the queen's request — he had to go to Barcelona and, after a long conversation, assured Karl that sadly, but with reinforcements he would have to wait.

At the beginning of June 1707, when the English squadron from 43 of battleships and 57 large transports stood near Nice waiting for the loading of the first echelon of Austrians, unexpected news came from the rate of Yevgeny of Savoy that the prince decided to break through to Toulon by land, along the coast. The British were surprised to say so. 14 held a general military council on June, at which Yevgeny of Savoy ardently argued that his troops, coming out of Italy, would reach Toulon in no more than six days. Of course it was not true. Perhaps the ambitious prince did not want to share his fame with the British, but no less likely was the fact that he simply considered the land route more secure. The prince came out of Turin, having almost 30 thousand bayonets and sabers, but only after 17 days reached the border of Piedmont. The pace of his army was much slower than what was stated. The tale of "six days before Toulon" melted away like the morning mist. Having shot down small French barriers near the city of Var, the Austrians began a march to the main naval base of the enemy. The English fleet provided cover from the seaside flank, however, the sea was clean. On the proposal of Shovel, the prince refused to carry out the carriage by sea, saying that, in general, it was within reach of the goal. Serve hand had a very long time and also difficult. It was the summer heat, the marching troops suffered from thirst and sunstroke. The roads left much to be desired, and the wagon train stretched heavily. On July 15, almost a month after the military council, where the “six days” were voiced, the advanced units of the Imperials and the Austrians approached the nearest approaches to Toulon.

A military council was assembled, which was attended by Shovel, his junior flagship, Rear Admiral John Norris, and the British envoy at the headquarters of Eugene of Savoy, John Chetvind. Here the British, already angry that the whole operation did not go according to plan, were expecting a new surprise. The prince, looking thoughtfully at his English allies, sadly stated that, in principle, the whole idea of ​​the siege of Toulon was very stupid and unnecessary. History he doesn’t say whether the faces of both admirals of the royal Nevi’s battle flag became indignant, but when they breathed out, Chetvind, who knew a lot about diplomacy and was able to decipher thin hints of thick wallets, tactfully explained the situation: the Austrians needed additional money.

The Siege of Toulon

Upon learning of the border crossing, the French command began to take emergency measures to increase the city’s defense capability. A volunteer recruitment was announced - weapon from the fortress arsenal was given to everyone. Fortifications were put in order, first of all from the land front. The Toulon garrison was reinforced by Marshal Tessier 28 infantry battalions. To him also added the units, retreating from the border. The total number of troops defending Toulon reached 20 thousands of people with 350 guns. In the harbor stood the 46 of the battleships and large frigates, among them was the 102-gun flagship of the Levant fleet “Soleil Royal”. Due to the total lack of funds, this powerful squadron was not in a state of combat readiness and was unable to go into the sea.

Fearing a breakthrough into the harbor and the seizure of ships by the enemy, Louis ordered them to be nailed to the upper deck. Two 90-gun battleships "Tonann" and "Saint-Philippe" turned into floating batteries to enhance the defense. They were sheathed with additional wooden shields, dismantled part of the mast. On the decks they pulled nets to protect them from debris. To protect against enemy firefighters, half-submerged boats were moored on both sides. While the French were frantically preparing the city for defense, the Allies held a regular military council on July 17. Shovel insisted on an immediate assault, since, in his opinion, the enemy had not yet recovered his senses, and there was a good chance of success. Yevgeny Savoisky spoke out against, pointing to the need for a proper siege with laying trenches, building batteries and other long-term measures. The British had to obey. A small contingent of marines was landed on the coast to help the army. For their reinforcement, 6 infantry battalions were formed from the crews. Also, the British were built siege batteries of ship guns.

The siege began, as it should, with a massive bombardment. The chances of success at the Toulon operation became less and less - the suddenness factor would disappear, which would obviously be present if the prince’s troops landed from the sea. The Austrian army was gradually reduced from diseases, and the enemy was reinforced. Nevertheless, the Allies were preparing to storm. The British batteries did much destruction in the city, but they never managed to crush a single fort. 22 July was an assault attempt. Two of the nine large land fortifications managed to capture, including the bastion of St. Catherine. However, this did not affect the hardness of the French defense. Toulon shot back and was not going to capitulate. Yevgeny Savoysky was increasingly worried about his extended communications, intelligence became aware that an army was being formed in Toulouse for applying a counterattack.

The following days were spent in a routine exchange of fire - time was clearly working for the French, and hopes for full-scale success were becoming less and less. 29 July at the next meeting of Yevgeny of Savoy was expressed the view that the siege was not successful, and you need to retreat to Italy. Moreover, through diplomatic channels, the envoy Chetvind made it clear: the Austrians will not receive any more financial support. But reinforcements in 10 thousand soldiers received the enemy. Now the number of the garrison reached 30 thousand people and already impressively surpassed the Anglo-Austrian army. Encouraged by the strengthening of their ranks, the 4 of August, the French launched a sally with rather large forces. They managed to repel the bastion of St. Catherine and destroy several siege batteries. The Allies repelled the attacks in all sectors, but Eugene of Savoy now firmly decided to lift the siege. Blocking Toulon from land completely failed, and the arrival of new contingents of troops (according to rumors, some of them were already separated from the Rhine Army) was only a matter of time. Already without being in an enthusiastic state due to the pessimism of the prince and the general development of the situation, Shovel had to do the most important thing for herself and England in the end. The British have been and will be true to this tradition. They will do the same in the same Toulon in the revolutionary 1793 year, in Copenhagen in 1801, in Sevastopol in 1919 and in Mers-el-Kebir in 1940. Shovel decided to destroy the enemy fleet.

The death of the fleet of Levant

Fort St. Louis modern look

Early in the morning of August 5, British ships attempted to break into Toulon’s harbor, but this was very difficult - booms and powerful fortifications covered the entrance. First of all, it was necessary to neutralize the forts of St. Louis and the Grand Temple. For this purpose several bombing ships were allocated. Intensive shelling did not give a tangible result, and then the British tried to resolve the situation from the other side. Between these two forts was an 9-gun coastal battery covering the coast. It was soon put down by fire from the ships of the line, and a small landing force was landed there. Soon the 22 guns were shipped to the coast, which began shelling the inner harbor of Toulon. While the French were assessing the degree of threat and developing countermeasures, the bombing bore fruit, although not on the scale it was intended: three submerged battleships and two frigates suffered serious damage. After which the British evacuated their guns because of the threat of a French attack. As a result, it was not possible to break into the harbor, but the English landing troops nervously patted the nerves. Everything else, as it turned out later, was completed by sea water for them.

The Toulon operation was coming to an end. Finally, having subjected the city to massive bombardment, the army of Yevgeny of Savoy turned the siege and began to retreat. The English fleet was still covering the flank. The Marlborough plan, successful on paper, was stuck, like a heavy wagon in a swamp, in endless organizational red tape, disgusting coordination and frank adventurism of the Austrian commander. Nevertheless, the main result of this very mediocre expedition was the actual death of the entire French fleet of the Levant. Staying in a flooded state for a long time (more than a month) led to the appearance of a wormhole and rot. To bring the ships into serviceable condition urgently needed timbrovka. Immediately after the Allies retreated, ship-raising work began - sailors, shipyard workers and convicts pumped water from the submerged battleships and frigates. By 9 October 1707, all ships were already afloat. However, it was not possible to save the fleet - the complete lack of funding turned out to be much more devastating than the British cores and bombs. Without proper repairs, the heavily flowing combat units of the once powerful Levant fleet drowned one after another. There could be no question of their further restoration - now the magnificent sailing ships were not suitable even for firewood.

As an organized force, the French Mediterranean fleet ceased to exist and could have almost no influence on subsequent events. The naval war turned into colonial waters on ocean communications. The French raiders still troubled the Allied maritime trade, but Louis XIV could not afford the major naval operations. Not having achieved success in secret separate negotiations with England and Austria, the king of France was forced to fight to the end. The fate of the war and the ambitions of the opposing coalitions was to be decided on the fields of Europe. There were still almost 5 years of war ahead, bloodshed near the town of Malplake and the victory of Marshal Villars under Denin, who managed to level France’s catastrophic position to more or less acceptable. The fleet under the banner of gold lilies was in complete decline and was not a participant in the events. Capers and corsairs in the service of His Majesty took upon themselves the main burden of fighting the English and Dutch fleets.
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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 24 February 2016 07: 31
    Thank you Denis ..! Unsuccessfully, allies placed artillery under Toulon wink How to properly install batteries in Toulon, later the young Bonopart showed ..
  2. Cartalon
    Cartalon 24 February 2016 09: 04
    The sea god does not like it when ships become self-propelled, that the French after this story of luck at sea did not see that the Russians after Sevastopol.
    1. xan
      xan 24 February 2016 13: 18
      Quote: Cartalon
      that the Russians after Sevastopol.

      After Sevastopol, the Russians somehow forgot how to land on land, already in the war for the liberation of Bulgaria it was visible. The systemic crisis of power, the wrong people all the time floated to the top.
      1. Cartalon
        Cartalon 24 February 2016 14: 16
        On land, they did not forget how to fight, just production by seniority turned out to be much worse than production by kinship and relations, which were actively practiced in the 18th century
        1. xan
          xan 25 February 2016 14: 19
          Quote: Cartalon
          just production by seniority turned out to be much worse than production by kinship and relations, which were actively practiced in the 18th century

          Yes figs there! The most effective warriors of the PMV Brusilov, Lechitsky, Shcherbachev, Kornilov, Denikin can be said without kinship, without a tribe. Solid populis and ostentatious people above, something was wrong with the royal bureaucracy.
  3. Alex
    Alex 24 February 2016 17: 41
    Denis, reading your stories about episodes of the War of the Spanish Succession, I remember the wonderful film adaptation of "A Glass of Water".

    Thanks again for the interesting story.
  4. sibiryak10
    sibiryak10 25 February 2016 08: 44
    Excellent article! good
  5. Warrior2015
    Warrior2015 14 March 2016 13: 55
    Well what can I say. a brilliant article both in style and in factology. Dear Denis, Brig is your pseudonym or is your real surname

    Quote: xan
    After Sevastopol, the Russians somehow forgot how to land on land, already in the war for the liberation of Bulgaria it was visible. The systemic crisis of power, the wrong people all the time floated to the top.

    No, not only. Actually, the appearance of a rifled quick-fire semi-automatic weapon and a qualitatively different artillery also. And the whole structure of the army was imprisoned for something else, and in general, little has changed in the 1860x reforms. In general, after that, nothing changed until the 1906 year.

    Quote: Cartalon
    just the production of seniority turned out to be much worse than the production of kinship and ties
    A moot point. See above - the development of technology eliminates many other factors.