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Glorious 1st of June - 1st June 1794

Glorious 1st of June
1st June 1794

Glorious 1st of June, 1st June 1794

The Glorious First of June

Lord Howe, who had been first Lord of the Admiralty for a short time, but had resigned when the Annual Estimates ere cut down in 1790, another difficulty having arisen with Spain, was appointed to the command of the Channel Fleet, and hoisted the Union Jack on the Queen Charlotte. The dispute with Spain, however, was adjusted, but in 1793, when 68 years of age, on the outbreak of war with France, he was reappointed to the command of the channel Fleet.

Ship for ship the French fleet was more than a match for the English fleet both in tonnage and in weight of metal. The French people had the most of unbounded confidence in their Armada. “Never before,” wrote the Moniteur before the fleet set sail, “did there exist in Brest a fleet so formidable and well disposed as that now lying there.

Howe had 26 sail of the line and seven frigates; the French Admiral, Villaret-Joyeuse, who shared his authority with Saint Andre, a Deputy from the Convention, had the same number of ships of the line and five frigates. The French Admiral flew his flag on the Montagne, which also carried the Representative of the convention.

A General Chase

When the French fleet, which was to windward, have come within nine miles of the British, it hauled to the wind on the larboard tack and hove to. Some manoeuvring followed, but at nine o’clock (May 28th) it became evident that the enemy was declining the engagement, so Howe gave the signal for a general chase, the enemy to be engaged as the ships came up with him. The first shot in this long-drawn-out engagement was discharged at half-past-two, when the Russell, the foremost British ship, fired at the hindmost vessel of the French fleet. At six o’clock the Bellerophon, of 74 guns, reached the lee beam of the Revolutionnaire, carrying 120, pluckily attacked her, and stuck to her for over an hour, until she was disabled and had to sheer off. Other ships, singly or in couples, then tried their hands upon the great French ship, and in the end she was reduced to such a defenceless condition that to the last broadside of the Audacious she could only return three shots. Her loss in men was nearly 4--; and it was only with great difficulty that she reached Rochefort in tow of the Audacieux. Her assailants, however, did not come off scathe less, and the Audacious had difficulty in making her way to Plymouth.

The Disabled Ships

The next day (May 29th) Howe’s flagship, bearing the brunt of the fire of the French line, passed through it between the fifth and sixth vessels in the rear, but as she was followed only by the Bellerophon and the and the Leviathan, no advantage could be taken of this change of position. The rest of the English fleet had passed along the enemy’s line, and tackling astern of it were too far distant when they had regained the Charlotte’s wake to give her support. Three of the French ships, which had been disabled, were rescued by the skill of the French Admiral, who bore up with his whole fleet to their support, though in doing so he had to give up the weather-gage to his enemy. “The distant and dispersed state of the British fleet,” according to Howe, prevented any adequate steps being taken to circumvent the rescue of the three disabled ships. The Leviathon had her foremast crippled, and it was in danger of falling, and Howe stood to her help. In his “Journal” Lord Hugh Seymour, her captain, made a handsome acknowledgment of the timely succour.

Nothing decisive either on this or on the two succeeding days owing to fog; but on the morning of June 1st soon after seven o’clock, Howe signalled that he intended to attack the enemy’s centre, and that he should break through the enemy’s lines and engage to leeward; an hour later he ordered each of his ships to steer for the ship opposed to her in the enemy’s line.


HMS Defence at the Battle of the Glorious 1st June 1794 by Nicholas Pocock.

DHM143. HMS Defence at the Battle of the Glorious 1st June 1794 by Nicholas Pocock.

One of the most realistic pictures of a sea battle ever painted, the British ship, the Defence, totally dismasted but refusing to surrender, she is being attacked by a French two-decker on the left and L Achille on the right.

Open edition print.

Image size 30 inches x 18 inches (76cm x 46cm)

Price : £50.00