Naval battles the world over fire the imagination of a student of History. Hence many famous battles like the Battle of Trafalgar, Battle of Midway, Battle of Santacruz, Battle of Jutland among others are remembered. However there are some some naval battles, though significant are still not given their due. One such battle was the Battle of Quiberon bay fought between the French fleet and the English navy of the coast of France. This was during the 7 year war between England and France.
Importance of Quiberon Bay
In 1759 the United States was a colony of the English and the Frenchwere keen to establish their hegemony over the new world. The French decided that the best way to settle the matter of supremacy over the New World was by invading England. The French army was confident that could annihilate the English army in a face to face confrontation; hence plans were made for an invasion of England.
The French however needed to establish 'sea superiority' over the English for their land army to cross the English Channel. It was imperative that the French fleet create conditions for the invasion by engaging and defeating the English fleet. It is to be noted the channel at its narrowest is only 22 miles from Calais the French port
The Build up
The commander of the English fleet was Admiral Hawke while the French fleet was commanded by Admiral Conflans. Hawke had a one point plan to destroy the French fleet while the French fleet had a plan of defeating the English fleet and then link up with the French army, which was readied for the assault on England at the mouth of the Loire River. The troopships which were to transport the French army were ready.
The weather during that period turned bad and visibility was greatly reduced. In such conditions the French were confident that they could beat the English. One reason was the fact that the French Commander Admiral Conflans and his staff officers were conversant with the local conditions at the mouth of the Loire which has a succession of islands and treacherous banks and shoals. But Conflans had not counted on the fortitude and dare devilry of the English fleet.
The battle commenced with the English warships guns and cannons opening up. Despite the bad weather the English fleet could close in on the French armada and were able to score direct hits. Some how the French gunners were not accurate and the bad weather compounded matters.
Unmindful of the weather the English navy with guns ablaze neared the French fleet which broke ranks and attempted to scatter away. However Admiral Hawke despite the treacherous shoals and banks began a chase of the French fleet and soon completely destroyed it. The British lost only 2 ships which ran aground in the shallow water. It was a great victory for the English navy and I for one feel it was perhaps greater than Trafalgar (1805).
The battle had ominous repercussions for the French who lost further land in the Americas and England reigned supreme in the American continent till the American war of independence in 1776.