In November 1759, in the fourth year of the Seven Years’ War—called the French and Indian War in North America—British and French ships-of-the-line clashed, firing broadsides among the small islands, rocks, and shoals of Quiberon Bay off the coast of southern Brittany. In a raging gale and a place too tight for tactical maneuvers, the ships and men fought it out in what was more free-for-all than classic naval battle. When the firing stopped—and the fires had burned out—nine of the fighting ships and the lives of 3,700 men had been lost. But history had been made.
Naval historian Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote in 1890 that the Battle of Quiberon Bay was the Trafalgar of the Seven Years’ War. The British Navy would call it “one of the finest victories in the annals of the Royal Navy.”1 The battle destroyed French naval power for a generation, confirmed British command of the seas, and saved Britain from invasion.
It also sealed the fate of North America.
1. Royal Navy, “The Battle of Quiberon Bay,” www.royalnavy.mod.uk.
2. Julian S. Corbett, England in the Seven Years’ War, vol. 2 (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907), 4.
3. Fred Anderson, Crucible of War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000), 381.
4. “Hubert de Brienne,” Everyone’s Encyclopedia, everipedia.org/wiki/Hubert_de_Brienne/.
5. Anderson, Crucible of War, 381.
6. CAPT A. T. Mahan, USN (Ret.), “Edward Hawke: The First Great Name in British Naval Annals,” www.history1700s.com/index.php/articles/8-biography/830-edward-hawke-biography.html.
7. J. O. Thorne and T. C. Collocott, eds., Chambers Biographical Dictionary (London: W & R Chambers Ltd., 1984), 64.
8. Corbett, England in the Seven Years’ War, 27.
9. Anderson, Crucible of War, 381.
10. CAPT A. T. Mahan, USN (Ret.), The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783, Project Gutenberg e-Book #13529 (1890).
11. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History.
12. Mahan, 301–2.
13. Mahan, 302.
14. Mahan, 303.
15. Anderson, Crucible of War, 382
16. Geoffrey Marcus, Quiberon Bay: The Campaign in Home Waters, 1759 (London: Hollis & Carter, 1960), 152.
17. Marcus, Quiberon Bay, 149–53.
18. Marcus, 149–53.
19. Anderson, Crucible of War, 382.
20. Marcus, Quiberon Bay, 153.
21. Marcus, 153–56.
22. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 303.
23. Marcus, Quiberon Bay, 161.
24. Marcus, 161.
25. Anderson, Crucible of War, 383.
26. Cecil King, H.M.S.: His Majesty’s Ships and Their Forbears (London & New York: The Studio Publications, 1940), 132.