First Battle of Cape Finisterre (1747)

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First Battle of Cape Finisterre
Part of the War of the Austrian Succession

Lord Anson's victory off Cape Finisterre, Samuel Scott
Date14 May 1747
Result British victory
 Great Britain  France[1]
Commanders and leaders
George Anson Pierre Jonquière  Surrendered
14 ships of the line
1 frigate
1 sloop
1 fireship
4 ships of the line
8 frigates
4 corvettes
30 merchant ships
Casualties and losses
520 killed and wounded[2] 800 killed and wounded
3,000 captured
4 ships of the line captured
4 frigates captured
4 corvettes captured
6 merchantmen captured[2]

The First Battle of Cape Finisterre (14 May 1747[3]) was waged during the War of the Austrian Succession. It refers to the attack by 14 British ships of the line under Admiral George Anson against a French 30-ship convoy commanded by Admiral de la Jonquière. The French were attempting to protect their merchant ships by using warships with them. The British captured 4 ships of the line, 2 frigates, and 7 merchantmen, in a five-hour battle in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Finisterre in northwest Spain. One French frigate, one French East India Company warship, and the other merchantmen escaped.



France needed to keep shipping lanes open in order to maintain her overseas empire. To this end she assembled merchantmen into convoys protected by warships. Anson on Prince George and Rear-Admiral Sir Peter Warren on Devonshire had sailed from Plymouth on 9 April to intercept French shipping. When a large convoy was sighted, Anson made the signal to form line of battle. Rear-Admiral Warren, suspecting the enemy to be manoeuvring to promote the escape of the convoy, bore down and communicated his opinion to the admiral; the latter threw out a signal for a general chase.


Centurion under a press of sail, was the first to come up to the rearmost French ship, which she attacked severely, and two other ships dropped astern to her support. The action became general when three more British ships, including Devonshire, came up. The French, though much inferior in numbers, fought till seven in the evening, when all but two of their ships were taken, as well as nine East India merchantmen. The French lost 700 men killed and wounded, and the British 520. Over £300,000 was found on board the ships of war, which were turned into British ships.

François de Grasse, later the famous Comte, was wounded in this first battle. He was taken prisoner among the crew and officers on La Gloire, which was captured.

Panoramic sketch of the battle


Following his victory, Anson was raised to the peerage. The French assembled another, much bigger, convoy which set sail in October. After Edward Hawke's defeat of this fleet in the Second Battle of Cape Finisterre, the French naval operations were ended for the rest of the war.

According to American historian William Williamson's 1832 account, the battle was a

"most severe blow to the French interests in America. Besides immense property taken, there were found on board … numerous articles designed for the Acadians and Indians".[4]

Order of battle[edit]


Vice-Admiral Anson's fleet[5]
Ship Guns Commander Notes
Prince George 90 Vice-Admiral George Anson
Captain John Bentley
Not engaged
Devonshire 66 Rear-Admiral Peter Warren
Captain Temple West
Namur 74 Captain Hon. Edward Boscawen
Monmouth 64 Captain Henry Harrison Not engaged
Prince Frederick 64 Captain Harry Norris Not engaged
Yarmouth 64 Captain Piercy Brett
Princess Louisa 60 Captain Charles Watson Not engaged
Nottingham 60 Captain Philip de Saumarez Not engaged
Defiance 60 Captain Thomas Grenville 
Pembroke 60 Captain Thomas Fincher
Windsor 60 Captain Thomas Hanway
Centurion 50 Captain Peter Denis
Falkland 50 Captain Blumfield Barradall Not engaged
Bristol 50 Captain Hon. William Montagu
Ambuscade 40 Captain John Montagu Not engaged
Falcon 10 Commander Richard Gwynn Not engaged
Vulcan 8 Commander William Pettigrew Fireship, not engaged


Chef d'escadre de la Jonquière's fleet[5]
Ship Guns Commander Notes
Diamant 30 Captain Toussaint Hocquart [fr] Captured
Philibert 30 Captain Jacques Lars de Lescouet French East India Company ship, captured
Vigilant 20 Captain Pierre Bourau de Vauneulon FEIC ship, captured
Chiméne 36 Unknown captain FEIC ship
Rubis 52 Captain Macarty En flute, captured
Jason 50 Captain Beccart Captured
Sérieux 64 Chef d'escadre the Marquis de la Jonquière
Captain Charles-Alexandre Morell d'Aubigny [fr]
Invincible 74 Captain Jacques-François Grout de Saint-Georges [fr] Captured
Apollon 30 Captain Noël FEIC ship, captured
Thétis 22 Captain Masson FEIC ship, captured
Modeste 18 Captain Thiercelin FEIC ship, captured
Gloire 40 Captain de Saliez  Captured
Emeraude 40 Captain Clément de Taffanel de La Jonquière [fr] Not in line of battle
Dartmouth 18 Unknown captain Not in line of battle, captured

See also[edit]


  1. ^
    • "...the standard of France was white, sprinkled with golden fleur de lis..." (Ripley & Dana 1879, p. 250).
    • On the reverse of this plate it says: "Le pavillon royal était véritablement le drapeau national au dix-huitième siecle...Vue du chateau d'arrière d'un vaisseau de guerre de haut rang portant le pavillon royal (blanc, avec les armes de France)" (Vinkhuijzen collection 2011).
    • "The oriflamme and the Chape de St Martin were succeeded at the end of the 16th century, when Henry III., the last of the house of Valois, came to the throne, by the white standard powdered with fleurs-de-lis. This in turn gave place to the famous tricolour"(Chisholm 1911, p. 460).
  2. ^ a b Allen, Joseph (1852). Battles of the British navy, Volume 1. London: Henry G. Bohn. p. 160.
  3. ^ in the Julian calendar then in use in Britain this was 3 May 1747
  4. ^ Williamson, W.D. (1832). The History of the State of Maine: From Its First Discovery, 1602, to the Separation, A. D. 1820, Inclusive. Vol. 2. Glazier, Masters & Company. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b Clowes, William Laird (1898). The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present. Vol. 3. London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company. p. 125.


External links[edit]