(29 MAGGIO - 02 GIUGNO 1692)




I Francesi.
L’ammiraglio Anne-Hilarion de Cotentin conte di Tourville (sulla "Soleil Royal") dispone di 44 vascelli, 11 burlotti, 20.900-21.000 uomini e 3.114-3.132 cannoni.

Gli Anglo-Olandesi.
L’ammiraglio Edward Russell guida 84 vascelli di primo rango, numerose navi minori e brulotti, per un totale di 98-99 navi, 42.647 uomini e 7.154 cannoni.
L’avanguardia è tenuta dagli olandesi, il centro e la retroguardia dagli inglesi.

La Battaglia di Barfleur.
Le flotte si avvistano al largo di capo Barfleur, di fronte a capo La Hague sulla penisola di Cotentin in Normandia (ore 4:00 del 29 V, 17 V per il calendario Giuliano utilizzato all’epoca dagli inglesi).
Tourville accetta la battaglia (ore 10:00). I francesi attaccano al centro ed alla retroguardia, mentre all’avanguardia si tengono lontani, con i vascelli distanziati tra loro per allungare il fronte e sopperire all’inferiorità numerica.
Gli anglo-olandesi cercano di avvolgere le ali francesi ma i capo-squadra Nesmond, Coetlogon e Panetié sventano i loro tentativi. Un temporale interrompe i combattimenti, che riprendono alle 17:00.
Gli anglo-olandesi hanno 2 vascelli e numerosi burlotti affondati, molte navi disalberate e con l’oscurità rompono il contatto (ore 22:00). I francesi hanno 1.700 caduti e feriti contro 2.000 caduti e 3.000 feriti degli anglo-olandesi (compresi 2 ammiragli), e reclamano la vittoria.
Le flotte si fronteggiamo a distanza ma quella francese rompe il contatto (ore 24:00).

Il capo-squadra Nesmond, comandande del "Monrque", con i 6 vascelli più danneggianti ripara a La Hougue, dove lascia il "Bourboun" ed il "Saint Louis", rallentati dai danni, con le altre navi circunaviga la Gran Bretagna e torna a Brest.
Tourville, inseguito dagli anglo-olandesi, ostacolato dal vento contrario e dai danni subiti, deve lasciare l’ammiraglia "Soleil Royal" (ha 500 tra caduti e feriti su 973 uomini), trasborda sull’"Ambitieux", quindi con altri 9 vascelli ("Merveilleux", "Foudroyant", "Magnifique", "Tonnant", "Saint-Philippe", "Terrible", "Fort", "Fier" e "Gaillard") ripassa davanti a Barfleur e giunge a St.Vaast La Hougue (sera del 31 V). Gli altri vascelli tagliano per il pericoloso passaggio di Blanchard, tra la punta di Hougue e l’isola di Aldernay, riparando a Saint Malò.
Tre vascelli ("Soleil Royal", "Admirable" e "Triomphant") devono sostare nel porto esposto di Cherburg per riparazioni (1 VI), ma il giorno successivo sono attaccati da 17 vascelli anglo-olandesi con brulotti ed incendiati (2 VI).

L’Attacco a La Hougue.
Gli anglo-olandesi attaccano poi i 12 vascelli nella baia di La Hougue, protetti a terra dal corpo da sbarco franco-irlandese.
Il "Terrible", arenato per errore dall’equipaggio, è incendiato (notte del 2 VI, 22 V secondo il calendario giuliano).
Il giorno seguente (ore 8:00 del 3 VI) gli anglo-olandesi lanciano 200 brulotti ed incendiano 4 vascelli ("Foudroyant", "Magnifique", "Tonnant", "Saint-Philippe") ed 8 bastimenti da trasporto.
Il marchese di Vilette incendia l’"Ambitieux".
Con l’attacco successivo sono incendiati gli ultimi 6 vascelli ("Bourboun", "Saint Louis", "Terrible", "Fort", "Fier" e "Gaillard") e 2 bastimenti da trasporto.

Bilancio della Battaglia.
Gli anglo-olandesi perdono 2 navi, 2.000 caduti e 3.000 feriti. Edward Russell è nominato conte di Oxford.
I francesi perdono in tutto 15 navi e 1.700 tra caduti e feriti.
Gli inglesi chiamano i due scontri battaglia di Barfleur mentre per i francesi sono due scontri distinti, il primo a Barfleur, vittorioso, ed il secondo a La Hougue, dove sono sconfitti. I testi italiani usano principalmente il nome La Hougue, in altri testi è riportata anche come battaglia di La Hague.



King Louis XIV and his naval minister, Pontchartrain, planned to land an army in England and restore James II to the throne. They first planned to launch the invasion in April 1692 before the English and Dutch fleets had got to sea and joined up. Troops were collected at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and the cavalry and guns were to be loaded into transports at Le Havre. Tourville was to bring the French fleet up from Brest and collect the transports and the troops, then fight off the English fleet and land the army in England.

However the French fleet was unable to concentrate in time; D’Estrees and the Toulon fleet were beaten back at the Straits of Gibraltar losing 2 ships in a storm, and Villette Mursay with the Rochefort squadron was delayed. Tourville's Brest fleet was undermanned, and when he sailed, on 29 April(OS), he was forced to leave 20 ships under Chateau-Renault behind. His fleet was further delayed by adverse winds and did not clear Berteaume Roads until 2 May(OS). Tourville entered the Channel with 37 ships of the line, accompanied by 7 fireships, plus frigates, scouts, and transports. He was joined on 15 May(OS) by Villette and the Rochefort squadron, 7 ships of the line and attendant vessels, giving Tourville a combined fleet of 44 ships, plus attendant vessels 70 or 80 sail altogether.

Meanwhile the allied fleet was assembling at St Helens on the Isle of Wight; Delaval arrived off St Helens on 8 May(OS); next day he was joined by Carter, who had been in the western channel guarding a convoy, and delivering troops to Guernsey. The Dutch had despatched a fleet, under Almonde, from Texel in April, which was making its way south Ashby sailed from the Nore on 27 April(OS); .Russell was delayed until 29 April, but gained time by making a risky passage through the Gull channel. He met Almonde at the Downs, and a further Dutch squadron at Dungeness, arriving at St Helens in the second week in May. More detachments joined over the next few days, until 14 May(OS), when Russell had a force of over 80 ships of the line, plus auxiliaries. Thus by 14 May, when the allied fleet was fully assembled, the French strategic aim of acting with a concentrated force while the allies were scattered was already lost.

However Louis XIV had furnished Tourville with strict orders to seek battle, strong or weak (fort au faible) and this he proceeded to do.

Battle of Barfleur

The fleets sighted each other at first light on 29 May (NS)(19 May OS)1692, off Cap Barfleur. On sighting the allied fleet Tourville held a conference with his officers. Their advice, and his own opinion, was against action; however Tourville felt bound by strict orders from the king to engage. He may also have expected some defections by English captains with Jacobite sympathies, though in this he was to be disappointed. In the light south westerly breeze the fleets slowly closed, Russell from the northeast, Tourville, with the weathergage, from the south, on a starboard tack to bring his line of battle into contact with Russells. Both fleets were in three squadrons, each split into three divisions and commanded by a flag officer.

Because of the calm conditions it was not until after 11 am, five hours after first sighting each other, that the two fleets engaged. Tourville had reinforced his centre, the White squadron under his own command, in order to engage Russell's Red squadron with close to equal numbers. Elsewhere, he sought to minimize damage by extending and refusing the van, to avoid them being turned and overwhelmed, while the rear was held back to keep the weathergage. Russell countered by holding fire as long as possible, to allow the French to come closer; Almonde, in the van extended to try and overlap the French line, while Ashby, with the rear and some way off, sought to close and bring his Blue squadron into action. From around 11 am, and for the next few hours, both fleets bombarded each other, causing considerable damage.

The battle continued for the rest of the day and into the night, and was full of incident. At 1pm a change in the wind allowed Shovell to break the French line, and the Dutch to start enveloping the French van; at 4pm a flat calm descended, leaving both fleets in a fog; at 6pm Tourville was able to use the tide to gain a respite, and at 8pm Shovell used the same tide for a fireship attack.

By 10 pm the battle was almost over. Surprisingly, though most ships on both sides were damaged, and some severely, no ships from either battle line were lost. At the turn of the tide, Tourville again took advantage of this to cut cables and be carried down channel on the ebb, away from the scene of battle. Russell also cut when he realized what had happened, to give chase into the night.


On the 30 May(NS)(20 May OS) the French withdrawal was hampered by wind and tide, and the fact that, due to economies by the French Naval Ministry, many of the ships had anchors inadequate to withstand the strong tidal races in the region. There was also the lack of a fortified haven at Cherbourg. Tourville probably tried for too long to save his magnificent flagship, the Soleil Royal, but eventually he realised it was hopeless and switched his command to the Ambitieux, the flagship of Villette Mursay.


First light on the 30 May(20 May OS) saw the French fleet scattered into groups across a wide area. To the north of the battle scene, and heading northward, were Gabaret, and Langeron, with 4 ships altogether. Later that day they skirted the English coast and headed out to the Atlantic. Later they would arrive safely at Brest. To the South, Nesmond, with 6 ships, was heading south-east towards the Normandy coast. 2 of these would be beached at St Vaast la Hougue, while another 2 would later put into Le Havre, where L’Entendu was wrecked at the harbour entrance. Nesmond, with the remaining 2 ships Monarque and Aimable, passed through the Straits of Dover, and led them north-about round the Britain, finally arriving safe at Brest. Heading West was the main body in 3 groups; Villette leading with 15, followed by d’Amfreville with 12, and bringing up the rear, Tourville with 7. During the day the French were able to close up, but Tourville was hampered by his efforts to save his flagship, Soleil Royal, which was in a pitiable condition. Later that day Tourville recognized this and transferred his flag to L’Ambiteux.

In pursuit was Almonde and the Dutch fleet, with the various English divisions scattered behind. Many of these, particularly those of the English Red were hampered by damage, and lagged behind, leaving Almonde and Ashby closed up to the French by the end of the day. Russell was forced to detach 3 ships to return to port for repairs. Later these sighted Gabarets group, but neither engaged. Shovell had to move his flag to Kent due to the damage to his flagship, Royal William, while the damage to Britannia, Russells flagship, caused his division serious delay.

On 31 May(21 May OS) the French fleet was anchored against the tide off Cap de la Hague; the leading contingent, 21 under Pannetier, had rounded the cape and were in the Alderney Race, while the remainder, 13 with Tourville and the other flag officers, were to the east. As the weather deteriorated, these ships began to drag their anchors, and were forced to cut and run before the wind and tide. 3 of the most badly damaged were forced to beach at Cherbourg; the rest, 10 ships, reached St Vaast la Hougue where they too were beached, joining the 2 of Nesmond’s division that were already there. Russell’s and the ships with him, together with some of Ashby’s Blue squadron, also cut to pursue him, while Ashby himself, with Almonde, continued to shadow Pannetiers group. Pannetier, in order to escape the pursuing allied fleet, wished to make the hazardous passage through the Alderney Race; in this he was helped by finding in his crew a local man, Hervé Riel, to act as pilot when his navigators demurred. Almonde and Ashby did not try to follow him and were criticized later by Russell for not doing so, although the only flag officer who knew the waters, Carter, had died of his wounds. Almonde attempted pursuit by taking his squadron west of Alderney, but the delay allowed Pannetier to pull too far ahead, and he abandoned the chase. Pannetier later reached St Malo in safety, while Almonde and Ashby turned east to rejoin Russell at la Hougue.

While Almonde and Ashby pusued Pannetier, Russell was chasing Tourville eastward along the Cotentin coast. Without anchors Tourville was unable to do more than beach his ships, which he was able to do, leaving three at Cherbourg and taking the remaining twelve to St Vaast la Hougue.

Actions at Cherbourg

The Soleil Royal, Admirable, and Triomphant were in such bad shape they had to be beached at Cherbourg. There they were destroyed on the 3 June(NS)(23 May OS) by Delaval attacking from long boats and with fire ships.

Actions at La Hogue

Meanwhile, Russell had turned on the remaining ships These had sought refuge at La Hougue where they would be under the protection of the assembled land forces and a battery. On 3 June and 4 June(NS)(23 and 24 May OS), Rooke and Danby attacked with long boats. By this time the French crews were exhausted and disheartened and were no match. The allies successfully deployed shore parties and fire ships which burnt all twelve French ships of the line which had sought shelter there. This last mopping up action became celebrated in England as the Battle of La Hogue.


The dispersal of the French fleet put paid to the invasion plans, and the Allied victory was commemorated in England by a Fleet Review.

Ships involved