The capture of the 'Alcide' and 'Lys', 8 June 1755
On the belief that the French were preparing to build up their military presence in America, in April 1755 an English naval squadron was despatched to America. The aim was to catch the French fleet in a net of British war ships. In charge was Admiral Boscawen who, having received his orders, got his fleet of fourteen ships underway, followed soon afterwards by seven more ships under Admiral Holbourne. By the end of May, 1755, a British war fleet was cruising between the southern coast of Newfoundland and the northern coast of Cape Breton. At the same time, after a considerable delay the French fleet left Brest on May 3rd, 1755. Aboard were 3,000 troops, with Admiral de la Motte in charge of the French fleet which had been dispatched with provisions for the French colonies in North America.
In foggy conditions off the Newfoundland Banks, four French warships of de la Motte's fleet became separated from their fleet and were sighted on 6 June and chased. They played hide and seek in the fog until two of them were brought to action and taken. A third that had been sighted and chased and escaped in the fog. Even though war was not officially declared, Boscawen had been ordered to attack any French squadron he met. The French 'Alcide' and 'Lys' were captured which resulted in the first shots of the Seven Years War, 1756-1763.
In the foreground of this contemporary painting, the 'Defiance', commanded by Captain Thomas Andrews is firing into the French warship the 'Lys', which is not replying. Between the two ships in the background can be seen the 'Dunkirk'' commanded by Captain the Hon. Richard Howe and the 'Alcide' commanded by Captain de Hocquart. On the left an English merchantman is shown coming towards the viewer.
- Image reference: BHC0376
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
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