June 01, 2005

Glorious First

june first.jpg
HMS Defence at the Battle of the First of June 1794 by Nicholas Pocock

Today is the anniversary of the Glorious First of June, the sea-battle between the Royal Navy and the navy of Revolutionary France off the coast of Ushant in which Admiral Lord Howe (known as "Black Dick") took on a French fleet escorting a grain convoy from America. Here is a description of the events leading up to the battle and of the fighting itself.

Tactically, the battle was a draw - the Royal Navy captured or sank seven French ships with no permanent loss of its own, but the grain convoy made it to France, the British fleet being too heavily pounded to mount an effective pursuit. Strategically, it was a huge psychological victory for the Brits, as simmering fears of a Revolutionary invasion of Britain were quashed. Furthermore, the French never tried to run another grain convoy through the blockade, relying instead on singleton blockade-runners and thus cutting the rate of food import significantly.

UPDATE: Of course, given the way the Brits plan to celebrate the anniversary of Trafalgar, I'm sure that in this year's reenactment of the Glorious First, the two fleets get together, share out the grain, make some popcorn over the galley fires and all sing "Cumbaya", with a midshipman told off to repeat the words in sign language at the break of each ship's quarterdeck.

Posted by Robert at June 1, 2005 01:54 PM

and every sailor will have to hold a "we're sorry" sign.

Posted by: rbj at June 1, 2005 03:46 PM

so sad to think that their finest hour--and it was pretty fine-- is now more than half a century past, perhaps never to recur. peter sellers had it right in that silly movie, 'i'm all right, jack.' i couldn't possibly repeat the first part of that expression, but i'm sure you boys know what it is. you girls too, alas.

Posted by: mom at June 1, 2005 08:19 PM
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