First sea battle at Cape Finisterre (1747)

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First sea battle at Cape Finisterre (1747)
Painting by Samuel Scott around 1750
Painting by Samuel Scott around 1750
date May 14, 1747
place 75 nautical miles northeast of Cape Finisterre
output British victory
Parties to the conflict

Great BritainKingdom of Great Britain (Sea War Flag) Great Britain

FranceKingdom of France (naval flag) France


Great BritainKingdom of Great Britain (Sea War Flag) George Anson

FranceKingdom of France (naval flag) Jacques de Taffanel

Troop strength
15 ships of the line, 2 smaller ships (together 930 guns, 7000 men) 6 ships of the line, 8 frigates (together 524 guns, 3000 men)

600 men dead or wounded

900 men dead or wounded, 1,500 men captured

Figures on strength ratios and losses can differ in the literature.

The first sea ​​battle at Cape Finisterre in 1747 took place on May 14 as part of the War of the Austrian Succession . A superior British fleet defeated a French squadron protecting a convoy and took all warships and a few merchant ships as prizes .


The French had to maintain the connection to their possessions in America and East India despite the British strength at sea for supply purposes and to maintain communication. The possibilities of the French fleet to protect the convoys, however, were very limited.


On May 10, 1747, two groups of military convoys left France. The first consisted of three ships of the line, two frigates and thirty transports. The squadron was under the command of Jacques-Pierre de Taffanel de La Jonquière . Their destination was Canada . The second convoy consisted of two ships of the line and five ships of the French East India Company . The goal was East India.

The plans were known in Great Britain and in mid-April a fleet of fifteen ships of the line had set out to intercept the French ships. The fleet was under the command of George Anson, 1st Baron Anson .

The first visual contact between the two fleets was made about 75 nautical miles northeast of Cape Finisterre . The French commander Jonquière had the warships and the armed ships of the East Indian company form a keel line. The vans should flee.

In view of the superiority of the British ships, Anson decided against a clear order of battle, but ordered a general hunt for the enemy ships. The enemy line was broken and within three hours all French ships were defeated.


The French commander was captured. Five ships of the line and seven frigates were captured. In addition, six vans were made into prizes. The booty was worth £ 300,000.

One more battle took place at Cape Finisterre in October of the same year. Both battles made it clear that the French were no longer able to militarily secure large convoys. This was one of the reasons for the loss of the French colonial empire.

The conquest of the French Invincible had far-reaching consequences for English shipbuilding . With the same number of cannons, it was significantly longer than English ships, so it sailed better, carried heavier calibers and offered more space for operating the guns and supplies. After her capture, she was rebuilt and repaired in British shipyards. They were measured and these blueprints were used for two new buildings of the Valiant Class in 1757. In 1790 two new buildings were launched according to these plans. The iron knees used on the Invincible were exemplary for the Royal Navy. Due to its size, several prints of the ship were published after its conquest. As an example of French shipbuilding, drawings were used in John Charnock's History of Marine Architecture, published in 1801 . The name was given several times in the Royal Navy as a traditional name . The ship, which sank after a storm, was archaeologically examined in 1981–1987.


  • Richard Harding: Seapower and Naval Warfare, 1650-1830. London, 1999 p. 195
  • Jeremy Black: European Warfare in a Global Context, 1660-1815. London, 2007 p. 150
  • Georg von Alten (Hrsg.): Handbook for Army and Fleet. Vol. 3, Berlin a. a., 1911 p. 729
  • Brian Lavery: The Royal Navy first INVINCIBLE 1744-1758. The ship, the wreck, and the recovery. Portsmouth, 1988. ISBN 0-7153-9028-7 .

Individual evidence

  1. Here was used: Gaston Bodart: Military-historical War Lexicon, (1618-1905). Vienna 1908.