Sea battle on the 13th Prairial

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Sea battle on the 13th Prairial
Battle of June 1, 1794, Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, 1795 The two flagships in action.  On the left the Queen Charlotte, on the right the Montagne.
Battle of June 1, 1794,
Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, 1795
The two flagships in action.
On the left the Queen Charlotte , on the right the Montagne .
date June 1, 1794
place approx. 400 nautical miles west of Ouessant (English: Ushant) in the Atlantic Ocean
output British tactical victory

French strategic victory

Parties to the conflict

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

FranceFrance (national flag of the sea) France


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

FranceFrance (national flag of the sea) Louis de Joyeuse

Troop strength
25 ships of the line 26 ships of the line

287 dead
811 wounded
8 ships damaged

1,500 dead
2,000 wounded
3,000 prisoners
6 ships lost to the British
1 ship sunk
13 ships damaged

The naval battle on the 13th Prairial between the French Revolutionary Fleet and the Royal Navy took place on June 1, 1794. It is also referred to by the British as the " Glorious First of June ". The French called the battle according to the republican calendar , as the battle took place on the 13th day of the month of Prairial (the "meadow month ").


Due to the food shortage in France, the French government bought large quantities of grain in the US. The task of the British “ Channel Fleet ” with 26 ships of the line under Admiral Richard Earl Howe was to intercept and destroy the French convoy with over 100 cargo ships coming from Chesapeake Bay ( North America ). The French admiral Villaret de Joyeuse was to receive the convoy west of Ouessant with his fleet of 26 ships of the line and escort it safely to Brest . On board his flagship was also the naval commissioner of the welfare committee , Jeanbon St. André , who was supposed to enforce the priority of food delivery.


On May 28, there was a battle between the British ships of the line, HMS Bellerophon (74 cannons), HMS Russell (74), HMS Marlborough (74) and HMS Thunderer (74) and the French triplane Revolutionnaire (114). The French ship was so badly damaged that it was sent to its home port.

On May 29, both fleets faced each other in battle line . Howe ordered the break through the French line. However, only a few of his ships were able to obey the order, since the British were in leeward position . Nevertheless, some French ships of the line were severely damaged and the French broke off the fight. The Indomptable (80) had to be towed to Brest.

On May 30th and 31st, fog prevented the fight from continuing. Villaret lured the British ships after them while the convoy passed unseen the scene of the fighting the previous day. The French were able to replace their losses with escort ships. On the evening of May 31st, the two fleets came into view again, but Howe avoided a night battle.

The battle

Order of battle

On the morning of June 1, the two fleets met again in the battle line on a west course. British ships - this time windward - broke the French line. Both fleets suffered heavy losses in bitter hand-to-hand combat. Villaret managed after several hours of duel between his flagship Montagne and Queen Charlotte , Howes' flagship, to evade the battle. He was able to regroup some of his ships and build a battle line again. However, eight French ships of the line were cut off from the majority and had to delete the flag. The French were later able to recapture one of them. The Vengeur du Peuple was so badly damaged after a four-hour battle with the Brunswick that she finally sank. In the early afternoon Villaret finally broke off the fight and withdrew to Brest. He had to tow some de-masted ships. Eight British ships were badly damaged, of which the Marlborough and the Defense were dismasted, which is why Howe refrained from pursuing the French. It took him several days to secure the captured ships.

On board the Tremendous , Mrs. Daniel Mackenzie gave birth to a boy, Daniel Tremendous Mackenzie, who was later awarded the Naval General Service Medal, in recognition of his presence during the battle (classified as "Baby").


With six ships of the line captured, Howe could claim tactical victory in battle; strategically, the French were able to achieve their goal of getting the grain transport through the blockade.

In the course of the battle it became clear that the fleet of revolutionary France, weakened by the purges in the officer corps and the disloyal attitude of the remaining mostly noble officers towards the new government, was inferior to the British fleet tactically and in terms of training.


Place of battle
Course of the battle


  • Helmut Pemsel : World history of seafaring. Volume 6: Command of the Sea. Part 2: Maritime Wars and Maritime Politics from 1650 to 1914. Koehler, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-7822-0838-2 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Naval Battle of the Glorious June 1, 1794