Second naval battle at Cape Finisterre (1747)

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Second naval battle at Cape Finisterre (1747)
Combat naval bataille cap finisterre octobre 1747.jpg
date October 25, 1747
place 270 nautical miles north of Cape Finisterre
output British victory
Parties to the conflict

Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain Great Britain

France Kingdom 1792France France


Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain Edward Hawke

France Kingdom 1792France Henri des Herbiers

Troop strength
14 ships of the line, 3 frigates (together 7000 men, 950 guns) 9 ships of the line, 1 frigate (altogether 4000 men, 750 guns)

800 dead and wounded

1100 dead and wounded, 2100 men captured

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

The second naval battle at Cape Finisterre in 1747 took place on October 25 as part of the War of the Austrian Succession . The French military escort of a large convoy of merchant ships was defeated by a much stronger English fleet.


Despite the British strength at sea, the French had to maintain the connection to their possessions in America and East India for supply purposes and to maintain communication. The possibilities of the French fleet to protect the convoys, however, were very limited. This had already become apparent in May 1747, when the first sea battle at Cape Finisterre failed to escort convoys past the British to Canada and the East Indies. Instead, all of the military escort ships fell into British hands.


On October 6 of the same year, a convoy of 250 merchant ships left for the West Indies . They were protected by eight French ships of the line and one frigate. The warships were under the command of Henri-François des Herbiers, Marquis de l'Estenduère.

As before the first sea battle, the preparations of the British Admiralty did not go unnoticed. Already on August 20, 1747, a British fleet of fourteen ships of the line and some frigates under the command of Admiral Edward Hawke had set out to intercept the convoy.

The French expected that another British fleet would cross off Cape Finisterre . Therefore, the French commander first allowed the ships to pass through the Bay of Biscay with the aim of getting past the cape as far as possible.

However, the convoy was sighted by British ships, which passed the information on to the fleet. On October 25, the two fleets met about 270 nautical miles north of the cape. The French merchant ships were able to evade with a strong wind . The warships were formed in keel line . Like George Anson, 1st Baron Anson , in the first battle, Hawkes, in view of his own superiority, renounced a battle line and ordered a general hunt for the enemy ships. The British ships attacked the enemy independently at the discretion of their commanders.

The battle lasted seven hours. After that, six French warships were in the hands of the British. Only the flagship and one other ship escaped to Brest. But the British had also suffered heavy losses and numerous ships were damaged. Tracking the merchant ships was not possible.


After Hawke informed the British naval units in the West Indies, more than thirty French merchant ships were arrested in these waters. The rest had escaped. Hawke was awarded the Bath Order after the Battle .

The loss of seafarers in particular severely weakened the French navy. 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.

Individual evidence

  1. Here was used: Gaston Bodart: Military-historical War Lexicon, (1618-1905). Vienna 1908, p. 213.


  • Georg von Alten (Hrsg.): Handbook for Army and Fleet. Vol. 3, Berlin a. a., 1911 p. 729
  • Jeremy Black: European Warfare in a Global Context , 1660-1815. London, 2007 p. 150
  • Jeremy Black: Britain as a military power, 1688-1815 . London, 1999 p. 97