The Glorious First of June

It’s been a just over a month since I have posted here, where the time has gone I’m not entirely sure. However, yesterday it was the 1st of June and realising that our regular Friday evening gaming slot fell on this date we thought a it appropriate that we mark the famous naval battle the “Glorious First of June” with a Sails of Glory encounter.

Below, “Lorde Howe’s Action, or The Glorious First of June” by Philip James de Loutherbourg.

Unlike the actual battle our game would involve only a few ships of the line, which of course it in no way came close to representing the battle. Despite that, it provided an entertaining evening with a nautical theme which involved four players.

The British squadron comprised in order HMS Defence, HMS Spaitiate, HMS Bellona and finally HMS Royal George. The first three were Third Rates while the Royal George was of course a First Rate. The French squadron was similar, though a the first ship in the squadron was Argonauta, a Spanish vessel which had recently joined the squadron. She was a late replacement as the one of the French commanders had left his French ships in port (at home). Argonauta was followed by Doguay-Trouin, Le Swiftsure and finally the 118 gun flag Montagne.

Both squadrons held a generally southerly converging course with the wind blowing from the north. The British came from the west and the Franco-Spanish from the east. On these courses the advanced ships of both squadrons would come into range first and only later would the First Rates come into range.

Aware of this the captain of HMS Royal George, William Domett, determined to act and close the range with speed. The Royal George turned first east before she was hauled back onto the general heading. This closed the range but left her further separated from the squadron and somewhat isolated. Soon the HMS Royal George, with 100 guns, was exchanging broadsides with both Le Swiftsure (74 guns) and the Montagne (118 guns). Royal George was heavily damaged in the first exchanges suffering damage to her hull and a fire which was to cause significant damage. Her crews were focussed on pumping, undertaking repairs and of course fighting a raging fire. Her captain therefore ordered her to increase the range and hopefully regain the squadron.

Above, the French on the left and British on the right. The Royal George has begun to close the range but is not yet in range.

Simultaneously the Captain of the Spanish ship Argonauta executed a series of turns in an attempt to cut the British line. The Spanish captain however miscalculated and soon the Argonauta, followed by the Doguay-Trouin, we’re heading directly into the British line. Aboard HMS Defence Captain James Gambier had ordered double shot to be loaded and as the Argonauta came into range she was hit by fire from both HMS Defence and HMS Spartiate.

Above, the Argonauta closes the range while the British ships prepare to fire. Here, the British ships are just out of double shot range. HMS Defence and HMS Spartiate are on the right.

In just a few minutes Argonauta, that once fine Spanish vessel, had suffered the loss of two masts and her crew would be overwhelmed by fires while she took on water below decks due to a hull breach. The Spanish captain’s efforts were not totally fruitless as she would deliver a full broadside into HMS Bellona.

Above, the British unleash their broadsides on the luckless Argonauta. The British ships from the right foreground are HMS Bellona, HMS Spartiate with HMS Defence in the right distance. The Argonauta, in the centre, is followed by Doguay-Trouin.

Captain Gambier now bought his two ships south of the Argonauta and, having reloaded, continued to fire at the Spaniard until she was finally overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, the battle at the rear of the squadrons was reaching a climax. The Royal George had manoeuvred to increase the range but her movements were insufficient. Captain of the Montagne, Rear-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, watched from the bridge as Montagne, Doguay-Trouin and Le Swiftsure delivered broadsides into the Royal George at extreme range.

Above, HMS Royal George is in the right foreground while the French ships are on the left with Montagne on the extreme left and only just in range.

The Royal George was in an impossible position while under fire by three ships. Her crew, who had only just bought the fires under control, watched as two masts crashed down and her remaining sails were riddled with holes. She was dead in the water. If that wasn’t enough another fire broke out. Faced with a disastrous situation HMS Royal George struck her colours.

Yet despite the turn of events the French squadron was itself in trouble. The loss of the Argonauta caused a lack of room to manoeuvre. Le Swiftsure and Montagne reduced sail, having previously increased sail to catch the Royal George, in a desperate attempt to avoid a collision with Doguay-Trouin. Alas it was not to be. As the French squadron attempted to reorganise itself the remaining ships of the British squadron, less the Royal George, broke off the action and fell back to the main fleet.

That is of course where we ended our game. An enjoyable nautical evening and a great way to mark the date of this famous battle.

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2 thoughts on “The Glorious First of June

    1. Well the Spanish more than French. We are repairing HMS Royal George soon to be “Le George”. Paris is comfortable with the Spanish suffering the loss of a third rate and we have a new first rate…

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