Glorious First of June

Glorious First of JuneThe Glorious First of June, the first fleet action of the Revolutionary War, took place over 3 days in 1794 400 nautical miles (740 km) west of Ushant in the Atlantic Ocean.

The British fleet, under the command of Lord Howe with 25 ships of the line defeated a French fleet of 26 ships under the command of Louis Thomas Villaret de Joyeuse which was protecting a vitally important grain convoy from the United States


The two fleets first sighted each other on 28 May when a squadron of the fastest British ships cut off the rearmost French  vessel Révolutionnaire which was engaged with HMS Audacious as darkness fell. They parted during the night and returned to their respective home ports.

Next day Howe's attempt to split the French fleet in half failed when the lead ship, HMS Caesar, failed to turn when ordered, although both fleets suffered damage in the inconclusive action that followed. Three French ships were sent back to port with damage, but the next day a detached squadron under Admral Nielly joined. The fleets did not engage the next two days because of thick fog. They met again 1 June 1794. Howe ordered each of his ships to turn individually towards the French line, intending to breach it at every point and rake the French ships at both bow and stern however many captains could not break through due to the good order of the French line. This meant that those ships which did break through met the combined fire of many ships and were badly damaged. HMS Defence was the first to break the French line. Within an hour the British and French lines were hopelessly confused, with three separate engagements being fought within sight of one another. Eventually 11 French ships under Villaret in Montagne broke away and formed a new line leaving badly damaged ships of both sides drifting between the two fleets.

After a further brief engagement the two fleets seperated and the French withdrew taking several dismasted ships with them. This led to subsequent condemnation of the British for not capturing more ships although they were badly damaged and the French would most probably have opposed the attempt. Most sources accept that French casualties in the campaign numbered approximately 7,000, including around 3,000 captured, but these figures are vague and frequently do not agree with each other on details. British casualties are easier to confirm but here too there are some discrepancies; overall British casualties are generally given as around 1,200. Whilst the British won the battle, tactically they lost as the grain convoy arrived safely.

Novels based around this battle.

  Ships Guns Captain Ships fate
British Fleet (1st June)
UK Caesar 80  Anthony Molloy  
UK Bellerophon 74 Flag - Rear-Admiral Thomas Pasley 
Cptn. - William Johnstone Hope 
Extensive damage to masts and rigging
UK Leviathan 74 Lord Hugh Seymour  
UK Russell 74 John Willett Payne  
UK Royal Sovereign 100

Flag - Vice-Admiral Thomas Graves
Cptn. - Henry Nicholls

Damage to masts and rigging
UK Marlborough  74 George Cranfield-Berkeley   Totally dismasted
UK Defence 74 James Gambier Totally dismasted
UK Impregnable 98 Flag - Rear-Admiral Benjamin Caldwell
Cptn. - George B. Westcott 
Damage to masts and rigging
UK Tremendous 74 James Pigott  
UK Barfleur 98 Flag - Rear-Admiral George Bowyer
Cptn. - Cuthbert Collingwood 
UK Invincible 74 Thomas Pakenham  
UK Culloden 74 Isaac Schomberg   
UK Gibraltar  80 Thomas Mackenzie   
UK Queen Charlotte 100  Flag - Admiral Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe
Cptn. of the Fleet - Sir Roger Curtis
Cptn. - Sir Andrew Snape Douglas  
 Extensive damage to masts and rigging
UK Brunswick 74 John Harvey (Mortally wounded)
Lt. William Edward Cracraft (Acting)
Lost mizenmast
Extensive damage to other masts and rigging
UK Valiant 74 Thomas Pringle    
UK Orion 74 John Thomas Duckworth Minor damage to masts and rigging
UK Queen  98 Flag - Rear-Admiral Alan Gardner
Cptn. - John Hutt (Mortally wounded)
Lost mainmast
Damage to other masts and rigging
UK Ramillies  74 Henry Harvey  
UK Alfred  74 John Bazeley   
UK Montagu  74 James Montagu (Killed in Action)  
UK Royal George   100 Flag - Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Hood
Cptn. - William Domett
UK Majestic  74  Charles Cotton    
UK Glory  98 John Elphinstone  
UK Thunderer  74  Albemarle Bertie    
French Fleet (1st June)
France Trajan  74 Dumoutier  
France Éole 74 Bertrand Keranguin  
France America 74 Louis L'Héritier UK Captured 
France Téméraire 74 Morel  
France Terrible 110 Flag - Rear-Admiral François-Joseph Bouvet 
Cptn. - Pierre-Jacques Longer
Lost main and mizen masts
France Impétueux 74 Douville (Killed in Action) UK Captured 
France Mucius 74 Larrégny  Totally dismasted
France Tourville 74 Langlois  
France Gasparin 74 Tardy  
France Convention 74 Joseph-Allary  
France  Trente-et-un-Mai  74 Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume Extensive damage to masts and rigging
France Tyrannicide 74 Alain-joseph Dordelin  Extensive damage to masts and rigging
France Juste 80 Blavet UK Captured  
France Montagne 120 Flag - Rear-Admiral Louis Thomas Villaret de Joyeuse
Flag Cptn. - Paul Basire (Killed in Action)
Cptn. - Jean-François Vignot
France Jacobin 80 Jean André Gassin  
France Achille 74 Guillaume-Jean-Nöel La Villegris UK Captured   
France Vengeur du Peuple 74 Jean François Renaudin UK Captured and sunk 
France Patriote 74 Lucadou  
France Northumberland  74 François-Pierre Etienne UK Captured   
France Entreprenant 74 LeFrancq  
France Jemmappes  74 Desmartis Totally dismasted
France Neptune  74 Tiphane  
France Pelletier  74 Berrade   
France Républicain 110 Flag - Rear-Admiral Joseph-Marie Nielly
Cptn. - Pierre-Mandé Lebeau
Totally dismasted
France Sans Pareil 80 Jean-François Courand UK Captured  
France Scipion  80 Huguet Totally dismasted
British Fleet - Also Present
UK Latona 38  Edward Thornbrough    
UK Phaeton 38  William Bentinck  
UK Aquilon 36  Robert Stopford  
UK Niger 36 Captain Arthur Kaye Legge  
UK Southampton 36 Robert Forbes  
UK Venus 36 William Brown  
UK Pegasus 28 Robert Barlow  
UK Kingfisher 18 Thomas Le Marchant Gosseyln  
UK Ranger 16 Lt. Charles Cotgrave  
UK Rattler 16 Lt. John Winne  
UK Comet 14 Cdr. William Bradley Fireship
UK Incendiary 14 Cdr. John Cooke Fireship
UK Charon   George Countess Hospital ship
French Fleet - Also Present
France Tamise 32 Jean-Marthe-Adrien L'Hermite  
France The French fleet was accompanied by approximately 16 frigates, corvettes, brigs and cutters.