The Battle of Basque Roads took place on the night of 11 April 1809 off the coast of France.
The Royal Navy, under the command of Admiral Lord Gambier, drove ashore the French fleet under the command of Vice-Admiral Zacharie Allemand.
The Battle of the Basque Roads was fought off the Island of Aix, on the Biscay shore of France. Captain Thomas Cochrane led a British force of 27 ships, including explosion vessels and fireships, in an attack against the French fleet anchored in the Basque Roads in two lines and protected by a boom. The explosion vessels destroyed the boom however only 4 of the fireships tried to engage and Cochrane believed the French fleet should have been completely destroyed.
Whilst the fireships missed their target they still inflicted considerable indirect damage as when the French sighted them taking flame several miles away, they believed they were seeing more explosion-vessels at much closer range. Attempting to escape most of the ships either cut their anchor cables and drifted or hoisted sail, but all but 2 drove ashore.
Throughout the morning of 12 April, Cochrane signalled Lord Gambier to attack the paralyzed French squadron. (Gambier was 14 miles offshore with the blockading fleet; Cochrane had one frigate under his command.) Finally, in desperation, at 13:00 Cochrane allowed his ship to drift toward shore, coming under fire of the land-based fortifications, trying to compel Gambier to send ships to aid Cochrane's frigate. The strategy worked; at 13:30, seven British ships came in, and Cochrane spent the rest of the day capturing and destroying French ships.
Much to Cochrane's displeasure, on 13 April, the other ships returned to Lord Gambier's position offshore, and Cochrane ignored repeated orders from Gambier to also disengage. Cochrane instead destroyed more French vessels before finally obeying Gambier's signals, and the battle ended.
Cochrane accused the British commanding officer, Admiral James Gambier, of being reluctant to press the attack. Gambier demanded a court-martial, and was duly exonerated which ended Cochrane's Naval career during the war.
British Fleet - Cochrane's Squadron
Impérieuse (38) Lord Thomas Cochrane
Aigle (36) George Wolfe
Pallas (32) George Francis Seymour
Unicorn (32) Lucius Hardyman
Redpole (10) John Joyce
Lyra (10) William Bevians
Ætna (Bomb) Lt. William Godfrey, NW of Isle d'Aix
Indefatigable (44) John Treymayne Rodd, Covering Ætna
Foxhound (18) Pitt Barnaby Greene, Covering Ætna
Emerald (36) Frederick Lewis Maitland, Diversion force
Beagle (18) Francis Newcombe, Diversion force
Dotterel (18) Anthony Abdy, Diversion force
Conflict (12) Lt. Joseph B. Batt, Diversion force
Growler (12) Lt. Richard Crossman, Diversion force
Whiting (Rocket) Lt. Henry Wildey, Near the Boyart shoal
Nimrod (Rocket) Mstrs. Mate Edward Tapley, Near the Boyart shoal
King George (Rocket) Mstrs. Mate Thomas Makeet, Near the Boyart shoal
Mediator (Flute) James Wooldridge, Used as Fireship
Fireships and 3 Explosion vessels
British Fleet - Gambiers offshore fleet
Caledonia (120) Flag - Admiral Lord James Gambier, Cptn. of the Fleet - Sir Harry Neale, Cptn. - William Bedford
Caesar (80) Flag - Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Stopford, Cptn. Charles Richardson
Gibraltar (80) Henry Lidgbird Ball
Hero(74) James Newman
Donegal (74) Pulteney Malcolm
Resolution (74) George Burlton
Theseus (74) John Poer Beresford
Valiant (74) John Bligh
Illustrious (74) William Robert Broughton
Bellona (74) Stair Douglas
Revenge (74) Alexander Robert Ken
British Fleet - Also Present
Thunder (Bomb) James Caulfield
Insolent (14) Lt. John Row Morris
Encounter (12) Lt. James Hugh Talbot
Contest (12) Lt. John Gregory
Fervent (12) Lt. John Edward Hare
3 Congreve Rocket barges
French Fleet - First Defensive Line
Pallas (46) ?, Grounded off fort of Barques
Hortense (46) ?, Grounded Fontenelles
Indienne (46) Cptn. Guillaume-Marcelin Proteau, Grounded off Pointe Aiguille - Set on fire by crew & exploded
French Fleet - Second Defensive Line
Calcutta (54) Cptn. Jean-Baptiste Lafon (Shot by Firing Squad), Grounded Palles - Set on fire & exploded
Cassard (74) ?
Régulus (74) Cptn. Lucas, Grounded Charenton
Océan (118) Flag - Vice-Admiral Zacharie Allemand, Cptn. - ?, Grounded Aix Road
Ville de Varsovie (80) ?, Grounded Charenton - Burnt
Foudroyant (80) ?
French Fleet - Third Defensive Line
Elbe (46) ?, Grounded Fontenelles
Tourville (74) Cptn. Charles-Nicolas Lacaille (Imprisoned), Grounded off Isle Madame
Aquilon (74) Cptn. Maingan (Killed in Action), Grounded Charenton - Burnt
Jemmapes (80) ?, Grounded Charenton
Patriote (74) ?, Grounded off Isle Madame
Tonnerre (74) Clément de la Roncière, Grounded Pontra -Set on fire by crew & exploded
French Fleet - Also Present
Other smaller ships