The Action of 17 August 1779 was a naval battle between a French and a British squadron in the English Channel on 17 August 1779.
In June 1779, Spain followed France declaring war on Britain and together formed a combined fleet aiming for British Isles' invasion. On 14 August, the fleet was off the Lizard and on 16 August it were off Plymouth with some of the enemy frigates anchored in the Cawsand Bay.
In meantime, HMS Ardent was recommissioned under the command of Captain Phillip Boteler, and sailed from Plymouth on 14 August to join Sir Charles Hardy watching the much superior Franco-Spanish forces in the English Channel. According to the ship's logs, as many as 4⁄5 of the crew were landmen, and neither Boteler nor the captain of HMS Marlborough, in whose company Ardent was sailing, were aware that a French fleet had put to sea. Ardent encountered this fleet two days after sailing, and after receiving the correct replies to the coded signal, both ships ran down to meet them assuming they were British. Instead, the fleet they encountered was French and Spanish, in possession of a Royal Navy signal codebook that permitted the correct response of Ardent's "who are you?" question.
With Ardent within range, the French frigate Junon fired two broadsides before raising her colours. In response, Ardent offered sporadic and inaccurate return fire and after three further French frigates and a Spanish ship of the line, Princesa joined the action, she struck her colours. In the meantime, Marlborough sailed away from the action and escaped back to Britain unscathed.
At his subsequent court martial Captain Boteler blamed his failure to return fire on an inadequate supply of gunpowder for Ardent's cannon, a statement denied by the ship's gunner. Archibald Macintyre provided evidence that there was enough powder for fifty minutes of engagement. The court martial rejected Boteler's appeals, finding instead that the inexperience of the crew was the principal cause of the Ardent's capture, and he was expelled from the Navy for his failure to adequately defend his ship.
Ardent was, nevertheless, recaptured by the British on 14 April 1782 following the Battle of the Saintes and recommissioned that month under Captain Richard Lucas. On 28 August 1783 the ship was renamed Tiger and was sold out of the service in June 1784.
The Battle of Cape St. Vincent was a naval battle that took place off the southern coast of Portugal on 16 January 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. A British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney defeated a Spanish squadron under Don Juan de Lángara. The battle is sometimes referred to as the Moonlight Battle because it was unusual for naval battles in the Age of Sail to take place at night. It was also the first major naval victory for the British over their European enemies in the war and proved the value of copper-sheathing the hulls of warships.
HMS Agamemnon was a 64-gun third-rate ship of the line of the British Royal Navy. She saw service in the American Revolutionary War, French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and fought in many of the major naval battles of those conflicts. She is remembered as being Nelson's favourite ship, and was named after the mythical ancient Greek king Agamemnon, being the first ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name.
HMS Thunderer was a ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built in 1783. It carried 74-guns, being classified as a third rate. During its service it took part in several prominent naval battles of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars; including the Glorious First of June, the Battle of Cape Finisterre and the Battle of Trafalgar.
HMS Speedy was a 14-gun Speedy-class brig of the British Royal Navy. Built during the last years of the American War of Independence, she served with distinction during the French Revolutionary Wars.
Courageux was a 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy, launched in 1753. She was captured by the Royal Navy in 1761 and taken into service as HMS Courageux. In 1778 she joined the Channel Fleet, and she was later part of the squadron commanded by Commodore Charles Fielding that controversially captured a Dutch convoy on 31 December 1779, in what became known as the Affair of Fielding and Bylandt. On 4 January 1781, Courageux recaptured Minerva in a close-range action west of Ushant that lasted more than an hour. That April, Courageux joined the convoy under George Darby which successfully relieved the Great Siege of Gibraltar.
HMS Hannibal was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 15 April 1786, named after the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca. She is best known for having taken part in the Algeciras Campaign, and for having run aground during the First Battle of Algeciras on 5 July 1801, which resulted in her capture. She then served in the French Navy until she was broken up in 1824.
HMS Ardent was a 64-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was built by contract by Hugh Blaydes at Hull according to a design by Sir Thomas Slade, and launched on 13 August 1764 as the first ship of the Ardent-class. She had a somewhat turbulent career, being captured by the French in the action of 17 august 1779, and then re-captured by Britain in 1782.
HMS Swiftsure was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the British Royal Navy. She spent most of her career serving with the British, except for a brief period when she was captured by the French during the Napoleonic Wars in the Action of 24 June 1801. She fought in several of the most famous engagements of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, fighting for the British at the Battle of the Nile, and the French at the Battle of Trafalgar.
HMS Alexander was a 74-gun third-rate of the Royal Navy. She was launched at Deptford Dockyard on 8 October 1778. During her career she was captured by the French, and later recaptured by the British. She fought at the Nile in 1798, and was broken up in 1819. She was named after Alexander the Great.
HMS Cambridge was an 80-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Deptford Dockyard to the draught specified by the 1745 Establishment as amended in 1750, and launched on 21 October 1755.
HMS Donegal was launched in 1794 as Barra, a Téméraire class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy. She was renamed Pégase in October 1795, and Hoche in December 1797. The British Royal Navy captured her at the Battle of Tory Island on 12 October 1798 and recommissioned her as HMS Donegal.
Fénix was an 80-gun ship of the line (navio) of the Spanish Navy, built by Pedro de Torres at Havana in accordance with the system laid down by Antonio Gaztaneta launched in 1749. In 1759, she was sent to bring the new king, Carlos III, from Naples to Barcelona. When Spain entered the American Revolutionary War in June 1779, Fénix set sail for the English Channel where she was to join a Franco-Spanish fleet of more than 60 ships of the line under Lieutenant General Luis de Córdova y Córdova. The Armada of 1779 was an invasion force of 40,000 troops with orders to capture the British naval base at Portsmouth.
HMS Warwick was a 60-gun fourth-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built to the 1719 Establishment at Plymouth by P. Lock. The keel was laid down on 1 April 1730, and the ship was launched on 25 October 1733, and completed on 24 August 1734.
HMS Lowestoffe was a 32-gun fifth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. Built during the latter part of the Seven Years' War, she went on to see action in the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary War, and served often in the Caribbean. A young Horatio Nelson served aboard her shortly after passing his lieutenant's examination.
HMS Romney was a 50-gun fourth rate of the Royal Navy. She served during the American War of Independence, and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in a career that spanned forty years. Five ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Romney. The origins of the name are from the town of New Romney, although it may be that the name entered the Royal Navy in honour of Henry Sydney, 1st Earl of Romney.
HMS Malta was an 80-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She had previously served with the French Navy as the Tonnant-classGuillaume Tell, but was captured in the Mediterranean in 1800 by a British squadron enforcing the blockade of Malta. Having served for less than four years for the French from her completion in July 1796 to her capture in March 1800, she would eventually serve for 40 years for the British.
HMS Adamant was a 50-gun Portland-class fourth rate warship of the British Royal Navy. She served during the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary Wars, and the Napoleonic Wars in a career that spanned thirty years.
HMS Montreal was a 32-gun Niger-class fifth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. She was launched in 1761 and served in the Seven Years' War and the American War of Independence. The French captured her in 1779 and she then served with them under the name Montréal. An Anglo-Spanish force destroyed her during the occupation of Toulon early in the French Revolutionary Wars.
HMS Crescent was a 28-gun Enterprise-class sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. Crescent was launched in 1779. The French captured her in 1781. She was wrecked in 1786.
The Battle of Cape Finisterre was a naval engagement fought off the Northern Spanish Atlantic coast near Cape Finisterre between British and French squadrons during the Seven Years' War. A British force comprising the 74-gun ship of the line HMS Bellona and 36-gun frigate HMS Brilliant was sailing from Lisbon to Britain with a cargo of specie when on 13 August they encountered a French force comprising the 74-gun Courageux and the 32-gun frigates Malicieuse and Hermine. The British ships immediately chased the French squadron, maintaining contact through the night, and on the following morning two separate engagements occurred as Brilliant fought the French frigates and Bellona battled Courageux.