The Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 8

The Battles of Cape Finisterre, 1747 Anthony Bruce In August 1746 Vice Admiral George Anson (1697–1762), the circumnavigator and Admiralty Lord, took command of the new Western Squadron, which had been created in response to the threat of a French invasion and the need to improve the navy’s performance. War between the two countries had been declared shortly after Britain’s failure at the Battle of Toulon in 1744, which led to the dismissal of Admiral Thomas Matthews, head of the Mediterranean Fleet. British naval operations against France (and Spain) formed part of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), the wider European conflict between Prussia and Austria and their respective allies. The Western Squadron was formed by combining the navy’s previously dispersed forces in home waters and would soon form the core of Britain’s future naval strategy.1 Its principal role was to cruise off the Western Approaches (the area to the west of the English Channel) for as long as possible, with several objectives in mind. These included the protection of British merchant shipping, providing a defence against invasion and monitoring the movements of the French fleet at its main bases on the Atlantic coast – Brest, Lorient and Rochefort – with the aim of intercepting convoy departures, as well as fleets returning from overseas. This article examines the Western Squadron’s two victories over the French, both off Cape Finisterre; the first led by Anson and the second by Rear Admiral Edward Hawke (1710–1781). 10 George, Lord Anson, commander of the Western Squadron, 1746/7. Stipple engraving by Ridley, after Joshua Reynolds. Published in Naval Chronicle, vol 8 (1802) by J Gold, London. (Naval History and Heritage Command,Washington, DC, NH 65992)