Quiberon Bay, battle of

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Quiberon Bay, battle of, 1759. This bay lies on the Biscay coast of France between Lorient and Saint-Nazaire. Here, on 20 November 1759, was fought one of the most brilliant engagements in the annals of naval warfare. Britain stood in danger of invasion by France, and by November Sir Edward Hawke had blockaded the fleet of Conflans in Brest since the previous May. When the weather blew Hawke off station, Conflans was able to break out, but early on the 20th Hawke, a little superior in strength, had news that Conflans's 24 ships had entered Quiberon. He risked everything by following the French into this barely known anchorage in fading light and heavy squalls, and did indeed lose two ships through weather, though their crews were saved. But six French ships were destroyed in the ensuing action, and many of the remainder suffered irreparable damage in flight. Hawke considered that ‘all that could possibly be done has been done’, and the French admiringly conceded his achievement.

David Denis Aldridge

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