The Battle of the Saintes 12th April 1782 Thursday, Dec 3 2009 

Sea motive

Sea motive

I – 1781

At Yorktown, British pride was seen to fall,
The World Turn’d Upside Down was heard by all,
French ships besieged the Britons till they fell,
Ad’mril de Grasse’s men had tales to tell,
American and French cries heard o’er land,
Their armies fought together hand by hand,
At anchor, the French fleet in Ches’peake Bay,
New orders see them sail upon their way,
Intrigues out on the Carribean sea,
A fleet of thirty five for King Louis.


de Grasse in early November set sail,
By months end he had crossed the oceans veil,
But plans against the isle of Barbados,
By strong trade winds were lost, all turn to dust,
Instead a new plan based upon St. Kitts,
Was hatched to make England’s fair isle submit,
In anchor, off the port of BasseTerre,
Six hundred British men saw in dispair,
Ten times as many Frenchmen come ashore,
A siege begins; the tightening grip of war.


But Ad’mril Hood of Royal Naval fame,
Got wind of the foul Gallic plan to shame,
Sailed from Barbados with a fleet of ships,
In battles blast the French he hopes to whip,
He could by stealth sneak in a sleeping bay,
Attack a few trapped ships along the way,
Asleep at rest and anchor in BasseTerre,
A plan ennobled! Those who care to dare,
Must risk their all if Victory’s smile they wish,
And hear the sounds of captur’d flags swish.

IV – 1782

Jan’ry twenty fifth sees England back at sea,
For the port of St Kitts, Hood wants to free,
Breath of Subsolanus! Guide on the ships,
And let them close the range to blows and grips,
Collision delays Ad’mril Hood’s plan,
Alerting the French to the schemes of man,
de Grasse alarmed sets sail with his fleet,
Southwards heading the Venti’s whims to beat,
Hood turned about and headed back the same,
Ships weave and tack in Ad’mrils deadly game.


Next noon, the hills of Nevis were covered,
As onlookers watched the fleets maneuver,
Hood tacked to starboard and towards St Kitts,
Which threw the French, and de Grasse on his wits,
The French turned round and began to pursue,
The English fleet ahead, their sails in view,
By two, the English fleet began to anchor,
French hearts were in a rage filled with rancor,
A French port now regained by England’s men!
Whose sailors now sigh and mutter, ‘Amen’.


The rage of de Grasse ensures battle new,
Next morn as the French sailed along and through,
But exchange of cannon fire will not shift,
The English oak stood firm, returned short shrift,
Pluton led the van and soon was shattered,
Her decks destroyed, sails rent and were tattered,
France turned away and back out to the sea,
The isle now had new owners for the quay,
Audacity! Call out aloud Hood’s name,
The capture of this port adds to your fame!


Britain stirs and returns back out to sea,
Our other famed Ad’mril called Rodney,
By Feb’ry nineteenth he reached Barbados,
A fleet of a dozen o’er Atlantic’s cross,
By Feb’ry twenty fifth, the two fleets do join,
Rodney and Hood, thirty four ships o’er line,
de Grasse pursued, anchored in Fort Royal,
Martinique’s safe harbour for Frenchmen loyal,
The quarry scented and chased into his lair,
The British wait for France and Spain to dare.


One hundred and fifty miles south to north,
Would see sailors artful maneuvers spring forth,
Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe,
A battle to be fought in this Carrib group,
France and Spain now made plans for Jamaica,
‘To redraw the lines of the map maker’.
At Cap Français, with fifty ships of the line,
Twenty thousand troops would cross the deep brine,
Rodney’s fair command: ‘This plan to dispel,
And to break France and Spain, their aims to quell’.


April eighth France once more sets out to sea,
With ships o’er the line numbered thirty three,
Convoy of one hundred and fifty sail,
With which to land across the oceans veil,
An invasion Fleet! The moment comes near,
For failure or success, cries or good cheer,
England at sea numbered but thirty six,
With these ships they hope to end the French tricks,
‘Twixt isles Dominica and Guadelope,
Near Îles des Saintes lay the next battle group.


April ninth finds fleets becalmed on the sea,
Waiting for the breezes from the Venti,
Which issued forth gently from Volturnus,
Enough winds for sails to fill with the gusts,
Fleets begin to head slowly towards each other,
de Grasse made his convoy head out for cover,
And sent his van out to attack England,
Some nine ships o’er line who made the stand,
Rodney’s ships tacked to join in the battle,
Causing the French ships to turn and scuttle.


April twelfth sees final battle begin,
As the two fleets sail, one will know chagrin,
France sails from compass points north to the south,
Expecting blasts of fire from cannons mouth,
From England’s ships who before blazing forth,
Sail from the compass points south-west to north,
Volturnus breath keeps sails upon their course,
The Venti’s breeze, the ships sole motion source,
Thus a line of battle is to be joined,
Prize money to be won as ships purloined.


The race of two fleets on opposite tack,
The loser may find themselves on the rack,
As gain of weather gauge in age of sail,
Gives possessor first choice in deadly hail,
France wins but overshoots the English van,
Marl’boro fires first on sixth ship as best can,
Le Brave’s seventy four cannons soon make reply,
White smoke pours out each ship to fill the sky,
England sails close towards the enemy’s lee,
Sailors whisper ‘God! make their shot miss me’.


Line of sail diverge past their meeting point,
French van tack south west, continues fleets join,
Ships slide past by and fire with full fury,
The sailors lot, the cannons killing spree,
Thus English rear feels full fury and might,
And enters the fray, the hard battle’s fight,
But breath of Auster! Venti’s change of fan,
The French ships on south tack must change their plan,
Creates a gap, a hole in line of sail,
Which Rodney finds, and tears back the battle’s veil.


Luffing to the wind, Rodney breaks French line,
HMS Formidable and five more behind,
Interval abreast, the whole English rear,
Soon follow where their Admiral did dare,
The French line caught, England now punctured thrice,
Gift of Fortuna Belli’s roll of dice,
France forced off to leeward in deep disarray,
Their van soon scattered and no more did stay,
So duel for French ships now became the norm,
As each fights for its life through cannon’s storm.


de Grasse in his flagship, crowded by nine,
Strikes Ville de Paris colours o’er the brine,
HMS Barfleur, Hood’s flagship takes the fame,
De Grasse offered his sword, the Ad’mril’s shame,
Ardent, Glorieux, Hector soon followed suit,
César blew up; a sad final salute,
Thus four ships captured, an Ad’mril as well,
Rodney’s fame and fortune made; tales to tell,
His dogged tenacity in pursuit,
Showered forth prize money, Vict’ry’s fair loot.


Yorktown’s loss caused Britain troubles and woes,
The white flag, an army succumb’d to blows,
But soon the tales returned to daring do,
And once again the nation hoped anew,
At Westminster the cries were heard with glee,
‘Our Navy triumphed once again at sea!’
Judged in the balance, tumults twists and turns,
Loss and Victory, wars gamble sometimes earns,
Good Christians know pride comes before the fall,
Fortuna Belli’s whims confounds us all.


The full poem is available as a powerpoint slideshow file here (3.5 MB file!).





Sea motive


The Battle of Vélez-Málaga Redux Monday, Oct 20 2008 

Sea motive

Sea motive

The Battle of Vélez-Málaga was the largest naval battle in the War of the Spanish Succession.

It took place on 24 August 1704 south of Málaga, Spain, in an action between an Anglo-Dutch fleet,



which intercepted a Franco-Spanish fleet.



Both fleets had about 50 ships; mostly third rate ships of the line, with a few extra fire-ships and galleys employed, due to the mild weather. The battle itself was bloody, with about 5,000 casualties overall, but no ships were sunk on either side. Both combatants adhered to fighting by line of battle, which offered benefits from mutual support of fire by neighbouring ships, at the restriction of freedom of movement for the fleet. An engraving of the battle gives an impression of the action.

The Franco-Spanish fleet failed to defeat their rivals, and could not retake Gibraltar from the British. Thus, a tactical stalemate turned into an Grand Alliance strategic victory, with long ranging consequences.

Maurepas, a naval minister of Louis XV, once dismissed naval warfare thus: “I don’t think much of these naval combats. C’est piff poff on one side and the other, and leaves the sea as salty as before”. But it’s a deadly piff poff when you’re in the thick of it, as we shall shortly see.

This simulation uses 12 ships per side (i.e. approximately 1/4 ship in original battle), with an Anglo-Dutch fleet intercepting a Franco-Spanish fleet, using simple wargame rules. The names of the ships and the squadrons used for both fleets are found in the velez-malaga-damage-sheets. The weather gauge lies firmly with the Grand Alliance, with the wind blowing from the west, courtesy of the Venti Favonius, at a moderate strength, supporting the approach of the Anglo-Dutch Fleet. During the battle, the wind direction can alter via successive die rolls as explained in the rules. The Franco-Spanish fleet are initially unable to sail directly into wind to head off the Anglo-Dutch, and so wait for their arrival.

The Franco-Spanish fleet have to double round the Anglo-Dutch Fleet, cross their ‘T’ and inflict more damage than they receive, provided the winds change direction. The Anglo-Dutch fleet have to prevent this fleet manoeuver, and in turn inflict more damage than they receive. This will stop an attempted relief of Gibraltar, which lies to the west, by the Franco-Spanish fleet. The English vanguard, under the command of Vice Admiral Sir John Leake in HMS Prince George closes down on the French line, waiting to come into range for combat to commence. Les Vaisseuls de la Marine Royal are ready.

The French vanguard, led by Vice Amiral de Villette Mursay in the ship Fier, steers slightly to port, bringing his ship in extreme range of the British vanguard.

Alas, the broadside causes no significant damage!

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 0 Franco-Spanish = 0

The weather now becomes fresher; still blown by Favonius, the west wind.

Fortuna Belli now frowns on Fier. The broadside from HMS Prince George takes out two of her port gun decks, and with a double six being thrown, Vice Amiral de Villette Mursay sees his ship catch fire. HMS Norfolk‘s broadside, destroys the remaining gun deck on the port side. Fier cannot retaliate, and must send all hands to put the fire out, otherwise it will shortly explode.

Fier fails to throw a 5,6, and so the fire continues to grow towards the ship’s magazine. Vice Amiral de Villette Mursay has no option but to steer his ship hard to starboard, away from the main fleet, in case the Fates dictate his ship explodes, and spreads further havoc in a chain reaction. Sérieux is now the flag of the French vanguard, under the command of Captain Chamelin. Its first broadside exacts some revenge against HMS Prince George, which loses a starboard gun deck. The Foudroyant‘s first broadside fails to make any damage on HMS Norfolk.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 1 Franco-Spanish = 3

The weather gauge remains the same for the next move.

Broadsides from HMS Prince George fail to result in any damage to Sérieux, but shots to the sails from HMS Norfolk and HMS Barfleur bring down the mainsail and mizzen masts of Foudroyant.

Alas, the unhappy blue squadron, vanguard of the French fleet! Fier fails to throw a 6 to put the raging fires out, Fortuna Belli whispers to Morta it is time, and so the flames reach the ship’s magazine and she explodes. Admiral de Villette Mursay and his crew are lost, and all of France will grieve when they hear the news. The loss of rigging from Foudroyant, encourages her to steer to starboard towards the doomed Fier, and out of the line of battle to help save survivors. Before she turns, her broadside damages HMS Norfolk, and the Sage inflicts even more damage on HMS Barfleur. Revenge begins for the French after the loss of their brave Amiral and his crew.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 3 Franco-Spanish = 14

The Venti Favonius runs out of breath, and his companion, Afer Ventus, takes over as the wind swings to the south west, still at the same moderate strength.

The English vanguard pass Sérieux, and further shots to her sails bring down her fore-mast. The main mast to Sage is also brought down by shots from HMS Swiftsure. The English red squadon comprising the centre of the fleet is now fully deployed.

Sérieux now replies in kind against HMS Norfolk, which loses another starboard gundeck. Sage and Tonnant, the flagship of Amiral de France de Toulouse, also fire and damages HMS Royal Sovereign, destroying a gundeck.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 6 Franco-Spanish = 17

Afer Ventus continues to blow from the south west, still at the same moderate strength.

HMS Prince George senses her moment and decides to commit the vanguard to double round the French and cross their T. Sérieux is now crossed by fire from both the leading English ships, but their gunnery is less than their resolve, so all they bring down is the main mast. Fortuna Belli now frowns on the Englis, as broadsides ripple down the fleet as far as HMS Monmouth, causing no damage to the French. Meanwhile the Dutch rear guard, headed by Graaf van Albemarle has now arrived.

Sérieux swings round to starboard to follow the English vanguard, and she brings down the fore-mast on HMS Prince George. Fortuna Belli smiles on the broadside reply from the French, as ships fromTonnant to La Sirene fire and their shots slam into the English fleet. Admiral Sir George Rooke on HMS Royal Katherine watches helplessly as she loses all gundecks on her starboard side, and, woe to thee, O ship! – catches fire. Will she go the same way as Le Fier?

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 14 Franco-Spanish = 18

Afer Ventus continues to blow from the south west, still at the same moderate strength and so the weather gauge remains the same for the next move.

HMS Prince George, HMS Norfolk and HMS Barfleur now ring Sérieux and rake her with broadsides, destroying her remaining gundecks on the port side. She now cannot return fire back on the English. O happy ship! O happy Admiral! HMS Royal Katherine manages to put out the fires and she resumes her position as flagship to the red Squadron, the English Centre. HMS Monmouth and HMS Kent fire broadsides against their opposite numbers in the French line of battle, and Esperance and La Sirene are damaged. The Dutch Rear now appears in strength, with Graaf van Albemarle leading, Gelderland next in line. They will soon be in battle.

Sérieux begins her retreat, but must be careful in not blocking the fire of the fast approaching French line of battle led by Sage, which is just out of range of the English. The French red squadron’s Sirene and Solide fire on the English, damaging HMS Monmouth and HMS Kent.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 16 Franco-Spanish = 21.

The Venti Afer Ventus runs out of breath, and his companion, Auster, takes over as the wind swings to the south, still at the same moderate strength. The weather gauge is now neutral, favouring neither fleet.

Alas, unhappy ship! Sérieux is now reduced to a prize waiting to be captured, as further broadsides from HMS Norfolk and HMS Barfleur bring down the last of her rigging and rake her stern, destroying much of her starboard guns. HMS Prince George fails to hit Sage. HMS Kent and HMS Essex fire broadsides, damaging both the Sirene and Solide.

Sage fires a broadside beloved by Fortuna Belli and brings down the rigging on HMS Prince George, which will hamper the English vanguard. Solide and El Torro fire their broadsides. The Spanish shot is especially effective; in their delight, they see HMS Essex catch fire. Will she escape like HMS Royal Katherine did, or go the way of Fier, whose survivors are being rescued by Foudroyant?

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 20 Franco-Spanish = 26.

Auster continues to blow from the south, but at increased strength.

Broadsides from HMS Prince George and HMS Norfolk bring down the mizzen mast of Sage. HMS Essex manages to get her fires under control and then puts them out, thanks to the crew, Captain Hubbard and Fortuna Belli. Broadsides from HMS Kent to Graaf van Albemarle inflict further damage on their opposite numbers in the line of battle, with El Torro receiving a hit. Lieutenant-Admiral Gerard Callenburgh, in command of the rear on Graaf van Albemarle is delighted at the progress of the Dutch ships for they are ready to join battle.

Broadsides from Sage and Tonnant bring down the two leadings masts of HMS Norfolk, and for once the French fleet edges ahead of the Anglo-Dutch line of battle. Solide and El Torro fire in reply which hits Graaf van Albemarle.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 23 Franco-Spanish = 29.

Auster now gives way to Subsolanus, blowing from the south-east, at increased strength. The weather gauge has now swung round in favour of the Franco-Spanish fleet. At this wind strength, seamanship will be sorely tested.

HMS Prince George manages to rig up a temporary sail and gets underway in strong seas. HMS Norfolk fires into Sage, damaging her. A broadside from HMS Swiftsure damages Tonnant. The Dutch now fire a broadside from Graaf van Albemarle to Dordrecht, against the Spanish, causing damage down their line of battle from El Torro to Santo Domingo.

Sage closes down onto HMS Norfolk and boards her. Despite gallant resistance from her depleted crew, HMS Norfolk conceeds and strikes her colours. The French have a new ship for their fleet if they can extract her from the mêlée and their tales will be retold many times! A small crew from the Sage transfers to Le Norfolk to begin the task. The French red squadron, Tonnant, Esperance and Sirene all fire broadsides as the ships pass the duel at the head of the line. The damage inflicted is light, as is that from El Toro, Santo Domingo and Sacra Familia against the Dutch.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 32 Franco-Spanish = 35.

Subsolanus, blowing from the south-east, now blows at maximum strength. The Fates have turned the battle into one against the wind and waves, as much as ship against ship and so firing efficiency falls together with an inability to board another ship until the wind drops. The weather gauge still remains in favour of the Franco-Spanish fleet. Can they exploit it?

With the wind still at maximum strength, the Anglo-Dutch fleet moves to head off the Franco-Spanish fleet, preventing them in their primary task of sailing off the combat area to the west, which would allow the recapture of Gilbraltar. As the English ships of the blue squadron sail on, they fire broadsides towards Tonnant. However, in the high seas these inflict only minor damage. The Dutch also have limited success against the Spanish ships further down the line of battle. Graaf van Albemarle to Nijmegen all fire and lightly damage the Santo Domingo. More success is gained against the badly damaged Sérieux. Shots from HMS Monmouth to HMS Kent damage her further, and in these high seas, she is on the point of sinking.

Alas, Amiral de France de Toulouse in Tonnant knows the battle cannot be won, and in high seas begins to break off the engagement and head for home. As he steers the French ships round, they fire on HMS Prince George, which catches fire. Further down the line, the Spanish reply against the Dutch, with broadsides from Santo Domingo to Jesus Maria Jose and Dordrecht receives some damage. Having captured her prize, Sage attempts to separate from the Norfolk, but the high seas prevent this, and so they remain lashed together.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 36 Franco-Spanish = 41.

Subsolanus still blows from the south-east, at maximum strength.

HMS Swiftsure leads the Anglo-Dutch line of battle round, preparing to head back to Gibraltar. The other ships behind turn in response. Meanwhile, a combination of broadsides from Graaf van Albemarle and heavy seas claims Sérieux, which sinks, with the loss of all hands… The high winds and Fortuna Belli help extinguish the fires on HMS Prince George, and she escapes to fight another day.

The Sage and Norfolk manage to break free in the high seas, and both damaged ships begin turning for home, in the direction of the rest of the fleet. The Franco-Spanish ships are out of range of the Anglo-Dutch in the high seas, so the fight cannot continue. The task is now to get home safely in the ensuing storm.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 36 Franco-Spanish = 42.

Subsolanus gives way to Vulturnus, blowing from the East, with slightly reduced force.

The turn to home by the Anglo-Dutch fleet continues, with each ship turning at the same point.

The Franco-Spanish fleet continue to slip away in the high seas.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 36 Franco-Spanish = 42.

Vulturnus gives way to Caecius, the Venti of the freezing north east wind, at moderate strength. This direction plays havoc with the remaining lines of battle, which must tack to accomodate the weather.

Alas for Caecius! He scatters the line of battle of the Anglo-Dutch fleet waiting patiently for their appointed time to turn, forcing them towards the English red squadron, which will have to take avoiding action shortly.

The Spanish ships scatter too, off towards the south-east.

Damage so far:- Anglo-Dutch = 36 Franco-Spanish = 42.

Caecius, the Venti of the freezing north east wind, continues his mischief.

The English squadrons scatter to the north west to avoid the approaching English and Dutch ships. It will take a considerable time to regroup all the squadrons into something battle worthy.

The Franco-Spanish fleet have their own disorder to attend to and sail for home, as do the Anglo-Dutch fleet. Thus the Battle of Vélez-Málaga Redux comes to an end.

Victoria sends her blessing to Admiral Sir George Rooke, commander Anglo-Dutch Fleet, and strikes a medal celebrating his victory; Imperium Pelagi, dominion of the sea.

An animated gif of the battle is below.


The Admirals fighting this encounter were:-

Admiral Sir George Rooke, commander Anglo-Dutch Fleet.

Amiral de France de Toulouse, commander Franco-Spanish Fleet.

Velez malaga colours


Venti Saturday, Jul 5 2008 

The Gods of the winds vex my soul,
Their tempests rage, waves tumults roll,
Ye winds! Indulge your rage no more;
Ye sounding billows! Cease to roar!

Venti gif

The naval oak confers Imperium Pelagi; the empire of the seas, on sailors who obey the whims of the Venti, the Gods of the winds and nurture their moods to best effect in battles.

Aquilo – God of the north wind.


Aquilo poem

Caecius – God of the north-east wind.


 Caesius poem

Volturnus – God of the east wind.

Volturnus poem

Subsolanus – God of the south-east wind.


Subsolanus poem

Auster – God of the south wind.


Auster poem

Afer ventus – God of the south-west wind.

Afer Ventus

Afer Ventus poem

Favonius – God of the west wind.


Favonius poem

Caurus – God of the north-west wind.


Venti Descriptions #(8)


O Aeolus! for to thee the King of Heav’n
The pow’r of tempests and of winds has giv’n;
Thy force alone their fury can restrain,
And smooth the waves, or swell the troubled main,
These airy kingdoms, and this wide command,
Are all the presents of your bounteous hand:
The raging winds rush thro’ the hollow cloud,
And dance aloft in air, and skim o’er the ground;
Then, settling on the sea, the surges sweep,
Raise liquid mountains, and disclose the deep,
North, South, East, West; with mix’d confusion roar,
And roll the foaming billows towards shore,
The cables crack; the sailors’ fearful cries,
Ascend; heav’n itself is ravish’d from their eyes,
The face of things a frightful image bears,
And present death in various forms appears.

     The Aeneid, Virgil (translated by Dryden)  

At such times sailors of all nations cry out the 107th Psalm…

Psalm 107 23 30

Blaeu Willem Janszoon The light of navigation

Compass on Map