1756 - Allied reinforcement of Great Britain

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1756 - Allied reinforcement of Great Britain

The campaign took place in May 1756.

Description

In 1755, worried for his possessions in Brunswick-Lüneburg (aka Hanover), George II turned his attention to Prussia as a potential ally.

On January 16 1756, Great Britain and Prussia signed a defensive alliance known as the Treaty of Westminster. The treaty between France and Prussia had not expired at this date. It was still valid till July 5.

On January 30, Admiral Osborn sailed with 13 ships of the line and 1 frigate to convoy a fleet of merchantmen. He returned on February 16.

In February, fearing a French invasion, Great Britain asked for the assistance of 6,000 Dutch according to its treaty with the Dutch Republic. However, this state declined to send these troops. Great Britain then made a similar request to the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel and to Brunswick-Lüneburg to obtain the service of contingents who would serve in Great Britain. Negotiations being conclusive, Lord Jeffrey Amherst was appointed commissar to the Hessian forces.

During this time, the French Court was not unanimous in the proposition of a war plan. M. de Machault, Minister of the Navy, advocated a strictly maritime war while M. d'Argenson proposed an invasion of Hanover and a maritime confrontation with Great Britain. Rapidly, 3 fleets were equipped at Brest, Rochefort and Toulon while 2 armies assembled on the Atlantic Coast (80,000 men under the Maréchal de Belle-Isle) and on the Mediterranean Coast (under the Maréchal de Richelieu).

On February 27 1756, the lords of the British Admiralty, having been informed that six French men-of-war had sailed from Brest, ordered Admiral Hawke to put to sea.

Contrary winds detained Hawke until March 11 when he finally sailed from St. Helen's with 10 ships of the line escorting 3 East-Indiamen 150 leagues westward of Ushant. He was then ordered to return to Cape Ortegal and to cruise in the bay to prevent French ships putting to sea from Brest or Rochefort. Hawke's squadron then consisted of 11 ships of the line and 1 frigate.

On March 13, there was a press for seamen and landmen in all the ports of Great Britain. The Duke of Devonshire also ordered to array the militia in every county and city of Ireland.

On March 28, George II informed the Houses of Parliament that the French Court was planning the invasion of Great Britain and that, consequently, he intended to requisition a body of Hessian troops and to transport them to Great Britain. The same day, the contingent of the Hesse-Kassel Army started to assemble in Germany. It consisted of 8 regiments (1 battalion of 10 coys per regiment and 80 men per coy) and of 8 field pieces. More precisely, it comprised:

From March 28 to April 20, the Hessian contingent marched towards Bremen.

In April, Amherst was ordered to arrange the transportation of the Hessian contingent to southern England to bolster the defences of Great Britain against a potential French invasion.

On April 6, Admiral Byng set sail from St. Helen's with 10 ships for the defence of Minorca.

On April 7, Commodore Keppel sailed with the Torbay (74), Essex (70), Unicorn (28) and Gibraltar (20) to cruise off Cherbourg, to burn the flat bottomed boats which the French were building, and to pick up any straggling transports that might fall in their way.

On April 16, Admiral Holbourn sailed from Plymouth with 7 ships to convoy the transports containing the British reinforcements destined to North America.

On April 20, the Oxford (54) arrived at Plymouth, being sent by Hawke with 2 French ships taken off Cape Ortegal: one of them a 14 guns with 57 men and 183 soldiers bound to Louisbourg; the other a schooner bound to Québec with wine, musket balls and flour. Meanwhile, Hawke vainly continued to cruise in the bay.

On April 22, Vice-Admiral Boscawen sailed from Spithead with 12 ships to relieve Hawke off Brest.

During the month of April, a project was presented to the French Court for a descent in Great Britain.

On May 1, France and Austria signed a defensive alliance known at the First Treaty of Versailles. By this treaty Austria indirectly brought Russia into the alliance. If France could persuade the kingdoms of Spain and Naples to join the alliance, Austria was ready to cede the provinces of Brabant and Hainaut to Don Philippe, brother of the King of Spain, in exchange for Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla. France would receive the city of Mons. This cession was guaranteed by the cities of Ostende and Nieuport; the Duchy of Luxembourg would also be dismantled. Furthermore, the throne of Poland was guaranteed to the Prince de Conti. In compensation, the Elector of Saxony would receive Prussian territories while Sweden would receive Prussian Pomerania. Finally, Austria and France reciprocally guaranteed the assistance of 18,000 foot and 6,000 horse in case of invasion; and Austria guaranteed its neutrality in a conflict between France and Great Britain.

On May 3, the British Parliament granted funding for Hessian troops under British pay for the period of February 23 to December 24. The same day, a British fleet (2 British men-of-war and 45 transports) arrived at Cuxhaven to embark the Hessian contingent assembled at Stade.

On May 8, Hawke returned to Spithead with part of his squadron. The same day, the Parliament granted funding for Hanoverian troops under British pay for the period of May 11 to December 24.

On May 11, George II sent a message to both houses of the Parliament to request funding for the defence of the country. The Parliament granted him one million pounds.

From May 11 to 14, the Hanoverian contingent gradually embarked aboard 21 British transports at Stade.

On May 13, a British fleet, having 8,000 Hessian foot and 900 horse on board, anchored in Margate Road.

On May 15, the Hessian contingent landed at Southampton with a large train of artillery. This contingent was placed under the command of Count Christian Ludwig von Isenburg-Birstein assisted by Lieutenant-General Baron Diebe (commanding the artillery) and Major-General Baron Fürstenberg. The same day, the Hanoverian contingent sailed from Stade.

From May 19 to 22, the Hessian contingent was transported to the region of Salisbury where it took its cantonments.

On May 21, the Hanoverian contingent (about 9,000 men in 12 battalions and 5 artillery companies), on board 19 transports, arrived at Chatham. It comprised:

On May 22, the Hanoverian contingent disembarked and began its march in two divisions: the first division towards Maidstone, the second towards Canterbury.

By May 23, the Hessian contingent had been quartered in Hampshire.

On May 27, George II informed the Parliament that he was declaring war against France.

On May 28, the Austro-French treaty was ratified.

On June 5, the Gazette de France publicly announced the ratification of a treaty between France and Austria.

On June 9, France declared war against Great Britain. A French spy had visited the British coast from Plymouth to Harwich, bringing back detailed plans and identifying good landing places. Camps were soon formed on the coasts of Bretagne and Normandie at Saint-Malo, La Hougue, Cherbourg, Honfleur, Dieppe, Calais and Dunkerque while flat boats were built in several shipyards.

On July 7, Commodore Howe of the Dunkirk (60) sent advice of the capture of a small French island in the Channel, not far from Guernsey where he had taken 100 soldiers prisoners.

From July 11 to 14, the Hessian contingent moved to its new encampment at Winchester.

In July, Admiral Boscawen took 14 French merchantmen off Belle-Isle.

On August 4, the first division of the Hanoverian contingent marched to a newly formed camp at Coxheath near Maidstone.

On August 18, in the Downs, the Rochester (50) and Port Mahon (24) along with 2 sloops intercepted a Dutch convoy of 25 ships escorted by a 50-gun ship sailing for Brest. The convoy was laden with masts, planks and other military and naval stores.

On August 25, the British government resolved to raise 15 battalions of 780 men each.

By the end of August, a great number of men and boys had been clothed by the patriotic subscription of a number of British gentlemen, ladies and merchants, who called themselves the Marine Society. These new troops were sent to serve on board the warships.

At the beginning of November, it became clear that Brunswick-Lüneburg (aka Hanover) was more seriously threatened than England and it was decided to send the Hanoverian contingent back to the continent. Accordingly, 4 Hanoverian battalions (2 from the Garde, with Oberg Infantry and Hardenberg Infantry) Marched out from the camp at Coxheath by Rochester up to Chatham. The other battalions of the contingent gradually followed the same road.

On November 13, Vice-Admiral Knowles sailed in the Essex (70) to take command of the fleet off Brest.

Contrary winds considerably delayed the departure of the Hanoverian contingent.

Finally on December 5, the 4 first battalions of the Hanoverian contingent re-embarked at Chatham to return to Germany.

In December, the Hessian contingent took its winter-quarters in the Counties of Chichester, Salisbury and Southampton.

Bad weather then postponed the departure of the rest of the Hanoverian contingents till the end of February 1757.

At the beginning of March 1757, the last Hanoverian battalions disembarked at Cuxhaven and returned to their respective garrison places.

From April 23 to 27 1757, the Hessian contingent embarked aboard 43 British transports at Chatham to return to Germany.

On May 1 1757, the convoy transporting the Hessian contingent sailed from Chatham.

From May 11 to 16 1757, the convoy transporting the Hessian contingent gradually reached Stade after having suffered a severe tempest.

References

This description contains abridged and adapted excerpts from the following books now in the public domain:

  • Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 19-29
  • Marschtabelle der in britischem Solde stehenden acht hessischen Regimenter von Hessen nach Bremen, 28. März bis 20. April 1756, DigAM digitales archiv marburg
  • Sichart, L. von: Geschichte Der Koniglich-hannoverschen Armee, Vol. 3 - Part 1, Hannover, l870, pp. 229-232
  • Toone, W.: [The chronological historian: or, A record events, historical, political, biographical, literary, domestic and miscellaneous; principally illustrative of the ecclesiastical, civil, naval and military history of Great Britain and its dependencies, from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the present time], Vol. II, London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1828, pp. 70-78

Other sources

Wikipedia