1759 - French operations in the Persian Gulf
The campaign took place in 1759
After the rearrangement of European trade routes after the discovery of naval routes to India and South-East Asia around the Cape of Good Hope, the region of the Persian Gulf region became an important commercial and economic area because it had great wealth and was the departure point of important roads leading to Mosul and India. Furthermore, many European countries maintained commercial relations with countries around the Persian Gulf.
As early as the first Portuguese and Dutch colonisation attempts on the coasts of Africa and in India, European powers entered into conflict to gain influence and control over the region of the Persian Gulf.
At the beginning of the XVIIth century, France and England started to play an ever increasing role in the trade in the region of the Persian Gulf through their respective commercial companies. This lent to purely commercial conflicts. Shortly after the establishment of the French Compagnie des Indes Orientales in 1604, French merchant ships were sent to the region of the Persian Gulf where two trading agencies were established. The first at Bandar Abbas on the east coast of the gulf; the second in the city of Basra on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf.
During the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, these trade agencies gradually increased their trade relations with the rulers and princes of the region. In September 1715, the situation of France in the region was strong enough to allow it to oust the Dutch from Mauritius Island, located on the East coast of Africa, which was renamed Isle-de-France. This island became a naval base for the French fleet in the East. During the Seven Years' War, the main task of this fleet was to attack British merchant ships sailing towards India, the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea.
Meanwhile, Great Britain did not remain idle. It soon established a presence in the region of the Persian Gulf through the East India Company who sent several envoys to the region and to Persia to establish business relations and obtain trading privileges from the local rulers and princes. The company established trading posts in Persia at Isfahan and Bandar Abbas (the unfortified British settlement was called Gombroon). It also assisted Shah Abbas in expelling the Portuguese from Hormuz and obtained important commercial concessions in Persia in recognition for its assistance.
With the decline of Dutch influence, French and British entered into intense competition to gain control over the region of the Persian Gulf. Warships often asserted the military presence of both nations in the region.
The outbreak of the Seven Years' War
In 1756, at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in Europe, King Louis XV of France ordered to attack British ships anywhere they would be encountered. He also offered reward for both the capture of British ships or prisoners.
During the war, the region of the Persian Gulf acquired a lot of importance for France as well as for Great Britain. Both countries conducted important trade in the region. Furthermore, the land route passing through Iraq from Aleppo to Basra was often used to convey messages and commands between the metropolitan governments of their respective establishments in India.
The first action between the French and British ships in the region of the Persian Gulf occurred in 1758. On January 14, the French ship Bristol sailed from the port of Bandar Abbas on her way to Basra where she was expected to remain for three months, waiting for a shipment of wheat destined to Bundhiri (unidentified location) in India. British received intelligence of this and decided to intercept this ship on her return trip. Accordingly, in June, the East India Company armed the Revenge and Drake to intercept the French Bristol. However, the French ship managed to escape her pursuers unmolested.
Campaign of 1759
In 1759, three French ships led by the Comte des Essarts appeared in front of the port of Muscat, planning to attack a British ship anchored in this neutral port. The governor of Oman, Khalfan bin Mohammed, refused to let the French ships engaged the British ship and opened fire on d'Essarts' ships, forcing them to withdraw.
On October 12, two French ships, the Condé (44) and an unidentified 22-guns frigate, carrying the Dutch flag arrived at the port of Bandar Abbas. The Persian ruler of the town, Mulla Ali Shah, immediately came to the British trading post to assure of his assistance and to say that he would do anything in his power to prevent the French from landing.
On October 13, the French landed two mortars and four guns to the west of the British trading post located in this harbour. The trading post was defended by 16 men. The two French ships then attacked, burning the Speedwell, which was anchored in the harbour. The French then landed approx. 150 Europeans and 150 Cafres to storm the post. Around 10:00 a.m., the British requested assistance from Mulla Ali Shah who refused to send troops, arguing that the French had captured one of his ship and would destroy it if ever he got involved. Around 11:00 a.m., the 22-gun ship hauled within 400 m. of the post and began to fire. Meanwhile, the two mortars and four guns previously landed opened on the post. At 3:00 p.m., the French summoned the British to surrender.
On October 14 at 6:00 a.m., after consultation, the small garrison surrendered. The French exchanged M. d’Estaing, who was prisoner of the British. They also occupied the trading post.
The French then concluded a treaty of alliance with Mulla Ali Shah.
On October 30 at midnight, the French went on board their ships, having first set fire to the trading post. The French then retired from Bandar Abbas, sailing for Basra.
This small French success, was soon overshadowed by the huge British successes in India. Gradually, British influence in the Persian Gulf grew stronger.
In 1761, the French made another unsuccessful attempt to capture British ships in the port of Muscat.
After the Seven Years' War, the British East India Company managed to impose its influence and control in the Persian Gulf .
Cambridge, Richard Owen: An Account of the War in India between the English and French on the Coast of Coromandel from the Year 1750 to the Year 1760 together with a Relation of the late Remarkable Events on the Malabar Coast, and the Expeditions to Golconda and Surat; with the Operations of the Fleet, London: T. Jefferys, 1761, pp. 234-240
Mustafa Abdel-Qader al-Najjar and others, History of Persian Gulf modern and contemporary, Basra, 1984, i 1, pp. 15-22.
Mahmoud Shaker, Encyclopedia of the history Persian Gulf, Oman, 2003, c 1, p 286.
C. C. Lorimer, user Gulf (historical section), translated by Translation Department Office of the Emir of Qatar, Qatar, 2000, p 75.
Abdul-Amir Mohammed Amin, British interests in the Persian Gulf 1747-1778, translated by Hashem Kata necessary, Baghdad, 1977, p 77.
O. B. Miles, Gulf, its countries and tribes, translated by Muhammad Amin Abdullah, Oman, i 4.1990, p 254.
Abbass Hassan Obbaiss, a historian from Babylon in Iraq, for the initial version of this article