Maréchal de Belle-Isle (46)
Origin and History
The frigate was built as a 36-gun at Saint-Malo starting in 1756, launched in 1757 and first commissioned in July 1757.
During the Seven Years' War, the frigate was under the command of:
- from July 1757 till February 28 1760: Captain François Thurot
The frigate was captured on February 28 1760. She was so badly damaged that the British Royal Navy did not acquire her.
Service during the War
On July 16 1757, the frigate sailed from Saint-Malo along with the Chauvelin (36) and 2 sloops. On July 25, Captain Thurot's small squadron engaged the isolated Southampton (32) off Portland. The British frigate was on her way to Plymouth under the command of Captain James Gilchrist who repulsed the French frigates. On August 1, Thurot engaged the Seahorse (24) off Flushing. The combat lasted 3 and a half hours. The Seahorse (24) was almost dismantled and lost 8 men killed and 17 wounded. Nevertheless, she managed to escape capture.
In 1758, Thurot increased the armament of his frigate to 44 guns by cutting a few extra ports on the lower deck. On May 26, the frigate engaged the Dolphin (24) and Solebay (24). Early in the engagement, the Dolphin (24) had the slings of her main-yard shot away and dropped astern. The Solebay (24) kept the French frigate busy while the Dolphin (24) was repairing. The Dolphin (24) then rejoined the combat. After 3 and a half hours, the French frigate disengaged and made sail away. The British frigates, being too damaged, did not give chase.
In the summer and autumn of 1759, the frigate was part of Thurot's squadron which was blockaded in the harbour of Dunkerque by a British squadron under the command of Commodore William Boys. In October, Boys' squadron was driven from his station by a gale. On October 15 at 5:00 PM, Thurot seized the opportunity, slipped out through a thick fog and made to the northward. He then sailed for Ostend, then to Göteborg in Sweden, partly to procure stores, and partly, no doubt, to baffle pursuit or observation. There he remained for 19 days, going next to Bergen in Norway. On December 5, Thurot's flotilla quitted Bergen and proceeded to an expedition against the British Coasts, by way of Streymoy in the Faroe Islands.
On January 25 1760, Thurot's flotilla reached the neighbourhood of the Irish coast. The weather confounded an intended descent near Londonderry, and scattered his flotilla. On February 15 (or 17), Thurot's flotilla put into Claigeann Bay, in the Island of Islay in Argyleshire to refresh. They boarded and plundered two small sloops lying at anchor in the small bay of the island. The French crews then landed on the island. On February 19, Thurot left Islay. On February 20, he anchored in Belfast Lough, opposite Kilroot Point. On February 21 around 11:00 AM, Thurot appeared with only 3 of his frigates, all showing British colours, off the Island of Magee, standing in shore for the Bay of Carrickfergus in Ireland. By noon, the French frigates had put all their boats to sea. The troops landed and attacked the town of Carrickfergus. The garrison capitulated with the honours of war. On February 25 at 8:00 PM, Thurot re-embarked his troops. On February 27, the French burned several vessels in the harbour of Carrickfergus. At 10:00 PM, Thurot finally sailed from Carrickfergus for France. On February 28 at 4:00 AM, 3 British frigates got sight of Thurot's flotilla as it rounded Copeland Island and gave chase. At 6:00 AM, they caught up. At 9:00 AM, off the Isle of Man, the Aeolus (32) got up alongside the Maréchal de Belle-Isle who was soon left alone to fight the 3 British frigates. The engagement lasted about 90 minutes before the Maréchal de Belle-Isle was forced to strike her colour. Thurot had been killed by a cannonball during the engagement and the Maréchal de Belle-Isle, who had lost 155 men killed, was so badly damaged that it was feared she could sink before reaching the nearest harbour.
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Blasco, Manuel, 3 Decks
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.