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Battle of Algeciras Bay
Part of the Napoleonic Wars
The Battle of Algeciras.jpg
The battle of Algeciras by Morel-Fatio, oil on canvas.
Date July 8 and July 12, 1801
Location Bay of Gibraltar
Result 1st: Franco-Spanish victory
2nd: British victory
United Kingdom United Kingdom France French Consulate
Spain Spain
United Kingdom Admiral Sir James Saumarez France Charles-Alexandre Léon Durand Linois
7 ships of the line and 2 others 8 ships of the line and 1 other
Casualties and losses
138 dead,
340 wounded
1 ship captured
2,000 killed, wounded or captured
2 ships destroyed
1 ship captured
HMS Hannibal (left foreground) lies aground and dismasted at the Battle of Algeciras Bay.
A map of Algeciras Bay, circa 1750, showing Algeciras (left) and Gibraltar; there is roughly 10km of open water between them.

The Battle of Algeciras Bay refers to two separate battles in July 1801 between an allied French-Spanish fleet and the British near Gibraltar. In the first battle, the French drove off an attack by the larger British fleet and captured one ship of the line. In the second battle, the British pursued the Franco-Spanish fleet, destroying two Spanish ships and capturing one French ship.


The initial battle

The battle began in July 1801, when the French Admiral Linois brought his three ships of the line and one frigate into Algeciras after finding that the British had blockaded Cádiz. No fewer than four Spanish fort protected the harbour at Algeciras, and was so the French and Spanish considered it safe despite its proximity to Gibraltar.

The British observed these movements from Gibraltar, and decided to move quickly to try to neutralise this threat. On 8 July, a fleet under Admiral Sir James Saumarez sailed out from Gibraltar into the Bay of Gibraltar, intending to attack the French ships.

The British fleet consisted of six ships of the line. Saumarez had a seventh ship of the line, HMS Superb, but she and her accompanying brig Pasley were absent; Saumarez dispatched his sole frigate - the HMS Thames - to recall her, but they did not return in time.

The British squadron consisted of:

The French squadron consisted of:

  • Formidable 80 (flag of Rear-Adm. Linois, with Captain Laindet Lalonde)
  • Indomptable 80 (Captain Moncousu)
  • Desaix 74 (Captain Christi-Pailliere)
  • Muiron 40 (Captain Martinencq)

Saumarez's six ships attacked the French ships and Spanish forts, but a lack of wind and numerous shoals in the harbour hampered the attack. The French squadron, with aid from the forts and Spanish gunboats, held its own. They were able to drive off the larger British force, although the French purposely grounded their ships to avoid capture. Saumarez lost the 74-gun Hannibal after it ran aground near Spanish fortifications and was obliged to surrender[1], which enabled the French to capture her. Calpe lost several men and boats attempting to rescue Hannibal's crew. The rest of the British squadron suffered various degrees of damage and the British lost 121 men killed and 240 wounded. The French lost 306 killed, including Captains Laindet Lalonde and Moncousu, and 280 wounded.

Both sides retired to their respective sides of the bay, and over the next four days repaired their battle damage as best they could. The Pompée could not be repaired in the time available, and the Caesar was only repaired in time due to constant day-and-night work. The French refloated their ships and prepared them for sea.

The Gut of Gibraltar

On July 12, the French squadron, which had been reinforced meanwhile by five Spanish ships of the line and another French ship of the line, left Algeciras for Cádiz, with Saumarez in pursuit. During the pursuit, the French and Spanish ships were faster, partly due to the extensive damage the British had received during the first stage of the battle.

However, Saumarez gave the 74-gun Superb, which was not present for the first part of the battle and was thus undamaged, the freedom to pursue and attack the allied fleet at will. After night had fallen, the Superb sailed between the San Hermenegildo and Real Carlos, first-rate ships of 112 guns, and attacked them both. Superb then proceeded up the Franco-Spanish line, but between the darkness and the smoke from the firing, the Spanish did not realise that she had left. Real Carlos and San Hermenegildo furiously fired on one another, resulting in the loss of both ships. The Superb then attacked and captured the French St. Antoine.

The French Formidable, at the rear of the French line, fought 4 to 1 to protect her fleet. The British lost 17 killed and 100 wounded; the allies, 2,000 - including some 1,700 killed when the Real Carlos and San Hermenegildo blew up.

The British squadron now consisted of:

  • Caesar 80 (flag of Rear-Adm. Saumarez, with Captain Jahleel Brenton)
  • Venerable 74 (Captain Samuel Hood)
  • Superb 74 (Captain Richard Goodwin Keats)
  • Spencer 74 (Captain Henry d'Esterre Darby)
  • Audacious 74 (Captain Shuldham Peard)
  • Thames 32 (frigate - Capt. Aiskew Paffard Hollis)
  • Calpe 14 (polacca - Cmdr. George Heneage Dundas)
  • Louisa 8 (armed brig - Lieutenant Francis Truscott)

The French element of the Franco-Spanish squadron now consisted of:

  • Formidable 80 (Captain Aimable Gilles Troude)
  • Indomptable 80 (Captain Lucas)
  • St. Antoine 74 (Commodore Julien le Roy)
  • Desaix 74 (Captain Christi-Pailliere)
  • Muiron 40 (Captain Martinencq)
  • Libre (?) 40 (Captain Proteau)
  • Vautour 14 (?) (Captain Kemel)

The Spanish element of the Franco-Spanish squadron consisted of:

  • Real Carlos 112 (Captain Don J. Esquerra)
  • San Hermenegildo 112 (Captain Don J. Emparran)
  • San Fernando 94 (Captain Don J. Malina)
  • Argonauta 80 (Captain Don. J. Herrera)
  • San Agustín 74 (Captain Don. R. Topete)
  • San Sabina 44 (frigate carrying the flag of both Vice-Adm. Moreno and Rear-Adm. Linois)

In literature

The battle is described in the novel Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian, from the viewpoint of Jack Aubrey, the book's protagonist. Aubrey views the first part of the battle from on board the Desaix, a French 74 which had earlier captured him, and the second from the Rock of Gibraltar.

The battle is also described in the novel Touch and Go, by C. Northcote Parkinson. The main character is Commander Richard Delancey, Commanding Officer of HMS Merlin, an 18 gun sloop. Parkinson places the Merlin and the Calpe in this phase of the battle. During the action at Algeciras the, Merlin sails in support of the British fleet, distracting Spanish gunboats and picking up survivors from the wrecked Hannibal. Later, Delancey volunteers as acting sailing master aboard the Caesar and witnesses the battle in the Gut of Gibraltar.


  1. ^ Gregory Barnes;The Royal Navy 1793-1815ilios publishing Ltd. Oxford, UK. Osprey Publishing ISBN 974 1 84603 138 0
  • Rif Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793 - 1817, Chatham Publishing (2005)



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