I am running a hypothetical mini campaign...............
It is time to strike. Our spies have fermented a rebellion in southern Ireland, and an army is gathering to force the weak British forces out of the country. Our King has dispatched a squadron under your command to escort a troop convoy from Brest to southern Ireland.
Two troop ships:
Clermont – Carrying 1500 muskets, general supplies, ammunition and four 6 pdr cannon
Orient - carrying 1400 line infantry, and your brother General Marcel Le Dumbas
The equipment and men will help supply the rebel Irish army – they must get through to the position marked on your chart.
Your squadron consists of:
110 gun Ville De Paris (Flagship) under your command
74 Gun Pluton
74 Gun L’Heros
74 Gun Genereux
You are aware from our excellent spy network that a British squadron will sail from Plymouth with the intention of intercepting our convoy.
“You are not to risk the integrity of your command, your squadron has another vital task to for fill after this deployment. The task will be revealed on your return to France, the loss of any of your squadron could have severe consequences for this future operation.
If the convoy does not reach Ireland, this may also have severe consequences for the Irish rebellion. You are duty bound to make every effort to ensure the convoy safely arrives at it’s destination, being mindful of your overriding consideration for your squadron.”
It is 10.30am in the morning and you have sighted four sail to the West, on an intercept course with the convoy. You have no doubt this is the British squadron under the fearsome commander Commodore Bray. You beat ‘Hands to quarters’………………Your orders monsieur?
It would be fair to say that the French Admiral had a lot on his plate (and not just the one he was scoffing in his cabin whilst reading his orders). He had been put in a difficult position by his orders. Add to the mix that this was part of a mini campaign, and he knew he would have to face the consequences of his decisions on table top.
Neptune - 98 guns (Flag)
So on paper the British squadron was outgunned (and out manned) by the French - but hey, that was paper, this was tabletop. The British Commodore had a gameplan, he knew the French Admiral well and would use this against him. He (The French Admiral) was aggressive and keen for a fight.
The British would give him that early on, using the Serapis as bait.
So the British commander resolved to go straight for the convoy in his flag ship, the two 74's would try a pincer movement and cross the 'T' of the French squadron (to the north) and the 50 gun Serapis? - this was going straight for the lead ships in the French squadron.
He stroked his chin and wondered what the French would do.....?
The French Admiral cursed his luck with the positioning of the convoy. However, he was confident and quickly issued orders for the convoy to tack east and head behind his squadron to cover. He ordered full sail for his squadron and told them to maintain their current course and positioning - those damned British will try and cross his 'T' and he was going to have none of that nonsense.
The British commander had expected the French squadron formation to go to, well quite frankly, "rat shit" on sighting the Royal Navy - but to his grudging admiration, the French squadron maintained an almost perfect line of battle. The convoy was drawing quickly behind the French squadron, pursued by the lumbering Neptune.
The French opened fire at long range, obtaining hits on the Neptune and Serapis. The first salvo caused 6 dead on Neptune and the loss of one of her boats. The Serapis lost an anchor and 7 men, her sails also took some minor damage. The British commodore did wonder if he had made a mistake.........
The Neptune was closing - her 98 guns would make short work of the two French merchants.
Meanwhile, the two British 74's had changed course, the lead ship, Centaur was racing to get ahead of the French squadron, the Spencer had turned 90 degrees to starboard and was heading for the two merchant vessels. The French Admiral pondered...................he was worried.
The running gun battle between the Serapis and the two 74's continued, with Serapis getting a pounding, but once the Centaur opened up at long range, the battle evened up somewhat - this was helped by the gun crews being stationed at the correct guns on the Serapis - a midshipman was singled out for 50 lashes for failure in his duties. Midshipman Grant was never going to forget to carry out an order again!
The battle ended at 11pm - still unfinished, but with the Neptune and Spencer closing on the convoy, with the Ville De Paris steering almost into the wind. An excellent battle, but it was decided that the convoy had failed to get through to it's destination.
Overall the French commander did a good job, he had very difficult orders and carried them out to the best.
His squadron escaped relatively unscathed (although the crew moral had dropped from good to steady on the L'Heros).
It means that the 'other operational task' that his squadron was earmarked for will go ahead, but before that, there is the table top action between the Irish rebels and the British Garrison - I know which side I would like to command.
An excellent night and an interesting scenario as the French player..........and where the two British 74's carrying troops and supplies to Ireland? (that will have to wait for then end of the mini campaign!