06.01.1794 The Glorious First of June Gallery

The Glorious First of June was the first major fleet battle of the French Revolutionary War, 1793-1801. The French admiral, Rear-Admiral Louis-Thomas Villaret-Joyeuse, had sailed from Brest to intercept a valuable grain fleet from America, vitally needed in famine-stricken France. The English commander-in-chief, Lord Howe, sailedwith the Channel Fleet in his flagship the HMS Queen Charlotte to intercept the convoy, which neither side in fact encountered and which reached Brest in safety. Instead the two battle fleets made contact on 28 May, some 365 nautical miles (673 km) off Ushant, Brittany.

In the opening engagement Howe disabled the three-decker Révolutionnaire, 110 guns. On 29 May he cut the French line to leeward and for the next two days the fleets manoeuvred in fog and out of contact until Howe brought the French to full action and defeat on 1 June approximately 225 nautical miles (416 km) further west. Six French ships of the line were taken and one sunk.

Text courtesy of the National Maritime Museum.

Dr. Maturin suggests further reading

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4 Comments on 06.01.1794 The Glorious First of June Gallery

  1. Assuming that’s the only surviving Union Jack from the Battle of Trafalgar, that flag has some history behind it. It was stitched together by the crew of HMS Spartiate from 31 separate panels of bunting. After the Battle of Trafalgar it was presented to Lt James Clephan, who was one of only 16 press ganged men to attain the rank of Captain out of an estimated 300,000 sailors.

    One could argue that the 1st of June was a great tactical naval victory for Great Britain but since they never stopped the grain convoy from reaching France the strategic situation on mainland France improved after the battle averting a famine.

  2. The Dear Knows // July 23, 2010 at 2:53 am // Reply

    The one in this gallery is actually from the Glorious First of June; it’s a fairly recent acquisition for the NMM. It had been on loan from the descendants of Lt. William Burgh, who took part in the action, since 1977, but they only just bought it. Apparently it’s the UK’s oldest command flag. It looks pretty much just like the Trafalgar flag, though… What with being for the same country and full of shot holes and all 😉

    It’s interesting how despite the fact that really they failed in the basic goal of the battle, it’s still known as the Glorious First of June. I read that it became known as such because a theater manager put together a night to raise money for the widows of the action, and had a song composed to celebrate it. So basically it was PR spin! Very crafty.

  3. Heather Clarke // May 16, 2014 at 4:41 am // Reply

    I am interested to learn more about the “song composed to celebrate it” as quoted in your text. Please tell me more.

    • The Dear Knows // May 17, 2014 at 4:16 pm // Reply

      There was actually more than one song composed, but the one that acted as a fundraiser can be found here! Apparently it wasn’t just a song, actually, it’s a song from a play by Sheridan about the battle. I couldn’t find out too much about the play itself, but did find this from rbsheridan.com:

      The Glorious First of June is a play written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1794. It premiered on 2 July 1794 at the Drury Lane Theatre, and was based on the facts that were presented in the newspapers of that time concerning the war between the British and the French. The play was written, rehearsed and acted only in three days. It contains a debate on the problem of naval patriotism – o very important issue at that time. The profits obtained form the performance of the play were donated to the widows and orphans of the sailors that were killed in that battle, the total sum was of £1500 – the highest one night box office of any theatre in the 18th century. Also Sheridan’s script was improved with some ingenious special effects, by transforming the entire stage of the Drury Lane Theatre in a sea.

      Another song about the action can be found here. Hope this helps! Better add the info to the site…

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