The battle for Britain 1759

In 1759, Admiral Sir Edward Hawke launched a daring attack on French ships deep in enemy waters. Jeremy Black describes how the ensuing clash scuppered French plans for an invasion of the British Isles

‘Battle of Quiberon Bay' (c1765), from 'Old Naval Prints' by Charles N Robinson and Geoffrey Holme (The Studio Limited, London), 1924. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the November 2009 issue of BBC History Magazine 

On the morning of 20 November 1759, a frigate of Sir Edward Hawke’s fleet caught glimpse of a group of enemy ships just off the south coast of Brittany. News of the sighting would have been music to the British admiral’s ears for, as Hawke well knew, this was no ordinary posse of enemy vessels. They belonged to the fleet of French commander the Comte de Conflans, and their destination was the coast of Scotland where they planned to spearhead a French invasion of Britain.

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