Peace was declared and de Saumarez returned home to Guernsey. In 1782 he visited Cherbourg and was presented to the French King, Louis XVI, destined to lose his head to the guillotine in 1793

Defender of the Channel Islands

This was Saumarez’s only visit to France. War with France broke out again in the year of the King’s death. Saumarez was appointed to command the Crescent of 36 guns.

Such was Saumarez’s popularity that half the crew were made up of men who had volunteered to serve with him, a significant number of which came from Guernsey. There followed a period of service in the waters around Guernsey, escorting troop transports. He took various smaller French vessels as prizes. On 20th October 1793 he had a particular success when he engaged and took the French 36 gun frigate Réunion off Cape Barfleur, a success owed in large part to his great seamanship. He was knighted as a consequence.

Saumarez continued to be based in and around the Channel Islands. In June 1794 he again displayed great seamanship. He was commanding a small squadron which had the misfortune to run into a much superior force of French frigates. By leading the French frigates away he permitted the other vessels under his command to escape. Then, by taking a channel so close inshore to Guernsey that the enemy dared not follow him, he managed to shake off the French and therefore saved the whole squadron. All of this was in sight of Guernsey. The people turned out in force to watch the spectacle. Saumarez relied heavily on his Guernsey pilot, John Breton, but at one point questioned whether he was quite sure of his marks, so close were they to the land. Breton replied, “I am quite sure, for there is your house, and there is my own!”

In 1794 Saumarez continued in command of a four frigate squadron of the Channel Fleet charged with the protection of the Channel Islands. Admiral M’Bride was reported as saying: “Their defence could not be in better hands”. In June 1795 he was in command of the Orion (74 guns) and again at the centre of the action in a battle off L’Orient during which three French vessels surrendered. In 1796 he was under Sir John Jervis in a battle off Cape St Vincent, this time against a substantial Spanish fleet. The Orion played a distinguished part, forcing the three-decker Salvador del Mundo with 112 guns to surrender, likewise the 130 gun four-decker Santissima Trinidada, although the latter was able to escape when the Admiral recalled the English vessels. Nelson was involved in the same action.