Battle of Algeziras
This was again an action
played out within sight of those on land, this time the garrison and
population of Gibraltar; Algeziras being a port on the African side of the
straits just four miles away.
Saumarez had found a squadron of French
vessels off Algeziras and determined to attack them. Alas the wind
failed at a critical point and the advantage was lost. A fierce and bloody
action entailed which saw the French vessels heavily damaged, but
also heavy damage sustained by the English fleet, including one vessel
lost to the French, the Hannibal.
The French were very much assisted
by the coastal batteries of the town. If matters had been left like this,
Saumarez’s reputation would inevitably have suffered. However, he led
his battered ships back to Gibraltar where his men worked night and
day to get them ready for action again. Just six days later a Spanish
fleet comprising six ships of the line arrived to escort the French vessels
to Cadiz. Even though he was heavily out-numbered and out-gunned,
Saumarez did not hesitate. He set off from Gibraltar with the remaining
serviceable vessels and engaged the enemy. Fortune favoured
Saumarez. Two Spanish first-rate three-deckers ran into each other, one
was already on fire, which spread to the second and both exploded.
The enemy were routed, a French vessel surrendered, the rest fled.
Again Saumarez was fêted at Gibraltar. He was created a Knight of the
Bath and received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. Even the
States of Jersey passed a resolution eulogising Sir James and including
the following: “…ce qui relève infiniment à leurs yeux le prix de cette
dernière victoire est la consideration qu’elle est due à un natif de l’île de
Guernesey, à laquelle ce pays se sent étroitement attaché par les liens
d’une commune origine, de la proximité, de l’amitié”, which translates:
“…what exalts in their eyes the value of this latest victory infinitely is
the consideration that it is due to a native of the Island of Guernsey,
to which this land feels itself closely attached by bonds comprising
a common origin, geographical proximity and friendship”.
had already received one magnificent silver vase from the Island of
Guernsey for his capture of the Réunion. The victory at Algeziras was
the occasion of the presentation of a second silver vase to a man: “…
whose brilliant achievements have not only immortalised his name, but
will for ever reflect lustre on his native isle, and add to the glory of the