Bombardment of Granville
1803 hostilities with France were resumed. It was feared that Bonaparte
intended to invade the Channel Islands, given the extent of preparation
being carried on at St Malo and Granville.
Saumarez had six frigates
and six brigs and cutters under his command. He was closely involved
with preparing the defence of the islands, including one occasion when
he landed men on the South coast of Guernsey to test the supposed
inaccessibility of a particular point on the cliffs. Ross narrates how: “…
Sir James proposed that the seamen should be landed, and ordered to
ascend what appeared to be a precipice; when, to the astonishment of
the General (Sir John Doyle), the whole body of men mounted to the top
with apparent ease…”. At about this time a large flotilla of armed vessels
had gathered at Granville, just 54 miles from Guernsey and 30 miles
from Jersey. Their purpose was either to invade the islands or England.
Sir James took his squadron, anchored on 14th September 1803 as
near to Granville as the tide would permit, and bombarded the harbour
for fully six hours. He attacked again on the following day.
Between 1804 and 1806, and therefore during the period that the battle
of Trafalgar was fought off Cadiz, Saumarez remained in command
at Guernsey. Saumarez frequently corresponded with Nelson; indeed
shortly before Trafalgar he had sent a supply of wine to Nelson who
wrote and thanked him just three days before his death. They were well
known to each other.
A single incident characterises Saumarez’s experience at this time.
A 200 ton French brig had been driven on to the shore in the Bay of
Dielette, adjacent to Alderney. The vessel had been repaired and was
nearly ready to be re-launched. A cutter from Saumarez’s squadron
was sent, the men landed, defeated the guard party and destroyed the
brig. It is fair to say that Saumarez’s defence of the Channel Islands
contributed to the defeat of Napoleon’s invasion plans for England although it was Trafalgar which “…at once put an end to all the speculations of the ruler of France” (see Ross).