Nicholas Pocock (British, 1740-1821) Admiral Rodney’s flagship “Formidable” raking the enemy with a port broadside early on in the battle of the Saintes, 12th April 1782, 61 x 106.7cm. (24 x 42in.)
Lot 78
Nicholas Pocock
(British, 1740-1821)
Admiral Rodney’s flagship “Formidable” raking the enemy with a port broadside early on in the battle of the Saintes, 12th April 1782, 61 x 106.7cm. (24 x 42in.)
Sold for £69,310 (US$ 91,692) inc. premium

Marine Paintings

17 Feb 2004, 18:00 GMT

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
Nicholas Pocock (British, 1740-1821)
Admiral Rodney’s flagship “Formidable” raking the enemy with a port broadside early on in the battle of the Saintes, 12th April 1782,
signed with initials N.P. (lower left) and dated 1784
oil on canvas
61 x 106.7cm. (24 x 42in.)


  • Exhibited :- Probably, Royal Academy, 1785, no.29, 'The engagement of the 12th of April, 1782'. (The Battle of the Saintes).

    One of the most notable characteristics of warfare in the second half of the eighteenth century was the marked shift of naval activity to the West Indies. There, the lure of the immensely rich sugar-producing islands proved irresistible to the great powers and meant that, whenever England and France went to war, strategists on both sides also turned their attention westwards, across the Atlantic. The inevitable result of this preoccupation with colonial expansion was that some of the greatest sea battles of the Georgian Age took place in the Caribbean and, more often than not, their outcome determined the wider destinies of the European protagonists.

    During the latter stages of the American War of Independence (1775-83), first France and then Spain allied themselves to the new ‘United States’ in the hope of making territorial gains at England’s expense. Various French offensives in the Caribbean had already been remarkably successful and when, in the spring of 1782, the French began preparations to attack Jamaica prior to an invasion, Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney realised that a full-scale fleet action was his only means of averting what would be a disaster were it to occur. Assembling a veritable armada of thirty-seven ships-of-the-line, Rodney made for Gros Inlet Bay, Martinique, where he waited for news from the frigates he had sent out to monitor enemy activity. On 8th April, the French task force of thirty-six ships-of-war, together with its transports, sailed from Fort Royal bound for Jamaica via Guadaloupe, where the Comte de Grasse, the French commander, was to embark more troops. Rodney put to sea as soon as he was informed that the French had left harbour and intercepted them for a brief but indecisive encounter the next day. In contrary winds, the two fleets were forced to disengage whereupon a running fight lasting three days ensued until, by the evening of the 11th, Rodney was confident that he could bring the French to action the following morning.

    When dawn broke on 12th April 1782, the two battle-fleets found themselves off Les Saintes, a group of small islands in the channel between Guadaloupe and Dominica, and a mere four to five leagues apart. Each was sailing in close order when Rodney signalled his ships to form a line ahead; once that manoeuvre had been effected, he then astonished de Grasse by rejecting the traditional strategy and breaking through the enemy line in two places. Directing his flagship towards the centre, Rodney ordered “Formidable’s” topsails to be backed so as to slow her progress and as she passed the French flagship “Ville de Paris”, Rodney was able to get off several volleys before leaving de Grasse wallowing astern to be engaged by the British ships following behind him. In this spirited view, Pocock shows the “Formidable”, with Rodney’s command flag at her main masthead, pouring her port broadside into several enemy vessels at once whilst “Ville de Paris” appears stern-on to the far left. The battle raged furiously for about one-and-a-half hours until, by 9.30am., some French ships began falling away to the south-west in disorganised groups. The core of the French fleet however continued to fight throughout the day and it was only when the crippled “Ville de Paris” finally struck her colours at 6.29pm. that victory was assured. Despite the several ships that had escaped Rodney’s clutches, it was still a decisive defeat for the French and Jamaica, England’s principal possession in the West Indies, was saved from invasion.
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