Derek George Montague Gardner (British, 1914-2007) 'Thurot's last fight' off the Belfast Lough, 28th February 1760
Lot 155AR
Derek George Montague Gardner (British, 1914-2007) 'Thurot's last fight' off the Belfast Lough, 28th February 1760
Sold for £23,750 (US$ 38,463) inc. premium

Lot Details
Derek George Montague Gardner (British, 1914-2007)
'Thurot's last fight' off the Belfast Lough, 28th February 1760
signed 'Derek G. M/Gardner' (lower left) and inscribed 'February 28 1760 Terpsichore 24 Brilliant 36 Pallas 38 Blonde 36 (distant) AEolus (32) Marechal de Belle Isle 44 (Thurot)' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
61 x 91.5cm (24 x 36in).

Footnotes

  • The world's first truly global conflict, known to history as the Seven Years' War (1756-63), was littered with significant British naval victories, most notably Hawke's spectacular triumph at the battle of Quiberon Bay on 20th November 1759. There were however many less significant successes, most of which are largely unknown today, and one such was the defeat of a potentially dangerous French privateering squadron, under the command of Captain François Thurot, off the north-east coast of Ireland early in 1760.

    After several humiliations the previous year, the French made strenuous efforts to retrieve their position at sea in 1759 and, during its course, assembled three expeditionary forces, the smallest of which – under Thurot – was to convey troops from Dunkirk to either Scotland or Ireland. Despite being blockaded for much of the summer, Thurot managed to slip out of harbour during heavy weather on 15th October and headed into the North Sea, his destination unknown to his pursuers. With 1,300 troops aboard his ships, Thurot went first to the Swedish port of Gothenburg, partly to procure stores but also "to baffle pursuit or observation". After nineteen days, he sailed for Bergen and thence, via the Faroes, to the northern coast of Ireland where, in late January (1760), an attempted landing at Londonderry was thwarted by bad weather. By now his ships were in a parlous state and Thurot's captains begged him to abandon the expedition and return to France. Thurot refused and, after a brief respite period in Claigeann Bay, on the Isle of Islay, put to sea again on 19th February and anchored in Belfast Lough the next day. On the 21st, 600 men were landed to assault Carrickfergus where they soon forced the garrison to capitulate, in addition to taking, looting, and then destroying a number of small merchant prizes lying in the Lough. Thereafter, Thurot wanted the troops to advance on Belfast but was overruled by their commander.

    Meanwhile, the Duke of Bedford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, gathered whatever ships he could find and sent them north. Fortunately, these included three naval frigates – Æolus, Pallas and Brilliant – and Captain John Elliot, in command, found himself off the entrance to Belfast Lough on the 26th but could not sail in because of contrary winds. Remaining on station, he then sighted the French ships off Copeland Island at 4.00am. on the 28th and immediately gave chase. After five hours sailing, a furious action lasting about an hour-and-a-half began around 9.00am., at which time all three French ships, by then badly damaged aloft, struck their colours and surrendered. Elliot took his prizes into Ramsey, Isle of Man, to refit and two of them, Blonde and Terpsichore, were subsequently repaired and assimilated into the Royal Navy. Thurot's own ship, the Maréchal de Belleisle, was deemed too battered to be saved and Thurot himself, who had been killed during the battle, soon achieved the status of martyred 'folk hero' by his fellow countrymen, such had been his reputation for honour, generosity and humanity.
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