|Previous: Battle of Condore|
|Next: Siege of Masulipatam|
|Battle of Porto Novo|
|Conflict: Seven Years' War|
|Date: 10 September 1759|
|Place: off Pondicherry (Puducherry), India|
|Outcome: British victory|
3 Third Rate ships-of-the-line
2 Third Rate ships-of-the-line
5 ships captured
Because it took a long time for messages and ships to reach India from Europe, British Royal Navy admirals often found themselves having to make do with inferior forces against superior French forces, no orders, and no reinforcements. Vice-Admiral George Pocock found himself in this situation in 1759, during the Seven Years War. His smaller and less powerful force had already fought two indecisive battles with a French fleet under the Comte d'Ache. He would now have to fight again. This time, however, Pocock would be on the offensive near the French base at Pondicherry. If he could beat the French, control over the Indian Ocean would pass to the Royal Navy, and the French would have to withdraw. Pondicherry would almost certainly fall, and the French would no longer have a base in India.
The British fleet was commanded by Vice-Admiral George Pocock, possessing four ships-of-the-line:
- HMS Yarmouth - Third Rate ship-of-the-line, flagship of Pocock.
- HMS Grafton - Third Rate ship-of-the-line
- HMS Elizabeth - Third Rate ship-of-the-line
- HMS Tyger - Fourth Rate ship-of-the-line
The French fleet was commanded by Vice-Admiral Comte d'Ache, possessing five ships-of-the-line:
- Zodiaque - Third Rate ship-of-the-line, flagship of d'Ache
- Duc de Bourgogne - Fourth Rate ship-of-the-line
- Comte de Provence - Third Rate ship-of-the-line
- Protecteur - Fourth Rate ship-of-the-line
- Actif - Third Rate ship-of-the-line
The British fleet approached from the south, having the wind on their side. The French fleet came from the north. Pocock's fleet deployed facing the east, forming a line that could oppose the column of French ships and cross their "T".
BattleThe British fleet deployed in a line, gaining the advantage of superior local firepower. However, Pocock was cautious in attacking the French, as they did have a larger fleet and more guns. Instead, he allowed the French to attack in their column as he stayed on the defensive. The French navy was engaged one ship at a time, and the British fleet's larger vessels were able to concentrate fire on individual ships.
The result was the surrender of d'Ache's flagship "Zodiaque", damaging French morale. The other French ships remained in battle formation as they engaged the British, but the rear ship "Actif" also surrendered, endangering the French ships, who now faced British ships on both sides. The French fleet was finished off after some minutes of naval duelling, with "Comte de Provence" giving up last. The British captured the whole French fleet, with no ship losses of their own.
The British gained control of the Indian Ocean with this victory, going on to besiege Pondicherry from September 1760 to January 1761. Eyre Coote captured Pondicherry from Thomas Arthur de Lally and Britain expelled France from India, with only a few ports owing allegiance to the French monarchy. Porto Praya was a demonstration of British naval might in itself.