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Battle of Porto Novo
Porto Novo
Conflict: Seven Years' War
Date: 10 September 1759
Place: off Pondicherry (Puducherry), India
Outcome: British victory
Combatants

Flag of Great Britain Great Britain

Flag of France France

Commanders

George Pocock

Comte d'Ache

Strength

3 Third Rate ships-of-the-line
1 Fourth Rate ship-of-the-line

2 Third Rate ships-of-the-line
3 Fourth Rate ships-of-the-line

Casualties

none

5 ships captured

The Battle of Porto Novo (10 September 1759), also known as the Battle of Pondicherry, was a major naval battle of the Seven Years' War that occurred off Puducherry (Pondicherry), India. The British fleet of 4 ships-of-the-line under Admiral George Pocock went on the offensive against the French major port of Pondicherry and defeated the French fleet of 5 ships under the Comte d'Ache, gaining the British control of the sea.

Background

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.

Dispositions

The British fleet was commanded by Vice-Admiral George Pocock, possessing four ships-of-the-line:

The French fleet was commanded by Vice-Admiral Comte d'Ache, possessing five ships-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". 

Battle

Battle of Porto Novo

The end of the battle

The 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.

Aftermath

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.

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