Invasion of Britain in 1805

Feb 2019
475
Serbia
#1
In 1805 a Franco-Spanish fleet under Villeneuve was sailing from the Atlantic towards Brest after their voyage in the West Indies, Villeneuve's fleet was intercepted by a smaller British squadron at Cape Finisterre. Villeneuve had 20 ships to the British 15, the battle was a tactical stalemate with Villeneuve losing 2 Spanish ships and the British refusing to continue the battle the next day. After the battle Villeneuve retreated despite still having numerical superiority. Would he have been able to reach Brest and hold the Channel for long enough for the French to land in Britain if he hadn't retreated?

What do you think?
 
Nov 2010
7,547
Cornwall
#4
You have to take into account that Nelson did actually chase them all the way across the Atlantic and back prior to Trafalgar, it wasn't an accident. The tactics of the 2 navies meant a stalemate was extremely unlikely. A French captain's duty was to preserve his ship and get to port. An English captains duty was to lay his ship alongside that of an enemy, and basically knock hell out ot it and capture. The shot used in the cannons differed for this reason.

I can't remember the details but it wasn't unknown that a British frigate captain had to answer for not placing his ship alongside a 74. Bizarrely
 
Feb 2019
475
Serbia
#5
You have to take into account that Nelson did actually chase them all the way across the Atlantic and back prior to Trafalgar, it wasn't an accident. The tactics of the 2 navies meant a stalemate was extremely unlikely. A French captain's duty was to preserve his ship and get to port. An English captains duty was to lay his ship alongside that of an enemy, and basically knock hell out ot it and capture. The shot used in the cannons differed for this reason.

I can't remember the details but it wasn't unknown that a British frigate captain had to answer for not placing his ship alongside a 74. Bizarrely
By the time they reached Cape Finisterre Nelson was following behind them, after the battle Villeneuve was demoralised and didn't believe he could continue to Brest. At Brest a French fleet was being blockaded by a large British fleet, by the French original plan the fleet at Brest was supposed to break out before Villeneuve's one did from Toulon and unite in the West Indies picking up the Spanish fleet at Ferrol along the way, on their return towards the Channel they were predicted to just sweep through any resistance along the way. The fleet at Brest didn't manage to break out from the blockade and the question is if Villeneuve could've even broken the blockading squadron if he reached Brest and even then it was pretty likely that the North Sea and the Channel fleets around Britain would've reacted and intercepted him, these fleets were very large and looking at the numerical odds and difference in quality of ships it seems pretty unlikely that Villeneuve could've done anything to clear the Channel, I personally believe that this plan was doomed to fail from the start but I still thought it would be interesting to speculate.
 

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