Battle of Lagos 1759 – dry docks available to the British fleet

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    Malcolm Lewis

      The lead up to the two-day battle in Lagos Bay, Portugal 18-19 August 1759 began when a watching British frigate off Toulon reported to Admiral Boscawen, whose fleet was refitting at Gibraltar, that Admiral de La Clue’s expeditionary force of twenty ships of the line had left Toulon heading for the Atlantic en route possibly for Ireland or the West Indies.

      Boscawen hastily completed the rerigging of his ships and followed the French resulting in the battle with eight French ships in Lagos Bay, Portugal whilst the remaining Frenchmen headed into Cadiz.
      With the loss of the key naval base of Menorca to the French in 1756 the Royal Navy had to resort to Gibraltar for fleet support situated at a much greater distance from Toulon, their blockading station.
      Maintaining a wooden fleet in warm waters where fouling of hulls was a major problem was very demanding. I am interested to know whether Menorca and/or Gibraltar had dry docks at that time. Without them the RN would have had to resort to careening, a difficult and sometimes hazardous procedure which often shortened the ship’s life.

      Malcolm Lewis

        Apologies Sam for this supplementary to receive notification of follow up replies via email. You may want to tidy up these postings. Maybe notification could be a default.

        Malcolm Lewis

          Response from Nicholas Blake on Marhst 11.09.19
          I am grateful to Nicholas Blake (author of Steering to Glory, a day in the life of A Ship of the Line) for his response to my query posted on the Marhst website. I copy it below with his permission.

          Neither Menorca nor Gibraltar had dry docks at this date. Mahon never had one during the age of sail; there was a careening wharf there in 1763 but as you say, Mahon was not British between 1756 and 1763. Gibraltar’s first dry dock was built in 1905-06 as part of a programme of expansion started in the 1890. In the previous century careening was carried out at Tangier and Tetouan (Morocco) but by 1759 only at Gibraltar.
          These details are drawn from the Naval Dockyards Society’s volume of transactions, “Gibraltar as a Naval Base and Dockyard”

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