The First and Second Anglo-French Conflicts in the Indian Ocean

By Admiral G. A. Ballard, published February 1927


The war of the Spanish succession saw the French naval power dramatically reduced. With the cessation of the hostilities in 1713, Paris slowly tried to regain a position from which to control the eastern trade. In 1735, the French claimed the island of Mauritius, 2500 miles off Bombay, and appointed Bertrand de la Burdonnaise as a governor and commander-in-chief of the naval squadron operating in the Indian Ocean. On the Indian mainland, Governor General Dupleix aimed to expand the French possessions at the expense of the British. At the beginning of 1744 when war between Britain and France broke out again, the initial success of the British navy was later over-shadowed by the brave actions fought by de la Burdonnaise. However the French Admiral was not able to co-operate efficiently with Dupleix; this resulted in failure to keep the territories that had initially been seized and, at the end of the war, the Indian geopolitical situation remained virtually unaltered. Ten years later, when the Seven Years’ War broke out, the Mauritius naval base was no longer as efficient as it had been when under the command of de la Burdonnaise. On the other hand, Bombay’s yards had grown to the point that they could dry dock a seventy-four. Despite the French superiority in numbers, Vice Admiral Pocock was able to deliver a fatal blow to the French in 1759, in a battle that is not as famous as that of Quiberon Bay (1759) but that definitely drove the French from the Indian Ocean, consolidating British control over India that would last for nearly two centuries.

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Filed under: Seven Years’ War | Indian Ocean | East India Company
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Harbours & Dockyards | Logistics | Merchant Marines | Ship Handling & Seamanship

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