The Expedition of Thurot (1759-1760)

Patrick Weston Joyce

752. England was at this time at war with France, and a report of a projected French invasion caused great alarm. Towards the end of 1759, an army was collected at Vannes in Brittany, which was to be conveyed by a powerful fleet anchored at Brest under admiral Conflans. A smaller squadron of five vessels lay at Dunkirk under Thurot, an enterprising commander, an Irishman, whose real name was O'Farrell.

753. Admiral Hawke kept a watch on the fleet at Brest; but being forced by a storm to take refuge in Torbay, the fleet put to sea. It was intercepted by Hawke off Quiberon bay, on the French coast, on the night of the 14th November 1759, and defeated; after which the French abandoned all thoughts of an invasion.

754. Commodore Boys had been watching Thurot, who however eluded him and sailed out. But he was driven by storms to Bergen in Norway, where he remained till December. One of his vessels had disappeared in the storm; one returned to France; and with the remaining three he appeared off Carrickfergus on the 21st February 1760. Having been tossed about by storms, his crew were reduced by famine and hardships, and were now half starved. With about 1,000 men he disembarked and attacked the castle, which was defended by colonel Jennings with only 150 men of the 62nd regiment, having no cannon and hardly any ammunition.

755. After a brief defence Jennings had to surrender, and the hungry French fell on all the food they could find; but did not molest the people. As there were not sufficient provisions, they obtained some from Belfast under threat of burning that town and Carrickfergus. On the 26th of February they re-embarked, on hearing that an armed force was advancing on them; but they were intercepted a little north of the Isle of Man by captain Elliott, who had sailed in pursuit from Kinsale with the ship Æolus and two others. There was a sharp action in which Thurot was killed; and his three vessels were captured and brought into Ramsey.

George II. died suddenly at Kensington of heart disease on the 25th October 1760, and was succeeded by his grandson George III.