Campaign report: Run for home, Mull October 8th 1689

The third report from round two of the campaign.. Jan Baert kidnaps a very important person dear to King William and burns some Scottish assets in the process. Taking on no less than twelve enemy ships he runs for home!

Baert's ships approach the island chain.
Turns 1-4

The fresh westerly winds created heavy seas and made sailing extremely challenging for Baert’s four ships as they nosed northward.

The Clyde coastal protection squadron dogs the steps of Baert's ships.

A flotilla of small craft had been in pursuit since Baert broke cover and although these were too small to face the Dunkirkers in open battle, their commanders had displayed skilful seamanship in the chase.

Baert's squadron - the kidnapped 'secret personage' is aboard one of these ships - but I didn't know which one!

As Baert approached the archipelago south east of Mull he split his force, sending the Adroit forward through the main channel whilst he led the other three ships north-east toward another gap in the islands. The enemy ships maintained their close pursuit of Maure, Alcyon and Comte.

English brig and pink.. they searched but could not find....

The action commenced when Columba, a 16-gun brig and the 10-gun sloop, St Andrew opened fire on Alcyon. The smaller vessel hit the target. These vessels were part of an experienced coastal squadron very familiar with the waters and relentless pursuit of privateers and smugglers.

Table set up

On the south-west horizon a further squadron of four small ships hove into view and sped towards the archipelago trailing behind Adroit. Columba’s master manoeuvred his ship to bring his few guns to bear on Alcyon and his crew were able to land more shots upon Alcyon.

The little Scottish ships attempt to head off Baert's escape.

The swifter Scottish ships were able to catch up with the privateers in the eastern channel but, this was their undoing. The yacht Rosebank sailed too close to Baert’s flagship and was literally blown apart in full view of every vessel in the battle.

Baert's squadron splits up with Adroit heading through the central channel alone.

This greatly discouraged the remains of the squadron which veered eastward but still found itself entangled with the larger French ships. Columba, which had been badly damaged by a stern rake from the heavy-gunned Alcyon, had her rudder jammed to starboard and ran aground on a small island. The rocky headland bit into the hull holding the brig fast and sealing her fate.

Battle erupts! The small Scots vessels open fire on Alcyon and find the target.

Panorama at the end of turn 3

The second coastal squadron arrives - it will see heavy action

 T4 The end of the little yacht Rosebank - Maure blows her apart at 50 yards

Turn 5

Yet more trouble for Baert appeared in the form of two homeward bound merchantmen returning to Scotland from resupplying the Protestant garrison of Sligo. These compact vessels appeared in the western approaches as the second squadron of coastal ships began to close the distance on Adroit.

T5 the newly arrived Scottish ships navigate the tricky archipelago

Turn 6

By now, Adroit had almost re-joined the rest of the squadron which was led by Maure. The faster moving yacht Margaret and the sloop Mirin opened fire on Baert’s flagship causing damage along the length of the hull. Thistle, a brig of 10 guns opened fire on Adroit and also found her mark.

T6 End - Some of Baert's ships are through but not out of trouble yet

The small Scottish vessels stung the larger enemy ships like angry Scottish wasps* but could not find the combined hitting power to inflict the necessary damage to impede progress despite accurate gunnery in heavy seas.

*For non-Scots reading this, I can say from my many travels abroad, there is no angrier or persistent insect on the planet that a Scottish wasp.

Comte rakes the little Mirin just before the Scottish vessel successfully boards her.

Turn 7

The most intense phase of this running fight occurred at this point. Comte crossed the bow of Mirin raking her from close range. Alcyon, back marker of Baert’s squadron glided past the stranded Columba and pounded her to bits on the rocks where she lay with a starboard broadside delivered at musket range.

T7 End - lots going on as little Scottish ships get pounded by the bigger French privateers. Mirin fighting for her life.

Off the port side of Maure, the yacht Margaret was so badly damaged by the heavy guns of Baert’s ship that she immediately struck her colours. Adroit, with Thistle in a similar position undertook exactly the same action but with even greater effect. The brig, with her upper structure almost totally swept away, also struck. This deluge of fire compelled the unengaged fourth ship of the squadron Stag, to veer off to the south and disengage.

The Scots ships meted out punishment in return with the two merchantmen Annandale and Kingdom ranging on and hitting Maure from several hundred yards out. The lightly armed yet doughty Mirin braved the incoming fire and grappled the much larger Comte. The Dunkirkers were so taken aback by this unexpected and bold move that in the initial phase of the fight the outnumbered Scots swarmed across her deck from the portside and took the fight to their enemies.

T8 End The English frigates have arrived but Maure has slipped through the net.

Turn 8

Baert’s ships had more or less cleared the archipelago but were somewhat strung out and all had to some extent, been damaged. At this point a much more serious threat appeared as two English frigates on patrol arrived from the north with guns cleared for action. Hunter managed a single broadside on the fast disappearing Adroit before the privateer was beyond reach and clean away. 

The other ship Mermaid 28, manoeuvred to shoot at Maure before she too disappeared in the heavy seas to the north. In haste, Mermaid cut across the path of Stag which was unable to take evasive action and rammed the frigate astern. The brig came off worst by far.

T9 End French prizes and Scots casualties rack up

Turn 9

The fresh winds changed direction to north westerly and picked up making sea conditions very hazardous. As sailors worked hard to keep their vessels safe, Maure slipped through the loose cordon and was away as had been Adroit. The sudden wind change had caught many ships unawares. Both raw and seasoned crews struggled with vessels caught in irons for several turns. Only sporadic firing took place with the civilian crew of the merchantman Kingdom successfully landing shots on Comte.

T10 Fire as your guns bear!

Turns 10 - 14

Hunter, reaching at speed, slipped by Alcyon which was stuck with her nose in the wind. The frigate pummelled the privateer but could not hold position and was rapidly carried downwind and away. The prize crew put aboard Margaret could no longer keep her afloat in the pitching sea and she sank taking a dozen or so of Baert’s men down along with the few survivors of the earlier gunnery duel. The proximity of such a jumble of ships attempting to stay afloat and fight a battle resulted in numerous near misses and near groundings.

T13 Disruption from heavy seas

The damaged Thistle vainly attempting to escape was abandoned by her prize crew and foundered almost immediately. The gallant little Mirin now barely afloat but piloted by a prize crew from Comte was easy prey to Kingdom as she swept by and promptly sunk the limping sloop which was already lying very low in the water.

The Kingdom in flames! T15 the magazine goes up - no survivors.

Turns 15 - 18

As the sea disrupted all plans it appeared the battle was over. The merchantman Kingdom had been carried south through the eastern channel and was at some distance for the majority of the struggling ships. Well astern of her to the north, Comte had the opportunity to rake and promptly did so. Her heavy guns tore through the lightly build Kingdom and the rearward powder magazine exploded in a ball of fire. Kingdom disappeared completely without survivors because no vessels were anywhere near. The weather continued to create a risk to life and this allowed the damaged Alcyon and Comte to break loose and attempt to re-join the rest of Baert’s squadron. The remaining Williamite ships were carried south on the strong winds.

Parting shots - the privateers and their cargo slip through in the heaving seas.

I was informed by Gerard-Jan via a password protected file after the scenario was finished that the 'important person' was being transported on Comte - the last vessel to make it through the Williamite cordon! Coincidentally, Comte was also the vessel attacked and boarded by Mirin which initially looked as if her revenue men and coast guards might prevail against the privateers.

Just WHO was so important to King William?