GLORIOUS FIRST OF JUNE - 1794
Britain had been at War with Revolutionary France for 14 months by the time of the events culminating in the Naval Battle of 1st June 1794.
By 1794 France was on the threshold of starvation due to a bad harvest and political disturbance. As a result, the French had assembled a convoy of some 117 Merchant ships in Chesapeake Bay, USA. The holds of these ships were filled with grain and stores for the relief of France.
The French plan of action to ensure the safe arrival of these ships was, an immediate escort of 4 ships of the line commanded by Admiral Vanstabel to accompany the convoy - a second squadron commanded by Rear Admiral Neilly to sail to meet the convoy and help escort it back to France and the main French Fleet commanded by Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse to sail from the port of Brest to provide any necessary cover should the convoy be threatened by the Royal Navy.
By April 1794, Admiral Richard Howe had assembled the British Fleet off St Helens on the Isle of Wight. The Fleet consisted of 32 ships of the line with attendant frigates.
Owing to a shortage of Marines the 29th of Foot, like a number of other infantry regiments had to provide drafts for sea-going duty. The four hundred-plus of the regiment were distributed among several ships; "Brunswick", "Ramillies", "Glory", "Thunderer" and "Alfred".
The French convoy sailed from the USA on 11th April and on 2nd May Howe sailed from Spithead with 26 ships of the line. After a reconnaissance of the French port of Brest to confirm that the French Fleet had not sailed, Howe moved to put himself in a position between the convoy and their covering force. On 19th May, Howe's frigates report that the French Fleet had sailed out of Brest. Howe then gave chase.
On 28th May, at about 8:10 pm a frigate made the signal for "a fleet bearing South West" directly to windward. It was not until 6 pm that action commenced and lasted until 10:pm. British casualties were slight in that the whole number killed and wounded was but twenty two. On the morning of the 29th it was hazy and the action continued from 9: am until about 4:pm when the French bore away to support their disabled ships. On the 30th, it was very foggy and there was no action with the French. On the 31st, the fog cleared about 2: pm and the French were sighted far to leeward.
On the 1st of June, at 5:45 am Howe counted 34 sail of the enemy - four sail of the line superior to him - and gave chase. At 9:15 am the action commenced.
The "Brunswick", with 81 men of the 29th aboard was played into battle by the ship's band and a drummer from the 29th with a popular tune of the day 'Hearts of Oak'. "Brunswick" sustained a most tremendous conflict, being singly engaged for a considerable time with three seventy-fours. One of these "Le Vengeur" she sent to the bottom. At one stage of the battle another of the seventy-fours seeing that "Brunswick" was much weakened by her exertions, determined to board and manned her yards and shrouds with a view to running alongside and flinging in all her crew at once. "Brunswick" with great intrepidity and coolness reserved a whole broadside and waited her approach; then in one discharge the "Brunswick" dismasted her and "scattered her crew like so many mice on the ocean". So closely at times was the "Brunswick" engaged that she was unable to haul up her lower-deck port lids and was obliged to fire through them. During the fierce fighting, the 29th detachment Commander, a Captain was killed and the Ensign and 20 others were wounded.
This Battle was fought so far out in the Atlantic that it has always been known by its date "The Glorious First of June".
For its share in the engagement, the Regiment was awarded the Naval Crown to be borne with its Battle honours.