Fox v Junon 10 September1778
In early September the British frigate Fox 28, Captain the Hon. Thomas Windsor, was despatched from the Channel fleet off Ushant by Admiral Hon. Augustus Keppel to search for the French fleet which was then believed to be at sea in the vicinity of Cape Finisterre.
The Fox had first been commissioned in 1775 and was armed with twenty-four 9-pounder cannon on her upper deck and four 3-pounder cannon on her quarterdeck, equating to a broadside weight of metal of one hundred and fourteen pounds. In her short career she had been captured by and then retaken from the American rebels, and after returning to England had been coppered at Portsmouth prior to joining the Channel fleet and witnessing the Battle of Ushant.
On 10 September she was off Brest, and she had not long been in chase of two vessels when in the damp gloom astern she became aware of a heavier frigate in chase of her. She accordingly took in sail to await the stranger which proved to be the newly commissioned twelve-pounder French frigate Junon 32, Captain Antoine-François de Beaumont, the Vicomte de Beaumont Haunt, carrying three hundred and thirty men, which represented one hundred and thirty men more than the Fox’s complement. Her twenty-six upper deck twelve pounders and additional six 6-pounder cannon on the forecastle and quarterdeck gave her a broadside weight of one hundred and seventy-four pounds and a significant superiority over the Fox.
Both ships having established their resolve to fight, there began a series of manoeuvres which resulted in the antagonists exchanging broadsides as they passed on opposite tacks. The French vessel then tried to obtain a raking position over the Fox, and when this move was thwarted she attempted to come down from to windward on her opponent’s quarter. Although this manoeuvre did not provide her with any greater ascendancy over her opponent her heavier firepower at short range did, and unusually for a French vessel she directed her fire into the British hull, rather than at her rigging. Soon the Fox began to suffer from the superiority of her opponent’s broadsides and she became totally dismasted with a number of her cannon put out of action.
At length, having withstood the Junon’s cannon for three and a half hours, Captain Windsor waved his hat to signal his surrender. At that stage the Fox was barely able to return her opponent’s fire, and had suffered eleven men killed and thirty-eight wounded, the latter figure including Windsor himself who had been badly hurt in the arm. The Junon was in a much better condition and had only lost four men killed and fifteen wounded.
The captured Fox was taken into Brest where her casualties received exemplary treatment from the French. Captain Windsor’s wounds were such that he was unable to write, so it was left to his first lieutenant, the future Admiral Sir Albemarle Bertie, to compose a despatch to the Admiralty. After an imprisonment of three months Windsor and his officers were allowed to return to England on parole in the following January and a year later Captain Windsor commissioned a new frigate that was named Fox in honour of his glorious defence.
The captured Fox did not last long in the French service, driving aground off Brittany on 22 March 1779 with no hope of salvage, whilst the Junon lasted but a year and a half longer until she was lost during the hurricane of October 1780 that claimed so many British ships in the Leeward Islands.