'First Act of Hostility 1793. The Batteries at the Entrance of Brest Harbour firing upon H.M.Brig Childers' [2 January 1793]

Line engraving, inscribed as title. These were the first anti-British French shots that helped draw Britain into the French Revolutionary War early in 1793, though it had been in progress in Europe since the previous year. The incident on 2 January was itself inconsequential, with minimal damage and no casualties on either side, but it marked a symbolic moment in the deterioration of relations between Britain and France. The execution of Louis XVI in Paris on 21 January put the seal on formal conflict, with Britain declaring war on 1 February 1793.

There are two practically identical watercolours of the subject by Pocock in the collection, PAF4674 and PAH9531. The former (for which see further notes) may have been the one from which the plate is engraved since the latter lacks the building on the ridge at upper far left, and the mizzen mast of the lugger at far right, though both may may just be from later trimming. PAH9531 is in a far better state of preservation than the present version.

Pocock's print was published early in 1815, before Napoleon's escape from Elba and the '100 days' that led to his final defeat at Waterloo. It was presumably intended as a restrospect on how twenty years of war had started, at a point when everyone assumed the conflict was already over. Admiral William Henry Dillon later commanded the 'Childers' and this image of her (as an extracted detail) was used for the frontispiece to the Navy Records Society publication of his memoirs (1953-56), edited by Michael Lewis. [PvdM 12/21]

Object Details

ID: PAD5427
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Pocock, Nicholas; Thomas Cadell & William Davies Fittler, James
Events: French Revolutionary Wars, 1792-1802
Vessels: Childers (1778)
Date made: 20 Feb 1815
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Mount: 9 1/4 in x 12 3/16 in

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