Relief of Gibraltar by Earl Howe, 11 October 1782

A contemporary interpretation of the Relief of Gibraltar by Earl Howe on 11 October 1782. Since the garrison at Gibraltar had not received any supplies since Darby's relief in April 1781, Lord Howe sailed for Gibraltar in September 1782. He took a fleet of 183 sail, 38 of which were ships of the line. Howe arrived off the Straits on 11 October and, putting the merchant ships before him, headed for the Mole. Unfortunately, most of the ships missed it and were carried east into the Mediterranean, where Howe and his men-of-war were forced to follow them. Waiting for him in Algeciras Bay, only four miles from Gibraltar, was a Franco-Spanish fleet of 48 ships of the line, and these followed Howe in turn. After some manoeuvring, the wind changed to east, which enabled Howe and the merchantmen to return to Gibraltar. The success of the manoeuvre was greatly assisted by the new code of signals based on the system of Admiral Kempenfelt. All the merchantmen moored safely between 16 and 18 October so that Gibraltar had another year's supplies.

In the centre of this depiction, a group of men-of-war, in starboard-quarter view, are running towards the Straits of Gibraltar. They are all of Lord Howe's division and wear blue ensigns. The central ship is the 'Victory', 100 guns, flying Lord Howe's blue flag at the main. She has a cutter under her stern and another to starboard. In the right foreground is a cutter, starboard-bow view, with her sails down and a boat beside her. Beyond her, in the right background, is the van division, in starboard-quarter view, all with white ensigns. The 'Britannia', 100 guns, can be seen wearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Samuel Barrington. In the left foreground, in starboard-quarter view, is a rowing boat with a sail at her bows. Beyond her is a frigate, in starboard-quarter view, and the rear division with the blue flag of Vice-Admiral Milbank in the 'Ocean', 98 guns. In the background, between the rear and centre divisions, is the Franco-Spanish fleet at anchor in Algeciras Bay. In the background, between the centre and van divisions, can be seen the Rock of Gibraltar with cannon smoke rising from the Spanish side of it.

The artist started his painting career as an assistant to a ship's painter on Sir Charles Knowles' ship, and he rose to become one of the principal painters of naval actions of the 18th century. This painting is the original of a print which Paton published, dedicated to Lord Howe, in 1784 (for copies see PAH7808 and PAI5706).

Object Details

ID: BHC0453
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Paton, Richard
Events: American War of Independence: Siege of Gibraltar, 1779
Date made: circa 1783; circa 1782
People: Howe, Richard
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 724 mm x 1054 mm; Frame: 890 mm x 1227 mm x 85 mm; Weight: 19 kg

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